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FFL: Week 15 | NFL: Week 15

Saints-Buccaneers Preview

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Players: Drew Brees, Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, Chris Godwin

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) carries on a pass reception ahead of Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) and defensive end Vic Beasley (44) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)


New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes under pressure from Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston passes during warmups before an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Drew Brees looks at Tampa Bay and sees an opportunity for the New Orleans Saints to reassert themselves, though not necessarily because the Buccaneers have a young, inexperienced secondary.

The Bucs may rank last in the NFL in pass defense, but the veteran quarterback of the NFC South leaders - coming off a lopsided loss to the Atlanta Falcons - says he pays a lot more attention to game film than numbers while preparing for an opponent.

''I'm saying just in general, I don't look at statistics and then judge a defense or anyone based just on the statistics,'' Brees said. ''I'm going to turn on the tape, I'm going to trust what I see, and then I'm going to go out to execute according to that.''

The Bucs (3-6) lead the NFL in run defense, yielding just 77.8 yards per game on the ground. Conversely, they're allowing an average of 299 through the air while giving up a league-high 31 points per game.

And that's before coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht decided to part ways with cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who was waived this week after being benched for a portion of last Sunday's 30-27 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

With a couple of other young, inexperienced players dealing with injuries, Tampa Bay probably will be forced to start three rookies (safety Mike Edwards, cornerbacks Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean) and a second-year player (safety Jordan Whitehead) in the defensive backfield against the Saints on Sunday.

Brees isn't assuming New Orleans (7-2) will have a clear-cut advantage.

''They're young, but they're talented,'' the 40-year-old quarterback said. ''Look at the investment that they've made in their secondary over the last three years with draft picks.''

Hargreaves was a first-round pick, No. 11 overall in 2016. In addition to selecting him, the Bucs used four second-round selections, two third-round picks and a pair of fourth-rounders on defensive backs over the past four years.

''Defensively, we're still a work in progress. ... All those young kids in the secondary are getting better and better,'' said Arians, whose team ended a four-game losing streak against Arizona.

Now, it's the division-leading Saints looking to rebound after being held without a touchdown in last week's 26-9 loss to last-place Atlanta.

New Orleans beat Tampa Bay 31-24 at home without an injured Brees (thumb) on Oct. 6. After facing the Bucs again, the Saints will complete a stretch of four consecutive games against NFC South foes by hosting Carolina and traveling to Atlanta.

Brees expects the Saints to play better Sunday.

''We were extremely disappointed in our performance (last week). I think we know we're a lot better than that and understand that, especially at this point in the season, this is a time when we really want to start separating ourselves from the pack,'' he said.

SECONDARY SHUFFLE

While the Saints held Bucs receiver Mike Evans without a catch in their last meeting, the defender who primarily covered Evans might not be able to play on Sunday. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore left last weekend's game with a pulled hamstring. The Saints moved P.J. Williams to cornerback and rookie C.J. Gardner Johnson into Williams' usual nickel back slot. The results were encouraging. Although the Saints lost, the Falcons finished with fewer than 200 net yards passing. Still, Saints coach Sean Payton is weary of Jameis Winston's ability to get the ball downfield to both Evans and Chris Godwin.

''Their passing numbers right now are outstanding when you look at (the Bucs' success rate on) third down, at what they're scoring,'' Payton said. ''So, changing up the looks, trying to affect him is important and then understanding, hey, how are the interceptions coming, how are the fumbles coming? All of those things you study.''

RESOUNDING MESSAGE

Hargreaves was due to earn $9 million next season, although it was guaranteed for injury only. While the impending salary was a factor in the decision to release the fourth-year pro, the move also reiterated one of Arians' points of emphasis in his first season with the Bucs.

''You control your attitude and your effort,'' the coach said. ''You don't control a lot of things, but you control those two - and they better be good.''

LINE ITEMS

Starting left guard Andrus Peat, a 2018 Pro Bowl selection and 2015 first-round pick, broke his arm during New Orleans' loss to Atlanta and had surgery this week. His recovery could keep him out until the final week of the regular season. Will Clapp, a second-year pro out of LSU, was first off the bench to replace Peat during the game. Clapp struggled, but so did much of the offensive line that day, when Brees was sacked six times. In addition to Clapp, the Saints have a couple of veterans who could sub in as needed: Nick Easton and Patrick Omameh. Easton was signed as a free agent when center Max Unger retired, but the Saints then acquired Texas A&M center Erik McCoy in the second round of last spring's draft and he won the job. Easton has played in just three games this season and was a healthy scratch last weekend, but that could change.

''Every season, you're going to have guys that go down for a period of time - you hope not too long, and you have to have guys step up and fill in,'' Brees said. ''I'm confident with the guys we have to do that.''

Player Notes
Greg Olsen Dec 11 1:33pm ET

Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen (concussion) took part in individual drills Wednesday, Dec. 11, which was a moderate surprise to beat writer Joe Person.

Fantasy Spin: Olsen has a great matchup against the Seattle Seahawks this week if he's able to go. Olsen will be a low-end TE1 option in PPR leagues.

From TheHuddle

T Y Hilton Dec 11 1:33pm ET

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) said the team's playoff eligibility won't be a factor on if he returns this season. 'I would never quit on my team,' Hilton said. 'I signed up for 16 games. Some guys may shut it down and call it quits. I don't do that.'

Fantasy Spin: We still view him on the wrong side of questionable to return this season. If he's able to, he'd be a WR2 option. Zach Pascal should be a WR3 in the interim.

From TheHuddle

Golden Tate Dec 11 1:23pm ET

New York Giants TE Golden Tate (foot) was limited in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: Tate had just one catch for 11 yards with Eli Manning last week, but he has a great matchup against the Miami Dolphins if he can go this week. He'd be a high-end WR3.

From TheHuddle

Evan Engram Dec 11 1:13pm ET

New York Giants TE Evan Engram (foot) was limited in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: He was limited in practice last week as well, and he didn't play. Rhett Ellison (concussion) was also limited, and this situation remains in flux. If Engram goes, he's a midrange TE1. If he doesn't, Kaden Smith could be worth streaming again.

From TheHuddle

Jason Witten Dec 11 1:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is a floor-play only for a Week 15 contest against the Los Angeles Rams. Witten has seen plenty of targets lately, with seven in Week 14 and right in Week 13, but he's only come up with 11 catches for 79 yards total in both games. He's one of the least likely players in fantasy football to put up a goose egg in your lineup, but he's also very unlikely to put up a game-changing score, even in PPR. He's a tight end to play when you only need to reach a floor in your matchup, otherwise, even in a position as shallow as tight end, there are likely higher upside options on the waiver wire.

From RotoBaller

Blake Jarwin Dec 11 1:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin is not a strong fantasy option for Week 15 despite a strong performance in Week 14. Jarwin caught six passes for 50 yards against the Bears last week, but it was the first time this season he'd even been targeted more than four times. He's likely to sink back into the two-or-three targets per game life this week against the Los Angeles Rams and makes for nothing more than a dart-throw tight end option.

From RotoBaller

Kai Forbath Dec 11 1:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys brand new kicker Kai Forbath is a decent option at kicker for Week 15 fantasy lineups. Forbath was signed to replace Brett Maher, who was released by the Cowboys earlier this week. Forbath has made just under 86 percent of his field goal tries in his career and made his only attempt this year as a member of the Patriots. He did miss one of his two extra points, though. Most leagues will have higher-upside guys available on the waiver wire, but Forbath is fine as a fill-in kicker if needed.

From RotoBaller

Dallas Cowboys Dec 11 1:00pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys Defense is a middling option at best in a Week 15 game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys defense has been generally disappointing this season, and this week they take on a Rams offense that looked like it finally figured things out in Week 14. There are likely better options on the waiver wire in most leagues, especially given this week's matchups.

From RotoBaller

Amari Cooper Dec 11 12:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper is a solid choice in any Week 15 fantasy lineup. Cooper looked a bit slow in Week 14 due to his previous injuries, but he'll have had 10 days to heal up even more before the Cowboys take on the Rams on Sunday afternoon. With the Cowboys offense struggling somewhat of late and Jalen Ramsey likely attached to Cooper all day, Cooper's usual upside is a bit limited, making him more of a high-end WR2 this week.

From RotoBaller

Michael Gallup Dec 11 12:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup is a strong WR2 option for a Week 15 game against the Los Angeles Rams. With Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey likely shadowing Amari Cooper in this one, Gallup could be more of the first look for quarterback Dak Prescott than usual. Coming off a game in which he led the Cowboys in receiving with 109 yards, Gallup is a strong WR2 option with upside for Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Randall Cobb Dec 11 12:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Randall Cobb had a nice flash in the pan moment a few weeks ago, but it looks like he's settled back into fantasy irrelevance in most formats. Cobb saw at least seven targets for four games in a row from Week 9 to Week 12, but saw just eight balls thrown his way in Weeks 13 and 14 combined. That much smaller target share will likely continue in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Rams. Cobb is nothing more than a desperation dart-throw type wide receiver and is not a recommended starter in most formats.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Dec 11 12:40pm ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is expected to play in Week 15 and has a decent matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Prescott suffered a sprained left hand and an injured index finger on his throwing hand in Week 14's Thursday night loss to the Chicago Bears. With 10 days to rest, Prescott should be good to go against the Rams. Still, he's been struggling along with the whole Dallas offense of late and a possible flare up of the injuries won't help. Prescott hasn't been great on the field lately, but he's still been producing solid fantasy numbers. He's a low-end QB1 for Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Dec 11 12:40pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott should be a solid fantasy contributor in a Week 15 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Elliott scored twice in Week 14 despite the Cowboys inexplicably going away from the running game for long stretches. Hopefully, coach Jason Garrett feeds his star running back in this one. Elliott comes in as a top-half RB1 for this matchup.

From RotoBaller

Tony Pollard Dec 11 12:40pm ET

Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard should return from an ankle injury that kept him out of Week 14, but shouldn't be in any fantasy lineups. Pollard will be strictly a backup to Ezekiel Elliott in what is expected to be a close game. Elliott should be on the field for almost every snap, leaving Pollard to only reach relevance if the starter were to get injured. Most leagues will have someone with a clearer path to touches on the waiver wire. Pollard remains no more than a handcuff for Elliott owners.

From RotoBaller

Jake Elliott Dec 11 12:30pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott is a decent kicking option in a Week 15 game against Washington. The Eagles shouldn't have too much difficulty scoring on a weak Washington defense, but Elliott does seem to be in a bit of a slump lately. After starting the season off with 12 perfect weeks without a missed field goal, Elliott has missed two of his last six tries. He's still a K1, and should be fine in a fantasy lineup this week.

From RotoBaller

Philadelphia Eagles Dec 11 12:30pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles Defense have an excellent matchup in Week 15 against Washington. While the Eagles looked rough against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13 and came out slumping in the first half of Week 14 against the New York Giants, they were able to put it together and play well for the second half of Monday's win. The Eagles defense is a little risky because they have shown the capacity to fall apart against lesser competition, but the Washington offense is last in the NFL in scoring and allows the fifth most points to opposing fantasy defenses. The risk should be worth the reward this week.

From RotoBaller

Dallas Goedert Dec 11 12:10pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert is a strong option for Week 15 fantasy lineups. Going up against an easy Washington defense, Goedert has the added benefit of working as one of the top receiving options for Carson Wentz. Dealing with a decimated wide receiver corps, the Eagles will almost certainly rely on their running backs and tight ends to move the ball in this matchup. Goedert could end up behind only Zach Ertz in passing game pecking order. He's a mid-range TE1 with touchdown upside.

From RotoBaller

Odell Beckham Jr. Dec 11 12:03pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (groin) was limited in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: OBJ has really struggled the last few weeks, but he's the kind of talent you need in there as at least a WR2 against the Arizona Cardinals.

From TheHuddle

Greg Ward Dec 11 11:50am ET

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward will play a significant role in Week 15's game against Washington. At the end of Monday night's overtime win against the New York Giants, Ward was literally the only healthy wide receiver left wearing an Eagles uniform. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (hamstring) is expected to be ready to go on Sunday, but he and Ward make up the entire Eagles wide receiving corps for now. Ward saw nine targets in Week 14 after seeing 10 total in the 13 weeks before. The Eagles will likely focus their passing game on their running backs and tight ends, but Ward could be a sneaky-good play this week, especially in DFS leagues.

From RotoBaller

JJ Arcega-Whiteside Dec 11 11:50am ET

Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside should play a significant role in Week 15's game against Washington. With the Eagles wide receiver corps decimated, Arcega-Whiteside is one of only two healthy receivers left on the roster. He showed flashes of dominance in the preseason but has turned that into just eight catches for 130 yards and one touchdown this season. He came up limping with a hamstring injury at the end of Monday night's game, but he is reportedly "fine" and will be ready to go on Sunday. Arcega-Whiteside comes with some nice upside this week, but he has a very low floor, as the Eagles could just focus on running backs and tight ends in their passing game.

From RotoBaller