New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees leaves the field after their loss against the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. Brees has been diagnosed with a torn ligament near the thumb of his throwing hand that is expected to sideline him at least six weeks, said a person familiar with the situation. Brees has elected to have surgery, but it is not yet clear when the operation will take place or who will perform it, the person said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, top, is tackled by Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Cory Littleton during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) scrambles past Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97), who is blocked by Seahawks offensive guard Ethan Pocic (77) during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. The Seahawks won 28-26. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly (88) celebrates with teammates after making a touchdown catch against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
SEATTLE (AP) In his 13 seasons in charge New Orleans coach Sean Payton has always had one constant by his side.
Nearly every game. Nearly every snap. It's almost always been Drew Brees on the other end of the receiver, listening to what Payton is saying, and for the most part tormenting opponents.
And now Brees is gone for an undetermined time after surgery to repair an injured ligament near his right thumb. It's a test Payton's never faced, being without Brees for an extended period. It begins on Sunday when the Saints face fellow NFC contender Seattle.
Brees' injury comes in what was supposed to be a redemptive season for the Saints, with Super Bowl expectations that could put to rest the anguish of missing the title game a year ago, victimized by an officiating non-call. And for now, there is no panic among the Saints.
''That's the thing. Drew's down, we all know that. But we've still got the same coaching staff. We've got the same guys calling plays, especially like you said, Sean,'' New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara said. ''I don't feel like Sean's down. He's ready for the challenge.''
Brees has failed to start just three games since he and Payton arrived together in 2006. Not surprisingly, the Saints are 0-3 in those games, although two of those came in Week 17 with nothing at stake for New Orleans. Which is why this injury and this absence is so significant. It will be Teddy Bridgewater's team - with some Taysom Hill sprinkled in - for the next six games before the Saints' bye and likely any consideration of Brees' return.
''The job for us as coaches is to put a plan in place that gives our players the best chance to win,'' Payton said. ''I don't know if any one person has to change or step up but, by in large the group I think does.''
One person not expecting any sort of drop off is Seattle coach Pete Carroll, in part because of his admiration for the job Payton has done.
''After a few years coaching, you look forward to these kinds of matchups. It's one that we've been looking toward through the offseason,'' Carroll said. ''I have great respect for what he's done. He's a fantastic coach and I like that he's sculpted and then re-sculpted his team a couple times over the years and you can see the difference.''
The Seahawks won their first two games for the first time since the 2013 season that ended with Seattle winning its only Super Bowl title. But the Seahawks been lucky in getting to 2-0. Seattle beat Cincinnati by one in the opener, a game when the Bengals were without A.J. Green. They held off Pittsburgh 28-26 last week with Ben Roethlisberger playing only half the game.
And now they face the Saints minus Brees.
''You definitely got to remind the guys not to let their guard down because any day, you're in this professional league and the guys behind those guys are professionals,'' Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''You can't take anybody lightly because they can come out having one of their best games.''
Here's what else to watch as the Seahawks look to win their fourth straight over the Saints in Seattle:
Bridgewater started Week 17 last year, but his last meaningful starts came during the 2015 season before suffering a catastrophic knee injury that sidelined him for the better part of two seasons and derailed his career. Bridgewater was 17 of 30 for 165 yards after taking over for Brees last week against the Rams.
''It's nothing like being out there during the games when it counts the most,'' Bridgewater said. ''Not saying the preseason doesn't count. I'd never take the game for granted. But just to go out there and compete at the high level is what that means.''
THE OTHER QB
It's worth mentioning how good Russell Wilson has been to start the season. He's completing 78 percent of his passes, has five touchdowns and no interceptions, and last week had his ninth career game of at least 300 yards and three touchdowns.
The Saints' pass rush has produced nine sacks through two games, including three by reserve defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who seems to have made a big jump in his third season. He had two sacks as a rookie and none last season when he was a healthy scratch a number of games. For now, though, he has one more sack than 2017 first-team All-Pro Cam Jordan and two more than 2018 first-round draft choice Marcus Davenport. New Orleans' front has been productive so far without help from 2016 first-rounder Sheldon Rankins, who is close to returning from an Achilles tendon tear last January.
The Saints will be facing a Seattle offensive line that has underperformed so far and gave up four sacks last week to Pittsburgh.
How will the Saints use Hill? They've had the luxury of exposing him to heavy contact on special teams, as a tight end and as a change-of-pace, read-option QB because they had Bridgewater as a more conventional backup in the event of a Brees injury. If Bridgewater starts, Hill likely would be the primary backup, which could conceivably prompt Payton to dial back Hill's role as a utility player.
PERFECT AT HOME
Seattle is always really good at home: It has been exceptional in the first month of the season under Carroll. Seattle is 15-0 in September home games since Carroll took over in 2010. The Seahawks are the only unbeaten team in September during that time frame.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (ankle) and tight end Geoff Swaim (ankle, concussion) have both been ruled out for Week 7 against the Bengals. Neither Lee nor Swaim have moved the fantasy needle this year for the Jaguars offense. If Dede Westbrook can't give it a go, it'll be either C.J. Board or Keelan Cole as the team's No. 3 wideout behind D.J. Chark and Chris Conley on Sunday. With James O'Shaughnessy on Injured Reserve, rookie Josh Oliver will become the team's primary tight end if he can make his season debut. Stay away from the tight end position in Jacksonville, however.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz could be in for a tough game against the Chicago Bears in Week 7. Lutz has been excellent, ranking eighth in the league among kickers with 54 fantasy points this season. Unfortunately, the Bears Defense ranks third in the NFL in fantasy points against kickers. In what could end up being a low-scoring game, Lutz may not see enough red-zone chances to put up fantasy points. Given how good he's been, he's still a start in this one, albeit a risky one.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said he's considering major changes on offense after the blowout loss to the Chiefs on Thursday night, but moving away from quarterback Joe Flacco is not one of them. The main reason is that current backup Brandon Allen wouldn't be a realistic solution. However, rookie Drew Lock is nearing a return from his injury and will be a viable alternative later in the year if Flacco continues to look terrible under center. The 34-year-old has shown that he has basically nothing left. He's gone over 300 yards passing in a game just once this year and has six touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games. Flacco is a low-end QB2 with pretty much no upside.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (shoulder) is listed as questionable for Week 7 against the Bengals. We still expect Westbrook to play, but you'll need to check the Sunday morning inactives just to be sure. Against a Cincinnati team missing their starting cornerbacks, Westbrook will be a high-end WR3 if he's active. If he's ruled out, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley will operate as quarterback Gardner Minshew's top two wideouts.
Despite missing practice on Friday, Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) is likely to play in Week 7 against the Chargers. Walker has been playing through an ankle injury and should do so again this weekend. He's been extremely unproductive lately, though, and it may be a combination of his injury and the team's inept offense under quarterback Marcus Mariota. The good news is it'll be Ryan Tannehill under center this Sunday, but that may not be much of an upgrade. Treat Walker as a TE1/2 in this run-first offense. He has more volatility as long as he continues to play injured.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich has ruled out rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell (abdomen) for Week 7 against the Texans. It'll be Campbell's second straight missed game. The rookie is strictly a stash in dynasty/keeper leagues at this point. In his absence, it'll be Zach Pascal, Deon Cain and Chester Rogers fighting for more playing time behind T.Y. Hilton. All three are merely dart throws in DFS in deeper leagues in this run-first offense, although Houston's secondary is known to give up big plays through the air.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook (ankle) is currently questionable to suit up for Week 7 against the Chicago Bears after missing two consecutive days of practice. If he does play, Cook gets a stingy Chicago Bears Defense that is surprisingly susceptible to opposing tight ends, ranking 23rd in the league in points allowed to the position. Cook has yet to go over 50 receiving yards in a game but has found the end zone in back-to-back games. He's a risky TE1/2 because of the injury tag and the fact that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may struggle with accuracy against the Bears defense.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne (ankle), who broke his ankle in training camp, is "getting close," according to head coach Andy Reid. "Hes getting there. Hes been working his tail off. I havent taken him out there and thrown with him and done all that so I cant tell you how all that is gone," Reid said. Patrick Mahomes (knee) is expected to miss at least three weeks with a dislocated kneecap, so Henne could become an option to start games in the near future if Matt Moore isn't getting the job done. Even with options around them in the offense, neither Moore nor Henne would be much more than desperation options in two-QB leagues.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) and Geronimo Allison (chest, concussion) have 48 hours to "see if they come around" for Week 7 against the Raiders. The Packers are holding out hope, but MVS and Allison are extremely risky flex options in deeper leagues. MVS hasn't really taken advantage of Davante Adams (toe) being out the last couple weeks. If MVS and Allison are out on top of Adams, it'll be Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' top two receiving options. Kumerow and Lazard will be DFS sleepers and flex plays in deeper leagues, but the Packers will likely continue to lean heavily on the run.
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson (shoulder), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and defensive end Carl Lawson (hamstring) have all been ruled out for Week 7 against the Jaguars. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee) is also doubtful. The bad news continues for the 0-6 Bengals. Cincy actually hasn't been that bad against opposing wideouts this year, but not having their top corners for this one will make Jaguars receivers D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook pretty appealing for fantasy purposes. Stay far away from Cincinnati's defense/special teams.
Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung (heart) said that he could return as early as Week 7 against the Titans. Currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Okung has yet to play this year. It's great news for a Chargers offensive line that hasn't been giving quarterback Philip Rivers much time to stay in the pocket and deliver accurate passes. It still seems unlikely that Okung returns this quickly, but it's certainly something for Rivers and the Chargers offense to look forward to.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has ruled out wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) for Week 7 against the Raiders. It'll be Adams' third straight missed game while dealing with turf toe, and he'll be questionable for Week 8, at best. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' fantasy luster hasn't been as strong without Adams in the lineup, and he could also be missing Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison this Sunday as well. Consider Rodgers more of a high-end QB2 this weekend with all the injuries to his receiving corps.
Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said that the team won't trade cornerback Patrick Peterson. "Why trade a player in his prime at one of the hardest positions to find for a maybe or a couple maybes? Love what Pat brings to the locker room, love what he brings to the field," Keim said. Peterson is returning from a six-game suspension to face the Giants in Week 7. The Cardinals have been one of the worst at defending opposing wideouts so far this year, so his return should help them in that department. However, the Cardinals Defense/special teams still can't be trusted in fantasy.
The Cincinnati Bengals suspended left tackle Cordy Glenn for one game on Friday for internal disciplinary reasons. Glenn and the Bengals are at odds over the handling of his concussion, and he got into a heated argument with team officials on Wednesday. Glenn has yet to play this year and won't return until at least Week 8. It's more bad news for an offensive line that's been one of the worst in the NFL through the first six weeks. It's part of the reason they're 0-6. Quarterback Andy Dalton will face a Jaguars Defense without cornerback Jalen Ramsey this Sunday, but he's still a mostly unappealing QB2 for however long A.J. Green (ankle) is out.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) isn't expected to play on Sunday night against the Cowboys. Jackson is improving, but it looks like the Eagles aren't ready to throw him out there just yet despite the important divisional battle against Dallas. D-Jax hasn't played since Week 2, and his absence as the team's deep threat has affected the offense. Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins will continue to work in three-wide sets, with Jeffery being the only real fantasy asset for starting lineups. There's a better chance that Jackson will return in Week 8, but it's not a guarantee.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) is trending in the right direction to play in Week 7 against the Dolphins. Miami's defense is as good of a matchup you'll find in the NFL, but Singletary will likely play second fiddle to veteran Frank Gore if he returns to action this Sunday. Still, with a matchup this nice, Singletary will have RB3/flex appeal in deeper leagues if he's active. Running back T.J. Yeldon will move back to the bench if Singletary returns.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) will not be cleared to play in Week 7 against the Cardinals, according to sources. Week 8 is also an uncertainty for Shepard as the Giants take caution with his head injury, the second concussion he's suffered in a four-week span. You can remove Shepard from your fantasy lineups now, and he'll be questionable, at best, for next weekend. With Shepard out another game, it's good news for Golden Tate as a high-end WR3 out of the slot. The Cardinals will be getting cornerback Patrick Peterson back, but he's unlikely to work the slot. Tate's upside won't be as high with tight end Evan Engram and running back Saquon Barkley returning, but he should still be able to put up decent fantasy numbers in a great matchup.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram have been cleared for Sunday's contest against the Cardinals and appear to be set to return to their full workloads. Both should immediately be inserted back into lineups with elite matchups against an over-matched Cardinals Defense. Engram's return does knock Golden Tate's value a bit for this week, and Barkley's return means Daniel Jones will be asked to throw the ball much less; however, this is great news overall for the Giants offense and perhaps the defense as well since the Giants will be able to sustain drives and give their defense a rest.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) suffered a right patellar dislocation in the second quarter during a QB sneak on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, according to a source. He is undergoing an MRI exam on Friday to determine if there is any ligament damage, but the best-case timeline for Mahomes "would be around three weeks." Mahomes has been in good spirits about the injury, but he's definitely expected to miss some time. He had also been playing through an ankle injury he suffered in Week 1. Backup Matt Moore took over and went 10-for-19 for 117 yards and a touchdown. He has weapons around him but will be a low-end QB2 for however long Mahomes is out. You'll obviously need to stash last year's MVP on your bench and hope for a quick return.
Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Amari Cooper (ankle, quadriceps) and Randall Cobb (back) are both expected to return to practice on Friday and play against the Eagles in Week 7 on Sunday night, according to sources. The same can be said for offensive tackles Tyron Smith (ankle) and La'el Collins (knee). Cooper and Cobb were trending towards not playing, but it looks like both receivers will give it a go. With that said, both could be extremely limited, making them both risky fantasy plays this weekend despite the excellent matchup. Expect them both to be listed as questionable for this divisional tilt. Either way, Michael Gallup has an opportunity for a big game this Sunday.