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.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert caught five passes in Week 6, gaining 48 yards. He was targeted eight times, and was much more involved than he'd been in previous games, with Zach Ertz seeing just one more target. Goedert is about due for a "blow up" game, but his usage remains too inconsistent to be anything more than a TE2, even with how weak the position has been in fantasy this year.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott made all of his kicks in Week 6. Elliott split the uprights on his two extra point attempts and also made field goals from 53 and 40 yards out. It was a solid performance for Elliott, who should continue to be one of the more consistent fantasy kickers going forward.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins did nothing in Week 6, making no catches on two targets. Hollins was on the field in three-wide sets but only saw two balls go his way and did nothing with them. With DeSean Jackson (abdomen) targeting a Week 7 return, Hollins should return to his special teams role soon.
Houston Texans tight end Darren Fells had six receptions for 69 yards in the win over the Chiefs on Sunday. Fells was fresh off of a two-touchdown performance against the Falcons coming into this one and continued to get looks from quarterback Deshaun Watson. If he is available in deeper formats, snag him up before it's too late.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown has been quiet over the last two games after a two touchdown performance in Week 4. Brown caught two of his four targets in the 16-0 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 6. The Titans continue to have struggles on offense and that has hurt Brown's value. Fantasy owners can't expect much at this point, so Brown should be considered a low-end flex option for next week versus the Chargers.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was not even targeted in Week 6. The hyped-up rookie now has two games in a row where he's drawn no targets. With DeSean Jackson (abdomen) on his way back to the field soon, Arcega-Whiteside will continue to have zero value in redraft formats.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas made four catches for 62 yards in a win over the Cowboys Sunday. The 62 yards are the most Thomas has gained in three games played this season, and he has been getting more involved in the offense overall. On the Jets second drive, the first goal-to-go snap they ran was a quick slant to Thomas for what would have been an easy touchdown, had it not been for pass interference. Despite the Jets trying to get Thomas more involved, it'll be hard for them to support three fantasy-relevant wide receivers and Thomas has been the third guy behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. As long as Anderson, Crowder and running back Le'Veon Bell are healthy, Thomas likely won't see enough targets to be relevant in standard-size fantasy leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caught four passes in Week 6, gaining 54 scoreless yards and losing a fumble. Ertz was targeted nine times, but has now scored just one touchdown through six weeks of the season. He hasn't gone over 72 yards receiving yet either. In a position as shallow as tight end, Ertz is very much still a weekly TE1, but he seems to be working with much less upside than in previous seasons. We'll see if the Eagles start getting Ertz more involved going forward.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery caught 10 passes in Week 6, gaining 76 yards and scoring a touchdown. Jeffery was faded in many rankings this week as he was taking on the Minnesota Vikings secondary, but he picked up several quick short passes and came down with a three-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Jeffery should be able to maintain his value as a WR2/3 even when DeSean Jackson (abdomen) returns to the starting lineup.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller hauled in five receptions for 44 yards during the win over the Chiefs on Sunday. While he was nowhere near the level of efficiency that we saw in Week 5, it was still a semi-decent performance for those who had him in PPR lineups. With nine targets on the night, Fuller should continue to be involved moving ahead despite the potential return of Kenny Stills (hamstring), who is expected back soon.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder made six catches for 98 yards in a win over the Cowboys Sunday. Crowder was excited to have starting quarterback Sam Darnold back under center as Crowder had his biggest game since Week 1, the last game Darnold played before being ruled out with mono. In two games with Darnold, Crowder has 20 catches for 197 yards as opposed to the 75 yards total he had in three games with backups starting for New York. Having Darnold back makes Crowder a startable WR3 in fantasy, even with a tough matchup with New England looming next Monday night.
The Cleveland Browns Defense struggled in a 32-28 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6. Cleveland's offense jumped out to a 20-6 lead early in the second quarter but the defense was unable to hold on for the win, allowing 26 points in the final three quarters. The defense didn't get much help as the Cleveland offense committed four turnovers in the loss. Seattle also got excellent field position after blocking a punt. On the plus side, Cleveland's defense continues to sack the quarterback at a high rate, notching another three in the contest while also forcing one turnover. The Browns defense has plenty of talent but they have played a tough schedule thus far. Things won't let up after their Week 7 bye as they draw a brutal road matchup against the undefeated New England Patriots in Week 8. At least fantasy owners have two weeks to make plans to secure a proper replacement defense in their fantasy leagues before that matchup.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor caught four passes in Week 6, gaining 42 scoreless yards. He had one catch in his last two games combined, so while it was nice to see him come down with the four catches, he didn't really do much to inspire confidence in his play going forward. He simply does not have NFL-caliber hands. Agholor will be a desperation-only play going forward, especially when DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is back on the field.
Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee had four catches for 39 yards during the win over the Chiefs on Sunday. While DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Darren Fells accounted for 28 looks from quarterback Deshaun Watson, Coutee was still semi-involved to the delight of those who had him in fantasy lineups to provide some injury relief. With Kenny Stills (hamstring) potentially returning against the Colts in Week 7, Coutee may not be as involved moving forward.
Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker has been unable to do much over the last three games, but it's not all his fault. Walker hauled in three of his five targets for 43 yards in the Week 6 loss to the Denver Broncos. Both incompletions were bad passes by the quarterback, so difficult to blame Walker there. Walker might have better fantasy value in another system as the Titans really struggle to get him the ball. He'll have low-end TE1 upside against the Chargers in Week 7.
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins hauled in nine receptions for 55 yards during the win over the Chiefs. While his 12 targets were a season-high, his lack of scores on the year has severely diminished his fantasy value outside of non-PPR formats. Nonetheless, Hopkins remains a must-start moving forward and hopefully can find the end zone against the Colts in Week 7.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders made the most of his touches in Week 6. Sanders carried the ball just three times, gaining six yards. All of his damage came through the air though, where he caught three passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. The rookie's score came on a 32-yard pass from Carson Wentz in the second quarter. Sanders getting only six touches is a bit concerning, but if he can do this much with that little, he'll continue to at least have RB3/4 appeal.
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell carried the ball 14 times for 50 yards and scored his first touchdown since a receiving score in Week 1 vs Buffalo. Bell has been the centerpiece of the Jets offense so far playing a 94.3 percent snap share coming into the game, and head coach Adam Gase seemed determined to get his workhorse into the end zone. After a pass interference call in the end zone, the Jets gave Bell the ball not once but twice to score the first touchdown of the afternoon. Bell was limited in the passing game today with only a three-yard catch on one target, but was still the primary back used by New York as no other running back had more than three touches. Bell is a must-start running back despite a tough matchup vs New England in Week 7.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott carried the ball four times in Week 6, gaining 30 yards. Scott was just elevated to the active roster from the practice squad this week, to take the place of Corey Clement (shoulder) on the running back depth chart. Scott will serve mostly in a complementary role on offense while spending most of his time on special teams, but if Miles Sanders keeps showing nothing in the running game, Scott could suddenly see himself elevated even further in the game plan.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis was quiet once again in the 16-0 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 6. Davis caught three of his five targets for 36 yards on Sunday. Davis has put together one good game all season and is making it difficult on fantasy owners to even trust him. The Titans have struggled to get their receivers the ball and that will likely continue. Fantasy owners should consider Davis a low-end flex option for Week 7 versus the Chargers.