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.
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.''
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.''
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.''
Five Cold Plays: Week 2
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews looks to build off his effective Week 1 performance on Sunday against the Texans. The 25-year-old had a spectacular start to the season against the Browns, finishing with five catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. His ceiling for the remainder of the season is high, primarily since opposing defenses will be focused on slowing down Lamar Jackson. Fantasy managers in all formats should keep Andrews rolling in Week 2.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II is a risky play heading into Sunday's meeting against Houston. The veteran had an unfavorable performance during the Week 1 slaughter over the Browns, rushing for just 29 yards on 10 attempts. While Ingram may have a few more solid performances throughout the 2020 campaign, the presence of rookie back J.K. Dobbins, who had seven carries and two touchdowns against Cleveland, will undoubtably lower his stock moving forward. For those with nowhere else to turn, the 30-year-old should still hold a spot as a starter as the upside is still barely there against the Texans, as long as fantasy managers are comfortable with the potential for another shoddy performance as well.
Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins has a favorable upside on Sunday against the Texans. Although Mark Ingram II will potentially continue to snag some carries, the rookie managed to find the end zone twice against the Browns despite only touching the ball seven times. Dobbins is still a risky option, but he also has a high ceiling in Week 2, especially inside the five-yard line. For those in deeper leagues looking to throw a dart, the former second-round pick has plenty of potential against Houston to produce another effective fantasy performance.
Green Bay Packers CB Jaire Alexander (hand) was added to the injury report, but he is expected to play against the Detroit Lions in Week 2.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was impressive during the season-opener against the Browns and will look to keep that momentum going into Week 2 against Houston. The Texans Defense didn't impress against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs during the Thursday night matchup, allowing the former MVP to compile three touchdown tosses. Heading into Sunday, Jackson has all the tools needed to make some noise for fantasy owners. The third-year signal-caller threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns on nearly 71 percent passing against the Texans in Week 11 of 2019. He also added 10 carries for 79 yards. While Jackson's previous success against Houston doesn't mean another stellar outing is on tap, his ceiling is higher than usual on Sunday.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (knee) is listed as questionable for Monday night's game against the Saints. Ruggs III didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday before getting in a limited session on Friday. The rookie is at least trending in the right direction and probably has a good shot to suit up, especially considering he was on the practice field Saturday. The matchup against the Saints isn't great, as they were stingy against the Buccaneers' wideouts in Week 1. Consider Ruggs III a risky WR3/4 if he plays.
New York Jets running back Josh Adams was promoted from the practice squad on Saturday ahead of the team's Week 2 matchup with the 49ers. With Le'Veon Bell (hamstring) on Injured Reserve, the Jets are bringing up Adams for some depth. Frank Gore will see most of the carries, with the leftovers going to fellow backs La'Mical Perine (ankle) and newly acquired Kalen Ballage. Adams did score a garbage time touchdown in Week 1, though his role is far too unpredictable to count on for any production. This backfield is one of the more unappealing ones in fantasy football at the moment.
Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen is working on a contract extension with the team. The talks have progressed well and the two sides were pushing to get the deal done in advance of Week 2, though it may have to wait until after Chicago's game against the Giants on Sunday. The dynamic halfback has averaged 4.2 yards per carry on 257 career attempts and has exceeded 300 receiving yards in each of his three seasons in the league. The Bears are clearly viewing him as an important part of their future, which is music to the ears of fantasy managers. Stay tuned for details on any potential contract signing.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill gets a favorable matchup against the Jaguars in Week 2. Tannehill looked good in his opening game of 2020, completing 29 of 43 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Denver Broncos. Now he'll square off with a Jacksonville defense that surrendered 363 passing yards to Philip Rivers. Tannehill is certainly skilled enough to dissect the Jaguars' defense, though he may take a backseat to Derrick Henry in this one. The veteran could be a good streaming option this week, but his upside is capped because Tennessee may not need to rely on his arm to win this week.
Free-agent DB Grant Haley (Giants) and DT Anthony Zettel (Vikings) were signed to the New Orleans Saints' practice squad Saturday, Sept. 19.
Baltimore Ravens DB Jordan Richards was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster Saturday, Sept. 19.
Chicago Bears LB Devante Bond was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster Saturday, Sept. 19.
New York Jets LB Alec Ogletree was signed to the active roster from the practice squad Saturday, Sept. 19. WR Josh Malone was also promoted to the active roster from the practice squad.
San Francisco 49ers DL Dee Ford (neck) was ruled out Saturday, Sept. 19, and won't play Week 2 against the New York Jets.
Tennessee Titans RB Jeremy McNichols and WR Cameron Batson were promoted from the practice squad to the active roster Saturday, Sept. 19.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) has been ruled out for Monday night's game against the Las Vegas Raiders. There was a "glimmer of hope" that Thomas would be able to suit up a week after suffering a high-ankle sprain, though that was probably false hope at best. This is ideal for fantasy managers because now they can pivot to options on their bench from Sunday's slate of games. Fellow wideout Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Jared Cook should see a larger share of targets while Tre'Quan Smith has some appeal as a sleeper against the Raiders' suspect secondary.
Green Bay Packers WR Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Saturday, Sept. 19, due to a knee injury.
Houston Texans RB C.J. Prosise was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad Saturday, Sept. 19.
New Orleans Saints DE Marcus Davenport (elbow) and LB Chase Hansen (hip) didn't practice Saturday, Sept. 19, and have been ruled out for the Week 2 game against the Las Vegas Raiders Monday, Sept. 21. OL Cesar Ruiz (ankle) and S P.J. Williams (hamstring) both practiced in full and have been cleared for Week 2.