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.
Waiver Wire Adds: Week 4
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) returned to practice on Wednesday. Thomas has been out the past two weeks while nursing an ankle sprain. In Wednesday's practice, Thomas was reportedly moving well and showing good signs of progress. He's currently questionable for Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. If he's able to go, Drew Brees will see a boost in his value, while Tre'Quan Smith and Emmanuel Sanders become more risky plays. Make sure to monitor the situation closely over the next few days if you're a Thomas owner.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) is expected to play in the team's Week 4 game on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. Crowder missed the team's previous two games while dealing with a hamstring injury. It doesn't sound as if Crowder will be 100% for the Thursday's game, but he is still worth starting as a WR3 in all fantasy formats, especially in PPR. In his only game this year, Crowder caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. The Jets have been sorely missing him in their passing game the previous two weeks.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has played well to start the year, and they finally have fantasy value in Week 4. The New York Giants look like one of the worst teams in football, and they're dealing with injuries to just about every offensive weapon they have. Lineman Aaron Donald remains one of the most dominant weapons in football, and he's going to have a field day against the interior of New York. This Rams' team can take advantage of the mistakes that quarterback Daniel Jones is going to make, and they could keep the points total extremely low.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Samuel Sloman is a top-10 option in Week 4 behind this offense. This Rams' group looks closer to the one we saw in 2018 when they could move the ball at will against most defenses, and that's going to continue against the New York Giants. The Giants just look brutal right now, and that's great for kickers. Additionally, this is a home game for the Rams, which means that weather will not be an issue inside SoFi Stadium. Behind this high-octane offense, you can safely put Sloman into your lineups this week.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee had a rough go of things in Week 3, but Week 4 is his chance to bounce back. The Giants have done well at defending tight ends early in the season, but they haven't played a player of Higbee's caliber. Higbee scored three touchdowns in Week 2, and I think he gets into the end zone again this week. He gives quarterback Jared Goff a safe option across the middle, and the Giants are dealing with issues at the safety position with multiple injuries to start the year. Higbee is a low-end TE1 in 12-team leagues this week.
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green has been targeted in the end zone six times through three games with zero touchdowns.
Fantasy Spin: Green was once one of the premier receivers in the NFL and a fantasy stud, but these days it's uncertain whether he or Tyler Boyd is the No. 1 receiver in the Queen City. He has tumbled into the WR3 or flex fantasy area heading into Week 4.
Cincinnati Bengals DT Geno Atkins (shoulder) practiced Wednesday, Sept. 30 for the first time since injuring his shoulder in training camp. 'We'll take it day-to-day and know more by the end of the week,' head coach Zac Taylor said.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods had a tough matchup in Week 3, but things get a lot easier in Week 4 against the New York Giants. The Giants don't have a cornerback that can stick with Woods with any consistency, and he's going to have a number of opportunities where he's running wide open. It's rare that Woods as the upside to be a WR1, but this is one of those chances. Woods has shown a good knack for finding the end zone this year, and it will only take some receptions and one big play to give him that WR1 week. He's a safe play again this week.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson has a great matchup in Week 4 against the New York Giants. Over the last two weeks, he's averaged over 6.0 yards per carry. His offensive line is opening wide-open lanes for him to hit, and he's blasting through them. In Week 4, he draws the New York Giants who are just getting gashed to start the year. Their strength is defending the run with their front seven, but Henderson is just getting too much work to bench him. As long as he's getting the lead-back duties, he can give you a safe amount of RB2 production every week.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has started the year on a slow pace, but he finally broke through in Week 3 with a 25.7 point performance against the Buffalo Bills. In Week 4, his matchup gets even better against the New York Giants. Their biggest weakness on defense is in the secondary, and they don't have anyone that can keep with Kupp. He has a safe floor as a WR2, but he has a ceiling as a WR1 this week. He gets great volume, and he is a rock-solid option for quarterback Jared Goff. Lock him in this week.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is on a quest for a QB1-level season. He's currently QB9 as things stand, and he has a solid chance to improve that standing in Week 4 against the New York Giants. The Giants were just demolished at home by the San Francisco 49ers with backups starting all over the place. This Rams' offense just scored 28 unanswered points against the Buffalo Bills in one half, and they can do that again this week. Goff is a safe option in Week 4 for leagues with at least 12 teams, and he should give you low-end QB1 production.
Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams (groin), rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks (knee), cornerback Quinton Dunbar (knee) and defensive end Benson Mayowa (groin) all missed practice on Wednesday. Adams is the top fantasy safety in the game in IDP leagues, but he could be in real danger of missing this Sunday's contest against Miami. The Seahawks Defense has given up a ton of yardage (439.7 passing yards per game) through the first three weeks, but they're on the streaming radar this week with the Dolphins on the docket. However, if Adams and some of their other defenders are forced to sit out, you may want to rethink using Seattle as a one-week play.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson (knee) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Carson is dealing with a minor knee sprain, but he certainly has a chance to face the Dolphins in Week 4 after getting in a limited practice to start the week. However, the oft-injured 26-year-old could be limited this Sunday even if he's active, which will make him a pretty risky fantasy commodity this week. Carlos Hyde is next in line to see more touches if Carson sits out or is limited, with Travis Homer behind Hyde in the pecking order. Fantasy managers should get a better read on how healthy Carson really is after a few more practices.
Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert took all of the reps in practice Wednesday, Sept. 30 with QB Tyrod Taylor (lung) not practicing. However, head coach Anthony Lynn has not yet officially named Herbert the starter for Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fantasy Spin: If Herbert is tabbed for his third consecutive start, he is only worth a look as a QB2 in fantasy leagues which require two starting signal callers.
The Atlanta Falcons Defense should be well off the starting radar for this week against Green Bay. The ATL defense has been the Achilles heel of this team as they have blown late leads in Weeks 2 and 3. They have allowed 38, 40, and 30 points thus far this season and now face a Green Bay team that has scored close to 40 points each game. There is no reason to trust this defense.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor (chest, ribs) and defensive end Joey Bosa (ankle, triceps) both missed practice on Wednesday. The Chargers aren't ruling Taylor out for the Week 4 matchup against the Buccaneers, but this isn't a good start to the week for the QB. He's recovering from a punctured lung that has caused him to miss the last two games, which has led to rookie Justin Herbert getting his first two starts under center. If healthy, Taylor could reclaim the starting gig, but he's nothing more than a low-end QB2 in an offense that would prefer to run the ball. Bosa is a must-start IDP asset when he's healthy, and the Chargers Defense will surely need him if they want to slow Tom Brady down this Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage is a flex play if he is active this week against the Packers. Gage suffered a head injury in Week 3 which caused him to miss much of the game. It remains unclear whether he will play in Week 4. The 2018 pick put up an impressive first two games before going down in Week 3. He recorded over 100 yards in Week 1 and has seen 12 and nine targets in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. There is a growing rapport between Gage and Matt Ryan, so he is certainly in the flex conversation in what could be a high-scoring game at Lambeau. If Gage plays and Julio Jones doesn't, Gage's value would increase.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst is a low-end TE1 for Week 4. Hurst has been hard to figure out on this offense, as he saw eight targets and got 72 yards in Week 2, but only had one reception for one yard in Week 3 when Julio Jones was out and Russell Gage was injured for most of the game. At this point, we don't know which version of Hurst we may get this week, so he can be started as a TE1 in bigger leagues, but there is added risk considering his production could be huge or completely small.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (quadriceps) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) were both limited in practice on Wednesday. Michel has dealt with plenty of injuries so far in his career, so this one is worth watching, but as of right now, he seems like a good bet to play in Week 4 against the Chiefs. Michel ran all over the Raiders in the victory last week, but KC's defensive front will be a much tougher matchup. Consider him as more of a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex. Edelman is frequently on the injury report with minor injuries but usually plays through them. He was quiet last week in a game in which Rex Burkhead scored three times. The Pats will have to throw the ball to keep up with the Chiefs in this contest, making Edelman a good bet to bounce back as a WR2. The Chiefs are a bit beat up in the secondary as well.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II is an RB2 for the Week 4 clash against the Packers. Though he hasn't been a factor in the receiving game, Gurley has seen no less than 14 carries and 56 rushing yards in a game this season. His role as the lead back is not in peril and as long as he stays healthy, the RB will see decent volume each week. The Packers have allowed the third-most points to fantasy RBs, meaning Gurley has great value for this week.