In this Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, file photo, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Devon Kennard (42) and defensive tackle Corey Peters (98) during the first half of an NFL football game in Glendale, Ariz. The New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions are in unfamiliar territory. New Orleans has lost consecutive games for the first time in three years and Detroit just ended an 11-game, 11-month losing streak. The matchup of teams with 1-2 records on Sunday at Ford Field may prove to be pivotal.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
In this Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, file photo, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) loses the ball as he is hit by Green Bay Packers linebacker Delontae Scott (98) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans. The Saints and Detroit Lions are in unfamiliar territory. New Orleans has lost consecutive games for the first time in three years and Detroit just ended an 11-game, 11-month losing streak. The matchup of teams with 1-2 records on Sunday at Ford Field may prove to be pivotal. (AP Photo/Brett Duke, File)
DETROIT (AP) The New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions are in unfamiliar territory.
New Orleans has lost consecutive games for the first time in three years and Detroit just ended an 11-game, 11-month losing streak.
The matchup of teams with 1-2 records on Sunday at Ford Field may prove to be pivotal.
With running back Alvin Kamara on a scoring tear, a win would help the Saints stay within at least a game of NFC South-leading Tampa Bay.
''I don't think there's a sense of panic or anything like that or doubt, but we also understand this puts us almost a quarter of the way through the season,'' New Orleans safety Malcolm Jenkins said. ''You can't afford to drop ones, especially ones that you feel like you're supposed to win.''
Detroit is in relatively desperate need to earn two straight victories - under embattled coach Matt Patricia - going into its bye week in part because Green Bay and Chicago are undefeated atop the NFC North.
''It's a huge difference between being 2-2 and the alternative,'' Lions running back Adrian Peterson acknowledged.
Kamara has looked healthy and happy to start this season, which began the day after he signed an extension that is expected to pay him $50 million during the next four seasons.
Kamara leads the Saints in rushing with 153 yards and three touchdowns and leads the team in receiving with 27 catches for 285 yards and three TDs, giving him an NFL-high six scores from scrimmage.
''I'm back in rhythm,'' said Kamara, who struggled with ankle and knee injuries last season. ''A lot of those things that I normally do, I couldn't do. Couldn't really move how I wanted to, couldn't be as physical as I wanted to be.''
The Lions leaned on veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant this week, hoping his 12 games of experience with Atlanta against New Orleans would assist in their preparation.
''It's been fun to talk to him about this offense and some of the players that they have, certainly that's been a big help so far,'' Patricia said. ''He definitely has a lot of really good knowledge.''
The 30-year-old Trufant, who signed a $20 million, two-year contract in Detroit after the Falcons released him, might also be able to help on the field after missing the previous two games with a hamstring injury.
Detroit's special teams are off to a strong start.
Jack Fox, an undrafted free agent last year, is the franchise's first punter to earn NFC special teams player of the month honors after his net punting average was a league-best 51.1 yards and he pinned opponents inside the 20 seven times.
Matt Prater was the conference's special teams player of the week after he was 4 for 4 on field goals, including a 39-yard, game-ending kick that lifted the Lions to a 26-23 win at Arizona. Jamal Agnew is averaging a league-high 17.5 yards on punt returns.
While Saints coach Sean Payton specializes in designing and calling New Orleans' offense, he hasn't hesitated to critique his club's defense lately. The Saints have struggled defensively the past two weeks after a strong Week 1 performance against the Tom Brady-led Buccaneers.
Payton has honed in on a lack of discipline from his players, who are regularly biting on play-action fakes.
''We need to have much better eyes relative to what we're doing,'' Payton said. ''We looked like a high school team defending the bootleg the other night (against Green Bay) and that was kind of embarrassing. So that has to get corrected.''
While Saints two-time All-Pro Michael Thomas practiced throughout the week, the Saints decided on Friday to list their top receiver as out for Sunday.
That could be a break for Detroit, even if the Lions had to spend the week preparing to play against him.
''When he gets added into the mix, it just really kind of makes things harder for the defense all the way across the board,'' Patricia said.
Thomas set a single-season league record last year with 149 catches and had an NFL-high 1,725 yards receiving along with nine receiving TDs. The Saints have lost both games he has missed this season.
Thomas is but one of six Saints starters ruled out against Detroit, along with cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore (hamstring) and Janoris Jenkins (shoulder); defensive end Marcus Davenport (elbow, toe), tight end Jared Cook (groin) and left guard Andrus Peat (ankle).
Five Sleepers: Week 7
The Las Vegas Raiders defense has been statistically one of the worst defenses in the league this season. They are averaging under two fantasy points per game and face an ascending Buccaneers offense this week. Tom Brady is currently fourth in the league in passing touchdowns, and this Tampa Bay offense is ascending after hanging 31 offensive points on Green Bay in Week 6. The Raiders rank 27th in scoring defense and 24th in yards allowed. There is nothing to suggest they will have a good performance this week and should be kept on the bench or dropped entirely.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller has a tough test against the Buccaneers this week, but he should be able to produce a solid fantasy performance. Waller has been great at home this season, with 21 catches, 193 yards, and a touchdown in two games. The Buccaneers have one of the league's best defenses, but the Patriots are the only team to hold Waller under five catches so far this season. He currently ranks third in fantasy points per game among tight ends, and he leads the Raiders in targets. The Buccaneers rank sixth in the league against tight ends, but fantasy owners should feel comfortable starting him based on his performances so far this season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III will have a tough matchup against a good Buccaneers secondary in Week 7. Ruggs had a breakout performance in his last game against the Chiefs, but his value rests with the deep ball at this time. That is not great news considering the Buccaneers are one of the best defenses against the deep ball, ranking third in the league in allowing receptions of over 20 yards. He was able to get loose in the Chiefs secondary with a 72-yard reception in the first half but caught just one other pass the rest of the game. Ruggs' big-play potential makes him a fringe flex option in deeper leagues, but don't expect a lot of targets for the rookie this week.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will face one of the league's best run defenses this week in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are allowing just three yards per carry and rank second in the league in total rushing yards allowed. Jacobs is having a productive year and is certainly a must-start option, but he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on the season. Jacobs has just one game this season where he has rushed for over four yards per carry. With that being said, he is still seventh in points per game among running backs. It will not be an easy day for Jacobs, but fantasy owners should feel encouraged that he can put up a solid fantasy performance despite a difficult matchup.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will have one of his most difficult tests of the year against a great Buccaneers Defense. The Buccaneers defense has allowed just seven passing touchdowns and have grabbed eight interceptions in their six games this season. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 82 against this Todd Bowles defense. They confused Aaron Rodgers and made him uncomfortable, so this will not be an easy day for Carr. With that being said, Carr has thrown for almost 600 passing yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in two home games this season. The Raiders are coming off a bye, and Carr is having a career year. However, he is likely a bench option this week due to the matchup.
The New Orleans Saints Defense faces a middle-of-the-pack matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. It's a date with former Saint Teddy Bridgewater, who started five games for the team in 2019. New Orleans' defense is finally starting to get healthy after a rash of injuries, as they will get Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) back and essentially be at full strength. This unit may start to put together some good performances, starting with this week. They can be used as a starting option.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz faces a favorable matchup in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. Lutz is perfect on the season, having made all nine field-goals and all 18 extra-points. Carolina ranks 22nd in fantasy points allowed to kickers, making this a juicy matchup for Lutz. Expect strong fantasy numbers from the 26-year-old.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook could see more opportunities in Week 7 against the Panthers. Cook had one of his better games against the Chargers, catching two passes for 52 yards and a score. New Orleans is down two of it's best pass-catchers- Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19)- heading into the contest against the Panthers. The veteran tight end should see more targets, making him a good start as a TE1 in Week 7.
Seattle Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde (shoulder, toe) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hyde will serve as the backup for Chris Carson but should see a handful of touches during the game. Fantasy players should be able to find better options and can keep Hyde on the bench.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (ankle) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and has been ruled out for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert is expected to miss multiple weeks because of the injury, so fantasy players should look for other options to use. Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty likely will share playing time while Mostert is sidelined. McKinnon probably has more fantasy value and can be a flex option in leagues. Hasty should be rostered in leagues and has a chance to be a flex option depending on the opponent.
Los Angeles Chargers WR Keenan Allen (back) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Allen has been targeted at least eight times in four of the five games this season and seems to have a good connection with Justin Herbert. Allen can be considered a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) was limited during practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is listed as questionable for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins likely will be able to play despite the injury, but fantasy players will need to check the inactive list for his status. He is a must-start option in all leagues if he is active for the game.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith faces a tricky matchup in Week 7 against the Panthers. However, matchup concerns are alleviated by the fact that New Orleans will be without Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Smith will be busy against a Panthers Defense that has surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts. With a good chance of finding the end zone, Smith is looking like a high-end WR3 in Week 7, despite the matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and has been ruled out for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Demarcus Robinson served as the No. 2 receiver for the Chiefs last week and probably will have a similar role this week. He can be a flex option or bye week replacement in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara gets an excellent matchup against the Panthers Defense. Kamara has offered fantasy managers the safest floor of any running back, particularly in PPR formats, as he's had at least 19 fantasy points in every game this season. He'll go up against a Panthers defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing halfbacks. The Saints will probably go with a more run-heavy approach, seeing as their top-two wideouts- Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19)- are out for the contest. Kamara is a must-start in redraft leagues and is well worth the price in DFS formats.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray has a favorable matchup in front of him against the Panthers in Week 7. Murray has had at least 13 touches in three of five contests this season, with two of those games coming against teams that struggle to stop the run. New Orleans will be without Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) against the Panthers' 24th-ranked run defense. Murray is a good bet for 12-15 touches in Week 7, putting him squarely in the flex discussion.
Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods (groin) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on the situation to see if Woods will be able to play in Week 7. He can be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues if he is cleared to play.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (hand) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Higbee probably will need to practice Saturday, Oct. 24, if he wants a chance to play in the Week 7 game. He is coming off his best game of the season and would see a few targets if he plays this week. He could be a low-end No. 1 tight end in some leagues.
Los Angeles Rams OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury) and DT Aaron Donald (non-injury) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees faces the Panthers in Week 7. Brees will face a sneakily-good Carolina defense without his top two receivers, Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Despite not having Thomas, Brees has thrown for at least 250 yards or two touchdowns in each game this season, giving fantasy managers a solid floor. The Panthers allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, limiting Brees' upside. However, he should be able to finish as a solid QB2 in Week 7.