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.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense should continue their dominant run in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. Entering the contest as the second-best defense by DVOA, the Niners should wreak havoc against quarterback Case Keenum and the woeful Skins. Operating as heavy favorites, the defense should steer Washington away from its stagnant run game and put constant pressure on an offensive line thats allowed 15 sacks. Facing one of the sloppier teams in the NFL, the 49ers make for a premium defensive unit this Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo enters Week 7 against the Washington Redskins with seven turnovers through five games (five picks, two fumbles). While he draws a cake matchup against the one-win Skins, Garoppolo is just an upside QB2 facing a weak pass defense. To climb the ranks of fantasy relevance, Garoppolo needs to stop committing mistakes and opposing teams must force the Niners away from their dominant rushing attack. That probably wont happen in Week 7 with the 49ers heavy favorites. While the run-heavy game plan partially offsets the juicy matchup, Garoppolo could finish the week a top-15 quarterback.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson was able to haul in a few receptions after a dud last week. Robinson didn't catch anything in the loss to the Colts during Week 6, but got back on the board in this one. He caught three of his five targets for 31 yards in the Week 7 victory over the Broncos. However, losing quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) is a big concern for the Chiefs offense. Robinson would only be a desperation flex option with veteran Matt Moore at quarterback in Week 8. Fantasy owners will have to wait and see what happens with Mahomes.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce continues to remain a strong and reliable fantasy option each and every week. He caught six of his eight targets for 44 yards in the Week 7 win over Denver. Kelce only has one touchdown this season, but continues to see a high volume of targets. It's unclear if quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) will suit up in Week 8 versus the Packers. However, Kelce is probably the only player on the Chiefs' offense that shouldn't lose value with Matt Moore at quarterback. Fantasy owners should continue to trust Kelce as a top five tight end.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was having a slow game in the Thursday night matchup versus the Broncos, until one play changed it all. Hill caught a 57-yard touchdown from quarterback Matt Moore late in the third quarter. He finished with three receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown in the Week 7 victory. Patrick Mahomes (knee) going down will hurt the Chiefs offense, assuming he misses time. Hill would be downgraded to a high-end WR2 for Week 8, assuming Mahomes sits out at least one week.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman was able to save his fantasy value with a touchdown in the Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos. He caught two of his three targets for 28 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) going down did hurt the Chiefs offense a bit in this one. However, losing Mahomes for multiple games could kill Hardman's fantasy value. Veteran Matt Moore didn't look his way often after he replaced Mahomes in the second quarter. Hardman would have some shaky flex value, assuming Mahomes misses Week 8 versus the Packers.
Kansas City Chiefs running game Damien Williams has been basically a ghost on the field since Week 2. He finished with six total rushing yards during Week 6, but manages to have a worse fantasy game the following week. Williams rushed nine times for seven yards in the Week 7 victory over the Broncos. Williams got negative yards in the passing game, so he can't even be trusted there. Fantasy owners in standard leagues should probably be benching Williams at this point. He'll have low-end flex appeal versus the Green Bay Packers in Week 8. LeSean McCoy is looking like the better running back in KC right now.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Moore played surprisingly well after being thrown into the fire during Thursday's Week 7 matchup versus the Denver Broncos. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) exited in the second quarter after suffering a right knee injury. The veteran Moore was asked to take over and run the offense for the rest of the game. Moore completed 10 of 19 passing attempts for 117 yards and one touchdown in the victory. It's unclear if Mahomes is going to miss time yet, but Moore could carry some fantasy value, assuming Mahomes is out at least one week. Moore might have limited fantasy value for QB needy fantasy teams since he's surrounded by such a great offense. Don't expect him to light it up like Mahomes, but Moore looked decent on Thursday.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy was strong in the running game for the team during their Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos. McCoy rushed 12 times for 64 yards and caught two passes through the air for 12 extra yards on Thursday. McCoy has been clearly rushing better than lead back Damien Williams over the last few weeks. The Chiefs seem to be leaning more on McCoy than Williams at this point in the season. However, losing quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) could hurt the offense, assuming he misses time. McCoy is on the radar as a flex option for Week 8 versus the Packers.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (knee) was playing well in Thursday's Week 7 matchup against the Denver Broncos. He completed 10 of 11 passing attempts for 76 yards and a touchdown. However, Mahomes was knocked out of the game in the second quarter after suffering a right knee injury. Mahomes was able to walk into the locker room under his own power, so that's a good sign. He reportedly avoided a fracture, but it's unclear if there is any ligament damage. More information should be known in a day or two. Fantasy owners will just have to wait and hope for the best.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (groin) was limited in practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Kittle is perfectly fine to play in Week 7 against the Redskins. Against one of the weaker defenses in the NFL in Washington, Kittle is an easy top-three fantasy tight end this weekend, although the Niners probably won't have to throw a ton to win this game easily.
San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) and running back Raheem Mostert (knee) both missed practice for the second straight day on Thursday. Samuel and Mostert are on the wrong side of questionable to play in Week 7 against the Redskins. On a run-first team, Samuel just hasn't seen enough targets to be fantasy relevant in most redraft leagues in his rookie season. If he sits, it's good news for Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis. Mostert's fantasy value took a huge hit once Tevin Coleman came back from his injury two weeks ago. He belongs on the waiver wire unless you own one of Coleman or Matt Breida.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) was limited in practice on Thursday. Thomas should be fine to play on Monday night against the Patriots. The 31-year-old is a little bit more attractive to fantasy owners with quarterback Sam Darnold back under center. Thomas has eight catches for 109 scoreless yards the last two weeks, but he's still third on the receiving depth chart behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. The Jets have a tough matchup in the Patriots on Monday night, making Thomas more of a WR5 in fantasy.
The New Orleans Saints are doing their due diligence in making phone calls to see what's available on the trade market. Wide receiver and tight end seem to be the most likely options for them on the trade market, and they could be targeting Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert now that he is fully healthy. The Saints already have Jared Cook at tight end, but they could utilize more two-tight end sets if they were to acquire Eifert, especially since they don't have a ton of receiver depth behind Michael Thomas. In a bad Cincy offense this year, Eifert has just 15 receptions (22 targets) for 108 yards and one touchdown. He'd be more attractive in New Orleans in the second half of the season, but he wouldn't be guaranteed to be a TE1 with Cook also in the fold.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron (illness) and rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell (abdomen) both missed practice on Thursday. Campbell also missed practice on Wednesday and is on pace to miss his second straight game. He's well off the fantasy radar for now in redraft leagues. Ebron should be fine to play in Week 7 against the Texans, although he's a low-upside, touchdown-dependent TE2 against a Houston defense that has shut down the tight end position in 2019.
Houston Texans wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins (ribs), Will Fuller (calf, oblique) and Kenny Stills (hamstring) all practiced in full on Thursday. All three receivers should be in uniform for Week 7's divisional tilt against the Colts. Stills missed the last game and should return to split slot duties with Keke Coutee, limiting both player's fantasy upside as a WR4/5 in deeper leagues. Hopkins has been quiet this year but could blow up at any moment and is a must-start. Fuller boomed in Week 5 and busted last week. He typically has high-end WR2 upside on a week-to-week basis.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday after being a full participant on Wednesday. Waller should be fine for Week 7 against the Packers, but his foot injury is worth watching. The first-year Raider should be targeted heavily with wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) out for the foreseeable future, but keep in mind that Waller had his worst game in Week 5 with Williams out of the lineup. The Packers have been pretty stingy against opposing wideouts, too, so they'll likely devote attention to slowing Waller down. His expected high target share should give him a high floor, so continue to roll Waller out there as a strong TE1.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (quadriceps) and quarterback Case Keenum (foot, shoulder) both returned to a full practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. The Redskins were likely just resting their veterans on Wednesday, so expect Peterson and Keenum to be out there in Week 7 against the 49ers. Peterson had 20-plus carries and over 100 yards against the winless Dolphins in Week 6, but he'll have a much tougher time finding holes against San Fran's strong defense this Sunday. He makes for a low-upside RB3/flex. Keenum has a tough challenge ahead and not many weapons to work with. He's an unattractive low-end QB2.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes(knee) was ruled out of Thursday night's game after suffering a dislocated knee cap on a fourth-and-one sneak attempt. Everybody is still waiting for more information, but being ruled out so quickly is not encouraging for his availability going forward. If you have Mahomes, you may want to plan ahead at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Matt Moore is Kansas City's backup. All of the Chiefs skill players will take a hit with Mahomes likely to miss some time with this injury.