Thu Oct 17 7:27pm ET
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer
Chicago Bears quarterback Chase Daniel (4) prepares to throw during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, lower left, is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, center, as Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, right, tries to slow Jordan down during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) tackles Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half of an NFL football game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The New Orleans Saints kept their sights set on a Super Bowl even after Drew Brees went down with an injury.
While their superstar quarterback continues to recover following thumb surgery, the NFC South leaders will try to remain unbeaten without him.
The Saints look to improve to 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater as their starter in Brees' place when they visit Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
''It just shows this is a team that's determined to win and do whatever it takes,'' Bridgewater said.
The Saints (5-1) are getting big contributions from their defense and special teams and enough from their offense even if they're not moving the ball the way they did a year ago. They're averaging 344.7 yards - down 34.5 yards per game from last season, when Brees made 15 starts. He's been sidelined since he tore a ligament in his right thumb during a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2.
Bridgewater has completed about 69 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn't as effective last week at Jacksonville, after throwing for 314 yards and four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, but he hit Jared Cook for a tiebreaking 4-yard TD early in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars.
He will try to keep the Saints rolling against a team looking to bounce back. The Bears (3-2) are coming off a loss to Oakland in London two weeks ago in which their defense got pushed around a bit after dominating the first four games and their offense continued to struggle.
Here are some things to know:
The Bears hope to get quarterback Mitchell Trubisky back after missing a game because of a left shoulder injury.
If he returns, he'll try to build on a promising showing against Washington in Week 3.
Trubisky threw three touchdowns in an easy win over the struggling Redskins after mediocre outings in a season-opening loss to Green Bay and a narrow victory at Denver. He was then injured on the opening drive against Minnesota on Sept. 29.
''I felt that each game leading up to that Vikings game, until he got hurt, that there was (improvement),'' Bears coach Matt Nagy said. ''Progression-wise where he's going, playing faster, seeing at the line of scrimmage that he's getting into checks or seeing progressions, adjustments at the line of scrimmage - way quicker than what he was.''
Veteran Chase Daniel figures to make his second straight start if Trubisky is unavailable.
With 18 sacks, New Orleans is tied with Green Bay and Tennessee for sixth in the NFL.
Coach Sean Payton has been pleased by how depth along the front has helped keep linemen fresh and pressure high. While Cameron Jordan leads the club with five sacks, he's one of eight defensive linemen who've had at least half a sack. Payton said the Saints put an emphasis on improving depth on the defensive line after defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who was second on the club in sacks last season with eight, tore his Achilles tendon last January. That helped the Saints remain stout up front until Rankins returned in Week 4.
The Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season - or in 32 games, for that matter. They've also held their previous three opponents - Dallas, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville - to season lows in total yards.
While the Saints could be thin at running back if Alvin Kamara is unavailable or limited because of knee and ankle injuries, the Bears placed right guard Kyle Long and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks on injured reserve this week.
Long will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury. Hicks could return after eight weeks from an elbow injury he suffered against Oakland. Both players have made the Pro Bowl - Long from 2013-15 and Hicks last year.
Saints rookie defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson has had a promising start to his career. And he is expected to be tested more this week because primary nickel back P.J. Williams was suspended two games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Johnson's biggest moment was a hit on Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on a delayed blitz that forced an interception on the final play of the Saints' 12-10 triumph over Dallas in Week 4.
DEFERENCE TO DANIEL
While the Saints weren't sure which quarterback they'd be facing, several spoke highly of former teammate Daniel.
Rankins said Daniel - who played for New Orleans from 2009-12 and in 2017 - was always respected by the Saints' offensive brain trust: Payton and Brees.
''Coaches respected his opinion if he had an opinion on certain plays, or Drew would go to him about certain things, or they would converse back and forth about things they were seeing on the field,'' recalled Rankins, who was Daniel's teammate in 2017.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods, who was a surprise scratch last Sunday night due to personal reasons, remains away from the team as they prepare for Monday night's game against the Ravens, according to sources. At this point it's a reality that Woods might miss his second straight game with personal issues. He's becoming extremely risky for fantasy owners, especially with the team's Week 12 game coming on Monday night. Brandin Cooks (concussion) is expected to return this week, but Josh Reynolds would continue to serve in three-receiver sets if Woods misses another game. Reynolds would be a low-cost DFS streamer and deep league flex consideration if Woods is out again, but keep in mind that Baltimore's defense has been one of the best in the NFL in recent weeks.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill had a rough game in his first start of the year in Week 11. He had 15 carries in the game, but managed just 30 yards with them. He also added an eight-yard reception on three targets in the passing game. The Falcons face the Buccaneers in Week 12, a team that's easier to pass against than run against. Hill figures to see around 15 touches in the game, assuming Devonta Freeman (foot) is out. Freeman is currently questionable, but hasn't practiced all week and is most likely going to sit for his second-straight game. Hill's most valuable touches in Week 12 will likely come in the passing game. In Week 10, Hill showed that he can produce solid numbers by putting up 71 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. This week, he has a chance to do the same, but the risk is clear given last week's struggles. Plus, Qadree Ollison appears to be the team's preferred short-yardage and red zone back, which takes some of Hill's upside away. Hill is a low-end RB2 or flex option this week and he's more attractive in PPR formats.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) is out of practice again on Thursday, and it's safe to assume that he'll be inactive for Week 12 against the Bears. Keep Engram glued to your bench for another week. With Rhett Ellison (concussion) also not expected to play this weekend, it looks like Scott Simonson and rookie Kaden Smith will split work at the position against Chicago. The Bears have been vulnerable to tight ends, but fantasy owners shouldn't be looking to a Simonson/Smith split for help in the fantasy realm.
Atlanta Falcons running back Qadree Ollison scored his first career touchdown in Week 11, a game where he also saw his first NFL action. Ollison had four carries for 11 yards in Week 11. Brian Hill is the team's No. 1 running back for as long as Devonta Freeman (foot) is out. Freeman is currently questionable for Week 12, though he appears more likely to sit for the second-straight game. Ollison is certainly worth keeping an eye on and he's even worth rostering in the deepest of leagues due to the Falcons' many injuries in their backfield. However, don't consider him as a start option this week as you'd just be hoping for another touchdown. The workload likely won't be there for Ollison to produce sturdy yardage in the game.
New York Giants tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion) is unlikely to play in Week 12 against the Bears, according to head coach Pat Shurmur. Starting tight end Evan Engram (foot) has yet to practice this week and is headed down the same path, so you won't be able to use either tight end in fantasy this week against the Bears. Expect some combination of Scott Simonson and rookie Kaden Smith against Chicago, but we wouldn't expect much production from either player this weekend.
Houston Texans tight end Darren Fells had caught just one pass per game over Houston's last two games. He's got seven games this year with two or fewer receptions. And he's caught six touchdowns, including a pair of multi-touchdown games. What do you do with that? Well, the same thing you do every week: play him in deeper leagues if you don't have other options. Fells could catch two passes for two touchdowns. He could also one catch for seven yards. If you have a reliable option, play that guy instead.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (foot) hasn't practiced yet this week and head coach Dan Quinn said that if he can't practice before the team's Week 12 game against the Buccaneers, he won't be suiting up. Freeman is currently listed as questionable for Week 12, but one would imagine he's more on the doubtful side of questionable. He could, however, have a good chance to make his return in Week 13 if he doesn't suffer any setbacks in his recovery. Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison will most likely shoulder the running back workload for as long as Freeman is out.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is in a great spot heading into Week 12. He's coming off of his best game of the year where he caught all eight of his targets for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. This week, Ridley and the Falcons face a Buccaneers Defense that has allowed the second-most passing yards per game in the league this year. The team's star wide receiver Julio Jones (foot) is currently questionable for the game. If Jones sits or plays at less than 100%, that gives Ridley even more of a boost. Regardless, Ridley should see around eight targets in the game, giving him a good chance to post between 80 and 100 receiving yards with touchdown potential.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (ankle) sat out Wednesday's practice and is currently questionable for Week 12 against the Buccaneers. However, there doesn't seem to be an indication that he's at risk for missing the game. Sitting out Wednesday's practice appears to have been mostly precautionary. If he is indeed good to go for Week 12, he'll be in good position to have a solid week. The Falcons are a pass-heavy offense facing a very pass-friendly Buccaneers Defense yielding 290 passing yards per game, second most in the league. Expect Ryan to throw for over 300 yards with two or three touchdowns on the day.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (foot) sat out Wednesday's practice and is currently questionable for Week 12 against the Buccaneers. There haven't been many details released in terms of the severity of Jones's foot injury so make sure to monitor his status in the coming days. If he's good to go, he needs to be started in all leagues as the Falcons face a very pass-friendly Buccaneers Defense. Jones has had at least eight targets in five straight games with over 90 receiving yards in four of those five games. He could easily top 100 yards and find the end zone against the Buccaneers in Week 12.
New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (ankle) is reportedly dealing with a high ankle sprain that could sideline him for two, maybe three weeks. Though he's currently listed as questionable for Week 12, fantasy owners should expect him to be out for Week 12 and likely Week 13 as well. While Sanu is gone, Julian Edelman should see a minor boost in targets. Phillip Dorsett (concussion) could benefit from Sanu's absence, though he is currently questionable for Week 12 while going through concussion protocol. N'Keal Harry also stands to benefit and is worth a speculative add if you have an open roster spot in leagues of 12 teams or deeper.
Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills had a good game when the Texans and Colts met earlier this year, catching four passes for 105 yards, but that only happened because a Will Fuller hamstring injury thrust Stills into a larger role. This week, Fuller is a game-time decision with that hamstring injury, which means playing Stills in fantasy should also be a game-time decision: if Fuller's out, Stills has value as an upside WR4 option, but if Fuller plays, Stills' role will be reduced too much to play him.
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox found the end zone in Week 11 for the first time since Week 3. Knox has shown some promise this year, but he still has a lot of work to do in order to become a borderline reliable tight end fantasy option. The Bills face a tough Broncos pass defense this week and Knox will likely be touchdown-or-bust. Considering he's scored just twice this year, the odds are greatly slanted towards bust.
The Bills Defense is in a great spot heading into a home matchup against the Broncos in Week 12. The Broncos rank amongst the bottom third of the league in both points per game and yards per game. The Bills should be able to hold the Broncos under 20 points in the game, potentially well under 20 points, and they should be able to record several sacks on quarterback Brandon Allen and maybe a few turnovers as well. They are a fantastic starting option this week.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) is reportedly a game-time decision for Thursday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. We last saw Fuller against the Colts in Week 7, when he caught one pass for six yards before exiting. Fuller's best game of the year was in Week 5, when he caught 14 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, but other than that game, he hasn't found the end zone this season. Boom-or-bust is the best way to describe Fuller at this point, and he's going to be tough to trust in fantasy lineups if he does play Thursday.
Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson has seen some increased involvement in Houston's offense lately, including a five-catch game in Week 9, but that involvement isn't really translating into fantasy success. He continues to trail Carlos Hyde in rushing attempts and his impact in the pass game has been inconsistent all year. The last time Johnson faced the Colts, he had nine touches, producing 56 yards. Something around 50 total yards seems like a good bet based on Johnson's recent production, which means you're not getting much out of him for fantasy purposes unless he finds the end zone. He has done that in three of Houston's last five games, but somehow those touchdowns still feel like anomalies based on how the Texans are using him.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley had a disappointing showing in a very favorable Week 11 matchup against the Dolphins, catching just four passes for 38 yards. It was a game where the Bills scored 37 points and quarterback Josh Allen had a career day, but John Brown was the primary producer amongst the team's receivers. This week, Beasley and the Bills face a tough Broncos pass defense that allows just 210 passing yards per game, fifth fewest in the league. Beasley has been averaging about five targets per game in the past few months and with his 10.4 yards per reception average and lack of touchdown production, he's tough to trust for a big fantasy day. He's a viable WR3 or flex in deep PPR leagues, but if you have another option with more upside, you might want to get away from Beasley this week. In non-PPR he shouldn't be started.
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins got off to a slow start to the year, but has four straight games with either 80 receiving yards or a touchdown. It's a good time for the star receiver to get back on the right track, and he'll look to continue that on Thursday against the Colts. In Week 7, Hopkins caught nine passes for 106 yards and a touchdown against Indianapolis, and while this isn't a great matchup for the Texans, Hopkins has been targeted at least 11 times in five straight games and should be able to turn that usage into a strong fantasy outing. Consider him a mid-tier WR1 this week.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie saw a season-high 56 offensive snaps in Week 11 against the Dolphins. No other Bills receiver other than John Brown or Cole Beasley played double-digit snaps in the game. Unfortunately, there wasn't much production that came with the increased playing time. McKenzie saw a solid amount of targets (6), but only caught 3 passes for 21 yards while adding a 10-yard rush. This week, the Bills face a tough Broncos pass defense that should make things difficult on all the Bills' receivers. McKenzie might be worth keeping an eye on in deep leagues down the stretch but he has no value as a starting option this week.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is coming off a career day in Week 11, where he torched the Dolphins for four touchdowns and over 300 combined passing and rushing yards. This week, he faces a tougher task against the Broncos. The Broncos have allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards per game this year, right around 210 yards per game. The Bills Defense should shut down the Broncos offense for the most part, which should leave Allen and company with plenty of opportunities. It's just a question of whether or not Allen will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities. Expect a relatively low-scoring game where Allen throws for around 200 yards and adds around 50 rushing yards with one or two total touchdowns. That makes him more of a QB2 than a low-end QB1 this week.