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FFL: Playoff Week 2 | NFL: Week 15

Saints-Buccaneers Preview

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Players: Drew Brees, Mike Evans, Jameis Winston, Chris Godwin

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.

SECONDARY SHUFFLE

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.''

RESOUNDING MESSAGE

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.''

LINE ITEMS

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.''

Player Notes
Bo Scarbrough Dec 15 10:00am ET

Detroit Lions running back Bo Scarbrough (ribs) is a game-time decision for Week 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 23-year-old is trending in the wrong direction, with two DNPs on Thursday and Friday after practicing in limited fashion on Wednesday. Even if healthy, Scarbrough is hard to trust against the Buccaneers' league-best run defense. Fellow backs J.D. McKissic and Ty Johnson will shoulder the load if Scarborough is ultimately unable to suit up.

From RotoBaller

Julian Edelman Dec 15 9:50am ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee, shoulder) is optimistic about his chances of suiting up against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15. The 33-year-old didn't practice on Wednesday but has been trending in the right direction, with two limited sessions to close out the week. Edelman has seen at least 10 targets in eight straight games, making him a must-start if healthy. Fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu (ankle) is questionable for the contest.

From RotoBaller

Noah Fant Dec 15 9:40am ET

Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (hip, foot) is good to go for Week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Fant is coming off his second career 100-yard game and will take on a Chiefs secondary that ranks 12th in the NFL against the pass. It is a tough matchup, but the rookie could be a decent streaming option in a road game where Denver may be playing from behind against one of the league's better offenses.

From RotoBaller

Damien Williams Dec 15 9:30am ET

Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (rib, illness) is expected to be inactive against the Denver Broncos in Week 15. Williams got in two limited practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday before downgrading to a DNP on Friday. His absence means the Chiefs will roll with a backfield of LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware. McCoy and Thompson are probably the best fantasy options, with Thompson getting a slight upgrade in PPR formats for his work in the passing game.

From RotoBaller

Josh Jacobs Dec 15 9:20am ET

Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder) is good to go for Week 15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacobs missed last week's game with his shoulder fracture but is returning at the perfect time with a good matchup on hand. Jacksonville's defense has allowed 141.1 yards per game on the ground, third-most in the league. Jacobs should be locked in lineups, despite the slight risk of re-injury. Backup Deandre Washington was a popular waiver wire pickup, though he won't see much run with Jacobs active.

From RotoBaller

James Conner Dec 15 6:20am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (shoulder) is expected to play against Buffalo on Sunday night. Conner has been dealing with the injury for a while now, but his return is good news for a team that will be without JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Vance McDonald (concussion). With the 24-year-old back in the lineup, Jaylen Samuels should remain semi-relevant catching passes out of the backfield, while Benny Snell Jr. will likely be relegated to a few carries as the No. 2. All three backs are risky options, however, against a tough Bills Defense in Week 15 as the Steelers look to remain in the playoff picture.

From RotoBaller

Derrick Henry Dec 15 6:10am ET

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (hamstring) will play on Sunday in a crucial matchup against the Texans. Henry has been dealing with the injury over the last several weeks but has been able to play, so his status for Week 15 isn't a huge surprise. The 25-year-old has been on a roll as of late, compiling nine touchdowns over the last five games, while also rushing for at least 149 yards in three of his previous four outings. Even with the lingering effects of the ailment, he is a must-start across the board in Week 15.

From RotoBaller

JuJu Smith-Schuster Dec 15 5:40am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) won't play against the Bills on Sunday night. Schuster practiced in full on Wednesday, but after aggravating the injury on Thursday, he will now miss another one as the Steelers look to remain playoff relevant. In his absence, Diontae Johnson will likely get the most catches for those in PPR formats, with James Washingtonserving as the biggest threat on deep routes in Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Taylor Gabriel Dec 15 5:30am ET

Chicago Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) will be out again and will not play against the Packers in Week 15. Gabriel has already missed a few games, and after making not practicing during the week, it will be Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller serving as the primary receivers for Mitch Trubisky as the Bears look to remain in the playoff picture.

From RotoBaller

Adam Humphries Dec 15 5:20am ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Adam Humphries (ankle) will not play on Sunday in a critical matchup against the Texans. This will be Humphries second-straight absence, and while he does have the potential to have the occasional effective performance, this isn't a huge fantasy loss as he is likely listed as a free agent in most leagues anyway. Nonetheless, it should be business as usual for the Titans in Week 15, with Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Corey Davis getting the bulk of the opportunities on the offensive side of the ball.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Dec 15 5:10am ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) will not play against New England in Week 15. Green has yet to play this season after sustaining an ankle injury during training camp, and while the veteran hopes to suit up at some point over the final two games, it is also realistic to assume that he may not play at all in 2019. With Auden Tate (knee) recently landing on injured reserve, look for Tyler Boyd and John Ross to serve as the primary wideouts for Andy Dalton on Sunday against a tough Patriots Defense.

From RotoBaller

Greg Olsen Dec 15 5:00am ET

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (concussion) will not play against the Seahawks. Olsen did practice, albeit in a limited fashion, during the week, but is still not ready to make his return. With Carolina having already been eliminated from playoff contention, it is possible that the 36-year-old may not return this season, making Ian Thomas, who caught five of his 10 targets for 57 yards and a score against the Falcons in Week 14, a suitable streaming option on Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Evan Engram Dec 15 4:50am ET

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) will not play against the Dolphins. Engram was able to practice in a limited capacity during the week, but with the team having virtually nothing to play for, it is realistic to assume that he may not return this year. With the team also down No. 2 Rhett Ellison (concussion), rookie Kaden Smith, who had two catches (five targets) for nine yards against the Eagles in Week 14, should draw the start. For fantasy managers in deeper formats, Smith does have streaming potential in Week 15, but only for those willing to take a chance.

From RotoBaller

Daniel Jones Dec 15 4:30am ET

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (ankle) will not play against Miami in Week 15. Jones was able to practice in a limited fashion during the week, but the team will take it slow as he works his way back from the high ankle sprain that he suffered during the matchup against the Packers a few weeks back. In his place, Eli Manning, who threw two touchdowns, while completing 50 percent of his passes during the overtime loss to the Eagles, will get the start against the Dolphins, with the potential for a solid outing against one of the worst defensive units in the league being a realistic possibility.

From RotoBaller

Matthew Stafford Dec 15 4:20am ET

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) will sit out once again and will not play on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Stafford is progressing, but still doesn't feel well enough to play, with the potential for a return this season unlikely, albeit still possible. Nonetheless, David Blough, who has thrown three touchdowns and three picks this season, will get another start against a weak Buccaneers Defense. For those in need of a quarterback in Week 15, the rookie does have upside, but also an equally low downside.

From RotoBaller

Jacob Hollister Dec 15 2:10am ET

Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister has been a revelation this season, but he's come back to Earth recently. He'll be facing another uphill battle this weekend when Seattle visits Carolina, one of the stingiest defenses in the game versus opposing tight ends. Hollister has been held without a TD for three straight weeks, and he hasn't cracked 50 yards receiving during the stretch either. Meanwhile, the Panthers have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, and they haven't allowed a tight end touchdown in nearly a month. Hollister is still a talented receiver, but other teams have caught on to some of his moves and he'll be in for another challenge in Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Jason Myers Dec 15 2:10am ET

Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers has cranked it up recently, and he'll look to continue his stellar ways in the cool, crisp air of Charlotte on Sunday. Myers hasn't missed a field goal in over a month, he's been better on the road than in his wet and windy home stadium, and he'll be facing a Carolina team that does an excellent job of locking down opposing offenses only after they've gotten in field goal range. Carolina has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing kickers this year, and it should be a perfect day for booting the ball on Sunday. If there was ever a day to roll the dice on Myers, this is probably going to be the day.

From RotoBaller

Chris Carson Dec 15 2:00am ET

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson is set to face a Carolina Panthers Defense that has been plagued by the run all year. Carolina is the most generous run defense in the game for opposing running backs, and Carson will now shoulder nearly the entire load since Rashaad Penny has been lost for the season with a torn ACL. With Seattle's defense being beat up and their wide receivers still recovering from a flu epidemic that spread through the locker room, it's a perfect situation for Carson. Owners should be confident starting him, and he could be looking at a huge week.

From RotoBaller

D.K. Metcalf Dec 15 2:00am ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf stepped into the primary role quite well while Tyler Lockett was banged up and ill, and he'll look to continue that growth this weekend as he faces a Carolina squad that has allowed the third-most yards to opposing wide receivers this year. The Panthers have proven quite adept at limiting touchdowns, but their bendy secondary has allowed some big weeks on the outside. Expect Metcalf to push the field and look for the home run ball, and his improved catching should keep him on the scoreboard even if he can't land the big one.

From RotoBaller

Russell Wilson Dec 15 1:50am ET

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had a rough game last week against the improved Rams Defense as he was held to zero touchdown passes for the first time in a year. Now he'll face off against another strong defense in Carolina. Though Wilson has usually found a way to have success against the Panthers, they always present a solid defense and make the games close. Wilson has won three of their last four matchups, but the games have only been decided by more than four points once. Wilson will have his full complement of receivers, and hopefully Tyler Lockett will finally be fully healthy and ready to resume his role as Wilson's favorite target.

From RotoBaller