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.
Five Sleepers: Week 3
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill will have a tough matchup in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. Hill is coming off of a strong Week 2 performance, but the Ravens Defense has done a very good job at shutting down wide receivers this season. Hill is still an explosive athlete and could bust out a big play at anytime. The Ravens defense has been much friendlier to tight ends this season and Hill may have to play second fiddle to Travis Kelce in this matchup. He should be considered a low-end WR1 in Week 3.
Although the Baltimore Ravens have been one of the best defenses through two weeks, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce remains a strong option in Week 3. The Ravens Defense is only allowing 305 yards per game and 11.5 points per game, but they have allowed 15 receptions, 148 yards and two touchdowns to tight ends this season. With Patrick Mahomes likely to be pressured, look for him to look Kelces way early and often. Kelce is coming off of a strong week and is the number one player at his position. He makes for a good DFS option and should be started every week by managers.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will face his toughest task of the season on Monday versus a tough Baltimore Ravens Defense. The Ravens have allowed just 305 yards per game and thats good for second in the league. The Ravens have also only allowed 22 points on the season. Mahomes has passed for 513 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions through two weeks and also has rushed six times for 54 yards. Despite the tough matchup, Mahomes and the Chiefs offense remains explosive and Mahomes should be considered a QB1 and should be started every week.
Jacksonville Jaguars LB Myles Jack recorded 11 tackles (seven solo) against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, Sept. 24.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Keelan Cole caught four of five targeted passes for 43 yards on Thursday, Sept. 24, against the Miami Dolphins.
Fantasy Spin: Cole actually led the team's receiving corps in yards, though he finished a distant second to RB James Robinson. Miami forced everything to happen in front of them and then rallied up to make the tackle, making Jacksonville have to put drives together a few yards at a time. The team could've used more from Cole with D.J. Chark out of action, but nobody other than Robinson seemed capable of making plays on Thursday. With two TDs in three weeks you can't simply dismiss Cole, but he's no better than roster depth right now.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Chris Conley had three receptions (on eight targets) for 34 yards in Week 3 against the Miami Dolphins.
Fantasy Spin: Conley looked lost Thursday night, dropping two passes that killed drives and drawing an offensive pass interference penalty that effectively ended another. On a night when the Jags needed someone to step up and fill the void left by D.J. Chark, Conley couldn't have played much worse.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker caught five passes for 69 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, Sept. 23.
Fantasy Spin: While modest, Parker's 69 yards more than doubled the next-highest receiver for Miami in a game where they simply maximized their opportunities and let Jacksonville make mistakes. A lingering hamstring injury appears to be limiting his effectiveness, particularly downfield, but he was sure handed and still found ways to get enough separation to make the catch. There are definitely weeks where Parker will perform in the WR2 bracket, though it's best to consider him more of a WR3 when setting your lineup.
Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki caught one pass for 15 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fantasy Spin: On a night where Ryan Fitzpatrick only threw two incompletions, both of them were intended for Gesicki, who followed up a eight-catch, 130-yard outing in Week 2 with a disappointing performance that was somewhat salvaged by getting into the end zone. He's still the most dangerous weapon the Dolphins have outside of DeVante Parker, though, and remains a viable choice at TE1.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday but is in line to make his season debut in Week 3 against the Cardinals. Golladay suffered a strained hamstring in practice on Sept. 9 and has missed the first two games of the season. Normally a pretty solid WR1 option for fantasy lineups, the Lions No. 1 wideout will carry a bit more risk with him if he makes his 2020 debut this weekend. Plus, Golladay will likely be covered by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, which won't be an easy task by any means. You're probably starting Golladay if he's active, but it might be wise to temper expectations a bit. If he's back, it'll be bad news for Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola.
Miami Dolphins RB Jordan Howard ran three times for one yard and a touchdown in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fantasy Spin: Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have ourselves a touchdown vulture. The former 1,000-yard back got three carries Thursday night, all of which came inside the 5-yard line, and had a good chance at two TDs (he was stuffed twice before Ryan Fitzpatrick ran it in himself on third and goal). It's a tough spot for fantasy players as Howard pretty much needs multiple scores to offer appreciable value while at the same time hurting Myles Gaskin's appeal. At best Howard looks like a weekly lottery-ticket play with a modest ceiling.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) missed his second straight practice on Thursday. It's not a good sign for the 23-year-old after he missed the Week 2 game. Brown will need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at suiting up this Sunday against the Vikings. Have a backup plan in place if you own him. Corey Davis will be worth flex consideration if Brown misses another game, Adam Humphries would have some sleeper potential in DFS and deeper leagues, and tight end Jonnu Smith would have real TE1 appeal after going for four catches, 84 yards and two touchdowns without Brown in the lineup last weekend.
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. was a popular pick to have a breakout game against the Dolphins in Week 3, but it didn't happen, as he finished with just 33 receiving yards. Shenault did record five receptions, but with his usage mainly coming in the short-yardage passing, Shenault didn't have the chance to do much with the opportunities he received. Moving forward, Shenault is a low-ceiling fantasy option until we actually see him used in a way that offers a chance for him to produce more than just a handful of yards.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 18 of 20 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns during the team's Week 3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fitzpatrick also ran seven times for 38 yards and a score.
Fantasy Spin: Jacksonville's defense had no answers for Fitzpatrick, whose only two incompletions came on the team's two-minute drive before halftime. If the Jags had been able to keep pace, who knows what kind of numbers Fitzpatrick would've put up. Instead, Miami was in firm control throughout the second half with Fitzpatrick only attempting a handful of passes. He'll enjoy a weekend off before hosting the Seahawks in Week 4.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Chris Thompson continued to see his role expand on Thursday night, catching five passes for 35 yards and adding three rushing yards on two carries. Thompson isn't the same receiving threat that he was in Washington, but he's becoming a larger part of things for the Jaguars. That doesn't mean you need to rush out and put him in your fantasy lineups moving forward, but it's worth keeping an eye on what Thompson does in Week 4 against the Bengals.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole caught four passes for 43 yards in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. It was Cole's first game this year without a touchdown. Thursday showed us what Cole's floor this year likely looks like: a handful of catches with an average of around 10 yards per reception. You'll take that in deeper leagues, but he's likely just a tad too inconsistent to be a weekly start in 12-team leagues, especially when you consider this was a matchup that felt ripe for the taking for the Jaguars passing game and they responded with their worst offensive output of the season.
With D.J. Chark Jr. (chest/back) out, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley was a popular pick to see an expanded role on Thursday night. And he did, as he led the team in targets with eight. The problem? Drops and some poor positioning led to Conley catching just three of those passes for 34 yards. This was his chance to impress and show he deserved a larger role, and it just didn't happen. Conley's on the fringes of rosterability in season-long leagues at this point, with his value fully dependent on Chark missing more time.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson was the only consistent source of production in Thursday's loss to the Miami Dolphins. The undrafted rookie ran the ball 11 times, finishing with 46 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also led the team in receptions, catching six of them for 83 yards. Robinson might be the only player who can be a weekly starter on this offense right now and should be considered a fantasy RB2 going forward. Even when the Jaguars offense looks like a train wreck, Robinson manages to get his numbers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars weren't supposed to be blown out by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, but they were, as the Dolphins took the 31-13 victory. Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II struggled all night, going 30-for-42 for 275 yards with no touchdowns while throwing an interception and narrowly avoiding throwing a second. He also added 22 yards on the ground. Minshew was a huge disappointment to fantasy managers, and now we have reason to doubt the mustached passer, who we thought was on his way to being a consistent fantasy QB2.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has his most formidable challenge of the 2020 season thus far against the Chiefs on Monday night. The third-year signal-caller has played relatively well against Kansas City throughout his career (two games), throwing for 414 yards and two touchdowns to go along with 22 carries for 113 yards and an additional score. While his previous performances against the squad doesn't guarantee a similar output, it is reasonable to assume that fantasy managers may see the same type of production once again. In case there was any doubt, keep him starting in all formats.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample caught seven of his nine targets for 45 yards against the Browns in Week 2. Although it's unlikely that rookie quarterback Joe Burrow will throw 61 passes against the Eagles as he did against Cleveland, the sophomore will likely be in line for an uptick in production after Cincy lost C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) for the remainder of the 2020 campaign. While Sample probably can't be depended on for consistent production moving ahead, he is a suitable dart throw for those in need of a tight end in Week 3 and the remainder of the year.