The last time Drew Brees suffered a major injury, it altered the course of NFL history. The Saints are hoping this won’t be quite as dramatic. Having missed only three games for any reason across 14 years in New Orleans, Brees will be sidelined roughly six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. His irresistible force throwing arm came into direct conflict with immovable object Aaron Donald, and Donald won.
In theory, the Saints have one of the best backups in the NFL in Teddy Bridgewater. In reality, Bridgewater is 27 years old and has thrown just 55 passes over the past three years. Since the last time he was a regular starter in 2015, he has suffered a devastating knee injury. Bridgewater owns 29 lifetime touchdowns compared to 23 picks. He has 904 career attempts. Amongst the 36 active quarterbacks with at least that many passes, Bridgewater’s 3.2 touchdown percentage ranks 33rd. Only Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith and Chad Henne have found the end zone with less frequency.
Of course, Bridgewater is coming from conservative offenses in Minnesota to Sean Payton’s well-oiled machine. He also has elite weapons. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are some of the easiest players in the league to throw to. The same should be true for Jared Cook in Payton’s attack. Ted Ginn is one of the most valuable role players in the NFC, and Tre'Quan Smith (who might also be hurt) is a promising second-year pro. Bridgewater has plenty to work with. Can they work with him?
The Super Bowl-or-bust Saints will find out immediately with this week’s trip to Seattle. Following a Week 4 hosting of Dallas, the schedule softens with vs. TB, @JAX, @CHI, vs. AZ. Then comes the bye week and presumably Brees’ return. For fantasy, Bridgewater will be a matchup-based QB2. Kamara figures to remain a top-five weekly option, though top eight might occasionally be more appropriate. The same is true for Thomas. For real life, best-laid plans — Bridgewater is 2019’s highest-paid No. 2 QB — will be put to the toughest of tests.
Five Week 2 Storylines
Ben Roethlisberger fails to play through previously-undisclosed elbow issue; Requires season-ending surgery. Roethlisberger was listed as “DNP - Not Injury Related” on Wednesday’s injury report. That was, at best, half true as ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Roethlisberger’s teammates were “aware that he was dealing with some elbow inflammation all week at practice.” That’s a matter for the NFL. What happened Sunday is a matter for the wider fantasy world. Headed for Tommy John or something like it, Roethlisberger is done for 2019. In his place will be second-year pro Mason Rudolph. Like Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, Rudolph torched the Big 12. Unlike his more famous college compatriots, Rudolph was not a first-round pick. Rudolph is a statue, something teams look to avoid in 2019, but he has an aggressive down-field mindset. His favorite college target? James Washington, who was promoted to No. 2 receiver even before Roethlisberger departed Sunday’s game.
It will be Washington whom Rudolph impacts most directly. He is now on the WR3 radar. JuJu Smith-Schuster will, of course, maintain WR1 value, but he fades from the 5-8 range to 8-12. This is going to be a much more volatile offense. James Conner, an RB2 talent in an RB1 role, should see his fantasy production more closely align with his skill-set. That’s if he’s healthy enough to play the next few weeks (see next section). Vance McDonald returns to his 2018 ancestral fantasy home, the TE10-12 range. Benched Sunday, Donte Moncrief was already going to be without value going forward. Rudolph offers some intrigue, but he is just as likely to have the Steelers in surprise contention for the No. 1 overall pick as he is for the playoffs.
James Conner also injured vs. Seahawks. Turning a rainy start to the Steelers’ 2019 season into a downpour, Conner departed two quarters after Roethlisberger. A Monday MRI will determine the extent of a knee issue. It was Conner’s ankle that torpedoed his promising 2018 campaign. With Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ passing attack out of sync through two weeks, Conner has also found himself out of whack. If he suits up for Week 3 in San Francisco, it will be as the owner of a 21/54/1/2.6 rushing line. Even with Antonio Brown’s lost targets to spread around, Conner has caught just seven passes. If Conner can’t go, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell should form an easy-to-project committee. Snell will do the grinding, Samuels the pass catching. Likely to see a decent amount of carries, too, Samuels would be the (much) more desirable RB2/FLEX.
Donte Moncrief muffs lone target, gets unceremoniously benched. 2019 Moncrief has shown how to lose a job in two easy steps. Trying to recover from his drop-filled Week 1, Moncrief compounded his problems on an afternoon where the Steelers’ entire offense fell apart. Not only was his drop a drop, it also led to an interception. Coach Mike Tomlin called the fight early, limiting Moncrief to 18-of-56 snaps after he played 60-of-67 in the opener. A tease wherever he’s been, Moncrief has dispensed with the hopeful beginning this time around and gone straight for the dismal end. His fantasy value would have already been on life support with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. Without his quarterback, it is officially kaput. Moncrief is droppable across the board.
DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery leave early vs. Falcons. Basically, if you were an Eagles skill player on Sunday night, you got injured. Jeffery and D-Jax were the two most important to go down. Jackson is battling a groin issue, Jeffery a calf. Neither are strangers to missing time with soft-tissue ailments. Both should be considered day to day and highly questionable for Week 3 against the Lions. Nelson Agholor picked up the slack in Atlanta — and dropped a lot of it — while rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside got some run. Even third-year pro Mack Hollins got in on the action. Arcega-Whiteside will be a tempting Week 3 proposition if his veteran teammates sit, but Agholor is the far more responsible add. Hollins is probably preferable, too.
Michael Gallup picks up knee injury that requires MRI. Gallup’s eight targets led the Cowboys in their breezy win over the Redskins, but his knee sent him to the bench for a large chunk of the final quarter. An MRI can reveal a major injury or confirm a minor one. It sounds like Gallup’s is expected to do more of the latter, but the only reason you order the test is because you don’t know for sure. The sophomore breakout candidate has done just that through his first two games in Kellen Moore’s offense, tallying the third-most yards (226) amongst receivers. If Gallup can get cleared for Week 3, it will be for a dream matchup with the Dolphins.
Five More Week 2 Storylines
Carlos Hyde out-touches Duke Johnson 20-6 in narrow victory. What you joked about in August is really happening. Hyde has become the Texans’ lead runner, and Johnson is once again relegated to change-of-pace duties. There is simply nothing Johnson can do to convince NFL coaching staffs he deserves more run, and Hyde didn’t even leave room for debate against the Jaguars. Supposedly dead-legged for the Chiefs in the summer, Hyde is averaging a crisp 5.8 yards per carry through his first two games as a Texan. He eclipsed 20 carries in Sunday’s narrow victory. The good news for Johnson is that Hyde has not been involved as a pass catcher, though neither was Johnson vs. the Jags. Deshaun Watson is not known for checking down to running backs. The fantasy community tried to will Johnson’s RB2 value into existence. It is Hyde who has taken it, leaving Johnson to his more familiar FLEX terrain.
49ers get every running back involved in easy win. Fantasy Twitter also badly wants Matt Breida to happen. Sunday, he did, taking the rock 12 times for 121 yards (10.1 YPC). The problem — there’s always a problem — is that so did Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. Breida led in rushing yardage, but Mostert and Wilson both found the end zone. Mostert also won the targets battle, out-drawing Breida 4-1. Wilson’s scores, which came two quarters apart, originated from two and four yards out. That strongly suggests he might actually be coach Kyle Shanahan’s preferred goal-line option. Breida did nothing to contract his FLEX appeal, but he was expected to grow it. It could be a few weeks before this gets fully sorted.
Kirk Cousins confirms Mike Zimmer’s worst fears in Green Bay. There’s really no other way to put it: Cousins’ stink bomb cost the Vikings what could have been a stirring come-from-behind victory. One week after being held to 10 attempts, Cousins was forced to cut loose after the Vikings fell behind 21-0 early in the second quarter. He responded with three turnovers, each the quarterback’s fault, as well as another feather in Zimmer’s run establishment cap. Despite being 31 with a fully-guaranteed contract, Cousins continues to make mistakes like “force obvious interception into triple coverage.” He did that two times on Sunday. With Zimmer possessed by the idea of the run since last December, we know Cousins’ continued carelessness will actually have ramifications. Attempts will be rationed only as needed. Cousins is a pure QB2 in fantasy, rendering Adam Thielen a floor-based WR2 and Stefon Diggs a WR2 ceiling option.
Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman run wild in Tyreek Hill’s absence. Is Patrick Mahomes breaking the NFL? (More on that later from Mr. Mike Clay.) Sunday suggests yes. Hill is supposed to be one of the most dangerous deep threats of the modern era, but Robinson and Hardman made him look a dime a dozen in Oakland. Robinson scored from 44 and 39 yards out, Hardman 42. The duo was taking advantage of a good matchup, but one does not simply plug and play reserves into deep touchdowns. Andy Reid schemes people wide open, and Mahomes hits them in stride down the field. Robinson out compiled Hardman 6/172/2 to 4/61/1. He also had another long completion called back by penalty (though Hardman lost a 72-yard score to holding) and seemed to be one of Mahomes’ first reads when the quarterback was in trouble. Both will be compelling plays against the Ravens’ Jimmy Smith-less secondary, with Robinson arguably earning WR2 treatment.
Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy both injured in Oakland. As Robinson and Hardman were running wild, Williams and McCoy were getting banged up. It’s a knee for Williams, ankle for Shady. Both went down late enough that Darwin Thompson finished with only one touch. Even one of Williams or McCoy missing Week 3 would put Thompson back in the FLEX mix. Each being absent would create a potential RB1 scenario, though second-year pro Darrel Williams would also be involved.
1. Do the Dolphins have a Gladwell-ian author working on a glistening tome about their "process" yet?
2. Would the Giants bench Eli Manning if he rented 10 airplanes and flew “I yearn to be free” banners above New York City?
3. What do the Saints need to do to get a call vs. the Rams?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Josh Allen (vs. CIN), Jimmy Garoppolo (vs. PIT), Matthew Stafford (@PHI), Jacoby Brissett (vs. ATL), Teddy Bridgewater (@SEA), Mason Rudolph (@SF)
RB: Darwin Thompson, Raheem Mostert, Peyton Barber, Jaylen Samuels, Chris Thompson, Jeff Wilson, Frank Gore, Benny Snell
WR: Demarcus Robinson, DK Metcalf, Mecole Hardman, Nelson Agholor, D.J. Chark, James Washington, A.J. Brown, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Conley, Preston Williams, Trey Quinn, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TE: Jordan Reed, Tyler Eifert, Will Dissly, Vernon Davis
DEF: Titans (@JAX), Packers (vs. DEN), Bucs (vs. NYG), 49ers (vs. PIT), Redskins (vs. CHI)
Stats of the Week
Via @fbgchase on Twitter: “Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals are now the first team since the NFL moved the goal posts in 1974 to attempt three field goal attempts in a game, while trailing, from inside the five-yard line.”
35. That’s how many snaps Dante Pettis played without drawing a target in Cincinnati. Pettis’ latest goose egg came as Jimmy Garoppolo found Marquise Goodwin and Raheem Mostert for long touchdowns. Whatever he is working through physically or mentally, the 49ers seem to have all the patience in the world.
Via Adam Levitan on new Steelers QB Mason Rudolph and his college teammate James Washington: The duo played together for three years and combined for 198/4,016/33. They also showed chemistry during the preseason. Donte Moncrief just got benched. You do the math.
Two is also how many 100-yard games John Ross has posted. The former bust is playing 80 percent of the Bengals’ snaps and devouring targets and air yards. It’s time to take this seriously.
25. That’s how many more yards Mark Andrews has than any other tight end. He is knocking down the door of the top five.
The I Will Still Be Quarterbacking the New England Patriots in 2062 Award: Tom Brady throwing a touchdown with 2:10 remaining in a game the Patriots were winning 37-0.
The Was That Wrong? Award: The Chargers using their punter as their fill-in kicker and losing because of missed kicks.