Dose: Saints Put on MNF Clinic

Nick Mensio
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Nick Mensio keeps track of every offseason transaction for all 32 teams

On paper, the Monday night matchup between the 3-0 Dolphins and 3-0 Saints looked like it could be a fun, close one between two unbeaten teams. It was far from that. Drew Brees and the Saints came out of the gates flying, while Ryan Tannehill and his Dolphins mates looked overmatched in every phase of the game. By the end of the night, New Orleans easily improved to 4-0 with a 38-17 victory.

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Brees had what some would call an underwhelming first three weeks of the season. He threw just six touchdowns and tossed four interceptions through his first 180 minutes of play. Brees ups his game when the lights come on for Monday night showdowns. He’s won nine straight Monday night contests and has thrown 28 touchdowns to just five interceptions over that span. Brees had it all working last night. The Dolphins double-teamed Jimmy Graham for much of the game, which is nothing new for the tight end, so Brees instead took advantage of Miami’s linebackers by continuously filtering the ball to Darren Sproles on screens, dump-offs, wheel routes and flat routes. On his way to a 413-yard, four-touchdown performance, Brees passed Fran Tarkenton to move into sixth place on the all-time passing yards list. Brees is the No. 2 overall fantasy player behind Peyton Manning.

The Dolphins couldn’t keep Graham contained the entire night. The freakishly athletic tight end reeled in all four of his targets for 100 yards and two more touchdowns. On his first score, Graham leaped high in the air to haul in a 27-yard pass in the corner of the end zone as three Miami defensive backs were converging on him. Even when Graham isn’t open, he’s open. His second visit to the end zone was as easy as it gets for a tight end. Graham ran right by Chris Clemons down the right seam for a 43-yard strike. It’s amazing what this offense is doing. Graham now has six touchdowns on the young season. He’s on pace to post a ridiculous 108-1,832-24 line at the quarter mark of the season. We wouldn’t bet against Graham reaching 20 touchdowns. The game is just too easy for him right now.

Fantasy owners were a bit frustrated with Sproles after three weeks. Although he was racking up touches and yards, he had yet to visit pay dirt. That changed in a big way Monday night. Sproles dominated the first half, especially the opening possession. He capped off the first drive with a five-yard touchdown plunge up the middle, and then later ended the first half with a 13-yard touchdown grab in the left corner of the end zone. Sproles totaled 142 yards on just 11 touches. He’s an every-week RB2 in all formats. The Saints face the Bears next week. Chicago surrendered 173 total yards to Reggie Bush, who has a similar skill set to Sproles, this past week.

On the Dolphins’ side of the ball, Lamar Miller was the lone bright spot this week. He had no issues picking up chunks of yards. The second-year back has been separating himself from plodding Daniel Thomas in this timeshare the past couple of weeks. Miller is averaging 5.85 YPC over his last three games and has scored two touchdowns. Thomas, on the other hand, is averaging a pitiful 2.8 YPC on his 25 totes. The Dolphins fancy Thomas as a short-yardage back, but he continues to fail in the role. He couldn’t convert a third-and-inches on the opening drive Monday night. He later failed to pound a goal-line opportunity into the end zone. If the Dolphins want to keep winning games, they need to make Miller the clear lead back. He played considerably more snaps than Thomas this week. Look for that trend to continue into the Week 5 matchup with the Ravens. Patient Miller owners are about to be rewarded.

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Dolphins at Saints Quick Slants

Marques Colston didn’t catch a single pass in the first half. He got his fill after the break by reeling in seven balls for 96 yards. Colston has only visited the end zone once this season and remains a recommended buy-low target. He’s a reliable WR2 every year. … Ryan Tannehill was sacked four more times Monday night. That’s 18 on the season. He’s on pace to take 72 sacks. … Tannehill and Mike Wallace seem to still be working through chemistry issues. However, Wallace isn’t doing himself any favors by not coming up with difficult catches. He had a deep ball go through his hands Monday night. Wallace is shaping up as a boom-or-bust WR3. … Undrafted rookie running back Khiry Robinson got much of the early-down work in the Saints’ backfield in the second half. He out-carried Pierre Thomas 12-4 on the night. Thomas couldn’t get anything going against a Dolphins defense that got nose tackle Paul Soliai back from a knee injury. … Nick Toon caught his first career pass. He saw a couple snaps with Lance Moore (wrist) inactive. … Charles Clay is on pace for an 80-980-4 line as one of Tannehill’s favorite early-season targets. He’s a legitimate TE2.

News Nugget #1

Jake Locker was carted off the field in the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Jets with a severe right hip injury. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Monday morning that Locker is expected to miss 4-8 weeks, while the Nashville Tennessean put it at 4-6 weeks Monday afternoon. All we know right now is that Locker isn’t going to play this week and will likely be sidelined into November. He’s a candidate for short-term injured reserve. That would cost Locker eight weeks.

Ryan Fitzpatrick will handle quarterback duties for the 3-1 Titans for the immediate future. The schedule isn’t kind the next three weeks. Tennessee hosts the 4-0 Chiefs this week. The Titans will then travel to Seattle in Week 6 before coming back home to take on the 49ers in Week 7. Locker had yet to turn the ball over this season, while Fitzpatrick was a turnover machine in Buffalo. In 55 games with the Bills from 2009-12, Fitzpatrick threw 64 interceptions and lost 15 fumbles. He also has one of the weakest arms in the league. Look for the Titans to lean even more on their running game with Chris Johnson, Shonn Greene and Jackie Battle in the coming weeks. Nate Washington’s fantasy value, which was on the rise, takes a major hit with Fitzpatrick now under center.

News Nugget #2

C.J. Spiller injured his ankle in Sunday’s Week 4 win over the Ravens. He played through it on his way to 77 yards rushing, but later admitted after the game that it might be tough for him to play this Thursday night against the Browns.

Spiller didn’t practice on Monday, but a league source informed ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Spiller will indeed be active Thursday. He’s apparently avoided the dreaded high-ankle sprain. Spiller told reporters that if he can get the ankle back to 80-85 percent, then he’ll give it a go this week. Don’t expect him to handle a full load. Treat Spiller as a boom-or-bust RB3 against Cleveland’s stout front seven.

News Nugget #3

Coach Mike McCarthy said Eddie Lacy (concussion) was a “full go” in Monday’s practice as the Packers are coming off their bye week. It sounds as if Lacy has been medically cleared for Green Bay’s divisional matchup with the 3-1 Lions. Lacy should immediately regain lead-back duties, though fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin could see some work after he impressed in the Week 3 loss to the Bengals. Detroit has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. We feel comfortable putting Lacy right into the RB2 mix for Week 5.

Quarterback/Running Back Slants

Word leaked Monday night that Josh Freeman was a stage one participant in the NFL drug program. Freeman issued a statement and said he voluntarily entered the program because he takes banned medication to treat ADHD. The relationship between the Bucs and Freeman continues to grow uglier. … Ben Roethlisberger said the finger injury he suffered Sunday isn’t serious. … The Jets have no plans to bench Geno Smith. He’s on pace to turn the ball over 44 times this season. … Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback for the Browns on Thursday night. Brandon Weeden (thumb) has been cleared, but he may never start another game for Cleveland. … Coach Dennis Allen called out Matt Flynn’s play Monday. Terrelle Pryor (concussion) should be back under center in Week 5. … Fred Jackson (MCL sprain) was limited in Monday’s practice. … James Starks (knee) missed practice Monday. He likely won’t be ready for Week 5. … Coach Dennis Allen says it’s too early to speculate how long Darren McFadden (hamstring) will be out. It sounds like he’ll miss Week 5 against the Chargers. Rashad Jennings will likely carry the load. … Bernard Pierce strained his calf Sunday. … Coach Ron Rivera isn’t sure if Jonathan Stewart (ankles, PUP) will be ready to return in Week 7.

Wide Receiver/Tight End Slants

Coach Jason Garrett said Miles Austin (hamstring) has “made progress” and has a chance to play this week. … Jacoby Jones (knee) will resume practicing this week. He’ll return as no higher than the No. 3 receiver whenever he does get back on the field. … Stephen Hill suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss to the Titans. … Justin Blackmon’s four-game suspension has ended. … Coach John Harbaugh says Ed Dickson has regressed as a player. Dickson has more drops than catches this season. … Jermichael Finley (concussion) sat out of practice Monday. He admitted to memory loss and impaired vision following his Week 3 head injury. … Marcedes Lewis (calf) is out indefinitely.

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