New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) adjusts his helmet during NFL football practice in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (26) hugs quarterback Jameis Winston (2) after they defeated the Green Bay Packers in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore runs against the New York Jets during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) scrambles for yardage as Green Bay Packers linebacker Jonathan Garvin (53) gives chase during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey pushes away New York Jets linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey runs against the New York Jets during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is tackled by New York Jets free safety Lamarcus Joyner during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers could never really figure out Drew Brees when he was playing quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.
They're hoping things will be different on Sunday with Jameis Winston at the helm.
Brees dominated Carolina for more than a decade, going 18-11 as a starter with 57 TD passes and 22 interceptions. Under Brees, the Saints won eight of their last nine games against Carolina, including a 2017 playoff game. Winston, on the other hand, has struggled against the Panthers, going 4-5 with nine TDs and 16 INTs when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But facing a seemingly more confident Sean Payton-coached Winston presents a different set of challenges for Carolina's young defense.
Panthers second-year coach Matt Rhule said he was impressed with Winston's arm strength and his ability to extend plays with his feet - two things that Brees wasn't particularly known for during his 20-year NFL career - in the Saints' surprisingly easy 38-3 win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 1.
Winston threw five touchdown passes, including a perfect 55-yard downfield bomb to Deonte Harris, and was able to scramble productively, gaining 37 yards on six carries to keep drives alive.
''His ability to attack you up the field and run with the ball adds a dynamic element to the game that we have to prepare for,'' Rhule said.
Like Winston, Carolina's Sam Darnold is hoping to make a mark with his second NFL team. Darnold threw for 279 yards and combined for two touchdowns in a 19-14 win over the New York Jets in the season opener.
''It's a significant change at quarterback when you have a starter that's different,'' Payton said of preparing for Darnold.
The Saints' offense had to conduct practice and meetings without a handful of assistant coaches present this week, and it's not clear if any of them will be on the sideline Sunday.
Fortunately for New Orleans, Payton designs and calls the offense, and he was present. Payton also took a more hands-on role in meetings where assistants were absent.
''We got a chance to experience one of the best offensive minds in the game, one on one, in a staff meeting running the tape. We got a chance to hear how he wants it done,'' Winston said of Payton. ''It is a blessing in disguise. I promise. You can ask anyone else. Everybody in that room really enjoys that.''
It didn't take long for critics to begin questioning the Panthers' use - or overuse - of running back Christian McCaffrey after he gained 187 yards on 30 touches against the Jets coming off a 2020 season in which he missed 13 games due to injuries.
Offensive coordinator Joe Brady said the team didn't go into the game planning to get McCaffrey 30 touches, but said Darnold had a number of unscripted check-down throws to the 2019 All-Pro running back because of how the Jets defended the Panthers.
McCaffrey, for one, isn't worried about his workload.
''I honestly don't care. I don't focus on that stuff,'' McCaffrey said. ''I just focus on being the best player I can be and taking care of my body at all times and prepare like I'm going to going to play the whole game.''
Cornerback Bradley Roby, acquired by the Saints in a trade with Houston last week, joined his new club at practice this week - and not a moment too soon. Top cornerback Marshon Lattimore injured his thumb in Week 1 and needed a surgical repair.
Roby said being traded to New Orleans suddenly meant a chance to play for a team with more realistic playoff aspirations than Houston currently has.
''What a blessing because we're playing for something here,'' said Roby, who is coming off a six-game suspension assessed last season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug rules. ''For me to be at this point in my career, going into my eighth year, I won a Super Bowl (with Denver) before and I'm trying to get another one real bad.''
The Saints are playing without their top three interior defensive linemen from last season. They traded Malcom Brown and let Sheldon Rankins leave in free agency, while David Onyemata was suspended six games for a performance-enhancing drug violation.
But the Saints continued to plug the interior against Green Bay in Week 1, limiting the Packers to 43 yards rushing while relying on younger, less established tackles Malcolm Roach, Shy Tuttle and Christian Ringo.
''We shut that (run) down early,'' defensive end Cameron Jordan said. ''The interior play was nothing short of great for that first half until (Green Bay) stopped running the ball.''
IN THE RED ZONE
The Panthers' red-zone struggles from last season carried over to Week 1 when they scored one touchdown on four trips inside the Jets' 20-yard line. Brady pointed to a lack of execution, noting that Darnold had a fumbled exchange near the goal line and also threw high to open tight end Ian Thomas on a seam route in the end zone.
''If you're not executing down there, then you have to continue to harp on it,'' Brady said.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon rushed for 59 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He salvaged his fantasy day by busting out a 21-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. The 25-year-old has rushed for 539 yards and four touchdowns while catching 13 passes for 90 yards and over seven games in 2021. Mixon continues to lead the Bengals backfield and is a solid fantasy option against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah caught all three targets for 92 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The 28-year-old exploded for two scores, including a 52-yard touchdown reception. He has now hit pay dirt in three of his last four games. The Bengals' tight end has reeled in 17 catches for 256 yards and five touchdowns across seven games in 2021. Uzomah is a boom-or-bust low-end TE1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase caught eight passes on 10 targets for 201 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 rout of the Ravens. He led the team in catches and receiving yards in Week 7. Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Chase showed great chemistry on Sunday, connecting for an 82-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The 21-year-old has had an impressive rookie campaign, hauling in 35 receptions, 754 yards, and six touchdowns over seven games. Chase is a borderline WR1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23-of-38 pass attempts for 416 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah for two touchdowns and fired an 82-yard score to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. In his sophomore campaign, the 24-year-old has been excellent, throwing for 1.956 yards and a 17:8 TD: INT ratio over seven games in 2021. Burrow is a borderline QB1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense struggled again in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. In a 33-22 loss, the Eagles defensive unit allowed Derek Carr to throw for 323 yards and let multiple Raiders runners combine for over 100 yards on the ground. They did not record a sack or force a fumble, but they did end up with one interception. All of that made for a fantasy score of -2.0 in standard scoring, the fourth time this season where they've scored one point or less. This is not a defense worth starting in fantasy, regardless of their opponent. They can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins made two catches in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Watkins saw four targets, catching half of them for 37 yards. Watkins is playing an important role on the Eagles offense, but this is not a passing game that can support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers. With tight end Dallas Goedert and rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith ahead of Watkins on the passing tree, Watkins is not much more than a hold-and-hope asset in most fantasy formats.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (ankle) is undergoing X-rays on his injured ankle, but head coach Nick Sirianni doesn't think Sanders suffered a broken ankle in the Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Sanders was carted off the field and was quickly ruled out with his ankle injury. While he may have avoided a broken ankle, it doesn't mean that he won't be forced to miss time moving forward. The 24-year-old has been a huge disappointment so far this year and had six carries for 30 yards before his injury, adding one catch for minus-three yards. Quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team with 13 carries for 61 yards, but Boston Scott had seven carries (two more than rookie Kenneth Gainwell) for 24 yards and a rushing score after Sanders left the contest. Gainwell was second on the team with eight targets, catching four of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. If Sanders misses time, Scott and Gainwell figure to share the backfield, with Scott being the early down back and Gainwell playing in passing situations.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor finally did something useful in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Reagor was targeted twice, catching both for 25 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter to bring the Eagles within two scores. Last year's first round pick has two touchdowns on the year and hasn't totaled more than 25 yards since Week 3. He's been jumped on the receiver hierarchy by Quez Watkins and does not need to be rostered in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott attempted and made two extra points in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Elliott did not get a chance to attempt a field goal, leaving him with just two fantasy points in most scoring formats. Elliott is a decent enough NFL kicker, but he's kicking at a very low volume in this offense and doesn't have the big leg upside to make him worth starting in any formats. He can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell scored a touchdown in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With starter Miles Sanders (ankle) forced to leave the game early, Gainwell and Boston Scott took over in the Eagles backfield. Both of them worked behind quarterback Jalen Hurts, however, who once again led the Eagles in rushing yards and attempts. Gainwell ran the ball five times for 20 yards and added four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. He saw eight targets and scored on a 13 yard catch in the first quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Gainwell should get the first crack at leading the Eagles running back room with Scott working behind him. Gainwell is likely to be one of the top waiver wire adds heading into Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led the Eagles in receiving yards in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. After the Eagles traded Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals, Goedert worked in an alpha-TE1 role in this one. He was the only Eagles tight end to see a target. He was thrown to five times, catching three for 70 yards. It was a decent game for Goedert, but more importantly it was a sign of things to come. Without Ertz around, Goedert should be an easy TE1 every week.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught five passes in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Smith led the Eagles in targets, seeing nine balls thrown his way. He came down with five, gaining 61 yards. Smith continues to see WR1 usage but just hasn't done much with his plentiful targets of late. He gained 122 yards in Week 4 but has gained just 169 total since then. He may be a decent buy-low target in redraft leagues right now, there should be big weeks ahead for the rookie.
The Las Vegas Raiders ruled running back Josh Jacobs (chest) out of the Week 7 game against the Philadelphia Eagles after he was injured during the game, but early indications are that he avoided a major injury, according to a source. The Raiders are on bye next week as well, so Jacobs will have extra time to recover and may not have to miss a game. The 23-year-old had six carries for 29 yards and managed to find the end zone before leaving the game, so at least it wasn't all bad for his fantasy managers on Sunday. He also caught all three of his targets for 39 yards. Jacobs has scored in three straight games after a rough start to the season, and it sounds like he won't have to miss much time, if any. With Peyton Barber a healthy scratch, Kenyan Drake led the team with 14 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown with Jacobs leaving the game against Philly.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had another solid fantasy performance in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurts attempted 34 passes, completing 18 of them for 236 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he led the team in rushes and yards, running 13 times for 61 yards. It was another up-and-down performance on the field for Hurts, but he's the only quarterback in fantasy to score 20 points or more every week of the season (in standard scoring formats). Hurts has shown that he's probably not the long-term answer on the NFL field for the Eagles, but he's a valuable QB1 in all formats as long as he keeps running the ball.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott shows up on offense in Week 7 and scored a touchdown, his first of the season. Starting running back Miles Sanders (ankle) was forced to leave with an injury, leaving backfield duties to rookie Kenneth Gainwell and Scott. Scott had been playing exclusively on special teams this season, but ran the ball seven times in this game, gaining 24 yards and scoring a touchdown. His score came on a one-yard plunge at the end of the third quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Scott will likely find his way into a role on offense, but he's unlikely to develop much if any fantasy value.
New York Jets running back Michael Carter has seemingly run away with the lead back job over the last few weeks. The fourth round rookie continued his success against the New England Patriots in Week 7. Carter rushed 11 times for 37 times, but hauled in a team-high eight receptions and 67 yards through the air. The rookie back hasn't surpassed 40 rushing yards in a game since Week 2. Despite that, Carter has continued to have fantasy value in PPR formats. Although, it's uncertain if his fantasy value will continue with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) likely sidelined next week. Fantasy managers in deep leagues might need to look for another option if Carter's touches decrease.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (finger, shoulder) is in danger of missing more time moving ahead. The veteran has reportedly been playing through multiple fractures in his finger, and even worse, a torn rotator cuff. However, he didn't appear to be injured by any means in Week 7, at least on the statistical end, as he would record two sacks during the win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Nonetheless, while it's apparent that the 32-year-old isn't as effective as he once was, any further absences would certainly be unfortunate for any fantasy manager participating in formats that utilize individual defensive positions.
New York Jets quarterback Mike White came into the game unexpectedly during the Week 7 matchup with the New England Patriots. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) was forced out of the game earlier than expected on Sunday. That forced White into action and he struggled as expected against a tough Patriots secondary. White completed 20-of-32 passing attempts for 202 passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss. It's uncertain whether or not Wilson will be able to make the next start versus Cincinnati next week. White might be asked to start and wouldn't be a recommended streaming option in any format.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore had just two catches for 17 yards during the win over Houston on Sunday. Moore had only three targets on the afternoon, one less than he got in Week 6 and three fewer than he had in Week 5. Nonetheless, the rookie should have a few more games of effective play moving forward. However, it's clear he's the No. 4 option behind DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and A.J. Green, and with Zach Ertz now in town, his place on Kyler Murray's priority list could be even lower. Yet, he's worth a stash, especially in dynasty setups, and could see his value rise if an injury were to occur at some point. Still, his outlook isn't bright against the Packers on Thursday, although the upside is always there for DFS contests.
Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) is set to be designated to return and practice on Wednesday. After the designation, the team will have 21 days to activate him and place him back on the roster or be forced to keep him on the injured reserve list for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign. Taylor hasn't played since suffering a Grade 2 hamstring strain during the second game of the year against the Cleveland Browns. He played relatively well before succumbing to the ailment and had thrown three touchdowns while maintaining an acceptable 70.5 completion percentage. Although it's unlikely Taylor suits up for the upcoming matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, there is a chance he could be back for Week 9 against the Dolphins. His presence would mean Davis Mills would head back to the bench, while Brandin Cooks could benefit from the play of a more stable signal-caller.