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Payton re-evaluating all aspects of Saints' stagnant offense

Fri Nov 26 6:18pm ET
AP Sports Writer

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New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton watches from the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in New Orleans, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

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New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton reads his chart in the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in New Orleans, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

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Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White (27) defends a pass against New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (10) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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New Orleans Saints running back Tony Jones (34) carries against Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Addison in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) When Saints coach Sean Payton was asked about his team's inability to convert any of the five 2-point tries attempted this season, his response spoke to a more overarching issue for New Orleans' offense.

''If you're a pretty good offensive team, it's probably not a problem,'' Payton said. ''If you're not a good offensive team, which is what I would say that's where we are at right now, it probably is a problem.''

Payton added that during a 31-6 loss to Buffalo on Thursday night, gaining ''2 yards on a handful of downs tonight were a struggle.''

New Orleans, which has won four straight NFC South titles, has now lost four straight games for the first time since the 2015 season. The Saints missed the playoffs that year and are in danger of falling out of the NFC playoff race this season if they don't soon figure out how to move the ball with regularity.

Getting their top offensive player back would certainly help. Dynamic running back Alvin Kamara has missed three straight games. Without him, their losses have become more lopsided each week.

When Kamara was healthy, and now injured Jameis Winston was starting at quarterback, the Saints (5-6) appeared to more easily overcome injuries. They started 5-2 and looked poised for another playoff run.

Taysom Hill, who served as Drew Brees' primary backup last season, was coming off a concussion when Winston went out of the season with a knee injury against Tampa Bay on Oct. 31. Trevor Siemian took over in that game and helped the Saints rally for a victory, but is 0-4 as a starter.

Hill is active again, although he's been limited lately by a foot injury. But Hill, a powerful runner who is experienced at executing the read-option, just might get another chance to start soon.

The Saints need to do something different, as Payton conceded after the Bills loss.

''We'll see,'' Payton said. ''We'll look at everything right now. Obviously, we have to.''


The Saints continue to be stout against conventional running plays in which the quarterback hands off. While Buffalo had 113 net yards rushing, 43 of those yards came on scrambles or designed runs by Allen.


The offense struggled to run, throw and score against the Bills. Difficulty gaining yards in early downs with the run or pass put the Saints in numerous third-and-long situations. New Orleans converted just 5 of 14 third downs - and didn't convert one until after the Saints trailed 24-0 in the third quarter.

''When you come off the field on third down, three-and-outs, you don't get anything going,'' Saints center Erik McCoy said. ''You don't get the run game going. Nobody's getting their touches, and it's just hard.''


Tight end Nick Vannett scored the Saints' lone touchdown against Buffalo on an 11-yard reception in what was his first game as New Orleans' No. 1 tight end. Vannett returned from a preseason injury last week and was thrust into a larger role this week because of an injury to fellow tight end Adam Trautman.


Running back Tony Jones Jr., who has recently been activated from injury reserve and made the team with a strong preseason, struggled in his first chance to serve as the Saints' primary running back - albeit behind a banged-up offensive line. Jones gained 27 yards on 16 carries for an average of 1.7 yards per carry.


Linebacker Kaden Ellis left the game with a hamstring injury and rookie cornerback Paulson Adebo was helped to the sideline after a heavy collision in the fourth quarter. Starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) has missed two straight games. Defensive end Marcus Davenport (shoulder) was held out against Buffalo. Reserve defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle), who had four sacks this season before he went out, has missed three straight games.


13 - number of first-half points the Saints have scored in their past four games combined, a stint that includes four straight scoreless first quarters.

''It just feels hard,'' Siemian said. ''We're just not getting anything going early in games.''


The Saints host the Dallas Cowboys in another Thursday night game next week before going on the road for two straight against the New York Jets on Dec. 12 and Tampa Bay on Dec. 19

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Jalen Hurts Nov 26 6:20pm ET
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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has had plenty of issues on the field this season, but he's still been a fantasy QB1 10 times this season while no other quarterback has made that list more than seven times. For those who value consistency in their signal caller, there's an argument to be made for Hurts being the top fantasy quarterback so far. Week 12 sees the Eagles take on the New York Giants, who have actually done well against opposing quarterbacks this year. Still, the Eagles shouldn't have too hard of a time moving the ball, and with Hurts operating as the team's top running back, it's easy to see him finishing with yet another QB1 week. He's a top-six option for Week 12 fantasy lineups.

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Damien Harris Nov 26 6:10pm ET
Damien Harris

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (neck) was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable for the Week 12 matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Harris returned from a concussion last week but only saw 10 carries for 56 yards and caught one pass for nine yards while sharing more of the work with impressive rookie Rhamondre Stevenson (knee) in the blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons. Both Harris and Stevenson are questionable this weekend, but Patriots players listed as questionable usually tend to suit up on Sundays. Assuming both backs play this weekend, Harris' fantasy stock has fallen slightly with the emergence of Stevenson, and he'll be more of a low-end RB2/flex against Tennessee.

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Rhamondre Stevenson Nov 26 6:10pm ET
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New England Patriots rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson (knee) popped up on the injury report on Thursday and has been limited in practice the last two days. He is listed as questionable for Week 12 against the Tennessee Titans. Stevenson and Damien Harris (neck) are both questionable, but the fact that they were both limited in practice for multiple days suggests that they'll be able to play this Sunday. Harris played only three more offensive snaps than Stevenson in last week's blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons, but Stevenson had 13 touches for 75 yards compared to Harris' 11 touches for 65 yards. Stevenson's emergence in New England's backfield has made Harris more of a low-end RB2 heading into Week 12 action.

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Tony Pollard Nov 26 6:00pm ET
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The Dallas Cowboys defense wasn't at its best in a 36-33 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Thanksgiving Day. They allowed 36 points and only recorded three sacks. They were unable to secure any turnovers for only the third time all season. In leagues that count kick returns, a Tony Pollard 100-yard touchdown helped with some points, but in defense-only leagues, this was a rough outing for an otherwise strong fantasy defense.

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Greg Zuerlein Nov 26 5:50pm ET
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Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein missed two kicks in a Thanksgiving loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Zuerlein attempted three field goals and two extra points, missing one of each type of kick. His made field goals came from 29 and 45 yards out, while his miss came from 59. His 45-yard kick was a clutch one that tied the game at the end of the fourth quarter though, so Dallas fans can't be too upset at him for missing the longer kick earlier.

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Noah Brown Nov 26 5:40pm ET
Noah Brown

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Dalton Schultz Nov 26 5:40pm ET
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Michael Gallup Nov 26 5:30pm ET
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Cedrick Wilson Nov 26 5:20pm ET
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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (ankle) caught seven passes in a Week 12 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, gaining 104 yards. He was targeted 10 times, setting team highs in targets and catches and falling two yards shy of the team lead in yards. Wilson missed a few snaps with an ankle injury, but was able to return and should be fine for another Thursday game in Week 13. His role will be diminished though, as Amari Cooper (COVID-19) and CeeDee Lamb (concussion) are both expected to be back on the field.

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Tony Pollard Nov 26 5:10pm ET
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Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard looked great in a Thanksgiving overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With starter Ezekiel Elliott (knee) looking less than 100% throughout the game, Pollard had his first game of the season where he ended up with more touches than Elliott. Pollard ran the ball 10 times for 36 yards and added four catches for 32 more yards on four targets. Most impressively, Pollard worked a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown in the third quarter. With the Cowboys saying they may begin managing Elliott's snaps to some extent, Pollard's fantasy arrow is pointing almost straight up.

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JaMycal Hasty Nov 26 5:00pm ET
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San Francisco 49ers running back JaMycal Hasty (ankle) has been ruled out for the Week 12 game against the Minnesota Vikings. Hasty suffered an ankle injury in Week 9 and hasn't practiced or played since. Rookie Elijah Mitchell (finger, rib), who is questionable for this weekend, is closer to a return and would likely take over the lead-back role from Jeff Wilson Jr. if he's active. Hasty has only 13 rushing attempts for 48 yards and one touchdown (3.7 yards per carry) in the five games he's played in, and when this entire backfield is healthy, he's probably third on the depth chart behind Mitchell and Wilson. He's only worth hanging onto in really deep leagues or dynasty/keeper formats.

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Dak Prescott Nov 26 5:00pm ET
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Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott played well in a Week 12 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders despite missing his top two receiving threats. With Amari Cooper (COVID-19) and CeeDee Lamb (concussion) both ruled out, Prescott was still able to complete 32 of his 47 pass attempts for 375 yards and two touchdowns. Dak's first touchdown was a 10-yard pass to Sean McKeon and his second came on a 32-yard strike to Dalton Schultz. It was an impressive performance from Prescott despite a costly overthrow in overtime that led to a game-winning field goal for the Raiders.

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James Robinson Nov 26 5:00pm ET
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Qadree Ollison Nov 26 4:50pm ET
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Trevor Lawrence Nov 26 4:50pm ET
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Chris Godwin Nov 26 4:40pm ET
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers Mike Evans (back) and Chris Godwin (foot) were both taken off the final injury report for Week 12 against the Indianapolis Colts. Evans' status for Sunday's game was in question after he missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, but he returned to a full practice on Friday and is good to go against the Colts. Antonio Brown (ankle) remains out of action, so Evans and Godwin should continue to be targeted heavily in Tampa's pass-happy offense. Through 11 weeks of the 2021 season, Evans is the WR6 in fantasy with 679 receiving yards and a league-high 10 touchdowns, while Godwin is the WR10 with 782 receiving yards and five scores. They will both be must-starts this weekend.

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Laviska Shenault Jr. Nov 26 4:40pm ET
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Cordarrelle Patterson Nov 26 4:40pm ET
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