Saints look to Winston, Hill, as they host improving Falcons

Thu Nov 19 7:17pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Alvin Kamara expresses confidence in the Saints' ability to quickly coalesce around a fill-in quarterback while record-setting, 15-year starter Drew Brees is injured.

There is precedent for that. New Orleans went 5-0 in games Teddy Bridgewater started in 2019 while Brees was out with a hand injury.

The Saints (7-2), who've won six straight, host the Atlanta Falcons (3-6) on Sunday. New Orleans will begin another stint without Brees, whose ribs were injured on a big hit that forced him to sit out the second half of last week's win over San Francisco.

Stepping in will be former Tampa Bay starter Jameis Winston and change-of-pace option QB Taysom Hill.

''Last year, when Drew went down and Teddy came in, everybody really rallied around Teddy and did what they had to do to try to be perfect in their job,'' Kamara said. ''It's a little more heightened sense of awareness because, obviously, it changes'' when Brees isn't running the offense.

For Winston, whose raw talent has never been in question, it's an opportunity to start shedding a reputation for mercurial play that led the Buccaneers to let go of their 2015 first overall draft choice when they had a chance to replace him with six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady.

Last season, Winston joined an elite group of QBs in NFL history to pass for more than 5,000 yards and 30 TDs in a season. But he also threw 30 interceptions.

He arguably should have been intercepted again while playing in relief of Brees last week, but Niners safety Jimmie Ward dropped a risky pass over the middle that hit him in both hands.

Still, Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris sees reason to believe Winston's game would begin evolving while he's with New Orleans.

''He's had a significant amount of time to be with those guys, talking like 10 weeks to be with those guys and sitting behind Drew, who is arguably one of the best quarterbacks to play our game ... so he has to be better,'' Morris said. ''You can't help but be better when you're around those type of people and the right type of thing.''

THIN AT THE EDGE

The Falcons are thin at defensive end after releasing Takk McKinley last week and placing Dante Fowler Jr. on the reserve/COVID-19 list. McKinley was claimed by Cincinnati but then was waived again after the Bengals said he failed a physical. McKinley battled a groin injury this season and has a history of shoulder problems.

Rookie Marlon Davidson, a second-round draft pick from Auburn who has four tackles in only three games, has been held out of the last two games following a knee injury and his stay on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Davidson, who also plays defensive tackle, has been handled with caution in his return and it is not known if he will play this week.

Fowler, who signed a three-year deal worth up to $48 million before the season, has two sacks and one forced fumble in eight games. He was recovering from a hamstring injury when placed on the COVID-19 list.

Morris said he's asking for ''an all-hands-on-deck mentality'' at defensive end. ''The challenge is for these guys to rush as a unit, to rush together.''

DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT

The Saints look increasingly well-equipped to keep winning without their star QB because of how their defense has played lately.

Last week, the Saints won despite having just 237 yards of total offense, the lowest figure in a New Orleans win since Brees and coach Sean Payton joined forces in 2006.

New Orleans ranks second in the NFL against the run and their secondary has started playing better. They've made five interceptions in their past two games, with veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins making one in each game.

''Every week, our confidence is growing,'' said Jenkins, who returned to New Orleans this offseason after six seasons with Philadelphia. ''Every week, we're executing very well, playing a lot faster and a lot more physical and the team will need us to do that moving forward.''

KINGS OF THE ROAD

The Falcons have won six consecutive road games against NFC South opponents. The streak began in Week 16 of the 2018 season with a win at Carolina and is the longest in franchise history. It's the third-longest streak of road wins against divisional opponents in the NFL, but only the second-longest in the division. Kansas City (nine) and New Orleans (seven) have longer streaks of road success against division rivals.

The Falcons finished only 7-9 last season but won six of their last eight games, including visits to New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Carolina. This season, they've won three of their last four games under Morris following an 0-5 start. The resurgence has included a win at Carolina on Oct 29.

TIME OF POSSESSION

A key to Atlanta's success with Morris has been the ability to control the clock. In the 0-5 start with former coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons' average time of possession was 29 minutes, 07 seconds. In four games with Morris, the Falcons' average of 35:12 leads the NFL. In that span, Atlanta has improved from 21st in the league to fourth with an overall average of 31:50. But this week they face a Saints squad that also is solid in that category, possessing the ball 31:39 per game, which ranks seventh.

Player Notes
New York Giants Dec 1 9:50pm ET

The New York Giants placed starting outside linebacker Kyle Fackrell (calf) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday with a calf injury. Fackrell will miss at least the next three games, leaving the Giants very short-handed at the position. He was tied for second on the team with three sacks and was playing close to 100 percent of the defensive snaps before suffering the injury in the Week 12 win over the Bengals. No outside linebacker on the active roster has more than one sack this year. Linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are also on IR. Jamaal Sheard and rookies Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown could start in Week 13 against the Seahawks, making the New York defense one to avoid for fantasy managers after they were a popular streaming defense against Cincy.

From RotoBaller

Drew Lock Dec 1 9:40pm ET

The Denver Broncos activated quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday after all three had PCR tests come back negative on Monday. They will all be eligible to play in Week 13 against the Chiefs. So barring additional team discipline, the Broncos won't be forced to use a practice-squad wide receiver under center against their division rivals. If Lock returns as the starter for this offense, it'll be excellent news for receivers Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler and tight end Noah Fant. Denver will likely be forced to throw often to keep up with the Chiefs high-octane offense, too, but Lock's inconsistency this season keeps him as a low-end QB2. The 24-year-old was 24-for-40 for 254 yards and two interceptions in the first meeting against KC back in Week 7.

From RotoBaller

Olamide Zaccheaus Dec 1 9:30pm ET

The Atlanta Falcons placed wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus (toe) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after he left the Week 12 win over the Raiders with a toe injury. In a corresponding move, the team activated receiver Laquon Treadwell from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and added him to the 53-man roster. Zaccheaus popped up for a couple decent games this year, but it his production was inconsistent on a weekly basis and he was too far down the team's receiving depth chart to be a viable fantasy option in most leagues. The second-year wideout's best game came in Week 9 against the Broncos when he had four receptions for 103 yards and his first touchdown of the season. If he doesn't make it back this year, he'll finish with 20 receptions (32 targets) for 274 yards and the one touchdown. Christian Blake and Brandon Powell could see some more playing time as the No. 4 wideout with Zaccheaus out.

From RotoBaller

J.K. Dobbins Dec 1 9:20pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram II are both eligible to be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list prior to the Week 12 game against the Steelers on Wednesday, but it's not a given that either will play. Both players have been isolated since testing positive for the virus on Nov. 22 and aren't allowed to fly on the team plane on Tuesday night. At this point, if you have Dobbins or Ingram on your roster, you've likely benched them for other running backs that already played in Week 12. Even if they both play, Gus Edwards could see the majority of backfield touches and will be the best fantasy play of the trio. Those that picked up Edwards in order to start him this week are hoping that neither Dobbins nor Ingram suit up in the tough matchup against the undefeated Steelers.

From RotoBaller

Brandon Williams Dec 1 9:10pm ET

The Baltimore Ravens activated defensive tackle Brandon Williams, quarterback Trace McSorley, nickelback Tavon Young and cornerback Khalil Dorsey from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. They could activate more players from the list before kickoff against the Steelers on Wednesday. McSorley should be the backup to Robert Griffin III on Wednesday with Lamar Jackson testing positive for COVID-19 and being unavailable this week. The return of Williams will be good news for Baltimore's defensive line, who will again be without Pro Bowl defensive lineman Calais Campbell. The Ravens Defense is more of a gamble in DFS and season-long leagues against the undefeated Steelers, but inclement weather is expected and could make things tougher on both offenses.

From RotoBaller

Dalvin Cook Dec 1 7:53pm ET

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (ankle) is 'just kind of beat up,' according to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Fantasy Spin: Cook briefly left the Week 12 game against the Carolina Panthers but returned to finish with 83 total yards and 22 touches. He leads the league with 1,385 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns on the season. The Vikings' schedule gets much tougher following the Week 13 home date against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he'll remain a matchup-proof RB1 due to his heavy usage.

From TheHuddle

Jordan Willis Dec 1 7:43pm ET

San Francisco 49ers DT D.J. Jones, DE Jordan Willis and practice squad TE Daniel Helm will be activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and practice Thursday, Dec. 3, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Jaylen Watkins Dec 1 7:13pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers TE Matt Sokol and DB Jaylen Watkins were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Chris Smith Dec 1 7:03pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders LB Vic Beasley, PK Dominik Eberle, DE David Irving and DE Chris Smith were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Chad Hansen Dec 1 6:53pm ET

Houston Texans WR Chad Hansen, DT Corey Liuget, WR Steven Mitchell Jr. and WR Damion Ratley were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Aldrick Rosas Dec 1 6:53pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Terry Godwin, DB Josh Nurse, DT Caraun Reid and PK Aldrick Rosas were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Rashard Robinson Dec 1 6:33pm ET

Dallas Cowboys DB Deante Burton, OT Jordan Mills, DB Rashard Robinson and OT William Sweet were named protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Troy Fumagalli Dec 1 6:33pm ET

Denver Broncos RB LeVante Bellamy, TE Troy Fumagalli, DB Alijah Holder and LB Josh Watson were made protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Kyle Lauletta Dec 1 6:23pm ET

Cleveland Browns OT Michael Dunn, QB Kyle Lauletta, PK Matthew McCrane and OT Alex Taylor were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Joe Webb Dec 1 6:13pm ET

Free-agent WR Joe Webb (Lions) is visiting the New York Giants Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Tyler Bray Dec 1 6:13pm ET

Chicago Bears QB Tyler Bray was designated as a protected practice squad player for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Kevin Hogan Dec 1 6:13pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals QB Kevin Hogan, WR Stanley Morgan, RB Jacques Patrick and TE Mitchell Wilcox were named as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Darron Lee Dec 1 6:03pm ET

Buffalo Bills DE Bryan Cox Jr., C Jordan Devey, C Jonotthan Harrison and LB Darron Lee were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 13 on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle

Will Fuller Dec 1 5:53pm ET

Houston Texans WR Will Fuller and CB Bradley Roby were officially placed on the Reserve/Suspended list Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Texans also activated DT Andrew Brown from the Exempt/Commissioner Permission list.

From TheHuddle

D.J. Foster Dec 1 5:53pm ET

Arizona Cardinals TE Seth DeValve, DE Michael Dogbe, RB D.J. Foster and WR A.J. Richardson were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 13 on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

From TheHuddle