Kickoff: Sunday, September 13th at 4:25 PM ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Betting Odds: LV -3, 49 total via Oddsshark
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady (Start, QB1)
This is the most invested Tom Brady has been in an offseason in recent memory. For a guy known for always putting in the extra effort, Brady was a no-show at most Patriots offseason activities in 2019. “He’s old, he’s got to save his arm” and “He’s a vet, he’s earned the time off” were the common excuses for Patriots fans, but the dip in his performance and mistrust of his receivers were evident and a direct result of that lack of offseason work.
That was not the case in 2020. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Brady was so dedicated to his craft that he defied public orders and worked out with teammates in public parts or on practice fields. He even entered the wrong house when trying to meet with new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.
A hard-working Brady means a successful offense, and this is easily the best set of weapons Brady has ever had (yes, including 2007). He’s had this team practicing hard right from the start of offseason workouts and they should be ready to go Week 1. It’s unclear whether the offense will run a modified version of the New England offense, or if Bruce Arians will be calling the shots, but you can bet that the GOAT will be prepared to prove the doubters wrong in his first season in Tampa Bay.
The Saints gave up the 13th most passing yards last season, and despite being the new sheriff in town I fully expect Brady to come out firing. Too many are sleeping on him and that’s the sort of thing that fuels him. Don’t be surprised if Tom Brady returns to form in Week 1.
Leonard Fournette (Start, RB2), Ronald Jones (Start, Flex), Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Sit)
Sheesh, who knows what’s going on in this backfield? First, it was Ronald Jones‘ backfield, then they signed Leonard Fournette, but then Arians claimed it was still Jones’ backfield, but Fournette will still have a significant role. What? I just don’t understand it. If you have one or both, the guy I would go with would be Fournette simply because of his ability to catch the rock out of the backfield, an area Jones struggled with in camp. I worry that Jones will end up in the Brady dog house so I’m staying far, far away, but given that Arians has said Jones will have a role I guess you’ve got to flex him until he proves otherwise. The Saints had one of the better run defenses in the league (4th fewest yards allowed) last season so that’s another point in Fournette’s favor. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a talented rookie but it’s way too early to start throwing him in your starting lineup when there are so many question marks at the position. Brady loves pass-catching backs, so he could carve out a role at some point but it’s not worth chasing quite yet.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Chris Godwin (Start, WR1), Mike Evans (Start, WR1), Rob Gronkowski (Start, TE1), O.J. Howard (Sit), Cameron Brate (Sit)
Two easy starts here in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. The Saints secondary is average at best and they both should put up solid numbers. You may be surprised to see Rob Gronkowski as a TE1, but in this strange season with limited camp time and no preseason, I’m inclined to think that Brady will rely on his most trusted receiver early and often. I think Gronk will be healthy and rested for the first time in a long time, and we may see him return as a top 5 tight end in Week 1. I like both O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate on the season, but against a Saints team that allowed the 9th fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season I’m staying away from the 2nd and 3rd stringers here.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees (Start, QB1)
There’s not really much to say about Brees here. He’s as reliable as they come and even at his old age he’s still going to produce solid numbers. Tampa Bay’s defense struggled mightily against the pass last year, allowing the 10th most fantasy points to opposing QBs. In his lone game against Tampa last season, Brees threw for 228 yards and 3 TDs. I’d expect more of the same this week. Roll him out there without question.
Alvin Kamara (Start, RB1), Latavius Murray (Sit)
Here’s the deal – Alvin Kamara is coming off a torn MCL in his knee and elected the rest/rehab option in the offseason. He’s apparently 100% healthy but that still gives me some pause with him this year. Regarding this week, Tampa Bay had the #1 defense against the run last season, but New Orleans has the second-best offensive line this year according to Pro Football Focus. It’s not going to be a huge day for Kamara, but with his talent, he should give you enough that you’re satisfied. I’d be happy with anywhere between 15-20 points out of him this week.
I love Latavius Murray this year. I think that even if Kamara remains healthy, Murray will get a decent workload in order to keep Kamara fresh. With reports that Kamara is getting an extension, I believe even more in that stance since they will want to protect their investment. In the 34 games in his career where he has received 15 or more carries, Murray averages 18.1 fantasy points in those games. With 15 carries a game, Murray is a no brainer RB1. Will he get that every week? No. Will he get it in Week 1? Also probably no, but he’s worth a stash for the rest of the season.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Thomas (Start, WR1), Emmanuel Sanders (Start, WR3), Tre’Quan Smith (Sit), Jared Cook (Start, TE1)
Michael Thomas is going to get fed all year. Don’t try to get cute – start him. Emmanuel Sanders is an interesting add by New Orleans this season, and while he isn’t the same player he used to be he certainly still can put up solid PPR stats and should do so against a mediocre Tampa Bay secondary. I like him as a WR3 with some upside, but he’s not the game-changer he once was. Tre’Quan Smith is a guy the Saints love but he hasn’t put together a string of good games in a row to earn any fantasy respect. He’s on my radar for the season, but until he starts to show something he should not be on your roster.
Jared Cook is worth starting against a team that allowed the 8th most fantasy points to tight ends, and he showed late last season his budding chemistry with Brees. I’ll take my chances with him in this potential shootout.
-Ben Brown (@FelixTheDog23 on Twitter, iamatechnician on Reddit)