Kickoff: Sunday, September 25th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Betting Odds: NO -3, 40.5 total via Oddsshark
New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston (Sit)
It has been more of the same with Jameis Winston this year with Week 1 being “Good Jameis” and Week 2 seeing the return of “Bad Jameis”. Winston was unable to take advantage of a nice performance from the Saints defense last week and tossed three INTs, including a late pick-six that all but sealed the victory for the Buccaneers. This week, Jameis will be facing a Carolina team that has been great against opposing QBs allowing just 300 passing yards through two games with two TDs and four sacks. I’d give the advantage to the WRs for New Orleans in a matchup with Carolina’s secondary but they’ll need help from Winston to make the right reads and avoid turnovers – something Winston didn’t do against this team last year (111 yards, 2 INTs). The problem fantasy managers have with Winston is his inconsistency and that makes him tough to recommend this week. Sit Winston in Week 3.
Alvin Kamara (Start, RB2), Mark Ingram (Sit), Tony Jones (Sit)
There was optimism heading into Week 2 that Alvin Kamara would be able to work through his rib injury and play but ultimately the decision was made to give him another week’s rest in preparation for Week 3. There is a concern the injury could limit Kamara again this week but early indications are that Kamara should be able to play and it will come down to pain tolerance for the veteran. The bigger issue for fantasy managers is the “pitch count” that Kamara will have when there are other healthy options at RB. Last season, when Mark Ingram was healthy, Kamara saw an average of 15 touches per game compared to 24 when Ingram was out. In Week 1, Kamara saw just 12 touches, which tracks with the trend from last season. The injury only complicates the matter as the team might want to lighten his workload even more this week. The bright side is Carolina has been vulnerable to RBs this season (143 total yards to Nick Chubb in Week 1 and 88 total yards to Saquon Barkley in Week 2) which gives Kamara a little boost. Still, the injury concerns along with the other viable options at RB make Kamara an RB2 for this week.
Despite the late-week decision to rest Kamara last week, Ingram still only saw 25 snaps in Week 2 (37%) but was efficient with his touches (10 carries, 60 yards). Ingram has a 23.9 pass-blocking rating according to PFF which keeps him off the field during most passing downs, which contributed to his low snap count as the Saints ran twice as many pass plays as run plays last week (40 to 20). If Kamara returns as expected this week, it’s hard to see a scenario where Ingram garners enough opportunities to make him a viable alternative for fantasy managers. Unless some news break late this week, keep Ingram on your bench in Week 2.
Tony Jones is one of the better pass-blocking RBs in the league (71.5 ranking courtesy of PFF) which is the primary reason Jones was on the field for half of New Orleans’s total snaps. Jones didn’t make much of an impact in the box score (2 carries for eight yards, 2 receptions for 12 yards) but is trusted to protect Winston when asked. If Jones couldn’t get much work in with Kamara injured, there’s virtually no chance he sees much action when Kamara returns. Keep Jones on your bench this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Michael Thomas (Start, WR3), Jarvis Landry (Start, FLEX), Chris Olave (Sit), Juwan Johnson (Sit, TE2), Taysom Hill (Sit)
It appears as if the demise of Michael Thomas as a viable fantasy asset was grossly misinformed. Thomas leads the team through two weeks with 17 targets, and he’s secured 11 for 122 yards and three TDs. Now, the TD rate is unsustainable, but it is clear Thomas is Winston’s first read when the team nears the goal line and Thomas has rewarded Winston’s trust by catching both of his targets in the red zone for TDs. New Orleans will bring in arguably the best group of pass catchers the Panthers have seen up to this point and should test their young secondary. Thomas should continue to grow his confidence in his hamstring with each passing game and should continue to be a viable fantasy asset for fantasy managers. Winston’s decision-making limits Thomas to a degree, but Thomas should still be a viable WR3 or FLEX option against Carolina this week.
If nothing else, you know what you’re going to get with Jarvis Landry. Landry is a competent catcher of the football (78.6% catch rate), he’s going to see a lot of intermediate targets (10.2 average depth of target) and he struggles to find the end zone (zero so far this year, 5.3% career TD percentage). Landry is a better real NFL player than a fantasy player because of the way he has been utilized in his career. Landry saw a significant decrease in targets from Week 1 to Week 2, and if Chris Olave continues to develop, Landry may find himself fighting for targets on a regular basis. Landry should see enough opportunities to warrant consideration for your FLEX spot this week, but raising expectations much above that might be asking for disappointment.
Olave became the apple of Winston’s eye in Week 2 as the rookie was targeted a team-high 13 times resulting in five receptions for 80, but he did lose a fumble on his last catch when he was unable to control the ball when he hit the ground on a deep pass. Olave is quickly becoming the team’s primary deep threat garnering an ADOT of 18.0 yards in Week 2 as New Orleans looks for ways to utilize his 4.39 speed. Olave is still a rookie and will have his ups and downs, but his arrow for fantasy managers is trending in the right direction. If Olave sees double-digit targets again, it may be time to revisit his starting status, but for now, sit Olave for Week 2.
Juwan Johnson was thought to be the primary TE after out snapping Adam Trautman in Week 1 and that trend continued into Week 2 with Johnson seeing 78% of the offensive snaps. Arguably the most important stat for a TE when looking at their potential fantasy production is the percentage of routes run when on the field. A blocking TE doesn’t produce fantasy points, so we want guys who are consistent components of the passing game and Johnson ran a route on 86.8% of his snaps in Week 2 and saw seven targets on the day. Johnson is a big body and a viable red zone threat but is quite a ways down the line in terms of opportunities because of Thomas, Landry, Olave, and Kamara. As a result, keep Johnson on your bench this week.
Now for the guy nobody knows what to do with – Taysom Hill. Is he a TE? Sometimes. What about a QB? Only in emergencies and he’s probably not going to throw the ball. So he’s more of an RB then? Not exactly, but kinda. Hill popped back up on the fantasy radar after a Week 1 performance in which he saw four carries for and a TD and chipped in a reception as well. Hill followed up his Week 1 TE1 performance with three carries for 14 yards. The problem for fantasy managers with Hill is whether he’s going to see enough usage to trust him to compete with the guys around the TE10-TE14 range and I just can’t project that kind of production on a guy who saw 9% of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 2. I say sit him in Week 3.
Baker Mayfield (Sit)
Since dethroning Sam Darnold for the starting QB spot, Baker Mayfield has been underwhelming through two games with the Panthers. Mayfield has completed just 53.6% of his passes and has mustered just 380 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT on the season. Mayfield did tack on a rushing TD in Week 1 but has fumbled five times through two games; surprisingly he has not lost any of them. This week, Mayfield is going to attempt to decipher a Saints defense that stymied Tom Brady in Week 2 (190 yards, 1 TD) but struggled against Marcus Mariota in Week 1 surrendering 287 total yards and a rushing TD to the mobile QB. Mayfield has a full complement of healthy receivers heading into Week 3, but facing Marshon Lattimore and the Saints’ secondary will be a tall task. Unless Mayfield can contribute on the ground, I don’t see him being a viable option this week.
Christian McCaffrey (Start, RB1), D’Onta Foreman (Sit)
I’ve seen some criticisms of how the Panthers have utilized star RB Christian McCaffrey this season as he’s had just 33 touches on the season (14 in Week 1, 19 in Week 2). What people are missing, however, is what McCaffrey has done with those touches (57 yards, 1 TD in Week 1, 128 yards in Week 2) and the team’s focus on keeping McCaffrey healthy. The best way to do that is to limit the punishment he takes each week. McCaffrey is still on the field (played on 91% of the offensive snaps in Week 2) but he is not Mr. Everything anymore. That being said, McCaffrey is staring down a defense that surrendered over 200 rushing yards to the Falcons in Week 1 and allowed Leonard Fournette to rumble for 72 yards last week despite being down two of their top three WRs. Look for McCaffrey to have his best game this season in Week 3 and provide RB1-level production for fantasy managers.
D’Onta Foreman is a great success story as he’s come back from an Achilles injury to be a productive player in the NFL, but he’s simply a guy to give McCaffrey a breather now and then this season. Foreman has only seen 10 snaps total across the first two weeks and that role isn’t likely to change this week. Foreman could be a decent option for Carolina if McCaffrey were to sustain an injury again this season, but for fantasy managers, Foreman is simply McCaffrey insurance. Bench him this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
D.J. Moore (Start, WR3/FLEX), Robbie Anderson (Start, FLEX), Shi Smith (Sit), Ian Thomas (Sit)
In two games with Mayfield at QB, D.J. Moore has six targets with three receptions and 43 yards in both games. Now, in Week 2, Moore did find the end zone, but a trend might be developing right before our eyes and it’s not good for fantasy managers relying on Moore. This week, Moore is likely to draw Marshon Lattimore on the majority of his routes, further limiting his upside. The Saints have been effective against opposing WRs this season, allowing an average of 164 yards to the position and just one TD over two games, good for #2 in the NFL in those categories. Moore is involved in the offense enough to be worth a shot as your WR3 or FLEX option for Week 3.
Moore’s counterpart on the opposite side of the formation, Robbie Anderson, had a great start to the season as he posted 102 yards on five receptions and one TD against the Giants but then crashed back to Earth with a miserable three receptions for 32 yards and a lost fumble against the Falcons. Anderson will avoid Lattimore for the most part but still has to contend with a defense that simply hasn’t allowed much to any WR this season. I suspect Anderson will see more targets than Moore this week but might not equal Moore’s production. Look for Anderson to provide value in larger leagues as a FLEX option this week.
Shi Smith has been Carolina’s primary third WR this season as the rookie has seen action on more than 70% of the team’s snaps in each game this season. Despite the amount of time Smith has been on the field, he’s been a low-priority option for Mayfield seeing just nine targets on the season, catching two for 14 yards. Smith is fourth in the pecking order for targets, so expecting much more than a pedestrian performance is setting up fantasy managers for disappointment. Smith should be on benches in all leagues this week.
The Saints have shut down opposing TEs this season, holding Kyle Pitts to two receptions for 19 yards and Tampa Bay’s duo to a combined two catches for 13 yards. Those numbers don’t bode well for Ian Thomas who has never been much of a threat in the passing game during his career. Thomas has garnered just six targets this season, converting three for 66 yards. Thomas is simply not integrated enough into the passing offense to move the needle for fantasy managers and should be benched this week.