Buccaneers @ Saints
Final Score: Buccaneers 20, Saints 10
Writer: Evan Landry (@EvanAlmighty321 on Twitter)
Calling this game a defensive slugfest would be an understatement. Despite the lack of offensive fireworks, this latest edition of the heated Bucs-Saints division rivalry did not fail to entertain. Both teams were missing some of their top weapons this week to injury. The Buccaneers were down two of their top three receivers, with Chris Godwin and Julio Jones sitting out with hamstring and knee injuries respectively. Alvin Kamara also sat out this game with a rib injury he picked up in week one.
Jameis Winston and the Saints came out of the gate looking deceptively hot, efficiently slicing and dicing their way down to the Tampa 20-yard line before settling for a field goal. Tom Brady and the Buccaneers Immediately followed that up with an impressive-looking start of their own, driving the ball down to the Saints’ 25-yard line where Brady mishandled a snap under center and fumbled the ball, leading to a turnover. From this point forward, save for a handful of plays, neither team could generate anything on offense for nearly the entirety of the game, resulting in some intense frustration boiling over for both sidelines. Demario Davis and the Saints’ elite defense completely stifled Leonard Fournette and the Bucs’ run game, holding them to a paltry 2.4 yards per carry through four quarters. Likewise, Devin White and the Buccaneers’ stout defensive unit held New Orleans in check all day, limiting Jameis to primarily dink and dunk completions all day and forcing three turnovers late in the game. By the end of the 3rd quarter, the Saints and Bucs were tied 3-3 and Tom Brady was livid, showing visible frustration.
Tom Brady throws his tablet in frustration. pic.twitter.com/d6QTX8dRyV
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 18, 2022
Brady wasn’t the only one who was frustrated, though. At this point in the game, tensions reached a climax, and a huge fight broke out between the two teams. Early in the 4th quarter Marshon Lattimore got mouthy with Tom Brady after a defensive stop, and the GOAT didn’t take too kindly to it. Before long, you guessed it, Mike Evans was flying in from the sidelines to deck Lattimore and a massive fight erupted! Both teams were out on the field, throwing punches and tackling each other to the ground. After the refs cleared the field, both teams were penalized, and Mike Evans and Marshon Lattimore were both ejected from the remainder of the game. This was a real turning point in the game, and the Saints never seemed to settle down after the brawl. Brady tossed a touchdown to Breshad Perriman on their drive following the big fight thanks to some help from a couple of terrible unnecessary roughness and holding calls on the Saints. Jameis subsequently collapsed in the fourth quarter, trying to force the ball down the field to blanketed receivers for the rest of the game. He threw interceptions on three consecutive drives, the last of which went for a pick-six, and killed any shot the Saints had to tie the game up late.
One big silver lining for Saints’ fantasy implications was the encouraging usage of rookie WR Chris Olave, who saw a barrage of targets deep down the field throughout the game. Olave was open early and often, and Jameis just couldn’t connect with him, overthrowing and underthrowing him all day. If those two can develop better chemistry as the season progresses, Olave could have a promising production profile.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady: 18/34, 190 Yards, TD | 3 Carries, -2 Yards, Fumble (Lost)
Tom Brady once again struggled to deal with New Orleans’ elite defense on a day where he was down two of his top three receiving weapons. If you started him in fantasy this week, you probably aren’t happy with the result. The GOAT probably would’ve had an easier time moving the ball down the field if he would’ve had Julio Jones and Chris Godwin to rely on. He also lost Mike Evans in the 4th quarter of the game when Evans got himself ejected from the game for his role in instigating a massive brawl between the two teams. Brady mishandled a snap from his center on the Bucs’ first drive in Saints territory resulting in a turnover and was visibly frustrated for basically the rest of the game. He was able to make a few strong completions down the field to some of his receivers, including a beautiful 51-yard bomb to Mike Evans on the Bucs’ second drive of the game and another beautiful 30-yard TD pass to Breshad Perriman in the 4th quarter to put the dagger in the Saints. To be fair, the Perriman TD pass should have never happened since the only reason the Bucs had the opportunity to score on that drive was because of an atrocious unnecessary roughness penalty called against the saints after a strong 3rd down stop by the defense. Besides the chunk plays to Evans and Perriman, Brady completed a couple of nice 12 to 15-yard throws over the middle to Scotty Miller and Mike Evans throughout the game. His remaining production came primarily from dink and dunk passes underneath. Brady ultimately finished the day with pedestrian numbers, unable to surpass the 200 passing yard mark and throwing for only one TD. The Saints’ defense had him under pressure for a large portion of the game. When he wasn’t under pressure, his receivers were usually blanketed by New Orleans’ strong defensive secondary. Since Brady has struggled against the Saints’ defense ever since joining the NFC South, it’s probably safe to assume that better fantasy days are ahead for the hall of famer this season.
The Saints have Tom Brady frustrated 😬
— Bally Sports (@BallySports) September 18, 2022
Leonard Fournette: 24 Carries, 65 Yards | 4 Targets, 2 Receptions, 9 Yards
Rachaad White: 2 Carries, 1 Yard | 2 Targets
Leonard Fournette was met by a barrage of Saints defenders at the line of scrimmage for most of the game, averaging an atrocious 2.7 yards per carry. Fortunately for fantasy owners, Fournette didn’t put up a complete dud, as Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich refused to give up on the run game, stubbornly feeding Fournette the rock 24 times throughout the game. Saints linebackers Demario Davis and Pete Werner bottled Fournette up for the entire game, only allowing a handful of modest gains, usually after contact. He was able to power his way past first contact on a few plays and showed impressive strength and burst on a 13-yard scamper on Tampa’s second drive, but he was ultimately ineffective. On a crucial 4th and one play in Saints territory on the Bucs’ second drive of the game, Fournette was stuffed for a loss by the swarming Saints defense to cause a turnover on downs. He probably would’ve gained the first down in that instance had tackle Tristan Wirfs not completely blown his assignment, leaving a Saints defender completely unblocked. One fantasy silver lining to this performance is that Fournette is the clear bell cow in this offense, seeing a dominant majority of the snap and opportunity shares.
Rachaad White was a complete afterthought in this game, coming in to spell Fournette on a couple of carries. Both of his runs were completely stuffed. He also received two targets in the passing game, neither of which he could come down with. Unless Fournette sustains a significant injury, it’s safe to assume White will be an afterthought barring a surprising development.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Mike Evans: 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 61 Yards
Scotty Miller: 1 Carry, 8 Yards | 8 Targets, 3 Receptions, 34 Yards
Breshad Perriman: 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 45 Yards, TD
Russell Gage: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 28 Yards
Cameron Brate: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 9 Yards
Cade Otton: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 4 Yards
Mike Evans had a terrible game this week. Most of his production on the day came on a beautiful go route down the right sideline on Tampa’s second drive of the game. He beat his man, and Tom Brady hit him in stride for a massive 51-yard gain before he was pushed out of bounds. Other than the one big play, his only other noteworthy catch came on Tampa’s first drive of the game when Brady hit him for a modest 12-yard gain. Marshon Lattimore once again did a commendable job locking down Evans for most of the day. Evans’ only other downfield target came early in the 3rd quarter, but Lattimore blanketed him on the route as the ball fell incomplete. It’s worth noting that Evans was seen limping to the sideline early in the 3rd quarter, seemingly trying to stretch out his calf injury, which left him questionable heading into the week. He may be managing the injury for the foreseeable future, although fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he returned to the field after the brief injury scare.
Early in the 4th Quarter, Evans played a significant role in instigating a massive brawl between the two teams. After seeing him mouth off to his quarterback, he flew in from the sidelines and decked Marshon Lattimore. This isn’t the first time Evans has done something like this against the division rivals, and it probably won’t be the last. The ensuing brawl left both teams penalized and resulted in the ejections of Evans and Lattimore for the remainder of the game. There’s no telling if Evans would’ve been able to salvage his fantasy day with some much-needed 4th quarter production.
Fight! The Bucs and Saints really hate each other. pic.twitter.com/C8YR9mqgGS
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 18, 2022
Scotty Miller was Brady’s favorite target this week out of necessity, but he only came down with three of his seven targets. He was mostly stifled by New Orleans’ secondary, but he looked agile and slippery on his underneath routes when the ball was in his hands. He also received a couple of end-around carries for the Bucs, one of which went for a nice little gain of eight yards. His second carry went for another gain of eight yards to pick up a first down for the Bucs in the 3rd quarter, but the gain was called back on a holding penalty committed by fellow WR Jalen Darden, who wasn’t targeted in this game.
Breshad Perriman was invisible in this game until midway through the 3rd quarter when he came down with a clutch reception of ten yards to convert a 3rd down for the Bucs. His only reception of note came in the 4th quarter after the ejection of Mike Evans. After a terrible call against the Saints for unnecessary roughness bailed Tampa’s offense out on a failed third down conversion, Tom Brady heaved a beautiful 30-yard bomb to Perriman who was running a go route down the right side of the field. He didn’t have much separation on the route, but Brady placed the ball perfectly, throwing his only TD of the day to the speedster.
FINALLY. TOUCHDOWN BUCS.
Perriman 1st TD +2200 ✅ pic.twitter.com/LtHKnbPuSh
— Barstool Sportsbook (@BSSportsbook) September 18, 2022
Russell Gage operated mostly as an underneath possession WR, with most of his production coming on short underneath routes. He didn’t do much to help move the offense, as the Saints held him in check all day. His five catches for 28 yards aren’t going to excite anyone. Still, if Julio Jones and Chris Godwin continue to miss time, his target share may suggest that he has the potential to put up decent fantasy numbers against weaker defenses in the future.
TEs Cameron Brate and Cade Otton had two targets each, combining for a grand total of 14 yards. It’s safe to say that they were an afterthought in this game. It’s worth noting that Otton, the fourth-round rookie TE, seems to have a role carved out already in this offense. He saw a healthy portion of the snap share and boasts significantly more athleticism than Brate. He has a chance to become the go-to TE in this offense by mid to late season if his development trends well.
New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston: 25/40, 236 Yards, TD, 3 INT | 1 Carry, 2 Yards
Jameis Winston made his home return against the same team he suffered his season-ending ACL against last season. He was on the injury report all week with a back injury described as “multiple fractures” in his back, but he decided to gut it out anyway. Jameis started the game looking like he was going to pick up where he left off last week when he led the Saints to an impressive 4th quarter comeback against the Falcons. On the Saints’ first drive of the game, he looked poised, efficiently driving the ball down the field, completing all of his passes, and leaning on an initially strong-looking run game led by Mark Ingram. The drive stalled out at Tampa’s 25-yard line, where kicker Wil Lutz completed his only field goal attempt of the day. After that first drive, offensive consistency was mighty hard to come by for the Saints. As Winston saw more pressure from the Bucs’ defense, he became erratic with his downfield throws. He made questionable decisions with the ball throughout the remainder of the game, often sailing errant passes over the head of promising rookie WR Chris Olave who was one of the few bright spots for New Orleans’ offense this week. Winston’s next five drives ended in punts as the offense sputtered feebly. The Bucs’ defense had him under pressure for a large portion of the game, and he was sacked six times. By the time the 4th quarter rolled around, the score was 3-3, and a massive brawl erupted between the two teams. The Saints never seemed to settle down emotionally after that.
Jameis came out on the next few drives with sloppy footwork and errant passing, throwing bad interceptions into traffic in three consecutive drives. His last interception was an ugly throw into traffic that resulted in a pick-six by the Tampa defense, crushing the Saints’ hopes for a late comeback. He did end the day on a positive note, throwing a nice seven-yard TD pass to Michael Thomas on his second to last drive after Chris Olave drew a pass interference penalty deep in Tampa Bay territory. This was Jameis’ only TD of the day. On the Saints’ final drive, Jameis finally hit Chris Olave deep downfield in stride for a nice 50-yard gain, but it was unfortunately fumbled by Olave when he lost his balance and made contact with the ground. It’s hard to say how much Winston’s back injury affected his play, as his downfield passes were noticeably worse than normal. Hopefully better days are ahead for him. If not, the Saints’ playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy.
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 18, 2022
Mark Ingram II: 10 Carries, 60 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 3 Yards | Fumble (Lost)
Tony Jones Jr.: 2 Carries, 8 Yards | 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 12 Yards
Dwayne Washington: 4 Carries, 18 Yards
Taysom Hill: 3 Carries, 14 Yards
Mark Ingram performed admirably in place of the injured Alvin Kamara in this game. He averaged a strong six yards per carry and received the bulk of the workload. The Saints’ offensive line run blocked fairly well and often gave Ingram plenty of space to run. He gained a couple of nice ten-yard chunk plays during the first drive of the game and continued to make nice gains throughout the next couple of drives when given opportunities. Tampa started to do a better job of locking the run game down until a drive late in the 3rd quarter, when Ingram again broke off a nice chunk gain of 12 yards along with a few more solid gains. Unfortunately for Ingram, he coughed up a fumble on that very same drive at the Tampa Bay ten-yard line, turning the ball over to the defense. After that, he didn’t do much for the rest of the game as his offense spiraled out of control in the 4th quarter with a barrage of turnovers and steered away from the run game.
Tony Jones Jr spelled Ingram for a couple of carries and also hauled in two check-downs for 12 receiving yards. He did well with his touches but will probably have a hard time getting on the field much with Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram squarely ahead of him on the depth chart.
Dwayne Washington had a few decent runs, including one where he trucked Devin White to fight for extra yardage. Nonetheless, he’s far down on the Saints’ depth chart and offers little in terms of rushing opportunities or pass-catching upside.
The Taysom Hill wildcat gimmick is still very much alive! Hill saw three rushing opportunities in this game, all in wildcat offensive formations. The first of these attempts came in the first drive of the game, and it worked well. Hill made a nice gain of 13 yards and got the Saints a 1st down. The Tampa defense stuffed his two other attempts later in the game. Given Hill’s similar usage in week 1, he may be in line to have two to four run plays drawn up for him each week. His upside as a fantasy TE is probably pretty limited given the lack of opportunities.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Chris Olave: 13 Targets, 5 Receptions, 80 Yards, Fumble (Lost)
Michael Thomas: 9 Targets, 6 Receptions, 65 Yards, TD
Jarvis Landry: 5 Targets, 4 Receptions, 25 Yards
Juwan Johnson: 7 Targets, 4 Receptions, 40 Yards
Deonte Harty: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 9 Yards
Saints first-round rookie WR Chris Olave may not have lit up the box score in this one, but boy, was his usage encouraging for fantasy owners. He received an absolute barrage of high-value downfield targets throughout the game and found himself wide open early and often. On New Orleans’ third drive of the game, Olave was targeted deep downfield on third down. He had excellent separation on his route, but Jameis Winston overthrew him badly on the play. On New Orleans’ fifth drive of the game, Olave was open 20 yards downfield, but Winston underthrew him. A couple of plays later, he came down with a clutch catch on a beautifully-run hitch route down the left seam. A couple of plays after that, he was wide open for a second time deep down the field for a would-be long bomb TD. Unfortunately for him, Jameis once again overthrew his rookie receiver.
Later in the 3rd quarter, during New Orleans’ sixth drive of the game, Olave received a third target deep downfield along the right sideline. This time the play was covered well, and the defender broke up the pass. On the following third down, Olave once again found himself open 25 yards down the right side of the field, and Jameis Winston once again overthrew the pass. Early in the 4th quarter, on the Saints’ eighth drive of the game, Jameis heaved a fifth bomb deep downfield to Olave, who had separation in the end zone. Jameis slightly underthrew the pass, and Bucs CB Jamel Dean made a great play on the ball to come down with the Bucs’ first INT. Midway through the 4th quarter Olave received a sixth target deep downfield but this time, there was a miscommunication, and the pass was way off the mark. On the second to last drive of the game, Olave got open deep again and drew a pass interference penalty on his seventh deep target to set up the Saints’ only TD drive of the game. Finally, on the Saints’ last drive of the game late into the 4th quarter, Jameis hit Olave in stride running a go route deep down the right side of the field. Olave caught the ball, lost his balance, hit the ground without being contacted by a defender, and lost possession of the ball. This resulted in a fumble lost. Despite a day full of disappointing misses for the rookie, it’s extremely encouraging to see Olave peppered with deep, high-value targets like this. If Winston and his talented new weapon can start to build some chemistry and get on the same page, Olave may offer some mouth-watering fantasy upside every week.
Olave Deep…fumble. pic.twitter.com/rSjwytO11X
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 18, 2022
Michael Thomas came up clutch with several nice grabs, including a couple of impressive catches for first downs, one of which being a sideline toe-tap beauty. He also caught a contested seven-yard TD pass from Jameis Winston late in the 4th quarter. Thomas continued to remind us that he has excellent hands and tight-window, contested catch ability on his six grabs this week. His red zone usage is an encouraging sign for fantasy owners who may have drafted him at a bargain discount in the sixth round of their drafts this year.
Michael Thomas makes a TOUGH catch for the Saints touchdown!! pic.twitter.com/FBmdDN2scX
— Brian Y (@byysports) September 18, 2022
Jarvis Landry operated in his typical possession WR role and continues to boast great hands, catching most balls thrown his way. He didn’t light up the box score in this one, but he looks to be a consistent and reliable weapon for the Saints’ offense.
Juwan Johnson continued to assert himself as the Saints’ primary-pass catching TE this week. After seeing five targets in week one, Johnson saw seven this week and continued to boast modest production. Adam Trautman was thought by many to be the Saints’ primary TE, so Johnson’s emergence has been somewhat of a surprise.