Kickoff Sunday, Sep 13th 4:25pm Eastern

Bucs (
23.0) at

Saints (
26.5)

Over/Under 49.5

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Notes

Key Matchups
Buccaneers Run D
12th DVOA/3rd Yards allowed per carry
Saints Run O
28th DVOA/15th Yards per carry
Buccaneers Pass D
10th DVOA/21st Yards allowed per pass
Saints Pass O
20th DVOA/32nd Yards per pass
Saints Run D
1st DVOA/4th Yards allowed per carry
Buccaneers Run O
4th DVOA/26th Yards per carry
Saints Pass D
4th DVOA/14th Yards allowed per pass
Buccaneers Pass O
1st DVOA/1st Yards per pass
  • Payton is 4-1 vs Arians: 31-7, 19-31, 48-41, 31-24, 34-17
  • As Brees has transitioned to playing just a series in preseason, the Saints have scored 6 and 3 points in the first halves of 2 of their last 3 season-openers
  • In the first 3 weeks of the last 3 seasons, Allen’s NOR defense has allowed point totals of: (29, 36, 13), (48, 18, 37), (28, 27, 27)
  • Brees’s attempt totals from 2017-19 in W1-W3 vs ROS average: (37 vs 32.7), (43 vs 30), (43 vs 36.7)
  • Brees’s yardage totals from 2017-19 in W1-W3 vs ROS average: (289 vs 266.7), (359.3 vs 242.8), (370 vs 285.7)
  • Brees’s W1 (attempt, yardage) ranks in his 2017-19 games: (5th, 5th), (2nd, 1st), (2nd, 2nd)
  • Brees has faced 4 different Todd Bowles defenses since 2012 (PHI, ARI, NYJ, TB), winning 28-13, 31-7, 31-19, & 34-17, while averaging 272.5yds, 2.75 TDs, 0.5 INTs
  • Brees’s #1 target in those games (Graham x2, Thomas x2) averaged 8.5 rec (11.75) for 103.25yds, 1.25 TDs
  • Thomas crushed Bowles’s 2019 defense with & without Brees, totaling 19 rec (23) for 296yds, 3 TDs
  • The Saints are expected to distribute most of their targets among Thomas, Sanders, Kamara, Cook, Taysom, Smith, Harris & TyMont, making likely all but Thomas & Kamara’s volume very volatile week to week
  • If Brees’s early season heavy volume trend continues, this may be one of the better games for one of the Saints ancillary weapons
  • TB’s #1 rush defense only allowed over 100 rushing yds three times all year: NOR counted for 2 of those 3 games
  • Kamara in those 2 games totaled 29 att 137yds, 16 rec (17) 89yds; 38.6 DK pts (as well as a TD called back)
  • Kamara’s forced avoided tackles per touch pre-injury vs post-injury: 0.32 vs 0.14
  • Arians’s (1 OC, 3 HC) offensive point totals vs Allen (DC): 23, 34, 24, 17
  • In 4 matchups vs Dennis Allen (3 DC, 1 HC), Brady is averaging 341yds & 3 TD, while his #1 receiver in those games (Hernandez, Gronk x2, Edelman) is averaging 8.75 rec (9.5) for 118.5yds, 1.25 TDs
  • Brady, now 43 and having not played vs Allen since W2 of his 2017 MVP season, cleared 300yds once in the final 11 games of 2019 (blowout loss vs HOU)
  • In just six 2019 games vs pass defenses ranked in the top half of efficiency, Brady put up 28+ DK pts vs PIT (pre-Minkah), and averaged 11.32 DK pts in the 5 others (BUF x2, BAL, PHI, KC)
  • New Orleans ranked 13th in pass efficiency defense in 2019, and made 2 coverage upgrades according to PFF (Vonn Bell à Malcom Jenkins, Eli Apple à Janoris Jenkins)
  • PFF WR ranks for Godwin & Evans vs Edelman & Harry/Dorsett: 1st & 6th vs 48th & T-76th
  • Mike Evans career games vs Lattimore: 1 rec (6) 13yds; 5 rec (13) 55yds; 7 rec (7) 147yds, TD; 4 rec (6) 86yds; 0 rec (3) 0yds; 4 rec (8) 69yds
  • Jordan/Davenport have 6.5 sacks vs Bucs tackles in last 3 matchups
  • TB upgraded its right side from Dotson to 1st-rd rookie Tristian Wirfs, and added one of the best blocking TEs in the game in Rob Gronkowski
  • Chris Godwin torched PJ Williams in the slot in first NOR matchup (125 yds, 2 TDs), but was held to just 47 yds, TD in the second matchup when covered primarily by Gardner-Johnson
  • With PJ Williams transitioning to more play at Safety due to one of the NFL’s worst grades in coverage, NOR’s slot coverage is expected to improve with Gardner-Johnson, Robinson, & M Jenkins
  • TB’s RB distribution is likely a wait-and-see, considering they’re currently rostering Jones, Fournette, McCoy, Vaughn, & Ogunbowale
  • NOR has ranked top-5 in DK pts allowed to RBs in each of the last two seasons, and no team has allowed fewer rushing yds during that time
  • As no individual RB has cleared 100 yds rushing vs NOR since Samaje Perine in 2017, the better way to attack this RB defense (for PPR fantasy at least) has been through the air: 19th most RB receiving yds on the 6th most RB receptions allowed in 2019
  • Rec/g in 2019 among current TB RBs: Fournette (5.1), RoJo (1.9), McCoy (2.3), Vaughn (2.3), Dare (2.2)

How The Bucs Will Try To Win ::

These are both solid defenses; but when it comes down to it, these should both be really good offenses as well. This is definitely one of the games circled on the calendar for me, just from an “NFL fan” perspective (the Sunday night game between the Rams and Cowboys is another!), as we should have some good football in this spot.

Last year, the Bucs finished 10th in the league in pass play rate — and that was the lowest a Bruce Arians team had finished since 2015. (That sounds more impressive than it is, I should note. That only covers four seasons — and Arians was temporarily retired for one of those. Still: three straight teams of his in the top 10.) Arians doesn’t mind shifting to the run if it will help him win, but his mind goes to the pass first.

This should mesh perfectly with what people have been waiting to see: Tom Brady throwing to Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans. The Bucs are likely to mix in Arians’ beloved vertical concepts with some of the underneath picks and crossers and screens and timing routes that Brady has come to execute so well over the years. They’ll mix in the run as well (likely rotating Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette while figuring out their rhythm in this game, and potentially using LeSean McCoy in spurts); but especially with how strong the Saints were against the run last season (fifth in adjusted line yards), passing should be the main avenue for the Bucs in this game, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Brady approach or even surpass 40 pass attempts. (Note: Brady had 40+ pass attempts in seven of 16 games last season, with 12 games of 36 or more attempts; Jameis Winston also went for 40+ in nine games last season under Arians — though of course, he was also turning the ball over so much that he led the league in passing and nobody wanted him as a starter. Those turnovers certainly boosted the need for him to pass!)

How The Saints Will Try To Win ::

Speaking of quarterbacks who can typically be counted on to throw the ball quite a bit :: Drew Brees threw the ball 38+ times in six of 10 healthy games last season (and every game in which he didn’t, the opponent scored 18 or fewer points). Both of these teams avoid empty plays (clock-killing drives that provide no fantasy value; punts; etc.), with the Saints finishing fifth in drive success rate last season and the Patriots near the top of that category year in and year out under Brady. This should allow both teams to eventually look to win this game through the air. The Saints will almost certainly, once again, feature a shorter-area attack that leans on the current strengths of Drew Brees and the strengths of the talents around him (Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and of course Alvin Kamara). 

Likeliest Game Flow ::

Both of these teams should be able to move the ball, and both of these teams should be able to score. The Over/Under here is “only” 49.5, but it could be as high as 51.5 and I don’t think many of us would blink. As this game moves along, it should become apparent to each team that their best path to a win is “scoring more points,” and that should lead to this game getting progressively more aggressive as it moves along. It’s hard to see either team falling shy of 23 points here, and there is plenty of upside for either (or each) to go for 27+.

Tributaries ::

What could happen here that would wreck the high-end potential for this game? Plenty!

Either team could have a difficult time scoring in the red zone. General rust could lead to this game starting too slowly for it to ultimately reach its total. Ill-timed mistakes and/or turnovers could wreck things as well. Ultimately, there aren’t many paths in this game that have it looking like a true dud; but even with that, there are plain old crazy things that could happen 5% to 10% of the time to sink any game where everything lines up great. Outside of this, however, there aren’t many paths to a true dud here; and the chances of this becoming more than just “a solid game” are relatively high.

DFS+ Interpretation ::

We’ll look at the Bucs’ side first here, and we’ll try to get a sense for what raw numbers might actually look like at the end of the day. We’ll skip over the running back position, of course (where it’s basically just guesswork — which isn’t to say you can’t go there if you feel like trying to guess; but it is to say that there’s nothing that points to the Bucs’ backfield as a whole producing a big game; and even if there were, there’s no clear picture of who will see the true majority of this work). But looking at the passing attack, we’ll go ahead and give Brady a safe range of around 38 to 40 pass attempts — and we’ll consider ourselves to be left with about 30 after we’ve accounted for passes to running backs and throwaways (Brady is, of course, the king of throwaways).

In Week 1 — after a shortened offseason following a year away from the game — it’s likely we see Rob Gronkowski playing less than a full complement of snaps, though he should also see some schemed looks that aim to take advantage of the upside/mismatches he creates and the connection he has with Brady. With that, we’re down to around 24 passes left for O.J. Howard, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (and to a lesser extent, Scotty Miller — though if you wanted, you could throw Miller’s looks in with the running backs and throwaways).

I think we should eventually see O.J. Howard settle in a four-to-seven target range, with Evans and Godwin ending up around eight to 11 targets each week. 

On the other side of the ball :: the Saints should take a couple shots downfield to Tre’Quan Smith, and the Saints are always at risk of giving their touchdown opportunities to different players than the ones who got them down to the red zone; but most of the action is going to flow through four key players :: Alvin Kamara // Michael Thomas // Emmanuel Sanders // Jared Cook.

I’ll actually start with Sanders here, who I think will have a bigger role in this offense in the early going than most people are expecting. (Keep in mind that Manny had multiple explosive games last season — on multiple run-heavy teams — coming off his blown Achilles. Sanders is a great fit for what this offense does, and I’ll actually be surprised if he doesn’t get at least six targets — and I won’t be surprised at all if he climbs up to eight or nine looks.)

Even if we take away 14 to 16 pass attempts for Tre’Quan, Manny, throwaways, and random passes to other guys in the red zone, this could still leave around 22 pass attempts for Kamara, Cook, and Thomas. Cook is likely to stick in a range of four to seven looks, which could keep Kamara (five to eight targets) and Thomas (nine or more targets) in their normal range as well in this spot.

From my angle, then, I see a couple ways to play this:

1) You could pick and choose the pieces you want to target in this game. With this approach, you would want to basically isolate the players who you think will provide the most bang for the salary buck (with a tiebreaker focus on the player who can give you an additional edge through potential for a big game at potentially lower ownership; this would be guys like Sanders and Howard — guys who should be largely ignored by the field in this spot, but who have clear shots at a big game). If going this direction, of course, the Saints’ side (with the more certain distribution of touches) gives you a softer landing spot — but you could also try to guess right on the distribution of targets on the Bucs’ side, with enough of a safety net that this shouldn’t kill you if you guess incorrectly (i.e., even if you pick Godwin, for example, and Evans is the player who pops, Godwin should still get enough work to not crater your roster). I will note that there seems to be a general belief that Evans is not as good of a fit for Brady as Godwin is — and while this may prove to be true, this is also (very much) a “thing we don’t know.” Since everyone is acting like they do know, Godwin could see a decent rise in ownership over Evans — making Evans an interesting leverage play.

2) You could decide to stack this game with a hedged approach that focuses your rosters on the pieces you think give you the best shot at first place (based on salary, expected production, and expected ownership), while making sure to also build in some safety with rosters that include players who are likeliest to benefit if your other players fail.

As straightforward as this game is, it’s also a fairly key game on the slate, as it should draw plenty of ownership action. With that said :: this doesn’t mean it will “definitely be necessary” to have pieces from this game in order to win a tourney! There are certainly scenarios in which a number of these guys land in a respectable range for their salary without anyone posting a truly “have to have it” game — either because the game itself underwhelms a bit, or because (the likelier scenario) the ball gets spread around enough on both sides that no one blows up.

I’ll almost certainly have some level of exposure here myself (I’ll have a better feel for all this by the time we reach the Angles Pod and Player Grid on Friday night, of course!) — but as we’ve seen going through this slate, there are other spots out there that have room to pass this game in the “have to have it” category.