If Brees were under center ::
The best way to begin our look at this game is to break down how we would be viewing it if Drew Brees were set to be under center:
If this were the case, the most attractive piece on the Saints would have been Alvin Kamara. We would have been noting that the matchup was tough against a stout Seattle front seven, and that the tough matchup combined with the game environment left his floor lower than normal; but we would have also noted that his ceiling remained attractive.
We would have noted that Michael Thomas carried a high floor given his heavy usage and his connection with Brees, but that his ceiling remained dependent on touchdowns — especially as this game would be unlikely to turn into the sort of spot where the Saints would be pressed into unleashing him downfield.
We would also have set aside Jared Cook and Ted Ginn as guys with some ceiling attractiveness, but with too little floor to be considered beyond larger tourneys.
With Teddy Bridgewater now set to be under center, one easy way to handle this game is to take all those “with Brees” assessments down a couple notches; and with pricing still set for Brees, the Saints (similar to the Steelers) can be comfortably marked as plays with a lower expected value than a number of other options on this slate.
We’ll circle back around to this side of the ball in a moment, but on the Seattle side, we prefer to target this offense in games in which there is a chance they will need to get aggressive. In these games, the Seahawks’ vertical passing attack has an opportunity to shine, and touchdown opportunities are raised for a running back in Chris Carson who — even with his new dump-off-centric pass game role — typically requires touchdowns in order to become a really strong play. With the Saints likely to find themselves less effective on offense without their Hall of Fame quarterback, the Seahawks have a clear path to running the ball more times than they pass it this week (which will surely make the entire coaching staff giddy).
In this likeliest scenario, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf will each see enough targets to have a shot at a solid game, but a big game will be a thin bet to make. And Carson will be a fairly one-dimensional producer (and with David Onyemata back from suspension last week, the Saints looked a lot more like the unit that finished third in DVOA last year), but he should maintain his 20-touch role even with his recent fumbling issues, and as a home favorite, he’s a decent bet for production.
There is a less likely scenario, however — in which Sean Payton comes up with some wizardry that allows the Saints to move the field and put up points in this tough spot even without Drew Brees. In this scenario, the Saints would have some trick plays designed to spring Tre’Quan Smith or Ted Ginn loose, and they would then use these plays to set up opportunities to get Kamara into space for big plays of his own. For all we know, Payton could even come out with Taysom Hill under center on Sunday instead of Teddy Bridgewater, and the entire game plan could be centered around his skill set — with the Saints running option plays and RPOs and attacking the Seahawks in myriad ways they could not have prepared for. If this were successful enough, it could even lead to the Seahawks having to get aggressive in response, and to Metcalf and/or Lockett popping off for a big game.
Some blend of that “less likely” scenario is certain to find its way into this game (Payton is not going to just come out and run the Brees offense and hope it leads to a win) — with some plays that feature Hill, and some trickery designed to hit a big play — but it’s highly unlikely that the game tilts all the way in that direction. Nevertheless, there are paths to consider if you really want to chase.
JM’s Interpretation ::
As with the other “late game with a Hall of Fame quarterback missing in action and his weapons still priced like he’s playing,” I’m expecting to just avoid the Saints offense — with none of these guys making their way near my tighter builds, and with only maybe one or two ultra-large-field rosters (if that) that bet on some scenario in which things swing a different way.
Because of this lack of interest in the Saints (and the fact that the Seahawks would be perfectly content to ground-and-pound if they can take a lead), I’m not leaning toward much interest in the Seahawks, either.
As always, there are some alternate ways you could view this game, or some other ways to handle it; but for me — with what else is available on this slate — I’m fine missing out on whatever sort of crazy, outlier scenario might happen to show up here.