NFL Week 2’s Monday Night Football showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Las Vegas Raiders should be a lopsided affair. Perhaps the biggest hindrance to New Orleans running up the score on Las Vegas is the absence of All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas. The expected resistance provided by the Raiders could pale in comparison to the Saints’ missing offensive star.
New Orleans Saints
Facing the Raiders last week, Teddy Bridgewater managed QB15 fantasy results, working all areas of the field but perhaps most notably, shredding Vegas’ secondary with downfield dynamo Robby Anderson. While Drew Brees is likely a lesser-armed thrower than Bridgewater at this point in his career, there’s potential for he and third-year receiver Tre’Quan Smith to connect for a deep score. Smith has flashed at times but was stuck behind deep-threat stalwart Ted Ginn Jr. for the first two seasons of his career and Ginn has since departed for Chicago. Although Smith saw just one target last week, he racked up the second highest snap count of the Saints’ wide receiver corps (44), besting slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders by 11.
If season-long roster percentages are any indication, Smith could be a decisive difference maker. Emmanuel Sanders is rostered in over 83% of leagues of both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. Tre’Quan Smith meanwhile, is rostered in only 16% of leagues between the two platforms. Were Las Vegas’s front-seven expected to give Drew Brees scares in the pocket, Sanders’ could be pegged for a higher target total as a reliable safety blanket in the short-to-intermediate area of the field. With Brees expected to have all the time in the world behind the Saints’ protective offensive line, fantasy managers should roll the dice on Tre’Quan Smith’s chances at a meaningful role on MNF. Consider Smith a flex option with touchdown-based WR2 potential. Sanders is a slow and steady, tortoise-like flex option who should rack up a respectable reception/yardage receiving line with an outside shot at a score. Brees can be counted on as a high-end QB2 given the matchup, but lacks real upside as a high-volume of passing attempts is not expected to be needed for victory.
The obvious beneficiary of Michael Thomas’s absence though is tight end Jared Cook. Cook finished just second on the team in targets last week, despite finishing sixth in the league in his percentage of the team’s air yards, per Next Gen Stats. Of all Saints’ passing game weapons, Cook is the best bet to clear triple digit receiving yards and finding paydirt. The veteran tight end finished as the TE7 in .5PPR last year but was never afforded an opportunity to be the team’s de facto No. 1 pass catcher. Cook is in serious contention to post overall TE1 numbers this week.
There’s a good bet that head coach Sean Payton reaches into his bag of tricks for a few weeks, in an attempt to compensate for Thomas’ pass catching production. QB/TE Taysom Hill could play a large role in that process. In leagues where Hill’s only QB-eligible, we can leave him be. But in any format where Hill is TE-eligible, he’s a very sneaky, prudent add. Hill is a proficient pass catcher and rusher who was already sapping Brees’ of redzone attempts in his WR/TE/RB and wildcat QB alignments, before Thomas got hurt. If in need of a tight end and willing to take a chance, Taysom Hill is an option.
Ancillary pass catchers like Deonte Harris and Josh Hill are not fantasy-relevant.
Alvin Kamara resoundingly out-snapped and out-touched No. 2 running back Latavius Murray last week against the Bucs’ vaunted defense. Kamara’s eight targets were a team-high and a similar occurrence should be in store this week, and beyond, with Michael Thomas battling a high ankle sprain. That said, Murray’s 15 rushes were far more than expected after his seldom-used 2019 season. Assuming that type of workload holds, Latavius Murray garners low-end flex consideration. 12 to 15 totes against the hapless Raiders’ D is enough to make noise in the box score. Meanwhile, Kamara is this week’s overall RB2 in a delicious matchup.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr’s fantasy prospects are not high this week. The Saints defense looked like one of the best in the league as it stymied the Bucs both through the air and on the ground. The health of stud rookie receiver Henry Ruggs will be a defining aspect of Carr’s future box score. In Week 1, Ruggs saw an unholy 60% of his team’s air yards share which lead the NFL, per Next Gen Stats, although he sprained his knee in the process. Fortunately for Ruggs, he managed a limited participation in practice on Saturday, putting him on track to play in primetime on Monday night. If he’s good to go, Ruggs is a volume-based WR2 with chunk-gain upside. Carr is just a QB3.
Assuming Ruggs plays, fellow rookie X-receiver Bryan Edwards would be rendered a low-end flex option in deep PPR leagues. Were Ruggs to miss the showdown, Edwards would immediately vault to a startable flex option with a shot at six to eight targets. Nelson Agholor and Hunter Renfrow are unlikely to be fantasy relevant in such a brutal matchup. Should Ruggs sit out, Renfrow offers some PPR flex-ability but would really not be a recommended option.
2019 breakout tight end Darren Waller lead the team in targets in Week 1’s contest. Waller’s connection with Carr is stronger than any other player on the roster. He’s a high-end TE1 option regardless of Ruggs’ availability.
Josh Jacobs predictably had his King Kong Week 1, racking up monster rushing numbers while surprisingly seeing the team’s second-highest target total. Whether this was a product of facing Carolina’s league-worst defense or a real dual-threat-usage breakout after a rush-only 2019 remains to be seen. The pass catching running back sweepstakes that head coach Jon Gruden hosted this summer cannot easily be forgotten. While selling high on Jacobs in season-long leagues would be advisable, it’s entirely possible that Gruden really has wisened up and decided to use Jacobs like the two-way back that he is. Against the Saints’ dominant defense, a PPR-infused floor would be a boost to Jacobs’ fantasy-scoring security. As of now, he can’t be trusted as anything more than a mid-to-high RB2.