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The Morning After

Brees And Big Ben's Injuries

by Patrick Daugherty
Updated On: September 16, 2019, 2:11 pm ET

The last time Drew Brees suffered a major injury, it altered the course of NFL history. The Saints are hoping this won’t be quite as dramatic. Having missed only three games for any reason across 14 years in New Orleans, Brees will be sidelined roughly six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. His irresistible force throwing arm came into direct conflict with immovable object Aaron Donald, and Donald won. 

In theory, the Saints have one of the best backups in the NFL in Teddy Bridgewater. In reality, Bridgewater is 27 years old and has thrown just 55 passes over the past three years. Since the last time he was a regular starter in 2015, he has suffered a devastating knee injury. Bridgewater owns 29 lifetime touchdowns compared to 23 picks. He has 904 career attempts. Amongst the 36 active quarterbacks with at least that many passes, Bridgewater’s 3.2 touchdown percentage ranks 33rd. Only Blaine Gabbert, Geno Smith and Chad Henne have found the end zone with less frequency. 

Of course, Bridgewater is coming from conservative offenses in Minnesota to Sean Payton’s well-oiled machine. He also has elite weapons. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are some of the easiest players in the league to throw to. The same should be true for Jared Cook in Payton’s attack. Ted Ginn is one of the most valuable role players in the NFC, and Tre'Quan Smith (who might also be hurt) is a promising second-year pro. Bridgewater has plenty to work with. Can they work with him? 

The Super Bowl-or-bust Saints will find out immediately with this week’s trip to Seattle. Following a Week 4 hosting of Dallas, the schedule softens with vs. TB, @JAX, @CHI, vs. AZ. Then comes the bye week and presumably Brees’ return. For fantasy, Bridgewater will be a matchup-based QB2. Kamara figures to remain a top-five weekly option, though top eight might occasionally be more appropriate. The same is true for Thomas. For real life, best-laid plans — Bridgewater is 2019’s highest-paid No. 2 QB — will be put to the toughest of tests.      


Five Week 2 Storylines 

Ben Roethlisberger fails to play through previously-undisclosed elbow issue; Requires season-ending surgery. Roethlisberger was listed as “DNP - Not Injury Related” on Wednesday’s injury report. That was, at best, half true as ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Roethlisberger’s teammates were “aware that he was dealing with some elbow inflammation all week at practice.” That’s a matter for the NFL. What happened Sunday is a matter for the wider fantasy world. Headed for Tommy John or something like it, Roethlisberger is done for 2019. In his place will be second-year pro Mason Rudolph. Like Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, Rudolph torched the Big 12. Unlike his more famous college compatriots, Rudolph was not a first-round pick. Rudolph is a statue, something teams look to avoid in 2019, but he has an aggressive down-field mindset. His favorite college target? James Washington, who was promoted to No. 2 receiver even before Roethlisberger departed Sunday’s game. 

It will be Washington whom Rudolph impacts most directly. He is now on the WR3 radar. JuJu Smith-Schuster will, of course, maintain WR1 value, but he fades from the 5-8 range to 8-12. This is going to be a much more volatile offense. James Conner, an RB2 talent in an RB1 role, should see his fantasy production more closely align with his skill-set. That’s if he’s healthy enough to play the next few weeks (see next section). Vance McDonald returns to his 2018 ancestral fantasy home, the TE10-12 range. Benched Sunday, Donte Moncrief was already going to be without value going forward. Rudolph offers some intrigue, but he is just as likely to have the Steelers in surprise contention for the No. 1 overall pick as he is for the playoffs.    

James Conner also injured vs. Seahawks. Turning a rainy start to the Steelers’ 2019 season into a downpour, Conner departed two quarters after Roethlisberger. A Monday MRI will determine the extent of a knee issue. It was Conner’s ankle that torpedoed his promising 2018 campaign. With Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ passing attack out of sync through two weeks, Conner has also found himself out of whack. If he suits up for Week 3 in San Francisco, it will be as the owner of a 21/54/1/2.6 rushing line. Even with Antonio Brown’s lost targets to spread around, Conner has caught just seven passes. If Conner can’t go, Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell should form an easy-to-project committee. Snell will do the grinding, Samuels the pass catching. Likely to see a decent amount of carries, too, Samuels would be the (much) more desirable RB2/FLEX.          

Donte Moncrief muffs lone target, gets unceremoniously benched. 2019 Moncrief has shown how to lose a job in two easy steps. Trying to recover from his drop-filled Week 1, Moncrief compounded his problems on an afternoon where the Steelers’ entire offense fell apart. Not only was his drop a drop, it also led to an interception. Coach Mike Tomlin called the fight early, limiting Moncrief to 18-of-56 snaps after he played 60-of-67 in the opener. A tease wherever he’s been, Moncrief has dispensed with the hopeful beginning this time around and gone straight for the dismal end. His fantasy value would have already been on life support with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. Without his quarterback, it is officially kaput. Moncrief is droppable across the board.     

DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery leave early vs. Falcons. Basically, if you were an Eagles skill player on Sunday night, you got injured. Jeffery and D-Jax were the two most important to go down. Jackson is battling a groin issue, Jeffery a calf. Neither are strangers to missing time with soft-tissue ailments. Both should be considered day to day and highly questionable for Week 3 against the Lions. Nelson Agholor picked up the slack in Atlanta — and dropped a lot of it — while rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside got some run. Even third-year pro Mack Hollins got in on the action. Arcega-Whiteside will be a tempting Week 3 proposition if his veteran teammates sit, but Agholor is the far more responsible add. Hollins is probably preferable, too.   

Michael Gallup picks up knee injury that requires MRI. Gallup’s eight targets led the Cowboys in their breezy win over the Redskins, but his knee sent him to the bench for a large chunk of the final quarter. An MRI can reveal a major injury or confirm a minor one. It sounds like Gallup’s is expected to do more of the latter, but the only reason you order the test is because you don’t know for sure. The sophomore breakout candidate has done just that through his first two games in Kellen Moore’s offense, tallying the third-most yards (226) amongst receivers. If Gallup can get cleared for Week 3, it will be for a dream matchup with the Dolphins.    

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Patrick Daugherty

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for NBC Sports Edge. He can be found on Twitter .