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Ten Observations from Week 8 in the NFL

1. This is a different Falcons team – a more dangerous one.
Even after their impressive 30-17 victory over the Eagles on Sunday, it’s fair to question whether or not the Falcons will roll through the rest of the regular season just to once again fall flat in the playoffs. They’re 0-4 in the postseason under Mike Smith and we’ve seen Atlanta clinch in the top seed in the NFC before, only to get steamrolled by a more complete team (i.e. the Packers in 2010). But this is a different Falcons team – a better one, in fact. Dirk Koetter is a significant upgrade over former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey when it comes to creativity, play design, and philosophy. Koetter actually installs a route tree that allows his receivers to run vertically. He’s creative in the red zone, as he proved on Sunday when he used deception to free up unknowns Drew Davis and Jason Snelling for touchdowns. Matt Ryan has thrived under Koetter, who understands how to best utilize talent like Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Defensively, the Falcons are more aggressive and more versatile now that Mike Nolan is calling the shots, as opposed to Mike Smith and former coordinator Brian Van Gorder. For the first time since Smith took over five years ago, the Falcon defense is forcing opposing offenses to adjust to them instead of the other way around. Granted, their running game and run defense still leave a lot to be desired so this Atlanta team isn’t perfect. But to assume the Falcons are set up to go one-and-done again in the playoffs would be a mistake. They’re simply a more dangerous team now than at any point in the past five years.

2. With his scapegoat gone, Reid now must point the finger at himself.
With an impatient and agitated fan base demanding change following the team’s 3-3 start, Andy Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo last week. But Castillo was made to be the scapegoat for a much bigger problem in Philadelphia. That was evident again on Sunday when, under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Eagles surrendered 30 points and 392 yards, produced zero turnovers and didn’t force a punt until seven minutes and 18 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of an ugly 30-17 loss to the Falcons. Neither Castillo nor Bowles can cover Drew Davis or Julio Jones. They can’t tackle Jacquizz Rodgers or force Matt Ryan to turn the ball over. They also can’t light a fire under Michael Vick or inspire a talented yet underachieving roster that has shown zero signs of cohesion or chemistry the past two years. The problem in Philadelphia wasn’t the defensive coordinator and everyone knew it. But Reid was forced to make a change and Castillo was an easy target. It wouldn’t be surprising if Reid made another change this week, inserting rookie Nick Foles into the starting lineup and benching Vick. But it isn’t Vick’s fault that Reid put together a conservative game plan when he had two weeks to prepare for the Falcons. At a time when his coaching seat has never been hotter, Reid decided that a dink-and-dunk philosophy was the best way to beat an Atlanta team that hasn’t scored fewer than 23 points in a game all season. So while Castillo was forced to fall on his sword last week and Vick may soon be asked to do the same, at what point does Andy Reid point the finger of blame at himself?

3. If Turner goes, Smith should follow in San Diego.
Following their brutal 7-6 loss in Cleveland on Sunday, the Chargers have now gone six quarters without scoring a touchdown. That stat doesn’t exactly bode well for Norv Turner, who calls all of San Diego’s plays. But if the front office decides to finally axe Turner, it better be prepared to hand GM A.J. Smith his walking papers as well. This is the same man who believed Robert Meachem was a capable replacement for Vincent Jackson, whom he decided not to pay when he had the opportunity. Outside of his two-touchdown game versus New Orleans earlier this season, Meachem has been a free agent bust in San Diego. He dropped a sure touchdown pass in the third quarter on Sunday versus the Browns and has caught just 12 passes for 189 yards this season. Meanwhile, Jackson’s 29 receptions have gone for 626 yards and five touchdowns for Tampa Bay, which was more than happy to pay a receiver with great hands, the ability to stretch defenses vertically, and that is willing to block in the running game. Let’s not forget that Smith’s drafts have also been poor for several years, which has contributed to the constant underachieving in San Diego. Thus, there shouldn’t be a scenario that exists where Turner looses his job but Smith is allowed to keep his. The Chargers are in full freefall and more than one man is to blame.

4. Stick a fork in the Saints.
It’s a dangerous proposition to write off a team that employs Drew Brees at quarterback and has the ability to score 30-plus points a game. But following their putrid effort on defense Sunday night in Denver, it’s probably safe to assume that the New Orleans Saints’ 2012 season is officially lost for good. Their struggles on defense reached new heights in the Broncos’ 34-14 win, as Denver racked up 530 yards of total offense and finished with nine plays of 23 yards or more. Patrick Robinson was torched for passes for 41 and 26 yards, while receiver Demaryius Thomas got free for a 34-yard gain against busted coverage for the Saints secondary. Offensively New Orleans wasn’t much better, as Brees and Co. converted just 1 of 12 attempts on third down. It was the team’s worst performance on third down since 2005 when they finished 0 for 11 versus the Dolphins. Getting back to the Saint defense, this team has no shortage of issues on that side of the ball. But if you want to start somewhere, start with the fact that the Saints can’t pressure the quarterback despite that being Steve Spagnuolo’s area of expertise. Granted, he doesn’t have the personnel to run the scheme he wants. Will Smith is aging, Sedrick Ellis has been a bust from an interior pass-rushing standpoint, and Cameron Jordan is only in his second year. But Spags can’t use the fact that he doesn’t have Justin Tuck or Osi Umenyoira up front as an excuse. The Saints are the worst defensive team in the league and unless Brees is ready to win every game 35-31, the Saints are toast.

5. Don’t sleep on the Steelers.
Looking for a slightly above-average team that could make a strong second-half run and punch a ticket to the playoffs? Look no further than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have discovered their roots the past two weeks. The Steelers haven’t been able to run the ball on a consistent basis since Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker left town some odd years ago. Pittsburgh has since become one-dimensional on offense and has left Ben Roethlisberger susceptible to beatings behind a shaky offensive line. But in their past two games, Pittsburgh has rushed for 167 and 140 yards, respectively. Jonathan Dwyer has given the Steelers’ a lift and their offense has been more balanced and stable because of it. Granted, Mike Tomlin’s team is still searching for consistency on that side of the ball. But if Pittsburgh’s defense plays as well the rest of the season as it did on Sunday in a 27-12 victory over Washington, the Steelers will once again challenge for a playoff berth. With Ray Lewis and LaDarius Webb out of the season and Joe Flacco proving that he isn’t ready to put the Ravens on his shoulders, the door is open for the Steelers to close the gap in the AFC North and eventually take over the division if Baltimore continues to scuffle.

6. The Cowboys came inches from turning their season around.
Considering they turned the ball over four times and fell behind the Giants 23-0 on their home turf, the Cowboys hardly deserved to win on Sunday. But they came within the pinky on Dez Bryant’s right hand from producing a remarkable comeback. Trailing 29-24 with less than a minute remaining in the game, Bryant leapt high to snag a 37-yard pass from Tony Romo that would have given Dallas a late lead. But when Bryant landed, his pinky finger came down on the white strip in the back of the end zone. It was a remarkable catch but it was a catch that didn’t count. Three plays later, the Giants were able to preserve the victory by that same 29-24 score. Credit Dallas for not giving up down 23-0 after a disastrous first-half performance. But the Cowboys remain a team that can’t get out of its own way and at 3-4 they and Philadelphia are now each three games back of New York in the NFC East. Things don’t get any easier for Dallas, which travels to Atlanta next Sunday night to play the undefeated Falcons. The Cowboys will then travel to Philadelphia before hosting the Browns, Redskins and Eagles in mid-November. It’s feasible that the Cowboys could still turn things around but they could realistically fall to 3-6, too. Had Bryant managed to get his entire body in bounds, Dallas could have made things interesting in the division. Instead, the Cowboys have come to yet another fork in the road under Jason Garrett.

7. Manning is starting to live up to expectations in Denver.
Peyton Manning has lost zip on his vertical passes. He’s 36 – this happens when quarterbacks get older. But following his 305-yard effort in Denver’s 34-14 victory over the Saints on Sunday night, Manning has now thrown for at least 300 yards in five consecutive games and has posted an incredible 14:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio over that same period. Following his ugly first-half performance versus the Falcons on Monday Night Football in Week 2 (a game in which he threw three interceptions in the first quarter alone), Manning has been solid for a Bronco team that is clearly the best squad in the AFC West. If Denver can run the ball like it did versus New Orleans, Manning will continue to be surgical in the passing game. And hey, if the Broncos’ defense plays the rest of the season like it did Sunday night, Denver could make some noise down the road.

8. Rams prove they still have a long ways to go.
Rams fans were encouraged by the teams 3-2 start, as they should have been. But following three straight losses, which included an ugly 45-7 defeat at the hands of the Patriots on Sunday, it’s apparent that the Rams still have a long ways to go. For the second straight week, an elite quarterback had his way against the Rams defense. Neither Chris Long nor Robert Quinn pressured Tom Brady, who threw four touchdowns and constantly found Rob Gronkowski open in the middle of the field. What exactly was the Rams’ game plan defensively? They had to have known that with Aaron Hernandez out Gronkowski was going to be the focal point of the Patriot offense. Yet there he was, constantly running free in St. Louis’ defensive backfield. It was a brutal effort by a Rams’ defense that didn’t produce a sack, didn’t force any turnovers, and couldn’t stop the run. St. Louis’ defense was so lost that it’s amazing they found their locker room at the end of the game. Jeff Fisher is a good head coach and regardless of the final score of Sunday’s game, this Rams team is heading in the right direction. But after what Brady and the Pats did to them in London, you realize just how large the gap really is between St. Louis and the contenders.

9. The best in the NFC North have nothing to worry about.
It was rather jarring that the 15.5-point underdog Jaguars took the Packers to the brink Sunday in Green Bay. And that the Bears needed a last-second field goal just to beat the 1-5 Panthers. But neither Green Bay nor Chicago has nothing to worry about. The Packers were coming off three-straight road games and were hosting a Jacksonville team that lost Maurice Jones-Drew to injury last week. Chicago had a short week of rest and preparation after an emotional victory over division-rival Detroit. These were letdown games for the Packers and Bears and while coaches don’t want to admit that their players suffer emotional highs and lows, it does happen in the NFL. The key is that both teams won while the Vikings suffered their second loss of the season on Thursday. By the end of the year, Chicago and Green Bay will battle down the stretch for the NFC North crown. Some Sundays will just be prettier than others.

10. Injury roundup – some contenders could lose key pieces.
All in all the Falcons had a successful trip to Philadelphia on Sunday. But late in the fourth quarter linebacker Sean Weatherspoon suffered an ankle injury and was carted off the field. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday to discover the extent of the injury and if it’s serious, Atlanta will lose a key piece of its defense. Weatherspoon is the epitome of a sideline-to-sideline player and he has such an active role in the Falcons’ defensive game plans. Hopefully his ankle sprain isn’t of the “high” variety and he won’t miss any time…The Chiefs might have to go back to Matt Cassel full-time at quarterback. That’s because Brady Quinn was knocked out of the Chiefs’ 26-16 loss to the Raiders in the first quarter with a head injury. Of course, Quinn had already put Kansas City in position to fail by turning the ball over twice. Chiefs fans may not enjoy watching Cassel play but Quinn once again proved that he’s not a starting NFL quarterback…Ryan Tannehill left the first quarter of the Dolphins’ 30-9 victory over the Jets with a hyperextended knee. Matt Moore didn’t miss a beat, guiding the Dolphins to their fourth victory of the season while throwing for 131 yards and a touchdown on 11-of-19 passing…One week after losing Sean Lee for the season, Cowboys’ linebacker Dan Connor left the team’s 29-24 loss to the Giants because of a neck strain. He might not play versus the Falcons on Sunday night…Eagles’ receiver DeSean Jackson suffered an ankle injury versus Atlanta but was able to return…Lions’ safety Louis Delmas left the team’s 28-24 win over the Seahawks with an injured knee and didn’t return. Delmas is a good young player but he can never stay healthy.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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2012 NFL Free Agency: Breaking down the Wide Receivers

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson celebrates a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Free agency in the NFL begins on March 13 and leading up to that date I’ll go position by position while highlighting the best players, best bargains, as well as the riskiest investments.

Best in Class: Take your pick.
This is the deepest pool of free agent receivers that I’ve seen in a long time. Wes Welker, Mike Wallace, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd, Stevie Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Robert Meachem comprise the top 10 free agents, but Mario Manningham, Laurent Robinson and Harry Douglas could also be available next month. Welker seems like a perfect fit for the Patriots’ offense and will likely stay in New England, but Wallace could be available if the Steelers can’t figure out a way to fit him under their cap. When healthy and not in the midst of a contract holdout, V-Jax is one of the more versatile receivers in the league in that he’s a vertical threat with soft hands who can also block in the running game. Bowe, Colston, Lloyd, Johnson, Jackson and Wayne have been, or still are No. 1 options in the passing game and Meachem certainly has the talent to be a No. 1 given his skill set. Teams needing a receiver have no excuse not to address that hole this offseason.

The Biggest Risk: DeSean Jackson
Jackson is only 25 and is drenched in big play ability. But he has 35 drops over the last four seasons, was a ghost at times last year because he was seemingly worried about his contract situation, and sometimes costs his team on the field with his immaturity. Because of his big play ability and success as a punt returner, plenty of teams will be interested in Jackson’s services next month. But with so many other free agent receivers available, teams weary of his inconsistency and maturity issues can cross his name off the list if they want to. His agent must pull his hair out thinking about how much money Jackson has cost himself over the past year.

The Best Value: Brandon Lloyd
Lloyd is still going to be paid like a low-end No. 1 but at 31 he’ll be cheaper than guys like Welker, Jackson, Bowe, Wallace and Colston. He didn’t post the same numbers in 2011 as he did in 2010 but don’t forget that the quarterback situation in Denver was brutal and Sam Bradford couldn’t stay healthy in St. Louis (the team Lloyd was traded to midseason). Even at 31, Lloyd is an explosive downfield threat who also has a large catch radius. The Rams would be wise to keep him in St. Louis but if he were to hit the open market, he could turn out to be a real value for his eventual production.

Best Cost-Effective Bargain: Robert Meachem
Meachem doesn’t have the numbers or name power as other receivers that could become available next month but at 27 his ceiling is still somewhat high. He’s consistent, as he’s averaged a touchdown every 10 receptions in the regular season and has just 11 drops over the last four years. He may never develop into a No. 1 but he’s worth a shot for a team like Jacksonville that is thin at receiver and has other holes to address this offseason (and thus, might not want to spend big at one position). Meachem could wind up being a cost-effective alternative to Jackson, Bowe, Colston and the other big-name receivers in this free agent pool.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Finding offensive value

New Orleans Saints receiver Robert Meachem (17) prepares to throw the ball into the stands after pulling his secound touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks during action at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on November 21, 2010. UPI/A.J. Sisco

There are a handful of players in this year’s free agent pool that I would break the bank for because I know what kind of production I’ll be getting for my dollar. Mario Williams is one, while Carl Nicks is another. Even though he turns 29 in July and suffered a knee injury down the stretch last season, the highly underrated Brent Grimes is another player that I wouldn’t hesitate to pony up for, especially with cornerbacks in such high demand these days.

But if I were given the opportunity to be a general manager for an offseason, I’d focus my attention on finding value in free agency. Granted, the word “value” is a relative term to teams. A free agent like Vincent Jackson will have more value to the Bears than he would the Packers. But that doesn’t mean that the Bears should spend max value on V-Jax just because they have a glaring need at receiver.

In my opinion, this is how teams often get into trouble. It’s almost like they take a grocery list into free agency and say, ‘Ok, this is my budget and here are my biggest needs – let’s go shopping!’ Then they wind up overspending, the player under-performs his contract, and sooner or later the team is looking to dump said player well before his contract is set to expire.

Again, there are certain players that are worth max value. In terms of pure talent, Vincent Jackson may be one of those players. Seeing as how Chicago has a ton of cap space, maybe the Bears should go all out for V-Jax next month. But generally speaking, general managers are better off shooting for value so that they don’t get into cap hell down the road. At worst they’ll spend less to receive less and at best they’ll spend less to receive equal or better production than if they went for the high profile signing. Plus, if teams constantly search for value in free agency, then they’re more likely to have cap space to spend on re-signing their own players when the time comes.

With that in mind, here are my free agent value picks on offense for the 2012 NFL offseason. On Thursday I’ll take a look at the defensive side of the ball.

QUARTERBACK: David Garrard (Jaguars)
Garrard took last year off to allow his back to heal and is already 34. At this point in his career he clearly isn’t a quarterback that should be counted on as a long-term answer. But if he’s healthy, he makes a lot of sense for a contender that has a need for a backup or for teams like the Bills and Jets, whose situations under center are shaky at best. Garrard has never dazzled anyone with is passing numbers but he’s always been more productive than people give him credit for. He would be a nice, cheap signing that would add solid value to the right team.

RUNNING BACK: Mike Tolbert (Chargers)
Some may view Cedric Benson as a value play but keep in mind that he has 922 carries in the past three years and is entering his age 30 season. Tolbert, on the other hand, is only 26 and has carved out a nice niche for himself as an excellent utility back. He’s a bowling ball at 5-foot-9 and 247 pounds, and is a powerful downhill runner. He isn’t a true No. 1 but just like the Chargers did by pairing him with Ryan Mathews, he could be a solid complementary piece in the right backfield. Plus, with big names like Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Marshawn Lynch and Peyton Hillis set to hit the open market, Tolbert could be had at a reasonable price.

RECEIVER: Robert Meachem (Saints)
There are probably plenty of Saints fans that view Meachem as a bust. But the former first-round pick has never had the opportunity to flourish as a No. 1 receiver either. Sean Payton and Drew Brees do an excellent job of spreading the wealth in New Orleans, which is great for the Saints but not for individuals like Meachem. The former Tennessee star is extremely talented and won’t break the bank unlike V-Jax, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, Steve Johnson, Marques Colston and/or Reggie Wayne.

TIGHT END: Joel Dreessen (Texans)
The tight end pool is shallow this year but that doesn’t mean there isn’t value to be had. Look at Dreessen for example. He’s already 30 and hasn’t put up gaudy receiving numbers in Houston so people will overlook him. But he also doesn’t have a lot of tread on his tires for a 30-year-old tight end and is a solid blocker in both the running game and in pass protection. He had touchdowns of 43 and 56 yards the past two seasons, which also suggests he has big-play capabilities. His age and limited production will keep the cost way down and teams could do much worse than a guy like Dreessen at tight end.

TACKLE: Anthony Collins
Jared Gaither will receive plenty of attention because of his name and the fact that he played very well for San Diego down the stretch last year. If the Chargers release former Pro Bowler Marcus McNeill, he’ll garner some attention as well (assuming he’s healthy after two straight seasons of injury issues). But at 26, Collins might be the best value on the market. His body of work isn’t very impressive because he’s only compiled five starts the last two seasons. But back in 2008 when he started 13 straight games, he proved to be an adequate blocker and could be a value to a team that loses out on Gaither. A team could essentially plug Collins into the starting lineup for a year or two while looking for a more long-term solution in the process.

GUARD: The Draft
I realize that this article is about finding value in free agency but I’m not going to shoehorn a player into a position that I don’t believe is a true value. Teams in need of a guard have one of two options in my eyes: Either pony up big for Carl Nicks or Evan Mathis, or look to fill the position in the draft. Nicks and Mathis will likely be worth the money but for teams with cap problems, the draft is their best bet. Brandon Washington (second round), Amini Silatolu (second or third), Brandon Brooks (third), Jeff Allen (fourth), Lucas Nix (fourth or fifth), Derek Dennis (sixth or seventh) and Joe Looney (seventh) would all be value picks if they were drafted in their projected round. Washington, Silatolu and Brooks might even be able to start right away depending on how they perform in training camp and preseason. Outside of that, guys like Chad Rinehart (Bills) and Geoff Schwartz (Panthers) offer some value in free agency, but both players are restricted free agents so who knows if they’ll even hit the open market.

CENTER: Nick Hardwick (Chargers)
Hardwick flirted with retirement following the season but he has since said the he will return for another year. He’s one of the better centers in the league when it comes to pass protection and he’s likely to be available if the Chargers want to get younger at the position. Hardwick would be a nice one or two-year signing for a pass-heavy team looking for a leader to fill the center position.

Five fantasy takeaways from Saints/Vikings

NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 21: Pierre Thomas  of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans at the Louisiana Superdome on August 21, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Well, it wasn’t a particularly well-played first game of the NFL season, but it was a tight game nonetheless. Here are five things that fantasy owners can take away from last night’s opener:

1. Pierre Thomas is a stud, and Sean Payton forgets that sometimes. (Adrian Peterson is a stud, and Brad Childress forgets that sometimes.)
In the first half, Payton gave Thomas three touches for -1 yards. He did have a 10-yard catch that was called back due to penalty. In the second half, the Saints tried to establish the running game in earnest and Thomas 72 yards on his next 16 carries — an impressive 4.5 ypc average during that span against the league’s #1-rated rush defense of 2009. He also found the endzone and caught three passes for 15 yards.

Meanwhile, “Chilly” abandoned the run when the Vikings were behind by just five points in the second half. Anthony Stalter has the details:

Down 14-9 with just over nine minutes remaining, Childress called seven straight pass plays. There was plenty of time for him to remain balanced with his playcalling, but he went pass-heavy and the result was a stalled drive at the New Orleans’ 44. He essentially made Gregg Williams’ job a hell of a lot easier once the Saints’ DC new he didn’t have to respect the running game.

The bottom line is that Childress appears to trust Favre more than AP, and that should be worrisome to Peterson owners. AP did finish with 101 yards on 22 touches, but failed to find the endzone.

2. Brett Favre loves him some Visanthe Shiancoe. Not so much the Percy Harvin.
Almost as important as actual production (catches, yards, TDs) is the number of targets each receiver gets throughout the course of the game. I’ve been high on Shiancoe all preseason — mostly due to Favre’s long-established affection for his tight ends — and he didn’t disappoint against the Saints, turning eight targets into 4-76-1. Conversely, Harvin only got five targets and looked out of sync with Favre all night. This is probably due to the time that both players missed in training camp due to migraines (Harvin) and being a total drama queen (Favre). I wouldn’t panic on Harvin just yet — it will probably just take a week or two for the chemistry to return, but I would consider sitting Harvin down next week if there’s a better option on the bench.

3. Don’t expect another 2009 from #4.
In all of his years in Green Bay, Favre never played with a receiver as physically gifted as Sidney Rice, and that was a big reason for his outstanding numbers last season. With Rice on the shelf for at least the first half of the season, Favre can’t just chuck the football downfield and expect Rice to go up and win virtually every jump ball. Without that deep threat, the Vikings are going to have to manufacture more first downs and longer drives, and as we saw last night, it’s not always going to be pretty.

4. Garrett Hartley is on the hot seat.
Good grief, Garrett. Make a field goal, will you? Hartley was often one of the first two or three kickers off the board and he was miserable last night, shanking two make-able field goal attempts. He’s lucky that it didn’t cost the Saints the game because there are a few capable kickers out there in free agency.

5. Robert Meachem/Devery Henderson are both startable in deep formats, though they’re not dependable.
On the heels of his breakout campaign last season, Meachem was going in the middle rounds (8th-10th) of fantasy drafts this summer, even though he’s coming off of a toe injury. Meanwhile, Henderson was available in the later rounds due to his inconsistency and history of burning fantasy owners. Both players saw four targets from Drew Brees. Henderson posted 2-38-1 while Meachem generated 3-33 and just missed a 14-yard TD early in the fourth quarter. I think Meachem is the better wideout and if he can stay healthy, he should finish the season as the Saints WR2, but Henderson looked pretty good in his own right. There’s enough offense for both of these players to finish in the Top 40, but don’t expect consistency week-to-week until one guy grabs the WR2 job (and WR2-type targets).

Marques Colston to miss a month after thumb surgery

Bad news for the Saints

The Saints have lost their top receiving weapon, Marques Colston, to a torn ligament in his left thumb, FOXSports.com has learned. Colston, in fact, quietly had surgery on Tuesday to reattach the ligament and will miss the next month to six weeks.

The team will be counting on Deverey Henderson and David Patten to step up their production with its leading receiver shelved for the time being. It’s unclear when the Saints will announce his injury but they are scheduled to practice this afternoon, with Colston obviously slated to miss the workout

The article didn’t mention Robert Meachem, who had a nice preseason. Many thought that he’d work his way into the WR2 role in New Orleans, but he was a healthy scratch in Week 1.

My money is on David Patten being the best of the bunch, especially in PPR leagues. He has produced when given the opportunity, and he should have plenty of chances over the next few weeks. Henderson is more of a go-route type, so he may have a few 1-47 or 2-85-1 stat lines, but he could just as easily put up a goose egg. The wild card is Meachem. He definitely has the tools to be a breakout candidate, but it’s just not clear how much Sean Payton trusts him at this point.

Whoever emerges as the WR1 while Colston is out will probably be the third option in the passing game after Reggie Bush and Jeremy Shockey, so don’t give up a good player to grab one of these guys. I’d rather have Eddie Royal or DeSean Jackson on my roster. They should be good all season.

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