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).

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Saints dispel momentum argument

After Tim Hightower took the handoff and broke off a 70 yard touchdown run on the first play of the game on Saturday, you could almost hear the wheels turning in people’s heads.

The Saints, losers of three in a row entering Saturday’s Divisional playoff game, were about to fall victims to “Big Mo.”

But almost immediately after Hightower crossed the goal line, New Orleans reminded us of how good it was for most of the season. Drew Brees marched the Saints down to the 1-yard line on the ensuing possession and Lynell Hamilton capped the drive off with a 1-yard touchdown run. Then the Saints added a touchdown, then another, then two more before half to take a 35-14 lead.

All of a sudden, “Big Mo” was looking for a backdoor out of the Superdome to save himself from further embarrassment. The Saints added 10 more points in the second half to trounce Arizona 45-14 and set up a date with either the Cowboys or Vikings in the NFC Championship Game.

Momentum can be a crucial factor in sports. But talent, preparation and execution will win out every time. People forgot how explosive Sean Payton’s offense could be and how opportunistic Gregg Williams’ defense could be with a full complement of players. Save for Charles Grant, the Saints were almost completely healthy on the defensive side of the ball and it showed today, as they harassed Kurt Warner and held a Cardinal offense that scored 51 points last Sunday to just 14 on Saturday. They also forced two critical turnovers and could have added one more to that tally had the refs not called a cheap roughing the passer call after Darren Sharper intercepted Warner in the second quarter.

Even though they had lost their previous three games, don’t forget that Payton and his coaching staff had two weeks to prepare for the Cardinals. Teams with the top two seeds in the playoffs don’t just get an off week to rest up – they also get two full weeks to study their opponents’ weaknesses. The Saints proved today how valuable it is for teams to earn the No. 1 seed in the postseason.

Granted, New Orleans won’t be as fortunate to face a defense as bad as the one that took the field for the Cardinals over the past two weeks. But if Payton’s offense is clicking as well as it was today, then either the Cowboys or Vikings are going to have their hands full next Sunday.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Bush torches Cardinals in Saints’ rout

This season hasn’t necessarily been kind to Reggie Bush. On his way to rushing for only 390 yards (his lowest of his career) and 335 passing yards (his lowest of his career), he was criticized for his lack of toughness and one-dimensional style of play.

On Saturday, Bush reminded everyone why some considered him the best athlete coming out of the 2006 NFL Draft. He rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on just five carries, caught four passes for 24 yards and returned an 83-yard punt for a score in the Saints’ 45-14 rout of the Cardinals in the Divisional playoffs.

Bush ran with the kind of determination and toughness that he lacked all season. He was explosive, made spectacular cuts on the fast Superdome surface and took advantage of yet another brutal tacking effort by Arizona’s defense. He also ran north and south instead of trying to dance around at the line of scrimmage. There haven’t been too many times where I’ve seen Bush put his head down and run through a tackle like he did today.

When a team racks up 45 points and 418 yards of total offense, more than one player contributed in the success. Drew Brees completed 23 of 32 passes for 247 yards and threw for three touchdowns, while Pierre Thomas rushed for 52 yards on 13 carries and Marques Colston hauled in six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Devery Henderson also chipped in 80 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches, while Jeremy Shockey caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown.

But nobody ignited the Saints’ offense more than Bush. The move he made on an Arizona defender on his 46-yard touchdown run was sick and the burst he exhibited on his 83-yard punt return was impressive. He may not be able to consistently run between the tackles, but he proved his worth today.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

NFL Week 13 Top 5 Observations: Saints 33, Redskins 30

Here are five quick-hit observations from the Saints’ 33-30 overtime win over the Redskins in Week 13.

1. Team of destiny? Uh, yeah – maybe.
Up 30-23 with just over two minutes remaining, the Redskins could have iced the game with a 23-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham. But he missed the chip-shot and not surprisingly, the Saints took the gift 80-yards for the game-tying score. To win in the NFL, teams have to be a mixture of good and lucky. Well, New Orleans is better than good – they’re great. And after today, it appears that they have quite a bit of luck on their side as well. Sometimes, teams are just destined to win and it looks like it’s the Saints year.

2. The Saints better get healthy.
They may be a team of destiny, but injuries on the defensive side of the ball are starting to mount for the Saints. They were absolutely shredded for 367 passing yards by an offense that has been anemic all season and they better get healthy before they face the likes of the Vikings, Cardinals, Cowboys or whomever come January.

3. How does any defense stop this Saints’ receiving corps?
Marques Colston caught two passes for 46 yards and a touchdown today and he was about the third or fourth most productive receiver for the Saints. Robert Meachem (8 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD) is finally starting to cash in on his first-round ability and Devery Henderson (6 receptions, 61 yards) turned in his best game of the season. Washington’s secondary is one of the best in the league and it still couldn’t figure out how to defense the New Orleans’ receiving crops. Defenses just have to pick their poison with this bunch.

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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, 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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