Game Reviews: Saints at Browns, Falcons at Bengals
New Orleans Saints 24 at Cleveland Browns 26
Both offensive lines in run blocking controlled this game. The Browns did a better job getting a pass rush on the Saints OL, which one of them forced a pick-six. The Browns coverage was also great, although they didn’t have answer for Jimmy Graham (Joe Haden couldn’t handle his size, or Graham found gaps in the zone).
Ultimately, I thought the Browns were very fortunate to win this. They got a questionable PI call in their favor to extend the drive that resulted in a Miles Austin TD. The Saints were lined up in the neutral zone when Billy Cundiff doinked one off the right post, and he later booted one through from a shorter distance. The Browns were also essentially given a fourth timeout at the end of the game when that catch by Austin on the sideline was reviewed, and that gave them one or two extra plays where the Saints blew the coverage on Andrew Hawkins that set up the game-winning field goal.
Nevertheless, I was impressed by the Browns’ ability to cover the Saints’ WRs and run the ball effectively.
Drew Brees – Was under quite a bit of pressure all day. Saints WR’s well covered. Graham was his go-to guy as a result. The combination of him playing on the road, outdoors and against a decent pass defense is no surprise that he didn’t have a great day. Brees threw the ball very well Week 1 at the Falcons, although his only one TD pass was unlucky. Playing at home against the Vikings next week is an outstanding matchup for him.
Saints RBs – Mark Ingram is head and shoulders above the other RBs. His combination of speed, accelerating through the holes, finding cutback lanes, etc is great. He now has 24 carries for 143 yards that results in a 6.0 YPC to go with three TDs. Ingram, until the end of the game, was healthy and it showed off on the goal line and in open space. But now that he’s hurt and out for approximately a month, we look at Pierre Thomas. Thomas has been used more in the screen game, which is good for PPR purposes. He should get an increase in touches, but how much? Khiry Robinson has carried the ball 14 times to Thomas’ 10, which tells us that the Saints like Robinson more of a runner and Thomas to fill the missing role of Darren Sproles (sort of). Against the Vikings at home, we would be foolish not to consider any of the backs. With Thomas at $6,300 and Robinson $4,700 on FanDuel, I’m definitely in for a Robinson play. On DraftKings, because of the full PPR value and that Thomas is $4,900 to Robinson’s $3,900, Thomas might be the better play.
Jimmy Graham – Whether Joe Haden was on him or the Browns played zone, Graham was the go-to guy. Even though he didn’t get his first catch until late in the 2nd quarter, he finishes with 10 catches, 118 yards and 3 TDs. Graham has picked up right where he left off last season and is the best TE (haha) in the league.
Brandon Cooks – Cooks is still the No. 2 receiver on this team (should be No. 3 with Graham ahead of him). Although, even though he’s a rookie, Cooks is getting the most looks and catches. Through two games he has 10 catches on 14 targets for 94 yards and a TD. Furthermore, he’s been used on three jet sweeps for 49 yards. While he may not take snaps in the backfield like Percy Harvin or Cordarelle Patterson will on occasion, Cooks is capable of having a breakaway TD on a jetsweep.
Marques Colston – While Colston caught five passes for 110 yards in Week 1, he wasn’t even targeted in Week 2. His normal production is somewhere in between. With Cooks at $6,300 and Colston at $5,700 on FanDuel, I actually like Cooks more since he runs more types of routes and has breakout potential on the jetsweeps.
Shayne Graham – Made his one FG from 27 yards.
Saints DST – Rush defense is definitely a concern. They allowed 122 yards on the ground at the Browns on 30 carries (4.0 YPC) after giving up 123 yards on 25 carries (4.9 YPC) at the Falcons. I do think the Browns’ rushing game could be improved, but neither of these teams should have top-10 rushing attacks. The Falcons also torched the Saints through the air for 448 yards
Brian Hoyer – As bad as the wide receivers looked in preseason, Hoyer has continued to look mediocre at best. He’s probably a bottom-five starting QB in terms of passes longer than 15 yards down field. The running game is a much bigger strength of this team. I see no reason to ever use Hoyer. We’ll talk when Johnny Manziel becomes the starter. Yes, I’m on this bandwagon, and I say that from a fantasy and non-fantasy perspective.
Terrance West – With Ben Tate out, West got the start. Tate was banged up in Week 1, so West got a majority of the carries that day. However, Isaiah Crowell vulchered two TDs on five carries. In this game, West got 19 touches to Crowell’s 11. West got the TD, but Crowell had the advantage in YPC 4.9-to-3.6. It looks like West is getting a majority of the carries, but not by much. Not that either running back is bad, neither has really jumped out to me over the other. Going against the Ravens in Week 3, I don’t see a big reason to use either guy.
Andrew Hawkins – Has seen 22 targets through two games. He’s caught 14 of those for 157 yards. While he has no TDs, it’s only a matter of time before he gets one since he’s on the field for just about every offensive snap. He’s a cheap PPR machine on DraftKings. Hoyer throws a lot of shorter passes, and Hawkins does a lot of shorter crossing routes. This was the situation in both games. Hawkins did catch the late deep pass to set up the game-winning field goal, but that was more due to the busted coverage. He’s a good and safe value play pretty much any week.
Miles Austin – Austin saw 10 targets and caught six passes for 44 yards and a TD. The TD came on a quick play action of the pistol near the goal line where he got inside leverage for a relatively easy catch. He is technically the No. 1 receiver, but Jordan Cameron was out for this game. Austin was barely looked at in Week 1. I’d much rather use Cameron at TE or Hawkins at WR.
Billy Cundiff – Made both his FGs from 32 and 29 yards. He doinked one off the upright from 44 yards out with the wind slightly blowing it at the end of his kick. The Browns play right off of Lake Erie in what is usually a windy stadium, and the Browns aren’t a high-powered offense. Can’t imagine ever using him.
Browns DST – The depth of the Browns pass defense really impressed me this game, granted they had a ton of secondary players out there to sell out and stop Drew Brees’ passing game. Joe Haden couldn’t do much to contain Jimmy Graham, but let’s be honest, who can contain him? Haden is still at least a Top 10 corner in the NFL. The front seven is a bigger concern through two games as Cleveland has given up 301 rushing yards through two games to the Steelers and Saints. If the Browns are at home in a bad weather game against a poor offense, I could certainly see myself using them at some point. Against the Ravens Week 3 at home? It’s not my favorite play, but I could go for it in a GPP. Joe Flacco threw 22 INTs last year, and really struggled in outdoor stadiums when the weather wasn’t ideal. The Browns have already proven themselves to cause turnovers with a good pass rush and secondary. Plus, they are only $4,700 on FanDuel.
Atlanta Falcons 10 at Cincinnati Bengals 24
The Bengals dominated this game in the trenches on both sides of the ball. A.J. Green gave it a go, who was battling a toe issue, but ended up leaving the game early. This opened the door for some of the other Cincinncati players. The Bengals D, as expected (most underrated unit in the league, in my opinion), dominated. They stuffed the run and covered the Falcons wide receivers well. They also got a pass rush all day, and the Falcons were missing Jake Matthews at left tackle. Let’s get into the specifics.
Matt Ryan – despite taking only two sacks, the Bengals pass rush harassed him all day. The Bengals secondary did a solid job on the Falcons WRs. Julio Jones is just that good in that he caught seven passes for 88 yards and a TD (12 targets). Ryan will have plenty of better days and better matchups than this one, starting with the Buccaneers tomorrow night back in Atlanta. He’s one of our favorite plays in Week 3.
Steven Jackson – I know Steven Jackson hasn’t really done much fantasy wise and he’s still somewhat splitting time with Jacquizz Rodgers, but Jackson actually looks pretty solid. He’s averaged 4.3 yards per carry. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but Jackson is a physical back who usually can find lanes fairly effectively. The problem is that the Falcons throw a lot and their OL in run blocking isn’t that great. Maybe with Jake Mathews back tomorrow night and likely playing from ahead, Jackson could post a game of 15-20 carries, 70-90 yards and a TD. Still, it’s not really worth the risk since he’s $6,700 without great upside.
Julio Jones – Racked up seven catches for 88 yards and a TD. Almost caught another long bomb for a TD, but the Bengals safety made a fantastic play stripping the ball away. With Roddy White not 100 percent, Ryan appears to love going to Jones even more. Jones has 22 targets through two games. He’s an elite receiver that has every reason to be played in Thursday lineups going against a questionable Buccaneers D at home.
Roddy White – He didn’t look 100 percent, but White still managed five catches for 42 yards. This was a tough matchup for the Falcons to begin with, so it’s not a surprise White didn’t have his best performance anyways. White rarely got any separation from receivers farther than five yards passed the line of scrimmage. He’s questionable going into tomorrow’s contest. Even though Jones is $8,500 compared to White at $7,000 on FanDuel, Jones is actually a better play. If White doesn’t go for whatever reason, don’t hesitate to put in Harry Douglas, who is only $5,100 on FanDuel.
Matt Bryant – Drilled his only FG attempt from 46 yards.
Falcons DST – Failed to get a pass rush on Dalton for most of the day. Bad matchup for a mediocre defense. They couldn’t even touch Giovani Bernard or Jeremy Hill in the running game until three or four yards passed the line of scrimmage each time. Despite this, they are a sneaky tournament play tomorrow night at home against the Buccaneers. We aren’t strongly recommending them though.
Andy Dalton – Even though A.J. Green had to leave the game early because of his toe, Dalton was on point – a solid 15-23 for 252 yards and 1 TD with no INTs. Dalton was well protected all day, hit Brandon Tate on a perfect deep ball down the sideline and found Mohamed Sanu on an inside slant (that was well covered) and he took off to the house. It helped that he had a good running game to support him, but Dalton was someone who finished sixth of all QBs in fantasy last year, yet people still don’t want to buy into him. If Green is back against the Titans at home, you should certainly consider Dalton in GPPs. He’s only $7,900 on FanDuel. However, don’t use him in Thursday lineups since we don’t know about Green yet.
Giovani Bernard – Just dominated this game. Loved his patience to let holes develop from the offensive line and use his burst of speed. Despite being a smaller back, the Bengals are not hesitating to use him between the tackles. On top of his 27 carries for 90 yards and a TD, he was the Bengals leading pass catcher with five receptions for 79 yards. Going against the Titans at home and even though Hill is getting action, Bernard should be used in all formats.
AJ Green – The toe became an issue and didn’t play. If he is able to suit up this Sunday against the Titans, he has a great matchup. But since many of the top level WRs are great plays this week, it’s not really worth the risk.
Other Bengals WRs TEs – No one has really stepped up as the primary No. 2 target. Even without Green playing for most of the game, none of the Bengals WRs or TEs caught more than three passes. This is a trend that has developed for quite some time. Sanu is probably the best play if Green doesn’t suit up Sunday since he is the No. 2 receiver. But since he’s $6,100 and scored the TD against the Falcons, it’s not worth it. Jermaine Gresham is $4,500 (minimum) and you would think without Green and Tyler Eifert that he would be a realistic play. But after catching only three catches on only three targets for 25 yards and the nature of the Bengals offense, I don’t see a huge point. If you’re making a ton of GPP lineups and use him one time, that’s okay only since he’s minimum salary and could catch a TD.
Mike Nugent – After connecting from 31 yards, he shockingly missed his next three field goals. It was a bit windy at the game and two of his misses were from 49 and 55 yards. They were also just wide. Although, Nugent did miss from 38 yards. That was from the right hash mark and simply left it just barely wide right. The Bengals have a solid offense, but can typically settle for a lot of field goals. Nugent has been a great kicker for a long time (was 18-for-22 last year and made 3-of-4 from 50+ yards) and he made five of six field goals in Week 1 at the Ravens. Cincy can be a tougher place to kick when it’s windy, and you should only be concerned with him when it comes to weather. Don’t let the three misses on one day make you afraid to use him again. We need a bigger sample size.
Bengals DST – One of the top five defenses in the league. Love what they can do in stopping the run and getting a pass rush. Plus, they force turnovers and picked off Matt Ryan three times. With Tennessee coming to town, the Bengals DST are one of my favorite plays in Week 3 along with the Patriots.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz