Drew Brees on verge of history, while Mark Ingram set to give New Orleans Saints boost against Washington

Jay Asser 7/10/2018
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All of the focus on Monday night will centre on the New Orleans Saints offence.

One of the most efficient units in the league is set to get an integral piece back, while their leader is expected to break a monumental record.

Drew Brees needs just 201 yards to become the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader, with his 71,740 yards trailing only Brett Favre’s 71,838 and Peyton Manning’s 71,940.

The Saints quarterback will have the chance to set the new benchmark in front of his home fans at the Superdome, where he has delivered several memorable moments since he arrived to the franchise in 2006.

With the way Brees and New Orleans’ attack have operated through the first four weeks, the record is almost a foregone conclusion. The 39-year-old continues to be near the top of his game as he ranks third in the league in passer rating at 115.3, while having eight touchdowns to no interceptions.

Against Washington, however, the Saints’ passing game should face more resistance than usual. Washington’s defence is allowing the lowest expected points added per pass play in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, while ranking third in both passing yards allowed at 187.3 and passer rating at 77.0.

INGRAM’S RETURN

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Though Brees will remain the focus point of the offence, New Orleans’ game plan could incorporate more of the run game this week with running back Mark Ingram returning after serving his four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Alvin Kamara has been unstoppable as a receiver out of the backfield, but the Saints’ ground attack hasn’t been nearly as effective in Ingram’s absence as it was last season, when they ranked second in the league with 4.7 yards per rush and fifth with 129.4 yards per game. So far this season, they rank 10th with 4.4 and 18th with 104.5, respectively.

With Ingram back on the field, not only will New Orleans feel more confident running between the tackles. But it should ease the burden on Kamara, who is averaging 23 touches per game this season.

Kamara has gotten those touches for a reason as he’s leading the league with 611 yards from scrimmage, so Ingram may not force an equal split in work – at least not in his first game back. But eventually, the Saints should strive to look closer to last year’s offence, which will afford them greater balance and alleviate pressure on Brees.

And with Washington’s defence stingy against the pass heading into Monday’s match-up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Ingram utilised heavily right off the bat.

PETERSON’S REVENGE

There will be plenty of attention on Washington’s running game as well, with Adrian Peterson facing his former team, with whom he saw few opportunities with in all of four games last year before being traded.

Between Ingram and Kamara, New Orleans felt their backfield was crowded enough and that Peterson wasn’t needed. Now, the future Hall of Famer will have his chance to exact revenge and prove why he deserved more of a chance than he received.

At 33, Peterson is averaging 78.6 yards per game and 4.2 yards per rush to look like he still has some juice left.

Though he could be leaned on to eat up the clock and keep Brees on the sidelines on Monday, Washington may instead try to attack the Saints through the air. New Orleans’ run defence is allowing the fewest rush yards per attempt at 3.2, while surrendering the most pass yards per attempt at 9.6.

That could mean a healthy dose of Chris Thompson, who is Washington’s third-down back and change-of-pace option.

Considering the opponent, environment and context on Monday, Washington’s offence will need to deliver.

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T.J. Yeldon, Mohamed Sanu and other fantasy sleepers in Week 5

Jay Asser 7/10/2018
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Here are five sleepers worth inserting into your starting line-up who could pay dividends off your bench or the waiver wire in Week 5.

T.J. YELDON

Jacksonville will once again be without Leonard Fournette, which means another big workload is on the way for Yeldon, who is coming off a game in which he had 18 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Facing Kansas City, the Jaguars will do everything they can to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field, so Yeldon should get a number of hand-offs.

And if the game script sees the Chiefs jump out ahead, Yeldon will still get his chances as a receiver out of the backfield. Start him with confidence.

MOHAMED SANU

With the match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons expected to be a fantasy bonanza, you should try to get as many players from both offences into your lineup.

Unlike most of the other fantasy-relevant players in this game though, Sanu may be available on the wavier wire as a plug-and-play option.

With Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley occupying the defence’s attention, Sanu has an opportunity to be a primary weapon against the Steelers’ vulnerable unit.

ALEX SMITH

The Washington quarterback hasn’t got off to a flying start with his new team, but coming off a bye and facing a New Orleans Saints defence could get him on track.

Though the Saints secondary looked much better against the New York Giants last week, they still rank 30th in passing yards allowed (311.0) and 31st in passer rating (128.7).

With Washington needing to score to keep up with Drew Brees and Co, Smith should be asked to do a lot of the heavy lifting.

AARON JONES

With the wide receiver group in Green Bay severely banged up, the Packers may look to the ground game to move the ball and take pressure off Aaron Rodgers.

Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery will still be in the mix, but Aaron Jones is the true home-run hitter in the backfield, and after notching 65 yards and a score on 11 carries last week, his opportunities should increase going forward.

Plus, the Detroit Lions rank dead last with 157.8 rushing yards allowed.

JEFF HEUERMAN

If you’re throwing darts at the tight end position this week with Trey Burton and O.J. Howard on bye, you could do worse than the Broncos’ big target.

Heuerman was firmly on Case Keenum’s radar last week in his first game without regular starter Jake Butt, reeling in four of his seven targets for 57 yards.

Coming into the week, the Jets were allowed the second-fewest yards per game to opposing tight ends at 32.5, but it’s not like they’ve faced a murderers’ row.

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Strengths collide as Kansas City Chiefs meet Jacksonville Jaguars

Jay Asser 6/10/2018
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Something will have to give when the Kansas City Chiefs’ hyper-efficient offence tangles with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ tenacious defence on Sunday.

The match-up pits two units that have been utterly dominant this season, with the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs attack getting their toughest test yet against a team that hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game.

Kansas City lead the league in scoring with an average of 36.3 points, while ranking eighth in total yards with 410.3 and fifth in first downs with 24. Jacksonville, on the other hand, are the top of the league in several defensive categories: scoring with 14.0, total yards with 259.3, pass yards with 164.3 and first downs with 14.5.

The Chiefs have weapons all over the field, but the Jaguars have the means to neutralise Mahomes’ favourite targets. Tight end Travis Kelce is expected to go head-to-head with safety Tashaun Gipson, who helped limit Rob Gronkowski to two catches for 15 yards in Week 2, while wide receiver Tyreek Hill should have his hands full getting open against All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

True to form, Ramsey has trash-talked Hill in the lead-up, saying the speedster is more of a return specialist than a wideout, based on his Pro Bowl appearance as the former. Hill responded by saying he hopes Ramsey plays press coverage against him.

Ramsey’s size and ability to press at the line could be utilised on Sunday, but the Jaguars have actually allowed the fourth-lowest passer rating in the league (86.5) when playing off-ball coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.

Whatever happens between the teams, the pecking order at the top of the AFC will become a little clearer.

Here are more talking points from Week 5.

RAM-ROD

Speaking of slowing down potent offences, the Seattle Seahawks have their work cut out against a Los Angeles Rams attack that has been as good, if not better, than the Chiefs this season.

Seattle’s task was always going to be monumental, but the level of difficulty will be even more severe now that star safety Earl Thomas is recovering from a broken leg suffered last week.

With Thomas no longer around to patrol the field, Jared Goff could once again have a field day as he leads all quarterback with 23 completions of at least 20 yards.

The one thing the Seahawks have working in their favour is that they’re at home, where the crowd noise could help throw off the Rams’ rhythm. However, the comforts of home did nothing for them in the Week 15 encounter last year, when they were steamrolled 42-7.

REBOUND BOWL

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Before the start of the season, this week’s match-up between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles looked like a potential preview for the NFC Championship Game.

Sunday’s meeting still features two of the most talented rosters in the league, but both sides have had their struggles through the first four weeks and are coming off losses.

For Minnesota, a defence that was expected to be stingy has instead leaked points, while the Eagles have their own litany of issues, including a stalled-out offence.

It’s a little too early to panic over either team, but both need to show something on Sunday if this billing has chance for a rematch in January.

PUNTERS NEED NOT APPLY

Defence should be at a premium when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons collide on Sunday.

Neither Pittsburgh nor Atlanta have been able to coax any kind of consistency from their defences this season, with the Steelers looking incapable without linebacker Ryan Shazier, and the Falcons decimated by injuries to their own key players.

As a result, the units led by Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan have been under pressure to put points on the board, but the offences haven’t managed to negate their team’s current one-dimensional nature.

It would be a surprise if their meeting is anything less than a shootout, with offensive stars on both sides expected to feast in a game that should feature few punts.

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