Injuries, Injuries, Injuries. That has been the story of the 2020 NFL season and while it is frustrating for fantasy owners, let us not forget it is devastating for the players and potentially the rest of their NFL careers. Despite the injuries, the show must go on. Whether you are playing for family/friends bragging rights, money, or avoiding last place and an awful punishment, we are here to help navigate you through, particularly with New Orleans Saints players. Below is Saints News Network's Start 'Em or Sit 'Em in Week 8.
TE Jared Cook
Jared Cook's yard numbers have been subpar since Week 1 against Tampa Bay when he accounted for 80 yards, but he has made up for that by finding the end-zone in each of the Saints' last two games. The 2019 Pro-Bowler has only 5 receptions for 84 yards in the past two weeks, but in Week 8, Cook should play a vital role in the Saints offense.
The injuries stung more when Emmanuel Sanders said Thursday he would not play Sunday as he recovers from COVID-19. Next, it was worst for the organization when Friday's injury report listed wide receivers Michael Thomas (Ankle/Hamstring) and Marquez Callaway (Ankle) will be OUT of the Bears game Sunday. Without 3 of your top receivers, a lack of cohesion and experience from the healthy wideouts, who will step up for the Saints? The answer - veteran tight end Jared Cook.
Juwan Johnson and Austin Carr should be called up from the practice squad for the second straight week to replace the injured receivers. But this leaves the Saints with slim options at the position. Tre'quan Smith will enter Sunday with the most career receptions on the team and serve as the team's number one WR.
With the lack of bodies, Jared Cook should see a season-high in targets (7+) and be a focal point in the red zone along with QB/TE Taysom Hill. It will be a makeshift lineup for Sean Payton's offense. He will be relying on the veteran, as well as you. Cook should be “cooking'” in Week 8.
RB Latavius Murray
Without Brees and Kamara, Latavius Murray led the Saints with 100+ yards and 2 TDs just over a calendar year ago on the same field he will play on Sunday afternoon. Murray has provided the Saints with the perfect counter punch to Alvin Kamara in 2020, but no. 28 has not produced the numbers that some fantasy owners were hoping for this season.
As I said earlier in the year, unfortunately, this bayou backfield is not the same as Ingram II and Kamara. While Ingram was in the Black and Gold, he was (and still is) a guy you can afford to start every week. On the flip side, Murray is a matchup fantasy play, and Chicago is a great matchup.
The forecast is in the mid-forties for Sunday afternoon and windy. No, I am not saying the Saints can not win outside, that is just an old narrative that is simply untrue, but I am saying that the forecast is not showing great weather conditions to throw the ball 35+ times. And though the Saints could very well still do that, if they jump out to a lead against one of the NFL's worst offense, I fully expect a heavy dose of the run game.
Murray is averaging 44 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry, yes not great for fantasy, but I am more concerned about yards per carry in a game like this. If Murray can effectively run the ball between the tackles against this defense, holes will open up for a cutback and a slippery runner like Murray that can result in chunk plays.
The touchdown will be a make or break for the veteran running back this week, but if you can squeeze him into a flex spot, I would give the green light, especially after the Saints announced they would be without 3 WRs this week.
Week 8 may be the only time all season I tell you to start the Saints defense - yes, I am okay, and no, I did not hit my head. The Saints face Nick Foles and a Bears' offense without RB Tarik Cohen (IR) and potentially their top receiving threat Allen Robinson II (Concussion). Even before the injury to Robinson, the Bears' offense has been a headache in 2020.
Entering Week 8, Chicago ranks in the bottom six in the NFL in rushing yards per game (84.1) and points scored (19.7). New Orleans is riding a 49 game streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher and have a defense in desperate need of a good outing.
The defense has not forced a turnover since Week 2 and leads the NFL in penalty yards but are top-10 in yards allowed and are top-5 against the run. If the defense can make the Bears one-dimensional and the offense can give them an early lead, Sunday has all the makings for a real bounce-back game for the Saints defense. If you're feeling lucky, start them this week, I am.
QB Drew Brees
Let's start here after a dismal start to the 2020 NFL season, Drew Brees is Pro Football Focus' highest-rated QB since Week 3 and is continuing to break records. Brees is back to looking like his vintage self on the field. However, the same cannot be said about him in fantasy. We are past the years for Brees throwing for 5,000+ yards and 35 TDs, and though he is still effective and a top QB in the league, there are better fantasy options to roll with not just for this week but maybe the rest of the year.
Brees ranks 20th among QB in standard fantasy scoring this year, which tells us that much like Latavius Murray, he is a matchup play for most of the season. This week because of the harsh weather of the Windy City and missing his top 2 WR targets for the second consecutive week, I suggest sitting Brees. And that verdict comes before we dive into how good this Bears defense is and the greatness of Khalil Mack.
However, for Brees owners, it will probably be best to let Drew sit this one out. He could lead the Saints to victory on Sunday, but I do not see a 300+ yard 3 TD day on the horizon.
- Saints Offense vs. Bears Defense Preview
- Saints Defense vs. Bears Offense Preview
- Saints vs. Bears: 3 Things to Watch in Week 8
- First Look: Saints vs. Bears
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