Saints 31, Bucs 24

Saints vs Bucs 1: Good, bad & ugly

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In a game that was a lot closer than Saints fans would've liked, the Saints improved to 4-1 with a 31-24 win over the division rival Tampa Bay Bucs. Here's take a look at my observations:

The Good

-Theodore Edmond Bridgewater had his breakout/reemerging performance since coming back from a gruesome leg injury that could've ended his career just over three years ago. 26/34 for 314 yards and four touchdowns was his first game with 300 yards passing while completing 70% or more of his passes since October 25, 2015. That was his Pro Bowl year with the Vikings.

-One guy that truly helped Bridgewater have the type of performance he did was All Pro receiver Michael Thomas. He tallied 11 catches on 13 targets for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas hadn't scored a touchdown since the Seahawks win (that was his first of the season) and this was his first 100+ yard receiving game since the first game of the season. With this game, Thomas got back to his All-Pro self.

-The defense played lights out. The two guys that stuck out in my eyes were their last two first round draft picks: Marson Lattimore (#11 pick in 2017 draft) and Marcus Davenport (#14 pick in 2018 draft). Lattimore held Bucs' All Pro reciever Mike Evans to zero catches on three targets as he shadowed him all game long. Davenport had two of the six sacks on Jameis Winston. There were other defenders that had good performances, but these two guys will be building blocks for this defense's future.

The Bad

-The Saints won the rushing yardage differential by a +18 margin. However, a 3.6 yards per carry average isn't going to cut it. Under normal circumstances, a 3.6 average means three yards and a cloud of dust is producing first downs. Playing with a backup quarterback, you need better and more consistent production from the run game.

-Bridgewater's lone mistake was an interception late in the first quarter. It set the Bucs up on the Saints' 26 yard line and only took them two plays to cash in on the mistake for a go-ahead touchdown to put them up 7-3. This could've been a turning point in Tampa's favor.

-21 of Bridegwater's 28 completions went to three guys: Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Jared Cook. At their respective positions, they're the best the Saints have to offer. But if three guys are going to be the focus of your offense, all it takes is some decent talent and a good coach to force a team into situations where their pass game is rendered ineffective.

The Ugly

-Bucs' corner Carlton Davis was ejected in the second quarter for targeting after a helmet to helmet hit on Cook. It was clearly targeting and Davis would have to be a complete idiot to appeal any fine or suspension that comes about. Slow motion presents the hit in a different light, but it should have been obvious to Davis that he was wrong. Had he lowered his shoulder more and hit Cook in the chest when he turned around, he would've still separated Cook from the ball and stayed in the game. This is one instance in which I'll say the defender could've done something different and should have.

-Passing 36 times and running 31 times isn't a winning formula, especially when Drew Brees is out. The 112 yards rushing with that 3.6 yards per carry average exasperated that play call disparity. While some analytics nowadays would suggest passing more leads to better efficiency, the eye test says the more ball control a team has, the more success they'll have. Despite this, the Saints still had a seven minute time off possession average.

-Wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith injured an ankle and left the game late in the fourth quarter. No word yet on if it's the same ankle injury that caused Smith to miss the previous two weeks or not. This will hurt an already thin depth chart at receiver for the Saints and could be an ongoing issue all season.

This win moved the Saints to 4-1, but also 3-0 while Bridewater has started during Brees' injury. It also puts them firmly in the conversation for one of the best teams in the league. When you put yourself in that conversation and your future Hall of Fame quarterback is still out, that says a lot about the other guys on that team. There's a matchup in a couple weeks with the Bears that will truly test this team. They can't look past anybody because this is the NFL. Next week is a visit to Jacksonville where a battle of the backups will take place. Will Minshew-Mania reign supreme, or does Bridgewater continue his audition for the permanent job as Brees' heir-apparent?

Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Alright, let's see which free agents are still available. Keep in mind the owner % mentioned is for 10-team standard ESPN leagues. Some of these players below are good for the short-term, while others have more long-term value. You have to make the call on what your team needs. Immediate help to start this week, or a player to stash on your bench and hope he breaks out. Let's get started.

QB

Matthew Stafford: He's coming off a huge game against the Vikings where he threw for over 300 yards and had 4 TDs. This week he gets the Giants, so he should have another big game. He's rostered in less than half of ESPN standard 10-team leagues.

Kirk Cousins: The Vikings are throwing the ball more, and he has back-to-back games with over 300 yards and 4TDs. He has a great matchup against the Redskins this week, so use him. He's rostered in less than 40% of standard leagues.

Jacoby Brissett: If you're digging a little deeper, Brissett is out there in 50% of leagues, and he plays the Broncos at home this week. He's coming off a 4TD game against Houston, so he could help you out this week if you need him.

Derek Carr: If you're playing in a deep league, Carr could perform for you in a pinch. He's widely available and has a good matchup against the Texans who are dealing with multiple injuries to their secondary.

RB

Jamaal Williams: The matchup couldn't be any better with him playing the Chiefs this week. He's still available in 45% of standard leagues.

Chase Edmonds: What a game for Edmonds. With David Johnson still trying to get healthy, you could do worse than Edmonds. His matchup against the Saints isn't ideal, but if you need a RB, he might come through again. He's still available in almost 70% of 10-team ESPN leagues. You might have to just start him and hope for the best. David Johnson's health is still a bit of a mystery.

Darrell Henderson: He's not a guy you can start with any confidence, but he could be a league winner later in the year if Gurley goes down. He's rostered in 25% of leagues.

Kareem Hunt: You won't be able to use him until week 10, but he's good insurance for Nick Chubb, and he might end up with a lot of work in the passing game.

WR

Kenny Stills: It looks like Will Fuller won't be back anytime soon, so Stills should be Watson's main deep threat for a while. He has a good matchup against Oakland this week, and he's widely available.

Corey Davis: Now that Ryan Tannehill is playing QB for the Titans, Davis might become a relevant fantasy option. He's only rostered in 44% of leagues.

Phillip Dorsett: He came back from injury and scored on Monday night, so he could be a nice flex option with Josh Gordon's injury issues. He's rostered in 33% of leagues, so pick him up.

Allen Lazard: He's a decent flex option until Devante Adams returns if you're desperate.

TE

Jared Cook: He missed Sunday's game against the Bears, so he might have been dropped. TE is ugly. That is all.

Chris Herndon: He's been hurt after finally coming off suspension. Pick him up if you need him, and hope he gets healthy soon. He's available in 80% of leagues.

Defense

If the Steelers are on your waiver wire, add them this week. They play the Dolphins.

If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter. Be sure to check out my show MoneyLine with Jerry Bo on ESPN 97.5FM. We're on every Sunday morning from 10-noon, and we'll talk a lot of fantasy football and NFL gambling getting you ready for kickoff every Sunday.

@JoshJordan975

@Moneyline975

@JerryBoKnowz

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