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Booms and Busts: Another pinball game in the Superdome

There were plenty of fantasy potholes to be had in the first wave of Week 6. Some name-brand teams went belly-up. A bunch of no-name and forgotten players found the end zone.

But thank the fantasy gods, there are some matchups too rich, too reliable to fail. Like a game at the Superdome, or an afternoon in the NFC South.

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Brandin Cooks usually plays his best football at home (Getty)

The Saints had the last laugh in Sunday’s shootout with the Panthers, taking a 41-38 victory when Will Lutz connected on a 52-yard field goal. It was a glorious game where most of the main offensive players had their way. New Orleans rolled up 523 yards of offense, while Carolina sprung for 406. Lutz’s game-deciding kick caused a few groans in the fantasy peanut gallery; we wanted even more possessions from this pinball game, and overtime and some extra numbers. But for the most part, this game covered all the food groups.

Is anything more obvious in fantasy than a Drew Brees home start? Brees connected on 34-of-49 pass attempts, good for 465 yards and four touchdowns. Brees spread the scores to four different players (Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas, Coby Fleener, Josh Hill), fair man that he is. There were just two disappointments on the Saints sideline — Mark Ingram (60 total yards, no scores) and Willie Snead (4-47-0, on seven targets).

The Panthers were in catchup mode for most of the day — they trailed 21-0 at one point — but eventually got where we needed them to go. Cam Newton had 322 passing yards and three touchdowns — two by air, one by land. But it was interesting to see him reluctant to run (just two attempts); perhaps the Panthers were hesitant to expose Newton to extra pounding after he missed a full week due to a concussion. Jonathan Stewart (19-85-2) came through with two short rushing scores, something he’s not regularly asked to do. Perhaps that will be different going forward.

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Although Carolina’s primary receivers were held out of the end zone, Greg Olsen (6-94-0) and Kelvin Benjamin (8-86-0) had quality days. Devin Funchess isn’t always on the same page with his quarterback, but he did manage a score (and a two-point conversion) on six targets.

Carolina is getting a much-needed bye in Week 7, while the Saints head to the road — a challenging game at Kansas City. We’ll get maximum enjoyment when these teams return to divisional play. Look around the NFC South; there isn’t a good pass defense to be had. Entering Sunday, every defense in this group was allowing a QB rating of 95.3 or higher, and the Panthers and Saints watched their numbers bloat under the Superdome roof.

If you’re dreaming about the New Orleans-Carolina rematch, get your popcorn ready — they play in Week 11. And while I’m hesitant to look too far ahead for matchup purposes, it should be fun when the Falcons and Panthers renew acquaintances in Week 16. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones did their 500/300 dance the last time the inexperienced Panthers secondary was on the docket.

Go where the points are. Go where the fun is. Go where the secondaries can’t get out of their own way. Pinball is alive and well in the NFC South.

— Steelers lay an egg on the road

For as much sunshine as we throw at the Pittsburgh offense, this unit doesn’t travel as well as we’d like. Miami’s defense controlled the matchup from beginning to end, scoring a decisive 30-15 victory.

Ben Roethlisberger (19-for-34, 189 yards, one touchdown, two picks) was ineffective for most of the day, though a second-quarter knee injury complicated things. Roethlisberger’s return was no sure thing, but he gallantly slogged through the second half. He’s headed for an MRI. Big Ben has a history of playing through all sorts of ailments, but he can’t be seen as a sure thing for next week’s showdown against New England.

Pittsburgh’s defense also has a lofty reputation, but it was gashed by Jay Ajayi (25-204-2) over and over. Ajayi’s 62-yard touchdown run capped the day, but most of his runs were successful. Meanwhile, Damien Williams (6-12-1) and Arian Foster (3-3-0) were bit players in the Miami offense. Ryan Tannehill threw for 252 yards but didn’t figure in the scoring; Miami was probably happy to see him avoid negative plays (no interceptions or sacks).

— Golden Tate, back from the dead

It was a day of fantasy revival, with all sorts of benched, cut, and forgotten-about players surging back into relevance. Tate deserves as much mention as anyone, as his 8-165-1 day (10 targets) sparked the Lions to a 31-28 victory over the Rams. Perhaps the absence of Theo Riddick had a lot to do with Tate’s awakening; Tate, after all, is mostly known for his YAC skills. That said, he also sneaked behind the Rams secondary on a few occasions.

Kenny Britt was spectacular in defeat, posting a snappy 7-136-2 outing on eight targets. Getting that sort of production when Case Keenum is your quarterback, that’s almost impossible. Let’s hope Britt is still hale and hammering away when the Panthers come calling on Nov. 6. He’s currently on pace for a 1,309-yard season.

Colin Kaepernick, oddly productive 

Shady McCoy was the dominant player in Buffalo’s 45-16 rout of San Francisco, but let’s take a moment to appreciate the bad-but-oddly-productive day Colin Kaepernick posted. Kaepernick’s 13-for-29 passing made you want to shield your eyes, but he did click on a 53-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith. He also ran eight times for 66 yards.

In a basic-scoring league, Kaepernick was around 18-19 points. No, that won’t pay the rent in a standard league that requires one quarterback, but he’s in play for the Superflex and deeper pools. We’re not trying to paint a work of art here, we just want the numbers. And there are two user-friendly NFC South defenses lying in wait for the 49ers — hello Tampa, hello New Orleans.

— Spencer Ware might be here to stay

The Chiefs talked about “sprinkling” in Jamaal Charles this week, and that’s just what they did in their 26-10 breeze at Oakland. Spencer Ware was the bell cow — 26 touches, 163 yards, one touchdown — while Charles was a change-of-pace option (11 touches, 47 yards, one TD). And to make the result more annoying for fantasy owners, Dontari Poe vultured a touchdown from the one-yard line.

No one disputes Charles’s resume or upside, but I don’t see how Ware is going to be shoved aside. Other than a flurry of fumbling (three in five games), he’s played exceptionally well. I recognize Andy Reid has been a one-back man for most of his career, but I always expect the better coaches to play personnel-to-scheme, not the other way around. And for whatever you think of Reid on game day, he’s definitely one of the best game planners in the NFL.

No matter what back you like here, the upcoming schedule looks fun. New Orleans is on the docket for Week 7, followed by Indianapolis. Points should flow, freely.