Wed Nov 20 4:03pm ET
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Houston Texans tight end Darren Fells (87) taps quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) after Watson lost a fumble on a sack against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) pushes forward after a catch as Baltimore Ravens free safety Earl Thomas (29), cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) and middle linebacker Josh Bynes (57) try to stop him during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) prepares to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
HOUSTON (AP) Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson learned from a high school coach that no matter how good or bad a game was, he had to move on to the next one quickly, or ''snap and clear,'' as his old coach used to say.
That mantra will be perhaps more important than usual this week as Watson and the Texans look to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to Baltimore when they host Indianapolis on Thursday night with the AFC South lead on the line.
''That was our theme all through my high school career where good or bad, you're always going on to the next play,'' Watson said. ''And OB (coach Bill O'Brien) always says you're only as good as your next game, you're only as good as your next play. So you've got to continue to have that mindset because you can never get too comfortable in this league.''
The Texans and Watson were anything but comfortable on Sunday when he was sacked six times and had two turnovers in a 41-7 dismantling by the Ravens.
The Colts are on the opposite end of the spectrum, entering this matchup of 6-4 teams after beating the Jaguars 33-13 last week. Like Watson, Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is looking forward instead of dwelling on the last game - especially with the short week.
''Everybody on the team understands the quick turnaround we have,'' he said. ''Everybody understands that they're going through the same thing we're going through. I think as one of the leaders you don't have to make a huge production about it. You just go out there ... and understand the focus we need because we're not going to get the same practice reps we would during a regular week.''
Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins said he started looking ahead to Indianapolis in the fourth quarter against the Ravens when it was clear the game was out of reach. The Texans don't want to build up this game too much but know that losing to the Colts twice in one season would make it difficult to reach their goal of winning the division.
''It's a big game,'' Hopkins said. ''Some of the young guys have never been in this situation, but with me being here and being on this team for a while, I understand everything we want is still in front of us. So every game is big and important, but to me this is the biggest game of the year so far.''
Four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed three consecutive games with an injured calf.
Hilton anticipates his availability for Thursday will be a game-time decision but remains hopeful of being cleared to return to action. His return would give Indy a potentially gigantic boost. In 15 games against the Texans, he has 82 receptions, 1,519 yards and 10 TD catches.
''It's just if I can get back out there and help my team,'' he said. ''It has just been tough for me watching these last three games and I'm not accustomed to missing games.''
Houston defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is convinced that Hilton won't miss this one.
''He's going to play,'' Crennel said. ''He's probably counting on it, and I'm - well not necessarily counting on it or looking forward to it, but you've got to prepare for him to play because he'll show up.''
FIRST DOWN HOP
Hopkins is tied for second in the NFL with 47 receptions for first downs, and 62.7% of his catches this season have gone for first downs.
''That's such a valuable part of what he does is that he can, whether it's a third-down catch or a second-down catch that goes for a first down where you don't have to deal with third down, he does a great job of that,'' O'Brien said.
Hopkins takes great pride in his ability to move the chains, and Watson appreciates that quality in his star receiver.
''It makes my job a lot easier for sure,'' he said. ''A guy that can go out there and catch every ball, knows what we need, especially on third down, and a guy that finds ways to get open even if he's doubled ... put the ball in his area he's going to make sure he catches it.''
HOUSTON POSES PROBLEM
Defensive end Justin Houston has found a perfect fit in Indy.
The league's 2014 sack champion leads the Colts with eight sacks and has recorded sacks in six consecutive games for the third time in his career. His current streak is the longest in the NFL, and as the Colts' defense continues to improve, teammates and coaches believe Houston has made a huge impact beyond his pass-rushing presence.
''He's been good in the run game,'' coach Frank Reich said. ''We've said this multiple times, but it is really true - his leadership. As the year has progressed, he has become a more vocal leader. When he talks, people listen. When he talks, people listen for sure.''
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard (ankle) has been ruled out for Thursday night against the Bears. Pollard missed two days of practice this week, so he was on the wrong side of questionable to begin with. Ezekiel Elliott has been the bell-cow back all season, so Pollard, 22, has just 58 carries for 264 yards and one touchdown on the season in 11 games. He has no standalone fantasy value unless Zeke gets hurt. Elliott's fantasy outlook as an RB1 against Chicago will not change with Pollard inactive. Fullback Jamize Olawale will serve as Elliott's backup for this one.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook gets a tough Week 14 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. The 32-year-old is on a roll, having surpassed 70 receiving yards in three of his last four games. Now he'll get to face the 49ers' league-best pass defense. It will be a very tough matchup for Cook, as the 49ers allow the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Still, his involvement in the offense lately, 6.5 targets per game in his last four, makes him start-worthy even against this defense. It's risky, but so are a lot of other streaming options at the tight end position.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) missed his second straight practice this week on Thursday. Smith-Schuster is unlikely to play again this weekend against the Cardinals and could be sidelined again in Week 15 if his knee injury does not improve. In an offense now run by quarterback Devlin Hodges, Smith-Schuster won't be anything more than a low-upside WR3 if he's active during the fantasy playoffs. James Washington has become a WR3 in Smith-Schuster's absence, but a projected low target share doesn't bode well for his chances of helping fantasy owners. Diontae Johnson (illness), who returned to a full practice on Thursday, will be the No. 2 behind Washington.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams (knee) and tight end Jimmy Graham (calf, wrist) were both limited in practice on Thursday. Williams is a new addition to the injury report for Week 14 against the Redskins, so we'll have to keep an eye on his status on Friday. Williams has maintained RB3 value for fantasy owners alongside Aaron Jones, but his status may be in doubt this weekend. Jones would have RB1 upside if he has this backfield all to himself in a great matchup. Graham should be able to play, but he's become an unattractive touchdown-dependent TE2 with a low target floor. He hasn't scored since Oct. 20 and has a combined four catches the last three games.
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (ankle) and wide receivers Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) are practicing in full on Thursday. Breida is the big one, as he hasn't played since Nov. 11 against the Seahawks. His return will make it hard to trust anyone in San Fran's backfield, which includes Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert. Jeffery Wilson could be a healthy scratch with Breida back in Week 14 to face the Bills in a tough matchup. Samuel and Sanders are good to go as well. Samuel has become the better fantasy wideout over Sanders, but the rookie is still a boom/bust WR3 for fantasy owners in this run-first offense.
Updating a previous report, Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown (calf) was limited in practice on Thursday. Brown is a new addition to the injury report for Week 14 against the Raiders, so his status on Friday will be worth watching. The 22-year-old rookie has been solid in his first season, catching 34 passes for 626 yards and four touchdowns, but he just doesn't see consistent targets in this run-first offense. He'll be on the WR3/4 borderline as a boom-or-bust play if he's active. If he sits out, Corey Davis will be more attractive as a WR4/flex in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. Smith has posted nine catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns for the whole season and hasn't seen more than three targets in a game yet. He's not even close to fantasy relevance at this point and will now face the league's best pass defense. Leave Smith on the waiver wire.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) and kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee) did not practice on Thursday. Hilton is holding out hope to play again this year, but at this point there's probably a greater chance that he's put on Injured Reserve. Zach Pascal is the team's top wideout with Hilton sidelined, and he has streaming appeal this weekend against a weak Tampa secondary. Marcus Johnson and Parris Campbell (hand) could fill out three-receiver sets. Don't count on Hilton the rest of the way. Vinatieri might find a similar fate as Hilton after the team claimed Chase McLaughlin on Wednesday. He's unlikely to play this weekend and has been a disaster in 2019 with 14 missed kicks. McLaughlin might be worth a flier the rest of the way in deeper leagues.
Baltimore Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) was added to the Week 14 injury report against the Bills. He got in a limited practice on Thursday. It's not the first time Brown has been added the injury report midweek as the Ravens try to play it safe with their speedy deep threat. The 22-year-old rookie has the skills to get behind any defense for a long touchdown play, but his snaps have been heavily limited in his first year and he doesn't draw enough targets to be a realistic weekly fantasy commodity. Brown hasn't gone over 100 yards since the season opener and had only two targets last week. He'll be a boom/bust WR4 if he plays. Willie Snead, Miles Boykin and Mark Andrews would see more targets if Brown is forced to sit out.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that the team isn't ruling out wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) for Week 14 against the Lions. "Hes frustrated. I think hes got a good opportunity this week (to play), so well see. Hes working really hard. He obviously wants to get out there with his guys. Hes a great competitor. ... When he's ready, he's ready," Zimmer said. Thielen has yet to practice this week, however, so fantasy owners shouldn't be banking on him playing against Detroit. If he does suit up, though, he'll have WR2 upside in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Stefon Diggs also has high-end WR2 upside regardless of whether Thielen plays. Kyle Rudolph and Olabisi Johnson won't have as much appeal if Thielen returns.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that he expects running back Dalvin Cook (chest) to play in Week 14 against the Lions and be close to 100 percent. Cook left the Monday night game against the Seahawks and didn't return, but he said shortly after that he planned on playing this Sunday, and he's been limited in practices so far this week. Barring a late setback, Cook will be active and will be a high-end RB1 in a great matchup against Detroit. Cook ranks fifth in the NFL with 1.046 yards on the ground. Backup Alexander Mattison could see more change-of-pace work behind Cook this week, but he's still tough to trust for standalone value.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (hand) returned to a full practice on Thursday. Mack has been sidelined since Nov. 17, but he's well on his way to returning to action in Week 14 against the Buccaneers. In a tough matchup against Tampa's defensive front and possibly at risk of sharing touches with Jonathan Williams, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, Mack will be more of a low-end RB2 this weekend if he makes his way back. Rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell (hand) has practiced in full the last two days as well, making it likely he makes his return this weekend. He should be in three-wide sets with Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson, but Campbell is a fantasy dart throw the rest of the way in this run-first offense.
Carolina Panthers interim head coach Perry Fewell said the tight end position will be a committee approach this week with Greg Olsen (concussion) unlikely to play. The committee will include Chris Manhertz, Ian Thomas and Alex Armah. Thomas is the best bet of the bunch after he posted 36 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games as a rookie last year with Olsen missing time due to injury. He has only five receptions (nine targets) for 28 yards in 2019, though, with Olsen staying healthy up until now. Thomas is the best bet of this group as a TE2 streamer, but he won't be a strong fantasy option if he sees limited snaps. If you own Olsen, you need to look for other options.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn will face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. Ginn has been a feast-or-famine deep-threat this year. He owns the highest yards per reception mark on the Saints but will play a 49ers Defense that allows the fewest pass plays of 20 yards or more. The 34-year-old is coming off a catch-less game and hasn't caught more than three passes since Week 1. Ginn should be benched, or left on the waiver wire, for the fantasy playoffs.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (hamstring) returned to practice on Thursday after being held out on Wednesday. The Titans are just resting Henry early in the week. He's been the best running back in the NFL in the last three games, running for well over 100 yards in each contest and totaling five touchdowns in that span on the ground. He'll get another great matchup in the Raiders in Week 14. Henry is a must-start fantasy commodity in the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown (undisclosed) left practice early after stretching with an undisclosed ailment. Wideout Adam Humphries (ankle) also missed practice for the second straight day. Brown's situation is worth monitoring the rest of the week. He would be a likely candidate to sit out in Week 14 against the Raiders if he can't get back to practice on Friday. With Humphries also on the wrong side of questionable for this weekend, it could be Tajae Sharpe, Cody Hollister and Kalif Raymond behind Corey Davis in the receiving game. Only Davis would be worth fantasy consideration as a WR4/flex against Oakland.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (shoulder) and tight end Austin Hooper (knee) are both practicing again on Thursday, which is a good sign for their availability in Week 14 against the Panthers. Jones missed the Thanksgiving game and Hooper has missed the last three contests, so getting them both back would be excellent news for quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite not scoring since Sept. 22, Jones will return to being a high-end WR1 if he's active. He had six catches for 91 yards against Carolina in the first meeting on Nov. 17. Hooper has been a breakout star this year with 56 receptions for 608 yards and six touchdowns, so he'll be a must-start TE1 if he's back this Sunday.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will face the stingy San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. The 49ers have allowed only 134.2 passing yards per game this year, best in the NFL. Despite this, one receiver has posted at least 50 yards or scored a touchdown in eight games against the 49ers this year. Considering how involved Thomas is, he should be able to eclipse 50 yards. He has the lowest upside of virtually any WR1 this week and has some risk, given that Drew Brees may struggle to put up good numbers. Still, Thomas has been the best fantasy asset at wide receiver this year. It's realistic to expect him to at least reach 15 fantasy points, even against this defense.
Oakland Raiders rookie running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder) wasn't seen at the start of practice on Thursday. Jacobs revealed on Tuesday that he's been playing through a fractured shoulder since Week 7, so back-to-back missed practices are now more concerning for anyone that owns Jacobs. Despite his injured shoulder, Jacobs has remained productive in his first season and is fourth in the NFL with 1,061 rushing yards in 2019. He'll be a bit more of a risky RB1 this weekend if he suits up, but his fantasy owners will have their minds more at ease if Jacobs returns to practice on Friday. If he cannot play this weekend, Deandre Washington would be the obvious plug and play, with Jalen Richard mixing in on passing downs.
Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (knee), who revealed he's dealing with an MCL injury, is in doubt for Week 14 against the Texans. "I'm already undersized. When you take away exotic movements that make me who I am it changes the type of player I am. I have to get that back to go out and play. If I don't have that back then I need to take time to get that right," Miller said. He was limited in practice on Wednesday, but that doesn't mean he'll play this weekend. Another Miller absence would be great news for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and the whole offense. Even if Miller suits up, the Broncos Defense should be avoided in fantasy.