Mon Sep 24 8:16pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady sits on the bench during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Detroit Lions linebacker Eli Harold sacks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
BOSTON (AP) Two weeks, two head-shaking losses by the New England Patriots.
In Week 2, the Patriots' defense was deficient in a 31-20 loss to Jacksonville in which the Patriots were victimized on third down.
There were problems all over the field in Sunday's stunning 26-10 loss at Detroit, though it was Tom Brady and the Patriots offense that struggled the most against a defense coached by former Patriots defensive coordinator and new Lions head coach Matt Patricia.
It's left New England at 1-2 for the first time since 2012. Things won't get any easier as the Patriots prepare to open their division schedule against 3-0 Miami.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he sees problems everywhere on the field right now.
''We're not making enough plays in any phase of the game, so we've just got to perform better,'' he said. ''I think the energy and the effort and all of that - we're trying. Everybody's trying hard. We're just not getting it done, which is all that matters.''
One of the most surprising things in Sunday's loss to the Lions was how ineffective Detroit managed to render quarterback Tom Brady.
The reigning regular-season MVP completed just 14 of 26 passes for 133 yards with one touchdown. He also had a costly interception midway through the fourth quarter that helped the Lions seal the victory.
The 133 passing yards for Brady were his fewest in a game since he went 8 of 16 for 80 yards against Buffalo on Dec. 28, 2014.
What's more troubling, though, is an offense that over the past two weeks has gone 6 of 21 on third down.
''We're not scoring enough points. We're not executing well enough on a down-by-down basis. Certainly, at a high level, we should have our expectations set in,'' Brady said.
''The process has been the same, there's been a lot of talk about it in practice, and we're going through it and watching the film and correcting stuff, it's just not getting done on the field. And we have to get it corrected soon.''
One common theme in the way the Jaguars and Lions succeeded in limiting the Patriots offensively, was keying on tight end Rob Gronkowski. One of Brady's favorite options, Gronk has just 13 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown this season.
He hasn't scored in either of the two losses, hauling in only six total receptions.
But Gronkowski said no one inside the Patriots' locker room is panicking about starting 1-2.
''I mean, it's early, it's football and it's the NFL,'' he said. ''Some crazy things happen every single week and we've just got to bounce back. We can't put our heads down, we have to keep them up. We've got to keep on fighting and there's another week next week.''
''We've got a big division game next week versus Miami. We've just got to keep on fighting. It's a long season, I know we're 1-2 right now, but we've got to keep on fighting and keep on going. There's no other way to do it.''
Arizona Cardinals LB Thurston Armbrister was waived Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst (foot), who was the 25th overall pick in last year's draft, said an X-ray showed he is now 100 percent after he had a screw removed from his foot. Hurst went down with a stress fracture in August and played in 12 games in his rookie season, catching only 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams will be free agents, so Hurst and 2018 third-round pick Mark Andrews could compete for playing time in 2019. Hurst is only 25 and has pass-catching upside, but he's still probably only an asset in dynasty/keeper leagues to begin next season. He could become a waiver wire pickup if he sees considerable playing time and proves he's healthy.
There is word on the street that Pittsburgh Steelers impending free-agent running back Le'Veon Bell is up to around 260 pounds after holding out for all of 2018. His playing weight is listed as 225 pounds. Bell may have lost a lot of that extra baggage now, but the Jets and other teams may be concerned about what kind of shape he's in. There's also concern about how much the 27-year-old has left in the tank after his 1,635 touches in five seasons. Bell is believed to be looking for a deal that nets him $48 million in the first three years of his next deal. He is arguably the best dual-threat running back in the last decade and should still be an RB1 in his new home.
Free-agent RB Le'Veon Bell (Steelers) reportedly weighed around 260 pounds during his year off from football. The Jets are fairly concerned about the shape Bell is in after he played at 225 pounds in 2017. New York is considered to be one of the front-runners to sign Bell this offseason. Despite the weight issue, the Jets will add him for the right price. The Jets currently boast the second largest salary cap heading into the offseason behind the Indianapolis Colts.
Fantasy Spin: Running back will be even more of a need if Isaiah Crowell is not retained. Bell would make a nice fit in green and white but is an RB1 candidate wherever he lands, assuming the weight won't be a big issue.
Carolina Panthers LB David Mayo (hernia) recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia, according to The Athletic's Joe Person. Mayo is rehabilitating and is expected to make a full recovery.
New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins is expected to be pursued by the Indianapolis Colts in free agency, according to The Herald Bulletin's George Bremer.
The Chicago Bears are expected to release tight end Dion Sims, according to a source. He was due $6 million in 2019, so he'll become a salary cap casualty. The 28-year-old played in just 22 games in his two years in Chicago and caught only 17 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown over that span. Sims is mainly a blocking tight end and won't have a huge market for his services this offseason.
Chicago Bears impending free-agent TE Dion Sims is expected to be released, according to a source. Cutting Sims saves the Bears $6 million in salary cap space.
New York Giants impending free-agent SS Landon Collins cleared out his locker and said goodbye to teammates Wednesday, Feb. 20, indicating he does not expect to return to the Giants this year.
Free-agent WR Jaelen Strong (Jaguars) was signed to an undisclosed deal by the Cleveland Browns Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Updating an ongoing saga, Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell will not be the recipient of the transition tag, according to general manager Kevin Colbert, Wednesday, Feb. 20. Bell will hit the open market in March.
Fantasy Spin: This isn't a big surprise. Gamers will have to wait to see where he ends up to get a true valuation, but Bell will remain in the RB1 ranks, albeit with risk, for 2019.
Los Angeles Rams running back C.J. Anderson said Todd Gurley's knee injury was worse than the team originally thought when they signed Anderson to take over for Gurley for the final two regular season games. "Yeah, he'd never really tell me. It was tough. I would say sprained knee," Anderson said. "Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career." Head coach Sean McVay and the Rams were calling it knee inflammation. Gurley has taken a pounding and no player in the league has had more touches than him since the start of 2017. He had just 14 carries in the conference championship and Super Bowl combined, so something was clearly not right with the star back. Gurley has gone over 1,000 yards on the ground in three of his four seasons and had 21 total touchdowns in 2018, making him the league's premiere running back. Despite ending the year hobbled in the playoffs, Gurley is a no-brainer first overall fantasy selection in 2019.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will attempt to trade wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason, but they will not give him away. If the trade doesn't benefit the Steelers, they will not trade him. Both sides are ready to move on, but the Steelers are unlikely to get a ton for the star wideout. Brown has rubbed many in the organization the wrong way despite putting up six straight seasons of 1,000 yards and 100-plus catches. While he's still the cream of the receiving crop, Brown is heading into his age-31 season and will likely do so in a whole new offense. He'll remain a high-end WR1, but Brown will come with more risk than ever before.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will not place the franchise or transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell. "LeVeon is still a great player. We cant afford to use any other type of tags. LeVeon will be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year," Colbert said. Bell held out for the entire 2018 season after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him. He'll be free to sign any other club next month and is not expected back in Pittsburgh. The versatile back has 1,000-yard seasons in three of his five years in the NFL and is also one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league. He's likely to remain a strong RB1 wherever he goes next, but his upside will depend on the offense that he's in.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen's agent, Blake Baratz, thinks his client and two-time Pro Bowler could reach an extension with the team this offseason. Thielen signed a four-year deal worth $19.246 million in 2017 that will pay him around $8 million in 2019. He has outplayed his contract after setting career highs in catches (113), yards (1,373) and touchdowns (nine). Thielen just keeps improving season after season and has become a strong WR2 in point-per-reception leagues. It helps that he'll be working with quarterback Kirk Cousins again in 2019.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker is believed to already be gone and wideout Danny Amendola is iffy to be re-signed as well. Even Kenny Stills could be at risk with a $4 million salary cap savings if he's cut. The Dolphins have been wanting to move on from Parker for a while, so that is no secret. The former first-round pick in 2015 has been a flop and had just 24 catches (47 targets) for 309 yards and one touchdown in 11 games in 2018. He has just two scores the last two years and has never played a full season in the NFL. Amendola was much more reliable for a stagnant Miami offense and had 59 receptions for 575 yards and a touchdown in 15 games in his first season in Miami. He's getting long in the tooth, though, and isn't a lock to find a prominent role on the open market.
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen's agent recently expressed optimism that his client and the team are committed to hammering out an adjusted contract that will make Thielen one of the more highly paid receivers in the league. Thielen is about to enter the third season of a four-year, $19.246 million base deal.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) was 'more hurt than we thought' and could have been dealing with a sprained knee as opposed to knee inflammation, as head coach Sean McVay and the team indicated during the season, according to comments made by C.J. Anderson on Fox Sports 1's 'Undisputed' on Tuesday, Feb. 19. 'The injury was a little bit more than what everybody in the building thought, including himself. ... Yeah, he'd never really tell me. ... I would say sprained knee. Obviously, it's the same knee injury he's had before in his career. Obviously, I had surgery on my meniscus and once you have a knee, you always have a knee. So it aggravates and if he was getting a lot of touches earlier in the year -- obviously him being one of the best backs, that probably was the case,' Anderson said.
Fantasy Spin: Gurley's lack of usage down the stretch suggests either he or McVay did not feel the back was not anywhere close to fully healthy. While Anderson admits he has no way to know for sure, a sprained knee can be a serious enough injury to keep Gurley from being able to or wanting to handle a full load. The 24-year-old should be able to enjoy a normal offseason - even if did suffer a knee sprain - and figures to be a fantasy stalwart again in 2019.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) said that he wouldn't restructure his current deal. "It aint happening. No way Jose," Sanders tweeted. The 31-year-old tore his Achilles in practice on Dec. 5 and is schedule to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019. If Denver exercises his 2019 salary before March 12, he'd be guaranteed $1.5 million. The Broncos would save $10.25 million by cutting Sanders, leaving only $2.687 million in dead money. Before the injury, Sanders was the team's best receiver, catching 71 passes for 868 yards and four touchdowns while also throwing a TD and running one in. It remains to be seen if Sanders will even be ready for the start of next season, although his production has been fine when healthy. If the Broncos move on, Courtland Sutton would be the unquestioned No. 1 receiver going into his second year.
Denver Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (Achillies') is sheduled to count $12.94 million against the salary cap in 2019, but he appears to have no interest in restructuring his contract entering the final year of his deal. Denver has until March 12 to exercise his 2019 option, which would trigger a $1.5 million guarantee of his salary. In the event they choose to release him, the Broncos will save $10.25 million against the cap.