Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs past Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson (23) in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, right, is pressured by dIndianapolis Colts' Denico Autry (96) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) hands off to running back Derrick Henry in the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) passes against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook scores on a 1-yard touchdown run ahead of Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The thriving veteran quarterback. The game-controlling rushing attack. The premier pass rusher. Those are some of the strengths the Tennessee Titans will take with them to Minnesota.
The Vikings could be forgiven for harboring envy, after all, for these are attributes they thought they had.
Instead, the Vikings will try to reverse course from their troubling start and pick up their first victory of this abnormal season against the unbeaten Titans, the type of team they want to be.
''We've made too many mistakes. We've had turnovers, penalties. If you go back and look at the times that we've been here, the identity of our team has always been tough and physical and smart and not beating ourselves,'' said coach Mike Zimmer, who has his only 0-2 start in seven years with the Vikings. ''So we're going to have to fix that.''
The Vikings, who've been outscored 37-13 in the first half in runaways by Green Bay and Indianapolis, are last in the NFL in time of possession and second-to-last in turnover margin. Kirk Cousins posted the worst passer rating of his career against the Colts, Dalvin Cook has had scant opportunities to get in a ball-carrying groove, and defensive end Danielle Hunter has been sidelined since a reported neck injury at the beginning of training camp.
The Titans, on the flip side, have won their first two games for the first time since 2008, when they began 10-0. After defeating Denver by two points and beating Jacksonville by a field goal, the Titans have plenty of room for improvement. This is largely the same team that reached the AFC championship game last season, though, with Ryan Tannehill leading the league in passer rating and Derrick Henry winning the NFL rushing title. They've since added three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, on a one-year, $13 million contract to give the defense a boost.
After investing long term in Tannehill, bringing back all but one starter on an offense featuring budding stars in wide receiver A.J. Brown and tight end Jonnu Smith and bolstering the pass rush with Clowney and Vic Beasley, the Titans have high expectations. That would explain their discomfort with their overall performance over the first two games.
''You would think in this locker room that we're 0-2,'' left tackle Taylor Lewan said. ''We're focused, which I think is different than I've seen in past years.''
HERE COMES HENRY
Though the Titans have been seeking more efficiency in their rushing attack while ranking just 26th in the NFL in yards per attempt, Henry is a powerful runner behind an imposing offensive line with the potential to perpetuate problems the Vikings have had along their front four. Shamar Stephen is the only starter currently in place from last season, and he had to move tackle spots after free agent addition Michael Pierce opted out due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
''Zimmer coaches a sound defense. They always put a tough team out on the field and guys in the right spots. I have a ton of respect,'' Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. ''Obviously, the scores probably don't indicate the level of execution that they actually played with.''
The Titans have been vulnerable against the run, too. After ranking 12th in the league last season, surrendering an average of 104.5 rushing yards per game, Tennessee is just 23rd in the NFL after letting undrafted Jaguars rookie James Robinson run for 102 yards last week on an average of 6.4 yards per carry. Missing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who's now with Denver, the Titans allowed Jacksonville to convert 10 of 14 third downs.
TEN FOR TANNEHILL?
Tannehill, the NFL comeback player of the year for 2019, tied his career high with four touchdown passes against the Jaguars has thrown for six scores without an interceptions this season. He has at least two touchdown passes with one or fewer interceptions in nine straight games. If he does that again Sunday against the Vikings, the ninth-year player would become the fourth quarterback in NFL history with such a streak of 10 consecutive games, joining Aaron Rodgers (13 in 2011), Tom Brady (11 in 2010-11) and Philip Rivers (10 in 2017-18).
In the 12 regular-season games they've played since Tannehill took over as the starter, the Titans have 130 fourth-quarter points, the most in the league. The Vikings are second with 119.
SIDELINED, BOTH SIDES
The Titans could be without Brown for a second straight game because of a bone bruise in his knee, and they've got some injury issues at cornerback. Malcolm Butler (quadriceps) was limited in practice Thursday, and the other original starter, Adoree' Jackson (knee), was placed on injured reserve last week. Backups Johnathan Joseph (calf) and Chris Jackson (hamstring) were also on the injury report this week.
The Vikings, who lost four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Anthony Barr for the season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered against the Colts, are in rough shape at cornerback with Mike Hughes (neck) and Cameron Dantzler (rib) iffy for Sunday.
Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. was forced to leave the game against the New England Patriots with a leg/ankle injury. Wilson had just scored his third touchdown of the day, and was in the midst of a career game, but was noticeably injured on the play and had issues standing up on his own. He had to be carted to the locker room, and will be evaluated further, but it certainly seems like he's done for the day and it also didn't look like a minor injury. Stay tuned for further updates.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 22 of 28 passes for 297 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception in a 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. Mayfield's five touchdown passes sets a new career-high, beating his previous best of four TD tosses which he did back in Week 12 of the 2018 season. Even more impressive, he did so without star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. for almost the entire game after Beckham was injured on the second offensive play of the game for Cleveland. Mayfield found rookie tight end Harrison Bryant for scores twice, Kareem Hunt once, and Donovan Peoples-Jones for the game-winning score with 15 seconds left in the game. Mayfield shoots back up to the high-end QB2 ranks after his big game. He now has 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions through seven games. He will face the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris hauled in four of five targets for 44 receiving yards, including his first career receiving score. Harris' score was crucial, as it came with just seconds left in the first half, giving New Orleans a 21-17 lead heading into the locker room. The dynamic return man flashed some receiving ability at Division II Assumption University, so he's certainly capable if the Saints need some more receiving work out of him. With Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) out, Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) up in the air, and Marquez Callaway (ankle) banged up- Harris could be worth a look on the waiver wire in deep leagues.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (head) will not return to Sunday's matchup against the Chiefs. On a snowy, sloppy day in the Mile-High City, the 26-year-old suffered a concussion shortly before the end of the first half. Before his departure, he had nine attempts for 79 yards. Melvin Gordon, who also has nine carries, will likely serve as the featured back for the remainder of the contest. With more news to come, possibly sometime on Monday, fantasy managers will want to monitor this situation ahead of Denver's Week 8 against the Chargers.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith was targeted just four times but caught all four, totaling 56 receiving yards in a win over the Panthers. It wasn't the volume fantasy managers were hoping for from Smith, as he took a backseat to undrafted rookie Marquez Callaway (ankle). However, Smith really could be the lone wolf in the receiving room next week, especially if Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring), Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19), and Callaway are all out for a Week 8 matchup against the Bears.
The Washington Football Team defense had another good game against a banged-up offense as they dominated the Andy Dalton-led Cowboys. Dallas was playing without several starters on the offensive line and Washington took advantage as they sacked Dalton six times with one sack leading to a safety. Cole Holcomb led the charge for Washington with an interception and a sack from the middle linebacker position. In all, Washington allowed three points, recorded six sacks, a safety, and an interception on a great day for fantasy managers. The Football Team will have a bye in Week 8 but have another juicy matchup versus the Giants in Week 9 where they will be a startable unit in fantasy.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green had seven catches (13 targets) for 82 yards during the loss to the Browns on Sunday. The veteran recorded another convincing performance against Cleveland while combining for 15 receptions (24 targets) over the team's previous two contests. Although fantasy managers may not see this type of production against the Titans in Week 8, he could have some more favorable outings over Cincy's remaining nine games, especially if Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd continue to open things up for him.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway caught eight of 10 targets for 75 receiving yards in a 27-24 victory over Carolina. Callaway led the team in targets in the absences of both Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Somewhat quietly, the 22-year old rookie has compiled 16 targets over his last two contests. With Sanders definitely out and Thomas's status looking murky, Callaway makes for an interesting waiver add. He did sustain an ankle injury and had to be helped off the field to the locker room. If Callaway's ankle isn't anything serious, fantasy managers should consider him as a streaming option against Chicago.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense didn't fare well in Week 7 despite being matched up against a Washington Football Team that was allowing the third most fantasy points to opposing fantasy defenses. The Cowboys defense allowed 23 points, recording two sacks but no turnovers. The Cowboys will take on the Eagles in the battle of bad NFC East defenses next week, where they will not be a recommended fantasy option.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught all five of his targets to finish with 71 yards and a touchdown against the Browns on Sunday. The rookie now has three touchdowns on the year, finding the end zone for the first time since Week 3 against the Eagles. With Joe Burrow leading a pass-heavy attack for Cincy, Higgins may continue to benefit, especially with Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green drawing the attention needed to open things up for him over the remaining nine games of his inaugural season.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught 11 of his 13 targets to finish the Week 7 matchup against the Browns with 101 yards and a score. After fizzling out against the Colts last Sunday, the 25-year-old recorded one of his most convincing performances of the 2020 campaign. Boyd has now logged at least eight targets in five of Cincy's seven contests and should continue to benefit from the stellar play of rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow. However, things may get difficult for the former Pittsburgh Panther in Week 8 against the Titans, with Tennessee looking to rebound after suffering its first defeat of the year against the Steelers.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted a field goal in Week 7, and it was good for the only three points the Cowboys scored in an ugly 25-3 loss to the Washington Football Team. Zuerlein made his kick from 45 yards out and was never on the field on offense again. The Dallas offense is in total shambles, possibly moving Zuerlein out of the top-15 fantasy kickers going forward. He should continue to be solid, but may not get enough opportunities to score significant fantasy points.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup came up empty in a rough Week 7 loss. Gallup was targeted twice but couldn't come down with either pass, ending up with a blank box score and zero fantasy points. Gallup was working as a field stretcher with Dak Prescott around, but now with Andy Dalton and possibly Ben DiNucci throwing the ball for the Cowboys, Gallup seems much more likely to hit the "bust" part of his boom-or-bust fantasy outlook.
Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas caught all four of his targets for 60 yards and a touchdown in a Week 7 win over the Cowboys. Thomas played second-fiddle to Terry McLaurin in the passing game as no other Washington player had more than two targets. Thomas made them count catching several big passes to move the chains while finding the end zone for the third time this season. Thomas has had an up-and-down season but is getting enough weekly targets to be considered a borderline starter in 12-team fantasy leagues. He'll be a touchdown-dependant starter in his next matchup in Week 9 versus the Giants.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard racked up 37 yards off 13 carries during the heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Browns. He also added five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. The veteran filled in admirably for Joe Mixon (foot), who is considered week-to-week after being injured during the Week 6 encounter with the Colts. At this point, the 28-year-old has likely found a home on fantasy rosters. However, if he is still floating around the waiver wire, managers should pick him up before it's too late, especially if Mixon cannot suit up against the Titans in Week 8. Although Bernard isn't the most efficient runner, he should continue to benefit from the team's pass-heavy offense.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray posted 56 scrimmage yards on 12 total touches in a victory over the Panthers. Murray's 4.3 yards per carry were a bit skewed, as he picked up 25 yards on one run and just 22 yards on the other 10 carries. Still, the opportunity Murray is getting is encouraging for those who have him rostered, as the coaching staff clearly trusts him. It bears repeating, but if something were to happen to Alvin Kamara, Murray would be an easy start as an RB1.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin posted a 7-90-1 line versus the Cowboys to help lead Washington to a win over their division rival. The sophomore receiver was a huge part of the game plan against a bad Dallas secondary as McLaurin was targeted 11 times, his fourth game this season with double-digit targets. It could have been an even bigger game for McLaurin but he came up inches short of the goal line on his first catch of the game. He made up for it a couple of drives later as he torched Trevon Diggs for a 52-yard score. McLaurin doesn't operate in the NFL's most electrifying offense, but his combination of skill and target-floor make him one of the best WR options in fantasy. He'll have another solid matchup with the Giants in Week 9 after the bye.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara carried the ball 14 times for 83 rushing yards and caught all eight targets for 65 receiving yards in a 27-24 win. The 83 rushing yards tied a season-high for Kamara, as the running room was easy to find against Carolina's ground defense. Amazingly, the star halfback has exceeded 100 scrimmage yards in every game but one- and he ended up with two scores in that contest to salvage his day. There might be no better player to roster in fantasy football right now, so managers should keep riding the Kamara wave into a Week 8 contest against a Bears Defense that can be had on the ground.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) will have an MRI performed on Monday. The veteran was forced out of Sunday's matchup against the Bengals after injuring his left knee in the first quarter. Although the team fears the worst, fantasy managers should wait until official confirmation before hitting the panic button. Heading into Week 7, the 27-year-old grabbed 23 of his 42 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz made two catches in Week 7, gaining 22 yards. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Schultz ended up second on the team in both catches and receiving yards. He was targeted four times in a game in which the Cowboys couldn't do much of anything on offense. Even if Andy Dalton (head) is able to play next week, Schultz may be no better than a mid-range TE2. Things are rough on both sides of the ball in Dallas right now.