Wed Nov 25 5:01pm ET
By STEVEN WINE
AP Sports Writer
Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) forces Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon (25) to fumble the football during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) is hit by Miami Dolphins free safety Eric Rowe (21) as outside linebacker Elandon Roberts (44) and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (98) defend during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Denver. The Broncos won 20-13. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) yells after forcing a fumble against the Denver Broncos during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Denver. The Dolphins recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
MIAMI (AP) While the Miami Dolphins are much improved in the past 12 months, their run defense is still far from championship caliber, which might keep them out of the playoffs.
The Dolphins gave up 189 yards rushing in last week's loss at Denver, an indication there has been no improvement since Week 1, when they allowed 217 in a loss at New England.
''We didn't do a good enough job, obviously,'' cornerback Byron Jones said. ''It comes down to simple stuff. It's setting edges, tackling, eliminating blocks, not staying blocked and making tackles and all of that good stuff. It really comes down to individual effort.''
The Dolphins' run defense makes even Sunday's matchup against the New York Jets potentially problematic. The Jets are 0-10 and lost 24-0 at Miami in Week 6, but they're averaging a respectable 4.2 yards per carry and are sure to test the Dolphins' weakness.
The Dolphins are 6-4 and in the mix for their first AFC East title since 2008, and defense has been a big part of their surprising success. They're tied for third in the NFL with 17 takeaways, and rank fourth in points allowed at 20.2 per game.
But coach Brian Flores' blitz-happy approach is most effective when the Dolphins have a lead and can dial up the pass pressure to force mistakes, which was their recipe during a recent five-game winning streak.
Last week they fell behind, and Denver used its ground game to keep gashing Miami's multiple fronts. The Broncos' pulling guards on power sweeps made them look like the Vince Lombardi Packers, and their rushing total was a season high.
''Miami plays some fronts that were popular in the '60s,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. ''Because of the way they play their defense, those runs were appealing to us.''
That neutralized the Dolphins' high-risk, high-reward scheme, and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer acknowledged he lost the chess match.
''There are numerous ways that, when we're moving around, people have tried to attack us,'' Boyer said. ''Some things have been more successful than others. There are ways for us to combat that. It comes down to just putting the players in a good position based on situation.''
Personnel is also a problem. End Emmanuel Ogbah has eight sacks, but sometimes struggles to set the edge. Rookie tackle Raekwon Davis has been stout, but interior depth could be better. Veteran newcomer Kyle Van Noy hasn't made the expected impact at linebacker while battling injuries.
One of Miami's best run stoppers has been linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, a fifth-round draft pick last year. But like his teammates, Van Ginkel was too often left grasping for air by the Broncos' Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, who each topped 80 yards while averaging more than 5.0 yards a carry.
''Anytime the backs run like that and we can't defend it, that's a lot of stress on our defense,'' Van Ginkel said. ''It's something we've got to improve.''
The Dolphins are allowing 134 yards rushing per game and 4.8 per carry, which ranks 27th and 29th in the NFL.
It's not a new problem; it's a problem second-year coach Flores has yet to fix. Miami ranked 24th or worse in run defense six of the past seven years.
''We've got to make better adjustments as a staff,'' Flores said, ''and our players have to play better.''
Otherwise, the Dolphins' playoff drought will likely continue.
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 12
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on a Bears Defense that is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing passers this season. Rodgers is having a fantastic season, throwing for 280+ passing yards in seven of his last eight games and has 23 touchdowns during that span. The veteran passer is having an MVP-caliber campaign but will have a tough test in Week 12. The Bears defense has not allowed a 20+-point fantasy game to a quarterback all season and have allowed 12 passing touchdowns all season. Rodgers has plenty of experience playing the Bears over the years and, while he needs to be in starting lineups across all fantasy formats, Rodgers numbers could be suppressed in Week 12.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook will take on a Panthers Defense in Week 12 that is allowing the fifth most fantasy points to opposing backs. Cook is having a career season and already has 1,069 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns with a month left to play. He will go up against a Panthers defense that has allowed 20+ fantasy points to five different opposing runners this season and seven different runners have posted at least 90 all-purpose yards against them. Cook is one of the top fantasy players of 2020 and should provide top-notch production again in Week 12.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson will need to step up his game if teammate Adam Thielen (COVID-Reserve List) cannot play in Week 12 against the Panthers. The rookie is averaging 18.8 yards per catch and has emerged as one of the most explosive receivers in the NFC. Jefferson will take on a Panthers Defense that is allowing the eighth fewest fantasy points to the wide receivers position this season. Jefferson has four 100+-yard games under his belt this season and Carolina has allowed 10 different players to post 10 fantasy points or more against them. If Thielen cannot suit up, Jefferson is an easy WR2 call, with a ceiling for higher, in Week 12.
Detroit Lions wide receivers Kenny Golladay (hip) and Danny Amendola (hip) and rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah (shoulder) have been ruled out for the Thanksgiving game on Thursday against the Texans. Golladay has been out since Week 8 and will miss his fourth straight game. With both receivers out, Mohamed Sanu was signed to the active roster, where he'll provide depth behind Marvin Jones Jr., Marvin Hall and rookie Quintez Cephus. The Lions passing attack should rely mostly on Jones and tight end T.J. Hockenson against Houston. Jones has 15 catches on 20 targets for 190 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games with Golladay sidelined. He'll be a strong WR2 for fantasy lineups on Thursday.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing his best football of the season heading into the team's Week 12 matchup against the Panthers. Over his last three games, Cousins has eight touchdown passes and is averaging 275.3 passing yards a game during that span. The Vikings will now face a Panthers Defense that is allowing the 12th fewest fantasy points to opposing passers. But offenses have had some success against Carolina over the last five games, however, as the Panthers have allowed 10 total touchdowns and an average of 291.8 passing yards a game during that span. Cousins has a chance to post top-12 numbers among the quarterback position in Week 12.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins had his best game of the season in a win over the Patriots last week, hauling in five of six targets for 83 receiving yards. Akins seemed to separate himself a bit from Darren Fells and Pharaoh Brown last week, though he's still not a given to produce in this matchup against the Lions. To make matters worse, the Lions have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. It might be tempting to turn to Akins as a streamer, but it's a bit too risky at the moment. He's in the TE2 range, though he's more touchdown-dependent than fantasy managers would like.
Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift (concussion) is listed as questionable for Thursday's Thanksgiving game against the Texans. Swift didn't practice on Monday but was limited on both Tuesday and Wednesday, giving himself a chance to return to action this week after he sat out in Week 11. Consider the 21-year-old a game-time decision for now, but he should operate as the team's lead back if he's active, which would put him in the RB2 conversation against a Texans Defense that has allowed 12 total rushing touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing rushers. If Swift misses another game, Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson would split backfield work and would be unappetizing RB3/flex options in deeper leagues.
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that he expects quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) to play in Week 12 against the Vikings. Bridgewater returned to practice on Wednesday after sitting out in the Week 11 win over the Lions and appears to be on track to return to the starting gig. P.J. Walker took over the starting duties last week but should revert to a backup role if Bridgewater is active. The Vikings Defense has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to the QB position, so Bridgewater has a chance to be a solid QB2 streamer for fantasy managers in a bind. However, the Panthers offense is expected to be without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) for the third straight game.
The Indianapolis Colts placed standout defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. It's unclear if Buckner tested positive for the virus himself or if he was deemed a high-risk close contact of someone else who tested positive. Either way, his status is in question for Week 12 against the division-rival Titans. If you've been using Buckner as your defensive lineman in IDP leagues, you need to have a backup plan ready to go. The 26-year-old ranks as the No. 16 defensive lineman in terms of IDP points so far in 2020. Losing him this weekend would be a huge blow to Indy's defensive line while they hope to slow down Titans running back Derrick Henry. Buckner, a 2019 second-team All-Pro with the 49ers, has 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss this season.
Houston Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee stepped up in the absence of receivers Randall Cobb (toe) and Kenny Stills (quadriceps), who both had to leave last week's contest. Coutee hauled in a touchdown in the win over New England. Coutee has seen at least seven targets five times in his career and has exceeded 50 receiving yards each time. The Lions' secondary is poor, but they could devote extra resources to stopping Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks, leaving the slot open to Coutee. The floor is very low for Coutee, but the ceiling could be through the roof in this great matchup.
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule doesn't expect running back Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) to play in Week 12 against the Vikings. McCaffrey was wearing a non-contact red jersey at practice on Wednesday, but he's been unlikely to play all along this week. The 24-year-old All-Pro will miss his third straight game after coming off a six-week absence for a high-ankle sprain that he suffered in Week 2. The Panthers will play it safe and rest McCaffrey with their bye coming next week. Backup Mike Davis will once again be the featured running back and will have RB1 upside against Minnesota. Those who have been benefiting from McCaffrey's absence for most of the year with Davis will likely have just one more week to use the backup in starting lineups.
Houston Texans wide receiver Brandin Cooks faces a great matchup on Thanksgiving against the Lions. Aside from the wet, windy contest in Cleveland, Cooks has exceeded 60 receiving yards in five of six games with three touchdowns. Those are good enough numbers to view the former Ram as a weekly starter, especially with the Lions' 25th-ranked pass defense on tap. Look for Cooks to break loose for a big play against a Detroit defense that has struggled to contain such plays this season. Cooks is a strong WR2 in Week 12.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V has a great matchup on tap against the Lions. Having already set a new career-high in receiving yards, Fuller will set his sights on a Lions' defense that ranks 25th in the NFL in pass defense. They've also been prone to big plays through the air, which should benefit the 26-year old speedster on Thanksgiving day. Fuller is ranked in the WR2 range, though the upside for a WR1 finish is there this week.
Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson has largely been ineffective as the team's starter in place of the injured David Johnson (head). Duke Johnson has averaged nearly 16 touches per game but has failed to eclipse 70 scrimmage yards in two of three contests as the starter. The Lions possess the third-worst run defense in the league and have allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs. Johnson is hard to trust after his subpar efforts, though his RB2-level workload and dream matchup makes him worth going back to on Thanksgiving day. He's ideal as a flex play, though he does have RB2 upside in this matchup.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has been an excellent fantasy signal-caller this season. Watson currently sits as the QB6 and aside from a windy, messy game against Cleveland, he's finished as a QB1 in five of his last six games. On the table for Watson is a Thanksgiving matchup with the Lions' 25th-ranked pass defense that has surrendered the ninth-most plays through the air of 20 yards or more. The former Clemson star is as consistent as they come and should be started as an elite QB1 in Week 12. He has the upside to finish as the overall QB1 this week.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown hasn't been the most impactful option during the 2020 campaign. After finishing Week 1 with 101 yards off five catches, Hollywood's production has fizzled since by surpassing four catches in a game just once. A few weeks ago against New England, he caught an underwhelming two of his seven targets, and in Week 11 against the Titans, he was held without a grab. While Brown always has the potential to pick up some significant gains, the odds aren't in his favor on Sunday night against an efficient Steelers Defense. For the fantasy managers who still have the 23-year-old on their roster, it may be wise to have him sitting in Week 12.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen's status for Week 12 against the Panthers remains up in the air after he tested positive for COVID-19. Head coach Mike Zimmer said on Wednesday that he doesn't know if Thielen will be cleared to play on Sunday. The team's top wideout was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, but NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that Thielen also had a negative test. Further testing will determine if it was a false positive. Fantasy manager need to keep a close eye on this situation, as the 30-year-old wideout is a must-start if he's cleared after he scored two touchdowns in Week 11. Rookie Justin Jefferson would be quarterback Kirk Cousins' primary target if Thielen were to be ruled out.
Houston Texans wide receivers Kenny Stills (quadriceps) and Randall Cobb (toe) have both been ruled out for the Thanksgiving game on Thursday against the Lions and will not travel with the team. Cobb is dealing with a significant toe injury and will miss several more games. With both Stills and Cobb out this Thursday, Keke Coutee should be elevated to three-receiver sets alongside Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks. Coutee has just four catches for 21 yards and a touchdown in two games played this year, but he'll be a deep DFS sleeper on Thanksgiving against a very generous Lions Defense. Tight ends Darren Fells and Jordan Akins could see more targets as well, but the main beneficiaries should be Fuller and Cooks.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) has arrived at practice on Wednesday and will work in a non-contact red jersey. It's progress for McCaffrey, but it was reported earlier this week that he's expected to miss the Week 12 game against the Vikings. The All-Pro running back hasn't been officially ruled out yet, though, so fantasy managers will need to continue checking on his progress in practice this week. McCaffrey, who has played in just three games this year due to shoulder and ankle injuries, could sit out another game with Carolina's bye coming in Week 13. The 24-year-old is on the wrong side of questionable right now. Mike Davis would be in line for a featured role once again if McCaffrey sits, making him a low-end RB1 for fantasy managers.
The Cincinnati Bengals placed wide receiver Auden Tate and offensive guard/center B.J. Finney on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. The Bengals reported that they had someone test positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, but they haven't disclosed exactly who that player was. Either way, both players availability for Week 12 against the Giants is in jeopardy this weekend. Tate has only 14 receptions on 20 targets for 150 yards in eight games in his third season with Cincinnati. The 23-year-old is not a fantasy option while behind wideouts Tyler Boyd, rookie Tee Higgins and veteran A.J. Green on the receiving depth chart, especially now that rookie quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) is out for the season.