Fri Nov 27 5:22pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) warms up before an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts as he leaves the field after throwing an intrception to Los Angeles Rams strong safety Jordan Fuller during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid reacts after a play against the Las Vegas Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs aren't buying all the talk about Tom Brady's struggles. They insist he's still playing at a high level and will have to be at their best to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The reigning Super Bowl champions (9-1) visit the Bucs (7-4) on Sunday, with Patrick Mahomes facing Brady for the fourth time in his young career and Brady looking to shrug off a couple of subpar performances against playoff contenders.
''You can't take anything away from Tom Brady. He's still very smart, he's still trying to throw the ball downfield, he still has the weapons. We'll have our hands full,'' Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said.
''He's played against our system a number of times, even going back to New England,'' Mathieu added. ''He's familiar with us. Now we have to get familiar with him and the weapons he has.''
Brady won two of the previous three matchups against Mahomes, including an overtime thriller in the AFC championship game two seasons ago.
The six-time Super Bowl champion played poorly in home losses to New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams two of the past three weeks. Still, Kansas City coach Andy Reid cautioned against anyone writing off the 43-year-old quarterback.
Despite Brady's recent struggles, particularly on deep passes, the Bucs have already matched their victory total from all of last season and remain in prime position to end a 12-year playoff drought that's the second longest in the NFL.
''He's unbelievable. He's a great player, a Hall of Fame player. We're lucky enough to have a chance to be in this era where we get to play him,'' Reid said.
''He's old, and it's hard to tell he's old,'' Reid added. ''And that's a tribute to how he takes care of himself, and the care and living he does all the way around, from diet to workout to everything.''
The Chiefs have won five straight, the eighth consecutive year they've had a streak at least that long.
They avenged their lone loss last week a 35-31 victory at Las Vegas, with Mahomes throwing for 348 yards and two TDs.
Mahomes, who's thrown for just over 312 yards per game with 14 TDs and one interception during Kansas City's winning streak, was as surprised as anyone that Brady left the Patriots to sign with Tampa Bay in free agency last March.
''But he's in a great spot. They've got a lot of weapons there,'' Mahomes said, looking ahead to another head-to-head meeting.
''I don't think it's going to feel very much different. It's still a very good football team that's playing really good football and winning a lot of games,'' Mahomes added. ''I know it's going to be a really big challenge for us.''
Brady threw a pair of costly interceptions and was 0 for 6 on passes traveling at least 20 yards in last week's 27-24 loss to the Rams. He's 0 for 19 on such throws over the past three games, which includes a 38-3 loss to the Saints.
The struggles have raised questions about whether the offense Brady is being asked to run following a historic 20-year stint with the Patriots is suited to what he does best.
Bucs coach Bruce Arians concedes the offense has been inconsistent, but attributes that to a lack of continuity caused in part by teams not having a usual offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic and injuries that have forced lineup changes and limited practice time for some players.
''He can do anything, so it's not like he can't do it,'' Arians said, responding to critics who suggest the problem is the offensive scheme, which stresses pushing the ball downfield.
''We've had the guys open. We've just missed them,'' Arians said.
''Each and every week is so different, but when they're there, we need to hit them,'' the coach added. ''We can't have them going off our fingertips, and we can't overthrow them.''
Brady has lots of good things to say about Mahomes and the Chiefs, who lead the league in scoring at 32.1 points per game.
''He's a terrific player, obviously. ... They've got their offense rolling,'' Brady said. ''I feel continuity is probably the most critical aspect of consistent performance. ... They've been in that system for a while. Coach Reid's been there for a while. He's a great coach. ... They've been tough to beat for a lot of years now.''
WIDE RECEIVER ROOM
The Chiefs should be welcoming back wide receiver Sammy Watkins from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since Week 5 just in time.
They lost Byron Pringle, who had been one of the bright spots in their wideout corps this season, to an ankle injury last week that landed him on injured reserve. Their only other healthy wide receivers on the 53-man roster are Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman.
The Chiefs have won the past two weeks despite allowing 31 points each to Carolina and Las Vegas. The Panthers threw for 331 yards while running for 104 during their game at Arrowhead Stadium before the bye week, and Derek Carr led the Raiders to 364 yards of total offense - and if not for a touchdown in the closing seconds, a win - last Sunday.
''Every football game won't be a blowout. Every football game won't be a dominant defensive performance,'' Mathieu said, ''but what our fans should see is us playing hard. Sticking together, no matter what, whether we're up by 50 or down by 50. It's about us staying together.''
Arians rejects the notion that some of Tampa Bay's problems on offense are related to having too many playmakers on the roster. With their only being one ball, how could Brady possibly keep Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Ronald Jones, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy happy?
''I don't think there's such a thing. ... I don't think you can have too many good players,'' Arians said. ''Looking at the team coming in here this week, I don't think they have a problem with having too many really good players.''
Five Hot Plays: Week 12
The Raiders defense has allowed 30 points or more in six of 10 games this season and take on a streaky Falcons offense this week. The Falcons offense has scored at least 25 points in six of their 10 games, so this game has the makings of a high-scoring contest. The Raiders defense has just 11 sacks so far this season but may be able to take advantage of a Falcons offensive line that has allowed 27 sacks. Matt Ryan has also been susceptible to some interceptions with seven on the season. With all this being said, the Raiders defense is mostly unreliable and will likely get a couple fantasy points at best.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette gets a great matchup in Week 12 against the Chiefs. Fournette was out-touched by Ronald Jones II last week, though he was on the field for more snaps in a negative game script. With the high-flying Chiefs offense on the other side, Tampa Bay will need to put up points to keep up. The Chiefs have also surrendered at least four receptions to running backs in five contests this year- and Fournette has operated as the team's pass-catching back. He's a solid flex play this week, though he likely has better prospects in PPR formats.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller is a must-start TE1 option this week against the Falcons Defense. The Falcons defenses are one of the worst teams in the league against the pass and rank 23rd against opposing tight ends. Waller is the Raiders' No. 1 offensive weapon and is coming off a great performance against the Chiefs where he caught seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging more than nine targets and six receptions per game this season, so it is reasonable to expect a very good fantasy performance against a poor Falcons defense. Look for Waller to have a big day in Week 12.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow has three straight games with just two catches, and he only played in 34 percent of the team's snaps last week against the Chiefs. Renfrow has gone for less than 40 yards in half of his games this season and has gone for 60 yards or more only twice. He is averaging right around three catches for about 40 yards per game this season, and he only has two touchdowns. He is definitely not a starter in eight or 10-team fantasy formats but has borderline flex value in deeper leagues if your lineup is stretched thin. Renfrow's ceiling is extremely low and should only be started as a last resort.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II has a good matchup on tap against the Chiefs in Week 12. Kansas City has allowed the seventh-most rushing yards and the eighth-most receiving yards per game to opposing running backs this year. Jones' snap percentages have been maddening over the last five weeks- 43, 24, 32, 59, and 36 percent. It's quite clear the coaching staff likes what they have with Jones and Leonard Fournette, though there could be enough room for both to have good fantasy days this week in what projects as a high-scoring contest. Jones is best utilized as a high-upside flex play this week.
The New York Giants Defense is one of the best starts in fantasy football for their Week 12 game at Cincinnati. With rookie sensation Joe Burrow (knee) out for the season, the Bengals will turn to Brandon Allen at quarterback. Allen was on the practice squad for Cincinnati until this week and has just three career starts, all last season with Denver. Expect Cincinnati to be conservative with the ball, but there's always hope for a miscue or a big defensive play when facing an inexperienced quarterback. The Giants defense should be universally started this week.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy announced on Friday that quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will start in Week 12 against the division-rival Packers. However, with Nick Foles (hip) doubtful to play, Nagy made no assurances that Trubisky would keep the starting job beyond this Sunday. Trubisky started the year under center but was benched in favor of Foles in Week 3. He played one snap in Week 8 and injured his shoulder, causing him to miss the last two games. Trubisky has been extremely inconsistent throwing the football, but his rushing ability could give the Bears offense and fantasy managers more upside against Green Bay. Still, the Packers Defense has been pretty tough against opposing QBs this year, and Trubisky is nothing more than a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues as he returns to the starting role.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is poised to face off with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 12. Brady comes into the contest licking his wounds a bit, as he has five touchdown passes and as many interceptions in his past three games. However, the Tampa Bay offense will have to put up points to keep up with the defending champs, who lead the league in points per game. The 46-point explosion a couple of weeks ago against Carolina showed the kind of upside the Buccaneers have when everything is clicking. Two of Brady's last three meetings with the Chiefs have been high-scoring affairs with at least 70 points put up on the board. At worst, the veteran signal-caller will be a low-end QB1, though he has some serious upside his week.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder) wasn't listed on the team's final injury report on Friday and will start in Week 12 against the Patriots. Murray was bothered by a shoulder injury in the Week 11 loss to the Seahawks last Thursday, but he played through it and was always expected to be available this weekend against New England despite being limited in practice this week. The second-year signal-caller might not be 100 percent on Sunday and may not look to run as much as he normally would, but he's still a top-five fantasy QB and needs to be in all fantasy lineups. He won't have veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald due to COVID-19 and All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore will likely be covering DeAndre Hopkins, but Murray's elite athleticism should allow him to overcome and put up QB1-worthy numbers.
The Los Angeles Chargers activated cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (foot) from Injured Reserve on Friday and placed defensive end Melvin Ingram () on IR in a corresponding move. Harris hasn't played since Week 3, but he's not a lock to be active this weekend against the Bills. The Bolts could certainly use him to slow down the Buffalo offense, though, with cornerback Casey Hayward being ruled out with an injury. This will be Ingram's second stint on IR in 2020. The former 18th overall pick in 2012 has just 10 tackles, one interception and no sacks in seven games this year and may not make it back at this point in the season. Avoid the Chargers Defense in Week 12 against a high-octane Bills offense.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (concussion) is practicing in full on Friday and is expected to play in Week 12 against the Giants. Bernard is officially listed as questionable, but fantasy managers should consider him on the right side of that designation. He should continue to see the lion's share of touches in the backfield with Joe Mixon on Injured Reserve, but Bernard's fantasy ceiling could be capped with Brandon Allen taking over under center after rookie quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 11. Bernard disappointed last week against Washington, carrying the ball nine times for 18 yards and catching four passes for 37 yards. He's more of an RB3/flex for fantasy managers in PPR leagues against New York and a defense that has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game to RBs.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton has been a boom-or-bust option for fantasy all season long, but has a solid matchup on tap for Week 12. Slayton has three games this season with 90-plus yards but also has three games with under 35 yards. His volume has been unpredictable as well as he logged seven targets last game after being targeted only once the week prior. Cincinnati, however, is a beatable secondary as they've allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in the last four weeks. Slayton is a zero-floor, high-upside flex option versus the Bengals.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Week 12 against the Raiders. Jones was limited in practice earlier this week but was expected to be a game-time decision all along, so fantasy managers will need to check back Sunday morning. A must-start in single-year formats if he's active, the 31-year-old continues to battle nagging injuries. Still, you'll want to fade Jones in DFS and temper expectations for him if he's active in single-season formats, as he was limited in Week 11 against the Saints and caught both of his targets for just 39 yards. The All-Pro wideout has just three touchdowns on the season and hasn't seen double-digit targets since Week 8. If Jones sits out, Calvin Ridley should see double-digit targets and will have a high-end WR1 ceiling. Russell Gage, Christian Blake and Olamide Zaccheaus would see more playing time as well, if Jones were to be inactive.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III has mostly moved himself off the fantasy radar for the time-being. He has just eight catches for 79 yards over his last five games, so there is nothing to suggest he is worthy of starting in fantasy lineups. He is still listed as No. 2 on the Raiders' depth chart, but he is probably considered the fifth option in the offense. Ruggs has a chance to break loose in a porous Falcons secondary this week, but the big play is highly volatile to rely on for fantasy relevance. Ruggs comes with a lot more risk than reward this week, so fantasy owners can mostly feel comfortable keeping him on the bench.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II (knee) has been ruled out for Week 12 against the Raiders. Gurley missed practice all week after being limited in the second half in Week 11. The former Rams running back has a long history of knee issues, so this could be an injury that lingers and forces him to miss more games to finish the 2020 season. Fantasy managers need to remove the 26-year-old from their starting lineups and go in another direction. Backup Brian Hill immediately becomes a priority waiver-wire pickup this weekend, especially for Gurley owners, and will have RB2 plug-and-play upside. The Raiders defense has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points per game to the running back position. Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison will help spell Hill in the backfield with Gurley out this Sunday.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard has been a favorite target of QB Daniel Jones since Shepard returned from a toe injury in Week 7. In that span, Shepard leads the team in targets and has at least six receptions in every game. He should be able to take advantage of a Bengals secondary that allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers in the last four weeks. Shepard has a good target share and a good matchup, his main risk is the Giants leading early and throwing less than 30 passes. Shepard's high-floor makes him a solid-yet-unspectacular start in 12-team fantasy leagues and larger.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson's positive COVID-19 test came in on Thursday's round of testing, so he still won't be available to play against the Steelers in Week 12 with the game being moved back to Tuesday. However, based on the timeline, it's possible that he will be cleared in time to face the Cowboys on Dec. 7 on Monday night in Week 13. Jackson's disappointing 2020 season continues after he won the MVP in 2019. His absence this week will lead to Robert Griffin III making the start under center on Tuesday. RG3 could be a desperation option in superflex leagues as a low-end QB2, but he'll be facing a Steelers Defense that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to the position this year. Pittsburgh's defense is arguably the best in the NFL.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Nelson Agholor had his most catches of the season last week against the Chiefs with 6. He had 88 receiving yards and a touchdown. However, Agholor's consistency is a major issue from week to week. Prior to last week, Agholor had just three total catches in the three previous games. He has a great matchup this week against the Falcons to put together good back-to-back performances. Agholor is typically a big-play receiver, and the Falcons Defense is one of the worst in the league at allowing the big play. He has flex value in this matchup, but his inconsistency makes him a risky play.
The 49ers Defense has been pummeled over their last three games. Each of their past three opponents have scored at least 27 points on them, with two of them topping 30. This week, the 49ers are coming off a bye to face the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers held the Rams to just 16 points in their previous matchup this year. However, the Rams are coming off a strong offensive showing where they scored 27 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This week's game shouldn't be super high-scoring and both teams will likely run the ball a lot, which will slow the pace of the game. If you're in a bind, you can do worse than starting the 49ers as a low-end option, but you might be able to find better options on the waiver wire.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Jordan Reed (illness) has been held out of practice the past few days while dealing with an illness that is not COVID-related. He is currently listed as questionable for this week's game against the Los Angeles Rams. If he's able to go this week, he should be in line for a decent workload, but it will be against a tough matchup. The Rams have an elite pass defense, allowing just 200.6 passing yards per game, which ranks second in the league. If he's active, he's a low-end TE1 option who is safer in PPR leagues. He should see around eight targets as he and Deebo Samuel (hamstring) figure to be the top pass-catching options for quarterback Nick Mullens.