Wed Sep 30 2:19pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase walks on the sidelines during an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Indianapolis. Gase is doing all he can to tune out all the negative talk and criticisms aimed directly at him. And there's lots of it. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio walks the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Banged up, struggling and desperate for a win.
That describes both the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, who'll square off Thursday night at MetLife Stadium with their seasons spiraling, coaches on the hot seat and rosters ravaged by injuries.
Yeah, this might not exactly be a meaty matchup for a prime-time TV audience. But, the results of this game could have intriguing consequences.
''We understand the situation we're in,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. ''We can't change anything that's happened. All we can do is look forward and prepare for our next game, which is coming here quickly on Thursday. I think our attitude is good.''
The Broncos and Jets are both 0-3 for the second straight season, and each is looking to avoid dropping their first four games in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. Barring a tie, it's about to get worse for one of them.
The woeful starts have made Fangio and Jets coach Adam Gase the targets of plenty of criticism and cast some doubts on their long-term futures with their teams. Speculation has been flying that Gase could be out as soon as Friday if the Jets lose.
''For me, I have to do a great job of making sure that I keep our players in the right headspace,'' Gase said. ''When a lot of negativity is coming at you and things are hard, that's when everybody's character has to really show up and they've got to go to work and we've got to get it fixed.''
That's easier said than done, of course.
The Jets have been inept on offense, and Sam Darnold has not played like a quarterback on the verge of taking the next step in his third year. The defense has also been alarmingly porous. New York's injury list is longer than a shopping receipt, with Le'Veon Bell, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims among those sidelined.
The Broncos have had similar issues on all counts. Their roster sported a combined 18 Pro Bowls when the 53-man roster was finalized. Now, it has just Melvin Gordon's pair of all-star appearances after Von Miller, Jurell Casey, Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and A.J. Bouye all got hurt.
They're also about to start their third straight different quarterback. Brett Rypien will make his first NFL start, going Thursday night in place of the benched Jeff Driskel - who had taken the place last week of the injured Drew Lock.
''No matter who we're playing, right now, we definitely need a win,'' said Rypien, the nephew of 1992 Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.
SAM THE MAN?
Darnold's performance last week, when he threw three interceptions and had two returned for touchdowns at Indianapolis, has many wondering if he can be the franchise quarterback the Jets expected when they made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2018.
''He's like everybody in this profession, he does not like to lose,'' Gase said. ''It just eats at him and I love the fact that it just drives him to just keep coming into the building and trying to find ways to improve. I can see it on his face after that last game, like he was (angry).
''He was not only mad at the score, but just kind of how it went down and things that he knows that he can do better and things that may have been out of his control that we've just got to move on from and we can't hang on to. I think that's what I love about him.''
WORLD OF HURT
The Broncos have lost six starters and three backups to IR, and that doesn't even include Lock, whom they're keeping on the active roster so he can attend practice and get mental reps.
The injured Broncos are making a combined $53.4 million this season, by far the highest IR payroll in the NFL and nearly $20 million more than the runner-up Dallas Cowboys at $33.5 million.
Fangio is 7-12 through his first 19 games, same as Gase's record with the Jets. Fangio is the first of the Broncos' 14 head coaches ever to post back-to-back winless Septembers.
The Broncos had just one winless September in the previous 48 years when Fangio hit all the red lights in starting 0-4 in 2019. Before that, the last Broncos head coach who went into October still searching for his first win was Wade Phillips in 1994.
It's only three games and injuries have been a major reason, but New York's offense has sputtered to start the season.
The Jets rank last in the NFL in total yards, scoring, yards passing yards, first downs and red-zone efficiency. They're also second-to-last in total touchdowns, third-down conversions and yards per play.
The Broncos have allowed a whopping 13 sacks in the past two weeks, but it took Elijah Wilkinson's shin injury to force a change up front.
Denver is inserting 12th-year veteran Demar Dotson into the right tackle spot. He joined the team in the summer but couldn't unseat Wilkinson, who was coming off an offseason ankle operation.
''He's probably played 10,000 snaps at right tackle in this league, so we feel good about putting him in there,'' Fangio said. ''He had a good camp with us.''
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 7
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has found most of his red-zone success this year when he bounces his runs outside of the tackles. Cook has scored five of his six red-zone touchdowns in 2020 on runs outside the tackle box, recording the most such red-zone scores in the league among running backs despite missing Week 6 and half of Week 5 with a groin injury. Four of his red-zone touchdowns have come with quarterback Kirk Cousins under center. Cook has 88 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) and an 88.2 percent success rate on his red-zone rushes this year. The Vikings have their bye this week and Cook is expected to return in Week 8 against the Packers. As one of the most productive running backs in the league, Cook is a must-start RB1 if he's active.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams will try and get his season cooking in Week 7 against the Texans. Adams was fantastic in Week 1 with 14 receptions for 156 yards and two scores but a hamstring injury has hampered him since. Adams returned to the lineup last week, posting 61 yards and now will face a Texans Defense that is allowing the 15th fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers. The Texans have allowed nine touchdowns to receivers and opponents have completed 73% of their passes to wideouts. Adams will be a low-tier WR1 in Week 7.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry has four red-zone touchdowns this year on carries inside the tackles on handoffs from quarterback Ryan Tannehill while under center through five games. His one rushing touchdown that didn't come with Tannehill under center came last week when Henry took a direct snap in the overtime win over the Texans. Henry has 97 rushing yards in the red zone, five touchdowns and a 57.6 percent success rate. The bruising back ran 22 times for 212 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6, single-handedly helping his fantasy managers to victory. The unstoppable force will meet the immovable force of the Steelers Defense in Week 7, as Pittsburgh has allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. Still, Henry remains an elite high-end RB1 that can't be benched.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan will have a solid shot at getting back on the fantasy map in Week 7 against the Texans. Tonyan had posted five touchdowns in three games before being held to only 25 receiving yards last week against the Buccaneers. Tonyan could find himself back in the end zone this week against a Texans Defense that is allowing the 14th fewest fantasy points to tight ends. That ranking may seem middle-of-the-pack but the Texans also have allowed the seventh most receptions to the tight end position. Tonyan has a chance at posting top-10 numbers among tight end's in Week 7.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham will look to continue his hot streak in Week 7 against the New York Giants. Fulgham came off the practice squad in Week 4 and has now scored a touchdown in three straight weeks, totaling 18 catches for 284 yards and three touchdowns. With DeSean Jackson back but Zach Ertz (ankle) and Miles Sanders (knee) out, Fulgham should still see a lot of targets thrown his way from quarterback Carson Wentz. The Giants Defense has a shutdown corner in James Bradberry, but he'll likely be tasked with shutting down DeSean Jackson in this one. Fulgham is an intruiging WR3 with upside.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will try and get back on track in Week 7 against the Texans. Rodgers had entered the MVP conversation through the first month but was completely stifled by the Buccaneers last week. The veteran passer will have a shot at redemption against a Texans Defense that is allowing the 12th fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. The Texans have allowed seven touchdowns over their last three games and an average of 308 passing yards a game. Houston's season is on the ropes and this presents a favorable opportunity for Rodgers to bounce back as a QB1 in Week 7.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt can do it all in the red zone for the Browns. He's rushed for three touchdowns and has caught three touchdowns in the red zone this season for a 61.1 percent success rate. Hunt is the only running back in the NFL to have a receiving touchdown when lined up out wide in the red zone. The 25-year-old was held to just 40 rushing yards on 13 carries in the Week 6 blowout loss to the Steelers, but he remains a locked-in RB1 with Nick Chubb (knee) sidelined with his injury. Hunt will face a Bengals Defense in Week 7 that has allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to running backs per game, including 26 receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown through the air.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will have an excellent matchup against the Texans in Week 7. Houston is still recovering from being shredded by the Titans Derrick Henry for 212 rushing yards and now must face the uber-talented Jones. The Texans are allowing the sixth most fantasy points to opposing running backs, including surrendering eight rushing touchdowns through six games. Jones accumulated only 15 rushing yards last week but still is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns on the season. Jones has a fantastic chance at finding the end zone and posting a strong fantasy line against the Texans in Week 7.
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson will try and extend his touchdown streak to three games in Week 7 against the Falcons. Hockenson has three touchdowns this season, including one of each of his last two games, and will face a Falcons Defense that has already allowed seven touchdowns to the tight end position. Atlanta is allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing tight ends and Hockenson has become a go-to option for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Hockenson has not seen more than seven targets in a game but will have touchdown-dependent fantasy value in Week 7.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen is the team's No. 1 receiver with Stefon Diggs now in Buffalo, and he's made most of his money as a red-zone weapon with eight catches on eight targets for 72 yards and a league-high six touchdowns in the red zone this year. Quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the NFL with a success rate of 66.7 on all of his red-zone targets because of Thielen. Thielen has found success in the red zone on all types of different routes, too. He's 6-for-6 on red-zone targets when lined up out wide, turning five of those targets into touchdowns. Thielen has had 51 receiving yards or less in three games this year, but his red-zone success and chemistry with Cousins makes him a must-start fantasy receiver when the Vikings return from their bye in Week 8 against the Packers.
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift will try and build off an excellent performance in Week 6 against the Falcons this week. The rookie posted 116 rushing yards with two touchdowns last week and now will face a Falcons Defense that is allowing the ninth most fantasy points to opposing running backs. The Lions still claim that veteran running back Adrian Peterson is still the starter but Swift may be on the doorstep of taking over the job. The Falcons can be burned in the passing game with running backs, perhaps making Swift a better fantasy option than Peterson. The rookie will carry RB3/FLEX value in Week 7.
Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson will face a Falcons Defense that is allowing the ninth most fantasy points to opposing backs this season. Peterson has been the lead back but was overshadowed last week by D'Andre Swift's two touchdowns and 116 yards. Peterson has a great matchup this week but could take a backseat once again as the Falcons are allowing the most receiving yards to running backs this season. The Lions could choose to feature Swift more in this game, making Peterson a touchdown-dependent option out of the backfield in Week 7.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has four rushing touchdowns in the red zone with quarterback Drew Brees under center this year, which is tied for the most in the NFL. Kamara has gained 51 rushing yards on red-zone carries in all formations for a success rate of 73.3 percent on those attempts. He's also caught two red-zone touchdowns while lined up in the backfield. The 25-year-old was held out of the end zone in Week 5 before the team's bye, but he's gone over 100 total yards in four straight games and has at least five catches in four of his five games in 2020. Kamara is an elite must-start RB1 coming off his bye in Week 7 against the Panthers.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said that running back Joe Mixon (foot), who injured his foot in the Week 6 loss to the Colts, will not practice on Wednesday. The good news is that Mixon returned to the Week 6 game in the second half after his injury, but he could be up in the air this weekend against the Browns, who have been in the middle of the pack against opposing running backs this year. Mixon has done very little outside of his 151-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 4 against the Jaguars in which he also caught all six of his targets in the passing game. If he can't go this weekend, Giovani Bernard would have RB2/3 value for fantasy managers. Keep a close eye on Mixon's practice status the rest of the week.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay will have a favorable matchup in Week 7 against the Falcons. In three games this season, Golladay has 224 receiving yards with two touchdowns and will face a vulnerable Falcons Defense that is allowing the ninth most fantasy points to receivers this season. Atlanta has already allowed eight different receivers to post 90+ receiving yards against them, making Golladay an easy choice for fantasy starting lineups in Week 7. Golladay will carry a very high floor and has an excellent chance at posting WR1 numbers against the Falcons.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller will have a tough matchup to get his season on track in Week 7 against the Rams. Miller has only 10 catches for 52 yards over his last three games and now will face a Rams Defense that is allowing the fewest fantasy points to receivers this season. The Rams have not allowed more than 13 fantasy points to any opposing receiver this season, making Miller a highly risky fantasy play in Week 7.
Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham will go up against a Rams Defense that is allowing the 15th fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. Graham has been an excellent red zone addition to the Bears with four touchdowns in his first six games. But his production seems to be capping off around three-to-five catches and 30-40 receiving yards a game. Graham's value will be tied to touchdowns and could produce a modest fantasy line in PPR leagues but fantasy teams need to temper expectations against a tough Rams defense in Week 7.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will have a shot at his best fantasy game of the season in Week 7 against the Falcons. Stafford is averaging 248 passing yards a game and has multiple touchdowns in three of his last four games. Now the Lions will go up against a Falcons Defense that is allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Atlanta has allowed a whopping 18 touchdowns through six games and five of the six teams they have faced have scored at least 26 fantasy points at the quarterback position. Stafford will carry excellent DFS value and has a shot at a top-10 fantasy week against the Falcons in Week 7.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring) is set to return to the field in Week 7 against the New York Giants. Jackson has been limited to three games so far this season, catching 10 passes for 121 yards on 20 targets. He'll likely be looked at as the team's top receiving threat, which could be an issue facing off the Giants and defensive back James Bradberry. The potential matchup with Bradberry combined with the general struggles of the Eagles offense and Jackson's ever-present risk of re-injury make him just a WR5 in this one.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II may have his toughest test of the season against the Rams in Week 7. Los Angeles heads into the Monday night matchup allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers this season. They have allowed only one receiver to post 100 yards against them and no opposing pass-catcher has posted more than 13 fantasy points in one game. Robinson leads the Bears with 474 yards and is averaging 11 targets a game. The matchup is difficult but the Bears will need Robinson to produce if they have any hopes of winning in Week 7. Robinson will carry shaky WR2 value against the Rams this week.