In this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla. The Bucs face the Broncos on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio, File)
In this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel (9) plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers during an NFL football game in Pittsburgh. The Broncos host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) runs off the field with quarterback Tom Brady (12) after Fournette ran 46-yards for a score against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel (9) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
DENVER (AP) After watching Von Miller and Bradley Chubb team up for 24 1/2 sacks in Denver in 2018, Shaq Barrett didn't want to be a backup anymore and took his talents to Tampa.
When he returns with the Buccaneers (1-1) Sunday to face the Broncos (0-2) he'll saunter into Empower Field as the NFL's defending sacks champion.
And although he's still searching for his first sack of 2020, he'll bring with him zero regrets.
''I just want to show them that they did have a chance to have me and they let me go,'' Barrett said. ''But I am happy with my situation down here. I love it.''
It was a good move for Barrett before he'd ever played a down for the Bucs.
His one-year, $5 million deal last season represented some $53,000 more than he'd earned in Denver, where he spent his rookie year on the practice squad after going undrafted out of Colorado State before a four-year run backing up the likes of Miller, Chubb, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray.
He parlayed that into the $15.88 million franchise tag he's playing on this season after a monster year in which he collected an NFL-best 19 1/2 sacks, forced six fumbles and earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
''I didn't even want to stay in Denver no more after my last two years there. I felt there was zero percent chance I'd start,'' Barrett said. ''They weren't even giving me the opportunity to compete to start. I did as much as I could there. I learned as much as I could there. There was no more on-the-rise there.''
If anyone's lamenting Barrett's departure it's the Broncos.
Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury last September and when he returned to the lineup this month, Miller suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
Had he stayed, Barrett would be in his second season as a starter in Denver.
''No, I most definitely don't think about that,'' Barrett said. ''That's the only reason why they had me was like if one of them did get hurt, they knew they had a secure, comfortable backup who could come in, make some plays and be a somewhat starting-caliber player.
''But that's not the role that I wanted'' anymore, Barrett said. ''It worked initially, but as I got older, I did want to see if I could be a full-time starter in the league and that just wasn't an option there or a role I could possibly have.''
Still, he's thankful for his time in Denver.
''All my time there was a blessing,'' Barrett said. ''I wouldn't be the player I am now without'' it.
Other subplots Sunday when Tom Brady goes for just his fifth win in a dozen trips to Denver and the Buccaneers seek their first win over the Broncos since 1999:
STILL THE BEST
Brady has thrown interceptions in his past four starts, three of them pick-6s. But Broncos coach Vic Fangio sees no signs the 43-year-old QB is showing his age.
''He doesn't look any different to me,'' Fangio said. ''He's still got really good arm strength and strong football intelligence in recognizing things. I don't see a major difference other than the new uniform that he's wearing.''
Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan shared similar sentiments about TB12.
''Tom Brady being one of the G.O.A.T.s, you never want to sleep on a guy like that even if he isn't looking the same as he has in the past,'' Callahan said. ''We're still going to approach the game like he's The Man. We don't want to get caught slipping.''
With Drew Lock (shoulder) sidelined for the second straight season, Jeff Driskel gets his first start for Denver and is seeking his second career win, which is 248 fewer than Brady.
''As long as I can remember, I've watched him play,'' said Driskel, who is 16 years younger than Brady. ''He's been playing for 20 years or whatever it's been. He's been a constant in this league. He's been one of the best, if not the best for a majority of those years.''
There's no denying Rob Gronkowski is off to a slow start in Tampa Bay with just two catches for 11 yards. He was held without a catch last week for just the fifth time in his 117-game career.
''He doesn't look any less daunting,'' Fangio insisted. ''In fact, he looks like he's in pretty good shape. He's running better than he was late in the final season of his career with New England. I think he's healthy and ready to go. ... He hasn't gotten his yet, but I'm sure by the end of the season, he's going to have some good numbers.''
Maybe even by game's end Sunday. In six career games against the Broncos, Gronkowski has 34 receptions for 445 yards and three TDs.
Leonard Fournette, who signed with the Bucs this month, rumbled for 225 yards on 29 carries in the Jaguars' 26-24 win at Denver a year ago.
After that game, Fangio shuffled his defense, moving Mike Purcell to nose tackle and switching Shelby Harris to end while inserting linebacker Alexander Johnson into the lineup.
''Hopefully, we'll have a better day against him than we did last year,'' Fangio said.
Five Sleepers: Week 8
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and is expected to play in Week 8 against the Saints. Robinson missed practice all week, making it seem unlikely on Friday that he would be able to suit up on Sunday. But it looks like fantasy managers can return him to their starting lineups for this weekend. Chicago's offense has been stagnant the last two weeks, though, which has limited A-Rob to nine receptions for 123 yards on 13 targets in that span. The Bears need to make their top receiver a bigger part of the game plan to get back in the win column, but the 27-year-old will be a WR2 for fantasy managers against New Orleans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller could have a chance at more targets in Week 8 without Chris Godwin (finger) on the field. Miller has started two games without Godwin, producing a 2-11-0 line in Week 2 and a 5-83-1 line in Week 4. Brady certainly seems to trust him, which bodes well for his outlook. However, the game script might be working against him, as the Giants aren't likely to keep this a close contest. He's a risky WR4 for this game, though he's a player that can be rolled out there if you're up against it with injuries or bye weeks.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore (hand) is listed as questionable to play in Week 8 against the Chiefs. Gore was limited in practice on both Wednesday and Friday but sat out on Thursday. You really shouldn't trust anyone in this atrocious Jets offense not named Jamison Crowder, and he's not expected to play this Sunday. The 37-year-old Gore is now dealing with an injury and has been splitting repetitions with rookie La'Mical Perine recently, further cratering his fantasy value. In what will likely be a blowout loss to the defending Super Bowl champions this weekend, trusting any of Gang Green's runners would be foolish. Gore is an RB4/flex that shouldn't be trusted in 12-team leagues if he's active.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans should see an increased target share without teammate Chris Godwin (finger) in Week 8. Evans has averaged nine targets per game in three starts without a healthy Godwin and has delivered WR2 numbers or better in all three of those contests. The matchup will be tough this week- he'll go up against a familiar foe in James Bradberry, who has been playing phenomenal football for New York. Still, Evans will get plenty of looks from Brady and has a good chance of finding the end zone in Week 8. Start him as a high-end WR2 this week who could very well finish among the top-12 at his position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette gets the Giants in Week 8 fresh off of leading his team's backfield in touches. Fournette played a season-high 56 percent of the snaps en route to 97 scrimmage yards on 17 touches back in Week 7. He'll face a Giants Defense that has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing halfbacks, including the fifth-most receiving yards. Tampa Bay is likely to operate with a lead, though Fournette seems to have the trust of the coaching staff as the third-down back. Expect a near-even split in touches with Ronald Jones II, with the former Jaguar handling much of the receiving work. He's a good flex play with RB2 upside, particularly in PPR formats.
Miami Dolphins tight end Adam Shaheen (shoulder) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Rams. Shaheen was a limited participant in practice all week, so he has a good shot at playing this Sunday. Just signed to a two-year extension worth up to $7.85 million this week, the 26-year-old has scored in each of his last two games. He had his best performance of the season in Week 6, catching all three of his targets for 51 yards and the score. But Shaheen has just seven targets and five catches for 58 yards in six games this year and remains behind Mike Gesicki in the tight end pecking order in Miami. Shaheen shouldn't be considered for starting fantasy lineups in Week 8.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II gets a good matchup against the Giants on Monday Night Football. Jones II ran wild in the absence of Leonard Fournette, picking up over 100 yards rushing in three consecutive games while handling at least 20 touches in each contest. However, Fournette returned healthy last week and out-touched Jones II 17-14, as the latter saw a huge dip in his snap percentage. Still, it appears that the 23-year-old will retain his early-down role for the time being, with head coach Bruce Arians referring to Fournette as more of his "nickel" back. With Tampa Bay projected to be in the lead against the Giants, Jones II will likely get his chances on the ground, making him a low-to-mid RB2.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (hand) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Dolphins. Higbee was limited in practice all week, so he has a good chance to play this weekend after being a late scratch last in Week 7. Gerald Everett won't be a TE2 streamer if Higbee returns, which is looking more likely. Aside from his five-catch, 54-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 2 against the Eagles, Higbee hasn't done a whole lot for his fantasy managers. He'll be a low-end TE2 if he returns on Sunday against Miami, one of two teams that have yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end in 2020.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III has made it known that he wants out of Cincinnati. Ross replied bluntly to a local sports reporter on Thursday on his feelings at this point in the season in his fourth NFL campaign. "It's not a secret that I have requested a trade," Ross wrote. "Trade me if this how y'all feel. I'm healthy and eager to play. I know I can be productive. It's hard to love something when your (sic) not actually participating in it. Believe me, its (sic) not football that I don't like." Ross has world-class speed but has struggled through injuries and has caught only 51 passes for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns in three-plus seasons. He played 56 snaps in the season-opener but has since played 29 snaps and was inactive in Week 7 with an illness. The 24-year-old should be on the waiver wire in all single-year formats, but he could find his way back to fantasy relevance if he's traded and lands in a promising situation.
The Indianapolis Colts activated rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (leg) from Injured Reserve on Saturday and waived receiver Daurice Fountain in a corresponding move. Pittman played in three games before suffering his leg injury, which required surgery. The second-round selection out of USC caught nine of his 12 targets for 73 yards in his three games before being sidelined. The 23-year-old is a big-bodied receiver than can succeed on contested catches and in the red zone, and he should immediately return to a role alongside T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal. However, Indy's slow-paced, run-first offense hasn't had the kind of passing volume under quarterback Philip Rivers to make any one receiver particularly attractive in fantasy this year. But Pittman's upside makes him a must-stash in dynasty/keeper leagues, and he's worth a pickup in deeper leagues as well for depth.
The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to activate tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) from Injured Reserve for the Sunday night game against the division-rival Cowboys, according to sources. It's a bit of a surprise, as most expected Goedert to return closer to Week 10, but apparently he impressed the coaches and medical staff during practice this week. The Eagles could choose to limit his snaps, especially after Richard Rodgers impressed in last week's win over the Giants, but the 25-year-old Goedert should at least be considered a low-end TE1 this weekend against a Cowboys Defense that hasn't really been able to stop much of anything this year. They've given up the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Goedert's return should also make Rodgers a less appealing tight end streamer.
The Philadelphia Eagles are activating rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor (thumb), offensive lineman Jason Peters, linebacker T.J. Edwards and safety Rudy Ford from Injured Reserve on Saturday. Reagor will return for the Sunday night game against the Cowboys for the first time since suffering a thumb injury in Week 2 that required surgery. The first-round pick should be a starter this weekend, but he'll be a risky flex option in deeper leagues because of the possibility that he has his snaps limited in his first game back. The matchup against Dallas is an excellent one, too, as the Cowboys have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wideouts in 2020. Travis Fulgham still remains Philly's highest-upside pass-catcher, though.
The Denver Broncos Defense will face a rising young star in Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in their Week 8 divisional matchup. Herbert has 12 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 108.1 QB rating in five games, and the Broncos D has allowed a QB rating of 92.5 this year. They'll be looking to limit the big play after surrendering six passing plays of at least 16 yards to the Chiefs in Week 7. Entering Week 8, Denver's six takeaways were tied for 24th in the league, their three interceptions tied for 23rd and their minus-eight differential 31st. The Broncos have actually been decent at limiting big plays by their opponents this year despite not having their top playmakers available because of injury, but their lack of turnovers has made them a low-upside streaming unit for fantasy managers. They are tied for eighth in the league with 18 sacks, so perhaps they can get to Herbert early and often and force him into mistakes.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus never had a chance to deliver for fantasy managers in Week 7 against the Chiefs in snowy conditions. A week after being the hero with six made field goals against the Patriots, McManus made one field goal and went 1-for-2 on extra points. In a Broncos offense that has been below-average through six games in 2020, the 29-year-old's six field-goal performance in Week 6 is looking like an outlier. While there should be more opportunities against the division-rival Chargers this Sunday -- the Bolts allow the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing kickers -- McManus is merely a streaming consideration for those in 14-team leagues this weekend.
Denver Broncos rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has emerged in the last two weeks as quarterback Drew Lock's favorite target. Okwuegbunam made his NFL debut in Week 6 when Noah Fant (ankle) was sidelined, and he led the squad in receiving last week, catching all seven of his targets for 60 yards. He has 13 targets the last two weeks, showing the chemistry that he has with Lock from their days at Missouri. However, Fant ran more routes than the rookie last week and is getting closer to full health, which could spell trouble for Albert O. The 22-year-old is certainly intriguing, but the presence of Fant will cap his upside. If receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) doesn't play against the Chargers this Sunday, Okwuegbunam will be an upside TE2.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (ankle) was taken off the final Week 8 injury report and is good to go for Sunday's game against the division-rival Chargers. Fant was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he got in full practices both Thursday and Friday. The second-year tight end missed Week 6 because of the injury, but he returned last weekend and disappointed with a season-low three receptions for 38 yards. The good news is he was tied for the team lead with seven targets, but rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam out-produced him and has become a favorite target of quarterback Drew Lock. That's a concern, but Fant is getting closer to full health and could see a healthy amount of targets if receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) can't play. The Chargers also allow the 11th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, so Fant has clear top-10 tight end upside this week despite the emergence of Albert O.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is on a roll heading into a Week 8 matchup with the Giants. After a slow start to the season, Brady has now thrown for 1,454 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception in his last five contests. The Giants have been a pleasant surprise against opposing quarterbacks for fantasy this year, though they've slipped a bit, allowing at least 250 passing yards and two touchdowns to each of the last two signal-callers they've faced. Brady can be started as a solid QB1 against New York on Monday Night Football.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver K.J. Hamler returned last week after missing a month with a hamstring injury, but he didn't do much in the 43-16 blowout loss to the Chiefs, catching two of his three targets for 24 yards. He also ran the ball once for 10 yards. Hamler saw seven targets in the Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh, but he just hasn't been involved enough in Denver's spotty passing attack to warrant fantasy attention in any single-year fantasy formats. In his four games, the second-round pick has caught eight of his 15 targets for 102 yards. The Penn State alum could find himself in a bigger role this Sunday against the Chargers if Tim Patrick (hamstring) is ruled out, but even then he'd be a desperation dart throw as a flex in deep leagues.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy showed up on the team's Week 8 injury report with a shoulder injury, but he practiced in full all week and is good to go for Sunday against the Chargers. An impressive route-runner with very quick feet, Jeudy's potential hasn't manifested itself yet through six games. He's seen only 13 targets in the last three games combined and has just six catches over that span. Jeudy had two grabs for a season-low 20 yards in the blowout loss to Kansas City last week and has seen his fantasy stock drop considerably in recent weeks. The 21-year-old has been tough to trust as a flex in Denver's inconsistent offense, but he has rebound potential this week against the Chargers if Tim Patrick (hamstring) cannot play. Jeudy will be an upside WR3/flex if Patrick is inactive.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard will once again have an expanded role. With Joe Mixon (foot) out of the equation against the Titans, his second-straight absence, the veteran will serve as the top option out of the backfield against a Tennessee team looking to rebound from its first loss of the year. Bernard filled in admirably in Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns, finishing with 37 yards off 13 carries while also catching all five of his targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Although Cincy's offensive line is banged up, Bernard should still be considered a starting option on Sunday, especially in PPR formats, as he may get plenty of looks from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow.