In this Aug. 26, 2018, file photo, Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard, left, is tackled by Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes during the first half of a preseason NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bengals travel to Orchard Park this week for the Bills' home-opener. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Andy Dalton fondly recalls the warm welcome he received a little over a year ago, when the Bengals traveled to Buffalo for a preseason game.
The Cincinnati quarterback drew several ovations after winning over Bills fans' hearts for his last-minute touchdown to beat Baltimore in the 2017 season finale. The Ravens' 31-27 loss propelled Buffalo into the postseason and snapped the team's 17-year playoff drought.
Dalton knows better than to listen for any cheers in facing the Bills (2-0) in Buffalo's home opener Sunday.
''Ha, ha, no,'' Dalton said with a healthy chuckle. ''I'm not expecting the same kind of ovation I got last time.''
Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes has made a point of personally informing Dalton that won't happen.
''It was such a big moment in our franchise's history and everything the fans did for him, which is really cool,'' Hughes said, recalling watching Dalton hit Tyler Boyd for a 49-yard touchdown pass to convert a fourth-and-12 with 49 seconds left against Baltimore. ''But we understand, and I tell him this every time I see him back in Texas, when we get on the football field, it's go-time.''
And Hughes is speaking as Dalton's long-time friend, after the two grew up in Houston and were college teammates at TCU.
Buffalo is on a roll in opening the season with two road wins, both at the Meadowlands, and in position to enjoy its first 3-0 start since 2011.
The Bills defense has allowed just 22 points - not including an interception returned for a touchdown and safety in a 17-16 season-opening win against the Jets.
And their new-look offense under second-year quarterback Josh Allen is finding its rhythm after engineering four 70-plus-yard touchdown drives in a 28-14 win over the Giants last weekend.
The Bengals (0-2) are still trying to find their identity under rookie coach Zac Taylor.
After a tightly contested 21-20 season-opening loss at Seattle, Cincinnati unraveled in giving up 572 yards - the fifth-most in franchise history - in a 41-17 loss to San Francisco.
''The loss is not something we're going to run from,'' Taylor said. ''We got blown out at home. We could say it was frustrating, but we will not allow our guys to hang their heads.''
Though Dalton leads the NFL with 61 completions and is second with 729 yards passing, the Bengals' running attack has stalled.
An injury depleted offensive line has been the biggest issue. Rookie left tackle Jonah Williams tore a labrum in offseason workouts. Backup Cordy Glenn - a former Bill - missed the first two games with a concussion. And third-string tackle Andre Smith hurt his groin against the 49ers but is expected back this week. Cincinnati is last in the league with 59 yards on 33 carries through two games.
Running back Joe Mixon resorted to posting a message on Twitter, apologizing to his fans.
''I promise I will get it right and we will be better,'' wrote Mixon, averaging 1.8 yards per carry.
Taylor was hired from the Rams to replace Marvin Lewis, who was fired after failing to win a playoff game in 16 seasons. The 0-2 start is ominous. It's the 17th time in franchise history that the Bengals have opened 0-2, and have never managed a winning record after such a start.
''We win this week, and the feeling in this building is a lot different,'' Dalton said.
TAP THE BRAKES
The Bills know better than to take a 2-0 start for granted. After starting 3-0 and eventually getting to 5-2 in 2011, Buffalo unraveled in closing the season 6-10. It was no different in 2008, when Buffalo opened 4-0 and finished 7-9.
''I'm just looking at one game right now, honestly,'' coach Sean McDermott said, when reminded Buffalo plays five of its next six at home.
Buffalo tight end Tyler Kroft is in position to make his season debut and against his former team. The Bills offseason free-agent addition has practiced the past three weeks after missing the entire offseason with a broken right foot.
''Another added threat that you're going to have to worry about in the passing game,'' Allen said of Kroft, who spent his first four seasons in Cincinnati.
Aside from applause, Dalton's win over Baltimore led to Bills fans donating more than $450,000 to the quarterback's charitable foundation. He returned a portion of it back with a donation to Buffalo's Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.
''It shows the game's bigger than just football,'' Dalton said.
Another $100,000 was donated to Boyd's cause of choice, which went to funding a youth sports league in his hometown of Clairton, Pennsylvania.
New England Patriots TE Eric Tomlinson's role within the offense is still being determined, according to head coach Bill Belichick.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has caught 13-of-16 targets for 187 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games (Giants and Eagles). Week 7's matchup is a bit less favorable, however, as the Lions have been stingy against outside wide receivers with top cornerbacks Darius Slay and Rashaan Melvin. However, Thielen runs about one-third of his routes from the slot this season - an area that the Lions Defense has really struggled to contain. There remains a possibility that Slay shadows Thielen all over the field, which would clearly be a downgrade for Thielen's expected production. The Vikings also still lean on the run and will be featuring Dalvin Cook heavily against the Lions' weak rush defense. Start Thielen as a WR2 in Week 7 but keep in mind that his volume (and ceiling) could take a hit.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is not a player you need to force into lineups in Week 7. Rudolph caught 3-of-3 targets for 36 yards in his best game of 2019 in Week 6. He has just nine catches this year and his average target distance is 2.2 yards. He's still playing at least 90% of offensive snaps every game, but he doesn't get enough targets or red-zone work to be in consideration for fantasy lineups. Rudolph is an unexciting TE3 with limited upside in a run-heavy offense and he should not be started in Week 7.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes left the Thursday night game with what looked to be some sort of knee injury. He walked to the locker room after suffering the injury.
Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey (back) was listed as a full participant in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has provided an uptick in production the last two weeks, compiling 639 passing yards and a 6/1 TD/INT ratio in wins against the Giants and the Eagles. Cousins will look to keep it going against the Detroit Lions in Week 7 on the road in what should be a close contest (Vikings are currently favored by one point). The Lions Defense has not performed up to their reputation so far in 2019 as they're allowing 280 passing yards per game (fifth highest) and have surrendered multiple passing touchdowns in 3-of-5 weeks. Their pass rush hasn't been there either as they have just 10 total sacks on the season. The Lions are also getting destroyed on the ground at 133.8 rushing yards per game (sixth highest), so it does seem likely that the Vikings revert to featuring Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack as the focal point of their offense. Start Cousins as a high-end QB2 in Week 7 as he should be afforded enough opportunities to take advantage of a struggling secondary - though the likelihood of scaled-back volume limits his ceiling.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is in line for a monster game in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions. The Lions Defense has already given up seven rushing touchdowns and are allowing 5.1 yards per carry and 133.8 rushing yards per game. They've also allowed a running back to score at least 20 PPR points in 4-of-5 weeks. Cook only received 18 touches in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles and still had a useful fantasy day (54 yards and a touchdown) despite the brutal matchup. Expect his touches to return to the 20-25 range as the Vikings will again look to feature him in their run-heavy attack. Start Cook as a top-tier RB1 option with tremendous upside and consider using him in all daily formats as well.
Free-agent CB Parry Nickerson (Seahawks) signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday, Oct. 17. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (calf, oblique) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller has been targeted at least seven times in four of the last five games but has posted at least 60 yards in only two games this season. He can still be considered at least a flex option in some leagues because of his big play ability.
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ribs) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins has caught at least five passes in every game this season but has not found the end zone in the last five games. He is still a must-start option in all leagues because of the targets he receives each game.
Houston Texans WR Kenny Stills (hamstring) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Stills appears to be on track to play this week after missing the last two weeks because of his injury. He has posted 188 yards in four games this season and could be a flex option in some deeper leagues.
Washington Redskins TE Vernon Davis (concussion) was limited during practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Davis needs to be cleared by doctors before he will be allowed to play, so he only has a few more days before the Week 7 game. Fantasy players in all leagues should avoid Davis this week even if he is cleared to play.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (non-injury) was upgraded to a full participant in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Carson has continued to hold off Rashaad Penny as the workhorse out of the Seahawks' backfield. He has seen 20-plus carries in three straight games and topped 100 yards each time. There's no need to worry about Penny unless Carson were to miss time.
Seattle Seahawks TE Will Dissly (Achilles), OT Duane Brown (biceps), S Lano Hill (elbow), S Bradley McDougald (back) and DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle) didn't practice Thursday, Oct. 17. G D.J. Fluker (hamstring) and DE Quinton Jefferson (oblique) were limited. LB K.J. Wright (knee) was a full participant.
Houston Texans RB Carlos Hyde (calf) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Hyde is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season and has recorded a touchdown in three of the last four games. He will continue to be the main option in the running game and can be a No. 2 running back in most leagues.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson (quadriceps) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Peterson is coming off his best game of the season with 118 yards but has been held to under 40 yards in the other four games. He will be facing a good San Francisco 49ers defense this week and may only be a flex option in standard leagues.
Baltimore Ravens CB Maurice Canady (hamstring), CB Anthony Averett (ankle), LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) and DT Brandon Williams (non-injury) didn't practice Thursday, Oct. 17. CB Jimmy Smith (knee) and OT Ronnie Stanley (knee) were limited.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett (non-injury) got in a full practice session Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: All clear for the Seahawks' No. 1 receiver. Lockett has scored a touchdown every-other week through his team's first six games of 2019, and he didn't find the end zone in Week 6. Coincidence aside, he remains a steady WR2 as QB Russell Wilson's top option.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum (foot, shoulder) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Keenum threw for two touchdowns last week but finished with only 166 yards. He will be facing a tougher defense in Week 7 and should be avoided in all leagues.