Sun Oct 20 4:53pm ET
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after a touchdown by running back Dalvin Cook during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins reacts after a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) is greeted by quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) after a 10-yard reception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Olabisi Johnson reacts after catching a 1-yard pass for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Olabisi Johnson (81) catches a 1-yard pass for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones (11), raises his arms after an catching an 11-yard pass for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws during pregame of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
DETROIT (AP) Kirk Cousins matched a career high with four touchdown passes, leading the surging Minnesota Vikings to a 42-30 win over the slumping Detroit Lions on Sunday.
The Vikings (5-2) have won three consecutive games in part because their quarterback is making plays to complement one of the NFL's top defenses.
Matthew Stafford also threw four touchdown passes, all to Marvin Jones, and became the fastest to reach 40,000 yards passing in NFL history. And Jones became the first Lions player in the Super Bowl era with four receiving TDs in a game.
The Lions (2-3-1) dropped their third straight game after a 2-0-1 start and they probably can't complain too much about officiating in their latest setback. The Lions had some critical penalty calls go against them in a 23-22 loss to Green Bay on Monday night.
Detroit's defense simply couldn't get Cousins off the field on Sunday.
Cousins was 24 of 34 for a season-high 337 yards and four TDs without an interception. He led the Vikings on four straight TD drives starting in the first quarter and ending in the third, going ahead for the first time on a 5-yard pass to C.J. Ham to make it 28-21.
Cousins threw a fourth TD pass for the second straight game, and sixth time in his career, on a 15-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph to put Minnesota ahead by 11 points with 5:46 to go.
After Stafford threw a season-high fourth TD with 3:10 remaining, the Vikings sealed the victory.
Cousins lofted a long pass to Stefon Diggs on a second-and-5 from his 30 and the speedy receiver took a 66-yard reception to the Lions 4 to set up Dalvin Cook's TD run.
Cook had 142 yards rushing and two TDs on 25 carries. Diggs had seven receptions for 142 yards.
Adam Thielen caught the first of four TD passes from Cousins in the first quarter and the receiver didn't return because of a hamstring injury.
Stafford was 30 of 45 for 364 yards with four TD passes and an interception on his last possession. Jones had 10 receptions for four TDs, matching his best total from 2013 when he played for Cincinnati. Danny Amendola had eight receptions for 105 yards.
Vikings: Thielen had a game-ending hamstring injury in the first quarter after he was hurt while scoring his seventh touchdown of the season. DE Everson Griffen limped off the field in the third quarter.
Lions: RB Kerryon Johnson (knee) and CB Darius Slay (hamstring) were injured during the game and did not return.
Vikings: Host Washington on Thursday night.
Lions: Host the New York Giants on Sunday.
The Cleveland Browns will likely be looking to replace defensive end Olivier Vernon this offseason, as he's due to make $15.25 million in 2020. Vernon will either be released or will need to take a pay cut to stay in Cleveland. If Vernon is released, the Browns could look to defensive end Everson Griffen or free safety Anthony Harris on the open market. New head coach Kevin Stefanski is familiar with both players from his time with the Vikings. The Browns will be looking to upgrade their pass-rushers and safeties in the offseason. Vernon, 30 this October, played in just 10 games in 2019 with the Browns and recorded just 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
There's a real chance that the Baltimore Ravens move tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason, and the Patriots could be involved, according to sources. The Patriots were heavily linked to Hurst prior to the 2018 draft. Hurst was selected with the 25th overall pick in the first round that year, but he's underwhelmed with 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns in his two seasons in the NFL and has fallen down Baltimore's depth chart behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. New England will be looking to beef up their receiver depth, including at tight end, so Hurst could be a player on the rise if he's dealt to New England. Of course, the Patriots might not have Tom Brady under center in 2020 either.
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons said in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday that he expects to receive the franchise tag. Over the Cap estimates that the tag for safeties this year will be worth $12.7 million. Simmons is hoping that he'll be able to work out a long-term deal by the deadline of July 15 if the Broncos put the tag on him. The former third-round pick on 2016 is developing into one of the better safeties in the league. The 26-year-old had 93 tackles (65 solo)and a career-high four interceptions over a full season in 2019. Simmons has had 90-plus total tackles each of the last two seasons and should remain in Denver for the long-term.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that the team hasn't met or negotiated with quarterback Dak Prescott's agent Todd France since September of last year. There haven't been talks between the two sides this offseason, but they may meet during the scouting combine this week. Jones also said that no contracts with Prescott or wide receiver Amari Cooper will be agreed upon until the new collective-bargaining rules for 2020 are decided. The Cowboys had a "very upbeat" conversation with Cooper's representation during Super Bowl week. The Cowboys continue to say that Prescott is their quarterback of the future. Expect talks to heat up this week, with Prescott ultimately staying in Dallas as a high-end QB1 for fantasy owners.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) is expected to take part in spring workouts to some degree. "Once we see him, we'll have a better feel for it. But he'll have some limitations up until training camp before we really turn him loose," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. Vander Esch was a stud in his rookie season, but he played in just nine games in 2019 because of his neck injury, recording 72 tackles (43 solo), half a sack and one forced fumble. If fully healthy entering the 2020 season, LVE can be an IPD force because of his tackling ability from sideline to sideline. The Cowboys need him in the middle of the field on defense.
In a discussion between ESPN reporters Jeff Darlington and Adam Schefter on the Rich Eisen show last week, Darlington said that he expects the Tennessee Titans to "be in the mix" to sign New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who will become a free agent next month. The Raiders might also try to make a splash and sign Brady if the Patriots let him reach the open market. It would be a surprise if Brady left New England, but he's considering other options and could choose a playoff contender like the Titans after they reached the AFC Championship last year. Brady also played with Titans head coach Mike Vrabel in New England. Brady lacked weapons in the passing game in 2019, but he also looked a little washed up. If he were to go to Tennessee's run-first offense, Brady would be squarely in the QB2 mix with limited fantasy upside.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue wants a long-term deal and is looking for $22 million annually. Ngakoue said he would be unlikely to show up until Aug. 11 if he had to play under the franchise tag. The young pass-rusher has compiled 37.5 sacks (second on the all-time franchise list) since being drafted in the third round of 2016. He also has 14 forced fumbles in that time. If the Jags place the tag on Ngakoue, which ESPN's Mike DiRocco expects, it would be for around $19.3 million in 2020. The 24-year-old (25 next month) had eight sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception last year and is firmly in the mix in IDP leagues with what he's done the last four seasons.
The Indianapolis Colts are unsure if kicker Adam Vinatieri, who will be a free agent next month, will return in 2020. The 47-year-old future Hall of Famer is rehabbing the knee injury that he dealt with last season, and he hasn't decided yet on if he will retire. The 2019 season was the worst year of Vinatieri's long career, as he missed 14 kicks total -- eight field goals and six extra points -- and landed on Injured Reserve in Week 13. The Colts also signed Chase McLaughlin to a one-year extension in January, so Vinatieri might not be back even if he decides to keep playing.
The Atlanta Falcons are expected to pick up quarterback Matt Schaub's $2 million option for the 2020 season, according to a source. Schaub made just one start in 2019 and was underwhelming in place of Matt Ryan. The veteran signal-caller attempted 67 passes for 580 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in parts of six games last season. He'll be 39 in June and is a shaky backup option if Matty Ice were to miss any more games next season due to injury. Even if Schaub is starting games at some point next year, he'd be a shaky second QB in two-quarterback leagues.
Free-agent LB Vontaze Burfict (Raiders) was reinstated by the league in January and has reportedly been working out at his alma mater (Arizona State) in an effort to returning to the NFL in 2020. Burfict was suspended for the final 12 games of the 2019 season after delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit to Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle.
Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DE Yannick Ngakoue is seeking a long-term deal that pays $22 million annually. The franchise tag would be worth around $19.3 million if used on him.
Fantasy Spin: Ngakoue was tied for fifth in fantasy points at the position last season in 15 games. It was a down year that he only had eight sacks, and there is certainly is more in the tank.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler needs to see 15 to 20 touches per game, according to head coach Anthony Lynn.
Fantasy Spin: Ekeler is one of the more versatile backs in the NFL, and he finished 2019 with 92 catches and eight receiving touchdowns. There's a good chance he will be he unquestioned top back and a potential RB1 in 2020 if Melvin Gordon doesn't return, but even if Gordon is back, Ekeler can be a RB2 in PPR formats.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Sunday that the team isn't pursuing a long-term contract extension with running back Marlon Mack currently. It doesn't mean that it's not on the table or that the Colts don't want to keep Mack around for the long-term, but it's not a pressing issue. The 23-year-old (24 next month) is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 season. He's been the starter the last two years and had 247 carries for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. However, he's also missed eight games the last two seasons, so Indy might be hesitant in thinking he'll continue to be a lead back for years to come. Mack does have a strong offensive line in front of him, but he'll be more of a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 going into the final year of his contract in 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. credits his success in 2019 to an improved commitment to preparation, and Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com believes Chark should deliver 1,000 receiving yards and eight to 10 touchdowns in 2020.
Fantasy Spin: Chark emerged as the top receiver for the Jaguars in 2019, and while Jacksonville is unlikely to have a high-powered passing attack, Chark should be able to deliver WR3 production as the No. 1 option.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster had eight catches on 11 targets in the six quarters he played with QB Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) in 2019, and Brooke Pryor of ESPN believes Smith-Schuster needs another 'reliable offensive weapon' to be at his best.
Fantasy Spin: While Smith-Schuster's numbers would have been better with a healthy Roethlisberger under center, we still don't know if he can replicate his monster 2018 numbers as the go-to option of the passing attack.
Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki will likely be used as a slot receiver in sets featuring three or more receivers in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: After a quiet rookie year, Gesicki showed signs of life in 2019, finishing with 51 catches for 570 yards and five touchdowns. He could be worth a flier as a high-upside TE2.
The Baltimore Ravens are hopeful of re-signing DE/LB Jihad Ward, a pending unrestricted free agent. The team thinks he fits well with them and they like his motor, versatility. The two sides have had discussions over the past week.
New England Patriots FS Devin McCourty might be a candidate for the franchise tag, and he could cost $11.5 million against the cap if that's the route head coach Bill Belichick and company elect.
New England Patriots PK Stephen Gostkowski (hip) has one year remaining on his contract, but he is 36 years old and coming off hip surgery. Releasing him would free up nearly $3.5 million in salary cap space.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack is not in line for a contract extension at this time. '(Marlon), we love him, but we love the other two guys. We want him back and he wants to be back, really. There were some mis-reports that we were pursuing an extension there. That's not the case. I don't know where those came from,' team owner Jim Irsay said Sunday, Feb. 23.