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Bucs puzzled by inconsistency against playoff contenders

Tue Nov 24 6:58pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are searching for answers for their inconsistency.

The team's prime-time woes continued with a 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, however what's been even more curious during a stretch in which the Bucs (7-4) have played four night games is Brady hasn't played well in any of them.

Three of the team's four losses have come under the lights on the road against Chicago and at home against NFC South leader New Orleans and the Rams, who share the best record in the NFC West.

The Bucs also struggled before holding off the New York Giants for a narrow victory in their other prime-time appearance.

Coach Bruce Arians is at a loss to describe the inconsistency, which has ranged from impressive performances in wins over Green Bay and Las Vegas to a pair of lopsided losses to the Saints. Seven of Brady's nine interceptions have come in three games against the Saints and Rams.

''I'm still trying to figure that out,'' Arians said. ''At times we look really, really good and then there are times where we obviously don't.''

Brady didn't provide much more insight after going 26 of 48 for 216 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of costly interceptions in Monday night's loss to the Rams.

Rookie Jordan Fuller had both interceptions for Los Angeles, which - like New Orleans, Chicago and New York in the other prime-time matchups - was able to disrupt the 43-year-old quarterback with a strong pass rush.

The Rams only sacked the six-time Super Bowl champion once, but they pressured and hit him all night long.

Fuller's first interception led to a touchdown. The second sealed the victory after Matt Gay's 40-yard field goal gave Los Angeles the lead for good with 2:36 remaining.

''Just a bad read,'' Brady said of the clincher, which was intended for tight end Cameron Brate, but instead went straight to the Rams safety.

''Cam was running up a seam and at the last second I saw the safety coming over and just popped it over Cam's head,'' Brady added. ''Just a bad read, a bad throw, decision - everything. Can't happen.''

Things don't get any easier this week, with the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs headed to town.

The Bucs haven't made the playoffs since 2007, a 12-season drought that's the second longest in the league.

It's why they pursued Brady in free agency and then added veterans Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy and Antonio Brown to an already impressive group of playmakers on the roster.

''Like they told us last week, every game is like a playoff game and that mentality we have to take it during this week,'' safety Jordan Whitehead said.

''It's hard to lose an NFC game and we just have to bounce back. We have another one next week, another tough one,'' Whitehead added. ''We just have to learn ... and go the next one.''

WHAT'S WORKING

It wasn't easy to watch Gay, a fifth-round draft pick by the Bucs in 2019, kick two field goals, including the game-winner for the Rams. Tampa Bay released him in training camp to clear the way for Ryan Succop to handle the job this season.

Gay missed eight field goals and five extra points during an inconsistent rookie year. He signed the Rams just last week, replacing injured Kai Forbath, and converted kicks of 38 and 40 yards while missing a 44-yarder in his Los Angeles debut.

In fairness to the Bucs, Succop has been outstanding since joining Tampa Bay. He's 21 of 23 on field-goal attempts and has made all his kicks inside 40 yards - a distance Gay struggled from a year ago.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Brady has struggled throwing the deep ball the past two games. Despite shredding Carolina in a 46-23 victory, he missed several open receivers deep against the Panthers. His longest completion went for 18 yards to Mike Evans on Monday night.

''We'll study it. Again, we've had some chances - definitely,'' Brady said. ''The receivers are doing a great job and I've got to get them the ball. Got to figure out how to do that.''

STOCK UP

Brown is gradually getting more involved in the offense. He was targeted 13 times in his third game since joining the Bucs after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. He had eight receptions for 57 yards, both team highs against the Rams.

STOCK DOWN

The defense could not contain the Rams' short passing game, allowing Jared Goff to throw for 376 yards and three touchdowns without a sack. Whitehead and Jason Pierre-Paul had interceptions to set up 10 second-half points, however Los Angeles receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp combined for 23 catches for 275 yards.

INJURED

Cornerback Jamel Dean left Monday night's game with a concussion. His status for this week is uncertain.

KEY NUMBER

42, as in yards rushing vs. the Rams. That's after topping 200 the previous week against Carolina. Ronald Jones followed up a 192-yard outing against the Panthers with 24 yards on 10 carries. Leonard Fournette gained 17 on seven attempts.

NEXT STEPS

The Bucs host Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs (9-1) on Sunday.

''We've got to get ready to play a great football team coming up,'' Brady said.

''Nothing has been great to this point. We've had some good wins, had some tough losses,'' Brady added. ''Everything is about one week here in the NFL. We're going to have to go play really, really well against a great football team next week.''

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Player Notes
Jeff Wilson Nov 24 7:10pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running backs Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) were both designated to return off of injured reserve Tuesday, opening the possibility that either could take the field Sunday against the Rams. Mostert has served as San Francisco's lead back when healthy this season, having amassed 65 yards on 17 carries against Los Angeles back in Week 6, the last time that he took the field. Upon getting the green light to return to action, he should be rostered with confidence in medium-sized or larger season-long formats. Wilson's status is a bit more finicky, as his fantasy intrigue is directly related to the health of the 49ers' backfield. Tevin Coleman (knee) and Jerick McKinnon (as well as Mostert) would both figure to be ahead of Wilson on the depth chart, thereby limiting his touches once he's officially back in the mix.

From RotoBaller

Derek Rivers Nov 24 7:00pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams have claimed defensive end Derek Rivers off of waivers after he was released by New England over the weekend. Having appeared in eight games with the Patriots this season, Rivers has compiled four tackles and four quarterback hits to go along with 1.5 sacks. Not yet having started a game in his NFL career, Rivers figures to be merely a depth piece for the Rams Defense, albeit one that has the size to be a consistent pass-rusher. Los Angeles' defensive group has earned itself weekly consideration due to its sack potential, currently tied for third in the NFL with 32 sacks as a group. It's unclear if Rivers will be active for Sunday's game against San Francisco at this stage, but fantasy managers in need of a streamer option in season-long formats can put the Rams in consideration.

From RotoBaller

Terry McLaurin Nov 24 6:50pm ET

Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle) was able to log a limited practice Tuesday, an improvement from the estimated DNP that he earned Monday. With just three days of recovery ahead of a Thanksgiving matchup versus Dallas, the fact that McLaurin was able to take the field in any capacity bodes well for his chances of suiting up against an exploitable Cowboys secondary. McLaurin hauled in seven receptions for 90 yards in the prior meeting between the two teams in Week 7; he'll be a must-start in season-long formats so long as he gets the thumbs up to eventually take the field. Check back prior to kickoff to get final word on McLaurin's status.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Gibson Nov 24 6:50pm ET

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (ankle) may have been an estimated DNP participant Monday, but that didn't stop him from logging a full practice session Tuesday, all but clearing him to take the field Thursday against Dallas. Gibson has found the end zone in four consecutive games, including a career-best 128-yard rushing performance versus the Cowboys back in Week 7. He will be a strong RB2 asset despite the short week due to his prior success against a defense that has allowed the second-most rushing yards (1,260) this season. Barring any last-minute practice updates Wednesday that could curtail his usage, fantasy managers can deploy Gibson with confidence in all formats after some initial trepidation.

From RotoBaller

Byron Pringle Nov 24 6:40pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, meaning that he'll miss at least the team's upcoming three contests. Pringle hauled in three receptions for 17 yards versus Las Vegas on Sunday night before departing due to an ankle injury, which will keep him on the shelf for around a month. With Sammy Watkins' (hamstring) status still up in the air, Tyreek Hill, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman should continue to see a plethora of targets coming their way from MVP frontrunner Patrick Mahomes. With limited options at WR, the Chiefs are also tasked with facing a stout Buccaneers Defense in Week 12, which could make the aforementioned names a bit of a risk in DFS formats, despite their unimpeded path to targets.

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Myles Garrett Nov 24 6:30pm ET

Cleveland Browns defensive end Joe Jackson (COVID-19 list) landed on the COVID-19/reserve list Tuesday, thereby putting his status for Sunday's game against Jacksonville in question. (Players do not have to test positive for the virus to be placed on the list.) Jackson has been a lightly utilized defensive end for the Browns Defense this season, not having taken the field since Week 4. (Which, theoretically, clears the Eagles as well heading into Week 12.) Even without Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett last week, Cleveland turned in one of its best defensive outings of 2020, which bodes well for the group's upside against a Jaguars offense that failed to score a touchdown last week. Jackson's inclusion on the COVID-19 list does not appear to be affecting the status of Sunday's game at this stage.

From RotoBaller

Deionte Thompson Nov 24 6:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals safety Deionte Thompson (COVID-19 list) was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list Tuesday, putting his status up in the air for Sunday's contest against New England. (Players do not have to test positive for the virus to be placed on the list.) Thompson has started four games for Arizona this year but has been limited lately due to injury. Having racked up 24 tackles and two passes defended across eight games, the Cardinals Defense could be looking at having an extremely thin secondary when facing the Patriots in Week 12. At this stage, there's little indication that Thompson's status on the COVID-19 list is putting the game in jeopardy of taking place at its designated time. Check back throughout the week to see if he is cleared in time to take the field.

From RotoBaller

Jamar Taylor Nov 24 6:10pm ET

San Francisco 49ers cornerback K'Waun Williams has been levied a two-game suspension due to a violation of the league's performance-enhancing substance policy, meaning that he'll be out of the mix Sunday against the Rams and in Week 13 versus Buffalo. Jamar Taylor is expected to step in for Williams in the secondary, although the continued pilfering of key cogs on the 49ers Defense makes the unit a tenuous fantasy asset at this stage. Williams has collected 14 combined tackles, two passes defended, and one sack across six games this season. His next chance to return comes Week 14 against Washington, which likely coincides with the next occasion in which San Francisco's defense will merit solid season-long consideration.

From RotoBaller

Marvin Jones Nov 24 5:30pm ET

Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. will go up against a Texans Defense on Thanksgiving that is giving up the 10th most fantasy points to opposing receivers this season. As of now, the Lions offensive weapons are banged up and the veteran Jones Jr. may be tasked will picking up the slack. The Texans have allowed five 100+-yard receiving games this season and the Lions have health questions currently with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Hall, D'Andre Swift, Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson. Jones Jr. is not having an elite season but could surprise, especially in PPR-leagues, to kick off the Thursday slate of games in Week 12.

From RotoBaller

Kenny Golladay Nov 24 5:20pm ET

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) was a limited participant in practice, an improvement heading into the team's matchup against the Texans on Thanksgiving to kick off Week 12. Golladay missed last week's game and has been banged up most of the season. But when he is on the field, the Lions offense ascends to another level. If Golladay suits up, he will face a Texans Defense that is allowing the 10th most fantasy points to opposing receivers. The Texans have allowed seven different receivers to post 79 or more receiving yards against them this season and have been burned for 100+-yard performances by the Jaguars D.J. Chark Jr. and the Patriots Damien Byrd in the past two games. If Golladay plays he can easily be slotted as a WR2 with excellent red zone potential for Week 12. But fantasy teams may need to monitor his status all the way up to game time this week.

From RotoBaller

T.J. Hockenson Nov 24 5:20pm ET

Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (shoulder) was limited in practice as the team prepares to take on the Texans to kick off Thanksgiving Thursday. This is a new injury and it very well could be precautionary heading into a short week. But fantasy teams will have to keep an eye on this situation heading into the game as Hockenson has emerged as a solid red zone threat with five touchdowns this season. The Lions will face a Texans Defense that is allowing the 14th fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season and have not allowed 10 or more fantasy points to an opposing tight end since Week 3. Fantasy teams will need to check Hockenson's status heading into the game but, if he is healthy, will be a touchdown-dependent option in Week 12.

From RotoBaller

D'Andre Swift Nov 24 5:10pm ET

Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift is still in the concussion protocol as the team prepares to play early Thursday morning against the Texans on Thanksgiving. His availability could be a huge blow to a Lions team that is seeing its playoff hopes slip away. Swift has been fantastic over the past few weeks, displaying the type of versatile threat in the passing and running game that earned him praise in training camp. But as of now, the rookie is trending towards not playing, and it would be a shame with a favorable matchup in Week 12. The Texans have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing backs this season. Veteran Adrian Peterson will step up once again if Swift misses the game, but Peterson cannot be trusted to post RB2-type numbers despite the favorable tilt. Kerryon Johnson would also continue to mix in.

From RotoBaller

Adrian Peterson Nov 24 5:10pm ET

Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson will prepare to take on a vulnerable Texans Defense on Thanksgiving. With starter D'Andre Swift (concussion) still in league protocol's, Peterson will be the next man up to lead the team's running attack. The veteran and teammate Kerryon Johnson will take on a Texans defense that is allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing backs. Houston have allowed 12 rushing touchdowns and have allowed seven different running backs to post 10 or more fantasy points against them over their last five games. The matchup is fantastic but Peterson simply does not have the speed anymore to make opposing defenses pay. If Swift does not suit up, however, Peterson will see enough volume to justify a fringe fantasy play in Week 12.

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Matthew Stafford Nov 24 5:00pm ET

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will try and step up his game to kick off Week 12 when the team hosts their annual Thanksgiving game against the Texans on Thursday. The veteran passer has been dealing with torn ligaments in his throwing thumb but told reporters, "Obviously, I can play better, I'm the guy that touches the ball on offense every play, so the better I play, the better we'll play as a team," Stafford said. "Just got to be better myself." The Lions season is slipping away but Stafford will face a Texans Defense that is allowing the 14th most fantasy points to opposing passers. Houston has allowed 300+ passing yards to four of the last six quarterbacks they have faced and 12 passing touchdowns in that span. Stafford's fantasy value may be tied to the health and availability of receiver Kenny Golladay, who is trending up towards playing on Thursday. Stafford is a lukewarm fantasy option in DFS for Thursday and not a top-12 option for Week 12.

From RotoBaller

Dallas Cowboys Nov 24 4:40pm ET

The Dallas Cowboys defense has been anything but reliable this season, finishing in the top-20 of fantasy defenses just four times so far this season. However, Week 12 against the Washington Football Team makes for about as good a matchup as there can be. The Washington offense ranks 28th in total offense while giving up the fourth-most sacks as well as the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. Last week, the Cowboys recorded two sacks and two takeaways against Minnesota. The Cowboys defense is somewhere around the 15th-ranked defense in fantasy formats this week.

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La'Mical Perine Nov 24 4:40pm ET

The New York Jets placed rookie running back La'Mical Perine (ankle) and kicker Sam Ficken (undisclosed) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Perine and Ficken will miss at least the next three games. Perine was starting to see a bigger role on offense, so this injury is a tough break as he continues to develop in his rookie season. The youngster is only worth hanging onto in dynasty/keeper leagues. Veteran Frank Gore will go back to being the workhorse back in the Jets backfield, but he's nothing more than a low-upside, low-floor RB3/flex in much deeper leagues in this mediocre Jets offense. Ficken missed two extra points in Week 11 and wasn't on the fantasy radar to begin with. Sergio Castillo is next in line for kicking duties but should also be avoided in fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Greg Zuerlein Nov 24 4:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein is a fringe kicking option in a Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Washington Football Team on Thursday. Partly due to the strength of the Washington defense, opposing kickers have actually fared well against them. Zuerlein has been a somewhat low-volume kicker ever since quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle) was lost for the season, though, finishing as a top-15 fantasy kicker just five times so far this season. Zuerlein is a bit more attractive now that quarterback Andy Dalton is back under center, but his ceiling remains low for fantasy managers.

From RotoBaller

Josh Allen Nov 24 4:30pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars placed defensive end Josh Allen (knee), cornerback D.J. Hayden (hamstring) and safety Daniel Thomas (arm) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. Allen suffered a knee injury in the Week 11 loss to the Steelers, and while he'll miss at least three games, the injury wasn't considered too serious and he should have a chance to return before the end of the year. The 23-year-old seventh overall pick in 2019 was a Pro Bowler in his rookie season when he recorded 10.5 sacks. However, he's struggled this year as the team's primary pass-rushing threat, recording just 2.5 sacks and 13 combined tackles in eight games. An already weak Jacksonville defense just got a lot weaker with the losses of Allen and Hayden. You should avoid their defense at all costs in Week 12 against the Browns.

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Brandon Williams Nov 24 4:20pm ET

The Baltimore Ravens placed outside linebacker Pernell McPhee on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. It's unclear if McPhee actually tested positive for COVID-19, but either way, he will not be available for the Thanksgiving night matchup against the undefeated Steelers on Thursday. The 31-year-old has 25 tackles (20 solo), 11 QB hits and two sacks in 2020 in 10 games. Defensive lineman Brandon Williams will also be unavailable for the Ravens Defense this week against a strong Pittsburgh offense. Baltimore's D has been one of the better fantasy units for the majority of the season, but this would be a week to fade them.

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Dalton Schultz Nov 24 4:20pm ET

Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz makes for a touchdown-dependent TE2 option on Thanksgiving Day against the Washington Football Team. Schultz did not end up with a huge yardage total last week, but he made four catches on six targets for 25 yards and a touchdown. Schultz is a weekly touchdown threat and maintains a solid floor in the Cowboys offense. He's finished as a TE1 or TE2 in seven of the nine games he has started.

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