Mon Nov 23 4:49pm ET
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) runs out of the pocket against Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns (53) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Charlotte , N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker (6) worlks as Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston (92) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Charlotte , N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore catches a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel, left, runs past Detroit Lions middle linebacker Jarrad Davis during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker throws his first NFL touchdown past during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel catches a touchdown pass against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel, left, celebrates after scoring with Michael Schofield and Taylor Moton during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore is tackled by Detroit Lions strong safety Duron Harmon during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker looks tp pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow said last week Brian Burns was on the verge of a three-sack game because the second-year defensive end had been ''so close'' to the getting the opposing quarterback so many times this season.
Snow's words nearly turned out to be prophetic on Sunday as Burns was in on three sacks - one solo and two split - helping the Panthers beat the Lions 20-0 and earn their first shutout since 2015.
Burns has six sacks and three forced fumbles and is emerging as one of the top pass rushers in the NFC.
Stats don't tell the whole story, though.
Burns has been drawing the majority of double-teams from opposing teams because he doesn't have much help on the defensive line following the season-ending injury to two-time Pro Bowl tackle Kawann Short. That prompted Snow to move Burns around along the defensive line to disguise their play calls, even allowing him to stand up at outside linebacker and drop into coverage at times. That seemed to confuse Matthew Stafford and the struggling Lions.
''They had no idea where we were coming from, they didn't know if I was dropping, covering the slot, covering the back or if I was rushing off the edge or going into the `B' gap,'' Burns said. ''We were sending guys from all over the place and they messed up their protection a lot.''
Panthers safety Tre Boston said Burns, a first-round pick in 2019, is a star in the making.
''This is Year 2. I have to remind people sometimes that this guy is in Year 2,'' Boston said. ''I can only imagine him down the road. He is going to be very, very special. ... As long as he is playing the way he is playing, he is going to be wreaking havoc for us for a long time.''
Added linebacker Jermaine Carter: ''There aren't too many defensive ends who can drop into coverage and know what they're doing and then go sack the quarterback on third down.''
Wide receiver Curtis Samuel is emerging as a big-time player for the Panthers with 311 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in his past five games. The versatile Samuel played some running back at Ohio State, so he has the natural skills to run the ball between the tackles, and the team isn't afraid to use him there. But his route running and receiving skills are steadily improving, as evidenced by his 17-yard touchdown reception. But what Panthers coach Matt Rhule likes about him the most is he's a great player to coach.
''He doesn't make excuses and he has a tough mindset,'' Rhule said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
P.J. Walker was solid in his first start at QB on Sunday, throwing for 258 yards and a touchdown, but he was picked off twice in the end zone. Rhule noted ''that could have cost us the game'' if the defense hadn't played so well.
Some of Walker's mistakes can be written off to inexperience or a lack of being on the same page as his receivers. But he did make some promising throws in tight spots, including a 52-yard completion to D.J. Moore down the left sideline.
The Panthers hoped Moore would emerge as their No. 1 receiver this season and he's beginning to take that step toward replacing Robby Anderson in that role. Over the last two games Moore has 11 receptions for 223 yards and a touchdown.
Game management issues continue to haunt the Panthers. On their first drive, the Panthers had a third-and-4 at the Detroit 38 but were flagged with 12 men in the huddle, prompting a 5-yard penalty that took them out of field-goal range.
QB Teddy Bridgewater was cleared by the medical staff to play Sunday, but Rhule decided he didn't feel right in playing him at 80%, especially given his past knee issues. Rhule is optimistic Bridgewater will practice Wednesday and play against the Vikings, his former team, on Sunday. Rhule didn't have an update on the status of running back Christian McCaffrey except to say he remains week to week. McCaffrey has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury.
3 of 14 - Lions third-down conversions. The Panthers came in last in the league on third down defense at 55.3%, so that's a big step forward.
One week after giving up 46 points to Tom Brady and the Bucs, the Panthers pitched a shutout, a remarkable one-week turnaround. Some of that credit has to go to Carter, who got his first start at middle linebacker over Tahir Whitehead. Look for Carter to start again against the Vikings.
Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 11
The Las Vegas Raiders signed former Falcons and Titans outside linebacker Vic Beasley to their practice squad on Monday. Beasley didn't work out for the Titans this year and was released three weeks ago after recording only three combined tackles and one forced fumble in five games in 2020. Beasley was the eighth overall pick by the Falcons in the 2015 draft out of Clemson, and he excelled as an inside linebacker with Atlanta in 2016. Beasley recorded a league-high six forced fumbles (one for a touchdown) and 15.5 sacks that year on his way to being named a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro. Since then, though, the 28-year-old has 18 sacks in four seasons. He'll provide intriguing pass-rushing depth for Las Vegas.
The Minnesota Vikings placed wide receiver Adam Thielen on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. It's not immediately clear whether Thielen actually tested positive for the virus or if he's just a high-risk close contact of another individual on the team or otherwise that tested positive for COVID-19. If Thielen is just a high-risk close contact, he has a shot at playing in Week 12 against the Panthers if he continues to test negative while quarantining all week. But this news will put his availability in question for this weekend. Thielen has 123 yards receiving in Week 11 and has four touchdowns in the last two weeks, so losing him would be big for fantasy managers and the Vikings. Rookie Justin Jefferson would become the team's top wideout, with OlaBisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe or Chad Beebe likely joining him in three-wide sets.
The Seattle Seahawks placed tight end Greg Olsen (foot) on Injured Reserve on Monday. The 35-year-old veteran suffered a ruptured plantar fascia in his foot in the Thursday night win over the Cardinals, most likely ending his season and possibly his career. Olsen has been in the league for 14 years and considered retirement previously after dealing with foot injuries while at the end of his tenure with the Panthers. He wasn't very fantasy relevant in 10 games this year with Seattle, catching 23 of his 35 targets for 224 yards and one touchdown. With Olsen out for most likely the rest of the year, Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister should split pass-catching duties at tight end, making it hard to predict which player will be more productive on a weekly basis.
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule considers running back Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) week-to-week with his injury, but McCaffrey is considered unlikely to play in Week 12 against the Vikings, according to a source. All fantasy managers can do now is hope that the Pro Bowl running back can return during the fantasy playoffs, which run from Weeks 14-16 in most leagues. Backup Mike Davis had 19 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 15 yards in the Week 11 shutout win over the Lions. He'll remain Carolina's featured back with RB1 upside for as long as McCaffrey continues to be sidelined. Keep an eye on McCaffrey's practice status later in the week but have other plans ready in case he misses another game.
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that he expects quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) to practice on Wednesday. Bridgewater is dealing with an MCL sprain in his right knee and was inactive in the Week 11 shutout win over the Lions. Backup QB P.J. Walker went 24-for-34 for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the start with Bridgewater sidelined. He'd have some low-end QB2 upside against Minnesota's defense if he were to make another start for Bridgewater. Fantasy manager would like to see Bridgewater get in a full practice at some point this week in order to feel comfortable rolling with him as a QB2 if he were return to action on Sunday.
Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (shoulder) is expected to miss around three weeks with a Grade 2 AC joint sprain in his shoulder after getting injured in the Week 11 win over the Jets. Nwosu will seek a second opinion but will be a candidate for Injured Reserve. A second-round pick out of USC in 2018, the 23-year-old has contributed 23 tackles (15 solo), eight QB hits, two passes defensed and 3.5 sacks in 10 games so far this season. The Chargers Defense will be a little bit short-handed in the middle of the field for at least the next three weeks. They'll be more of a back-end starting fantasy unit against a high-powered Bills offense coming off their bye in Week 12.
The Chicago Bears placed star safety Eddie Jackson on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. If Jackson was deemed a high-risk close contact of someone else that tested positive for the virus, he'll have a good chance of playing in Week 12 against the division-rival Packers if he continues to test negative. Losing him against Green Bay, though, could become a big issue for one of the stronger defensive units in the NFL. Jackson has also been IDP relevant as a playmaker in the secondary in 2020, ranking 14th in fantasy points at his position. The former fourth-round pick in 2017 has 58 tackles (46 solo), three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown this year.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that tight end Vance McDonald has been cleared to come off the COVID-19 list and will return to practice on Tuesday. Meanwhile, tight end Zach Gentry (knee) is dealing with a significant knee injury and will not play on Thursday night against the division-rival Ravens. McDonald hasn't played since the Week 9 win over the Cowboys, but it looks like they'll have him this week against Baltimore. As long as Eric Ebron remains healthy, McDonald just isn't fantasy relevant with all of the offensive weapons around him. The veteran tight end has only nine receptions on 11 targets for 61 scoreless yards in eight games this season.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said that rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains the team's starting quarterback despite being benched in the fourth quarter in the Week 11 loss to the Broncos. "He's a talented player. He's a young player," Flores said. "He's a developing player. We have a lot of confidence in him. That's why he's the starter. He's got my full support. He's got the support of the coaching staff and the locker room." Tagovailoa was 11-for-20 for 83 yards with one touchdown and six sacks. He looked lost for long stretches, struggled with pressure and looked panicked in the pocket. The rookie from Alabama looked good at times in his previous three starts, but he hasn't been more than a low-end QB2 option in single-year formats to this point. Tagovailoa will have some more upside in Week 12, though, as he faces the winless Jets.
The Denver Broncos Defense was pretty much left for dead after allowing 30-plus points four weeks in a row, but they turned things around to help pull out the 20-13 win over the Dolphins in Week 11. In most leagues, the Denver D finished as a top-five fantasy unit. They were able to confuse rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and saddle him with his first NFL loss while also recording six sacks. A defense that has failed to turn the ball over much in 2020 also had an interception from standout safety Justin Simmons. They held Tagovailoa to 83 passing yards and one touchdown before he was benched and didn't allow a running back to go over 43 yards. It was a nice bounce-back performance from the unit, but we still wouldn't recommend them as a starting fantasy unit with the Saints coming to town in Week 12.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver K.J. Hamler contributed four catches for 35 yards on six targets in the 20-13 Week 11 win over the Dolphins on Sunday. Hamler continues to have a role in the Broncos offense, but they relied mostly on a successful ground attack in this upset victory over Miami. The 21-year-old rookie out of Penn State does have 26 targets for 14 receptions and 160 yards over the last three games, but he has just one touchdown on the season in eight games so far. The quick and explosive slot weapon can break big plays at any time and has become a WR4/5 in deeper leagues as he sees an increased role in the offense. Hamler could be a surprise performer in a Week 12 matchup against the Saints, but fantasy managers in 12-team leagues should still have better flex options.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus made both of his field-goal attempts and both of his extra points in the 20-13 win over the Dolphins in Week 11. McManus has made exactly two field goals in each of the last three weeks and has made all nine of his extra points and all seven of his field goals since missing an extra point in Week 7 against the Chiefs. He's only missed one of his 21 field-goal tries (95.2 percent) in 2020 as well. McManus has been money all year in the accuracy department, but he's tied for 12th in the league with his 21 attempts through 11 weeks. He's also boosted when he plays in the altitude in Denver at home. He'll be there again in Week 12, but McManus will be more of a low-end kicking option in a game in which the Broncos won't be afforded the luxury of settling for field goals.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was tied for the team lead in targets (eight) in the 20-13 Week 11 win over the Dolphins, but he reeled in just three of those eight targets for 37 yards. The targets were encouraging, as Jeudy has at least eight targets in each of his last four games, but the Broncos just didn't need to do much in the passing game with their running game doing its job on Sunday. Fantasy managers want to see Jeudy become more efficient with his looks, but part of that is on quarterback Drew Lock, who has been extremely inconsistent and inaccurate in his second season. Jeudy still has plenty of upside and will be a WR3/flex in a matchup with the Saints next weekend. The Broncos figure to throw plenty in that game, so expect a rebound from the 21-year-old pass-catcher.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant secured four of his five targets for 55 yards in the Week 11 win over the Dolphins. The Broncos running game dominated this contest, so the Denver offense didn't need to go to the air as much as they have in recent weeks while playing from behind. That didn't help Fant's cause, and he still hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 2. Despite the mediocre effort, it was an improvement over recent weeks when Fant was limited while playing through a nagging ankle injury. The 55 yards were actually the second-year tight end's third-highest yardage total of 2020. Denver's up-and-down offense gives Fant a fairly low weekly floor, but he'll once again be in the TE1 conversation in Week 12 against the Saints.
Baltimore Ravens running backs Mark Ingram II and rookie J.K. Dobbins have tested positive for COVID-19 and will go on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, according to sources. With Baltimore playing on Thursday night against the undefeated Steelers in Week 12, both Ingram and Dobbins will be inactive. That means that Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will be the two primary backs in the Ravens backfield for the important divisional matchup this week. Edwards had just three carries for six yards in the Week 11 loss to the Titans in overtime, but he figures to be the featured back against Pittsburgh. The Steelers allow the second-fewest fantasy points per game to the running back position, but Edwards will have RB2 upside with both Ingram and Dobbins sidelined.
The Baltimore Ravens are expected to sign former Jets cornerback Pierre Desir once he goes through the league's COVID-19 testing protocols, according to a source. Desir signed a one-year deal with the Jets for up to $5.5 million in the offseason, but the struggling cornerback was released last week. Before the 2020 season, Desir had been a three-year starter for the Colts after previously playing with the Browns and Chargers. The 30-year-old struggled in coverage with Gang Green this year, though, recording 47 tackles (37 solo), a career-high three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and eight passes defensed in nine games (eight starts). For now, he'll serve as cornerback depth for a talented Ravens secondary.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow's (knee) MRI exam revealed that he tore his ACL, MCL and suffered other structural issues to his left knee in the Week 11 loss to the Washington Football Team. Burrow will undergo season-ending reconstructive surgery on his knee and could be out anywhere from nine to 12 months, which would put his status for the beginning of the 2021 season in question. It could make him a risky high-end QB2 for fantasy managers going into draft season next year. The 23-year-old had his ups and downs in his first year before suffering the season-ending injury, but he also showed great poise and plenty of upside in the long-term for both fantasy and real life. Ryan Finley is expected to take over under center moving forward, which should lower the fantasy value of the rest of Cincy's offensive pieces.
Chicago Bears quarterbacks Nick Foles (hip) and Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) are still dealing with injuries, and head coach Matt Nagy has declined to name a starter for Week 12 against the division-rival Packers, saying that a quarterback change is still "on the table." Foles didn't suffer a major hip injury in last Monday night's loss to the Rams, but he wasn't playing well before his injury and the Bears could decide to make a change under center in order to turn their season around. If neither QB can go against Green Bay, it would likely be Tyler Bray receiving the start, which would be bad news for Chicago's pass-catchers. The Packers Defense will be a popular streaming option this week, while fantasy managers should treat Chicago's starter at QB, whoever that may be, as a desperation low-end QB2.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick had a team-high five receptions on eight targets for a team-high 119 receiving yards in the 20-13 win over the Dolphins in Week 11. His eight targets were also tied for the team lead on Sunday. It marked the third time this season that Patrick has gone over 100 yards receiving after doing it in back-to-back weeks in Weeks 4 and 6 against the Jets and Patriots. The 27-year-old has been targeted seven-plus times in each of the last three weeks, and he should continue to see a steady diet of targets in Week 12 against the Saints. New Orleans defense has been much more vulnerable through the air, and Denver will likely need to throw to stay in the game. Patrick will be a WR3/flex with some upside in Week 12.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay had a team-high 16 carries for 82 yards (5.1 yards per carry) in the Week 12 victory over the visiting Dolphins. Denver's rushing attack was the story in this game, as Lindsay and Melvin Gordon combined for 166 yards on the ground to control the clock. Lindsay had one more carry than Gordon, but Gordon managed to find the end zone twice. Still, it was a positive development for Lindsay. The 26-year-old saw his second-highest carry total of the season on Sunday after rushing the ball just 12 times in the previous two games combined. He'll be a low-upside RB3/flex next week against the Saints, though, as they've allowed a league-low three rushing scores all season. Plus, Lindsay hasn't been a factor in the passing attack with just two catches in seven games.