Mon Nov 23 5:19pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
Indianapolis Colts' Michael Pittman (11) runs in for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Indianapolis Colts' Darius Leonard (53) celebrates after forcing the Green Bay Packers to turn the ball over on down during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Green Bay Packers' Marquez Valdes-Scantling (83) fumbles a catch during the overtime of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. Colts' DeForest Buckner (99) recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Indianapolis Colts' DeForest Buckner (99) recovers a fumble by Green Bay Packers' Marquez Valdes-Scantling (83) during overtime of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Indianapolis Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship (3) celebrates making the game winning field goal in overtime of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Green Bay Packers' Marquez Valdes-Scantling (83) fumbles a catch during the overtime of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. Indianapolis Colts' DeForest Buckner (99) recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) As safety Julian Blackmon studied his new Indianapolis Colts playbook last spring, one thought kept running through his mind: Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Even though he was still rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee; even though he slid to the third round of the draft because of an injury suffered during the Pac-12 title game; even though COVID-19 forced the cancellation of offseason workouts and he missed training camp, Blackmon believed he could win it.
''I sat down and literally wrote Defensive Rookie of the Year all over my playbook because that's what I want,'' he said after forcing the game-changing fumble in Indy's 34-31 overtime victory over Green Bay. ''I truly believe that's a talent that I have that I can help bring to this team. It's definitely been on my radar.''
Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard, the 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year, started the lobbying effort Sunday.
Blackmon has played in eight games and made seven starts since replacing the injured Malik Hooker in the lineup. The former Utah cornerback has 26 tackles with two for losses, intercepted two passes, has six passes defensed and the key forced fumble in a crucial win.
He's not the only young player making an impact for the Colts (7-3).
Second-round pick Michael Pittman Jr. has 14 receptions for 223 yards over the last three games, celebrating his first career score with a nifty 45-yard catch-and-run against the Packers. Jonathan Taylor, another second-rounder, had 22 carries for 90 yards and caught four passes for 24 yards - his most productive game in a month and perhaps his best game this season.
After Blackmon forced the fumble and DeForest Buckner, who the Colts acquired in a March trade for their first-round pick, recovered it, undrafted rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made the winning field goal.
''Pitt was great off offensively. All of those other guys you mentioned were big time, too'' eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers said. ''It's a heck of a rookie class.''
They seem to be thriving at a time many rookies tend to wear down, and the Colts know they'll need each rookie to keep producing to make a deep playoff run.
''Nobody's doing what he (Blackmon) is doing,'' Leonard said. ''He's making big-time plays in big-time situations. That's what you're supposed to do. He's not playing like a rookie.''
Takeaways. The Colts forced four more turnovers Sunday, including two game-changing fumbles in the second half - against a foe known for protecting the ball. Indy is tied for second in the league with 17 takeaways.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Closing out games. Indianapolis secured an enormous win after nearly giving it away with five holding calls and six total penalties on its final possession of regulation. The sequence let Green Bay get the ball with one timeout and 85 seconds left on the clock. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to the tying field goal with 3 seconds left.
''I'm disappointed, that we didn't put it away,'' coach Frank Reich said. ''I didn't get a look at the calls, all I know is we've got to coach that better and play that better.''
QB Jacoby Brissett. Reich has been trying to get Brissett on the field all season. This week, Brissett found his niche in short-yardage situations. Don't be surprised if that package continues to be deployed, with the coaching staff adding some new wrinkles in future games.
OL Le'Raven Clark. The fifth-year veteran long ago cemented his role as a key backup. He replaced injured left tackle Anthony Castonzo in a loss to Cleveland but struggled against Myles Garrett. This time, he replaced right tackle Braden Smith (thumb) and struggled again, and Chaz Green took some snaps away from Clark.
Rivers hurt the big toe on his right foot early in the fourth quarter. He said afterward that he expects to make his 235th consecutive start when the Colts host Tennessee in a key AFC South showdown next weekend. If he does, Rivers will pass Eli Manning for the 10th-longest streak of consecutive starts in league history. But Rivers may need some extra time in the training room this week.
''I talked to him today, obviously, it was pretty sore,'' Reich said Monday. ''We'll see what happens.''
140 - The Colts rushed for 140 yards Sunday, their second-highest total this season. They've run for 273 yards over the past two weeks, their best two-game stretch this season, and now have four straight 100-yard games.
Indy is 2-1 during this crucial four-game stretch and can secure the inside track to a division title by sweeping the season series from the Titans.
Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 11
New York Jets QB Mike White was released Monday, Nov. 23. TE Ross Travis was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and returned to the practice squad.
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.
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, Nov. 23.
Fantasy Spin: It's unclear at this point whether or not Thielen tested positive or was deemed a close contact - the distinction being that the former would rule him out for Week 12 while the latter would give him a chance to play against the Carolina Panthers. Stay tuned. If Thielen can't go, Justin Jefferson would step up into the lead role. Olabisi Johnson would likely start opposite him, but he'd be a desperation play at best. Irv Smith might stand to benefit the most from a fantasy perspective.
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.
Detroit Lions WR Danny Amendola (hip), CB Mike Ford (concussion), DL Da'Shawn Hand (groin), CB Jeff Okudah (shoulder) and RB D'Andre Swift (concussion) did not participate in practice Monday, Nov. 23. DE Austin Bryant (thigh), LB Jarrad Davis (knee), WR Kenny Golladay (hip), WR Marvin Hall (toe), S Will Harris (groin), TE T.J. Hockenson (shoulder), OG Jonah Jackson (knee), LB Christian Jones (knee), LB Reggie Ragland (ankle), QB Matthew Stafford (thumb) and OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot) were limited. The Lions did not practice on Monday, so the report is an estimation.
Chicago Bears S Eddie Jackson was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, Nov. 23.
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.
Carolina Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater (knee) reportedly felt good and got through his pregame warmup without issue in Week 11, but head coach Matt Rhule opted to go with backup P.J. Walker anyway. Rhule told reporters Monday, Nov. 23, that he expects Bridgewater to return to a full practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) was deemed 'week-to-week' by head coach Matt Rhule on Monday, Nov. 23.
Fantasy Spin: McCaffrey has already missed two games with his shoulder. Taken at face value, Rhule's comments make it sound like he is pessimistic that the stud running back will be ready to play in Week 12 against the Minnesota Vikings, although it would make some sense with Carolina eyeing a bye in Week 13. At least for now, it appears Mike Davis is set up to make at least one more start.
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.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (hamstring) could be a game-time decision for Week 12 against the Las Vegas Raiders, according to comments made by interim head coach Raheem Morris.
Fantasy Spin: Jones logged just over 20 snaps in Week 11, so fantasy owners should be relatively happy they were able to get the two catches and 39 yards from him. Olamide Zaccheaus has stepped up in a couple of spots this season and would seem to be the best target for fantasy owners looking for a direct replacement for Jones if he can't go. If Jones does try to go, he's an obvious risk for an in-game setback.
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.