Sun Jan 12 8:55pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Houston Texans cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr. (32) runs for a touchdown after linebacker Barkevious Mingo (52) blocked a Kansas City Chiefs punt, during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans players celebrate after linebacker Barkevious Mingo (52) blocked a Kansas City Chiefs punt for a touchdown, during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) calls a play during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills (12) makes a touchdown catch during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans cornerback Keion Crossen (35) recovers the ball fumbled on a punt ball by Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, right, and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) greet each other after an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) scrambles under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Houston Texans running back Taiwan Jones (34) leaps after the ball fumbled by Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10), during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. The ball was recovered by Houston Texans cornerback Keion Crossen for a turnover. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) walks off the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes celebrates in the final moments of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Bill O'Brien figured it would take more than 24 points to beat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Even when they spotted his Houston Texans a 24-0 lead.
So after the Chiefs had finally reached the end zone in their divisional playoff game, and the Texans were on the verge of going three-and-out, their coach sent his punt unit onto the field. But rather than kick the ball away, they snapped directly to Justin Reid, who took off around the right side of the line and was stopped short of a first down.
Given the short field, the Chiefs quickly scored again. And again. And they kept on scoring, eventually reeling off 41 consecutive points in the biggest comeback in franchise history. It not only wiped out that big Houston lead by halftime but pushed Kansas City all the way to a 51-31 victory and into a second consecutive AFC championship game.
''We felt like we had to manufacture some points, manufacture some yards and it just didn't work out,'' said O'Brien, who will also take heat for kicking a short field goal on fourth-and-inches rather than going for the first down and potentially a 28-0 lead.
''When you're playing a team that is that explosive on offense,'' he added, ''you got to try and keep scoring.''
Except the Titans didn't do that again until it was too late.
After the failed fake punt, the Titans fumbled the ball away. They missed a field goal just before halftime. They punted on their first possession of the second half before quarterback Deshaun Watson finally found the end zone again.
Then they turned it over on downs three straight times as the celebration began in Kansas City.
''It was a really good lead. No doubt about it,'' O'Brien said, ''but I do not think any lead is safe versus these guys, and that is why we felt like we needed 50 points. We weren't able to do that.''
The collapse wasn't just due to the attempted fake punt, of course. The Texans were held to just 94 yards rushing, they were 2 of 4 in the red zone and 5 of 15 on third down. They were penalized seven times for 87 yards while their defense struggled to find an answer for Patrick Mahomes and the rest of a Chiefs offense that has been putting up big numbers for years.
''It wasn't fun. Sports are all about highs and lows. That's really what it boils down to,'' Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. ''Today we experienced an extreme high early and then we experienced a hell of a lot of lows as the game went on.''
Mahomes finished with 321 yards passing and five touchdowns. Travis Kelce became the first player in NFL history with three touchdown grabs in a single quarter, finishing with 10 catches for 134 yards. Damien Williams ran for 47 yards and two scores while catching another one. Even little-used tight end Blake Bell caught his first TD pass.
It naturally raised the question of whether Romeo Crennel will return as defensive coordinator. The coach who served in the same role in Kansas City before a season as the head coach was unable to solve the Chiefs' potent passing game.
At one point, the Chiefs set an NFL postseason record by scoring touchdowns on seven consecutive possessions.
''We have to coach better. We didn't do enough to put our guys in good enough positions to make plays,'' said O'Brien, who did say he expected Crennel back but that he would meet with all his coaches in the coming days.
There will be much for the Texans to discuss in the coming days.
They became the first team in NFL history to lead a playoff game by at least 20 points and then lose by at least 20, and the 24-point lead they squandered tied for the fourth-biggest in playoff history. The 51 points they surrendered equaled the most in a playoff game since Jacksonville pounded Miami 62-7 in January 2000, while the Texans remained winless in four postseason road games and four trips to the divisional round of the playoffs.
''Every year, every team is different,'' defensive tackle D.J. Reader said in a morose Texans locker room. ''There's a bunch of guys on this team going into this offseason that don't want this taste in their mouth again.''
Five Sleepers: Week 8
New York Giants running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) has been ruled out for Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This was expected, as Freeman was not able to take the practice field all week. He suffered the injury during the Giants' Week 7 contest against the Eagles on Thursday night, though the added time didn't help him heal any quicker. The Giants will turn to Wayne Gallman- who looked good in spurts against Philadelphia- as their lead back. He'll get enough touches to be started as a flex option, though it's hard to envision him finding much success against Tampa's league-best run defense.
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (knee) is out for a key Week 8 divisional clash against the Bills. There was a glimmer of hope on Thursday when Gilmore was able to get a limited practice session in, though Friday's DNP made his status for Sunday grim. New England doesn't have much depth behind last year's Defensive Player of the Year and is inconveniently about to face Stefon Diggs. Diggs was already a must-start based on his previous production and is now arguably a top-five wide receiver this week.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said that running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) will go for one more post-concussion evaluation on Saturday, but the team expects him to play in Week 8 against the Chargers, barring a setback in that test. It's bad news for Melvin Gordon, who will now share touches in the backfield with Lindsay, making him more of a low-end RB2/high-end RB3/flex. Lindsay was the better runner in Week 7, too, racking up 79 yards on nine carries. He's averaging just under five yards a carry and Gordon lost two costly fumbles against the Chiefs. Lindsay will be an RB3/flex option in PPR leagues if he can pass his final concussion test.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (concussion) has been downgraded from doubtful to out for the Sunday night game against the division-rival Eagles in Week 8. This was the expectation all along after Dalton was unable to clear the concussion protocol or practice all week. Owner Jerry Jones thinks that the signal-caller will be ready to go for Week 9 against the Steelers, but we'll have to keep a close eye on his progress in the league's protocol. If he is available next week, he'd be a low-end QB2 against a tough Steelers Defense. Rookie Ben DiNucci will make his first career start against Philadelphia this Sunday, but he's also a low-end desperation QB2 in superflex leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Ryan Succop makes for a good play in a Week 8 matchup against the New York Giants. Succop has made at least five kicks in four straight games and has at least five extra points in two straight. There's no reason to doubt Tampa Bay's offense against the Giants, even though their defense has shown signs of improvement. Fire up Succop as a solid starting option this week.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense has been one of the best options for fantasy this year. They get their best matchup of the year in Week 8 against the Giants, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. The Giants' offensive line ranks dead-last in adjusted sack rate while Tampa Bay's defensive front ranks second in sack rate. This is a dream matchup for the Buccaneers' defense, so expect more than a few sacks and a couple of turnovers forced at the expense of Daniel Jones. The Buccaneers are probably going to be the highest-scoring defense of the week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski faces a semi-tough matchup in Week 8 against the Giants. Gronkowski has at least six targets and 50 yards receiving in each of his last three contests and has scored a touchdown in two straight games. The Giants are not the soft spot they used to be for tight ends- they've allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position. Still, Gronkowski is too hot to bench right now, especially with how thin the tight end position is for fantasy. He has a good chance of putting up top-12 numbers at his position in Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (calf) has been ruled out for Week 8's Sunday night matchup with the division-rival Cowboys. Jeffery still has yet to make his 2020 season debut and missed practice all week. The 30-year-old miss the start of the season after having offseason foot surgery, but the calf injury is what's holding him back of late. The oft-injured veteran might not even have much of a role once he finally does return, so he's not a very attractive stash in standard-sized leagues at this point. The Eagles will be getting tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) and rookie receiver Jalen Reagor (thumb) back in Week 8 as well. Jeffery has become a fantasy afterthought.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Tyler Johnson will take the place of the injured Chris Godwin (finger) in Week 8 against the Giants. Johnson got the start in Week 5, playing a season-high 79 percent of the snaps and putting up a 4-61-0 line. With Brady currently rolling, it's fair to consider starting a player such as Johnson. There is some risk here, as the game script may tilt this towards a more run-heavy gameplan for the Buccaneers. Still, Johnson can be started by managers who are struggling with injuries or bye weeks.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (ankle) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the division-rival Bills. Harris was a limited practice participant all week, so he should be able to suit up on Sunday against Buffalo, barring any setbacks. New England will need as much help as possible from their backfield this weekend with both receivers Julian Edelman (knee) and N'Keal Harry (concussion) out, but the Patriots crowded backfield and their stagnant offense are both big concerns for Harris' potential upside. Harris has seen double-digit carries in two of his three games this year, but he'll need positive game script to reach his ceiling this weekend, and that might be tough going against a strong Buffalo offense. With just two catches in three games as well, Harris is an uninspiring RB3/flex in this crowded backfield picture.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox (knee) and center Ryan Kelly (knee) are both questionable for Week 8 against the Lions. Alie-Cox didn't practice on Wednesday, but he was limited both Thursday and Friday. He sat out of the team's Week 6 game and rested up during the bye last week. The 27-year-old has a decent shot at playing this Sunday against Detroit, but his moment in the fantasy sun appears to have come and gone in 2020. Alie-Cox went over 100 yards receiving in Week 2 and scored in back-to-back games in Weeks 3 and 4, but he failed to haul in his only target in Week 5 when he was injured, and he's expected to take a back seat to Trey Burton moving forward.
Las Vegas Raiders rookie wide receiver Bryan Edwards (ankle, foot) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Browns. Edwards was limited in practice all week, so he definitely has a chance to return for the first time since Week 3. The third-rounder has caught five of his six targets for 99 yards in the first three games of his career, but he won't carry any fantasy appeal if he returns to action against Cleveland, as rookie Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow and Nelson Agholor should operate in three-receiver sets this Sunday. The Browns are an enticing matchup for wideouts; they've allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to them this year. Edwards might be able to make a splash play if he's active, but you can't trust him in fantasy lineups.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and is expected to play in Week 8 against the Saints. Robinson missed practice all week, making it seem unlikely on Friday that he would be able to suit up on Sunday. But it looks like fantasy managers can return him to their starting lineups for this weekend. Chicago's offense has been stagnant the last two weeks, though, which has limited A-Rob to nine receptions for 123 yards on 13 targets in that span. The Bears need to make their top receiver a bigger part of the game plan to get back in the win column, but the 27-year-old will be a WR2 for fantasy managers against New Orleans.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Scotty Miller could have a chance at more targets in Week 8 without Chris Godwin (finger) on the field. Miller has started two games without Godwin, producing a 2-11-0 line in Week 2 and a 5-83-1 line in Week 4. Brady certainly seems to trust him, which bodes well for his outlook. However, the game script might be working against him, as the Giants aren't likely to keep this a close contest. He's a risky WR4 for this game, though he's a player that can be rolled out there if you're up against it with injuries or bye weeks.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore (hand) is listed as questionable to play in Week 8 against the Chiefs. Gore was limited in practice on both Wednesday and Friday but sat out on Thursday. You really shouldn't trust anyone in this atrocious Jets offense not named Jamison Crowder, and he's not expected to play this Sunday. The 37-year-old Gore is now dealing with an injury and has been splitting repetitions with rookie La'Mical Perine recently, further cratering his fantasy value. In what will likely be a blowout loss to the defending Super Bowl champions this weekend, trusting any of Gang Green's runners would be foolish. Gore is an RB4/flex that shouldn't be trusted in 12-team leagues if he's active.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans should see an increased target share without teammate Chris Godwin (finger) in Week 8. Evans has averaged nine targets per game in three starts without a healthy Godwin and has delivered WR2 numbers or better in all three of those contests. The matchup will be tough this week- he'll go up against a familiar foe in James Bradberry, who has been playing phenomenal football for New York. Still, Evans will get plenty of looks from Brady and has a good chance of finding the end zone in Week 8. Start him as a high-end WR2 this week who could very well finish among the top-12 at his position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette gets the Giants in Week 8 fresh off of leading his team's backfield in touches. Fournette played a season-high 56 percent of the snaps en route to 97 scrimmage yards on 17 touches back in Week 7. He'll face a Giants Defense that has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing halfbacks, including the fifth-most receiving yards. Tampa Bay is likely to operate with a lead, though Fournette seems to have the trust of the coaching staff as the third-down back. Expect a near-even split in touches with Ronald Jones II, with the former Jaguar handling much of the receiving work. He's a good flex play with RB2 upside, particularly in PPR formats.
Miami Dolphins tight end Adam Shaheen (shoulder) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Rams. Shaheen was a limited participant in practice all week, so he has a good shot at playing this Sunday. Just signed to a two-year extension worth up to $7.85 million this week, the 26-year-old has scored in each of his last two games. He had his best performance of the season in Week 6, catching all three of his targets for 51 yards and the score. But Shaheen has just seven targets and five catches for 58 yards in six games this year and remains behind Mike Gesicki in the tight end pecking order in Miami. Shaheen shouldn't be considered for starting fantasy lineups in Week 8.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II gets a good matchup against the Giants on Monday Night Football. Jones II ran wild in the absence of Leonard Fournette, picking up over 100 yards rushing in three consecutive games while handling at least 20 touches in each contest. However, Fournette returned healthy last week and out-touched Jones II 17-14, as the latter saw a huge dip in his snap percentage. Still, it appears that the 23-year-old will retain his early-down role for the time being, with head coach Bruce Arians referring to Fournette as more of his "nickel" back. With Tampa Bay projected to be in the lead against the Giants, Jones II will likely get his chances on the ground, making him a low-to-mid RB2.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (hand) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Dolphins. Higbee was limited in practice all week, so he has a good chance to play this weekend after being a late scratch last in Week 7. Gerald Everett won't be a TE2 streamer if Higbee returns, which is looking more likely. Aside from his five-catch, 54-yard, three-touchdown performance in Week 2 against the Eagles, Higbee hasn't done a whole lot for his fantasy managers. He'll be a low-end TE2 if he returns on Sunday against Miami, one of two teams that have yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end in 2020.