Thu Sep 24 5:19pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, right, is tackled by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, center, during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws under pressure agains the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
It's the defending Super Bowl champions against a team that's won 14 straight regular-season games.
Or, maybe it's a preview of the AFC title game - a matchup many expected to see last January. Most of all, the intrigue surrounding Monday night's game between the Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) and Baltimore Ravens (2-0) is directed at the quarterbacks: 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson.
''When those two quarterbacks are on the field, it's magic on both sides,'' Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. ''I see every week what Lamar can do, and I always see some highlight or something of what Mahomes can do. So, when you have two superstar quarterbacks like that, it's going to be a fun game.''
Mahomes last season led the Chiefs to their first NFL championship since 1970 and was the Super Bowl MVP. Jackson guided the Ravens to a 14-2 regular-season record, set the league mark for yards rushing by a quarterback and directed the most prolific running attack in NFL history. Baltimore closed the regular season with 12 straight wins to earn the top seed in the AFC, but bowed out with an upset loss at home to Tennessee.
That helped Mahomes and the Chiefs to go the distance, and they'll be bringing an 11-game winning streak into Monday night's showdown.
Jackson is 21-3 as a starter during the regular season, with two of those losses coming against Kansas City and Mahomes in 2018 (27-24 in overtime) and 2019 (33-28). But, even though this is the first game in NFL history featuring two MVPs under the age of 26, Jackson waved off the notion that this is solely about him versus Mahomes.
''I don't have to focus on Mahomes. I've got to focus on their defense, I've got to focus on scoring, I've got to focus on my job,'' Jackson insisted. ''My defense has to worry about him.''
Oh, there's plenty of reason for the Baltimore defense to be concerned, even though the unit has been exceptional thus far in lopsided wins over Cleveland and Houston. Mahomes threw for 377 yards and two TDs in that 2018 game, and last year pierced the Ravens for 374 yards and three scores.
''He has all these tools, and he has so much talent around him,'' Humphrey said. ''With Mahomes, as good as he is in the pocket, he's just as good - probably better - outside the pocket, which is the craziest thing about his game. So, preparing for him, it's really tough.''
GETTING THEIR KICKS
Not only does this game feature two of the league's best quarterbacks, but two of the finest kickers will be ready to roll if a late field-goal try is required for the win.
Kansas City's Harrison Butker banged home two field goals of 58 yards last week in an overtime win over the Chargers. He's been perfect so far this season, led the league in scoring last year and has amassed 445 points in his career, most ever by a kicker after 47 games.
Justin Tucker, meanwhile, is the most accurate kicker in NFL history (90.9% on field goals). He's never missed from inside 29 yards, is 226 for 237 from inside 49 yards and has clicked on 71% of his tries from at least 50 yards.
NO HOME CROWD
The Ravens have been waiting since 2017 to have a Monday night game at home, and now that they got one, they'll be forced to play without the backing of their fans. Attendance will be zero because of the pandemic.
So, the Ravens won't enjoy the advantage the Chiefs had while playing at home against Baltimore in each of the past two seasons. This will be the third straight game for the Ravens without fans in the stadium.
''Sometimes you say, `We'll play them anywhere. We'll play them in a parking lot. We'll play them anywhere. No fans, we don't care,''' coach John Harbaugh said. ''Well, here we are. We're playing basically in a parking lot right now - with no fans.''
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, ''It's weird. I've been doing this a couple weeks now and you get out there and it seems like you can hear every penny drop.''
LOOK AND SEE
One of the problems the Kansas City offense has faced through the first two games of the season has been defenses that have showed completely different looks from the past. Teams that have run man coverage have gone to zones, and the blitz looks that Houston and Los Angeles have used in the past have been replaced - all in an effort to confuse Mahomes.
Expect the Ravens to do the same thing given how much they've played each other the past few years.
''It's going to be all about execution,'' Mahomes said. ''When you play a defense like this that's very mobile, multiple, you have to be ready to go and have answers for everything. Whenever they give us an un-scouted look, try to have a positive game, go to the sideline and try to figure it out.''
Without much offseason or preseason games, and limited hitting to practice it, tackling has been a problem for the Chiefs this season. They know how important it will be against the mobile Jackson and the Ravens' productive ground game.
''Coach Reid did an unbelievable job in camp trying to make things normal,'' defensive tackle Chris Jones said, ''but we just have to stay on that. We missed a lot of tackles last week and that's a big focus this week, wrap up and finish plays.''
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this story.
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Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel injured his left hamstring during the game against the New England Patriots, and has been ruled out for the game. Initially it was thought to be a potential knee injury, but there seems to be a sense of relief that he injured his hamstring instead. Additional injury updates will be provided as further information is known about the extent of the injury.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt carried the ball 18 times for 76 yards and added 26 yards and a touchdown on three receptions in a 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. It was another solid outing for Hunt, who now has three rushing touchdowns and four receiving scores in seven games this season. Established as a rock-solid RB1 in fantasy for as long as Nick Chubb is sidelined by a knee injury, Hunt has benefited from playing for one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league. He will take on the Las Vegas Raiders at home in Week 8.
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. was forced to leave the game against the New England Patriots with a leg/ankle injury. Wilson had just scored his third touchdown of the day, and was in the midst of a career game, but was noticeably injured on the play and had issues standing up on his own. He had to be carted to the locker room, and will be evaluated further, but it certainly seems like he's done for the day and it also didn't look like a minor injury. Stay tuned for further updates.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 22 of 28 passes for 297 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception in a 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7. Mayfield's five touchdown passes sets a new career-high, beating his previous best of four TD tosses which he did back in Week 12 of the 2018 season. Even more impressive, he did so without star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. for almost the entire game after Beckham was injured on the second offensive play of the game for Cleveland. Mayfield found rookie tight end Harrison Bryant for scores twice, Kareem Hunt once, and Donovan Peoples-Jones for the game-winning score with 15 seconds left in the game. Mayfield shoots back up to the high-end QB2 ranks after his big game. He now has 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions through seven games. He will face the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris hauled in four of five targets for 44 receiving yards, including his first career receiving score. Harris' score was crucial, as it came with just seconds left in the first half, giving New Orleans a 21-17 lead heading into the locker room. The dynamic return man flashed some receiving ability at Division II Assumption University, so he's certainly capable if the Saints need some more receiving work out of him. With Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) out, Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) up in the air, and Marquez Callaway (ankle) banged up- Harris could be worth a look on the waiver wire in deep leagues.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (head) will not return to Sunday's matchup against the Chiefs. On a snowy, sloppy day in the Mile-High City, the 26-year-old suffered a concussion shortly before the end of the first half. Before his departure, he had nine attempts for 79 yards. Melvin Gordon, who also has nine carries, will likely serve as the featured back for the remainder of the contest. With more news to come, possibly sometime on Monday, fantasy managers will want to monitor this situation ahead of Denver's Week 8 against the Chargers.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith was targeted just four times but caught all four, totaling 56 receiving yards in a win over the Panthers. It wasn't the volume fantasy managers were hoping for from Smith, as he took a backseat to undrafted rookie Marquez Callaway (ankle). However, Smith really could be the lone wolf in the receiving room next week, especially if Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring), Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19), and Callaway are all out for a Week 8 matchup against the Bears.
The Washington Football Team defense had another good game against a banged-up offense as they dominated the Andy Dalton-led Cowboys. Dallas was playing without several starters on the offensive line and Washington took advantage as they sacked Dalton six times with one sack leading to a safety. Cole Holcomb led the charge for Washington with an interception and a sack from the middle linebacker position. In all, Washington allowed three points, recorded six sacks, a safety, and an interception on a great day for fantasy managers. The Football Team will have a bye in Week 8 but have another juicy matchup versus the Giants in Week 9 where they will be a startable unit in fantasy.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green had seven catches (13 targets) for 82 yards during the loss to the Browns on Sunday. The veteran recorded another convincing performance against Cleveland while combining for 15 receptions (24 targets) over the team's previous two contests. Although fantasy managers may not see this type of production against the Titans in Week 8, he could have some more favorable outings over Cincy's remaining nine games, especially if Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd continue to open things up for him.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway caught eight of 10 targets for 75 receiving yards in a 27-24 victory over Carolina. Callaway led the team in targets in the absences of both Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Somewhat quietly, the 22-year old rookie has compiled 16 targets over his last two contests. With Sanders definitely out and Thomas's status looking murky, Callaway makes for an interesting waiver add. He did sustain an ankle injury and had to be helped off the field to the locker room. If Callaway's ankle isn't anything serious, fantasy managers should consider him as a streaming option against Chicago.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense didn't fare well in Week 7 despite being matched up against a Washington Football Team that was allowing the third most fantasy points to opposing fantasy defenses. The Cowboys defense allowed 23 points, recording two sacks but no turnovers. The Cowboys will take on the Eagles in the battle of bad NFC East defenses next week, where they will not be a recommended fantasy option.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught all five of his targets to finish with 71 yards and a touchdown against the Browns on Sunday. The rookie now has three touchdowns on the year, finding the end zone for the first time since Week 3 against the Eagles. With Joe Burrow leading a pass-heavy attack for Cincy, Higgins may continue to benefit, especially with Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green drawing the attention needed to open things up for him over the remaining nine games of his inaugural season.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught 11 of his 13 targets to finish the Week 7 matchup against the Browns with 101 yards and a score. After fizzling out against the Colts last Sunday, the 25-year-old recorded one of his most convincing performances of the 2020 campaign. Boyd has now logged at least eight targets in five of Cincy's seven contests and should continue to benefit from the stellar play of rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow. However, things may get difficult for the former Pittsburgh Panther in Week 8 against the Titans, with Tennessee looking to rebound after suffering its first defeat of the year against the Steelers.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted a field goal in Week 7, and it was good for the only three points the Cowboys scored in an ugly 25-3 loss to the Washington Football Team. Zuerlein made his kick from 45 yards out and was never on the field on offense again. The Dallas offense is in total shambles, possibly moving Zuerlein out of the top-15 fantasy kickers going forward. He should continue to be solid, but may not get enough opportunities to score significant fantasy points.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup came up empty in a rough Week 7 loss. Gallup was targeted twice but couldn't come down with either pass, ending up with a blank box score and zero fantasy points. Gallup was working as a field stretcher with Dak Prescott around, but now with Andy Dalton and possibly Ben DiNucci throwing the ball for the Cowboys, Gallup seems much more likely to hit the "bust" part of his boom-or-bust fantasy outlook.
Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas caught all four of his targets for 60 yards and a touchdown in a Week 7 win over the Cowboys. Thomas played second-fiddle to Terry McLaurin in the passing game as no other Washington player had more than two targets. Thomas made them count catching several big passes to move the chains while finding the end zone for the third time this season. Thomas has had an up-and-down season but is getting enough weekly targets to be considered a borderline starter in 12-team fantasy leagues. He'll be a touchdown-dependant starter in his next matchup in Week 9 versus the Giants.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard racked up 37 yards off 13 carries during the heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Browns. He also added five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. The veteran filled in admirably for Joe Mixon (foot), who is considered week-to-week after being injured during the Week 6 encounter with the Colts. At this point, the 28-year-old has likely found a home on fantasy rosters. However, if he is still floating around the waiver wire, managers should pick him up before it's too late, especially if Mixon cannot suit up against the Titans in Week 8. Although Bernard isn't the most efficient runner, he should continue to benefit from the team's pass-heavy offense.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray posted 56 scrimmage yards on 12 total touches in a victory over the Panthers. Murray's 4.3 yards per carry were a bit skewed, as he picked up 25 yards on one run and just 22 yards on the other 10 carries. Still, the opportunity Murray is getting is encouraging for those who have him rostered, as the coaching staff clearly trusts him. It bears repeating, but if something were to happen to Alvin Kamara, Murray would be an easy start as an RB1.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin posted a 7-90-1 line versus the Cowboys to help lead Washington to a win over their division rival. The sophomore receiver was a huge part of the game plan against a bad Dallas secondary as McLaurin was targeted 11 times, his fourth game this season with double-digit targets. It could have been an even bigger game for McLaurin but he came up inches short of the goal line on his first catch of the game. He made up for it a couple of drives later as he torched Trevon Diggs for a 52-yard score. McLaurin doesn't operate in the NFL's most electrifying offense, but his combination of skill and target-floor make him one of the best WR options in fantasy. He'll have another solid matchup with the Giants in Week 9 after the bye.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara carried the ball 14 times for 83 rushing yards and caught all eight targets for 65 receiving yards in a 27-24 win. The 83 rushing yards tied a season-high for Kamara, as the running room was easy to find against Carolina's ground defense. Amazingly, the star halfback has exceeded 100 scrimmage yards in every game but one- and he ended up with two scores in that contest to salvage his day. There might be no better player to roster in fantasy football right now, so managers should keep riding the Kamara wave into a Week 8 contest against a Bears Defense that can be had on the ground.