Thu Dec 3 5:51pm ET
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) runs into the end zone for a touchdown after incepting a pass intended for Detroit Lions fullback Jason Cabinda during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) celebrates his interception for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) is congratulated after interception return for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
HOUSTON (AP) Romeo Crennel joined the Houston Texans in 2014 as the defensive coordinator.
This week the interim coach was asked what it's been like to see J.J. Watt making game-changing plays in the past two games.
''It was like it was when I first got here,'' Crennel said. ''He was making those huge plays when I first got here.''
After years plagued by injuries, Watt is experiencing a renaissance, taking over games as he did when he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times from 2012-15. And it's helped the Texans to two straight wins this season.
Watt defended a career-high four passes two weeks ago in a win over the Patriots before returning an interception for a touchdown in a Thanksgiving victory over the Lions.
''He's helping us win, he's uplifting the team,'' Crennel said. ''He did that on Thanksgiving. Hopefully, we'll continue that and let him keep making plays.''
The touchdown was his first score since he had five touchdowns and a safety in 2014. That season he returned a fumble for a touchdown, had a pick-6 and added three TD catches lining up as a tight end.
He has one other touchdown in his career. That one was his first and remains his favorite score, despite the fun he had getting back in the end zone last week after his long drought.
Watt was a rookie in the 2011 season when the Texans made the playoffs for the first time. They were tied with the Bengals in the second quarter when Watt swatted down a pass from Andy Dalton and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown to put Houston on top, and the Texans sailed to the 31-10 victory.
''(My favorite) is the one in the playoffs because the playoffs matter,'' Watt said. ''This one, it's a very memorable play. I'll always remember Thanksgiving ... it was a big game. You've got the whole country watching, so the chance to make a big play on Thanksgiving is great, but playoffs and plays that impact the playoff race are always going to be higher on the list for me.''
Watt was selected as an All-Pro for the fifth time in 2018 when he had 16 sacks. But that's the only full season he's played since 2015 as a broken leg, back surgery and a torn pectoral muscle cost him 32 games combined in the previous four seasons.
He's been healthy this year and his play has been a highlight in Houston's difficult season, reminding people of how dominant he can be.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson loved seeing Watt score against the Lions and called his touchdown ''dope.''
''It brought me back to the old days,'' Watson said. ''He's not getting old as we look at it. He's still got some athletic ability. I knew sooner or later, especially after (the New England) game, he was going to get one of them.''
Houston's opponents have also been keeping track of Watt's recent work and know better than to underestimate the 31-year-old. Indianapolis offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni discussed his preparations for Watt leading into Sunday's game against the Texans.
''He's been not a good but a phenomenal player in this league for a lot of years ... we've thought about J.J. Watt more than you could possibly think about a person these last couple of days,'' Sirianni said.
Colts veteran quarterback Philip Rivers has faced a lot of great defenders in his 17-year career, but few compare to Watt and the unique skills he possesses.
''There are certain guys that can ruin the football game and he's certainly one of those guys,'' Rivers said. ''I don't know if it's just an internal clock, but what it is, is you know where 99 is on every snap, not just me but all of us as a collective group because of the type of player he is. He's still playing at a super high level.''
Watt has spent his entire career in Houston and has long been the face of the franchise. He's been visibly upset and frustrated this season as the Texans have struggled after winning the AFC South the past two seasons.
He brushes off talk about his performance and remains focused on helping the Texans finish the season strong. He's glad that his recent work has helped the team win and hopes that he can help keep the winning streak going by making more big plays.
''That's my job, to go out there and make those kinds of plays,'' he said. ''It feels good when you get the opportunity to go out there and do it ... to put points on the board for your team, which is rare. It's always good. It's great to be able to change a game in that way and to be able to swing momentum and hopefully sustain it and keep it going.''
Five Hot Plays: Week 13
New York Giants kicker Graham Gano has been solid over the last several games but becomes a risky fantasy start with Big Blue likely starting backup QB Colt McCoy in Seattle. Gano is 5-for-five on 40-plus yard kicks over the last three weeks and hasn't missed a field goal since Week 2. Despite the accuracy, there's the risk the New York offense struggles to put up points making Gano a risky start in fantasy. Most fantasy managers should be able to find a better kicker option on waivers.
The New York Giants Defense has been a solid unit in fantasy in recent weeks, but that ends in Week 13 with a daunting matchup in Seattle. Russell Wilson and company have been one of the best offenses in football this season and New York hasn't been good enough to trust when they have a bad matchup. To make matters worse, the Giants will likely be starting backup QB Colt McCoy which puts the defense at risk to be playing with bad field position most of the afternoon. The Giants defense is not a recommended start in fantasy for this matchup.
New York Jets LB Blake Cashman (hamstrings), OL Alex Lewis (non-injury), DL John Franklin-Myers (non-injury) and RB Frank Gore (non-injury) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 3. OL George Fant (knee, ankle), OL Pat Elflein (shoulder) and WR Breshad Perriman (shoulder) were limited. OL Connor McGovern (elbow), QB Sam Darnold (shoulder) and OL Chuma Edoga (ankle) practiced in full.
Chicago Bears TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) fully participated in practice Thursday, Dec. 3.
Fantasy Spin: Graham has been held to under 40 yards in seven of his last eight games and can be avoided in most fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Jordan Reed has seen exactly six targets in each of his past two games. He caught five of his six targets for 62 yards in Week 10, but only managed two catches for 18 yards in Week 12. This week, the 49ers have a favorable matchup against the Buffalo Bills, who are allowing 373.1 yards from scrimmage per game on the year. Reed should see around six targets once again, which gives him a chance to deliver a decent PPR game, but his upside is limited. He shouldn't be started in any non-PPR leagues.
New York Giants running backs Alfred Morris and Dion Lewis have split time as the backup to Wayne Gallman and neither has seen enough work to trust in fantasy. Morris has been the change-of-pace runner, but is yet to see double-digit carries in a game and has just one target on the season. Lewis, on the other hand, has been a passing-downs back and has just one game with more than three carries and that was back in Week 2 when Saquon Barkley (knee) left mid-game. Both can be left on waivers in fantasy.
The 49ers Defense had a fantastic outing in Week 13, forcing four turnovers against the Los Angeles Rams. This week, however, they are in a tough spot as they face a Buffalo Bills team that is averaging 27.2 points per game on the year. While they may end up forcing a few Josh Allen turnovers, the 49ers could surrender around 30 or more points this week, which would make for a rough fantasy week. They can remain on the waiver wire this week as you look for other options.
Las Vegas Raiders S Johnathan Abram (knee), WR Nelson Agholor (ankle), DT Maliek Collins (hamstring, ankle) and RB Josh Jacobs (ankle) did not participate in practice for a second consecutive day Thursday, Dec. 3. CB Damon Arnette (concussion, neck), OG Denzelle Good (ankle), DT Maurice Hurst (ankle, calf), LB Nick Kwiatkoski (ankle), OT Sam Young (knee) and CB Isaiah Johnson (groin) were limited. RB Devontae Booker (back), S Erik Harris (cafl), C Rodney Hudson (knee), FB Alec Ingold (ribs), OG Gabe Jackson (knee), OT Kolton Miller (ankle), DE Carl Nassib (knee) and RB Jalen Richard (chest) practiced in full.
Detroit Lions WR Quintez Cephus (non-injury), WR Kenny Golladay (hip), DL Da'Shawn Hand (groin), CB Jeff Okudah (shoulder) and RB D'Andre Swift (illness) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 3. DE Austin Bryant (thigh), LB Christian Jones (knee) and QB Matthew Stafford (thumb) were limited. WR Danny Amendola (hip), TE Hunter Bryant (concussion) and CB Mike Ford (concussion) practiced in full.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk is set to make his return from the COVID-19/Reserve List in Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills. Aiyuk has tallied at least 75 receiving yards in each of his past three active games. Fellow receiver Deebo Samuel broke out in a big way in Week 12 with 11 catches on 13 targets. This week, Aiyuk and Samuel should split the bulk of the targets from quarterback Nick Mullens. The Bills are extremely vulnerable against the pass, allowing 243.5 passing yards per game, so both Aiyuk and Samuel should produce. Start Aiyuk with confidence as a WR3 this week.
New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman has seen his touches increase in five-straight weeks and has burst into must-start status in fantasy as the lead-back for the G-Men. It's unlikely Gallman will handle more touches than the 27 he had last week, but with starting QB Daniel Jones (hamstring) unlikely to play this week Gallman will still see plenty of work against a middle-of-the-pack run defense in Seattle. Gallman has six touchdowns in his last five games and is the most likely Giant to find pay-dirt this week. Start Gallman as a volume-based RB2 in all formats.
Chicago Bears LB Khalil Mack (back) did not participate in practice for a second consecutive day Thursday, Dec. 3. DT Akiem Hicks (hamstring), OT Charles Leno Jr. (toe) and OL Germain Ifedi (leg) were limited. TE Jimmy Graham (rest), CB Buster Skrine (rest), LB Danny Trevathan (rest), QB Nick Foles (hip), OL Rashaad Coward (knee), S Sherrick McManis (hand), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), DT Brent Urban (ankle, hand), LB James Vaughters (knee) and LB Josh Woods (foot) practiced in full.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Jack Cichy was claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots Thursday, Dec. 3, according to a source.
Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz (ankle) was limited during practice Thursday, Dec. 3.
Fantasy Spin: Ertz likely will be able to play in the Week 13 game, but it is not known if he will be eased into the offense or have his normal workload. He could be a low-end No. 1 tight end in some leagues but is not a must-start option.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel had his 2020 breakout performance in Week 12, when he caught 11 of his 13 targets for 133 yards. Samuel will likely see his targets go down this week as the team will get Brandon Aiyuk back from a stint on the COVID-19/Reserve List. However, the 49ers have a much better matchup this week against the Buffalo Bills than they did last week against the Los Angeles Rams. The Bills are allowing 243.5 passing yards per game this year. Both Samuel and Aiyuk should be able to do some damage. Start Samuel as a WR3 in all formats this week.
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. carried the ball 12 times for 40 yards in his return to action in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Rams. He was the team's second rusher behind Raheem Mostert, who earned 16 carries in the game. Mostert figures to be the primary back once again in Week 13 as the 49ers face the Buffalo Bills, a team surrendering 129.6 yards per game on the ground. Wilson should see double-digit touches once again this week as long as Tevin Coleman (knee) remains out. He should also see some red zone touches as he's shown a knack for punching the ball into the end zone. Wilson doesn't have tremendous upside, but he's a flex option in deep leagues as the second back on a strong rushing offense against a weak rushing defense.
Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley (ankle, foot) was limited during practice Thursday, Dec. 3.
Fantasy Spin: Ridley appears to be on track to play this week and may see a lot of targets with Julio Jones and Hayden Hurst uncertain for the game. He should be a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in all fantasy leagues.
Indianapolis Colts OT Anthony Castonzo (knee), OT Chaz Green (back), LB Bobby Okereke (ankle), P Rigoberto Sanchez (illness), S Khari Willis (back, quad) and TE Jack Doyle (rest) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 3. QB Philip Rivers (toe), DE Kemoko Turay (ankle) and DL Denico Autry (illness) were limited. TE Trey Burton (rest), DE Justin Houston (rest), WR Zach Pascal (knee), C Ryan Kelly (knee), CB Isaiah Rodgers (knee) and RB Jordan Wilkins (ribs) practiced in full.
Houston Texans DT Ross Blacklock (illness), FB Cullen Gillaspia (back) and RB C.J. Prosise (illness) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 3. P Bryan Anger (quad) and S Lonnie Johnson (knee) were limited.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert received 16 carries and two targets in his return to action in Week 12. His output was a bit underwhelming as he averaged just 2.7 yards per carry and lost a fumble, but it was a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. He at least managed to save his day by scoring a touchdown. This week, Mostert has a better matchup against a Buffalo Bills Defense that is allowing 129.6 rushing yards per game. Mostert should see somewhere between 15 and 20 touches in the game, giving him a good chance to compile around 100 total yards or more with a score. Start him as a high-end RB2 in Week 13.