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Patriots-Chargers Preview


New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton leaves the field after an NFL football game against the against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert passes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

LOS ANGELES (AP) Cam Newton can empathize with what Justin Herbert is going through in his rookie season with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The New England signal-caller set several rookie milestones when he was the top overall pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2011. While it led to Newton being the Offensive Rookie of the Year, it didn't translate into immediate success for the Panthers, who were 3-8 through their first 11 games. That is the same mark the Chargers have going into Sunday's game against the Patriots at SoFi Stadium.

''I just remember as a young player I really didn't know the nuances of how to win,'' said Newton, who threw for a rookie-record 4,051 yards.

''I knew I was talented, but there's still certain things that go into playing hand-to-hand football. Offense playing alongside with the defense, defense playing alongside with the special teams and vice versa. This game transitions so much from the collegiate level to the professional level and it's all in a manner of plays. In college you get so many times to win or to lose so to speak. But in the NFL it kind of comes down to three to five plays that you know, that you can point back to and say this is when the game was won.''

Herbert experienced plenty of losing during his first season at Oregon, which he has said has helped him in trying to get through the valleys of this year.

''I've been through it before, and I've kind of seen it. And, you know, going forward is never easy. It's never fun for anyone, but you have to stick through and you have to stay with your guys and take control of that locker room and steer into the right direction,'' he said.

Herbert is averaging 301.5 yards per game, which is third in the NFL and joined Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes last week as the only players to reach 3,000 yards in their first 10 starts. Herbert has tied Andrew Luck's rookie mark with six 300-yard games and needs five touchdowns to pass Baker Mayfield's first-year mark of 27 with Cleveland in 2018.

Herbert has struggled with AFC East teams, but is facing a New England defense that is allowing 7.6 yards per pass attempt, which is second most in the league.

''He really has no weaknesses. He's young and has a long way to go, but you can see the talent and improvement,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

Newton's 1,984 passing yards are 23rd in the league, but he has five games with 10 more rushing attempts as well as three multi-TD rushing games.

''He's a weapon with his legs and his arm. So whatever it takes to move the ball down the field, they are one of the top teams in the league in the least amount of three-and-outs. So they figured out how to move the ball, stay on the field and eat up that clock,'' Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said.


Though they aren't quite back to .500, the Patriots (5-6) kept their playoff hopes alive thanks to their last-second win over the Cardinals last week.

New England has qualified for the postseason in each of the past 11 seasons and only failed to make it to the playoffs only three times since Belichick's first season in 2000.

Recent history says the Patriots still have at least a chance of extending their current streak. In 14 of the past 16 seasons, at least one team with a losing record through 11 games has qualified for the playoffs.


The Patriots will play consecutive games at SoFi Stadium when they take on the Rams on Dec. 10.


Los Angeles' offense got a boost last week with the return of running back Austin Ekeler, who was leading the AFC in scrimmage yards before he suffered a hamstring injury in early October that kept him sidelined for six games.

Ekeler had 129 scrimmage yards in last Sunday's loss against Buffalo. The Chargers though have had an inconsistent running game the past three weeks and have been held under 100 yards.


New England has the league's fifth-ranked rushing attack, averaging 149.6 yards per game. Damien Harris has emerged as the lead back, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. James White scored his first two rushing touchdowns of the season last week and Sony Michel has returned from a knee injury.


When asked this week about the challenge presented by the Chargers defense, Joey Bosa was at the top of Belichick's list.

New England has only faced the Chargers star defensive end twice since he entered the league in 2016. But what Belichick saw in those games and on film since then has been more than enough for him to dub the 25-year-old ''a one-man wrecking crew.''

The Patriots have done a decent job protecting Newton this season, only allowing him to be sacked 18 times. But Bosa's been one of the most disruptive defenders in the league. He's tied for ninth in the NFL with 7 1/2 sacks and is tied for third with 15 tackles for a loss.


Belichick will coach in his 455th NFL game on Sunday, passing Tom Landry for the third-most games coached in league history. Don Shula leads the way with 526 followed by George Halas' 506.

Belichick is 39 victories away from tying Shula's all-time mark of 347 wins. Halas is in second with 324. This is the first time Belichick has coached a game in Los Angeles since 1993, when Cleveland took on the Los Angeles Raiders.

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Five Hot Plays: Week 13

The Paur Report
Player Notes
Clyde Edwards-Helaire Dec 3 11:10pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and cornerback Bashaud Breeland missed Thursday's practice with a non-COVID-19-related illness. You'll want to keep an eye on Edwards-Helaire's practice status on Friday. If for some reason he can't face the division-rival Broncos in Week 13, Le'Veon Bell would vault into the RB2 conversation. CEH was a bust for his fantasy managers in Week 12 against the Buccaneers and has more bust potential moving forward with Bell in the picture. However, the Broncos Defense is crumbling and has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to RBs in the last five weeks. If the rookie plays on Sunday night, he's a solid RB2 with upside for more.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Dec 3 11:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh wouldn't say whether reigning NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson would play on Tuesday night against the Cowboys in Week 13 after he tested positive for COVID-19 last week and sat out of the loss to the Steelers on Wednesday. He'll complete his 10-day quarantine this weekend, and he could get one full practice in before facing the Cowboys if he's activated on Sunday. Backup Robert Griffin III (hamstring) left Wednesday's game late in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Trace McSorley. If Jackson is activated from the COVID-19 list this weekend, he should be a no-brainer start in a bounce-back opportunity against Dallas' defense. But if he misses his second straight game, you'll probably be best off avoiding Baltimore's entire offense, especially if McSorley has to start under center.

From RotoBaller

Phillip Lindsay Dec 3 11:00pm ET

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (knee) was limited in practice on Thursday after not practicing on Wednesday. It gives him a chance to play in Week 13 on Sunday night against the division-rival Chiefs. Lindsay was injured in the blowout loss to the Saints in Week 12 and had just nine carries for 20 yards before departing. If the 26-year-old can't play, it'll make Melvin Gordon III more of an RB2 against Kansas City. Royce Freeman, who saw a season-high eight rushing attempts in an abnormal game against the Saints, would back up Gordon. Even if Lindsay plays, he's an unappealing RB3/4 in a timeshare with Gordon in a game in which the Broncos could easily have to abandon the run. With just two receptions all season, Lindsay just isn't involved in Denver's passing attack, either.

From RotoBaller

Josh Allen Dec 3 10:50pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (ankle, knee) was on the team's Week 13 injury report on Thursday, but he was a full participant in practice. Allen should be all systems go for Week 13 against the 49ers on Monday night. San Francisco's defense has been getting healthier and improving in recent weeks and have been pretty decent against opposing signal-callers in terms of fantasy points allowed all season. They've allowed just 217.6 passing yards per game, which is the second-lowest mark in the NFL through 12 weeks. Allen has been a bit of a boom-or-bust QB1 this season, but his rushing ability makes him a must-start in single-year formats. The Niners have been good against the pass, but they've been vulnerable to QB rushes, allowing a league-high 335 rushing yards to the position.

From RotoBaller

Dalvin Cook Dec 3 10:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (ankle) was limited in practice on Thursday for the second day in a row. Cook was banged up in the Week 12 win over the Panthers, but the Vikings continue to downplay his injury and he should be fine for Week 13 against the Jaguars and their terrible defense. The 25-year-old is a must-start, high-end RB1 and has three 150-yard rushing games in 2020 alone. The Jacksonville defense also has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Even though Cook might be a little banged up from all his usage this season, he's still one of the best backs in the NFL and is set up with a great matchup. Start him everywhere.

From RotoBaller

Deebo Samuel Dec 3 10:40pm ET

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring) was held out of practice as a precaution on Thursday, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Samuel proved that he was fully healthy in his return in Week 12 against the Rams by catching 11 passes for 133 yards. That should ease any concerns that fantasy managers may have had after he missed the previous four games with a hamstring injury. The return of rookie first-round receiver Brandon Aiyuk will definitely take some targets away from Samuel on Monday night against the Bills, but fantasy managers should treat him as at least a low-end WR2 in Week 13. Quarterback Nick Mullens is more successful on short passes, and the Niners love to get the ball to Samuel in the flats and let him work.

From RotoBaller

Nick Foles Dec 3 10:30pm ET

Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles (hip) returned to a full practice on Thursday and is expected to serve as the backup to Mitchell Trubisky in Week 13 against the Lions. Until Trubisky either plays his way out of the starting job again or gets injured, it looks like Foles will hold the clipboard on the sideline. Neither signal-caller has been the answer for Chicago's inept offense this season, but Trubisky at least gives fantasy managers in superflex leagues a little bit higher of a ceiling because of his rushing ability. The Lions Defense was just shredded on Thanksgiving by the Texans, so Trubisky does actually have some QB2 streaming appeal on Sunday. The 26-year-old turned the ball over three times in the blowout loss to Green Bay last week, but he also threw three touchdowns.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Dec 3 10:20pm ET

Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack (back) missed practice for the second straight day on Thursday, but head coach Matt Nagy said Mack was held out as a precaution and is expected to play in Week 13 against the Lions. The 29-year-old pass-rusher should be ready to go if he can get in a limited practice on Friday. The five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro has 6.5 sacks in 11 games this season, but he hasn't had a sack since Week 8 and hasn't had double-digit sacks since his first season in Chicago in 2018. Mack is no longer a trustworthy IDP starter, but Chicago will need him if they hope to improve their pass rush to close the season. The Bears Defense was pummeled in Week 12 by Aaron Rodgers, but they have a chance to bounce back against Detroit and should be considered a top-10 fantasy unit this week.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Brown Dec 3 10:10pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (hip) and tight end Jonnu Smith (knee) were sidelined at practice on Thursday. Brown wasn't on the injury report on Wednesday, so this is something to watch. As long as he practices on Friday, he should be good to go for Week 13 against the Browns as a must-start WR1. The 23-year-old has seven touchdowns in 2020 and has proven to be a beast at the receiver position in just his second season. Cleveland is also plenty beatable through the air, allowing the 11th-most fantasy points per game to pass-catchers. Smith also missed practice Wednesday and is trending in the wrong direction. He also didn't have a single target last week against the Colts, making him a fade as a touchdown-dependent, low-end TE1. Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt would see bigger roles if Smith is deemed inactive.

From RotoBaller

Wendell Smallwood Dec 3 10:03pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Deon Cain, RB Wendell Smallwood, OT Anthony Coyle and OT Jarron Jones were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 13 Thursday, Dec. 3.

From TheHuddle

Josh Jacobs Dec 3 10:00pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (ankle), wide receiver Nelson Agholor (ankle) and safety Johnathan Abram (knee) missed a second straight day of practice on Thursday. Jacobs hurt his fantasy managers in Week 12 when he had just 10 touches in the loss to the Falcons before leaving with an injury. Both he and Agholor will need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday to have a shot at playing. Have backup plans in place. If Jacobs can't go in a pristine matchup against the Jets, Devontae Booker should see most of the work alongside Jalen Richard. Booker would be worth a waiver pickup and would have RB2 upside. Agholor has become a risky WR3/flex due to his injury. If he's inactive against the winless Jets, rookies Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow would see more targets.

From RotoBaller

Zach Ertz Dec 3 10:00pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (ankle) and cornerback Darius Slay (calf) were both limited in practice on Thursday. Ertz was also limited on Wednesday and appears likely to make his return from Injured Reserve in Week 13 against the Packers. He's been out since suffering a high-ankle sprain in Week 6. His return will put a damper on Dallas Goedert's fantasy ceiling after back-to-back big weeks, but Goedert is still the better fantasy play as a mid-range TE1 this weekend. But the good news for Ertz is that all the receiving production in Philly has come through the tight ends -- Goedert and Richard Rodgers. Ertz should eventually get back in the TE1 conversation, but he's more of a risky TE2 in what will be his first game back after a long absence.

From RotoBaller

Eric Tomlinson Dec 3 9:53pm ET

Baltimore Ravens DT Aaron Crawford, LS Nick Moore, TE Eric Tomlinson and S Nigel Warrior were designated as protected practice squad players Thursday, Dec. 3.

From TheHuddle

Salvon Ahmed Dec 3 9:50pm ET

Miami Dolphins rookie running back Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday. Ahmed was also limited on Wednesday after missing the Week 13 win over the Jets. The impressive youngster had 33 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown and caught six passes for 36 yards in Weeks 10 and 11 with Myles Gaskin on Injured Reserve. But with Gaskin nearing a return and possibly playing in Week 13 against the Bengals, Ahmed's time as a fantasy relevant back in 2020 may have already come and gone. Cincinnati's D is a prime matchup for running backs -- they've allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to the position -- but Ahmed can be avoided in most formats if Gaskin is active on Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Kyler Murray Dec 3 9:30pm ET

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder) was a full practice participant on Thursday. Murray injured his shoulder in the Week 11 loss to the Seahawks and played through it in last week's loss, but his production has dipped in the last two games. Is that a coincidence? Probably not. Murray didn't score a single touchdown in the Week 12 loss to the Patriots, but his return to a full practice could signal that he's past the nagging injury. The second-year QB was an MVP candidate before his recent disappointing performances, so you should still treat him as a QB1 for Week 13 in another tough draw against the Rams Defense. LA's D has allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to QBs, making Murray a DFS fade again this weekend.

From RotoBaller

Wil Lutz Dec 3 9:20pm ET

New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz is a great start this week against a Falcons squad that is middle-tier against fantasy kickers. Lutz hit his lone field goal and went 4-for-4 in extra points last week. On the season, the kicker has gone 20-for-22 in field goals and 38-for-38 in extra points. He is very reliable on a weekly basis and that makes him a solid starting option this week.

From RotoBaller

New Orleans Saints Dec 3 9:10pm ET

The New Orleans Saints Defense remains in the starting tier this week even against a solid Falcons offense. Just two weeks ago, this unit dominated Atlanta to the tune of eight sacks and two picks and added another sack and two picks last week against the Broncos. The Saints' defense is in a groove and is worth a start this week if you don't have other strong options.

From RotoBaller

Michael Thomas Dec 3 9:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is a low-end WR1 this week. Thomas is still dealing with his ankle injury but managed to put up four receptions for 50 yards on six targets last week. With Taysom Hill under center, the passing game is not expected to be explosive, but Thomas' role as the WR1 on the team should help him in regards to a high number of targets. The Falcons allow the fourth-most points to fantasy WRs, so Thomas is in a solid spot to deliver.

From RotoBaller

Emmanuel Sanders Dec 3 9:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders should be considered nothing more than a deep flex against Atlanta this week. Sanders has had one reception and one target in two of the past three games and remains far too inconsistent to be trusted for fantasy weekly. Add in the fact that Taysom Hill's presence makes this more of a running team and that spells little to no value for Sanders.

From RotoBaller

Jared Cook Dec 3 9:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook is not a viable starter this week against Atlanta. Though the Falcons allow the most fantasy points to TEs, Cook only produced one reception for six yards on one target against them a couple of weeks ago and is currently in a slump. In the past three games, the TE has a total of one reception for six yards on five targets. He should not be started this week given his recent lack of production.

From RotoBaller