Fri Oct 9 6:39pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) passes against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, right, greets quarterback Nick Mullens during warm-ups before an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Jimmy Garoppolo will return as starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers this week after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said Garoppolo will start Sunday at home against the Miami Dolphins. Shanahan wanted to see how Garoppolo made it through a full week of practice before making his decision.
''Each day he got better,'' Shanahan said Friday. ''Never felt too sore the next day. So, we needed to hear that today and see him out there today and we feel good to go.''
Garoppolo had hoped not to miss any time with the injury, having played through ankle sprains before. But this was a more severe high ankle sprain which made it impossible for him to move well enough to avoid danger in the pocket.
He was able to show he was healthy in practice and will provide a needed spark for the 49ers (2-2), who lost 25-20 at home last week to Philadelphia.
''Ankle is feeling really good right now,'' Garoppolo said. ''Got the last couple of weeks off to get it right. The training staff, I tip my hat to those guys, they did a great job with me, just preparing me and everything. But, as far as getting out there, I mean, we've had the whole week to work on it. So, it's feeling pretty good right now.''
San Francisco has a 20-6 record when Garoppolo starts, compared to a 5-21 mark with any other quarterback since Shanahan arrived in 2017.
Garoppolo threw for 3,978 yards and 27 TD passes last season to lead the Niners to 13 wins and was 33 for 49 for 390 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in six quarters this season.
The Niners could have almost all of their key pieces back on offense with running back Raheem Mostert questionable after missing two games with a knee injury and receiver Deebo Samuel questionable with an illness.
Samuel hasn't been allowed at the facility the past two days because he had a fever and aches earlier in the week. Samuel has taken part in meetings and will be allowed back once he passes one more coronavirus test.
Mostert, Samuel, All-Pro tight end George Kittle and first-round receiver Brandon Aiyuk have all missed games this season so the Niners are looking forward to the possibility of having all their important pieces available together for the first time.
''That's exactly how we envisioned it in the offseason,'' fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. ''It's great to finally have everybody healthy and in there together.''
Shanahan also said C.J. Beathard has moved ahead of Nick Mullens on the depth chart and will be Garoppolo's backup Sunday. Mullens played well in his first start this season before getting pulled in last week's loss to Philadelphia after committing three turnovers.
Beathard played well in relief and now will get the first shot if anything happens to Garoppolo.
NOTES: LB Dre Greenlaw will also return after missing two games with a quadriceps injury. ... CB Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) is questionable for the game, while DE Ezekiel Ansah (biceps), CB Dontae Johnson (groin), CB Emmanuel Moseley (concussion) and CB K'Waun Williams (knee, hip) are out. ... Ansah and Williams will be placed on IR on Saturday and the Niners will call up at least one more cornerback from the practice squad.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (groin) was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday. Parker should be available this weekend against the Dolphins, but he will likely be facing off against Rams shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey on Sunday and will have a rookie quarterback throwing him passes. There's a lot of uncertainty for Parker with Tua Tagovailoa now under center, making him a risky boom/bust fantasy option as a WR3/flex this weekend. Wide receiver Jakeem Grant (illness) was listed as a non-participant in practice on Thursday.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle has 435 receiving yards in five games this season, and nearly half of those yards (215) have come on gains made after the catch. Fifty nine of that yards-after-the-catch total have come with Kittle exceeding expectations. He registers yards-after-the-catch success on 68.8 percent of his catches, putting him in the top 15 in that category. Not only is Kittle a sure-handed receiver with great athleticism and strong run-blocking, but he's also tough to bring down once he has the ball in his hands. He owns the middle of the field, gaining more yards after the catch on crossing routes (473) than any player since 2018. Kittle was quiet by his standards in Week 7 with five catches for 55 yards, but he should bounce back in Week 8 against a weak Seahawks Defense with receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring) out of action. Kittle is a must-start elite tight end each and every week.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (knee) is not practicing Thursday, Oct. 29, with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out 'of some game action,' according to a source. The injury could require surgery, but it likely wouldn't be a season-ending procedure, the source added.
Fantasy Spin: In four games since his career outing in Week 2 (179 yards on eight receptions), Edelman has only caught 8-of-21 targets for 79 yards and remains without a TD grab this season. Perhaps the knee issue has affected Edelman more than he's let on, but he's certainly been droppable in any case. Those in deeper leagues might soon be able to use an IR slot to keep him around if needed.
Updating a previous report, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) underwent a precautionary standard procedure on his knee on Thursday, according to a source. He's expected to be out for "some period of time," including the Week 8 game against the division-rival Bills. The good news is that he's not expected to miss the rest of the year, but it means that those in 12-team leagues can drop him at this point. The veteran pass-catcher hasn't topped three catches or 35 yards in any of his last four games. With N'Keal Harry (concussion) questionable this weekend, the Pats could be trotting out Damiere Byrd, Gunner Olszewski and Jakobi Myers in three-wide sets. It's safe to say that quarterback Cam Newton won't be a strong play this Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense has been one of the best units in the NFL through the first seven weeks of the season. Pittsburgh's defense ranks No. 2 overall in DVOA and has proven to be a tough matchup for opposing offenses. That being said, they will face a stiff test in Week 8 in a road game against an explosive Baltimore Ravens offense. While the Steelers have been an excellent fantasy defense this season, it would be wise to look for a streaming option with a better matchup for Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins has steadily seen his role in the offense increase as the season has gone on, with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow looking his way more often recently. Higgins caught all five of his looks last week for 71 yards and a touchdown against the Browns. Half of his 22 total yards after the catch last Sunday came on his 11-yard touchdown scamper. Burrow is having success getting the pigskin to Higgins in space over the middle and letting him do the rest of the work. Higgins now has 27 receptions for 410 yards and three touchdowns in his first seven games in the NFL. The 21-year-old Clemson product will be a low-end WR2/high-end WR3 in Week 8 against the Titans.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) isn't at practice on Thursday and is expected to miss some game action, according to a source. Edelman has been bothered by a knee injury, which could require surgery, although he's not expected to miss the rest of the season. It could be why the veteran just hasn't been himself this year, even though Tom Brady is in Tampa. Edelman caught just one pass for 13 yards in the Week 7 blowout loss to the 49ers and he's now droppable in 12-team leagues. He's been held to 35 yards or less in four straight contests. N'Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Myers should see more work with Edelman set to miss time. It's more bad news for quarterback Cam Newton as well.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has played in only five games this year due to injury, but he's been crucial in three of those games. Jones is averaging 11.2 air yards per target while also facing press coverage on nearly one-third of his 31 catches on the season. Quarterback Matt Ryan has a 131.5 passer rating when targeting the All-Pro wideout. The 31-year-old always seems to be banged up at this point in his career, but when he does play, he remains productive and should continue to be considered a must-start WR1. He's had great success against the Panthers -- the team's Thursday night opponent -- in the past, so go ahead and fire him up this week. Jones has 16 catches (19 targets), 234 yards and two scores in the last two weeks.
Cleveland Browns DE Myles Garrett (ankle) will sit out a second straight day of practice Thursday, Oct. 29, head coach Kevin Stefanski announced. Stefanski also reiterated that Garrett is currently sidelined for precautionary reasons and remains confident he will play Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder has somehow been productive in New York's otherwise atrocious offense in 2020. In only four games played, Crowder has racked up 194 yards after the catch. He's made plays with the ball in his hands as the team's top playmaker, gaining more than half of his total receiving yards after he's caught the ball. Crowder has taken what the defenses have given him. The Jets offense as a whole is dead last in the league in yards per game and passing yards per game, making Crowder's achievements even more impressive. The 27-year-old missed last week with a groin injury, though, and he may be questionable for Week 8 against the Chiefs. If he plays, he should be peppered with targets in a game in which the Jets will likely be behind by multiple scores throughout.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin is second in the NFL through seven weeks with 309 yards after the catch, trailing only Alvin Kamara. The second-year receiver is averaging a full 10 air yards per target as well, meaning he's not just catching short passes and racking up the yards after the catch. McLaurin hasn't been over the top in gaining yards after the catch based on expectations, but he's gotten the job done as Washington has already made a quarterback switch from Dwayne Haskins Jr. to Kyle Allen. Washington is on bye this week, but McLaurin should be back in all lineups in Week 9 against the Giants after he caught seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over Dallas.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton said Thursday, Oct. 29, he is not thinking about his uncertain NFL future as he's playing out his final season under his current contract with the Colts. 'My work speaks for itself,' Hilton said. 'If they want me back, they want me back.'
Fantasy Spin: Hilton leads Indy in targets (37) but has only caught 20 for 242 yards and no TDs -- marking his slowest start in nine seasons. Until we see some signs of life, he's only a WR3/flex consideration in deep leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron has been productive over the last month of the season, catching at least five passes in three of his last four games. He could struggle to keep it going in Week 8 as he will face off against a tough Baltimore Ravens team. Baltimore's pass defense ranks seventh in DVOA and is allowing the 16th-most fantasy points per game to the tight end position. Ebron settles in as an uninspiring TE2 for Week 8.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster finally showed some signs of life in Week 7, setting season highs with nine catches and 85 yards in a win over the Tennessee Titans. While his big performance helped to ease concerns about his slow start to the season, Smith-Schuster could struggle to produce against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8. Baltimore's defense is tough against the pass, ranking seventh in DVOA and allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position. Fantasy managers can still start Smith-Schuster, but treat him as a WR3 for Week 8.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool disappointed in Week 7, finishing with just one catch on his lone target. The slow outing by Claypool coincided with the return to action by No. 1 wideout Diontae Johnson, who caught two touchdowns in the game. Claypool appears to have a tough matchup on tap for Week 8 as he will go up against the Baltimore Ravens, a pass defense that is ranked seventh in DVOA this year. That being said, Claypool does draw the most favorable matchup of the top three Pittsburgh wideouts, as he will primarily run his routes against Marcus Peters. Peters has struggled in coverage this season, so Claypool could see more targets come his way if the Ravens can successfully shut down JuJu Smith-Schuster and Johnson. Treat Claypool as a WR3 for Week 8.
Dallas Cowboys QB Andy Dalton (concussion) participated in the team's quarterback meeting Thursday, Oct. 29, but will be held out of practice, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. In all, it makes Dalton unlikely to play Sunday in Week 8, in the estimation of NFL reporter Ian Rapoport.
Fantasy Spin: That means rookie Ben DiNucci continues to be on track for his first start, which doesn't portend good things for the rest of the Dallas offense, which has gone from elite fantasy QB Dak Prescott to a seventh-round rookie in a matter of weeks. Downgrade your expectations accordingly.
Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson has 28 catches for 537 receiving yards so far this year, and 36.3 percent of those yards have come after the catch. Jefferson has proved to be extremely difficult to cover and tackle for opponents, and his contributions have helped overcome the departure of Stefon Diggs. At the rate he's currently on, Jefferson will finish his first year in the NFL with well over 1,000 yards receiving, with nearly half of those yards coming after he's caught the football. The 21-year-old is the real deal. He's averaging 3.20 yards per route run and had nine catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns before the team's Week 7 bye. The LSU product has become a must-start WR2.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (toe) is coming off a two-touchdown outing in Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans. Johnson's big day was evidence that he is still the No. 1 wide receiver in Pittsburgh, despite the emergence of rookie Chase Claypool. Johnson is a bit banged up, however, as he missed practice on Wednesday with a toe injury. This is a situation worth monitoring ahead of his Week 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens. If Johnson does play, he faces a tough matchup against the Baltimore secondary. Treat Johnson as a high-end WR3 for Week 8.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown had 2.9 receiving yards per route run in his rookie year in 2019, which trailed only Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Michael Thomas and Antonio Brown since 2016. Brown has played in only four games this year due to injury, but he's still been a yards-after-the-catch monster despite only accounting for 20.5 percent of the team's total receiving output. He had 96 yards after the catch in the Week 7 loss to the Steelers, and that one game accounted for almost two-thirds of his total yards after the catch for the season. Since returning from injury, Brown has 293 receiving yards and four touchdowns in three games. We'd say he's back. Keep him in your lineups as a high-end WR1 against Cincinnati this weekend.
X-rays this week showed that Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II (thumb) has multiple fractures and a strained ligament in his right thumb, according to sources. Minshew has been dealing with pain in his thumb since Oct. 11 against the Texans, but the team didn't know about his injury until this week. The Jags are on bye this week, but it's unclear if he'll be able to play in Week 9 against the Texans. We'd be surprised if the 24-year-old is ready to go coming off the bye with this injury, so plan ahead if you've been using him in superflex leagues as a QB2. Mike Glennon is the team's backup and would get the starting nod against Houston if Minshew cannot go.