Thu Sep 17 3:48pm ET
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) warms up before an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to pass as he is pursued by Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (98), during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Baltimore, MD. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) catches a touchdown as Cleveland Browns free safety Karl Joseph (42) attempts to tackle, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Baltimore, MD. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson scores a touchdown on a 1-yard run against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
HOUSTON (AP) Baltimore's Lamar Jackson was torn when asked if he enjoys matchups such as Sunday's against the Houston Texans and fellow talented and mobile quarterback Deshaun Watson.
''That's a great quarterback we're going against (so) I say no, because of how dynamic he is, and our defense has to prepare for him,'' he said. ''But (yes), you could say that. You could say that, yes.''
So, while Jackson is looking forward to showcasing his talents in a game against Watson, he knows dealing with Houston's star will be a tall task for his defense.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh agreed with his quarterback and raved about Watson.
''He'll throw it to anybody. He'll throw it deep. He'll throw it short. He'll throw it to every different receiver - you saw that last week - and he'll run,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's a big concern for a defense - a major problem for any defense and we're working to try to figure it out this week.''
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Of course, the Texans are in the same boat in figuring out ways to slow down Jackson after last season's MVP threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 79 yards in Baltimore's 41-7 rout of them last year.
''He's just got a very unique skill set,'' Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. ''Obviously he's very fast, he's very quick. Over time he's become a better passer. He's a very accurate passer. He does a really good job using all the people around him. They have a great scheme ... he's the MVP, so we've got ... a big challenge ahead of us.''
It's the second game to start the season where the Texans will face an MVP quarterback after they lost 34-20 to 2018 winner Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas Chiefs last week.
The Ravens easily handled Cleveland 38-6 in their opener last week behind three touchdown passes from Jackson. The victory extended Baltimore's regular-season winning streak to an NFL-best 13 in a row, which is the league's longest run since Carolina won 18 straight in 2014-15.
O'Brien likes the challenge his team is facing early this season.
''That's what it's all about,'' he said. ''You're going up against the best. We were a playoff team last year. We played the Super Bowl champs last week and now we're playing a team that was 14-2 last year.''
There won't be any fans at NRG Stadium on Sunday because of the coronavirus. Team officials made the announcement last month and said at the time that some fans could be allowed at later games if conditions in the area, which has been a COVID-19 hotspot, improve.
Houston star defensive end J.J. Watt said he can't remember a time he played a game at any level without a crowd. He reminisced about hearing his grandfather ''going nuts'' in the stands when he played youth football in front of a small crowd. But he then added that the lack of fans on Sunday really shouldn't impact anyone's performance.
''As an athlete, if you can't get yourself ready and amped up to compete against another team and to compete at the highest level, then you really probably shouldn't be out there in the first place,'' he said.
Ravens rookie linebacker Patrick Queen played a major role in his NFL debut, leading the team in tackles at middle linebacker and adding a sack.
''He showed his explosive speed a couple times, where he went and made some plays,'' Harbaugh said. ''He didn't panic at all. I felt like that was the best thing about it as a start. And he should only improve from here.''
Queen starred at LSU before being selected by Baltimore in the first round of the NFL draft. He stepped right in as a starter at a key position in the middle of the defense.
''It's what I expected,'' Queen said of his first game as a pro. ''I wanted to do better than I did, but I'm grateful for what I got. I prayed about it, slept on it, dreamed of making plays.''
PLENTY OF PLAYMAKERS
The Texans don't have DeAndre Hopkins anymore, but Will Fuller stepped up last week with eight catches for 112 yards against Kansas City.
''He's a go-to receiver, for sure. Very talented, very fast, definitely someone that we have to mark,'' Harbaugh said.
Even though Baltimore held the Texans to a single touchdown last year, Harbaugh knows the Texans can ring up points through the air.
''They have four really good receivers who are all high-end receivers in the National Football League,'' he said. ''They have two excellent tight ends and two running backs who are excellent receivers. So, they have a lot of weapons in the passing game to go with Deshaun Watson.''
Five Sleepers: Week 8
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III has made it known that he wants out of Cincinnati. Ross replied bluntly to a local sports reporter on Thursday on his feelings at this point in the season in his fourth NFL campaign. "It's not a secret that I have requested a trade," Ross wrote. "Trade me if this how y'all feel. I'm healthy and eager to play. I know I can be productive. It's hard to love something when your (sic) not actually participating in it. Believe me, its (sic) not football that I don't like." Ross has world-class speed but has struggled through injuries and has caught only 51 passes for 733 yards and 10 touchdowns in three-plus seasons. He played 56 snaps in the season-opener but has since played 29 snaps and was inactive in Week 7 with an illness. The 24-year-old should be on the waiver wire in all single-year formats, but he could find his way back to fantasy relevance if he's traded and lands in a promising situation.
The Indianapolis Colts activated rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (leg) from Injured Reserve on Saturday and waived receiver Daurice Fountain in a corresponding move. Pittman played in three games before suffering his leg injury, which required surgery. The second-round selection out of USC caught nine of his 12 targets for 73 yards in his three games before being sidelined. The 23-year-old is a big-bodied receiver than can succeed on contested catches and in the red zone, and he should immediately return to a role alongside T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal. However, Indy's slow-paced, run-first offense hasn't had the kind of passing volume under quarterback Philip Rivers to make any one receiver particularly attractive in fantasy this year. But Pittman's upside makes him a must-stash in dynasty/keeper leagues, and he's worth a pickup in deeper leagues as well for depth.
The Philadelphia Eagles are expected to activate tight end Dallas Goedert (ankle) from Injured Reserve for the Sunday night game against the division-rival Cowboys, according to sources. It's a bit of a surprise, as most expected Goedert to return closer to Week 10, but apparently he impressed the coaches and medical staff during practice this week. The Eagles could choose to limit his snaps, especially after Richard Rodgers impressed in last week's win over the Giants, but the 25-year-old Goedert should at least be considered a low-end TE1 this weekend against a Cowboys Defense that hasn't really been able to stop much of anything this year. They've given up the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Goedert's return should also make Rodgers a less appealing tight end streamer.
The Philadelphia Eagles are activating rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor (thumb), offensive lineman Jason Peters, linebacker T.J. Edwards and safety Rudy Ford from Injured Reserve on Saturday. Reagor will return for the Sunday night game against the Cowboys for the first time since suffering a thumb injury in Week 2 that required surgery. The first-round pick should be a starter this weekend, but he'll be a risky flex option in deeper leagues because of the possibility that he has his snaps limited in his first game back. The matchup against Dallas is an excellent one, too, as the Cowboys have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wideouts in 2020. Travis Fulgham still remains Philly's highest-upside pass-catcher, though.
The Denver Broncos Defense will face a rising young star in Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in their Week 8 divisional matchup. Herbert has 12 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 108.1 QB rating in five games, and the Broncos D has allowed a QB rating of 92.5 this year. They'll be looking to limit the big play after surrendering six passing plays of at least 16 yards to the Chiefs in Week 7. Entering Week 8, Denver's six takeaways were tied for 24th in the league, their three interceptions tied for 23rd and their minus-eight differential 31st. The Broncos have actually been decent at limiting big plays by their opponents this year despite not having their top playmakers available because of injury, but their lack of turnovers has made them a low-upside streaming unit for fantasy managers. They are tied for eighth in the league with 18 sacks, so perhaps they can get to Herbert early and often and force him into mistakes.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus never had a chance to deliver for fantasy managers in Week 7 against the Chiefs in snowy conditions. A week after being the hero with six made field goals against the Patriots, McManus made one field goal and went 1-for-2 on extra points. In a Broncos offense that has been below-average through six games in 2020, the 29-year-old's six field-goal performance in Week 6 is looking like an outlier. While there should be more opportunities against the division-rival Chargers this Sunday -- the Bolts allow the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing kickers -- McManus is merely a streaming consideration for those in 14-team leagues this weekend.
Denver Broncos rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam has emerged in the last two weeks as quarterback Drew Lock's favorite target. Okwuegbunam made his NFL debut in Week 6 when Noah Fant (ankle) was sidelined, and he led the squad in receiving last week, catching all seven of his targets for 60 yards. He has 13 targets the last two weeks, showing the chemistry that he has with Lock from their days at Missouri. However, Fant ran more routes than the rookie last week and is getting closer to full health, which could spell trouble for Albert O. The 22-year-old is certainly intriguing, but the presence of Fant will cap his upside. If receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) doesn't play against the Chargers this Sunday, Okwuegbunam will be an upside TE2.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant (ankle) was taken off the final Week 8 injury report and is good to go for Sunday's game against the division-rival Chargers. Fant was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he got in full practices both Thursday and Friday. The second-year tight end missed Week 6 because of the injury, but he returned last weekend and disappointed with a season-low three receptions for 38 yards. The good news is he was tied for the team lead with seven targets, but rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam out-produced him and has become a favorite target of quarterback Drew Lock. That's a concern, but Fant is getting closer to full health and could see a healthy amount of targets if receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) can't play. The Chargers also allow the 11th-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, so Fant has clear top-10 tight end upside this week despite the emergence of Albert O.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is on a roll heading into a Week 8 matchup with the Giants. After a slow start to the season, Brady has now thrown for 1,454 passing yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception in his last five contests. The Giants have been a pleasant surprise against opposing quarterbacks for fantasy this year, though they've slipped a bit, allowing at least 250 passing yards and two touchdowns to each of the last two signal-callers they've faced. Brady can be started as a solid QB1 against New York on Monday Night Football.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver K.J. Hamler returned last week after missing a month with a hamstring injury, but he didn't do much in the 43-16 blowout loss to the Chiefs, catching two of his three targets for 24 yards. He also ran the ball once for 10 yards. Hamler saw seven targets in the Week 2 loss to Pittsburgh, but he just hasn't been involved enough in Denver's spotty passing attack to warrant fantasy attention in any single-year fantasy formats. In his four games, the second-round pick has caught eight of his 15 targets for 102 yards. The Penn State alum could find himself in a bigger role this Sunday against the Chargers if Tim Patrick (hamstring) is ruled out, but even then he'd be a desperation dart throw as a flex in deep leagues.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy showed up on the team's Week 8 injury report with a shoulder injury, but he practiced in full all week and is good to go for Sunday against the Chargers. An impressive route-runner with very quick feet, Jeudy's potential hasn't manifested itself yet through six games. He's seen only 13 targets in the last three games combined and has just six catches over that span. Jeudy had two grabs for a season-low 20 yards in the blowout loss to Kansas City last week and has seen his fantasy stock drop considerably in recent weeks. The 21-year-old has been tough to trust as a flex in Denver's inconsistent offense, but he has rebound potential this week against the Chargers if Tim Patrick (hamstring) cannot play. Jeudy will be an upside WR3/flex if Patrick is inactive.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard will once again have an expanded role. With Joe Mixon (foot) out of the equation against the Titans, his second-straight absence, the veteran will serve as the top option out of the backfield against a Tennessee team looking to rebound from its first loss of the year. Bernard filled in admirably in Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns, finishing with 37 yards off 13 carries while also catching all five of his targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Although Cincy's offensive line is banged up, Bernard should still be considered a starting option on Sunday, especially in PPR formats, as he may get plenty of looks from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) missed practice all week but is considered questionable for Week 8 against the Chargers. Patrick has been the team's most reliable fantasy receiver so far in 2020 in what has been an inconsistent offense, seeing at least four targets in each game while going over 100 yards receiving in both Weeks 4 and 6. But a full week of missed practices doesn't bode well for his availability in this divisional matchup. As of right now, you should have other options in place. If Patrick is inactive, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and DaeSean Hamilton would likely be the team's top three receivers. Check back on Sunday for the official inactives to see if Patrick is suiting up.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) is listed as questionable for Week 8 against the Chargers. Lindsay did not practice on Wednesday, but he got in limited action both Thursday and Friday, at least giving him a chance to be cleared before Sunday's game. The 26-year-old was more effective than Melvin Gordon in Week 7 against the Chiefs before suffering a head injury, toting the rock nine times for 79 yards (8.78 yards per attempt). He's sporting a 5.2 yard-per-carry average in 2020, but Lindsay can't shake the injury bug, playing in just one full game to this point. If he's active against the Bolts, he'll once again be sharing touches with Gordon, making him a risky RB3/flex for this weekend.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon II could see the lion's share of the backfield work in Week 8 against his former team, the Chargers, if backfield mate Phillip Lindsay (concussion) misses another game. Because of the volume he'd see in a revenge game if Lindsay is inactive, Gordon would have RB2 upside. The first-year Bronco ran the ball 17 times for 68 yards and a touchdown in the blowout loss to the Chiefs last week, but he also lost two costly fumbles. Gordon has a potential suspension still hanging over his head after a DUI arrest several weeks ago, but he should be available for this Sunday against L.A. If Lindsay plays, Gordon will be more of a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 for fantasy managers.
Buffalo Bills TE Lee Smith was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Oct. 30.
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock just hasn't looked good since returning from a shoulder injury two weeks ago. In a 43-16 blowout loss to the division-rival Chiefs last weekend, Lock went 24-for-40 for only 254 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for the second straight week. He salvaged his stat line by rushing for a score. He'll face a Chargers Defense this Sunday that has given up the seventh-most fantasy points per game to signal-callers, but Lock just cannot be trusted to perform for fantasy managers in Denver's inconsistent offense. The second-year QB has yet to surpass 254 passing yards in a game this year and threw for just 189 yards in the Week 6 win over New England. He's a low-end QB2 for those in superflex leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Le'Veon Bell will look to have a revenge game against the Jets in Week 8. Bell made his Chiefs debut in Week 7 and saw 33% of the backfield snaps behind rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Bell saw six carries in that span and picked up 39 yards, but was not targeted in the pass game. The Jets have allowed 105 yards per game and 45 yards receiving to opposing backs and Bell would certainly like to remind the Jets of what they've missed out on. Edwards-Helaire will continue to be the lead back for the Chiefs, but Bell could see increased action this action and beyond. Bell should be considered at RB3/flex option in Week 8 and beyond for now.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill is in a prime spot to put up big numbers in Week 8 against the Jets. The Jets Defense has struggled against wide receivers and is allowing 176 yards per game to pass catchers. Hill started a new touchdown streak in Week 7 and has now scored six of his first seven games this season. This game could wild with the Chief overpowering offense versus a winless Jets team, and the speedy receiver should be a big part of the game plan. Hill should be fired up as a WR1 Sunday.