Sun Oct 20 1:20pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, left, celebrates with Le'Veon Bell after Bell scored a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have been looking up at the New England Patriots in the AFC East for nearly two decades.
Since 2002, actually.
That's the previous time the Jets won the division that Tom Brady's bunch has had a stranglehold on for what seems like forever. And, consider this: Current New York quarterback Sam Darnold was only 5 years old then.
Yeah, it has been a while.
''I think winning the AFC East comes along with beating the Patriots,'' Darnold said. ''But you've also got to beat other teams as well and have a good season. And to make that happen, you have to take it one week at a time.''
The undefeated Patriots (6-0) head to MetLife Stadium on Monday night to face Darnold and the Jets (1-4), looking for their fourth straight season sweep of the AFC East rivals.
Well, not so fast, says Le'Veon Bell.
''It's going to be a fun game,'' the Jets running back said. ''And I think we have a really great opportunity to shock the world in a sense.''
That's because few are giving New York much of a chance in this one, with New England opening as a 12-point favorite on the road. There's also the not-so-distant memory of the Patriots rolling over the Luke Falk-led Jets 30-14 four weeks ago.
The difference this time, of course, is Darnold is back under center after missing that game while recovering from mononucleosis. After leading the Jets to a 24-22 victory over Dallas last week and being selected the AFC offensive player of the week for his performance, Darnold sees plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
And, not only that. Confident, too.
''Once all the guys are back together, I think we're unstoppable as an offense, or we can be,'' Darnold said. ''It's up to us how much we execute or how well we go out there and play. It's really up to us how many points we score. I think we're capable of scoring so many points and our offensive line too, the way they played last game.
''With the way we've been running the ball and the way they've been protecting, I think the sky is the limit for us.''
The Jets had been struggling mightily without Darnold at quarterback, particularly in the two games Falk started when New York had just 233 total yards against New England and Philadelphia.
Darnold's return allowed Adam Gase to open some things up against Dallas as the Jets put up 382 yards. Darnold was 23 of 32 for 338 yards and two touchdowns - a 92-yarder to Robby Anderson and a 5-yarder to Ryan Griffin - and an interception.
''He looked great last week, just knowing what he wanted to do, getting the ball down the field,'' Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said of Darnold. ''So, we've just got to be aware it's going to be different from just that aspect of the first time we played them, we really had their third quarterback in there.''
The Jets are still waiting to get second-year tight end Chris Herndon back. He was suspended the first four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Then, on the verge of returning to the team two weeks ago, he injured a hamstring while working out on his own. He's expected to miss the game against the Patriots, but will eventually give Darnold another target he developed chemistry with last season.
The offensive line is dealing with some injuries, too, with Gase having to shuffle things up front.
New York could get linebacker C.J. Mosley back from a groin injury that has sidelined him since the season opener. Gase likened his impending return to getting a starting quarterback back.
''We're moving in the right direction,'' Bell said. ''I've been talking about getting the ship sailing in the right direction. We're starting to slowly turn that ship. I remember three or four weeks ago, everybody was saying I was crazy.''
It might already be too late this season for the Jets to dethrone the Patriots, who have won the AFC East for 10 straight years and 15 of the past 16.
But the Jets know pulling off a victory Monday could provide a building block for their own future - which someday could include them sitting atop the division again.
''When you get locked in on trying to break the dynasty or tear them down, that's when you start losing control of yourself and losing control of your emotions during the game,'' Darnold said. ''For us, it's continuing to take it one game at a time and just focus on this game plan, what we need to do, the certain looks that we get, how we're going to adjust to those and go about the game that way.
''Because if we get outside of ourselves, and try to take down Tom Brady, take down (Bill) Belichick, those are all legit things. But for us, it's really just about focusing on what we need to do and how we need to execute.''
Washington Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar said that he reached out to the team to discuss a reasonable contract restructure, but the team declined to have conversations, according to sources close to Dunbar. Despite denying that he requested a trade, Dunbar remains adamant in his desire to be traded or released. The 27-year-old was one of the better cover corners in the league last season, but it's looking like the new regime in Washington isn't falling for his contract demands. There's a good chance that they'll look to trade Dunbar this offseason if they can't work something out with him. He had 37 tackles (31 solo) and a career-high four interceptions in 11 games played in 2019.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen met two figures that voided the final three years of his contract by securing six or more sacks and playing 57 percent or more of the defensive snaps in 2019. As such, Griffen has exercised his right to opt out of his deal, according to a source. That will free up roughly $13 million in salary cap space for the Vikings, with $800,000 in dead money. The 32-year-old was already at risk of being cut with a $13.9 million cap hit in 2020. The Vikings might try to keep him around at a reduced price, as Griffen had eight sacks and 24 QB knockdowns last season. He's been a great complement to Danielle Hunter on the other side of the line, so losing Griffen would be a blow to the Vikes pass rush.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry had surgery on his hip on February 4, according to a post from his personal Instagram account. The surgery comes as somewhat of a surprise as Landry had previously stated that he would not need surgery on his hip, which bothered him throughout the 2019 season. Landry is expected to make a full recovery and should return to the team at some point in training camp, which begins in late July. According to reports, Landry had visited with multiple hip specialists since the end of the season and eventually decided that surgery was the proper route to take. He will remain a solid WR2 for fantasy in 2020.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) changed his mind and underwent hip surgery this week. He's expected to be back at some time in training camp.
Fantasy Spin: Landry's 83-1174-6 showing was one of the better showings of his career, and his 14.1 yards per catch was a career high. He's a low-end WR2 or a high-end WR3 in PPR leagues.
Impending free-agent S Nate Ebner (Patriots) is one of 19 New England Patriots set to hit free agency this spring, but he is hopeful the two sides will be able to come together on a contract that will keep him with the team that drafted him in the sixth round of the 2012 draft.
Minnesota Vikings WR Stefon Diggs may be the subject of some trade calls this offseason, but he faces 'plenty long' odds of getting traded, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Diggs recently prompted discussion about potential unhappiness with his situation when he removed Vikings photos from his social media accounts.
The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a one-year deal with tight end Demetrius Harris on Wednesday, according to sources. Harris was cut by the Browns recently and spent time with head coach Matt Nagy when they were both with the Chiefs. The 28-year-old caught just 15 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 despite David Njoku missing most of the year with an injury in Cleveland. Chicago was looking to upgrade their tight end room after both Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen missed large chunks of last season due to injuries. Harris will have an opportunity with his new team, but it's still unlikely he has a huge pass-catching role is Burton and Shaheen are on the field.
Free-agent TE Demetrius Harris (Browns) agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears Wednesday, Feb. 19, according to sources. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Philadelphia Eagles LB Nigel Bradham was officially released Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Baltimore Ravens impending free-agent DT Jihad Ward is one of the players the Ravens want to re-sign this offseason, and the two sides have had discussions this week.
Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed (concussion) has cleared the concussion protocol and plans to play in 2020, according to sources. The Redskins are expected to release Reed this offseason.
Fantasy Spin: Reed has dealt with multiple injuries during his career, so it is not known if he would receive a lot of interest in free agency. He has posted decent numbers when he has been healthy but probably can be considered a No. 2 fantasy tight end if he is able to find a starting job.
Free-agent TE Michael Roberts (Packers) agreed to terms with the Miami Dolphins Wednesday, Feb. 19, according to a source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and intends to continue his playing career in 2020, according to sources. Reed suffered a reported seventh concussion of his career in the preseason and didn't play at all in 2019. He expects to be released by the Redskins in the coming days, but he wants to continue playing. Washington would save $8.5 million against the salary cap if they release Reed by June 1, and he would count $10.3 million toward the cap if he stays. Only 29 years old, it remains to be seen if he has anything left if he keeps playing after the 'Skins inevitably release him. It will depend on where he lands, but Reed probably won't even be touched as a TE2 in fall drafts.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen is likely to remain with the team heading into the 2020 season. However, his future in Miami doesn't look bright with Ryan Fitzpatrick coming back for another year and the Dolphins widely expected to take a franchise signal-caller with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the draft. It's clear that the team doesn't view Rosen, 23, as the future under center at this point. The former 2018 first-round pick was acquired from the Cardinals before last season, but he couldn't beat out Fitzpatrick and will have to learn another new offense, one that Fitzpatrick is familiar with. Unless something unexpected happens this summer, Rosen will open up the 2020 season holding a clipboard again.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly (Achilles), who is coming off a torn Achilles that ended his 2019 season prematurely, is expected to be ready for Week 1. Dissly was on the fantasy map as a TE1 with 23 catches for 262 yards and four touchdowns in six games before his injury, but he's played in just 10 games in his two seasons with Seattle because of injuries. On top of that, the Seahawks signed veteran Greg Olsen on Wednesday. Olsen and Dissly could form a strong one-two punch at tight end in 2020, but Dissly is unlikely to be a consistent fantasy performer unless Olsen misses time with an injury, which is entirely possible.
The Minnesota Vikings aren't releasing wide receiver Stefon Diggs, although they could get calls from other teams to see if they are interested in trading him. But the odds remain long that Diggs would be traded, as he's under contract through 2023 with reasonable salaries. This comes after Diggs removed Vikings photos from his social media. Minnesota is also in win-now mode, so they'll need Diggs to remain a contender going into the 2020 season and beyond. The 26-year-old can be a bit much at times, but he put up his second straight 1,000-yard season last year and added six touchdowns and a career-high 17.9 yards per catch. He produced for fantasy owners with Adam Thielen (hamstring) nursing an injury last year and should be a solid WR2 target going into fall drafts.
Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield will work on his footwork with offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. Van Pelt said he's going to have him put his left foot up (last year, had his right foot up) in the shotgun. Van Pelt thinks that will help Mayfield be more fluid in three-step drop out of the gun.
Fantasy Spin: Mayfield was 16th in fantasy points at the position last year in what was a colossal bust of a season. He'll be drafted highly anticipating a breakout again this season, but there are at least seven or eight quarterbacks that should go ahead of him.
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said the team will be changing some things in quarterback Baker Mayfield's footwork this offseason "to help him." One specific thing is that they will have Mayfield put his left foot in front instead of his right foot out of the shotgun when he takes the snap. Van Pelt thinks it will help Mayfield be more fluid in his three-stop drop out of the shotgun formation. High expectations were placed on Mayfield and the Browns in his second season, and he failed to live up to them, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. as his No. 1 receiver. There's still time for the 24-year-old to bounce back in a new offensive scheme, but fantasy owners will be drafting him as a QB2 this fall.
The Washington Redskins exercised the 2020 team option on running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday. Peterson led the team in attempts (211), rushing yards (898) and rushing touchdowns (five) in 2019 and will enter the 2020 season having started in 154 of the 164 games he's appeared in. The veteran is ranked eighth in NFL history in rushing attempts (3,036) and sixth in yards per game (86.7). He needs 1,054 rushing yards to pass Barry Sanders for fourth on the all-time list and needs 13 rushing TDs to pass Marcus Allen for No. 3. Peterson is a seven-time Pro Bowler and four time first-team All-Pro, but he'll take a back seat to Derrius Guice next year if Guice can stay healthy.
Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson's option was exercised by the team Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Fantasy Spin: Peterson will have a $2.25 million base salary and will count $3,109,375 against the salary cap. Peterson will serve as insurance as Derrius Guice must stay healthy. Peterson has RB5 appeal, but he has little upside.