Fri Nov 27 6:23pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
In this Nov. 1, 2020, file photo, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Orchard Park, N.Y. Allen and the AFC East-leading Bills prepare to host the rookie Justin Herbert-led Chargers on Sunday in a showdown of the NFLs two leaders in yards passing. (AP Photo/John Munson, File)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) As much as he'd like, Josh Allen can't change the past when the topic of the Bills quarterback's first career start was mentioned this week.
''Obviously, very nervous, and things didn't turn out so great,'' Allen said, when asked to recall any lingering memories of Buffalo's 31-20 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers two weeks into the 2018 season.
''I should've, could've done a better job if I could go back and do it all over now,'' he added. ''But it did teach me some valuable lessons. ... It helped me. It really did, and I think you need to go through some of the bumps and bruises.''
In finishing 18 of 33 for 245 yards with a touchdown in the final minute, and two interceptions, Allen's outing was typically reflective of a raw rookie thrust into action after Nathan Peterman unraveled in Buffalo's season opener.
The signs of growth have become undeniably apparent some 2 1/2 years later as Allen and the AFC East-leading Bills (7-3) prepare to host the Chargers (3-7) on Sunday.
In playing a key role in Buffalo winning at least seven of its first 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1995 and '96, Allen has shed many of his erratic tendencies to be considered one of the NFL's top young quarterbacks.
His 2,871 yards passing rank eighth in the NFL, his 68.4 completion percentage stands ninth, as does his 103.2 passer rating in a season he has thrown 21 touchdowns - one more than last year - versus seven interceptions.
It helps that Buffalo spent the past two offseasons upgrading the talent around Allen, including this year's addition of Stefon Diggs to fill out an established group of receivers featuring Cole Beasley and John Brown.
And yet, coach Sean McDermott said Allen deserves credit for his ability to learn from his mistakes.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn has seen a difference.
''He's grown tremendously,'' Lynn said.
''It's what you would expect from a young quarterback of his skillset and football IQ,'' he added. ''These guys don't come into the league hall of famers. They get developed, and they get better every single year. This year, he's looking like the league MVP to me.''
The Chargers, for all their flaws in blowing second-half leads, have the makings of a young, promising star of their own in Justin Herbert.
The first-round pick out of Oregon ranks 10th with 2,699 yards passing, and has already topped 300 yards five times, one short of matching the NFL rookie record in just nine starts. With 22 touchdown passes, he's three short of becoming the NFL's fourth rookie to reach 25. And he's 301 yards passing from joining Patrick Mahomes in becoming just the NFL's second player to reach 3,000 in his first 10 career starts.
What encourages Lynn is how much room Herbert still has to develop after being forced to start after Tyrod Taylor was sidelined with a rib injury in Week 1.
''There's a lot he doesn't know, and we're still putting more on his plate every single week,'' Lynn said. ''I love the way he's handling that, especially under the circumstances.''
WHAT THE EK?
The Chargers could get a big jolt to their running game if Austin Ekeler can return to action.
The running back led the AFC in scrimmage yards after three games before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 4 at Tampa Bay. In the six-plus games since, the running game has been inconsistent with Justin Jackson, Troymaine Pope and Kalen Ballage taking the lead at various points. Ballage has been the top back recently, topping 70 yards from scrimmage in each of the past three games.
ON THE RECEIVING END
Chargers receiver Keenan Allen leads the league with 81 receptions, which is eight ahead of Diggs, who is second.
Allen has five games with nine or more receptions, including last week against the Jets when he set a team record with 16. With 605 catches, he needs 18 in the next four games to pass Antonio Brown's mark for most through a player's first 100 games.
The Bills had their bye week to get over the disappointment of a 32-30 loss at Arizona, which Kyler Murray sealed with a 43-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 2 seconds remaining.
''It's got to be behind us,'' McDermott said. ''One pass is not going to define our season. One pass, in particular that type of pass, is not indicative of who we are as a team.''
TALE OF TWO HALVES
The Chargers defense has allowed a league-low average of 134.3 yards offense in the first half. The second half is another story. The 209.7 yards allowed average after halftime is fourth worst.
The second-half collapses are why the Chargers have lost four games after having double-digit leads. They had an 18-point lead in a 34-28 win over the Jets last week. New York pulled within one score late in the fourth quarter and drove into Chargers territory before Gus Bradley's unit finally held.
The Bills have lost four straight to the Chargers, and haven't led at any point since a 23-14 win on Oct. 19, 2008.
Five Hot Plays: Week 12
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Achilles) missed practice on Friday and is questionable for Week 12 against the division-rival Bears. Valdes-Scantling injured himself in practice on Thursday and looks unlikely for this weekend's game. MVS does have three touchdowns in the last three games, including two scores in Week 9 against the 49ers, but he had just three catches for 55 yards with Allen Lazard back in the lineup in Week 11. Lazard had just two catches on four targets for 18 yards as he was eased back in, but Lazard will be the more exciting upside flex option to close out the year as he gets closer to full health. We wouldn't recommend using Lazard as a WR4/flex just yet against Chicago's very strong secondary.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski prepares to face off with the defending champion Chiefs in a Week 12 battle. Gronkowski has been giving to fantasy owners in all formats lately, as he's scored at least 10 standard points and 13 PPR points in four of his last six games, averaging 5.8 targets per contest. With the tight end position more of a dice roll than usual, Gronkowski offers something of good value- he checks in among the leaders at the position in red-zone targets. That's worth starting him as a solid TE1 in a game that could end up with a high point total.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (groin) is doubtful to play in Week 12 against the Panthers. Smith missed practice the last two days, so fantasy managers need to remove him from their starting lineups. The second-year tight end hasn't gone over four receptions or 64 yards receiving in a single game this year and has just two touchdowns, so he's been more of a TE2 in 2020. Kyle Rudolph should benefit from Smith's absence, as he saw a season-high five targets in the only other game in which Smith didn't play this year. Rudolph could also benefit from extra looks with wide receiver Adam Thielen unlikely to play because of COVID-19. Rudolph can be considered a TE2 sleeper in DFS and deeper single-year formats.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II (thumb) is listed as questionable for Week 12 against the Browns. Minshew hasn't played since Week 7, but head coach Doug Marrone already named Mike Glennon the starter against Cleveland earlier this week. But it looks as though Minshew is nearing full health, so he could have a shot at earning the starting gig back if Glennon, who is making his first start since 2017 with the Bears, struggles on Sunday. Minshew isn't guaranteed anything the rest of the year, but he'd become a low-end QB2 option in superflex leagues if he were to regain the starting job to close out the season.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (ankle) returned to practice on Friday and isn't on the team's final Week 12 injury report against the division-rival Bears. Adams looked completely healthy last week while catching seven passes for 106 yards and his eight touchdown in the last five games. He's arguably the best fantasy wideout right now, so he's a high-end, must-start wideout this Sunday, even against a tough Bears Defense. Chicago has allowed a league-low 11.2 catches per game to opposing pass-catchers, and they're getting star safety Eddie Jackson back from the COVID-19 list. Expect Adams to see plenty of cornerback Kyle Fuller in this one, although Green Bay may move Adams around to avoid him at times.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee) has been ruled out for Week 12 against the division-rival Rams. Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) will be activated from Injured Reserve on Saturday and are expected to play on Sunday, joining Jerick McKinnon in a crowded backfield. Mostert was the leader of this backfield before his injury, but head coach Kyle Shanahan could change things up in what is becoming a big headache for fantasy managers. Coleman may not even have much of a role when he returns to action, making him droppable for better options in shallow leagues. If Mostert is active, he'll be a shaky WR3/flex against a tough Rams defensive line.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant Sr. (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Week 12 against the Jets. Grant was limited in practice the last two days, so he has a pretty good chance of facing the winless Jets. The 28-year-old has drawn 17 targets for 10 catches and a touchdown in the last three weeks and seems to have good chemistry with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. However, Tagovailoa looked terrible in Week 11 and might not play this weekend after injuring his thumb in practice on Wednesday. If Grant is active, he'll be a WR4/5 in deeper leagues despite the excellent matchup with New York. If Grant sits, DeVante Parker could see a huge target load, while Mack Hollins, Antonio Callaway and rookies Malcolm Perry and Lynn Bowden Jr. could have a chance to make some noise.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been a strong producer since joining the team. Aside from the blowout loss to New Orleans, Brown has put up 7-69-0 and 8-57-0 receiving lines on eight and 13 targets, respectively. Those are essentially WR2-level workloads, though the matchup against the Chiefs is certainly a tough one. Considering that Kansas City has surrendered the third-fewest targets to wide receiver this year, a slight downgrade to Brown's prospects is necessary. However, this game could go the way of the shootout, which would give Brown WR2 upside.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin has developed a nice chemistry with Tom Brady over the last few games. Godwin has compiled at least six receptions and 50 receiving yards in each of the last two games against relatively tough matchups. He has proven to be a reliable receiver over the middle of the field, as Brady has looked deep less often recently. Godwin is a good bet for around seven to 10 targets again in what is looking like a high-scoring contest, even though the Chiefs have been tough against wideouts. Lock him in lineups as a strong WR2 option.
San Francisco 49ers running backs Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) and cornerback Richard Sherman (calf) will be activated from Injured Reserve on Saturday and will be questionable for Week 12 against the Rams. Mostert has been out since Week 6 but could be inserted back into the lead-back role, albeit in a crowded backfield, if he's active on Sunday. He will certainly be a nice addition to fantasy lineups that are trying to make a postseason run, but Mostert will be a somewhat shaky RB3/flex if he's eased back into the fold in a crowded backfield against a Rams Defense allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to RBs in 2020. Wilson has been out since Week 7 but was effective when asked to step up for San Fran. Mostert will be the most attractive fantasy back on the Niners if he plays, but this backfield will still be a headache for fantasy managers in Week 12.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans faces a Chiefs Defense that has been stingy to opposing wideouts. The Chiefs have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position, though there's a good chance this game turns into a battle between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. If that happens, Evans would surely be one of the beneficiaries. Over the last four games, he's averaging 8.3 targets and 61.3 receiving yards- he has three touchdowns in that span. He has remained a steady producer despite the addition of Antonio Brown to the offense. Keep Evans in the lineup as an upside WR2 despite the seemingly tough matchup.
The Raiders defense has allowed 30 points or more in six of 10 games this season and take on a streaky Falcons offense this week. The Falcons offense has scored at least 25 points in six of their 10 games, so this game has the makings of a high-scoring contest. The Raiders defense has just 11 sacks so far this season but may be able to take advantage of a Falcons offensive line that has allowed 27 sacks. Matt Ryan has also been susceptible to some interceptions with seven on the season. With all this being said, the Raiders defense is mostly unreliable and will likely get a couple fantasy points at best.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette gets a great matchup in Week 12 against the Chiefs. Fournette was out-touched by Ronald Jones II last week, though he was on the field for more snaps in a negative game script. With the high-flying Chiefs offense on the other side, Tampa Bay will need to put up points to keep up. The Chiefs have also surrendered at least four receptions to running backs in five contests this year- and Fournette has operated as the team's pass-catching back. He's a solid flex play this week, though he likely has better prospects in PPR formats.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller is a must-start TE1 option this week against the Falcons Defense. The Falcons defenses are one of the worst teams in the league against the pass and rank 23rd against opposing tight ends. Waller is the Raiders' No. 1 offensive weapon and is coming off a great performance against the Chiefs where he caught seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging more than nine targets and six receptions per game this season, so it is reasonable to expect a very good fantasy performance against a poor Falcons defense. Look for Waller to have a big day in Week 12.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Hunter Renfrow has three straight games with just two catches, and he only played in 34 percent of the team's snaps last week against the Chiefs. Renfrow has gone for less than 40 yards in half of his games this season and has gone for 60 yards or more only twice. He is averaging right around three catches for about 40 yards per game this season, and he only has two touchdowns. He is definitely not a starter in eight or 10-team fantasy formats but has borderline flex value in deeper leagues if your lineup is stretched thin. Renfrow's ceiling is extremely low and should only be started as a last resort.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II has a good matchup on tap against the Chiefs in Week 12. Kansas City has allowed the seventh-most rushing yards and the eighth-most receiving yards per game to opposing running backs this year. Jones' snap percentages have been maddening over the last five weeks- 43, 24, 32, 59, and 36 percent. It's quite clear the coaching staff likes what they have with Jones and Leonard Fournette, though there could be enough room for both to have good fantasy days this week in what projects as a high-scoring contest. Jones is best utilized as a high-upside flex play this week.
The New York Giants Defense is one of the best starts in fantasy football for their Week 12 game at Cincinnati. With rookie sensation Joe Burrow (knee) out for the season, the Bengals will turn to Brandon Allen at quarterback. Allen was on the practice squad for Cincinnati until this week and has just three career starts, all last season with Denver. Expect Cincinnati to be conservative with the ball, but there's always hope for a miscue or a big defensive play when facing an inexperienced quarterback. The Giants defense should be universally started this week.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy announced on Friday that quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will start in Week 12 against the division-rival Packers. However, with Nick Foles (hip) doubtful to play, Nagy made no assurances that Trubisky would keep the starting job beyond this Sunday. Trubisky started the year under center but was benched in favor of Foles in Week 3. He played one snap in Week 8 and injured his shoulder, causing him to miss the last two games. Trubisky has been extremely inconsistent throwing the football, but his rushing ability could give the Bears offense and fantasy managers more upside against Green Bay. Still, the Packers Defense has been pretty tough against opposing QBs this year, and Trubisky is nothing more than a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues as he returns to the starting role.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady is poised to face off with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 12. Brady comes into the contest licking his wounds a bit, as he has five touchdown passes and as many interceptions in his past three games. However, the Tampa Bay offense will have to put up points to keep up with the defending champs, who lead the league in points per game. The 46-point explosion a couple of weeks ago against Carolina showed the kind of upside the Buccaneers have when everything is clicking. Two of Brady's last three meetings with the Chiefs have been high-scoring affairs with at least 70 points put up on the board. At worst, the veteran signal-caller will be a low-end QB1, though he has some serious upside his week.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder) wasn't listed on the team's final injury report on Friday and will start in Week 12 against the Patriots. Murray was bothered by a shoulder injury in the Week 11 loss to the Seahawks last Thursday, but he played through it and was always expected to be available this weekend against New England despite being limited in practice this week. The second-year signal-caller might not be 100 percent on Sunday and may not look to run as much as he normally would, but he's still a top-five fantasy QB and needs to be in all fantasy lineups. He won't have veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald due to COVID-19 and All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore will likely be covering DeAndre Hopkins, but Murray's elite athleticism should allow him to overcome and put up QB1-worthy numbers.