In this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, file photo, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game in Tampa, Fla. The Bucs face the Broncos on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio, File)
In this Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel (9) plays against the Pittsburgh Steelers during an NFL football game in Pittsburgh. The Broncos host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) runs off the field with quarterback Tom Brady (12) after Fournette ran 46-yards for a score against the Carolina Panthers during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel (9) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) chases Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
DENVER (AP) After watching Von Miller and Bradley Chubb team up for 24 1/2 sacks in Denver in 2018, Shaq Barrett didn't want to be a backup anymore and took his talents to Tampa.
When he returns with the Buccaneers (1-1) Sunday to face the Broncos (0-2) he'll saunter into Empower Field as the NFL's defending sacks champion.
And although he's still searching for his first sack of 2020, he'll bring with him zero regrets.
''I just want to show them that they did have a chance to have me and they let me go,'' Barrett said. ''But I am happy with my situation down here. I love it.''
It was a good move for Barrett before he'd ever played a down for the Bucs.
His one-year, $5 million deal last season represented some $53,000 more than he'd earned in Denver, where he spent his rookie year on the practice squad after going undrafted out of Colorado State before a four-year run backing up the likes of Miller, Chubb, DeMarcus Ware and Shane Ray.
He parlayed that into the $15.88 million franchise tag he's playing on this season after a monster year in which he collected an NFL-best 19 1/2 sacks, forced six fumbles and earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
''I didn't even want to stay in Denver no more after my last two years there. I felt there was zero percent chance I'd start,'' Barrett said. ''They weren't even giving me the opportunity to compete to start. I did as much as I could there. I learned as much as I could there. There was no more on-the-rise there.''
If anyone's lamenting Barrett's departure it's the Broncos.
Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury last September and when he returned to the lineup this month, Miller suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
Had he stayed, Barrett would be in his second season as a starter in Denver.
''No, I most definitely don't think about that,'' Barrett said. ''That's the only reason why they had me was like if one of them did get hurt, they knew they had a secure, comfortable backup who could come in, make some plays and be a somewhat starting-caliber player.
''But that's not the role that I wanted'' anymore, Barrett said. ''It worked initially, but as I got older, I did want to see if I could be a full-time starter in the league and that just wasn't an option there or a role I could possibly have.''
Still, he's thankful for his time in Denver.
''All my time there was a blessing,'' Barrett said. ''I wouldn't be the player I am now without'' it.
Other subplots Sunday when Tom Brady goes for just his fifth win in a dozen trips to Denver and the Buccaneers seek their first win over the Broncos since 1999:
STILL THE BEST
Brady has thrown interceptions in his past four starts, three of them pick-6s. But Broncos coach Vic Fangio sees no signs the 43-year-old QB is showing his age.
''He doesn't look any different to me,'' Fangio said. ''He's still got really good arm strength and strong football intelligence in recognizing things. I don't see a major difference other than the new uniform that he's wearing.''
Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan shared similar sentiments about TB12.
''Tom Brady being one of the G.O.A.T.s, you never want to sleep on a guy like that even if he isn't looking the same as he has in the past,'' Callahan said. ''We're still going to approach the game like he's The Man. We don't want to get caught slipping.''
With Drew Lock (shoulder) sidelined for the second straight season, Jeff Driskel gets his first start for Denver and is seeking his second career win, which is 248 fewer than Brady.
''As long as I can remember, I've watched him play,'' said Driskel, who is 16 years younger than Brady. ''He's been playing for 20 years or whatever it's been. He's been a constant in this league. He's been one of the best, if not the best for a majority of those years.''
There's no denying Rob Gronkowski is off to a slow start in Tampa Bay with just two catches for 11 yards. He was held without a catch last week for just the fifth time in his 117-game career.
''He doesn't look any less daunting,'' Fangio insisted. ''In fact, he looks like he's in pretty good shape. He's running better than he was late in the final season of his career with New England. I think he's healthy and ready to go. ... He hasn't gotten his yet, but I'm sure by the end of the season, he's going to have some good numbers.''
Maybe even by game's end Sunday. In six career games against the Broncos, Gronkowski has 34 receptions for 445 yards and three TDs.
Leonard Fournette, who signed with the Bucs this month, rumbled for 225 yards on 29 carries in the Jaguars' 26-24 win at Denver a year ago.
After that game, Fangio shuffled his defense, moving Mike Purcell to nose tackle and switching Shelby Harris to end while inserting linebacker Alexander Johnson into the lineup.
''Hopefully, we'll have a better day against him than we did last year,'' Fangio said.
Five Hot Plays: Week 7
The Philadelphia Eagles Defense played well on Thursday Night Football in a Week 7 win over the New York Giants. They allowed 21 points but recorded three sacks, an interception, and two fumble recoveries. In standard formats, the Eagles defense scored nine fantasy points, their second-best showing of the season. The Eagles defense will be a middling option next week in what will likely be a shootout against the Dallas Cowboys.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard returned from toe injury with six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Shepard hasn't played since Week 2, but made his return to the lineup felt as adding another weapon in the passing game helped the New York offense after they put up just 112 passing yards last week. Shepard can be added in 12-team fantasy leagues for those seeking WR help, but he draws a tough matchup with Tampa Bay in Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver John Hightower only made one catch in Week 7, but he gained 59 yards on it and helped set up the Eagles for a comeback victory over the New York Giants. Hightower was targeted twice, both coming in the fourth quarter of the game. He looks like he's settling into a low-volume deep threat role, making him unreliable in most fantasy formats despite his potential for high-scoring individual plays. He's a worthwhile investment in best-ball formats but not a strong head-to-head or points league play yet.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward scored a touchdown in Week 7, helping the Eagles to a win over their division rival New York Giants. Ward caught a total of five passes, gaining 42 yards on six targets. His touchdown came on a short three-yard pass from quarterback Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter, putting the Eagles within one score. Ward was third on the team in targets and could have decent PPR value if the Eagles offense starts to get its bearings. Week 8 against the Cowboys "defense" could be a good time for that to happen.
The New York Giants Defense had a strong game for fantasy managers despite costing the Giants late as Carson Wentz marched the Eagles down the field for the win. Star cornerback James Bradberry led the unit with a key interception in the end zone in the first half. New York added three sacks to put up a respectable line for fantasy managers. After two good matchups, New York will face a stiff test in Week 8 against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside showed up in the Week 7 box score, catching his lone target for an eight yard gain. Arcega-Whiteside recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown last week, but has overall been one of the most disappointing second-round picks in recent history. For the season, the second-year receiver has two catches for 45 yards. He's well off the fantasy radar in all but Eagles-only fantasy leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott made his only extra point try and made one of his two field goal attempts in Week 7. Elliott made his kick from 31 yards out then missed one from just 29 yards out. Elliott has turned into a mostly low-volume kicker and the consistency he's had in the past seems to be gone. Elliott is not a recommended kicker in standard formats going forward, although he may have a few more opportunities next week against the Cowboys.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton had a quiet night on Thursday as he was blanketed by Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay. Slayton caught just two passes for 23 yards as New York's leading receiver was targeted just four times by QB Daniel Jones. Slayton has had big games this season, but has also gone silent at times as the second-year receiver has earned the dreaded boom/bust label in fantasy. He'll draw another tough matchup in Week 8 versus the Buccaneers.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Corey Clement only recorded three touches in a Week 7 win against the New York Giants. Clement was thought to possibly have a larger role with starter Miles Sanders (knee) out, but Boston Scott took over the Eagles backfield and Clement was nothing more than a change of pace. Clement ended up running the ball twice for nine yards and made one catch for a 12 yard game. He was only targeted that one time. Jason Huntley and Jalen Hurts received the same number of carries as Clement in this one. He'll be firmly off the fantasy radar regardless of the status of Miles Sanders in Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Richard Rodgers led the Eagles in receiving in a Week 7 win over the New York Giants. Rodgers had the most catches, gained the most yards, and was targeted the second-most on the team. The only thing he didn't do was find the end zone. Rodgers caught six passes on eight targets, gaining 85 yards. With Zach Ertz (ankle) and Dallas Goedert (ankle) both out, Rodgers ran as the primary tight end in an offense accustomed to involving their tight end in the passing game. With Ertz and Goedert both on IR, Rodgers could have another week of low-end TE1 value coming up in Week 8 against a very soft Cowboys Defense.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham remained very heavily involved in the Eagles offense in a Week 7 win. Fulgham was targeted a team-high 11 times, making five catches for 73 yards. It was the first week that Fulgham was on the active roster where he did not score a touchdown, but he continued to operate as the surprising WR1 on the Eagles offense. With DeSean Jackson injured once again and looking like he'll miss even more time, Fulgham season looks like it will continue in Week 8 against the Cowboys.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram tied his season-high with six catches Thursday night that he turned into 46 yards. Engram added three rushing yards on two carries. The 46 yards are his second-highest total of the season and while he hasn't found the end zone, things are trending up for the fourth-year tight end. Engram had nine targets in this game after having just five in the previous two games. The Giants gave him a carry inside the five-yard line on their first drive as the offense needs Engram to get going. With the tight end position being a wasteland of fantasy football, Engram offers upside few others can match and has a high target-share in the New York offense. He's a startable tight end in 10-team leagues and larger.
New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate scored his first touchdown of the season and did nothing else on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Tate made a contested-catch which he took in for a 39-yard touchdown early in the game and was invisible from there as the veteran receiver didn't record another catch. Tate had just two targets on the night and should not be trusted unless his target-share increases. With Sterling Shepard back in the lineup, fantasy managers shouldn't bet on that happening.
The Denver Broncos Defense had one of their best performances of the season in the 18-12 upset win over the Patriots in Week 6. But even after turning the ball over three times last weekend and holding New England to only 12 points, Denver's D still ranks only 20th in the league with 4.8 fantasy points per game. They have only five total turnovers in five games (two fumble recoveries, three interceptions) but have been a bit above average with 14 sacks despite missing All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller (ankle), who is out for the year. Against one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL in Kansas City, you should be looking to avoid the Broncos defense this week. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown 15 touchdowns to just one interception in six games this year, adding two touchdowns on the ground.
Denver Broncos rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was second on the team with six targets in his NFL debut in the Week 6 win over the Patriots, catching two passes for 45 yards. It was a nice showing for the large-bodied and speedy tight end in his first-ever NFL game. But with Noah Fant (ankle) trending up to return in Week 7 against the Chiefs, the 22-year-old Missouri product could go back to being a healthy inactive this Sunday. When Fant is healthy, he's been one of quarterback Drew Lock's favorite targets, and that is especially true with receiver Courtland Sutton (knee) out for the year. Even if Fant misses another game, Okwuegbunam would be a desperation low-end TE2 in the deepest of leagues.
New York Giants running back Dion Lewis handled three carries for 23 yards in a loss to the Eagles on Thursday. Despite starting running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) leaving after only three carries, Lewis was not a big part of the Giants' game plan as Wayne Gallman handled the bulk of the work in the Big Blue backfield. New York hasn't had enough success rushing the ball this season for Lewis to be a fantasy asset in most fantasy leagues.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus was the hero for both the Broncos and for fantasy managers that started him in the Week 6 win over the Patriots. He accounted for all of the team's 18 points on his six made kicks, including two from 50-plus yards out and two from 40-plus yards. McManus has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, but his Week 6 performance was his only real fantasy relevant one of the year because of the inconsistent nature of the offense in which he resides. The 29-year-old certainly won't be able to win the game himself in Week 7 against the high-flying Chiefs offensive attack, which makes McManus one to avoid for lineups this weekend. KC has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to the kicking position as well.
New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman came off the bench to have a productive game in a one-point loss to the Eagles on Thursday. Starting running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) exited with an injury after three carries and Gallman led the backfield from there. Gallman handled 10 carries for 34 yards and a touchdown while adding five catches for 20 receiving yards. The touchdown came from one-yard away as Gallman handled the goal-line work and fourth-quarter carries while the Giants thought they were salting away a win. If Freeman misses time, Gallman will be a hot waiver-wire addition as his role in this offense should make him the RB to own in New York.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had his best game in a long time in a Week 7 comeback win over the division rival New York Giants. Wentz led a fourth quarter game-winning drive and in total completed 25 of his 43 passes for 359 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran the ball seven times for 14 yards and another score. Wentz looked like Carson Wentz in a lot of this one, but there were still quite a few of the warning signs that he's shown all season. Still, those brave enough to have him in their starting lineups were certainly happy with what he did on the field tonight. Wentz may sneak into the lower end of QB1 consideration next week when he takes on what the Cowboys call a defense.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott played well in place of the injured Miles Sanders (knee) in a Week 7 win over the New York Giants. Scott ran the ball 12 times for 46 yards and also caught three passes for another 46 yards and a touchdown. Scott was targeted five times in the passing game, and his touchdown came on an 18-yard pass from Carson Wentz that completed the Eagles comeback in the fourth quarter. Scott might get another chance to lead the backfield next week if the Eagles choose to keep Sanders out through their Week 9 bye. If so, Scott will be a solid RB2 against a Cowboys Defense that can't do anything right.