Wed Sep 30 2:19pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase walks on the sidelines during an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Indianapolis. Gase is doing all he can to tune out all the negative talk and criticisms aimed directly at him. And there's lots of it. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio walks the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Banged up, struggling and desperate for a win.
That describes both the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, who'll square off Thursday night at MetLife Stadium with their seasons spiraling, coaches on the hot seat and rosters ravaged by injuries.
Yeah, this might not exactly be a meaty matchup for a prime-time TV audience. But, the results of this game could have intriguing consequences.
''We understand the situation we're in,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. ''We can't change anything that's happened. All we can do is look forward and prepare for our next game, which is coming here quickly on Thursday. I think our attitude is good.''
The Broncos and Jets are both 0-3 for the second straight season, and each is looking to avoid dropping their first four games in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. Barring a tie, it's about to get worse for one of them.
The woeful starts have made Fangio and Jets coach Adam Gase the targets of plenty of criticism and cast some doubts on their long-term futures with their teams. Speculation has been flying that Gase could be out as soon as Friday if the Jets lose.
''For me, I have to do a great job of making sure that I keep our players in the right headspace,'' Gase said. ''When a lot of negativity is coming at you and things are hard, that's when everybody's character has to really show up and they've got to go to work and we've got to get it fixed.''
That's easier said than done, of course.
The Jets have been inept on offense, and Sam Darnold has not played like a quarterback on the verge of taking the next step in his third year. The defense has also been alarmingly porous. New York's injury list is longer than a shopping receipt, with Le'Veon Bell, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims among those sidelined.
The Broncos have had similar issues on all counts. Their roster sported a combined 18 Pro Bowls when the 53-man roster was finalized. Now, it has just Melvin Gordon's pair of all-star appearances after Von Miller, Jurell Casey, Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and A.J. Bouye all got hurt.
They're also about to start their third straight different quarterback. Brett Rypien will make his first NFL start, going Thursday night in place of the benched Jeff Driskel - who had taken the place last week of the injured Drew Lock.
''No matter who we're playing, right now, we definitely need a win,'' said Rypien, the nephew of 1992 Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.
SAM THE MAN?
Darnold's performance last week, when he threw three interceptions and had two returned for touchdowns at Indianapolis, has many wondering if he can be the franchise quarterback the Jets expected when they made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2018.
''He's like everybody in this profession, he does not like to lose,'' Gase said. ''It just eats at him and I love the fact that it just drives him to just keep coming into the building and trying to find ways to improve. I can see it on his face after that last game, like he was (angry).
''He was not only mad at the score, but just kind of how it went down and things that he knows that he can do better and things that may have been out of his control that we've just got to move on from and we can't hang on to. I think that's what I love about him.''
WORLD OF HURT
The Broncos have lost six starters and three backups to IR, and that doesn't even include Lock, whom they're keeping on the active roster so he can attend practice and get mental reps.
The injured Broncos are making a combined $53.4 million this season, by far the highest IR payroll in the NFL and nearly $20 million more than the runner-up Dallas Cowboys at $33.5 million.
Fangio is 7-12 through his first 19 games, same as Gase's record with the Jets. Fangio is the first of the Broncos' 14 head coaches ever to post back-to-back winless Septembers.
The Broncos had just one winless September in the previous 48 years when Fangio hit all the red lights in starting 0-4 in 2019. Before that, the last Broncos head coach who went into October still searching for his first win was Wade Phillips in 1994.
It's only three games and injuries have been a major reason, but New York's offense has sputtered to start the season.
The Jets rank last in the NFL in total yards, scoring, yards passing yards, first downs and red-zone efficiency. They're also second-to-last in total touchdowns, third-down conversions and yards per play.
The Broncos have allowed a whopping 13 sacks in the past two weeks, but it took Elijah Wilkinson's shin injury to force a change up front.
Denver is inserting 12th-year veteran Demar Dotson into the right tackle spot. He joined the team in the summer but couldn't unseat Wilkinson, who was coming off an offseason ankle operation.
''He's probably played 10,000 snaps at right tackle in this league, so we feel good about putting him in there,'' Fangio said. ''He had a good camp with us.''
Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Deonte Harris hauled in four of five targets for 44 receiving yards, including his first career receiving score. Harris' score was crucial, as it came with just seconds left in the first half, giving New Orleans a 21-17 lead heading into the locker room. The dynamic return man flashed some receiving ability at Division II Assumption University, so he's certainly capable if the Saints need some more receiving work out of him. With Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) out, Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) up in the air, and Marquez Callaway (ankle) banged up- Harris could be worth a look on the waiver wire in deep leagues.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (head) will not return to Sunday's matchup against the Chiefs. On a snowy, sloppy day in the Mile-High City, the 26-year-old suffered a concussion shortly before the end of the first half. Before his departure, he had nine attempts for 79 yards. Melvin Gordon, who also has nine carries, will likely serve as the featured back for the remainder of the contest. With more news to come, possibly sometime on Monday, fantasy managers will want to monitor this situation ahead of Denver's Week 8 against the Chargers.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith was targeted just four times but caught all four, totaling 56 receiving yards in a win over the Panthers. It wasn't the volume fantasy managers were hoping for from Smith, as he took a backseat to undrafted rookie Marquez Callaway (ankle). However, Smith really could be the lone wolf in the receiving room next week, especially if Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring), Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19), and Callaway are all out for a Week 8 matchup against the Bears.
The Washington Football Team defense had another good game against a banged-up offense as they dominated the Andy Dalton-led Cowboys. Dallas was playing without several starters on the offensive line and Washington took advantage as they sacked Dalton six times with one sack leading to a safety. Cole Holcomb led the charge for Washington with an interception and a sack from the middle linebacker position. In all, Washington allowed three points, recorded six sacks, a safety, and an interception on a great day for fantasy managers. The Football Team will have a bye in Week 8 but have another juicy matchup versus the Giants in Week 9 where they will be a startable unit in fantasy.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green had seven catches (13 targets) for 82 yards during the loss to the Browns on Sunday. The veteran recorded another convincing performance against Cleveland while combining for 15 receptions (24 targets) over the team's previous two contests. Although fantasy managers may not see this type of production against the Titans in Week 8, he could have some more favorable outings over Cincy's remaining nine games, especially if Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd continue to open things up for him.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway caught eight of 10 targets for 75 receiving yards in a 27-24 victory over Carolina. Callaway led the team in targets in the absences of both Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Somewhat quietly, the 22-year old rookie has compiled 16 targets over his last two contests. With Sanders definitely out and Thomas's status looking murky, Callaway makes for an interesting waiver add. He did sustain an ankle injury and had to be helped off the field to the locker room. If Callaway's ankle isn't anything serious, fantasy managers should consider him as a streaming option against Chicago.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense didn't fare well in Week 7 despite being matched up against a Washington Football Team that was allowing the third most fantasy points to opposing fantasy defenses. The Cowboys defense allowed 23 points, recording two sacks but no turnovers. The Cowboys will take on the Eagles in the battle of bad NFC East defenses next week, where they will not be a recommended fantasy option.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught all five of his targets to finish with 71 yards and a touchdown against the Browns on Sunday. The rookie now has three touchdowns on the year, finding the end zone for the first time since Week 3 against the Eagles. With Joe Burrow leading a pass-heavy attack for Cincy, Higgins may continue to benefit, especially with Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green drawing the attention needed to open things up for him over the remaining nine games of his inaugural season.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught 11 of his 13 targets to finish the Week 7 matchup against the Browns with 101 yards and a score. After fizzling out against the Colts last Sunday, the 25-year-old recorded one of his most convincing performances of the 2020 campaign. Boyd has now logged at least eight targets in five of Cincy's seven contests and should continue to benefit from the stellar play of rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow. However, things may get difficult for the former Pittsburgh Panther in Week 8 against the Titans, with Tennessee looking to rebound after suffering its first defeat of the year against the Steelers.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted a field goal in Week 7, and it was good for the only three points the Cowboys scored in an ugly 25-3 loss to the Washington Football Team. Zuerlein made his kick from 45 yards out and was never on the field on offense again. The Dallas offense is in total shambles, possibly moving Zuerlein out of the top-15 fantasy kickers going forward. He should continue to be solid, but may not get enough opportunities to score significant fantasy points.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup came up empty in a rough Week 7 loss. Gallup was targeted twice but couldn't come down with either pass, ending up with a blank box score and zero fantasy points. Gallup was working as a field stretcher with Dak Prescott around, but now with Andy Dalton and possibly Ben DiNucci throwing the ball for the Cowboys, Gallup seems much more likely to hit the "bust" part of his boom-or-bust fantasy outlook.
Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas caught all four of his targets for 60 yards and a touchdown in a Week 7 win over the Cowboys. Thomas played second-fiddle to Terry McLaurin in the passing game as no other Washington player had more than two targets. Thomas made them count catching several big passes to move the chains while finding the end zone for the third time this season. Thomas has had an up-and-down season but is getting enough weekly targets to be considered a borderline starter in 12-team fantasy leagues. He'll be a touchdown-dependant starter in his next matchup in Week 9 versus the Giants.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard racked up 37 yards off 13 carries during the heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Browns. He also added five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. The veteran filled in admirably for Joe Mixon (foot), who is considered week-to-week after being injured during the Week 6 encounter with the Colts. At this point, the 28-year-old has likely found a home on fantasy rosters. However, if he is still floating around the waiver wire, managers should pick him up before it's too late, especially if Mixon cannot suit up against the Titans in Week 8. Although Bernard isn't the most efficient runner, he should continue to benefit from the team's pass-heavy offense.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray posted 56 scrimmage yards on 12 total touches in a victory over the Panthers. Murray's 4.3 yards per carry were a bit skewed, as he picked up 25 yards on one run and just 22 yards on the other 10 carries. Still, the opportunity Murray is getting is encouraging for those who have him rostered, as the coaching staff clearly trusts him. It bears repeating, but if something were to happen to Alvin Kamara, Murray would be an easy start as an RB1.
Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin posted a 7-90-1 line versus the Cowboys to help lead Washington to a win over their division rival. The sophomore receiver was a huge part of the game plan against a bad Dallas secondary as McLaurin was targeted 11 times, his fourth game this season with double-digit targets. It could have been an even bigger game for McLaurin but he came up inches short of the goal line on his first catch of the game. He made up for it a couple of drives later as he torched Trevon Diggs for a 52-yard score. McLaurin doesn't operate in the NFL's most electrifying offense, but his combination of skill and target-floor make him one of the best WR options in fantasy. He'll have another solid matchup with the Giants in Week 9 after the bye.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara carried the ball 14 times for 83 rushing yards and caught all eight targets for 65 receiving yards in a 27-24 win. The 83 rushing yards tied a season-high for Kamara, as the running room was easy to find against Carolina's ground defense. Amazingly, the star halfback has exceeded 100 scrimmage yards in every game but one- and he ended up with two scores in that contest to salvage his day. There might be no better player to roster in fantasy football right now, so managers should keep riding the Kamara wave into a Week 8 contest against a Bears Defense that can be had on the ground.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) will have an MRI performed on Monday. The veteran was forced out of Sunday's matchup against the Bengals after injuring his left knee in the first quarter. Although the team fears the worst, fantasy managers should wait until official confirmation before hitting the panic button. Heading into Week 7, the 27-year-old grabbed 23 of his 42 targets for 319 yards and three touchdowns.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz made two catches in Week 7, gaining 22 yards. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Schultz ended up second on the team in both catches and receiving yards. He was targeted four times in a game in which the Cowboys couldn't do much of anything on offense. Even if Andy Dalton (head) is able to play next week, Schultz may be no better than a mid-range TE2. Things are rough on both sides of the ball in Dallas right now.
Dallas Cowboys rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was targeted five times in an ugly Week 7 loss, failing to catch any of those targets. He was given one carry and gained one yard. In standard scoring leagues, Lamb put up just 0.1 fantasy points. It was a bad game for pretty much everyone in a Cowboys uniform. Even if Andy Dalton (head) isn't forced to miss time, Lamb and all of the Cowboys pass catchers are getting a huge downgrade compared to when Dak Prescott (ankle) was under center.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan caught only two passes for 32 yards in the Packers 35-20 romp over the Texans in Week 7. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was generous with his offensive distribution but Tonyan was unable to enjoy the fruits of the teams prosperity. Fantasy teams that raced to pick up Tonyan after his three-touchdown performance in Week 4 have been rewarded with only five catches for 57 yards over the last two weeks. Tonyan's fantasy value will continue to sink heading into Week 8.