Wed Oct 23 5:33pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) rushes against San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum (8) looks for a receiver as he is pressured by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Fordin in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after a touchdown by running back Dalvin Cook during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum speaks at a news conference after an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins reacts after a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The coaches and players who have departed the Washington Redskins have not always been complimentary of their time with a franchise that has experienced its share of dysfunction over the past two decades.
Kirk Cousins conceivably could have joined that chorus of critics, a cacophony amplified just last week by Kyle Shanahan. After all, the team's disinterest in giving him a longer-term, market-rate contract left Cousins as the rare starting quarterback playing on a one-year deal for two seasons in a row before becoming a free agent and signing with the Minnesota Vikings in 2018.
That's not his style, though, nor is it his story.
''Honestly for me, when I think of my time in Washington, I just think of the word gratitude. I'm so grateful that I was drafted by them,'' Cousins said.
The fourth-round selection in 2012 out of Michigan State finally became a full-timer in his fourth year, after second overall pick Robert Griffin III flamed out.
''They picked me when nobody else did. I was sitting around waiting for a phone call for 2+ days,'' Cousins said. ''I was given an opportunity to start when there weren't many people outside of that building who thought I should.''
Cousins will face his former team for the first time on Thursday night, when the surging Vikings (5-2) host the reeling Redskins (1-6). As fate would have it, the player Cousins replaced, Case Keenum, now has his old job.
After a one-year stop in Denver, Keenum was traded to Washington. He will visit U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time since the ''Minneapolis Miracle'' pass he completed to Stefon Diggs for the winning touchdown on the final play of Minnesota's divisional round game against New Orleans after the 2017 season that was a career best for the longtime backup.
''There's not enough time to reminisce,'' Keenum said. ''It's a special time, a special play, a special group of guys, something I'll remember forever, but not necessarily this week.''
Like his successor in purple, naturally, the significance of playing against his old team was mostly an afterthought for Keenum. Even if there were actually some lingering bitterness fueling extra motivation, well, neither of them would acknowledge it.
''I've played long enough to where I feel like if I keep going like I'm going I might play against my old team every week,'' Keenum said. ''It's adding up now, so it's just a normal game for me.''
When the Redskins let Cousins leave as a free agent after trading for Alex Smith and signing him to a contract extension, they thought they'd stabilized the quarterback position. Instead, because of Smith's broken leg and assorted other chaos, they have played six and started five different quarterbacks over the 23 games they've played since Cousins left.
Smith, longtime backup Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson and Keenum have all started at least one game. Rookie Dwayne Haskins, their first-round draft pick this year, appeared in relief. Cousins started all 48 regular-season games from 2015-2017. Keenum has been interim coach Bill Callahan's choice since he stepped in more than two weeks ago for the fired Jay Gruden, who preferred McCoy.
''I made it known back then when Kirk was here: We both talked about playing together for years. But things happen,'' running back Chris Thompson said.
ALL DAY IS STILL ALL RIGHT
The reunion theme on Thursday is not just for quarterbacks. Redskins running back Adrian Peterson has already played at Minnesota since his 10-season run with the Vikings ended, but the return of the franchise's all-time leading rusher will still be a big part of the show.
Particularly since Callahan has steered the offense toward a throwback strategy, with Peterson carrying the ball 43 times for 199 yards over the past two games. With 60 rushing yards, Peterson would pass Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson to land in sixth place on the NFL's all-time list.
An ankle injury has him listed as questionable, but there's little doubt that he'll try to play.
''I was there for a decade and still to this day, I have fans that follow me,'' Peterson said. ''I have fans that come to Redskins games that are die-hard Vikings fans because they're Adrian Peterson fans. The love is always going to be there.''
Cousins didn't miss a beat last week after two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen left the game in Detroit because of a hamstring injury that occurred during his first-quarter touchdown catch.
Whether going deep to Diggs, toward the sideline to rookie wide receiver Olabisi Johnson, or underneath to tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr., Cousins had plenty of options that will have to remain viable again this week while Thielen sits out for the first time in his NFL career. He has played in 90 consecutive games, including three in the playoffs.
THIRD TO NONE
One sure sign of a struggling team is a lack of success on third down, and the Redskins are checking that box on both sides of the ball. The defense has allowed opponents to convert 49.5% of their opportunities, the third-worst rate in the league. On offense, they're second to last at 24.7%, with penalties a significant problem. Washington has been flagged 71 times for 434 yards, nullifying 157 yards that otherwise would have been gained.
''Having those third downs that are third-and-2, third-and-3, third-and-4, and not those third-and-10 third downs, make a difference a lot,'' right tackle Morgan Moses said. ''We've just got to continue doing what we do: handing the ball off, running the ball, putting ourselves in the best position possible.''
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and will play on Sunday against the New York Giants. The Giants are starting four rookies in the secondary and Parker and the Dolphins shouldn't have too hard a time moving the ball. Parker is a strong WR2 with a nice ceiling for the fantasy semifinals this week. Parker's fellow Dolphins receiver Albert Wilson also cleared the protocol and will suit up for Sunday's game.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley said he is feeling 'healthier and healthier' ahead of a Week 15 matchup with a Miami Dolphins team ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing defense.
Fantasy Spin: Barkley hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game since Week 2, and he has gone five straight games without scoring. He has been one of the bigger fantasy disappointments this season, but RB2 numbers should be possible in Week 15 with a friendly matchup on tap.
Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list, Saturday, Dec. 14.
Fantasy Spin: The knee injury certainly won't help the former first-round pick establish himself as the potential starter in Seattle in 2020. If you own Penny in a dynasty league, you just have to stash him and hope he eventually turns things around.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman has seen his targets decrease since Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins returned healthy. He's seen one target over the last two games, but that catch was a 48-yard touchdown. Hardman doesn't see enough targets to warrant owning in most formats. He's a touchdown-dependent receiver that is only worth using in the deepest of leagues. It's unclear how he'll be worked into the game plan, so he's risky for fantasy formats.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has been arguably the best tight end in the NFL alongside George Kittle. Kelce is expected to easily surpass 1,000 receiving yards on the season during the Week 15 matchup with the Denver Broncos. Kelce should be in for a solid game against the average Broncos Defense. Fantasy owners have been able to count on Kelce basically every week this season. He'll remain a TE1 for this home matchup with Denver.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been unable to live up to his epic Week 1 performance. He's been able to carry enough fantasy value worth rostering him in most 12-team leagues, but hasn't scored since Week 1. Watkins heads into a matchup against the Denver Broncos in Week 15. The Broncos Defense has allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, according to Yahoo Sports. Fantasy owners should consider Watkins a WR3 or flex option for Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson has seen increased involvement in the offense the last two games. Damien Williams (ribs) and Darrel Williams (hamstring) both being sidelined has given Thompson an opportunity in the backfield. Damien has a chance to play in Sunday's Week 15 contest against the Denver Broncos. Having him back might push Thompson out of the backfield rotation. Thompson showed promise in the passing game when he caught four passes for 36 yards versus the Patriots in Week 14. Thompson could again have value in the passing game if Williams is forced to sit out again. He's only a deep league option at this point, but he could have some flex value if Williams remains out.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has been a reliable fantasy option throughout most of the season. However, Hill has been unable to find the end zone through the last three games. He's heading into a matchup with the Denver Broncos in Week 15. The same team that he caught three passes for 74 yards and a touchdown on in Week 7. Fantasy owners should feel confident that Hill can be a WR1 for this home matchup with Denver. Hill has caught at least five receptions in each of the last two games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy has been the lead back lately with Damien Williams (ribs) sidelined. However, Williams is listed as questionable for Sunday's Week 15 matchup with the Broncos. McCoy saw 11 rushing attempts for 39 yards during the Week 14 victory over New England. He might end up getting another start, but will battle with Darwin Thompson and Spencer Ware for carries. McCoy is basically a touchdown-dependent option that will be handcuffed to around 10 to 12 carries.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) is listed as questionable for Sunday's Week 15 matchup with the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs backfield is a mess with LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson, and Spencer Ware all in the mix. Williams has missed the last two games and could be limited, assuming he plays on Sunday. It's uncertain how many touches Williams would see even fully healthy. He's going to be a touchdown-dependent fantasy option that most owners should avoid for Week 15.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown three touchdowns and two interceptions over his last three games. Mahomes is normally an elite fantasy option every week, but has been slowed down recently. He should bounce back nicely against the Denver Broncos in Week 15. Mahomes completed 10 of 11 passing attempts for 76 yards and one touchdown last time he faced the Broncos in Week 7. However, Mahomes was injured during the game, but was playing very well before that. Fantasy owners should feel confident that Mahomes will bounce back here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (knee, thumb), will play Sunday, Dec. 15, against the Detroit Lions, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN Saturday, Dec. 14. He is officially listed as questionable.
Fantasy Spin: Winston has produced much better fantasy numbers than real-world results this season. He threw for a season-high 456 yards last week against the Indianapolis Colts while matching a season-high with four touchdowns but he also threw three interceptions for the fourth time this season. He's a low-end QB1.
Free-agent LB Terrell Suggs (Cardinals) will strongly consider not reporting to any team that claims him on waivers by 4 p.m. ET Monday, Dec. 16, if not the Baltimore Ravens, according to league sources Saturday, Dec. 14.
Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson (concussion) cleared the NFL's concussion protocol Saturday, Dec. 14, and is expected to be available for the game Sunday, Dec. 15, against the New York Giants.
Fantasy Spin: Wilson hasn't reached the end zone since Week 8 and he hasn't topped 33 receiving yards in a single game this season. He isn't a fantasy consideration in anything but the deepest of leagues, even in the great Week 15 matchup.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (concussion) cleared the league's concussion protocol Saturday, Dec. 14, and will be available to play against the New York Giants Sunday, Dec. 15.
Fantasy Spin: Parker has enjoyed a breakout season and had topped 130 receiving yards in two of his previous three games before leaving early due to injury last week. He's a WR2 in a great matchup against the Giants this week.
Cleveland Browns LB Joe Schobert has not heard from the team in months in regard to a contract extension and will likely be allowed to walk in free agency, according to a league source Saturday, Dec. 14.
Washington Redskins WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Saturday, Dec. 14. OT Timon Parris was signed to the active roster from the practice squad.
Houston Texans RB Taiwan Jones (hamstring) won't travel with the team and has been ruled out of the game Sunday, Dec. 15, against the Tennessee Titans.
New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook (concussion) practiced in full again Saturday, Dec. 14, and was taken off the Week 15 injury report.
Fantasy Spin: Cook is a top-flight TE1 due to his red-zone usage in the second half of the season. He has four touchdowns over his last four games.
New Orleans Saints LB Kiko Alonso (quad), OT Andrus Peat (forearm), S Vonn Bell (knee), CB Patrick Robinson (calf) and DB Johnson Bademosi (foot) didn't participate in practice Saturday, Dec. 14, and have been ruled out for the game Monday, Dec. 16, against the Indianapolis Colts. OT Terron Armstead (ankle), DE Cameron Jordan (abdomen), C Will Clapp (elbow), LB A.J. Klein (knee) and FB Zach Line (knee) were limited in practice but don't have injury designations.