In this Oct. 20, 2019, file photo, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, left, encourages quarterback Josh Allen as he warms up before an NFL football game Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Allen and Daboll are overseeing an offensive renaissance in Buffalo in which the suddenly pass-happy Bills are among the NFL's most explosive teams three weeks into the season. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) passes against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Derek Carr and Josh Allen first crossed paths seven years ago at a summer camp at Fresno State.
Carr was the star quarterback for the Bulldogs at the time, while Allen was a scrawny high school kid hoping to get a scholarship offer from his local college and follow in Carr's footsteps.
That offer never materialized and Allen eventually ended up in college at Wyoming before becoming a first-round pick by Buffalo in 2018. Now he gets the chance to play against Carr when the Bills (3-0) visit the Las Vegas Raiders (2-1) on Sunday.
''It's unbelievable,'' Carr said about Allen's rise from the time they met at the camp in 2013. ''I think that's the last time I was taller than him. He sprouted up, he went on to Wyoming and did fantastic things. We don't text each other all the time or anything like that. I got too many kids running around. But everything I know about him, he's a great person. He's a heck of a competitor. He is having a great year, a hot start to the season. Happy for him and all those kinds of things.''
After an up-and-down start to his career, Allen has reached another level this season. He has thrown for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns in leading the Bills to three straight wins and has also run for two more scores.
He has a franchise record two straight games with at least four TD passes and has tied Jim Kelly for the Buffalo record with three 300-yard passing games in a row as experience and the addition of Stefon Diggs have made a major difference.
''I think the better I play, the more I know, the more comfortable I feel, and it's going to just cycle,'' he said. ''So I've just got to stay on top of it, understand what the defense is doing. Understand that it's really about what they do, it's about how we react to what they do.''
Allen's fast start has caught the attention of Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
''The quarterback is eye-opening,'' he said. ''He is a fun guy to watch, man. He can really throw the ball. He's got a great playing style. He's got a lot of John Elway playing style. He can scramble, he's strong, he's tough. He's a big-time player. And they've got an arsenal around him.''
Allen always believed Raiders receiver Rico Gafford had NFL-caliber talent. The two were teammates at Wyoming, where Gafford played defensive back before making the switch to receiver with the Raiders.
''I wish like heck he was on the offensive side of the ball when I was there because he was unbelievably fast,'' Allen said.
Unlike Allen, who was selected with the seventh pick in the 2018 draft, Gafford was an undrafted free agent, who first signed with the Tennessee Titans before spending most of the 2018-19 seasons on the Raiders practice squad. He then scored a touchdown on a 49-yard catch in his second NFL game.
After catching 12 passes for 105 yards and a TD in a Week 2 win over New Orleans, Raiders tight end Darren Waller was neutralized by New England. The Patriots focused their coverage on Waller and held him to two catches for only 9 yards. The Raiders hope to get more from their top receiving option this week.
''We got Waller open a couple of times. Unfortunately, we didn't get it there,'' Gruden said. ''It was perhaps an issue here or there. ... We're doing the best we can to give Waller the ball, but we also have to get a lot of production from the guys around him.''
Before being hired by Buffalo, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll held the same title on Alabama's 2018 national championship team, which featured Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Henry Ruggs III.
''Josh was second or third on the depth chart. ... but you could tell right from the get-go how special he was,'' Daboll recalled. ''And Henry, he just caught touchdowns as a young freshman. Two good young players. Not surprised by the success that those guys are having.''
The Raiders will once again play in their new stadium without any fans. Owner Mark Davis has said he doesn't want to allow fans until all season-ticket holders are allowed to come. Nevada changed its regulations this week to allow venues to apply for waivers for 10% capacity, which would be about 6,500 fans at Allegiant Stadium. UNLV has said it hopes to have some fans at games this season even if the Raiders won't.
''I'm just going to stick to coaching football,'' Gruden said. ''I'm talking a lot about masks right now and protocols. We're doing the best we can. I'm going to let Mark Davis and the governor handle all of that. I'd like to see as many fans there as soon as possible, but I understand the reality of it all.''
Bills rookie receiver Gabriel Davis is drawing praise for how quickly he's made an impact. The fourth-round pick out of Central Florida has seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. The abilities he showed in training camp led to the Bills being comfortable in opening the season with various four-receiver formations, with Davis filling various spots alongside Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley. Diggs said Davis might know more of the playbook than he does.
''In a game, when I say, 'Hey, Gabe, what do I got on this side?' he's probably going to know. I trust Gabe,'' Diggs said. ''He's a smart rookie.''
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold showed no signs of life during the loss to the Buffalo Bills last week. Darnold returned after a two-game absence, but was torn apart by the Bills Defense in Week 7. He finished with 120 passing yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss. To be fair, Darnold doesn't have many weapons on the Jets, but his play under center has been difficult to watch. It won't get any easier for Darnold as he'll face off with the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. A secondary that has allowed the ninth fewest amount of fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. There is no reason to start Darnold unless you absolutely have no other options. Hopefully Ben DiNucci is available because he's a better fantasy option this week than Darnold.
During the second quarter, Calvin Ridley was tackled from behind and immediately grabbed his left foot. Common injuries in the foot and ankle include lateral ankle sprains, high ankle sprains, mid-foot sprains, and turf toe. His status to return to the game is unknown at this time but considering this is a divisional game, the Falcons will do everything in their power to get him back on the field. His practice availability leading into Week 9 will be worth monitoring.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis has put together a few decent performance this season. Sadly, his production has been inconsistent and it's tough to predict when he's going to see a significant role in the offense. Last week, Davis saw three targets and caught one of them for 11 yards in the victory over the New York Jets. Davis is not expected to be a reliable streaming option against the top-10 secondary of the New England Patriots in Week 8. Fantasy owners might be able to use him as a low-end desperation deep league option, but that's about it.
The Seattle Seahawks will have a running back active Sunday versus San Francisco, although whether it's any of the trio of Chris Carson (foot), Carlos Hyde (hamstring), or Travis Homer (knee) remains to be seen. None of the aforementioned trio practiced in any capacity Thursday, furthering the notion that DeeJay Dallas may be heavily relied upon for the game versus the 49ers. Of the three, Carson seems the most likely to miss the contest after initially being deemed week-to-week with a foot injury. Should Hyde or Homer suit up (with the other being ruled out), they'd immediately garner RB2/Flex intrigue due to the lack of depth in the Seattle backfield. Check back over the coming days to get a better idea of how the Seahawks' backfield woes will shake out.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Trey Burton has emerged as a legitimate weapon over the past two games. Over the last two games, he has nine catches for 91 yards and a touchdown on 11 total targets. However, he is matching up against a Lions Defense that ranks second against opposing tight ends. Burton is also sharing snaps with Jack Doyle, but Burton is seeing many more targets in the passing game. The Lions have one of the worst run defenses in the league, so there's a chance that the Colts will not have a heavy passing attack unless they get behind early. Burton has been productive, but all this data points to him having some bust potential this week. He may have TE2 or flex potential, but he is certainly a risky play.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin) was able to record a full practice session Thursday, a likely sign that he'll ultimately be given the green light to play Sunday against the Jets. The Chiefs Defense was already in a golden spot even with Jones' availability up in the air, but having the reigning Pro Bowler patrolling the line only enhances their value. Having accrued 21 tackles, nine quarterback hits, and 4.5 sacks in six games, Jones' presence should wreak havoc against a Jets offense that has struggled to muster much lightning in 2020. Despite Kansas City's struggles at stopping the run (149.9 yards per game) this year, they should be rostered in all season-long leagues on a streamer basis with the news of Jones likely being in the mix.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) will be absent from Sunday's contest versus Chicago, marking his second consecutive game out of the mix. Prior to hitting the COVID-19 list, Sanders reeled off his best performance of the year with a 12-catch, 122-yard outing versus the Chargers, with his absence creating an opening in the WR ranks for the Saints. With Michael Thomas (hamstring) returning to practice Thursday, New Orleans may have some reinforcements against a stout Bears Defense, but Sanders' next chance to return to action comes next Sunday against Tampa Bay. The nature of the virus puts Sanders' availability up in the air, so check back for updates on his status as they emerge.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has been unreliable so far this season, so it may be difficult to insert him in a fantasy lineup against the Lions this week. Philip Rivers threw the ball for over 370 yards in Week 6 against the Bengals, but Hilton caught just one pass for 11 yards. He has just one game all season with more than five catches. He also has not been able to salvage any poor fantasy days by finding the end zone. Rivers seems to have a new receiving option he likes to go to every week, so it has been incredibly difficult to find any bright spots for Hilton. It is hard to consider him a fringe flex option at this point, so he is probably best suited on the bench in Week 8.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (ribs) and wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip/ribs) were both limited during practice Thursday, marking the second consecutive day that their workload was managed. Despite the limited practice time, there's no reason to believe that either is in danger of not suiting up Sunday against the Raiders for what should be an advantageous matchup for both. With Nick Chubb (knee) still out of the equation, Hunt should remain the bell cow out of the backfield, while Landry should see an increase in targets in the wake of Odell Beckham Jr.'s (knee) season-ending knee injury. Check back prior to kickoff Sunday just to make sure that both eventually get the green light, but something would have to go sideways over the coming days for either to be held out.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor will have a great opportunity to put up a good fantasy performance against the Lions this week. The Lions rank 30th against opposing running backs, and Taylor continues to improve on his yards per carry. The Lions Defense is giving up 4.5 yards per carry and have surrendered nine rushing touchdowns so far this season. Taylor is averaging 16 carries per game since being name the starter, and he has picked up three rushing touchdowns in those five games. He has mostly put up respectable fantasy performances, and he should be able to again this week. Taylor is a must-start option in Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor (thumb) is in line to play Sunday against Dallas, making his first appearance since Week 2. Reagor sustained a torn UCL in his right thumb, but is expected to revamp the team's wide receiving corps after losing DeSean Jackson (ankle) to injured reserve. Taken with the team's first-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, Reagor combined to make five catches for 96 yards in his first two games, logging 60 snaps in his final outing before hitting IR. With limited consistent options in the passing game for Carson Wentz to target, Reagor carries WR3/Flex potential this Sunday, especially when considering his matchup against an exploitable Cowboys secondary.
Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby (calf/back) was held out of practice Thursday for the second consecutive day, a worrisome note that may force Green Bay to get creative Sunday against Minnesota. Crosby has been the team's kicker for every game since Week 1 of the 2007 season, continuing to excel this year while going 9-for-9 on field-goal attempts. Special teams coach Shawn Mennenga is confident that he'll have Crosby at his disposal, but even if that's the case, current weather projections have the wind gusts in Green Bay expected to approach 40 MPH. The combination of injury concerns and bad weather opens the door for season-long fantasy managers to consider another placekicking option Sunday despite Crosby's sustained excellence.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion) was able to practice in a limited capacity Thursday, leaving the door open that he could be cleared from the league's concussion protocol in time to suit up Sunday against the Chargers. Lindsay has reclaimed his prior form over his last two games, having compiled 180 yards rushing on 32 carries. The return of Melvin Gordon III is sure to complicate Denver's backfield situation moving forward, but when given the green light, Lindsay holds RB2/Flex appeal due to past success. With that being said, his matchup Sunday against a Chargers Defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown all year -- when combined with his injury -- makes for an avoidable DFS spot. Check back to get updates on Lindsay's status as they become available.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers will face off against the Lions in Week 8. Rivers is coming off his best performance of the season against the Bengals, but he will likely to revert back to what he was prior to Week 6. The Lions Defense has actually been fairly good against the pass, currently ranking ninth against opposing quarterbacks. They are allowing less than two passing touchdowns per game, and opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of just 94. Week 6 was the only game of the year where Rivers threw multiple touchdown passes, and that is largely due to them falling behind early. Fantasy owners can feel comfortable with Rivers on the bench this week.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard (groin) is moving in the right direction as it pertains suiting up Sunday versus Detroit, as he was a full practice participant Thursday. Leonard has been out of the mix for the past two games due to a groin ailment, but the Colts Defense has still soared out into elite company through its first six games. In the three full contests that he has appeared this season, Leonard already has two double-digit tackle efforts, while also having defended two passes. Having led the NFL in tackles as a rookie in 2018 before being named an All-Pro last year in just 13 games, Leonard's addition to the Colts linebacking core makes them an even more vaunted unit moving forward.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (hand) was limited again at practice Thursday as he works his way back from a hand contusion that kept him out of the team's game Monday. The short week may prove problematic for Higbee, with an early Sunday start time against Miami on the horizon. In his absence, Gerald Everett (illness) secured his first touchdown of 2020, but he has also been tagged as questionable due to an illness. While Higbee has been consistent when on the field, his three-reception, 37-yard average leaves much to be desired from where many fantasy managers thought his production could be. If he does play Sunday, it sounds as if he'll still be nursing the injury, at best. Check back for the final word on his condition over the coming days.
Tennessee Titans LB Jadeveon Clowney (knee), CB Kristian Fulton (knee), CB Johnathan Joseph (illness), OT Dennis Kelly (knee) and C Daniel Munyer (hand) did not participate in practice Thursday, Oct. 29. S Dane Cruikshank (groin) and CB Tye Smith (shoulder) were limited during practice. DT Jeffery Simmons (non-injury) fully participated in practice.