Sun Oct 20 1:20pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, left, celebrates with Le'Veon Bell after Bell scored a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets have been looking up at the New England Patriots in the AFC East for nearly two decades.
Since 2002, actually.
That's the previous time the Jets won the division that Tom Brady's bunch has had a stranglehold on for what seems like forever. And, consider this: Current New York quarterback Sam Darnold was only 5 years old then.
Yeah, it has been a while.
''I think winning the AFC East comes along with beating the Patriots,'' Darnold said. ''But you've also got to beat other teams as well and have a good season. And to make that happen, you have to take it one week at a time.''
The undefeated Patriots (6-0) head to MetLife Stadium on Monday night to face Darnold and the Jets (1-4), looking for their fourth straight season sweep of the AFC East rivals.
Well, not so fast, says Le'Veon Bell.
''It's going to be a fun game,'' the Jets running back said. ''And I think we have a really great opportunity to shock the world in a sense.''
That's because few are giving New York much of a chance in this one, with New England opening as a 12-point favorite on the road. There's also the not-so-distant memory of the Patriots rolling over the Luke Falk-led Jets 30-14 four weeks ago.
The difference this time, of course, is Darnold is back under center after missing that game while recovering from mononucleosis. After leading the Jets to a 24-22 victory over Dallas last week and being selected the AFC offensive player of the week for his performance, Darnold sees plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
And, not only that. Confident, too.
''Once all the guys are back together, I think we're unstoppable as an offense, or we can be,'' Darnold said. ''It's up to us how much we execute or how well we go out there and play. It's really up to us how many points we score. I think we're capable of scoring so many points and our offensive line too, the way they played last game.
''With the way we've been running the ball and the way they've been protecting, I think the sky is the limit for us.''
The Jets had been struggling mightily without Darnold at quarterback, particularly in the two games Falk started when New York had just 233 total yards against New England and Philadelphia.
Darnold's return allowed Adam Gase to open some things up against Dallas as the Jets put up 382 yards. Darnold was 23 of 32 for 338 yards and two touchdowns - a 92-yarder to Robby Anderson and a 5-yarder to Ryan Griffin - and an interception.
''He looked great last week, just knowing what he wanted to do, getting the ball down the field,'' Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty said of Darnold. ''So, we've just got to be aware it's going to be different from just that aspect of the first time we played them, we really had their third quarterback in there.''
The Jets are still waiting to get second-year tight end Chris Herndon back. He was suspended the first four games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Then, on the verge of returning to the team two weeks ago, he injured a hamstring while working out on his own. He's expected to miss the game against the Patriots, but will eventually give Darnold another target he developed chemistry with last season.
The offensive line is dealing with some injuries, too, with Gase having to shuffle things up front.
New York could get linebacker C.J. Mosley back from a groin injury that has sidelined him since the season opener. Gase likened his impending return to getting a starting quarterback back.
''We're moving in the right direction,'' Bell said. ''I've been talking about getting the ship sailing in the right direction. We're starting to slowly turn that ship. I remember three or four weeks ago, everybody was saying I was crazy.''
It might already be too late this season for the Jets to dethrone the Patriots, who have won the AFC East for 10 straight years and 15 of the past 16.
But the Jets know pulling off a victory Monday could provide a building block for their own future - which someday could include them sitting atop the division again.
''When you get locked in on trying to break the dynasty or tear them down, that's when you start losing control of yourself and losing control of your emotions during the game,'' Darnold said. ''For us, it's continuing to take it one game at a time and just focus on this game plan, what we need to do, the certain looks that we get, how we're going to adjust to those and go about the game that way.
''Because if we get outside of ourselves, and try to take down Tom Brady, take down (Bill) Belichick, those are all legit things. But for us, it's really just about focusing on what we need to do and how we need to execute.''
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (wrist) is day-to-day and could return to practice on Wednesday. "We've got to get him on the football field and see where he's at," head coach Freddie Kitchens said. Njoku isn't a lock to return to action in Week 12 against the Dolphins, but he needs to be picked up in any leagues where he's available. He caught four of his six targets for 37 yards and a touchdown in the season opener before getting hurt in Week 2 against the Jets. Njoku has clear TE1 upside to close out the season once he comes off Injured Reserve. He could be an X-factor at the weakest fantasy position for teams that advance to the fantasy playoffs.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) is out of his walking boot and sees an "upward trend" as he's ahead of schedule. Although he didn't practice on Monday, Engram thinks he could be running and cutting by the middle to end of the week. He said it's "definitely possible" that he plays in Week 12 against the Bears. We'll have to keep a close eye on his progress in practice this week, but Engram currently profiles as a risky fantasy option that isn't a lock to play this weekend. Either Rhett Ellison (concussion) or rookie Kaden Smith would start if Engram misses another game, but neither would be more than desperation, low-end TE2 options.
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is calling wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) and cornerback Bradley Roby (hamstring) game-time decisions for Thursday's game against the Colts in Week 12. O'Brien said the team will find ways to test both players outside of practice on the short week. Fuller and Roby were both close to playing in Week 11 and should return on Thursday, barring any setbacks. Fuller would be a boom/bust WR3 against a Colts Defense that doesn't give up a ton of big plays. Fuller's return would drop Kenny Stills to No. 3 on the receiver depth chart and Keke Coutee to fourth. Roby's return is needed for a struggling and beat up secondary that just got torched by the Ravens.
Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson (concussion), who had played every offensive snap through nine games this year, suffered a concussion in the Week 11 loss to the Patriots. Halapoulivaati Vaitai replaced Johnson, who has become of the best right tackles in the NFL. For an offense already missing wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (ankle) and DeSean Jackson (abdomen) in Week 11, the Eagles did very little to move the ball effectively after Johnson's departure. It would be more bad news for this offense if Johnson was forced to miss time.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that the team wants to activate left tackle Isaiah Wynn (toe) from Injured Reserve this week. It doesn't mean that Wynn will be active and in the starting lineup in Week 12 against the Cowboys, but it's a good sign for an offensive line that looked especially vulnerable against the Eagles strong pass rush in the Week 11 victory. Quarterback Tom Brady hasn't had much time to throw in the last two games, so hopefully Wynn's return will afford him more time to find his wideouts downfield.
The Jacksonville Jaguars placed tight end Josh Oliver (back) on season-ending Injured Reserve on Monday after he injured his back in Week 11 against the Colts. He had just three catches for 15 yards in four games this year. The Jags signed tight end Nick O'Leary in a corresponding move. Seth DeValve missed the game with an injury, and Geoff Swaim and James O'Shaughnessy are also on Injured Reserve, so the team is hurting for depth at the position. O'Leary will join DeValve and Ben Koyack as the only tight ends on the active roster. You should be ignoring the position in fantasy in Jacksonville.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford (hamstring) suffered a hamstring injury in the Week 11 win over the Cardinals. Ford didn't rack up any stats before leaving the contest. The 28-year-old pass-rusher has been great in his first season with the Niners, racking up 14 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 10 games. If he were to be sidelined for an extended period of time, it would be a blow to San Francisco's defensive line to close out the season. Stay tuned for more word on the severity of Ford's injury.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) was absent from practice on Monday coming out of the bye week. Engram isn't off on the right foot to return to action in Week 12 against the Bears, so fantasy owners should make plans to be without him. With that being said, he still has the rest of the week to return to practice. Engram has been frustrating as a TE1 with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones under center, but he'll be on the TE1 radar if he can play this weekend. With Rhett Ellison (concussion) also banged up, rookie Kaden Smith could see a substantial increase in playing time if both Engram and Ellison are unable to play in Week 12.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (concussion) was seen practicing on Monday. Out the last five games because of serious issues after suffering two concussions already this season, Shepard's return to practice is a welcomed sight. However, he's still no guarantee to be cleared from the league's concussion protocol in order to play in Week 12 against the Bears. Even if Shepard returns, he'd be a risky WR4/flex in a tough matchup with Chicago. Golden Tate and Darius Slayton would have lower ceilings in the passing game if both Shepard and tight end Evan Engram (foot) are able to return this Sunday. Keep an eye on Shepard's practice status the rest of the week.
Chicago Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro missed two more field goals -- one from 47 yards and one from 48 yards out -- in Sunday night's loss to the Rams. Pineiro was 8-for-10 on his field goals and perfect on extra points going into the bye week, but he's hitting just 50 percent of his kicks since then and hasn't made a field goal since going 3-for-5 against the Chargers. Head coach Matt Nagy is disappointed in Pineiro, but he's not ready to make a change at the position just yet. Im not worried about anything right now, Pieiro said. Ive just go to keep making kicks in practice, go back and see what I did wrong, and just try to make kicks. Even in a good matchup with the Giants next week, Pineiro shouldn't be in starting lineups.
Denver Broncos fullback Andy Janovich (elbow) will miss the rest of the season after suffering a dislocated right elbow in the Week 11 loss to the Vikings. He will undergo an MRI exam on Monday to determine if he also has ligament damage. Janovich scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge before his injury. Andy Beck, an undrafted rookie who plays tight end and fullback, replaced Janovich in the second half. Janovich missed the first three games of the year with a partially torn pectoral muscle. His absence the rest of the way is bad news for both running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman.
The Denver Broncos Defense had a solid outing against the Minnesota Vikings, the most noticeable stat being the five sacks they logged against Kirk Cousins and the Vikings o-line. They also managed to force and recover two fumbles, packing the stat sheet for any owners that played them in Week 11. Despite the defensive collapse in the fourth quarter, the Broncos held the Vikings to under 350 total yards and won the turnover battle during the game. They will look to keep up the pace next week against the Buffalo Bills in a road matchup.
Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman was non-existent in the team's loss to the Vikings in Week 11. The 2nd-year back has started to dip in production his last two games, a daunting sign for owners that were occasionally sneaking him into their flex spot. Freeman only had eight carries for 31 yards, alongside one reception for 14 yards. Things don't lighten up for the Oregon product, as the Broncos face a stout Buffalo Bills Defense next week on the road.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus hit three of his four field-goal attempts on Sunday afternoon, while also connecting on both of his extra-point tries. The three hits came from 29, 41, and 47 yards out, while the lone miss was a 43-yard attempt. McManus continues to be a middle of the pack option at kicker, posting solid performances week-to-week.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (hand) suffered a hand fracture during Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He underwent successful surgery to repair the fracture on Monday morning. He's expected to be out for Week 12, and it's likely that he'll be out at least one more week after that. However, this is not considered to be season-ending for him at this point. With Jordan Wilkins inactive in Week 11, Jonathan Williams benefited the most from Mack leaving the game, attempting 13 runs for 116 yards and adding one catch for 31 yards in the win. On a short week Thursday night in Week 12 against the Texans, Williams could have RB2 upside if Wilkins misses another game. Nyheim Hines should also see more work, but he's mostly an RB3/flex for PPR leagues.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson both suffered concussions in Thursday night's eventful loss to the Browns. Smith-Schuster also came away from the game with a knee injury for his trouble, and his status for Sunday's matchup with Cincinnati is up in the air, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Neither Smith-Schuster nor Johnson have been no-doubt weekly fantasy starters, but fantasy owners will nonetheless want to keep their ears to the ground for updates on these developments. Vance McDonald and James Washington could be in line for increased roles if one or both are inactive for Week 12, as well as the already PPR-friendly Steelers backfield.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant was a highly sought after target for quarterback Brandon Allen, as he hauled in four catches on 11 targets. This is a career-high in targets for Fant, who is starting to see an uptick in production with a change of scenery in recent weeks. Against the Vikings, the rookie tallied 60 yards, his second-highest yards in a game this season. Fant's stock continues to rise as he and the Broncos have a tough test against the Bills next week.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (wrist) was called "day-to-day" by head coach Freddie Kitchens on Monday. Njoku is eligible to be activated from injured reserve this week after fracturing his wrist during Week 2's win over the New York Jets. Kitchens told reporters, "We've got to get him on the football field and see where he's at." There is a strong possibility that Njoku practices on Wednesday as the team gears up for a Week 12 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. Fantasy GMs in need of tight end help should check for Njoku on the waiver wire. He has the potential to be a TE1 down the stretch of the fantasy season.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay struggled against the Minnesota Vikings run defense, posting disappointing numbers for his fantasy owners. The 2nd-year back had 16 attempts on the afternoon but only managed 67 yards, with eight yards added in the receiving game. Things don't lighten up for Lindsay, as he faces a stout Buffalo Bills Defense next week.
Denver Broncos quarterback Brandon Allen is starting to get his footing under himself after two starts with Broncos in Joe Flacco's absence. He posted a strong first half against the Minnesota Vikings but wasn't able to close out the game on Sunday. Allen threw for 240 yards and one touchdown alongside one interception. The 27-year-old quarterback will face his toughest test yet next week as he and the Broncos make a trip to Buffalo to face the Bills.