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NFL Playoffs League - FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Patriots, Chiefs set to meet in AFC championship rematch

Thu Dec 5 6:28pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

Players: Stephen Gostkowski, Jason Witten, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson

Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Andrew Wylie (77) picks up celebrating running back LeSean McCoy (25) after McCoy scored a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to throw against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)


Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates a touchdown by running back Darwin Thompson (34) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Chiefs coach Andy Reid's expectations are simple heading into Kansas City's latest matchup with the Patriots.

''I think they know us, and we know them. You get in and you battle,'' Reid said.

That was exactly what the teams did in their two meetings last season.

New England got a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski as time expired to escape with a 43-40 victory during the regular season. The Patriots then needed overtime to do it again in the AFC championship game, outlasting Kansas City in another shootout, 37-31 in Arrowhead Stadium.

Another close game is expected for their latest matchup on Sunday, with playoff implications for both teams.

New England (10-2) can extend its NFL record to 11 consecutive playoff berths with a win. Kansas City (8-4) can clinch the AFC West title with a win and Oakland loss.

The two teams that have beaten the Patriots this season - Baltimore and Houston - both have dual-threat quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he sees similarities in how both of them attacked a New England defense that is allowing an NFL-low 12.1 points per game.

''I think the biggest thing was when they had their opportunities, they hit them,'' Mahomes said. ''They're not going to give us a lot of opportunities, they're a very good defense and very sound with what they do. It's about taking what's there and when you get the big shot or the big play, you hit that and score touchdowns when you do.''

Coming off a week in which New England's defense gave up four passing touchdowns in its loss to the Texans - doubling its total allowed in 2019 - safety Devin McCourty said the challenge against the Chiefs will be keeping track of all their playmakers.

''It's almost like they don't win the same way each week. They just have so much talent. I think you see that all throughout the season,'' McCourty said. ''The threat of Mahomes is always there of running the ball, of rolling one way being able to throw the ball back across his body. ... We got to see it last year twice of just his ability of being able to make plays. So, I think we know it, but with this team, the hardest thing is going out there and executing and playing to it.''

Keeping Kansas City out of the end zone will be even more imperative because of New England's ongoing issues on offense.

The Jets, Dolphins and Broncos rank in bottom five in the NFL in points per game in 2019 but are all averaging more points than New England (18 ppg) since start of November. The Patriots went 2-2 last month.

Brady's 88.2 passer rating is also his worst since 2013.

The 42-year-old quarterback has expressed his frustrations with the offense in recent weeks and acknowledged during his weekly appearance on Boston's WEEI radio that injuries have also affected their expectations. But it hasn't altered their resolve to fix their deficiencies.

''It's not like we haven't dealt with losses before,'' Brady said. ''I think a lot of it is about mental toughness and realizing that when you don't play well, you don't win. You're not supposed to win when you put less than your best out there. Sometimes you get away with it, and sometimes you don't.''

NEW CENTER?

The Patriots could be dealing with another change on the offensive line.

James Ferentz may get the start at center with Ted Karras recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the third quarter of last week's loss to Houston.

Karras has started all 12 games this season in place of David Andrews, who is recovering from blood clots. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn also spent nine games on injured reserve with a foot injury.

Ferentz said he'll be ready if called upon.

''Your job is to step in and that the train doesn't slow down,'' he said. ''We have a bunch of guys on this team that have embraced that role and I just try to keep up with those guys.''

MILESTONE WATCH

Brady enters the week with 535 regular-season touchdown passes, the second most in NFL history. Peyton Manning holds record with 539. Drew Brees is third with 532.

With 300 or more yards passing Brady will also have his 93rd 300-yard game, tying Manning for second in NFL history. Brees is first with 118. The Patriots are 76-16 in Brady's 300-yard games.

MOVING ON UP

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce leads the AFC with 923 receiving yards in 2019.

He needs just 77 receiving yards to become the fourth tight end to have four seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards in NFL history.

The others are Dallas' Jason Witten, Hall of Famer and former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez and former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Player Notes
Teddy Bridgewater May 30 1:00am ET

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule had great things to say about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's character and influence on Around The NFL on Friday. Rhule has been able to familiarize himself with and strengthen his bond with Bridgewater during the virtual offseason program. "The best players in the world bring out the best in their teammates and I can tell you, since free agency started, the amount of the guys that want to come and play with Teddy has nothing to do with me or anybody else," Rhule said. The head coach has always admired Bridgewater since coaching against him in college. The 27-year-old is finally getting another chance to start in the NFL and has his head coach fully behind him. Bridgewater doesn't have the strongest arm and may not run as much as he did early in his career, but he has a strong supporting cast and could be playing from behind often in a tough division. He's not a QB1 target or even a high-end QB2, but Bridgewater could surprise some as a fantasy backup and occasional streamer.

From RotoBaller

Josh Allen May 29 4:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs have gathered in Florida this week to work out together. Allen and backup Matt Barkley threw to rookies Isaiah Hodgins, Gabriel Davis and Zack Moss in California earlier this month. It's the first time that Allen and Diggs have met since the Bills acquired Diggs from the Vikings in March. Others present in Florida include quarterback Jake Fromm, receivers John Brown, Robert Foster, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie and Nick Easley, running back Devin Singletary and tight ends Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, Nate Becker and Jason Croom. Allen has the weapons around him to take another leap in 2020 if he develops as a passer, giving him top-five QB upside. Diggs' ceiling depends on how much Allen improves with deep-ball accuracy, making him a midrange WR2.

From RotoBaller

Aldon Smith May 29 3:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith reportedly "feels great" despite not appearing in an NFL game since November 10, 2015. Smith said, "I still feel young. I still can move well. I still have a great knowledge of the game, if not better knowledge of the game." Smith is still just 30 and has the record for most sacks in the first two seasons of an NFL career, with 33.5. With his personal life perhaps finally under control, Smith could still be a difference maker for the Cowboys Defense in 2020.

From RotoBaller

DeForest Buckner May 29 2:30pm ET

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford (knee) had "a pretty extensive cleanup" on his knee a couple weeks after the season and said that he feels great. Ford was limited during the 2019 season because of knee tendinitis and missed five games with a hamstring injury as well. The 29-year-old played just 22 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season, according to Next Gen Stats, but saw that number increase to 53.2 percent in the playoffs. The pass-rusher had 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles during the regular season and added a sack and three tackles in the postseason. The former Chief has struggled with injuries in his career, but when healthy he can be a pass-rushing force. The Niners need him to be that in 2020 to help make up for DeForest Buckner's absence.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Peterson May 29 1:30pm ET

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes during the 2014 season, and living with diabetes could force him to decide whether or not to play should the NFL return this year during the coronavirus pandemic. Peterson said he'll be comfortable playing if the proper protocols are followed by the league. The 29-year-old doesn't have an increased chance of acquiring the virus, but he has a greater risk of serious complications arising from the virus. However, his risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is lower if his diabetes is well-managed. We'd bet on Peterson playing this year if the season starts on time, but it's not a guarantee. He'll be looking to bounce back after a trying 2019 season that saw him miss six games due to suspension.

From RotoBaller

Deshaun Watson May 29 1:20pm ET

The Houston Texans and right guard Zach Fulton agreed to a reworked contract on Friday, according to a source. Fulton was due $14 million over the next two years with no guarantees, but now he'll be due $5 million guaranteed in 2020 and $3 million non-guaranteed in 2021. The Texans will also get some salary cap relief with the move. The 28-year-old just finished his second season in Houston and will help bring more continuity to an offensive line that must remain solid in front of quarterback Deshaun Watson and new running back David Johnson. Fulton was a sixth-round draft pick of the Chiefs in 2014 and spent the first four years of his career in Kansas City.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson May 28 11:00pm ET

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that quarterback Lamar Jackson must make defenses pay if they stack the box against the Ravens offense in 2020. "Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it. We absolutely have to make them pay," Harbaugh said. Jackson led the league with 36 touchdown passes in the NFL's highest-scoring offense in 2019, also setting an NFL record for rushing yards for a QB with 1,206 on his way to MVP honors. At age 22, he was the youngest QB to win the award. But on throws that traveled at least 15 yards, Jackson ranked 27th in completions (35) and 22nd in completion rate (43.8 percent). He certainly has the arm to make teams pay, and it would be good news for second-year wideouts Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin if Jackson takes the next step as a deep thrower. Even if Jackson runs less than he did a year ago, he should be either the first or second QB selected in fantasy drafts.

From RotoBaller

Chris Jones May 28 9:50pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones hasn't had much traction with the team on a contract extension, but both sides still have until July 15 to work something out. Jones has yet to sign his franchise tender, but he's kept in touch with the Chiefs during the virtual offseason program, according to sources. The market for high-end defensive tackles like Jones is $20-plus-million per season. The 25-year-old former second-round selection in 2016 has racked up 33 sacks in his four seasons with the Chiefs, including 14.5 the last two years. He was a Pro Bowler in 2019 for the first time in his career and should be considered a top-20 defensive lineman in IDP formats.

From RotoBaller

Matt Judon May 28 8:00pm ET

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon signed his one-year franchise tender on Thursday, according to a source. The one-year deal will carry a value of $16.27 million in 2020. The Ravens and Judon still have until July 15 to work out a long-term extension, but that's unlikely to happen considering the Ravens initially tagged Judon with the possibility of trading him. The former fifth-round pick in 2016 has 135 solo tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 82 QB hits, 28.5 sacks, eight passes defensed and seven forced fumbles in his four seasons. Judon was a Pro Bowler in 2019 when he had a career-high 9.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 33 QB hits. He'll be entering his age-28 season in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Joe Flacco May 28 7:00pm ET

New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (neck) says that he is embracing his new role as the backup quarterback to Sam Darnold. He says that his job is to help the team get better and to help a young quarterback see things as clearly as possible. Flacco started the first eight games for the Denver Broncos before suffering a season-ending neck injury. He still believes he can be a starting quarterback in the league, but understands his new role with the Jets.

From RotoBaller

DeAndre Hopkins May 28 6:50pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins expects to put up numbers in the team's pass-happy offense under head coach Kliff Kingsbury in his first season in 2020. "So myself, being a receiver, of course I see my stats going up. ... But I definitely see myself having one of my more productive seasons," Hopkins said. He also said he hasn't met up with quarterback Kyler Murray yet, but he plans on getting together with him and the other receivers "soon." Arizona has plenty of aerial weapons in an attack that will feature a lot of four-wide sets, but Nuk will be the No. 1 option for a young QB with a ton of potential. He's consistently one of the most efficient fantasy wideouts on a yearly basis and is a no-doubt top-five fantasy receiver for drafts this fall.

From RotoBaller

Eli Apple May 28 6:40pm ET

The Carolina Panthers agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with cornerback Eli Apple on Thursday. Apple agreed with the Raiders earlier in free agency, but the Raiders backed out of the deal and put Apple back on the open market. The 10th overall pick in 2016 by the Giants, Apple failed to live up to his draft billing in two-plus seasons in the Big Apple, and he was underwhelming in 15 games for the Saints last year (53 solo tackles, no interceptions, four passes defensed). But with Donte Jackson and Corn Elder currently set as the two starting corners on the outside, Apple should see plenty of playing time for a Carolina secondary with plenty of questions.

From RotoBaller

Justice Hill May 28 5:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill played sparingly during his rookie season last year. Hill finished the year with just 66 touches after getting stuck behind Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards. The Ravens added to their crowded running back room in the 2020 NFL draft when they used a second-round pick on J.K. Dobbins. That leaves an unclear role for Hill in 2020. Head coach John Harbaugh is still high on Hill, however, stating that he expects the sophomore runner to make a big jump. He also went on to tell reporters that there is a role for all four runners in Baltimore. Hill remains a deep dynasty stash but he may not be fantasy relevant until 2021 when Ingram is presumably out of the picture.

From RotoBaller

Nick O'Leary May 28 4:40pm ET

The Las Vegas Raiders re-signed tight end Paul Butler to an undisclosed deal on Thursday. In a corresponding move, tight end Nick O'Leary (undisclosed) was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list. Butler hasn't appeared in a regular season game in two years in the NFL with the Raiders and Lions. O'Leary was signed as a free agent after catching 13 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in 12 games (five starts) with the Jaguars and Dolphins in 2019. He was buried on the tight end depth chart to begin with, behind Darren Waller, Jason Witten and Foster Moreau. Las Vegas also has Derek Carrier and rookie Nick Bowers at the position.

From RotoBaller

Gardner Minshew II May 28 4:30pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II has impressed new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden with his work during the virtual offseason program. Gruden likes how Minshew has taken charge and seems to have a good grasp of the offense. "He has shown a skill set where he can sit in a pocket, step up, make things happen outside the pocket. He's accurate, he's tough and obviously he's a great leader, so he's got the intangibles you want in a quarterback," Gruden said. The sixth-round pick went 6-6 as a starter in his rookie season and had the highest passer rating and fewest interceptions among rookie QBs in 2019. The 24-year-old took the league by storm last year out of nowhere and has the ability to make things happen outside the pocket and with his legs, as he rushed for 344 yards in 2019. All things considered, though, Minshew is a low-end QB2 that will likely see more inconsistency in his second season.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers May 28 4:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is looking for his offense to find more explosive plays under quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2020, the coach admitted on ESPN Wisconsin's Wilde & Tausch. The Packers ranked 19th in explosive-play rate in 2019, according to Sharp Football Stats. However, other than free-agent addition Devin Funchess in the passing game, the Packers didn't really give Rodgers any added help outside of receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones. It will be on LaFleur to scheme up more explosive situations this year, but it definitely helps to have Rodgers throwing the passes, even if he's getting older. What's certain is that the Packers will need someone besides Adams and Jones to step up for Rodgers to hold off the naysayers.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Garoppolo May 28 3:20pm ET

San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams agreed to a restructured deal in the final year of his contract in 2020. Williams is due to make $12.5 million this year, but the 49ers agreed to give him some of that up front after he didn't make any money in 2019. The Redskins traded Williams to San Francisco during the draft in April, where he'll immediately become the blind-side protector for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after not playing at all last season. Even though Williams will turn 32 years old in July, the seven-time Pro Bowler is an immediate upgrade for the team's offensive line and should continue to be one of the better left tackles in the NFL.

From RotoBaller

Chandler Jones May 28 2:40pm ET

Arizona Cardinals All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones has more sacks and forced fumbles than any defender since he entered the league in 2012, and his 96 sacks through eight seasons are four more than Bruce Smith, the all-time sacks leader, at the same point in his career. Jones was one of two players in NFL history in 2019 to have 19-plus sacks and eight-plus forced fumbles in a single season. He's been really good, but he wants to work on improving against the run, his eye placement and his hand work. Jones plans to spend more practice time with the defensive line so that he can get more comfortable playing between the tackles. The two-time All-Pro and member of the league's 2010s All-Decade team can certainly get to the QB, but he'll need to improve his tackling numbers in order to justify his high price in IDP leagues.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Peterson May 28 2:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said he hasn't really had any contract talks with the team as he enters the final year of his current deal. "I feel I have a lot to prove," Peterson said. He also said he would love to stay with one team in his career and praised the organization. The 29-year-old was suspended for the first six games of 2019 and was a bit rusty upon his return. He finished with 53 tackles (46 solo), two interceptions, seven passes defensed and one forced fumble in his 10 games. The Cardinals have potential on defense with some playmakers in the middle of the field, but they'll need Peterson to return to his All-Pro form in order to make some noise in a loaded NFC West division.

From RotoBaller

Miles Sanders May 28 1:20pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles are interested in both running backs Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy, who remain free agents. The Eagles offered a contract to Carlos Hyde before he signed with the Seahawks. Freeman also received an offer, but he's also weighing another offer from the Buccaneers. Philly has yet to make an offer to McCoy. The Eagles would like a veteran presence behind Miles Sanders as he heads into his second NFL season, with Boston Scott as his current backup. Both Freeman and McCoy are past their prime, but they could be effective in spurts while spelling Sanders behind a solid offensive line. Freeman would probably have more fantasy appeal as a handcuff on early downs and in goal-line situations.

From RotoBaller