Thu Sep 17 3:48pm ET
By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) warms up before an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to pass as he is pursued by Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (98), during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Baltimore, MD. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews (89) catches a touchdown as Cleveland Browns free safety Karl Joseph (42) attempts to tackle, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Baltimore, MD. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson scores a touchdown on a 1-yard run against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
HOUSTON (AP) Baltimore's Lamar Jackson was torn when asked if he enjoys matchups such as Sunday's against the Houston Texans and fellow talented and mobile quarterback Deshaun Watson.
''That's a great quarterback we're going against (so) I say no, because of how dynamic he is, and our defense has to prepare for him,'' he said. ''But (yes), you could say that. You could say that, yes.''
So, while Jackson is looking forward to showcasing his talents in a game against Watson, he knows dealing with Houston's star will be a tall task for his defense.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh agreed with his quarterback and raved about Watson.
''He'll throw it to anybody. He'll throw it deep. He'll throw it short. He'll throw it to every different receiver - you saw that last week - and he'll run,'' Harbaugh said. ''It's a big concern for a defense - a major problem for any defense and we're working to try to figure it out this week.''
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Of course, the Texans are in the same boat in figuring out ways to slow down Jackson after last season's MVP threw for 222 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 79 yards in Baltimore's 41-7 rout of them last year.
''He's just got a very unique skill set,'' Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. ''Obviously he's very fast, he's very quick. Over time he's become a better passer. He's a very accurate passer. He does a really good job using all the people around him. They have a great scheme ... he's the MVP, so we've got ... a big challenge ahead of us.''
It's the second game to start the season where the Texans will face an MVP quarterback after they lost 34-20 to 2018 winner Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas Chiefs last week.
The Ravens easily handled Cleveland 38-6 in their opener last week behind three touchdown passes from Jackson. The victory extended Baltimore's regular-season winning streak to an NFL-best 13 in a row, which is the league's longest run since Carolina won 18 straight in 2014-15.
O'Brien likes the challenge his team is facing early this season.
''That's what it's all about,'' he said. ''You're going up against the best. We were a playoff team last year. We played the Super Bowl champs last week and now we're playing a team that was 14-2 last year.''
There won't be any fans at NRG Stadium on Sunday because of the coronavirus. Team officials made the announcement last month and said at the time that some fans could be allowed at later games if conditions in the area, which has been a COVID-19 hotspot, improve.
Houston star defensive end J.J. Watt said he can't remember a time he played a game at any level without a crowd. He reminisced about hearing his grandfather ''going nuts'' in the stands when he played youth football in front of a small crowd. But he then added that the lack of fans on Sunday really shouldn't impact anyone's performance.
''As an athlete, if you can't get yourself ready and amped up to compete against another team and to compete at the highest level, then you really probably shouldn't be out there in the first place,'' he said.
Ravens rookie linebacker Patrick Queen played a major role in his NFL debut, leading the team in tackles at middle linebacker and adding a sack.
''He showed his explosive speed a couple times, where he went and made some plays,'' Harbaugh said. ''He didn't panic at all. I felt like that was the best thing about it as a start. And he should only improve from here.''
Queen starred at LSU before being selected by Baltimore in the first round of the NFL draft. He stepped right in as a starter at a key position in the middle of the defense.
''It's what I expected,'' Queen said of his first game as a pro. ''I wanted to do better than I did, but I'm grateful for what I got. I prayed about it, slept on it, dreamed of making plays.''
PLENTY OF PLAYMAKERS
The Texans don't have DeAndre Hopkins anymore, but Will Fuller stepped up last week with eight catches for 112 yards against Kansas City.
''He's a go-to receiver, for sure. Very talented, very fast, definitely someone that we have to mark,'' Harbaugh said.
Even though Baltimore held the Texans to a single touchdown last year, Harbaugh knows the Texans can ring up points through the air.
''They have four really good receivers who are all high-end receivers in the National Football League,'' he said. ''They have two excellent tight ends and two running backs who are excellent receivers. So, they have a lot of weapons in the passing game to go with Deshaun Watson.''
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.
Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.
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.