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NFL Playoffs League - FFL: Week 1 | NFL: Week 7

Against Dolphins, Patriots playing for week off in playoffs

Thu Dec 26 7:10pm ET
By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Benjamin Watson, Antonio Brown, Sony Michel

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Buffalo Bills in the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead breaks loose from an attempted tackle to run for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)


New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, top, gets a lift from offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn after catching a pass for a two-point conversion in the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Miami Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders (7) kicks the game-winning field goal, as Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Greg Mabin (26) attempts to block, during overtime at an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Begals 38-35. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, left, celebrates after defensive back J.C. Jackson, far right, knocked down a pass in the end zone intended for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley in the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Darius Phillips (24) and linebacker Germaine Pratt (57) attempt to stop Miami Dolphins wide receiver Isaiah Ford (84), during overtime at an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Begals 38-35. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson, right, breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley in the second half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) That the New England Patriots actually have something to play for in their regular-season finale against Miami is a bit of a surprise.

When the defending Super Bowl champions opened with eight straight victories, thoughts turned to the possibility of another 16-0 regular season. A loss to Baltimore in Week 9 ended that and effectively cost New England the chance at the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots clinched a playoff berth in Week 15 and the division in Week 16, but they could need a victory over the Dolphins to earn a first-round bye.

''This is December football. December football in New England is fun and important,'' tight end Ben Watson said on Thursday. ''From here on in, they're all playoff games. From here on in, they all have implications. Obviously, once next month gets here, you end up going home if you don't win.''

The Patriots (12-3) would clinch the No. 2 seed with a victory or a Chiefs loss or tie; Kansas City plays the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, also at 1 p.m. That means the Patriots can't take the last week of the season to rest up or heal up for the playoffs.

Still, with a victory over the overmatched Dolphins (4-11), they would advance to the divisional round. In the New England locker room, that's gives the game a postseason feel.

''That's it, it's playoff time now,'' linebacker Elandon Roberts said. ''If you win this game, you know what's in front of you. If you lose, you know what you've got to do, too. It's do or die. Period.''

It would be New England's 10th straight first-round bye, and their 14th of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era.

GROUND UP

The running game has helped the Patriots get back on track after back-to-back losses at the start of December.

After gaining a season-high 175 yards on the ground against Cincinnati, New England put up 143 in a balanced attack against the playoff-bound Bills. Sony Michel ran for 96 yards in the game, just missing becoming the Patriots' first 100-yard rusher this season.

HISTORY

The Patriots beat the Dolphins 43-0 on Sept. 15, snapping a two-game losing streak in Miami. It was New England's biggest shutout in the rivalry, and second to the undefeated 1972 Dolphins' 52-0 victory in a series that dates to 1966.

Antonio Brown caught a touchdown pass, but that was the only game he played this season, as he wore out his welcome with the Steelers, Raiders and Patriots.

Brady has never really lost a game to the Dolphins in New England. Miami won in Foxborough in 2005, when he was pulled from a meaningless, season-ending game, and again in 2008, when Brady was injured.

RESURGENCE

For the Dolphins, 2019 has been the year of an offseason roster dismantling, a historically bad start and talk that they were tanking. Through it all, rookie coach Brian Flores kept the locker room together.

''No matter what changes, no matter what happened to our team, he always said, 'We are going to go out there and try to win every game,''' linebacker Jerome Baker said. ''He's a class act, and all of us believed it.''

A month into the season, the Dolphins had been outscored 163-26, the worst differential after four games since at least 1940. They lost their first seven games but have since gone 4-4 and been outscored 202-232.

''I just think back to when we were 0-7 or whatever it was,'' quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said, ''and the spirit at practice - the way the guys were still coming in and working hard and buying in and believing.

''We've only won four games, and it has been a fight. But it has been a lot of fun these last nine or 10 weeks to work with these guys.''

GETTING BETTER

At 37, Fitzpatrick seems to be on an upswing. In last week's overtime win against the Bengals, he threw for 419 yards, the highest total in his 155-game career.

''I truly don't care about that,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I mean, I know it's cool that my kids are excited about their fantasy teams. But winning is what it's all about.''

Player Notes
Ryquell Armstead Oct 25 12:50pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Ryquell Armstead hasn't appeared in a game this season as he's been on the NFL's COVID-19 list since training camp. It now appears that Armstead is done for the rest of 2020, as complications from the disease have led him to be hospitalized twice. Armstead's case is a reminder that COVID-19 is a serious illness with long-term health effects for many who get it.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Akins Oct 25 12:10pm ET

Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins (ankle/concussion) is out for a third consecutive game on Sunday when the Texans face the Packers. With Akins sidelined, Darren Fells will once again serve as the primary tight end. He's caught eight passes for 142 yards and two scores in the last two weeks without Akins and should be considered a high-end TE2 play this week.

From RotoBaller

John Ross Oct 25 12:10pm ET

One name to keep an eye on at the trade deadline: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III, who was a healthy scratch again in Week 7. Ross was targeted five times in Week 1. Since then, he's appeared in just two games, with no receptions. The former first round pick is clearly not in the long-term plans for the Bengals and has reportedly been pushing for a trade.

From RotoBaller

Curtis Samuel Oct 25 12:03pm ET

Carolina Panthers WR Curtis Samuel (knee) is active for Week 7's game against the New Orleans Saints.

Fantasy Spin: Samuel had been listed as questionable on the injury report but was able to participate in all three of the team's practice sessions during the week on a limited basis. However, he is not a recommended fantasy option this afternoon because of his lack of involvement in the Carolina offense.

From TheHuddle

Denzel Mims Oct 25 12:00pm ET

The New York Jets will get two players back on Sunday. Quarterback Sam Darnold (shoulder) returns after a two-game absence, while wide receiver Denzel Mims (hamstring) is expected to make his NFL debut. Neither player is expected to be much of a fantasy asset on Sunday, though Mims could see plenty of targets with Jamison Crowder (groin) out, making the rookie an interesting emergency play in deeper leagues. Darnold will start over Joe Flacco, who is droppable if you still were holding onto the veteran in re-draft.

From RotoBaller

Harrison Bryant Oct 25 12:00pm ET

With tight end Austin Hooper (appendicitis) out, the Cleveland Browns are expected to start rookie Harrison Bryant at the position over David Njoku. Bryant becomes an interesting TE2 play for fantasy managers who need a streamer at the position, and while his ceiling is fairly low, he does offer some decent upside in full PPR leagues. The team clearly believes in him more than they do Njoku.

From RotoBaller

Jamison Crowder Oct 25 11:53am ET

New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder (groin) has been declared inactive for the Week 7 game.

Fantasy Spin: Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios likely will serve as the top three receivers for the Jets this week, but fantasy players should avoid all three in their leagues.

From TheHuddle

Sam Darnold Oct 25 11:53am ET

New York Jets QB Sam Darnold (shoulder) is officially active for the Week 7 game.

Fantasy Spin: Darnold is back in the lineup after missing a few games but will be without his top receiver. He should be avoided in all standard leagues, and fantasy players in two-quarterback leagues may be able to find a better option.

From TheHuddle

Dwayne Haskins Oct 25 11:50am ET

Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins is inactive again in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys, which means Kyle Allen and Alex Smith will serve as the team's quarterbacks once again. Haskins's time in Washington appears to be done at this point, as he can't even crack the active roster on game days at this point. With the trade deadline coming up, don't be shocked to see the team move Haskins for whatever they can get.

From RotoBaller

Thomas Davis Oct 25 11:43am ET

The Washington Football Team have declared DE James Smith-Williams, LB Casey Toohill, QB Dwayne Haskins, LB Thomas Davis, OT Geron Christian, WR Isaiah Wright and WR Robert Foster inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Jordan Akins Oct 25 11:43am ET

The Houston Texans have declared WR Keke Coutee, OT Charlie Heck, CB John Reid, TE Jordan Akins and LB Peter Kalambayi inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Michael Thomas Oct 25 11:43am ET

The New Orleans Saints have declared DE Malcolm Roach, SS D.J. Swearinger, OT Derrick Kelly, WR Michael Thomas, WR Emmanuel Sanders, OG Nick Easton and CB Ken Crawley inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Aaron Jones Oct 25 11:40am ET

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (calf) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans. Jones had been trending down all week, and Jamaal Williams will slide in as the starting running back on Sunday. Williams is a low-end RB1 option due to Houston's defensive struggles, as they're allowing the most rushing yards per game to opposing teams. We could also see some A.J. Dillon, though Williams is the player to go to for season-long and DFS managers looking for a Jones replacement.

From RotoBaller

Curtis Samuel Oct 25 11:40am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel (knee) is officially active for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Samuel's been a versatile player for the Panthers, seeing work as a receiver and a running back, though from a fantasy perspective, his production hasn't been consistent enough to make him more than a deep-league flex option at this point. His return could cut into Mike Davis's carries a little, as well as Robby Anderson's targets.

From RotoBaller

Julio Jones Oct 25 11:33am ET

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones is not a candidate to be moved before the trade deadline, according to sources.

Fantasy Spin: Jones has dealt with injuries this season but has posted at least 137 yards in two of his four games in 2020. He is one of the better receivers in the NFL when healthy and should be a weekly starting option.

From TheHuddle

Sam Darnold Oct 25 11:33am ET

New York Jets QB Sam Darnold will not be moved before the trade deadline, according to a source.

Fantasy Spin: Darnold is returning to the lineup after being sidelined but does not have a lot of weapons to work with in the passing game. He should be considered a low-end No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Bo Scarbrough Oct 25 11:33am ET

The Detroit Lions have declared QB David Blough, WR Quintez Cephus, CB Desmond Trufant, OG Logan Stenberg, RB Bo Scarbrough and SS Miles Killebrew inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Aaron Jones Oct 25 11:33am ET

The Green Bay Packers have declared RB Aaron Jones, OT David Bakhtiari, QB Jordan Love, RB Tyler Ervin, DL Tyler Lancaster, CB Kevin King and S Darnell Savage inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Alshon Jeffery Oct 25 11:23am ET

Philadelphia Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery is on the trade block leading up to the trade deadline.

Fantasy Spin: Jeffery has not been able to play yet this season and there is no timetable to return. He could be traded in the next week but does not have a lot of fantasy value.

From TheHuddle

Matt Ryan Oct 25 11:23am ET

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan is not a candidate to be moved before the trade deadline, according to sources.

Fantasy Spin: Ryan has thrown 11 touchdowns in six games this season and has one of the better receiving corps to work with on offense. He can be considered a low-end No. 1 quarterback most weeks and can be a bye week replacement over the next few weeks for fantasy players.

From TheHuddle