Fri Nov 15 12:58am ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, A.J. Green, Dak Prescott, Mike Evans, Brandon Allen, Jacoby Brissett, Carson Wentz, Michael Thomas, Mitch Trubisky, Ezekiel Elliott, Ryan Finley, Mason Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Jacobs
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson walks the sidelines during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in London. The Houston Texans won 26-3. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)
Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson starred three years ago in one of the more meaningful and memorable games of that college football season.
This weekend, the NFL gets to stage the show.
Watson and the Houston Texans will travel to Baltimore for a matchup with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens featuring two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, both of whom are under 25, no less. The pass-run threat posed by each player already makes for good theater, but what's more, the Texans (6-3) and Ravens (7-2) have emerged as two of the strongest challengers to defending champion New England in the AFC. The Ravens beat the Patriots two weeks ago, after all.
When Watson was at Clemson and Jackson was with Louisville in 2016, the ACC foes met in a midseason classic of two top-five teams in the Associated Press poll. Behind five touchdown passes and 397 yards of offense from Watson, Clemson won 42-36 despite a total of 457 yards and three touchdowns by Jackson.
Jackson won the Heisman Trophy that year, beating out Watson, who took the ultimate prize when the Tigers won the national championship. Watson was the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and Jackson went with the 32nd overall selection in 2018. After overcoming some early-career obstacles, Watson with a torn ACL in his rookie year and Jackson with the doubts that his slithery style would translate from college to pro, they're both well on their way to becoming two of the best in the game at their much-scrutinized position.
Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jackson has accounted for 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Though they're mutual admirers, this matchup on Sunday doesn't mean they'll be trying to outdo the other. There's an opposing defense to maneuver against. What the other one does on the field has no relevance to what they do when it's their turn.
''I can't control what they're doing on their side or what Lamar's got going on,'' Watson said this week.
Jackson has captured plenty of attention since becoming the full-fledged face of the franchise this fall. His spin move during a 47-yard touchdown run last week in a win over Cincinnati was an instant pick for the NFL's highlight film for 2019.
''I'm a proud quarterback, proud friend,'' Watson said. ''All the criticism he was getting when he was coming out, he's definitely a guy I've always encouraged. He's doing everything all the naysayers said he couldn't do and even more so. His career is very, very bright.''
Week 11 began with a bang, when Cleveland beat rival Pittsburgh 21-7 on Thursday night. The game unraveled in the final seconds with a fight triggered by a takedown of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett ripped Rudolph's helmet off and hit him in the head with it, a sure bet for a multi-game suspension of a key player for the Browns (4-6). The Steelers (5-5) had a four-game winning streak stopped, as Rudolph threw four interceptions.
Green Bay (8-2), Seattle (8-2), Tennessee (5-5) and the New York Giants (2-8) have their bye this week.
ATLANTA (2-7) AT CAROLINA (5-4)
Christian McCaffrey has carried Carolina all season, not only on the ground but through the air. With four catches against Atlanta on Sunday, he would pass LaDainian Tomlinson for the most by a running back in his first three years in the NFL. The Panthers must face their nemesis Matt Ryan, who is 6-1 in his last seven starts against the NFC South rival.
Ryan and the Falcons showed some fight with one of the most surprising outcomes in the league this season, a 26-9 victory over New Orleans that snapped a six-game losing streak for the Falcons.
BUFFALO (6-3) AT MIAMI (2-7)
So much for that assumption the Dolphins were tanking this season to get the top draft pick. They've suddenly won two straight games.
''We've got two more wins than the rest of the world thought we were going to have this year, so that's pretty cool,'' defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.
Miami totaled 381 yards against Buffalo in the previous meeting, the most allowed by the Bills this year. Despite losses in two of their last three games, with a win they would post their best 10-game mark since 1999. The combined record of the opponents in Buffalo's six victories is 12-44.
DALLAS (5-4) AT DETROIT (3-5-1)
Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott has 4,836 rushing yards to lead the league. If he can reach 164 rushing yards against Detroit, he'll be the fifth player with at least 5,000 rushing yards in 50 career games, joining Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Terrell Davis, all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Elliott and the Cowboys, however, had their ground attack humbled last week in a loss to Minnesota. He had only 47 rushing yards, the fewest of his career with 20 or more carries. The success of quarterback Dak Prescott against the Vikings helped the Cowboys stay in the league lead in total yards.
The Lions squandered last-minute leads on Kansas City and Green Bay, dropping both games to begin a tailspin accelerated last week by the surprise absence of quarterback Matthew Stafford to a back injury. With five losses in their last six games and the likelihood of Stafford sitting out again on Sunday, the Lions are in a tough spot. Their defense has forced only one turnover over the last four games.
DENVER (3-6) AT MINNESOTA (7-3)
The Vikings, coming off a critical victory at Dallas fueled again by the dual productivity of running back Dalvin Cook, have a prime opportunity to match their win total from last year against the struggling Broncos before taking their bye week. They're 4-0 at home this year and 22-7 at U.S. Bank Stadium in the regular season and the playoffs, and their pass rush and the crowd noise has proven time and again to be a daunting combination for opponents, particularly with inexperienced quarterbacks like Denver fill-in Brandon Allen.
Allen performed admirably in his first start for Joe Flacco, when the Broncos last played before their bye and beat Cleveland, passing for two touchdowns without a turnover. Though Denver has dropped from 10th in the league last season in sacks per pass attempt to 22nd place this year, with Bradley Chubb on injured reserve like Flacco, the Broncos still have a capable defense that could create challenges for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Denver has allowed an average of 18.9 points per game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.
JACKSONVILLE (4-5) AT INDIANAPOLIS (5-4)
After breaking his collarbone in the season opener, Nick Foles will finally take over again at quarterback for a Jaguars team that could use a spark after a 23-point loss in London to Houston prior to the bye week. Not only does Foles conveniently return in a division game that's a must to win if Jacksonville is to have a chance to remain in contention, but he will do so with his former offensive coordinator on the other side.
Colts coach Frank Reich was one of his mentors in Philadelphia, when Foles took over two seasons ago and helped lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. Reich's current team has lost two straight games since quarterback Jacoby Brissett hurt his knee. He's expected to reclaim his starting spot on Sunday.
NEW ORLEANS (7-2) AT TAMPA BAY (3-6)
Despite their humbling defeat at home against Atlanta last week, the Saints still have a comfortable lead in the NFC South. Wide receiver Michael Thomas leads the NFL with 86 receptions and 1,027 yards, joining Randy Moss, A.J. Green and Mike Evans as the only players in history to begin a career with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Thomas had 13 catches for 152 yards against the Falcons.
The Buccaneers could be just as vulnerable, with a league-worst defense that's allowing an average 31 points per game. No team has allowed more passing yards, either, and Tampa Bay just cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
NEW YORK JETS (2-7) AT WASHINGTON (1-8)
Here's a sign of progress for the Jets: Quarterback Sam Darnold, in last week's win over the Giants, was not picked off for the first time since the season opener. Darnold threw nine interceptions over his other four starts this year.
Washington has lost three straight games, after the only win came against another struggling team in Miami. The Redskins haven't scored a touchdown during the losing streak, either. They have just 45 points over their last six games.
ARIZONA (3-6-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (8-1)
There are no undefeated teams left in the standings after the 49ers squandered several opportunities last week against Seattle and lost in overtime amid a growing list of injuries on their offense. Fortunately for them, they'll host a Cardinals team on a three-game losing streak.
Arizona is second-to-last in the league in scoring and total defense, with at least 21 points allowed in all 10 games.
CINCINNATI (0-9) AT OAKLAND (5-4)
There is one winless team remaining, with a reeling Bengals squad under rookie coach Zac Taylor having turned to rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback. One more loss would match the franchise record for the worst start to a season, established in 1993.
The Raiders have rather quietly worked their way into contention in the AFC, seeking to move two games above the .500 mark since they started 2-0 in 2017. The Raiders have a league-leading 13 touchdowns by rookies this year, led by running back Josh Jacobs.
NEW ENGLAND (8-1) AT PHILADELPHIA (5-4)
Two of the last five times these teams faced each other came in the Super Bowl, with the memory of Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis still fresh for both sides. That's when the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 left, recovered a fumble by Tom Brady with a sack on the next possession for the Patriots, and posted a 41-33 victory that ended with a disconsolate Brady sitting down on the U.S. Bank Stadium turf following a desperation incompletion on the final play.
Brady said he's still carrying ''a lot of mental scar tissue'' from that game, even though the Patriots rebounded to become the most recent NFL champions a year ago. They had their bye week to recuperate from their only loss this season, to the Ravens, and they'll send a smothering defense with several all-time records in range out to try to make the afternoon rough for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Patriots have allowed only 10.9 points and 249.3 yards per game. Wentz, who was injured prior to the 2017 playoffs and watched Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise's first Super Bowl win, has helped the Eagles tie the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East with two consecutive victories.
CHICAGO (4-5) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-4)
The Bears broke a four-game losing streak last week by beating Detroit behind three touchdown passes thrown by Mitch Trubisky that gave an ailing offense some life. There are still many issues to be ironed out for a team facing as daunting of a second-half schedule as any in the league, but the defense that fueled a 15-6 victory over the Rams near the end of last season by holding them without a touchdown for the first time in 30 games under coach Sean McVay remains a strength.
The Rams, fortunately, can stop other teams, too, because their once-potent attack has been stymied often this year. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, the Bears and Rams have seven defensive touchdowns apiece, tied for second in the NFL behind Baltimore. The Rams have limited their last four opponents to a total of 57 points, as the defense produced nine points all by itself last week in a loss to Pittsburgh.
KANSAS CITY (6-4) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-6)
This AFC West matchup moves to Mexico City for an international Monday night affair at Azteca Stadium, where heavy rain and heavy use last year left the grass unfit for NFL competition and forced a Chiefs-Rams game to be relocated to Los Angeles. The Chargers still have hope of climbing back into the chase for the division title, sitting two games behind the first-place Chiefs with the Raiders in between.
The Chiefs had quarterback Patrick Mahomes back from a knee injury last week, though they didn't welcome him back with a win despite holding a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter at Tennessee. Mahomes has 8,007 career passing yards, the most through 25 starts in NFL history.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (core injury) is progressing well in his rehab, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski. In regards to both Beckham and Jarvis Landry's respective rehabs from offseason surgery, Stefanski told reporters, Both those guys are exactly where they need to be in terms of rehab progression." Beckham had surgery to repair a core muscle injury in late January but appears to be in no danger of missing games once the 2020 season kicks off. After a down year, Beckham needs to be treated as a WR2 with upside in fantasy drafts.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is on track in his rehab, according to coach Kevin Stefanski. Landry had surgery to repair the labrum in his hip back in February with the expectation he would need 6-8 months to recover. Speaking of both Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., Stefanski stated, "Both those guys are exactly where they need to be in terms of rehab progression." Landry can be tentatively penciled in for the start of the NFL season but he is likely to miss most of training camp. When active, Landry can be treated as a rock-solid WR2 in all formats.
The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to an undisclosed deal with tight end Ricky Seals-Jones on Friday, according to a source. Seals-Jones played in 14 games (three starts) and caught just 14 passes for 229 yards, but he did score a career-high four touchdowns in his lone season with the Browns last year. It was disappointing that he wasn't able to do more, especially with David Njoku missing a big chunk of the year with an injury. In Kansas City, he'll be a little-used backup tight end behind stud Travis Kelce. If Kelce were to miss any time with an injury, however, Seals-Jones could have some TE2 appeal for fantasy owners.
Houston Texans safety Justin Reid said he has spoken to head coach Bill O'Brien about his brother, free-agent Eric Reid. O'Brien was positive about Eric Reid, but it's unclear if the Texans will actually sign him. The 28-year-old was the 18th overall pick of the 49ers in the 2013 draft and made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season. He spent the last two years in Carolina, recording a career-high 130 tackles (97 solo), seven tackles for loss, five QB hits, six passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 16 games. Reid has 11 career interceptions in his seven seasons in the NFL. Houston needs as much help as they can get in the secondary.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk, the former second-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2018, knows that the addition of stud wideout DeAndre Hopkins will mean that opposing defenses will focus less on him. Kirk missed the final three games of 2019 due to injury and finished with 68 catches for 709 yards and three touchdowns. He should see a lot more single coverage, but the fact remains that he'll see fewer consistent targets with both Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald demanding looks from quarterback Kyler Murray. The 23-year-old could have some big games if teams focus all their attention on Nuk, but Kirk's fantasy stock is down entering the 2020 season.
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace said that quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles will be in an open competition in training camp this summer. The Bears were expected to bring in someone to compete with Trubisky under center, so they decided to acquire Foles from the Jaguars. Foles has experience working with all of Chicago's offensive coaches, so it seems like it could be his job to lose after Trubisky regressed in 2019. The Bears also remain non-committal on whether they'll pick up Trubisky's 2021 option. Neither QB will be much more than a midrange QB2 if they win the job, but Foles, a former Super Bowl MVP, would be a little more intriguing for wide receiver Allen Robinson.
The Kansas City Chiefs and wide receiver Sammy Watkins agreed to a restructured contract that will keep him with the team for at least another season. It will lower his salary cap number and he can earn a maximum of $16 million in 2020, according to a source. The one-year deal has a base salary of $9 million, and the move creates $5 million in cap space for the Chiefs. Watkins had 52 catches for 673 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games in the regular season, but he came on once again in the postseason on the way to a Super Bowl championship. The 26-year-old has just one 1,000-yard receiving season in his six years in the league after being the fourth overall pick of the Bills in 2014. Watkins can have some big games in KC's offense, but they'll be few and far between.
The Las Vegas Raiders signed safety Damarious Randall to a one-year deal worth up to $3.25 million, according to a source. It comes just after a deal for cornerback Eli Apple fell apart. Randall, a first-round pick by the Packers in 2015, had the first 2.5 sacks of his career for the Browns in 11 games last year, also recording 61 tackles (45 solo) and three QB hits. The 2019 season was the only one in his five years that he didn't record an interception, as Randall has 14 career picks in 65 games (56 starts). He'll help shore up the secondary alongside Johnathan Abram in Las Vegas.
According to a source, there's "not a chance in hell" that the New England Patriots trade wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman does carry a salary cap hit of $9.6 million in 2020, but he's too important to the team's passing game, especially given their lack of depth and with quarterback Tom Brady no longer in town. The veteran receiver was targeted 153 times in 2019 and caught 100 passes for the second time in his career. With Brady gone -- he'll likely have Jarrett Stidham under center this season -- Edelman's fantasy appeal certainly won't be as strong, and he'll also be 34 next month. But he'll still be useful in PPR leagues and could even come at a nice value. However, he won't be as much of a PPR lock as he's been in the past as Brady's favorite aerial weapon.
The Las Vegas Raiders and cornerback Eli Apple were unable to finalize a contract, according to sources. Apple will remain a free agent and will go back on the open market. The former 10th overall pick by the Giants in the 2016 draft hasn't lived up to his draft pedigree in his four years in the league with New York and New Orleans, but another team will likely be willing to take a chance on him at a low cost. The 24-year-old has just three interceptions in his career and totaled 58 tackles (53 solo), four passes defensed and one forced fumble in 15 games for the Saints in 2019.
The New York Jets are interested in free-agent defensive end Jadeveon Clowney now that his asking price has dropped a bit on the open market. Clowney has found a cold market for his services, likely because of the lack of physicals due to the coronavirus and his extensive injury history, but at this point he's in no rush to pick a team. He's willing to wait until he gets the deal that he's seeking as the best pass-rusher available in free agency this late in the game. The Seahawks are interested in bringing him back at the right price, and the Titans have also shown interest. Clowney has never had a double-digit sack season in his career and is an injury risk, but there's no denying that he still has an impact in defending both the run and the pass when he's healthy. This one could drag on.
Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil said on NFL Live that he wants to become the league's highest-paid offensive lineman. "Im not going to talk numbers, as Im going to keep that between me and the club. I am looking to be the highest-paid lineman, of course. I worked my butt off to be in that position and hopefully we can make that happen," Tunsil said. The 25-year-old first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2016 was acquired from Miami along with receiver Kenny Stills last year for two first-round picks and a second-rounder. He's an elite left tackle that should easily wind up making around $20 million per season on a long-term deal with the Texans. His presence on the blind side for years to come will be excellent news for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron (ankle) said he's still not fully recovered from an ankle injury that held him to just 11 games in 2019. Ebron had to have his ankle examined and "cleaned out" by an independent doctor near his home in Houston because of league restrictions keeping players from visiting other organizations during the coronavirus pandemic. The 26-year-old has yet to be examined by the Steelers medical personnel. "If the season started today, I dont think Id be able to 100% perform. But we dont play today," Ebron said. He was a disappointment last year as a TE1 after setting career highs in catches (66), yards (750) and touchdowns (13) in 2018. The 10th overall pick by the Lions in 2014 must get healthy first, but he'll also be competing for targets with Vance McDonald, which will hurt his overall fantasy ceiling in his new home.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed quarterback Blaine Gabbert to an undisclosed one-year deal on Thursday, according to a source. Gabbert will serve as the backup to Tom Brady in 2020. The 30-year-old former 10th overall pick of the Jaguars in 2011 will help Brady learn head coach Bruce Arians' system. He didn't see the field at all in 2019, but Gabbert has played in 56 games (48 starts) in his eight years in the NFL with stops in Jacksonville, San Francisco, Arizona and Tennessee. You can obviously ignore Gabbert in all fantasy leagues, and he'd merely be a low-end QB2 option in Tampa if Brady were to get hurt and miss any time.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said that offensive tackle Jack Conklin will stay at right tackle in Cleveland. The Browns added Conklin in free agency as they look to improve a dreadful offensive line from a season ago. The eighth overall pick by the Titans in the 2016 draft was a first-team All-Pro in his rookie season and has been one of the better right tackles in the league in his four seasons. The 25-year-old has started all 57 games he's played in and has played in a full 16-game season in three of his four years in the league. Conklin will help bring stability to the right side of the Browns line, but they'll need help elsewhere.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry signed his $10.2 million franchise tender on Thursday, but the two sides are still committed to working on a long-term contract extension before the deadline on July 15. Henry led the NFL with 1,540 rushing yards on 303 carries last season, and he was tied for the league lead with Aaron Jones with 16 rushing scores. His 25 receptions left a lot to be desired in PPR leagues, but there's no denying that Henry is the bell-cow running back in one of the most run-heavy offenses in the league. It makes the 26-year-old one of the most desirable RB1 picks for fantasy owners early in drafts.
Free-agent linebacker Markus Golden is the only player on the open market that had double-digit sacks in 2019. Golden recorded 10 sacks in 16 games last year and was sixth in the league with 27 quarterback hits while being tied for 14th with 13 tackles for a loss. He was believed to be asking for $10 million per season, according to a source, but he won't be getting that now. It's unlikely that New York will re-sign Golden after already adding Kyle Fackrell for one year and $4.6 million. The Giants are likely to add a low-priced veteran later on as they look to boost their pass rush. Golden earned $3.75 million last year and made another $1 million for reaching 10 sacks. The 29-year-old had a good season in 2019, but fantasy owners in IDP leagues shouldn't be expecting a repeat necessarily.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton said that the uniqueness of quarterback Taysom Hill's role requires the team to have a third quarterback active on game days, and that won't change in 2020 with Teddy Bridgewater now in Carolina. The Saints are likely to look for the best quarterback (rookie or a veteran) that is available to be the No. 3 behind Drew Brees and Hill. New Orleans thinks highly of Hill as the heir apparent to Brees, but he's attempted just 13 passes the last two seasons, including just six attempts despite Brees missing extended time in 2019 with a finger injury. The 29-year-old gadget player won't have any lasting fantasy significance in redraft leagues unless Brees gets injured again or retires.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (hip) said on Wednesday that his surgically repaired hip is fully healed and that he could play in a game at full strength right now. I feel 100 percent, Tagovailoa said in an exclusive interview with NFL Network. I feel like if there was a game today, I'd be able to go out and perform the same way I was able to perform in previous years. I feel as mobile as possible. I feel 100 percent. His agent, Chris Cabott, said that Tagovailoa's doctors have cleared him without restrictions. Tagovailoa is expected to be one of the top picks in this year's draft and the second QB selected after LSU's Joe Burrow, who is expected to go first overall. Tua hasn't said which teams he's met with virtually. The left-handed thrower has some injury risks, but he's extremely accurate and athletic and could be starting games in 2020 for whichever team selects him.
Free-agent LB Markus Golden is unlikely to return to the New York Giants because he's asking for too much money, according to a source. Golden is believed to be asking for north of $10 million per year.
Fantasy Spin: If Golden is classified as a defensive lineman, he rates as a midrange DL1 option in IDP leagues. He had 72 total tackles and 9.5 sacks last year. He's a flex option at linebacker wherever he lands.