Thu Sep 23 4:59pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is pressured by Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Bud Dupree, right, late in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Seattle. The Titans won 33-30 in overtime. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) scrambles as Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (3)pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kirk Cousins moved last week into fourth place on Minnesota's career list for games started by a quarterback, even though it might seem as if he just arrived with the Vikings.
For all the skepticism that has followed Cousins through his NFL career, spiking with each market-rate contract he has signed and increasing again this year in light of his anti-vaccination stance, he has fast become one of the most productive and reliable quarterbacks in the history of a franchise long lacking stability at the sport's most vital position.
He's off to a strong start in his 10th season in the league, his fourth in Minnesota. The problem, of course, is the Vikings (0-2) don't have any victories to show for it after defeats at Cincinnati (27-24) and at Arizona (37-34).
Fair or not to Cousins, or perhaps somewhere in between, displaying that winning touch down the stretch of games in a way that transcends the entire team is still an area with room for growth.
''I think we believe in our locker room and the group we have and what we're doing, but the results are all that matters, and that's what we're measured by,'' Cousins said. ''So we understand in this league, winning and losing is really what it's all about.''
This would be the ideal week to take a major stride, when the Vikings host Seattle on Sunday. There's been no bigger nemesis for Cousins and the Vikings than the Seahawks (1-1), who've beaten them in Seattle in each of the past three years.
This season, Minnesota gets to play at home, conveniently in front of an actual crowd after COVID-19 precautions kept the gates closed in 2020.
The Vikings are 0-7 against the Seahawks since Russell Wilson took over at quarterback, entering the NFL the same year as Cousins. They have vastly different styles and developed under vastly different circumstances, and Wilson reached the Super Bowl twice before Cousins even became a full-time starter.
Still, Wilson is precisely the type of peer Cousins needs to be able to match blow for blow in tight games to truly take that next step for his career.
''He's looked really good. He's accurate. His arm is strong, and he's taken off a couple of times to get some yards,'' Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. ''I see him as good as I've ever seen him. He's that sharp at the start of the season.''
Zimmer has been impressed, too.
''I think he's taking real good care of the ball. I think he's done a good job of getting the ball to the right place. His leadership has been a lot better this year, just the way he's gone about his business and not just being to himself, but being around the guys more. I think all those things are important,'' said Zimmer, who told reporters recently he sat down to watch game film with Cousins for the first time in their four seasons together.
For Cousins, who has completed 71.6% of his passes with no turnovers and five touchdowns, the explanation for this progress is simple.
''It's important to be self-aware and understand how you fit. In '18 I wasn't going to show up and say, `Hey, you guys just went 13-3, I have all these good ideas, listen to me.' There's a little bit of, `How do I fit into this puzzle?''' Cousins said. ''Now that three years have passed, my fourth season, there's a little bit more ability to have assimilated and understand how this organization works.''
Here are some other key angles to follow for Sunday:
SLOW THE STAMPEDE
The Seahawks were trampled after halftime last week by Tennessee star Derrick Henry, whose 182 rushing yards matched the most allowed by the Seahawks since Carroll became coach in 2010. They squandered a two-touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter and lost in overtime.
The task will be just as tough with Dalvin Cook and the Vikings, with similarities in blocking schemes and play-calling if not running styles.
''We have to know when they're going to give him the ball and understand that he's the guy that gets everything going,'' Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''Once they establish that run game, it opens up their playbook. Once we stop that, we can stop a big portion of their playbook.''
LOCKETT'S HOT START
Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett is one of just six NFL players to have at least one touchdown of 60 yards or more in each of the first two games. He's the first since Steve Smith in 2007. Lockett could join Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Dwight Clark as the only players in history with 100-plus receiving yards and a score in three straight games to start a season.
Lockett is second in the league in yards and tied for second in touchdowns. The Vikings are wary, though, of focusing too much on him at the expense of creating opportunities for the dangerous D.K. Metcalf, who had 93 yards and two scores against them in 2020. Metcalf has had a quiet start.
''He's so prepared to go for it,'' Carroll said, ''and he's finding his way.''
Jason Myers has made 36 consecutive field goals, a Seahawks record that's tied for the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. On the other side, the Vikings endured an excruciating miss by Greg Joseph of a 37-yard try on the game's final play that cost them a victory at Arizona. Joseph has made three kicks from 52-plus yards this year, but he also missed an extra point last week.
HEAD TO HEAD
Cousins and Wilson, who split two meetings in 2011 in Big Ten play between Michigan State and Wisconsin, have faced each other six times in the NFL. Wilson is 5-1, with the lone loss in 2017 when Cousins was with Washington.
New York Giants wide receiver C.J. Board (arm) was placed on Injured Reserve on Tuesday after suffering a broken arm in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Board will miss at least the next three games while on IR, but he'll probably be out longer. The 27-year-old has just four catches on six targets for 51 yards through the first six games of the season, and he hasn't played more than 31% of the offensive snaps in any one game so far this season. With Kenny Golladay (knee) and rookie Kadarius Toney (ankle) unlikely to play in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, the Giants could be down to Sterling Shepard, Dante Pettis, Collin Johnson and John Ross as their primary receivers.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) missed another practice on Tuesday. His DNP designation on Monday came on the estimated practice report, but he actually missed practice on Tuesday. Beckham is looking truly questionable after missing some game time in the Week 6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It could be a death blow to Cleveland's offense, as they'll also be without both starting running backs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf). If OBJ cannot play on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins and rookie Anthony Schwartz would operate in three-receiver sets if Jarvis Landry isn't ready to come off Injured Reserve. Peoples-Jones would be the most attractive after going for nine catches (11 targets), 171 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks.
New York Giants OT Korey Cunningham and WR Dante Pettis were signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB Rashard Robinson was signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The New York Giants placed left tackle Andrew Thomas (ankle, foot) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, so he'll be forced to miss at least the next three games. Thomas is dealing with a right foot injury and also a left ankle issue, so he was pretty hobbled in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Giants offensive line will be more vulnerable in the near future, beginning in a Week 7 matchup with the Carolina Panthers. It's bad news for quarterback Daniel Jones, especially if he's without starting running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) for a second straight game this weekend. Expect Matt Peart to fill in on Jones' blind side in the immediate future.
Denver Broncos WR David Moore was released Tuesday, Oct. 19.
New York Giants rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) is expected to be out for at least one game, according to a source. However, as of right now, it doesn't sound like the Giants plan on placing Toney on Injured Reserve, which would require him to miss at least three games. The 22-year-old first-rounder exploded for 10 catches and 189 yards in Week 5 when Kenny Golladay injured his knee, and he was in line for another big role in the Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams before he aggravated his ankle on Sunday. Toney should remain involved in the passing game whenever he returns from his ankle injury, so he's worth stashing in deeper leagues. With Golladay not a lock to return in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers, Sterling Shepard could be in line for a massive target share.
Chicago Bears S Deon Bush (quad) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 19. DB Teez Tabor was signed off the practice squad to replace him on the roster.
Free-agent RB Chris Thompson was signed to the practice squad of the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
New Orleans Saints LB Kwon Alexander (elbow), DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and WR Tre'Quan Smith (hamstring) were designated for return from the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 19.
The Indianapolis Colts are signing defensive tackle Antwaun Woods to their active roster on Tuesday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Woods was signed to the Colts practice squad before the Week 3 game against the Tennessee Titans, but he was released last week. He'll now rejoin the team and provide defensive line depth at nose tackle. Woods, 28, recorded 23 tackles (seven solo), two QB hits and a sack in 14 games (seven starts) for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. He played on just 18% of the defensive snaps and had one solo tackle in the Week 3 loss to the Titans. Woods will serve in a rotational role once again.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder), RB Nick Chubb (calf), OT Jack Conklin (knee), A.J. Z. Green (shoulder, groin), C JC Tretter (knee) and OT Jedrick Wills (ankle) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 19. DE Jadeveon Clowney (ankle, chest, knee), DE Malik Jackson (knee), QB Baker Mayfield (shoulder), TE David Njoku (limited), LB Malcolm Smith (abdomen), and LB Mack Wilson (calf) were limited. DE Myles Garrett (knee, ankle), DE Takkarist McKinley (ankle), DT Malik McDowell (elbow, foot), CB Greg Newsome (calf), CB Denzel Ward (neck) and CB Greedy Williams (knee) practiced in full. The Browns did not practice Tuesday, so the report is an estimation.
Chicago Bears DE Robert Quinn was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Denver Broncos LB Baron Browning (concussion), S Caden Stearns (illness), LB Alexander Johnson (chest), LB Andre Mintze (hamstring) and LB Aaron Patrick (ankle) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 19. OT Garett Bolles (knee), QB Teddy Bridgewater (foot) and TE Noah Fant (foot) were limited. RB Melvin Gordon (hip), DE Shelby Harris (wrist) and S Justin Simmons (hand) practiced in full. The Broncos did not practice Tuesday, so the report is an estimation.
Baltimore Ravens RB Le'Veon Bell was signed off the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Cleveland Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson said that he's excited to get the start on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos with both Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf) out. Johnson will be a popular waiver-wire target this week with Chubb set to miss his second straight game and Hunt on Injured Reserve. He has only three carries for 11 yards and one catch for seven yards in six games this season, but he should get the nominal start and be the team's primary option on early downs. Rookie Demetric Felton should also have an opportunity for a much bigger role, mainly on passing downs. It's unclear if Chubb is in danger of missing the Week 8 game, but Johnson will at least be in the RB3/flex mix for fantasy managers with the bye-week blues or for those dealing with injuries at the position.
The Minnesota Vikings activated rookie running back Kene Nwangwu (knee) from Injured Reserve on Tuesday and released running back Ameer Abdullah in a corresponding move. Nwangwu was a fourth-round pick this year out of Iowa State and will now serve as the team's No. 3 running back behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. Abdullah carried the ball seven times for 30 yards and caught three of four targets for 17 yards in six games with the Vikings this year. Minnesota is on bye in Week 7 before facing the Dallas Cowboys at home in Week 8.
The Indianapolis Colts placed wide receiver Parris Campbell (foot) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday and also waived quarterback Jacob Eason and defensive tackle Chris Williams. Kicker Michael Badgley was elevated to the active 53-man roster and quarterback Sam Ehlinger was activated from Injured Reserve. The injury bug hit Campbell yet again in the Week 6 win over the Houston Texans, but he caught his only target for a 51-yard touchdown before leaving the game. The 24-year-old will miss at least the next three weeks of action after catching 10 of his 17 targets for 162 yards and the one touchdown in five games this year. With T.Y. Hilton back in the fold, Zach Pascal should operate as the No. 3 receiver in the Colts offense behind Hilton and Michael Pittman Jr.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk has had a tough start to his sophomore season, catching just eight passes for 90 yards and a touchdown as we head into Week 7. General manager John Lynch said in a recent interview that the 49ers still "very much believe in" Aiyuk. Time will tell if the former Arizona State star can get back on track and build on his impressive rookie season, as the struggling 49ers need all the help they can get. If he is going to carve out a more significant role in the offense, Week 7 would be the perfect time to do so against a weak Indianapolis Colts pass defense. The former first-round pick shouldn't be trusted in fantasy lineups just yet, but he could be someone to monitor if he is on the waiver wire.