Wed Oct 20 11:40pm ET
By DAN GREENSPAN
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, left, passes under pressure from Seattle Seahawks defensive end Rasheem Green (94) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Los Angeles Rams' Cooper Kupp, second from right, celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Matthew Stafford (9), second from left, during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford calls from the line of scrimmage during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in Seattle. The Rams won 26-17. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) While winning mostly eluded Matthew Stafford during his 12 seasons with Lions, the quarterback still has positive feelings about his time in Detroit, even after his career was rejuvenated by a trade to the Los Angeles Rams.
Going into his first game against the franchise that drafted him first overall in 2009, Stafford doesn't want to jeopardize those good feelings. He rejected the suggestion that his early success with the Rams means he did not receive adequate support from the Lions.
''I know when I was in Detroit, everybody was doing everything we could to try and make the team as good as we could, myself included,'' Stafford said Wednesday. ''I'm in a new place now. I'm here in LA, lucky to be surrounded by the people I'm surrounded with, no doubt. I'm just trying to make the most of my opportunities and win as many games as I possibly can.
''Appreciate my time in Detroit, appreciate all the players I played with, all the coaches that coached me and everybody else on our team. But I don't spend too much time thinking about it or reading that narrative, to be honest with you.''
Stafford has thrown for 1,838 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions in leading his new team to a 5-1 record. He has formed one of the most dynamic partnerships in the NFL with receiver Cooper Kupp, while still featuring the likes of Robert Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee. Stafford is thriving behind an offensive line that looked average last season and has been sacked just six times.
Compare that to the struggles in Detroit for Jared Goff, the other piece of the enormous offseason trade between the Lions and Rams. A lack of viable targets on the outside has forced Goff to rely mostly on tight end T.J. Hockenson and the Lions' running backs. Having to play from behind has left Goff vulnerable to the pass rush, and he's been sacked 15 times in six games - all losses.
Stafford isn't focused on any such contrasts.
''I know I'm surrounded by great players and coaches that are that are really smart and have a clear vision, and we go from there, so I don't want to sit here and compare my time at Detroit to my time here,'' he said. ''I've only been here a few weeks, just trying to make the most of it and play as good as I can.''
Stafford also expressed relief that there wasn't any acrimony in his departure from Detroit.
''I can see how it'd be very easy for people to feel the other way, and for people to take some happiness in any kind of success than any former player is having away from their building is really just a testament to them as well,'' he said. ''I mean, that's the kind of people they are in Detroit, great people, you know, both in the organization and in the city itself, so I really did enjoy my time.''
Stafford insists his focus this week is on preparing to play, even with the Lions on the opposite sideline. That means recognizing some familiar faces when breaking down film. The young secondary that used to test Stafford in practice will now be trying to pick him off on Sunday.
There was a note of pride in Stafford's voice as he discussed the improvement he noticed in Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye and safeties Tracy Walker III and Will Harris.
''I think of Amani on the outside, like used to practice against him all the time and you could see that potential in there. And now you see him on Sundays doing it for real and playing great. It's fun to see that,'' Stafford said.
''Same with Tracy, same with Will Harris, those guys that I've practiced against a lot, and to watch them elevate their game and continue to progress and get better and better is fun for me to see. It'll be a challenge for us this week.''
NOTES: Rookie WR Tutu Atwell is likely to return kicks after RB Jake Funk (hamstring) was put on injured reserve. ... RB Sony Michel did not practice because of a shoulder injury, but coach Sean McVay expects him to play. ... LT Andrew Whitworth and OLB Terrell Lewis got the day off for rest.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (ankle) didn't appear to be limited by his ankle injury in practice on Thursday. It's a good sign after he was not present for practice on Wednesday. With Rob Gronkowski (lung, ribs) still not a lock to return in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears, Howard and Cameron Brate could continue to have bigger roles in the passing game, especially if wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) is unable to play. Howard easily had his best game of the season in the Week 7 win over the Philadelphia Eagles last Thursday, catching six of his seven targets for 49 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Even if Gronkowski misses another game, Howard will be a touchdown-dependent TE2 while sharing snaps with Brate.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) wasn't seen at practice on Thursday for the second straight day. Brown still has a chance to return for Friday's practice, but he's now officially up in the air for Week 7 against the Chicago Bears after missing the first two practices this week with a sprained ankle. If Brown cannot go this Sunday, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin would likely see some more looks from quarterback Tom Brady, while Tyler Johnson would also have a much bigger role as the No. 3 receiver for the Bucs. It remains to be seen if tight end Rob Gronkowski (lung, ribs) will be able to return, but he wasn't at practice on Wednesday.
The Indianapolis Colts restructured wide receiver T.Y. Hilton's one-year contract on Thursday to create $2.3 million in salary cap room to help them operate this year, according to a source. It's notable with the Colts seeking trade destinations for running back Marlon Mack ahead of the Nov. 2 trade deadline in 2021. Hilton returned from Injured Reserve to catch all four of his targets for 80 yards in the blowout win over the Houston Texans, but he's now questionable to play in Week 7 against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. Parris Campbell (foot) is also on IR, so if Hilton can't play this weekend, Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal would be Indy's top two pass-catchers against San Francisco.
The Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are among the teams that have made preliminary inquiries for Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack in the last few weeks, according to sources. Any team that deals for Mack would acquire his 2021 base salary of $1 million fully guaranteed, according to a league source. The Colts and Mack have already both agreed that it's in everyone's best interest to seek a trade this year, as the 25-year-old is stuck behind both Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines in this backfield. Mack has only been active for four games this year, and he has exactly five carries in three of those contests. Although he hasn't been fantasy relevant to this juncture, keep Mack on your watch list, as he could see meaningful playing time if he's traded and lands in a good situation.
Cleveland Browns left tackle Jedrick Wills (ankle) is expected to return on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, but right tackle Jack Conklin (knee) will not be able to play, according to sources. The return of Wills is good news for backup quarterback Case Keenum, who is taking over for the injured Baker Mayfield (shoulder) in Week 7. Conklin's absence could be a big one, though, as Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller rushes from the left side on the right tackle. Miller could be going up against either James Hudson or Blake Hence, and the Browns offense will have their work cut out for them, as they'll also be missing running backs Nick Chubb (calf) and Kareem Hunt (calf), and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) is facing an uphill battle to play.
The Denver Broncos promoted wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland to the active roster from the practice squad on Thursday and also re-signed wide receiver David Moore to the practice squad after cutting him on Tuesday. It will be Cleveland's third straight game on the active roster, but he hasn't seen a single target and played just 12% of the offensive snaps in the Week 6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Kendall Hinton has been serving as the third receiver behind Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick. Jerry Jeudy (ankle), who remains on Injured Reserve with a high ankle sprain, doesn't appear ready to return this week, but he could make his return to the field in Week 8 against the Washington Football Team.
The Philadelphia Eagles activated tight end Dallas Goedert from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday. Goedert missed last Thursday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after testing positive for the virus, but he will be back in time for the Week 8 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders this Sunday. And now that Zach Ertz is with the Arizona Cardinals, Goedert could be in for a big workload this weekend in his return. On top of that, the Raiders defense has been generous to the position so far in 2021, allowing 407 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 41 receptions to the position through six weeks. Goedert should be a locked-in TE1 for fantasy now that he's officially off the COVID-19 list.
The Cincinnati Bengals returned running back Samaje Perine to the active roster on Thursday from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Perine missed the team's Week 6 win over the Detroit Lions, but he should return to a backup role behind starter Joe Mixon this Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. With Perine inactive last weekend, rookie Chris Evans saw four carries for 18 yards and caught all three of his season-high three targets for 49 yards and a touchdown. Evans should return to the No. 3 role with Perine back and also while nursing a hamstring injury this week. Perine doesn't have any standalone fantasy value behind Mixon.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (shoulder) is expected to need surgery on his torn left labrum after the season, according to sources. The belief is that Mayfield can play through it during the season, although he's been advised to sit out on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. The good news is that it's to his non-throwing shoulder, but Mayfield will sit on the sidelines and watch Case Keenum lead the offense in Week 7 while his streak of 51 straight regular season starts comes to an end. The team remains optimistic that Mayfield can return in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but any further damage to his shoulder could make it challenging for him to stay on the field. With both starting running backs out on Thursday, it'll be hard to trust any Browns skill player, including wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee), who is coming off Injured Reserve to play.
Cincinnati Bengals RB Samaje Perine was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Oct. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Averaging 4.3 yards per carry, Perine is a must-own for Joe Mixon owners in fantasy as a handcuff.
Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon (Achilles) suffered a torn Achilles during Wednesday's practice and will miss the rest of the season. He went down with an injury in Wednesday's practice, and after further evaluation, the Colts announced that the 23-year-old tore his Achilles. This is a significant blow to the Colts' defense as Blackmon started all six games this season and had a vital role in their secondary. He racked up 34 tackles, one pass defense, and a forced fumble. Blackmon will look to rehab and focus on getting healthy for the 2022 season. Khari Willis, Andrew Sendejo, and George Odum are the only other active safeties on the Colts roster.
New York Giants running back Devontae Booker is expected to lead the Giants backfield in Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers. The former Denver Bronco rushed 12 times for 41 yards and secured all four targets for 28 yards in the Giants' 38-11 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. Giants star RB Saquon Barkley (ankle) is expected to be ruled out ahead of Sunday's game; Booker should draw the start once again. The 29-year-old logged 73% (54-of-74) of the snaps, but backup RB Elijah Mitchell had the Giants' only touchdown in Week 6. Booker could have a tough time finding room as the Panthers have been stout against the run and rank seventh in rush DVOA. If Barkley is officially ruled out, fantasy managers can start Booker as an RB3/flex play in Week 7.
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (foot, quad) is expected to play in Thursday's game against the Cleveland Browns. He is officially listed as questionable for Thursday after being limited in practice all week with a foot issue. The 28-year-old will look to bounce back against the Browns after turning the ball over three times (three interceptions, one fumble lost) in the Week 6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. This season, he has been excellent for fantasy managers, throwing for 1,514 yards and a 10:4 TD: INT ratio while rushing for 66 yards on 15 attempts over six games. Bridgewater is a mid-range QB2 in Week 7 against a Browns defense, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2021.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) is dealing with a significant shoulder injury and faces an "uphill battle" to play in Thursday's game against the Denver Broncos. He hasn't practiced all week and is listed as questionable for Thursday's game. The 28-year-old reportedly is not expected to play, but the Browns have yet to rule him out officially. Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) is expected to be activated from the injured reserve ahead of Thursday's game and will be QB Case Keenum's No.1 target. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, and Anthony Schwartz could also see an increase in target share while Beckham is sidelined. Stay tuned.
Denver Broncos QB Teddy Bridgewater (foot, quadriceps) is expected to play Thursday, Oct. 21, against the Cleveland Browns.
Fantasy Spin: Bridgewater will have to deal with Myles Garrett and a very good Browns pass rush with possibly even more limited mobility. That's not a good recipe in fantasy. He's a QB2 this week.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton restructured his contract Thursday, Oct. 21, to create $2.3 million in salary cap space.
Fantasy Spin: Hilton is iffy with a quadriceps injury as he was injured in his first action of the season last week. He'll be a flex candidate if he can play.
The Cleveland Browns are expected to activate wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) from the injured reserve. If officially activated, the 28-year-old will play in Thursday's game against the Denver Broncos. He has been sidelined since Week 2 with an MCL sprain. The Browns will need Landry as they are missing some vital pieces on the offensive side of the ball. QB Baker Mayfield (shoulder), RB Nick Chubb (calf), and Kareem Hunt (calf) were already ruled out ahead of Thursday's game. Landry could be Browns QB Case Keenum No.1 target as top wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) faces an "uphill battle" to play in Week 7. Landry has hauled all six targets for 80 yards over two games in 2021. Fantasy managers should monitor Landry's status throughout the day, and if active, is a borderline flex play in Week 7.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (knee) is expected to be activated from the Reserve/Injured list Thursday, Oct. 21, and should play against the Denver Broncos.
Fantasy Spin: Landry is expected to be the only one out there with Baker Mayfield, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb out, and OBJ is expected to be out. Landry is a risky flex option with Case Keenum under center.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (shoulder) has an uphill battle to play Thursday, Oct. 21, due to a significant shoulder injury, but he hasn't been ruled out yet.
Fantasy Spin: Jarvis Landry looks to be ready to return, and he'll be a flex option fresh off of IR.
Carolina Panthers CB Stephon Gilmore (quadriceps) returned to practice on Wednesday, Oct. 20. The team now has 21 days to activate Gilmore from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list or place on him on Injured Reserve.