Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks for a receiver against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson reacts after throwing an interception during the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, left, and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer greet each other before an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio responds to a question during a news conference Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at the NFL football team's headquarters in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
DENVER (AP) Justin Simmons' favorite part of facing a rookie quarterback? That's easy.
''I guess the confusion, especially with Vic's defense,'' the Broncos' star safety said of the dizzying schemes cooked up by Denver coach Vic Fangio.
They're quirky and complex - and equally difficult for his own players to master as they are for opposing QBs to decipher.
Zach Wilson of the Jets (0-2) gets next crack at beating the Broncos' hybrid coverages that combine zone and man concepts disguised by defenders that chill until the instant the ball is snapped.
''A lot of the time, we're giving you the look that you're seeing, and a lot of time, we're not. I think that's part of the game within the game,'' said Simmons, who embraces his role of giving the quarterback ''false information so he doesn't know pre-snap where he's going with the football.''
''All that sounds great, but you have to have the guys to be able to do it,'' Simmons added.
At last, the Broncos do.
Despite injuries to three defensive starters, they have a terrific pass rush led by Von Miller; a stout D-line anchored by Shelby Harris; an emerging linebacking corps featuring Alexander Johnson; and a secondary second to none in the league.
The Broncos (2-0) face the second overall pick in the NFL draft this weekend, one week after throttling the No. 1 overall pick, Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence, whom they intercepted twice and held to 118 yards on 14-of-33 passing.
Wilson was intercepted four times in a loss to New England and his paltry passer rating of 37.2 was essentially identical to Lawrence's 37.0.
With Wilson his latest trophy, Bill Belichick improved to 22-6 against rookie quarterbacks and Fangio improved to 18-9 as a defensive coordinator or head coach against rookie QBs.
That includes 7-2 since his great 2018 Bears defense whose blueprints Belichick used to thump the Rams in the Super Bowl that year.
''Yeah, a couple of the best right there,'' Wilson said.
''Vic, he's another one of those guys who just is a savant with defense,'' concurred Jets first-year head coach Robert Saleh. ''And he's always been at the front in terms of scheme and all that stuff, so a ton of respect for him.
''And it's going to be exciting to see Zach,'' Saleh said, adding that while it's tough for a rookie to begin his career against some of the best defenses in the league, ''he's going to learn a lot from it.''
Other subplots Sunday when Empower Field at Mile High hosts its first capacity crowd since Dec. 29, 2019:
The first month of the season has been rough for the Jets, who have lost 11 consecutive September games. That's the longest active streak in the NFL and it's tied for the third-longest such skid in league history, behind only the 2007-10 Rams (13 in a row) and 1994-97 Saints (12).
The Broncos put OLB Bradley Chubb (ankle) and ILB Josey Jewell (chest) on IR this week. Second-year linebacker Justin Strnad replaces Jewell in the lineup and Malik Reed takes over for Chub opposite Miller.
''When he came here as a rookie he was on fire,'' Miller said of Strnad, who missed his rookie season after breaking a wrist in training camp. ''I'm excited to see Justin play.''
Reed will get a 23rd start since joining the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2019 to back up Chubb and Miller, who predicted Reed's ''crazy resume'' will lead to a big payday soon.
Teddy Bridgewater is just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to open a season with two touchdown passes, no interceptions and a 75% completion rate in each of his first two games of a season.
After going 4-11 in one forgettable season with the Panthers last year, Bridgewater led Denver - his fifth stop in his eight-year NFL career - to consecutive road wins to start a season for the first time since 2003.
''He is, to me, one of the more underrated starting quarterbacks in this league,'' Saleh said. ''... He really is a fantastic quarterback, and there's a reason for Denver being 2-0 and racking up over 400 yards a game in offense. It's not a fluke.''
Jets running back Michael Carter and Broncos counterpart Javonte Williams spent plenty of time together in the backfield at North Carolina. Now they're opponents, facing each other for the first time Sunday.
''I love him so much,'' said Carter, who was drafted in the fourth round in April, two rounds after Williams went to Denver.
They're both off to solid starts. Carter has rushed for 65 yards on 15 carries, adding a dynamic presence to the Jets' offense. Williams has run for 109 yards on 27 carries for Denver, where Bridgewater compares him to a young Alvin Kamara.
''It's a weird experience because I've always been on his team and I know what kind of player he is,'' Carter said. ''He's my dog, but this week, he's my opponent.''
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that "all signs" are pointing toward offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (head) entering the league's concussion protocol this week. Lewan was strapped to a stretcher and carted off the field in Monday night's win over the Buffalo Bills, so all things considered, this has to be good news. The 30-year-old won't be guaranteed to return in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, but it looks like he has avoided a serious neck injury. Kendall Lamm replaced Lewan at left tackle for the rest of the Monday night game and would likely get the start on quarterback Ryan Tannehill's blind side if Lewan isn't cleared for this weekend.
Denver Broncos pass-rusher Bradley Chubb's (ankle) return isn't quite around the corner, according to head coach Vic Fangio. Chubb had a walking boot on his surgically repaired ankle on Tuesday and has been on Injured Reserve since he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his ankle on Sept. 22. Denver's defense got off to a hot start against some of the worst teams in the NFL, but they've come crashing back down to Earth and allowed a season-high 34 points to the division-rival Las Vegas Raiders in the Week 6 loss. They could certainly use Chubb's pass-rushing help, but it doesn't look like it's coming anytime soon. Despite Denver's struggles on defense of late, they'll be on the streaming radar in Week 7 on Thursday night against a banged-up Cleveland Browns team.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III (hip) was upgraded from a limited practice on Monday's estimated report to a full practice on Tuesday. Gordon has been dealing with some nagging injuries in recent weeks, but it hasn't kept him from playing on game days, and he continues to split the backfield work right down the middle with rookie Javonte Williams. The 28-year-old should be good to go for Thursday night's clash with the Cleveland Browns. Williams has been more efficient and has shown more big-play ability through six games, but Gordon is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored two touchdowns on 332 rushing yards on 70 carries. He'll be on the RB2/3 borderline again this week.
The New Orleans Saints designated wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (hamstring), linebacker Kwon Alexander (elbow) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (shoulder) for return from Injured Reserve this week. The Saints will now have 21 days to activate the trio from Injured Reserve. Michael Thomas (ankle) is also getting closer to a return, but Smith appears to be ahead in his recovery. Smith has only played in one game in Week 4 before getting injured, and he wasn't targeted at all in the passing game. Marquez Callaway currently leads all Saints receivers with 13 receptions on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns on the season, with Deonte Harris actually leading the team with 236 receiving yards. Smith could have a bigger role before Thomas returns, but it's hard to get excited about him in this low-volume Saints passing attack.
The Denver Broncos cut wide receiver David Moore on Tuesday, according to a source. The move isn't unexpected after the team added John Brown last week. Moore was active for two games but didn't record a reception on his two targets. The Broncos are also looking forward to the return of Jerry Jeudy, who remains on Injured Reserve after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. Jeudy has resumed workouts but has a less than 50% chance to return on Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns. There's a much better chance that Jeudy will make his return in Week 8 against the Washington Football Team. The second-year wideout figures to return to a considerable role in Denver's offense and should be rostered in all leagues.
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.