Thu Oct 17 2:10pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from the New York Giants in the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are still rolling right along with a high-powered offense and a stingy defense that has their record blemish-free.
The New York Jets look a bit different, though, from the team Bill Belichick's bunch beat 30-14 less than a month ago. And, it all starts at quarterback.
Luke Falk was under center then, making his first NFL start and looking overwhelmed and overmatched. Sam Darnold is back this time around, fully recovered from mononucleosis and coming off one of the best performances of his young career.
''He's a big, strong kid that can stand in the pocket and he's hard to tackle,'' Belichick said. ''He's not an easy guy to bring down. He's big, he can see and find guys under pressure.''
Darnold showed no signs of rust after missing three games because of his illness, going 23 of 32 for 338 yards and two TDs with an INT in a 24-22 win over Dallas and being selected the AFC's offensive player of the week.
It was a big boost for what had been a badly struggling Jets offense. Darnold's day was highlighted by his 92-yard touchdown throw to Robby Anderson, the longest offensive play in the NFL this season and the second-longest in franchise history.
Now, Darnold and the Jets hope to use that momentum to get something going against the Patriots' top-ranked defense at MetLife Stadium in a prime-time showdown.
''You've got to continue to grind,'' Darnold said. ''We know that after a good win, you've got to come right back in here because we got a tough one Monday night against the Pats. We know what our job is, we've just got to come in and get back to work.''
The Patriots are off to a 6-0 start for the fourth time in team history, with a chance to get to 7-0 for just the third time. They also have a chance to sweep the two-game regular-season series against the Jets for the fourth straight year.
Brady is 28-6 against the Jets in the regular season, including seven straight wins. He's also 16-7 in Monday night games, including 2-0 against New York. Meanwhile, Belichick is 18-8 on Monday nights - but just 9-7 in those games on the road.
''Monday night is always a high-energy game,'' Belichick said. ''We'll point to that and know it's always tough down there in New York. So, we need to have a good week here and be ready to go.''
Here are some other things to know for the latest Patriots-Jets showdown:
BEEN A WHILE
The Jets and Patriots play on a Monday night for the eighth time, and New York leads those matchups 4-3.
The previous time the AFC East rivals squared off on ''Monday Night Football'' was in 2010, when New England cruised to a 45-3 victory.
It's also the first time the Patriots are playing a Monday night game on the road against the Jets since 2005, when they won 31-21.
The Patriots entered Week 7 allowing a league-low eight points per game. One of the reasons is how stingy their defense has been on third down.
New England has held teams to an NFL-low 10 of 73 (13.7 percent) conversion rate in those situations. The fewest third downs allowed in a 16-game season is 49 by the 1991 New Orleans Saints.
In their Week 3 win over the Jets, the Patriots did not allow a third-down conversion, which is something New England has accomplished five times since 2000. Only five teams have not allowed a third down twice in the same season - the Packers (2005), Eagles (2009), Giants (2010), Dolphins (2011) and Saints (2018).
Le'Veon Bell hasn't had a breakout-type game for the Jets, but the fluid quarterback situation certainly hasn't helped.
With Darnold back and the offensive line improving the past few weeks, the star running back could start seeing some more opportunities to make plays. He has 256 yards rushing and a TD on 85 carries for a 3.0 average, and 28 catches for 169 yards and a score.
''Hopefully we can open it up a little bit for him,'' coach Adam Gase said. ''We've seen a lot of loaded boxes, he's had a lot of tough runs. He's made the most of what he's had and probably gotten us more than what we should have.''
WELCOME BACK, WATSON
Tight end Ben Watson is back for another stint with the Patriots and it's right on time for an offense looking for some stability and more production from the position.
The 38-year-old Watson was re-signed by New England on Wednesday, less than a week after being released. Belichick left the door open for Watson to return, saying he was cut simply because there wasn't an available roster spot once he returned from serving a four-game suspension for a positive banned substance test following last season.
Circumstances changed when Matt LaCosse injured his knee during the Patriots' win over the Giants on Thursday.
Without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots haven't gotten a ton of production in the pass game from their tight ends. LaCosse and Ryan Izzo have combined for only nine catches for 169 yards.
Michael Bennett will be missing from the Patriots' defensive huddle on Monday night.
The defensive end was suspended for what he said in a statement to ESPN was a ''philosophical disagreement'' with defensive line coach Bret Bielema. Bennett also offered an apology for any distraction it might have created.
Belichick declined to comment when asked about the suspension this week.
The Patriots traded for the 11-year veteran in March, but his usage has steadily decreased over New England's first six games. Bennett has started just once and played a season-low 11 snaps in the Patriots' win over the Giants in Week 6.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (illness) is not expected to practice on Thursday. Westbrook returned to the field last week and caught four of his six targets for just 32 yards in the loss to the Colts. D.J. Chark got all the love from a returning quarterback Nick Foles. Westbrook was Foles' favorite target before he went down in the season opener with a broken collarbone, though, so it's unfair to say that Foles won't be going back to that well at some point moving forward. Westbrook should be fine to play in Week 12 against the Titans. He had five catches for 46 yards against them in the first meeting, and he'll be a WR3 this weekend.
Although New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (concussion) missed practice on Wednesday, there is mid-week optimism that he could be cleared in time to play in Week 12 against the Cowboys, according to a source. Mohamed Sanu (ankle) could now miss multiple games with a high ankle sprain, so the Patriots could be in trouble this Sunday if Dorsett can't play. They'd likely revert to three-receiver sets consisting of Julian Edelman and rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers. Harry just made his NFL debut in Week 11, but he'd have more plug-and-play appeal as a flex over Meyers. If he plays, Dorsett will be a risky WR4/flex. Quarterback Tom Brady should be downgraded either way with Sanu now out two to three weeks.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage has earned 18 targets over his past three games. Unfortunately, he hasn't done a ton with them, catching 13 passes for 113 yards. Still, from a player who was seeing only one or two targets a game max for the first half of the season, it's been a promising upward trend. In Week 12, Gage and the Falcons face a very favorable matchup against a Buccaneers Defense allowing the second-most passing yards per game this year. Julio Jones (foot) is currently questionable for the game. If he ends up sitting, Gage becomes almost a must-start in PPR leagues. If Jones plays, Gage could be the third target behind Jones and Calvin Ridley in a game where the Falcons put up a lot of yards and points. He's worth consideration as a WR3 or flex in PPR leagues assuming Jones is in. Bump him up to a low-end WR2 if Jones sits.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods, who was a surprise scratch last Sunday night due to personal reasons, remains away from the team as they prepare for Monday night's game against the Ravens, according to sources. At this point it's a reality that Woods might miss his second straight game with personal issues. He's becoming extremely risky for fantasy owners, especially with the team's Week 12 game coming on Monday night. Brandin Cooks (concussion) is expected to return this week, but Josh Reynolds would continue to serve in three-receiver sets if Woods misses another game. Reynolds would be a low-cost DFS streamer and deep league flex consideration if Woods is out again, but keep in mind that Baltimore's defense has been one of the best in the NFL in recent weeks.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill had a rough game in his first start of the year in Week 11. He had 15 carries in the game, but managed just 30 yards with them. He also added an eight-yard reception on three targets in the passing game. The Falcons face the Buccaneers in Week 12, a team that's easier to pass against than run against. Hill figures to see around 15 touches in the game, assuming Devonta Freeman (foot) is out. Freeman is currently questionable, but hasn't practiced all week and is most likely going to sit for his second-straight game. Hill's most valuable touches in Week 12 will likely come in the passing game. In Week 10, Hill showed that he can produce solid numbers by putting up 71 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. This week, he has a chance to do the same, but the risk is clear given last week's struggles. Plus, Qadree Ollison appears to be the team's preferred short-yardage and red zone back, which takes some of Hill's upside away. Hill is a low-end RB2 or flex option this week and he's more attractive in PPR formats.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) is out of practice again on Thursday, and it's safe to assume that he'll be inactive for Week 12 against the Bears. Keep Engram glued to your bench for another week. With Rhett Ellison (concussion) also not expected to play this weekend, it looks like Scott Simonson and rookie Kaden Smith will split work at the position against Chicago. The Bears have been vulnerable to tight ends, but fantasy owners shouldn't be looking to a Simonson/Smith split for help in the fantasy realm.
Atlanta Falcons running back Qadree Ollison scored his first career touchdown in Week 11, a game where he also saw his first NFL action. Ollison had four carries for 11 yards in Week 11. Brian Hill is the team's No. 1 running back for as long as Devonta Freeman (foot) is out. Freeman is currently questionable for Week 12, though he appears more likely to sit for the second-straight game. Ollison is certainly worth keeping an eye on and he's even worth rostering in the deepest of leagues due to the Falcons' many injuries in their backfield. However, don't consider him as a start option this week as you'd just be hoping for another touchdown. The workload likely won't be there for Ollison to produce sturdy yardage in the game.
New York Giants tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion) is unlikely to play in Week 12 against the Bears, according to head coach Pat Shurmur. Starting tight end Evan Engram (foot) has yet to practice this week and is headed down the same path, so you won't be able to use either tight end in fantasy this week against the Bears. Expect some combination of Scott Simonson and rookie Kaden Smith against Chicago, but we wouldn't expect much production from either player this weekend.
Houston Texans tight end Darren Fells had caught just one pass per game over Houston's last two games. He's got seven games this year with two or fewer receptions. And he's caught six touchdowns, including a pair of multi-touchdown games. What do you do with that? Well, the same thing you do every week: play him in deeper leagues if you don't have other options. Fells could catch two passes for two touchdowns. He could also one catch for seven yards. If you have a reliable option, play that guy instead.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (foot) hasn't practiced yet this week and head coach Dan Quinn said that if he can't practice before the team's Week 12 game against the Buccaneers, he won't be suiting up. Freeman is currently listed as questionable for Week 12, but one would imagine he's more on the doubtful side of questionable. He could, however, have a good chance to make his return in Week 13 if he doesn't suffer any setbacks in his recovery. Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison will most likely shoulder the running back workload for as long as Freeman is out.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is in a great spot heading into Week 12. He's coming off of his best game of the year where he caught all eight of his targets for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. This week, Ridley and the Falcons face a Buccaneers Defense that has allowed the second-most passing yards per game in the league this year. The team's star wide receiver Julio Jones (foot) is currently questionable for the game. If Jones sits or plays at less than 100%, that gives Ridley even more of a boost. Regardless, Ridley should see around eight targets in the game, giving him a good chance to post between 80 and 100 receiving yards with touchdown potential.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (ankle) sat out Wednesday's practice and is currently questionable for Week 12 against the Buccaneers. However, there doesn't seem to be an indication that he's at risk for missing the game. Sitting out Wednesday's practice appears to have been mostly precautionary. If he is indeed good to go for Week 12, he'll be in good position to have a solid week. The Falcons are a pass-heavy offense facing a very pass-friendly Buccaneers Defense yielding 290 passing yards per game, second most in the league. Expect Ryan to throw for over 300 yards with two or three touchdowns on the day.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (foot) sat out Wednesday's practice and is currently questionable for Week 12 against the Buccaneers. There haven't been many details released in terms of the severity of Jones's foot injury so make sure to monitor his status in the coming days. If he's good to go, he needs to be started in all leagues as the Falcons face a very pass-friendly Buccaneers Defense. Jones has had at least eight targets in five straight games with over 90 receiving yards in four of those five games. He could easily top 100 yards and find the end zone against the Buccaneers in Week 12.
New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (ankle) is reportedly dealing with a high ankle sprain that could sideline him for two, maybe three weeks. Though he's currently listed as questionable for Week 12, fantasy owners should expect him to be out for Week 12 and likely Week 13 as well. While Sanu is gone, Julian Edelman should see a minor boost in targets. Phillip Dorsett (concussion) could benefit from Sanu's absence, though he is currently questionable for Week 12 while going through concussion protocol. N'Keal Harry also stands to benefit and is worth a speculative add if you have an open roster spot in leagues of 12 teams or deeper.
Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills had a good game when the Texans and Colts met earlier this year, catching four passes for 105 yards, but that only happened because a Will Fuller hamstring injury thrust Stills into a larger role. This week, Fuller is a game-time decision with that hamstring injury, which means playing Stills in fantasy should also be a game-time decision: if Fuller's out, Stills has value as an upside WR4 option, but if Fuller plays, Stills' role will be reduced too much to play him.
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox found the end zone in Week 11 for the first time since Week 3. Knox has shown some promise this year, but he still has a lot of work to do in order to become a borderline reliable tight end fantasy option. The Bills face a tough Broncos pass defense this week and Knox will likely be touchdown-or-bust. Considering he's scored just twice this year, the odds are greatly slanted towards bust.
The Bills Defense is in a great spot heading into a home matchup against the Broncos in Week 12. The Broncos rank amongst the bottom third of the league in both points per game and yards per game. The Bills should be able to hold the Broncos under 20 points in the game, potentially well under 20 points, and they should be able to record several sacks on quarterback Brandon Allen and maybe a few turnovers as well. They are a fantastic starting option this week.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) is reportedly a game-time decision for Thursday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. We last saw Fuller against the Colts in Week 7, when he caught one pass for six yards before exiting. Fuller's best game of the year was in Week 5, when he caught 14 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, but other than that game, he hasn't found the end zone this season. Boom-or-bust is the best way to describe Fuller at this point, and he's going to be tough to trust in fantasy lineups if he does play Thursday.
Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson has seen some increased involvement in Houston's offense lately, including a five-catch game in Week 9, but that involvement isn't really translating into fantasy success. He continues to trail Carlos Hyde in rushing attempts and his impact in the pass game has been inconsistent all year. The last time Johnson faced the Colts, he had nine touches, producing 56 yards. Something around 50 total yards seems like a good bet based on Johnson's recent production, which means you're not getting much out of him for fantasy purposes unless he finds the end zone. He has done that in three of Houston's last five games, but somehow those touchdowns still feel like anomalies based on how the Texans are using him.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley had a disappointing showing in a very favorable Week 11 matchup against the Dolphins, catching just four passes for 38 yards. It was a game where the Bills scored 37 points and quarterback Josh Allen had a career day, but John Brown was the primary producer amongst the team's receivers. This week, Beasley and the Bills face a tough Broncos pass defense that allows just 210 passing yards per game, fifth fewest in the league. Beasley has been averaging about five targets per game in the past few months and with his 10.4 yards per reception average and lack of touchdown production, he's tough to trust for a big fantasy day. He's a viable WR3 or flex in deep PPR leagues, but if you have another option with more upside, you might want to get away from Beasley this week. In non-PPR he shouldn't be started.