Sun Oct 20 4:49pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) calls a play during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) is tackled by Houston Texans' Phillip Gaines (29) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) goes in for a touchdown in front of Houston Texans strong safety Justin Reid (20) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) is tackled by Houston Texans strong safety Justin Reid (20) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is sacked by Indianapolis Colts defensive end Jabaal Sheard (93) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) is tackled by dIndianapolis Colts cornerback Shakial Taylor (47) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) dives over Houston Texans inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) dives in for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Jacoby Brissett threw a career-high four touchdown passes Sunday and the Indianapolis Colts sealed a 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans with Darius Leonard's late interception.
Indy (4-2) has won three straight in the series and took over the early season lead in the AFC South.
The loss snapped Houston's two-game winning streak.
Brissett was masterful most of the day. He was 26 of 39 with 326 yards, and in a game the Colts only produced 62 yards rushing, they needed Brissett to be at his best - and he was.
Brissett opened the scoring with an 11-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal on Indy's first series.
The Texans (4-3) answered with two field goals, the second coming after Deshaun Watson appeared to find DeAndre Hopkins for a touchdown pass with Justin Houston draped around Watson's legs. But the officials ruled Watson was in the grasp, nullifying the subsequent throw.
Brissett, who set up the Texans' second score with a fumble deep in Colts territory, then threw a nifty 2-yard TD pass to T.Y. Hilton with 1:49 left in the half.
That gave Houston just enough time to drive for another short field goal to make it 14-9. But, Indy re-established the two-score lead when a replay review reversed the call on the field of an incomplete pass to give Brissett a 4-yard TD toss to Eric Ebron.
Houston finally got in the end zone when Keke Coutee scored on a 4-yard run that caught the Colts off guard.
But Brissett took advantage of three defensive penalties on the series before capitalizing with a 3-yard TD pass to Pascal that made it 28-16 with 1:14 left in the third quarter.
Watson gave the Texans one more chance with an 8-yard TD pass to Hopkins with 6:38 left.
Texans punter Brian Anger stepped out of the end zone for a safety with less than three minutes remaining before the Colts closed it out with Leonard's interception in the final seconds.
Watson was 23 of 34 with 308 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Hopkins had nine receptions for 106 yards and Kenny Stills caught four passes for 105 yards.
Pascal had six catches for 106 yards, while Hilton had six catches for 74 yards.
Texans: Houston's streak of consecutive games without allowing a sack ended at two. ... The defending division champs have lost only two of their last seven regular-season games against AFC South foes - both to Indy.
Colts: Marlon Mack rushed 18 times for 44 yards. ... Indy has scored at least 23 points in 11 consecutive home games. ... The Colts defense has not allowed a 100-yard runner in 24 straight games. ... The Colts failed on their only fourth-down attempt of the game, ending their perfect streak at seven.
Texans: CB Phillip Gaines was carted off the field with what appeared to be a lower leg injury with 1:49 to go. ... WR Will Fuller left during Houston's first series with a hamstring injury and did not return. ... S Tashaun Gipson injured his back late in the first quarter.
Colts: DT Carl Davis did not return after injuring his hamstring in the second half.
Texans: Return home next Sunday to host Oakland on the final leg of the Raiders extended road trip.
Colts: Will host Denver next Sunday.
The Cleveland Browns will likely be looking to replace defensive end Olivier Vernon this offseason, as he's due to make $15.25 million in 2020. Vernon will either be released or will need to take a pay cut to stay in Cleveland. If Vernon is released, the Browns could look to defensive end Everson Griffen or free safety Anthony Harris on the open market. New head coach Kevin Stefanski is familiar with both players from his time with the Vikings. The Browns will be looking to upgrade their pass-rushers and safeties in the offseason. Vernon, 30 this October, played in just 10 games in 2019 with the Browns and recorded just 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
There's a real chance that the Baltimore Ravens move tight end Hayden Hurst this offseason, and the Patriots could be involved, according to sources. The Patriots were heavily linked to Hurst prior to the 2018 draft. Hurst was selected with the 25th overall pick in the first round that year, but he's underwhelmed with 43 catches for 512 yards and three touchdowns in his two seasons in the NFL and has fallen down Baltimore's depth chart behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. New England will be looking to beef up their receiver depth, including at tight end, so Hurst could be a player on the rise if he's dealt to New England. Of course, the Patriots might not have Tom Brady under center in 2020 either.
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons said in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Monday that he expects to receive the franchise tag. Over the Cap estimates that the tag for safeties this year will be worth $12.7 million. Simmons is hoping that he'll be able to work out a long-term deal by the deadline of July 15 if the Broncos put the tag on him. The former third-round pick on 2016 is developing into one of the better safeties in the league. The 26-year-old had 93 tackles (65 solo)and a career-high four interceptions over a full season in 2019. Simmons has had 90-plus total tackles each of the last two seasons and should remain in Denver for the long-term.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that the team hasn't met or negotiated with quarterback Dak Prescott's agent Todd France since September of last year. There haven't been talks between the two sides this offseason, but they may meet during the scouting combine this week. Jones also said that no contracts with Prescott or wide receiver Amari Cooper will be agreed upon until the new collective-bargaining rules for 2020 are decided. The Cowboys had a "very upbeat" conversation with Cooper's representation during Super Bowl week. The Cowboys continue to say that Prescott is their quarterback of the future. Expect talks to heat up this week, with Prescott ultimately staying in Dallas as a high-end QB1 for fantasy owners.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) is expected to take part in spring workouts to some degree. "Once we see him, we'll have a better feel for it. But he'll have some limitations up until training camp before we really turn him loose," executive vice president Stephen Jones said. Vander Esch was a stud in his rookie season, but he played in just nine games in 2019 because of his neck injury, recording 72 tackles (43 solo), half a sack and one forced fumble. If fully healthy entering the 2020 season, LVE can be an IPD force because of his tackling ability from sideline to sideline. The Cowboys need him in the middle of the field on defense.
In a discussion between ESPN reporters Jeff Darlington and Adam Schefter on the Rich Eisen show last week, Darlington said that he expects the Tennessee Titans to "be in the mix" to sign New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who will become a free agent next month. The Raiders might also try to make a splash and sign Brady if the Patriots let him reach the open market. It would be a surprise if Brady left New England, but he's considering other options and could choose a playoff contender like the Titans after they reached the AFC Championship last year. Brady also played with Titans head coach Mike Vrabel in New England. Brady lacked weapons in the passing game in 2019, but he also looked a little washed up. If he were to go to Tennessee's run-first offense, Brady would be squarely in the QB2 mix with limited fantasy upside.
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue wants a long-term deal and is looking for $22 million annually. Ngakoue said he would be unlikely to show up until Aug. 11 if he had to play under the franchise tag. The young pass-rusher has compiled 37.5 sacks (second on the all-time franchise list) since being drafted in the third round of 2016. He also has 14 forced fumbles in that time. If the Jags place the tag on Ngakoue, which ESPN's Mike DiRocco expects, it would be for around $19.3 million in 2020. The 24-year-old (25 next month) had eight sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception last year and is firmly in the mix in IDP leagues with what he's done the last four seasons.
The Indianapolis Colts are unsure if kicker Adam Vinatieri, who will be a free agent next month, will return in 2020. The 47-year-old future Hall of Famer is rehabbing the knee injury that he dealt with last season, and he hasn't decided yet on if he will retire. The 2019 season was the worst year of Vinatieri's long career, as he missed 14 kicks total -- eight field goals and six extra points -- and landed on Injured Reserve in Week 13. The Colts also signed Chase McLaughlin to a one-year extension in January, so Vinatieri might not be back even if he decides to keep playing.
The Atlanta Falcons are expected to pick up quarterback Matt Schaub's $2 million option for the 2020 season, according to a source. Schaub made just one start in 2019 and was underwhelming in place of Matt Ryan. The veteran signal-caller attempted 67 passes for 580 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in parts of six games last season. He'll be 39 in June and is a shaky backup option if Matty Ice were to miss any more games next season due to injury. Even if Schaub is starting games at some point next year, he'd be a shaky second QB in two-quarterback leagues.
Free-agent LB Vontaze Burfict (Raiders) was reinstated by the league in January and has reportedly been working out at his alma mater (Arizona State) in an effort to returning to the NFL in 2020. Burfict was suspended for the final 12 games of the 2019 season after delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit to Indianapolis Colts TE Jack Doyle.
Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DE Yannick Ngakoue is seeking a long-term deal that pays $22 million annually. The franchise tag would be worth around $19.3 million if used on him.
Fantasy Spin: Ngakoue was tied for fifth in fantasy points at the position last season in 15 games. It was a down year that he only had eight sacks, and there is certainly is more in the tank.
Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler needs to see 15 to 20 touches per game, according to head coach Anthony Lynn.
Fantasy Spin: Ekeler is one of the more versatile backs in the NFL, and he finished 2019 with 92 catches and eight receiving touchdowns. There's a good chance he will be he unquestioned top back and a potential RB1 in 2020 if Melvin Gordon doesn't return, but even if Gordon is back, Ekeler can be a RB2 in PPR formats.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Sunday that the team isn't pursuing a long-term contract extension with running back Marlon Mack currently. It doesn't mean that it's not on the table or that the Colts don't want to keep Mack around for the long-term, but it's not a pressing issue. The 23-year-old (24 next month) is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2020 season. He's been the starter the last two years and had 247 carries for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns in 2019. However, he's also missed eight games the last two seasons, so Indy might be hesitant in thinking he'll continue to be a lead back for years to come. Mack does have a strong offensive line in front of him, but he'll be more of a low-end RB1/high-end RB2 going into the final year of his contract in 2020.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. credits his success in 2019 to an improved commitment to preparation, and Mike DiRocco of ESPN.com believes Chark should deliver 1,000 receiving yards and eight to 10 touchdowns in 2020.
Fantasy Spin: Chark emerged as the top receiver for the Jaguars in 2019, and while Jacksonville is unlikely to have a high-powered passing attack, Chark should be able to deliver WR3 production as the No. 1 option.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster had eight catches on 11 targets in the six quarters he played with QB Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) in 2019, and Brooke Pryor of ESPN believes Smith-Schuster needs another 'reliable offensive weapon' to be at his best.
Fantasy Spin: While Smith-Schuster's numbers would have been better with a healthy Roethlisberger under center, we still don't know if he can replicate his monster 2018 numbers as the go-to option of the passing attack.
Miami Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki will likely be used as a slot receiver in sets featuring three or more receivers in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: After a quiet rookie year, Gesicki showed signs of life in 2019, finishing with 51 catches for 570 yards and five touchdowns. He could be worth a flier as a high-upside TE2.
The Baltimore Ravens are hopeful of re-signing DE/LB Jihad Ward, a pending unrestricted free agent. The team thinks he fits well with them and they like his motor, versatility. The two sides have had discussions over the past week.
New England Patriots FS Devin McCourty might be a candidate for the franchise tag, and he could cost $11.5 million against the cap if that's the route head coach Bill Belichick and company elect.
New England Patriots PK Stephen Gostkowski (hip) has one year remaining on his contract, but he is 36 years old and coming off hip surgery. Releasing him would free up nearly $3.5 million in salary cap space.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack is not in line for a contract extension at this time. '(Marlon), we love him, but we love the other two guys. We want him back and he wants to be back, really. There were some mis-reports that we were pursuing an extension there. That's not the case. I don't know where those came from,' team owner Jim Irsay said Sunday, Feb. 23.