Thu Oct 17 7:27pm ET
By ANDREW SELIGMAN
AP Sports Writer
Chicago Bears quarterback Chase Daniel (4) prepares to throw during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, lower left, is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, center, as Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, right, tries to slow Jordan down during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured by Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack (52) tackles Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) during the second half of an NFL football game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in London. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The New Orleans Saints kept their sights set on a Super Bowl even after Drew Brees went down with an injury.
While their superstar quarterback continues to recover following thumb surgery, the NFC South leaders will try to remain unbeaten without him.
The Saints look to improve to 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater as their starter in Brees' place when they visit Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
''It just shows this is a team that's determined to win and do whatever it takes,'' Bridgewater said.
The Saints (5-1) are getting big contributions from their defense and special teams and enough from their offense even if they're not moving the ball the way they did a year ago. They're averaging 344.7 yards - down 34.5 yards per game from last season, when Brees made 15 starts. He's been sidelined since he tore a ligament in his right thumb during a loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2.
Bridgewater has completed about 69 percent of his passes for 1,089 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He wasn't as effective last week at Jacksonville, after throwing for 314 yards and four touchdowns against Tampa Bay, but he hit Jared Cook for a tiebreaking 4-yard TD early in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars.
He will try to keep the Saints rolling against a team looking to bounce back. The Bears (3-2) are coming off a loss to Oakland in London two weeks ago in which their defense got pushed around a bit after dominating the first four games and their offense continued to struggle.
Here are some things to know:
The Bears hope to get quarterback Mitchell Trubisky back after missing a game because of a left shoulder injury.
If he returns, he'll try to build on a promising showing against Washington in Week 3.
Trubisky threw three touchdowns in an easy win over the struggling Redskins after mediocre outings in a season-opening loss to Green Bay and a narrow victory at Denver. He was then injured on the opening drive against Minnesota on Sept. 29.
''I felt that each game leading up to that Vikings game, until he got hurt, that there was (improvement),'' Bears coach Matt Nagy said. ''Progression-wise where he's going, playing faster, seeing at the line of scrimmage that he's getting into checks or seeing progressions, adjustments at the line of scrimmage - way quicker than what he was.''
Veteran Chase Daniel figures to make his second straight start if Trubisky is unavailable.
With 18 sacks, New Orleans is tied with Green Bay and Tennessee for sixth in the NFL.
Coach Sean Payton has been pleased by how depth along the front has helped keep linemen fresh and pressure high. While Cameron Jordan leads the club with five sacks, he's one of eight defensive linemen who've had at least half a sack. Payton said the Saints put an emphasis on improving depth on the defensive line after defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who was second on the club in sacks last season with eight, tore his Achilles tendon last January. That helped the Saints remain stout up front until Rankins returned in Week 4.
The Saints have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season - or in 32 games, for that matter. They've also held their previous three opponents - Dallas, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville - to season lows in total yards.
While the Saints could be thin at running back if Alvin Kamara is unavailable or limited because of knee and ankle injuries, the Bears placed right guard Kyle Long and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks on injured reserve this week.
Long will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury. Hicks could return after eight weeks from an elbow injury he suffered against Oakland. Both players have made the Pro Bowl - Long from 2013-15 and Hicks last year.
Saints rookie defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson has had a promising start to his career. And he is expected to be tested more this week because primary nickel back P.J. Williams was suspended two games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Johnson's biggest moment was a hit on Cowboys QB Dak Prescott on a delayed blitz that forced an interception on the final play of the Saints' 12-10 triumph over Dallas in Week 4.
DEFERENCE TO DANIEL
While the Saints weren't sure which quarterback they'd be facing, several spoke highly of former teammate Daniel.
Rankins said Daniel - who played for New Orleans from 2009-12 and in 2017 - was always respected by the Saints' offensive brain trust: Payton and Brees.
''Coaches respected his opinion if he had an opinion on certain plays, or Drew would go to him about certain things, or they would converse back and forth about things they were seeing on the field,'' recalled Rankins, who was Daniel's teammate in 2017.
The Miami Dolphins waived running back Mark Walton on Tuesday morning. Walton was already suspended for violating the league's personal conduct policy, but the Dolphins were, "made aware of a police matter earlier this morning regarding Walton" according to Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier. Kalen Ballage will continue as the lead back for the Dolphins presumably for the rest of the season. Walton, still only 22 years old, may already be running out of chances in the NFL.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Michael Badgley took advantage of the thin air in Mexico City and drilled a 49-yarder, the second longest good kick of his career. While Badgley did barely miss a 40-yard shot in the first quarter, he was able to make kicks from 27, 26, and 49 yards on the night. Badgley's leg kept LA in the game since their offense sputtered terribly once they were staring down the goal line, but unfortunately, the Chargers fell to the Chiefs anyway. Badgley has made 80% of his field goal tries and all of his extra points since he returned from a severe groin injury. He's not a superstar or Mr. Dependable, but he's getting the job done well enough for an LA franchise that struggled with kicking woes for years.
Los Angeles Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins made a slashing leap in front of a Chiefs receiver to snag his third interception of the year on Monday night. The pick was just the second one of the season for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and LA is the first defense this season to hold Mahomes under 200 yards passing when he played a full game. Unfortunately, failures on the offensive side of the ball cost the Chargers the game even though the defense held KC to just 24 total points. While it looks like the season is a wash for LA, their defense can still be useful if they can play like that more often.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen finally ended his touchdown drought. In the third quarter of Monday night's loss to the Chiefs, Allen was able to snag a quick pass and dive his way through a couple of defenders to get the score. It was Allen's first touchdown in eight games, and his 71 yards receiving are the most he's posted since Week 3. After a monster start to the year, Allen has become a ghost. While it's easy to blame it on Allen, it's starting to look like the problem originates with Philip Rivers instead. Rivers appears to be getting real old real fast, and that could explain why Allen, traditionally the team's outside man, has gotten lost in the shuffle.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry tacked another 69 yards onto his season total in Monday night's loss to the Chiefs. He's now either tallied 60+ receiving yards or a touchdown in six of the seven games he's played this season, and he's still averaging 12.5 yards per reception this season. Henry has been in a constant struggle with his health, but he seems to be fully healthy now. When he's at the top of his game, Henry is arguably the best tight end in the NFL, and he's proving it this season. Even with a quarterback who has been struggling, Henry is putting up a fine season.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was the man to beat on Monday night, but even he couldn't will the team to a victory. Ekeler carried the ball five times for 24 yards and caught eight of 12 passes sent his way, tallying another 108 yards. Unfortunately, the moment that will get the most attention was the game-ending interception Philip Rivers threw Ekeler's direction. There's no question that the pick was purely Rivers' fault, but his performance really overshadowed what should have been a star-studded Sportscenter appearance for Ekeler, a backup running back who happens to be incredibly valuable. Unfortunately, the unpredictability in Ekeler's touches from week to week limits his dependable fantasy value.
With the game on the line and 75 yards to go, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams picked a huge moment to make a phenomenal catch. Having only caught one pass so far in the match, Williams launched himself up and hauled in a bomb from Philip Rivers to get his team just outside the red zone. Unfortunately, Rivers would throw a game-sealing pick a few plays later. The big play at least gave Williams a respectable fantasy performance, and he now has a reception of 43+ yards in each of his last four games. He's also caught at least one pass for 20 or more yards in his last nine games, and he's become a regular fixture in the Chargers passing attack.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers put up a couple of nice numbers on Monday night as he completed 28 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown, but he also only completed 53.9% of the passes he threw and tossed four interceptions including a game-ending pick in the end zone. Rivers has now moved into sole possession of second place in the league in interceptions with 14, and he's only posted a QB rating over 85 in two of his last seven games. He still has the ability to sling it on occasion, but for the most part, it looks like time has caught up to Rivers. He just can't make the throws anymore, and his decision-making hasn't accepted that fact yet.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon rushed the ball 14 times for 69 yards and caught three passes for 21 more yards in Monday's loss to the Chiefs. Averaging 4.9 yards per carry, it was surprising LA didn't lean more heavily on Gordon's ground game, especially with Philip Rivers throwing interception after interception. However, Gordon still topped 90 scrimmage yards, even if he didn't get to hit the end zone on any of his touches. With Rivers looking like a shell of his former self, Gordon could be in for some greater use over the team's remaining games. He remains one of the most potent parts of the Chargers offense.
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker has been one of the more reliable fantasy kickers all season. In most games Butkler has been able to connect on multiple field goals, but Week 11 was not one of those games. It wasn't his fault, Butker hit a 41 yard field goal in the victory over the Chargers. That was his only field goal attempt of the game as the Chiefs won 24-17. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12 so fantasy owners who don't have a lot of depth might consider dropping Butker. The Chiefs offense is strong and Butker gets plenty of chances each week. It's not wise to drop Butker for the upcoming bye week, unless you have no other options.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins was expected to have a solid game after having reliable performances the last few weeks. Instead, Watkins was only able to haul in two of three targets for 26 yards in this one. Tyreek Hill (hamstring) left after the opening drive, but Watkins wasn't able to capitalize. The Chiefs were able to get the win in Week 11, but Watkins didn't do much to help that. Kansas City has a bye week in Week 12, but then has a strong matchup against the shaky Raiders secondary. However, at this point in the season it's tough to trust Watkins. Fantasy owners should consider him a WR3 going forward.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman gave a nice jolt to the offense when Tyreek Hill (hamstring) and Sammy Watkins went down earlier in the season. However, they were both healthy the last few weeks. Hardman has seen his usage take a hit because of that, but that might change once again. Hill went down after the first drive during the Week 11 victory over the Chargers. However, Hardman was only targeted four times and caught two of them for 13 yards. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12, so that might give Hill enough time to recover. Otherwise, Hardman could be on the flex radar with Hill sidelined. When Watkins and Hill are healthy, Hardman is only worth using in deep leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) was not able to do much damage during the Week 11 victory over the Chargers. Williams rushed four times for seven yards and caught one pass for six yards. He left during the second quarter due to a ribs injury and didn't return. Veteran LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams took over the running back duties from there. Both players scored a touchdown in this one, but that pattern is unlikely to continue. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12, so it remains to be seen if Williams will miss any time from this ribs issue.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was by far the best offensive player on the field Monday against the Chargers. Tyreek Hill (hamstring) went down early and that forced Kelce into an even bigger role than normal. Kelce caught seven of 10 targets for 92 yards and one touchdown in the Week 11 victory. He's now hauled in three touchdowns over the last four weeks, so fantasy owners are loving that. Kelce heads into a bye week in Week 12, but then gets a juicy matchup against the Raiders, a team he crushed earlier in the season.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams was not expected to do much heading into the game, but saw more action due to injuries. Lead back Damien Williams (ribs) left in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Veteran LeSean McCoy saw more action as well, but it was likely because of the injury to Williams. The third string back Williams saw 11 attempts for 35 yards and one touchdown. The Chiefs head into a bye week, so Williams probably won't have much fantasy value going forward. He's not worth an add in basically any format despite a decent fantasy output here.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch during the Week 10 loss to the Titans, but returned here. McCoy carried the ball seven times for 29 yards and a touchdown in the Monday night victory over the Chargers in Week 11. Damien Williams (ribs) left the game early in the second quarter, so that helped McCoy see more action than usual. Darrel Williams saw 11 carries, so the Chiefs backfield is a messy situation right now. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12, so fantasy owners will have to wait and see what happens next. McCoy should only hold low-end flex value in most formats going forward.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was not the MVP type of QB that fantasy owners are used to watching. He completed 19 of 32 passing attempts for 182 yards and one touchdown with one interception. It was a career-low in passing yards for Mahomes in the Week 11 win over the Chargers. Mahomes ran five times for 59 yards on the ground. Losing Tyreek Hill (hamstring) in the first drive of the game didn't help at all. The Chiefs head into a bye week, but fantasy owners shouldn't be worried about Mahomes' performance going forward. It was a shaky game for Mahomes, but he'll bounce back fine against the Raiders in Week 13.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that it "has not been looking good" on getting rookie wide receiver Jalen Hurd (back) back this season. Hurd suffered a setback recently and probably will not come off Injured Reserve to play in what has become a lost rookie season. Hurd has a chance to make some noise in 2020 and beyond next to rookie standout Deebo Samuel, so he's a good candidate to stash in dynasty/keeper leagues. Emmanuel Sanders will remain the team's No. 1 wideout the rest of the way, with Samuel gaining steam. All of Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James and Dante Pettis just can't be trusted in this run-first offense.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said he expects wide receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion), who has missed the last two games, to return in Week 12 on Monday night against the Ravens. It's great news for Cooks owners and for quarterback Jared Goff, who has struggled mightily the last two games. However, Cooks will be a risky boom-or-bust WR3 against a much-improved Baltimore secondary if he returns on Monday night. The deep threat would be more appealing if Robert Woods (personal) misses another game, but that's probably unlikely.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) suffered an injury on Monday night against the Chargers and is questionable to return. Williams ran the ball just four times for seven yards before leaving the game in Mexico City. He managed one catch for six yards on his only target in the passing game. It's frustrating for Williams' fantasy owners after he had taken over this backfield in recent weeks, but now LeSean McCoy might be back in the fold as the primary rushing option for KC if Williams is forced to miss time. Darrel Williams would serve as the change of pace for McCoy if Williams' injury is significant. Check back later for more updates on Williams' injury.