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.
The Washington Redskins have had good conversations with left tackle Trent Williams, but the team's attempt to bring him back in 2020 is an ongoing process, according to head coach Ron Rivera. Williams is heading into the last year of his contract and has told the team that he either wants his contract redone or to be traded, according to sources familiar with the situation. The 'Skins have pushed the situation to the backburner with the draft and free agency approaching, so it's still possible that Williams won't be back with Washington in 2020 and beyond. The 31-year-old seven-time Pro Bowler would be a huge asset on the blind side for developing quarterback Dwayne Haskins, but it remains to be seen if the two sides can work something out.
The New England Patriots have yet to reach out to impending free-agent quarterback Tom Brady about a new contract. The Patriots still have time to discuss re-signing Brady, but it's a noteworthy development during the scouting combine this week. Meanwhile Brady's agent, Don Yee, is meeting with quarterback-needy teams at the combine this week. There are rumblings that Brady is likely to land with another team this offseason, with the Titans, Raiders and Chargers being the most likely destinations. For obvious reasons, Brady's free-agent storyline will be the biggest to follow in the coming weeks. He was lacking aerial weapons in 2019 and his arm strength isn't what it used to be, but he could bounce back in 2020.
Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera said that linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and offensive guard Brandon Scherff are both in the team's plans for 2020. The Redskins have also started contract talks with Scherff and his representation. If a deal isn't struck with Scherff, the franchise tag is a possibility. Kerrigan wasn't able to play in a full season for the first time in his career in 2019, playing in 12 games and recording career lows in tackles (25), sacks (5.5) and forced fumbles (one). He's had double-digit sack totals each of the previous three seasons and could bounce back if he stays on the field in 2020. Scherff was the fifth overall pick in 2015 and graded out as one of the top guards in the NFL in 2019.
The Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants are among the teams that could have interest in Seattle Seahawks impending free-agent pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, according to sources. Clowney has a long history of injuries in his six-year career, playing a full season just once in 2017 with the Texans, but he's among the most talented and feared pass-rushers in the league when he's healthy and hitting on all cylinder. The 27-year-old had 31 tackles (21 solo), three sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, an interception and a touchdown in 13 games for Seattle last year. Both the Colts and Giants have a serious need for pass-rushing help.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan Jr. (core) underwent core muscle surgery in Philadelphia, according to his agent, Jack Bechta. Tonyan was bothered by the injury all year and wasn't able to run the same. In his second season in the NFL in 2019, he had just 10 receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown in 11 games played. Even with Marcedes Lewis a free agent, Tonyan is behind Jimmy Graham and Jace Sternberger on the tight end depth chart and won't have much fantasy appeal heading into the 2020 season.
The Kansas City Chiefs will use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Chris Jones, according to sources. The Chiefs view him in their long-term plans and want to keep him paired with Frank Clark on the defensive line for years to come. The 25-year-old is an excellent run-stuffer up the middle and helped the Chiefs win the Super Bowl in his fourth season with the team after being a second-round pick in 2016. Jones finished with 36 tackles (23 solo), nine sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 13 regular season games in 2019. He'll be due around $15.5 million under the franchise tag in 2020.
ESPN's Jeff Darlington said on GetUpESPN that he'd now be surprised if New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady re-signed with the team in free agency. "Im now at the point where I would be stunned if Tom Brady went back to New England," Darlington said. The two teams being discussed with the best chances of landing Brady seem to be the Titans and the Raiders. If Tennessee goes after Brady, it means that they will let Ryan Tannehill walk in free agency. The Raiders have soured on Derek Carr and are looking to make a splash in their first year in Las Vegas. The Chargers could be a dark-horse candidate after they moved on from Philip Rivers. Brady is at the end of his career and probably shouldn't be drafted as a QB1 in fantasy, especially if he lands with the run-first Titans.
The Buffalo Bills have talked with free-agent cornerback Josh Norman, according to general manager Brandon Beane, but nothing is imminent. Norman was recently released from the Redskins and has ties to both Beane and head coach Sean McDermott from their time together with the Panthers. Norman was drafted with Beane in the Carolina front office, and he was an All-Pro with McDermott as his defensive coordinator, so a match makes sense on paper. But the former fifth-round pick in 2012 is a shell of his former Pro Bowl self and was benched late in the year in Washington in 2019. Norman played in just 12 games and recorded 40 tackles (33 solo), one sack, one forced fumble and one interception.
While the San Francisco 49ers think wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is too valuable to straight up cut, they are open to trading him, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan. Goodwin has two years left on his current deal and is scheduled to make $3.95 million in base salary in 2020 while counting $4.906 million against the salary cap. The 29-year-old played in just nine games in 2019 because of injury and had 12 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown. If he returns, he'd be competing with Jalen Hurd, Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor for a role behind Deebo Samuel in the passing attack. The 29-year-old has game-changing speed but has never played a full season in his seven years in the NFL and hasn't scored more than four TDs in a single season. He could benefit from a change of scenery but will have to rehab his fantasy value and stay healthy.
The Dallas Cowboys and Todd France, the agent for quarterback Dak Prescott, had discussions on Wednesday regarding a long-term contract extension for the first time since September of last year. The meeting didn't last long, but the Cowboys are hoping to get a long-term deal done before needing to use the franchise tag on Prescott. If Dallas can get Prescott locked up soon, they could save the franchise or transition tag for impending free-agent wide receiver Amari Cooper. Prescott put up great numbers under center in 2019 despite the Cowboys underwhelming as a whole and finishing outside of the playoff picture. One way or another he's staying put, making him a high-end QB1 entering the 2020 season for fantasy owners.
Washington Redskins impending free-agent quarterback Case Keenum is on the Cleveland Browns' radar, according to a league source. Cleveland is looking to bring in a veteran backup to Baker Mayfield that can help him grow and develop after a disappointing 2019 campaign. Drew Stanton missed all of last season with a knee injury and will be a free agent himself next month. Keenum, 32, worked with head coach Kevin Stefanski with the Vikings in 2017 when he led the team to an 11-3 record. He's thrown for 14,368 yards, 75 touchdowns and 47 interceptions for a career passer rating of 85.3, but he'd just be holding the clipboard for Mayfield in Cleveland.
Denver Broncos defensive end Bradley Chubb (knee) will not take part in organized team activities this spring, but he will be ready for training camp. Chubb, the fifth overall pick in 2018, is recovering from a torn ACL that cost him 12 games in his sophomore season. The 23-year-old wasted no time doing damage in his rookie season with 60 total tackles and 12 sacks, so he should return to being a force across from Von Miller in 2020 if he avoids the injury bug. Denver's D will likely go undrafted in standard-sized formats this year, but they could easily wind up being owned in the majority of leagues by the end of the year in head coach Vic Fangio's second season.
The Cleveland Browns are expected to pursue Chicago Bears impending free-agent quarterback Chase Daniel when free agency begins. The Browns need a strong veteran backup behind Baker Mayfield next season. Cleveland's backup last year was Drew Stanton, but he's set to be a free agent next month as well. Behind him was Garrett Gilbert. Daniel played in parts of eight games for the Bears in the last two seasons, throwing six touchdowns and four interceptions. He'd only be in the mix as a low-end QB2 if he were to sign with the Browns and Mayfield were to get hurt in 2020 and miss some time.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said the team would like to keep impending free-agent wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb. Cooper is the bigger priority as the team's No. 1 receiver, but things are complicated this offseason, as the Cowboys' biggest priority is getting franchise quarterback Dak Prescott signed to a long-term extension. Cooper battled through nagging injuries in 2019 but managed to play a full season and caught 79 passes for a career-high 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. Cobb would be more of a luxury to keep around after he had 55 receptions for 828 yards and three scores in his first year in Dallas. Cooper finished as a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2019 and would be firmly in the WR1 conversation if he remains in Dallas.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is expected to return to the team in 2020. Lee played in a full season for the first time of his career and saw considerable playing time in the second half of the season with Leighton Vander Esch (neck) injured, recording 86 tackles (55 solo), one sack and one interception. Lee will be more of a backup with the Cowboys if Vander Esch is fully healthy next season, but he'd provide valuable veteran depth in the middle of the field if he comes back. The 33-year-old will only had IDP appeal in deep leagues if LVE misses more time with injury.
Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa received overwhelmingly positive reports on his dislocated hip from teams who examined him following two days of medical testing, according to sources. The MRIs were clean, his fractured hip is healed and there is no loss in blood flow. One source said Tagovailoa "looked great." It's great news for Tua's draft stock heading into April's draft. There might still be some concerns about his long-term health and ability to stay healthy at the next level given his size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds). Regardless, he'll be an early selection in the first round, possibly as high as No. 5 to the Dolphins. Or a team could trade up at No. 4 with the Giants to take him. Depending on where he lands, Tagovailoa will mostly be a dynasty asset in his first year in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who put on some weight last year to bulk up, plans to be slimmer and faster this year with an emphasis on being in better shape. The extra weight that Mayfield carried with him last year caused him to lose some overall quickness. Cleveland had sky-high expectations going into last season, and both the team and Mayfield failed to live up to them. The second-year quarterback completed only 59.4 percent of his passes for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 16 games. He'll be learning a new offense this spring and summer, but Mayfield has plenty of weapons around him to bounce back. Fantasy owners won't be so bold on him and will likely take him as more of a QB2 with upside.
Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry, who was vice president of player personnel in 2017 when the team drafted tight end David Njoku in the first round, envisions a role for Njoku moving forward despite his down season in 2019. Berry implied that the team will pick up the fifth-year options on both Njoku and defensive end Myles Garrett, the first overall pick of 2017. Njoku, 23, played 16 games each in his first two seasons and had a career year in 2018 with 56 catches, 639 yards and four touchdowns. He was held to just five catches for 41 yards and a score in four games in 2019 due to injury and headbutting with former head coach Freddie Kitchens. You can get Njoku on the cheap as a TE2 with upside in 2020 drafts.
San Francisco 49ers left tackle Joe Staley (leg) is expected to return for the final year of his contract in 2020 after there was speculation that he would retire from the game after a Super Bowl run in 2019. The 13-year veteran missed nine games last season due to a broken leg, but he was solid as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's blind-side protector when he was on the field. Staley allowed just seven QB pressures in 240 pass-blocking snaps last year for a pressure rate of 2.9 percent, which trailed just Ronnie Stanley and Taylor Lewan among left tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. Staley's return would be great news for Jimmy G.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he wants wide receiver Dante Pettis to go on an offseason "mission" after taking a huge step back in his second season in 2019. After catching 27 passes for 467 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games in his rookie season, Pettis had just 11 grabs for 109 yards and two scores in 11 games in 2019 and was in Shanahan's dog house for the majority of the season for multiple reasons. But with Emmanuel Sanders a free agent and the Niners looking for someone to step up behind Deebo Samuel, Pettis could get another chance this spring and summer to prove he belongs. Still, it'll take a lot of convincing for fantasy owners to invest in Pettis off the waiver wire to begin the year.