Thu Oct 17 5:51pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) scores a touchdown next to Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson (54) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) runs past a tackle attempt by Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill (22) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates his touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) is upended by Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde (23) is held back by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) and cornerback Kendall Fuller, rear, during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich heads off the field after the Colts defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 19-13 in sn NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich prefers taking the aggressive approach.
His coaching staff understands it. His players respect it. And opponents know they must be prepared to confront it.
Sometimes, the fourth-down gambles pay off - as they did earlier this season at Tennessee and Kansas City. Sometimes, they backfire. Either way, though, Reich acknowledges he's willing to take the same risky call against Houston on Sunday as he did in last year's home overtime loss to the Texans.
''Those decisions always come down to what's best for the team in the moment,'' Reich said. ''A lot of things go into those decisions, but primarily like you said, it's a belief in the players. Yes, we think situationally it calls for it, but it really stems from a belief that we'll get it done.''
Nobody has been better playing the odds this season than Reich.
Indy has converted all seven fourth-down attempts, the gutsiest call coming from its 35-yard line with less than 2+ minutes to go in a two-point game at Tennessee.
And when things don't go right, such as the incompletion on fourth-and-4 from the Indy 43 with 24 seconds left in overtime against Houston, Reich still seems to hit the jackpot. While the Colts lost that game, he won over the locker room with a season-changing moment.
Indy has won 13 of its 19 games since then including twice at Houston late last season.
''Frank made the call he felt was best for his team and that's in my opinion what Frank does well,'' coach Bill O'Brien said after the Texans converted a key fourth down at Kansas City last week. ''He's an aggressive coach. You know sometimes you have to do in your mind what's best for your team from your preparation and where you are in the game. Those are things that Frank does very well.''
It keeps everyone on their toes - and the bye week may only give Reich more time to contemplate how to play it Sunday.
''I think that mentality is what carries beyond that one play,'' he said. ''I think that's an example of what happened last year. Yeah, that was one play, but it was the belief and conviction in our players I think that carries longer than the one play.''
Four-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton has thrived against the Texans over the years.
In 15 games, the Colts receiver has 78 receptions, 1,506 yards and nine touchdowns. Late last season, with an ankle injury, he still managed to haul in 11 catches for 260 yards in the games at Houston.
The Texans know just tough Hilton can be.
''He's fast, great route runner, can come in and out of his breaks, understands how to attack leverage, has great experience,'' O'Brien said. ''He's seen all of the coverages there are, so he knows how to get open. He's got good chemistry with Jacoby and I think he's targeted quite a bit. It's a challenge.''
HOLDING THE LINE
The Colts went from worst in sacks allowed in 2017 to first last season. Now Houston is trying to follow a similar blueprint.
While Jacoby Brissett has gone down just six times, tied for the second fewest in the league, the Texans have made a dramatic turnaround after giving up 18 sacks during the first four weeks.
Neither Brissett nor Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson have been sacked in their past two games.
''They're doing a heck of a job of playing as a unit,'' Watson said. ''Everyone is up there with the right mindset, positive attitude and always playing the next play. So, those guys up there have been doing a heck of a job.''
The Colts, meanwhile, have only allowed one sack in their past five October games.
Running back Carlos Hyde fit exactly what the Texans wanted when they acquired him from Kansas City on Aug. 31 - after losing Lamar Miller to a season-ending knee injury.
Hyde has been the key to the league's No. 5 rushing attack (139.8 yards) and ran for a season-high 116 yards and one touchdown last weekend.
He's 10th in the NFL with 426 yards rushing and has three touchdowns this season.
HOME, SWEET, HOME
After Indy won 13 straight home games to open the series, Houston has taken three of past four at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts' lone victory during this current run came in the 2017 season finale, with Brissett closing out the season as the starter. Indy also had a seven-game home winning streak snapped by Oakland on Sept. 29.
The Arizona Cardinals agreed with left tackle D.J. Humphries on a three-year, $45 million deal on Monday, according to sources. Humphries will make $30 million over the first two years, and the deal includes $29 million guaranteed. The 26-year-old played in a full season in 2019 for the first time since going 24th overall in the first round in 2015. Humphries isn't the most talented left tackle in the league, but he'll bring stability at the position and help protect quarterback Kyler Murray's blind side moving forward.
Multiple teams expect New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to have a strong free-agent market as a starting or bridge quarterback for a team in transition this offseason. Bridgewater is expected to sign with another team unless Drew Brees retires. The 27-year-old Louisville alumni played in nine games in 2019 and held his own with Brees missing time due to an injury, but he wasn't asked to be much more than a game manager. He hasn't been a starter in the NFL since 2015 with the Vikings, but Bridgewater could certainly become fantasy relevant at least as a high-end QB2 if he's starting elsewhere in 2020. How much upside he'll have will depend on where he lands.
The Carolina Panthers think that quarterback Cam Newton (foot) is likely to pass a physical and be cleared for some football activities in March, according to a source. However, they will still likely use caution with him in spring workouts if he remains on the team. Newton continues to rehab a surgically repaired Lisfranc injury to his left foot, one that kept him out for most of the 2019 season. But if Newton proves he's not past his injury, the Panthers could decide to move on from the 30-year-old. The former first overall pick in 2011 is a high-end QB1 for his ability to use his legs, but he may not run as much as he ages and is now an injury risk as more of a high-end QB2 leading up to the 2020 season. He might be even more unattractive to fantasy owners if he's playing somewhere other than Carolina next season, too.
The Detroit Lions have talked with multiple teams about a potential trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, according to sources. However, any team that trades for Slay must compensate the Lions and Slay with a new deal, and Detroit is determined to get fair value for Slay. The 29-year-old former second-round pick in 2013 has been to three straight Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2017 when he had a career-high eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed. He had 46 total tackles in 2019 (36 solo), two interceptions and one fumble recovery in his 14 games played. If the Lions trade Slay, they will certainly need to address the position in free agency or the draft.
The Miami Dolphins don't view Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as a slam-dunk pick with the fifth overall selection in this year's draft. On the flip side, the team has an increasingly positive view of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert after he impressed at the Senior Bowl, according to sources familiar with the team's thinking. One source said the Dolphins are concerned about Tagovailoa's return from a fractured and dislocated hip he suffered last November, and his durability in the long-term. Ive been down there to see him. Tua is a great player. I just worry about his health, owner Stephen Ross said. The Dolphins like Herbert's size (6-foot-6, 237 pounds), his arm talent and his mobility. Miami could change their mind on Tagovailoa once they meet with him at the Combine, but he certainly shouldn't be considered a lock to be taken by the Dolphins at fifth overall.
The Cleveland Browns released tight end Demetrius Harris, cornerback T.J. Carrie, offensive guard Eric Kush and linebacker Adarius Taylor on Monday. Harris played in 15 games (six starts) in 2019 and caught 15 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Mostly known for his blocking prowess, Harris couldn't even take advantage when David Njoku was lost for most of the year due to an injury. The 28-year-old should land on his feet, but we wouldn't expect him to enter the 2020 season with much fantasy appeal, even as a backup tight end.
Tennessee Titans running back Dion Lewis could be a salary cap casualty this year. Lewis carries a $5.1 million salary for 2020, and the Titans can save $4 million if they cut him, with $1.1 million in dead money. He basically served in a change-of-pace role behind bell-cow Derrick Henry in 2019, carrying the ball only 54 times for 209 yards while adding 25 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown. The 29-year-old was important on third downs and can help pass protect, but the Titans may decide to move to a younger and less expensive option in the draft. Other potential cap casualties include kicker Ryan Succop, veteran tight end Delanie Walker and outside linebacker/defensive end Cameron Wake.
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) remains in the concussion protocol six months after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit in the preseason. It was the seventh documented concussion of his career, and it caused him to miss all of the 2019 season. His future in the league and with Washington is up in the air. At this point, it seems likely that the Redskins will cut him to save $8.5 million in 2020. The 29-year-old has never played an entire season in the NFL because of injuries and has played in 19 games combined from 2017 to 2018. Even if Reed is playing somewhere this season, he'll be a high-risk, low-reward TE2.
The New York Jets won't cut running back Le'Veon Bell because of the $19 million in dead salary cap money if they do so, and because of his massive salary, a trade is remote as well. If they really wanted to trade Bell, they'd have to be willing to pay a portion of his 2020 salary, which is $13.5 million in total guarantees. And the Jets would probably only be able to get a Day 3 draft pick in return. After taking a year off in 2018, The 27-year-old (28 on Tuesday) looked slow and heavy in his first year in New York. Bell ran 245 times for only 789 yards (a career-low 3.2 yards per carry) and only three touchdowns. His receiving contributions help, but Bell's fantasy stock will obviously be down entering 2020 fall drafts. Consider him more of an RB2 with some upside if he comes into camp motivated to bounce back.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he has "no hesitation" that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) will be ready for Week 1. "This guy is the ultimate competitor. He dropped the gauntlet down. He made the statement he's coming back," Tomlin said. Roethlisberger played in just two games last year before needing season-ending right elbow surgery. He should be ready to go this summer, barring any setbacks, but he'll be entering his age-38 season and will be an injury risk as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2. But don't sleep on Big Ben, as he threw for a career-high 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2018.
Tennessee Titans PK Ryan Succop is likely to be released in the offseason, in the opinion of ESPN's Turron Davenport. The move would save the team $2 million against the salary cap.
Tennessee Titans RB Dion Lewis is expected to be released in the offseason, in the opinion of ESPN's Turron Davenport. The move would save the team $4 million against the salary cap.
Fantasy Spin: Lewis can still be worthwhile in PPR, but he's not going to receive the touches in Tennessee to do it. He's someone to watch this offseason to see if he can land a bigger split to be an RB4 or RB5.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton needs more depth behind him at the receiver position, according to general manager Chris Ballard. 'Do we need to add more explosive elements to our offense? Yeah, we do,' Ballard said. 'Just want somebody who can catch the ball and go score.'
Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent WR Tavon Austin is unlikely to be re-signed, according to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com.
Chicago Bears TE Adam Shaheen will be on the roster for the start of training camp, according to general manager Ryan Pace, but expectations for Shaheen are 'low' for 2020, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
Atlanta Falcons impending free-agent TE Austin Hooper could be a target for the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to John Reid of The Florida Times-Union.
Fantasy Spin: The Jaguars tight ends combined for just three touchdowns in 2019. Meanwhile, Hooper has emerged as one of the steadier options at the position, topping 70 catches in each of the past two seasons and recording a career-high 787 receiving yards last year. Moving from Atlanta's offense to Jacksonville's offense would be a downgrade, but Hooper will likely be a low-end TE1 regardless of where he plays in 2020.
San Francisco 49ers DT Solomon Thomas may join the starting lineup next season if the team is not able to bring back impending free-agent DE Arik Armstead, in the opinion of NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco.
Cleveland Browns impending free-agent LB Joe Schobert said he has talked with general manager Andrew Berry and has been told that the Browns will talk to his agent about his contract situation in the near future. Schobert is more optimistic about his chances to re-sign since he has a better relationship with Berry than he did with former general manager John Dorsey.
Carolina Panthers impending free-agent CB James Bradberry and Kansas City Chiefs impending free-agent CB Bashaud Breeland are expected to be targets for the Washington Redskins during free agency.
New York Giants impending free-agent DT Leonard Williams recently met with former NFL DT Richard Seymour in order to improve his play. They watched game film and also worked out together. Seymour said he believes Williams has all the tools to be a great player.