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.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll thinks highly of tight end Jacob Hollister and the team wants to bring him back as a restricted free agent. Will Dissly is coming off a torn Achilles last year and has two major lower-body injuries in the last two seasons, but the Seahawks also recently signed veteran Greg Olsen at the position. There's no guarantee that either of Olsen or Dissly will stay healthy for a full season, though, so perhaps Seattle wants to keep Hollister around for depth. The 26-year-old had a career-high 41 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games in 2019. He might have some low-end TE1 fantasy appeal if he were to land with another team as their starter.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and general manager David Caldwell said that the team will let quarterbacks Gardner Minshew and Nick Foles compete for the starting job in 2020. Joshua Dobbs will also be a part of the competition, which will begin as soon as organized team activities kick off this spring. Marrone suggested that the Jaguars won't select their starter until the preseason. Caldwell may have a soft spot for Minshew, but the Jags also signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million deal ($45 million in guarantees) in March of last year. Foles broke his collarbone in Week 1 and was benched upon his return. Minshew, a rookie in 2019, showed flashes but was mostly a game manager in this run-first offense. Whoever is under center to start next season will be a middling QB2 option.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that he expects running back Rashaad Penny (knee) to begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Penny needed reconstructive knee surgery after injuring himself in early December against the Rams. If he were to start the season on the PUP, Penny would have to sit out the first six games. The former first-round pick started riding a stationary bike on Feb. 12, but he has a long ways to go in his rehab. With the oft-injured C.J. Prosise hitting free agency, Travis Homer could be the direct backup to Chris Carson to open the 2020 season if Penny isn't ready to go.
Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said that he will hand play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly in 2020. O'Brien had been calling the offensive plays in Houston since he took over from former offensive coordinator George Godsey in 2016. Kelly will be in his second season as the OC and has worked with O'Brien since he was a graduate assistant at Penn State. The Texans finished 13th in the NFL in 2019 in yards per game (362). Kelly will also work closely with quarterback Deshaun Watson, and this news could actually raise the ceiling of Houston's entire offense next year. "Deshaun and [Kelly] have a great relationship," O'Brien said. "... Deshaun has great trust in Timmy and the work that Timmy puts in, what Tim brings to the meeting room and on the field. Tim is an excellent coach."
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that running back Chris Carson (hip) is making progress but can't do much yet in his rehab. However, the Seahawks expect Carson to be ready for the 2020 season. The 25-year-old missed just one game in 2019 and handled 278 carries for 1,230 yards and seven rushing touchdowns for Seattle in his third year in the league. It was Carson's second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, and he also added a career-high 37 receptions for 266 yards and two scores through the air. He has yet to play in a full season but has missed just three games in the last two seasons. With Rashaad Penny (knee) doubtful to be ready for Week 1, Carson should handle the bulk of the load heading into the regular season and will be a strong RB1 in this run-first offense if he's fully healthy.
New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas said he wants to keep safety Jamal Adams "a long time." "Jamal is an unbelievable player. We're excited about Jamal. The plan is for Jamal to be a Jet for life," Douglas said of his now fourth-year playmaker and two-time Pro Bowler in the deep middle of his defense. The Jets have had extension talks with Adams, but he's also under team control for another two years, which means the Jets don't have to rush into anything. As one of the top safeties in the league already, Adams will surely be trying to become the league's highest-paid safety when the time comes. He'll be one of the more attractive safeties in IDP leagues in 2020 and beyond.
The Carolina Panthers declined the fully guaranteed $1 million option for wide receiver Jarius Wright on Tuesday, according to a source. With the move, the Panthers will free up $3 million in salary cap space. Wright had just 28 receptions for 296 yards and no touchdowns in a full season in his second and final year in Carolina. It didn't help that quarterback Cam Newton (foot) played in just two games, but Wright probably wouldn't have contributed all that much in the passing game to begin with. Wherever he lands next, Wright will be receiver depth and contribute on special teams.
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku is likely to have his fifth-year option picked up, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.
Fantasy Spin: Njoku had a down year in 2019, as he didn't seem to gel with former head coach Freddie Kitchens. He finished the season with just 41 yards a touchdown in four games played. A first-rounder in 2017, there's still plenty of hope for his future.
Impending free-agent DE Jadeveon Clowney will be a target of the Seattle Seahawks for a new deal, according to head coach Pete Carroll Tuesday, Feb. 25. 'We are going to try,' Carroll said. 'We are trying to get it done. He had a fantastic season. We'd love to have him back.'
New York Jets RB Le'Veon Bell will remain a part of the team in 2020, according to general manager Joe Douglas Tuesday, Feb. 25. 'There hasn't been talk as far as him going anywhere,' Douglas said. 'We're excited about Le'Veon. Le'Veon has been a great teammate. I can't tell you how great he's been. ... We're excited to have him.'
Fantasy Spin: Bell rushed for just 789 yards and three touchdowns in his first season with the Jets while adding another 461 yards and a touchdown as a receiver. He has dropped into the RB2 tier for 2020 and will need to reprove himself within the Jets offense.
Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett needs to be seen in a larger sample of work, according to general manager Chris Ballard Tuesday, Feb. 25. 'We did a 2-year deal with Jacoby to find out,' Ballard said at a press conference from the Scouting Combine. 'We like Jacoby Brissett. Love what he stands for. It was almost a tale of two seasons where we're 5-2, he's playing good football. He had the injury and we had injuries as a team and we kind of slid down. We did the short term deal to see what we had. To say we're going to create competition, we're going to create competition at any spot. That's going to be a year-to-year thing.'
Fantasy Spin: Brissett threw for 2,942 yards with 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions last season, but he was able to lead the Colts to a record of just 7-8 in his 15 starts. It's clear he needs more help in the passing game than he had in 2019, and he should be able to be a serviceable QB2 in fantasy leagues if Indy makes some additions this offseason.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (foot) hasn't yet played to the best of his abilities, according to new head coach Matt Rhule Tuesday, Feb. 25. 'I'm really excited to coach Cam Newton,' Rhule said. 'Just getting to know him, being around him, seeing the way he's rehabbing, taking this seriously. I think if he does this right and we do this right, his best football is ahead of him.'
Fantasy Spin: It's a bold claim for the former Offensive Rookie of the Year and MVP, but he should certainly be able to bounce back from his more recent decent years. If Newton does in fact stay in Carolina, he'll be a low-end QB1 at draft time.
Impending free-agent DL Jarran Reed is wanted back for the 2020 season, according to Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Impending free-agent RB Marshawn Lynch hasn't shared his plans for the 2020 season, according to Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Fantasy Spin: Lynch won't warrant fantasy consideration if he does return to the Seahawks. He'll be behind both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny when both are healthy and won't receive reliable work.
Impending free-agent RB Kenyan Drake is wanted back by the team, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim Tuesday, Feb. 25. 'We'd love to have him back, he's a perfect fit for our offense,' Kingsbury said. 'He's certainly a guy we would like to have back but again not sure what the market is going to do,' said Keim.
Fantasy Spin: Drake rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns over eight games with the Cardinals after being acquired from the Miami Dolphins. He dethroned David Johnson and Chase Edmonds in the backfield, and he'll be a top-end RB2 wherever he plays in 2020.
Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson is still valued by the team, according to general manager Steve Keim Tuesday, Feb. 25. 'He's a guy who's shown he can do it,' Keim said. 'I think because of the success that Kenyan (Drake) had, because of the success Chase (Edmonds) had, I think that's something that will be a chip on his shoulder. He's going to want to come back and play well and again because of his skillset, he's such a big talented athlete, we certainly think he can jump back in and do some good things for us.'
Fantasy Spin: Johnson has struggled the last three seasons since his All-Pro 2016 campaign while battling various injuries. He lost work to Kenyan Drake at the end of last season and he's a wild card until it's known how the Cardinals' backfield depth chart will stack up.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (hip) is expected to be ready for the start of the season, according to head coach Pete Carroll Tuesday, Feb. 25. Carroll added Carson isn't yet able to do much work.
Fantasy Spin: Carson rushed for a career-high 1,230 yards with seven touchdowns in 15 games before suffering the injury. He'll be a low-end RB1 entering 2020 with RB Rashaad Penny (knee) further behind in his recovery.
Seattle Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (knee) is likely to begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, according to head coach Pete Carroll Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Fantasy Spin: Penny was just coming into his own in his sophomore season before suffering the injury. He's likely to again start the year behind RB Chris Carson on the backfield depth chart, but he'll be a high-upside RB4 option in the later rounds.
Impending free-agent RB Derrick Henry will be attempted to be retained by the team, according to general manager Jon Robinson Tuesday, Feb. 25. 'We're going to work through that one and do everything we can to try to keep him around,' said Robinson.
Fantasy Spin: It's well known how well Henry can perform in the Titans' system, and while it's likely he can be a top fantasy performer wherever he could go, fantasy managers shouldn't be hoping for a chance. He'll be in the RB1 conversation if back with the Titans in 2020.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard has the coaching staff 'more than excited' about what he can do in his second year under head coach Bruce Arians, according to general manager Jason Licht Tuesday, Feb. 25.
Fantasy Spin: It's strong praise for a player who was targeted just 53 times in 14 games. He caught 34 passes for 459 yards and a single touchdown as one of fantasy's biggest disappointments in 2019. He'll be a risky TE1 pick in 2020 drafts, depending on who's at QB for the Bucs.