Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin, left, runs after a reception past Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye (21) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) throws an interception as he is hit by Tennessee Titans linebacker Harold Landry (58) during the second half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (84) celebrates a touchdown catch against the Tennessee Titans during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)
The Indianapolis Colts know what it takes to thrive under the pressure of a race for a playoff berth. The young Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to learn.
A year after staging a torrid stretch run to make the postseason in their first season under coach Frank Reich, the Colts (6-6) find themselves in a familiar position of needing to win their last four games to give themselves a good shot at earning another berth.
The Bucs (5-7) have won three of four following a 2-6 start and vow to keep fighting until they are mathematically eliminated from contention.
“They’re a team that’s in the same situation as us,” Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s a one-game season.”
The Colts know all about that after overcoming a 1-5 start last season by winning nine of their last 10 - including four straight down the stretch in December - to grab an AFC wild-card berth.
Jacoby Brissett is quarterback this year instead of the retired Andrew Luck, but the challenge remains the same as Indianapolis tries to right itself after dropping four of five to fall from first to third place in the AFC South.
“Obviously, we would have liked not to be in that position again, but we’re here and we know we have to win games,” Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo said.
“Frank (Reich) did a good job speaking about that and what you did to this point doesn’t matter. You can’t rely on any of that information in the future. ... I know everybody on this team is committed to playing one week at a time,” center Ryan Kelly added. “Obviously, we have a tough four games ahead, but if you take it one game at a time, you’ll be fine.”
Arians, the former Cardinals coach who also led Indianapolis to the playoffs as interim coach for 12 games in 2012, said the Bucs will benefit from a strong finish - even if it doesn’t produce Tampa Bay’s first playoff in 12 years.
“We talked about it. ... If you want to feel like you’re in the playoffs, you’re in it. Right now,” Arians said. “They are one-game seasons. You lose, you’re done. Then you play for fun.”
Reich hasn't spent much time over the years around Bruce Arians. But he's heard plenty of stories about the longtime assistant and has plenty of respect for the man who earned the first of two coach of the year awards filling in for Indy coach Chuck Pagano in 2012.
And Reich figures not much has changed as Arians completes his first season as Tampa Bay's head coach.
"I guess there are guys like (Bill) Belichick where you're like, 'Don't try to be like him,'" Reich said. "You try and be like Bruce Arians. I could never pull that off, I don't know if anybody could from what I understand. You just know the players that play for him - they will die for him."
SHARING THE WEALTH
The Bucs defense is tied for fifth in the NFL with 21 takeaways. That’s four more than they had all of last season, when Tampa Bay ranked 22nd.
Nine players have forced fumbles, eight have recovered an opposing team’s fumble, and eight have interceptions.
The unit has also scored four touchdowns, compared to one in 2018.
Four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton has missed four of the last five Colts games, and there's no guarantee he'll play this week, either.
Hilton returned from a calf injury against Houston two weeks ago but sat out last week after aggravating the injury in practice. He did not work out Wednesday and with only four regular-season games left, some wonder if he'll make it back this season.
"I'm doing everything I can to get back out there," Hilton said. "Ïf I can, I can and if I can't then I'm going to have to shut it down. But I'm doing everything I can."
Indy finished last week's game with only three healthy receivers after Chester Rogers suffered a season-ending knee injury on the Colts' opening series. Chad Williams was promoted from the practice squad earlier this week and the Colts could get more help if rookie Parris Campbell (hand) can play.
IN HIS SIGHTS
Arians has not committed to making Jameis Winston the long-term answer at quarterback for the Bucs.
Pro Bowl linebacker Darius Leonard thinks Winston has everything it takes to thrive in that role, though.
The Colts' defensive leader provided his own scouting report, full of the intangibles he witnessed as the two worked out together during the offseason.
"He can throw the ball," Leonard said. "I know what kind of guy he is, I know what kind of leader he is and he's throwing the ball to a lot of his receivers. He knows how to make a play down the field. He's definitely one of those great quarterbacks."
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett will meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell within the next 60 days, and one league source expects Garrett to be reinstated from his indefinite suspension at that time. The pass rusher was suspended for the final six games of the 2019 season on Nov. 15 for ripping off Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph's helmet and striking him with it. Garrett will be able to take part in the team's offseason program that starts on April 6 if he's reinstated. He had 10 sacks in 10 games before his suspension and is arguably the Browns best defender when he's on the field. He'll once again be a strong IDP option for the 2020 campaign.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Robert Quinn is likely to be lost in free agency. Defensive tackles Maliek Collins, Christian Covington, Michael Bennett and Kerry Hyder are all set to become free agents in March as well. The Cowboys' top priorities this offseason are re-signing quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and safety Byron Jones. In his first and likely last year in Dallas, Quinn led the team in sacks with 11.5 and recorded 34 total tackles (26 solo) while forcing two fumbles. Quinn has 80.5 career sacks in his nine seasons in the NFL and shouldn't struggle to find suitors if he reaches the open market. Depending on where he lands, he'll likely be a popular IDP pick in 2020 drafts after a career year in 2019.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (shoulder) underwent surgery to fix a partially torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder shortly after the end of the regular season. The typical recovery time for his minor procedure is a couple of months, so Trubisky should be good to go for training camp this summer and the start of the 2020 season. The 25-year-old will start next season as the starting quarterback, but he'll be on a short leash after disappointing in his third year in 2019. Trubisky had a 63.2 completion percentage for 3,138 yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. It was a step back from his sophomore campaign, and he's looking like nothing more than a low-ceiling game manager under center.
Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers is unlikely to return to the team in 2020, in the opinion of FOX Sports' Jay Glazer. However, Glazer clarified comments he made a day earlier about Rivers' future on Tuesday, Jan. 28, stating he did not report that such a decision has already been made.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who can become a free agent in March, remains confident that he will work out a long-term extension with the team. "So when you put that in perspective, my mindset is to be in Dallas. And I've got the confidence in my team to get something done and the confidence in the Cowboys that we'll be able to," Prescott said. The Cowboys are putting Prescott as their No. 1 priority this offseason, but the franchise tag is also an option. The Cowboys disappointed by not making the postseason, but Prescott wasn't the problem. He was the No. 3 QB in terms of fantasy points and threw for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. If he remains in Dallas as expected, he'll be a high-end QB1 for fantasy owners in 2020 and beyond.
Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent QB Dak Prescott said he is confident that he will receive a long-term contract from the Cowboys this offseason.
Fantasy Spin: Prescott was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL this season and finished with 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. He likely will return to the Cowboys next season and can be a No. 1 fantasy quarterback next season.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) said he is optimistic about playing in the NFL again.
Fantasy Spin: Brown is dealing with multiple off-field issues and likely will receive a suspension from the NFL at some point. Fantasy players can monitor the situation during the offseason, but Brown would be a risky fantasy option if he signs with a team.
Updating a previous story from Monday, the Los Angeles Chargers haven't officially moved on from quarterback Philip Rivers, as FOX Sports' Jay Glazer alluded to. All options remain available with the veteran gunslinger, including the franchise tag. However, the fact that Rivers moved his family 2,000 miles away from Los Angeles to Florida could factor into the decision on both sides. The writing seems to be on the wall for the Bolts to cut ties with Rivers when he becomes a free agent this March. The 38-year-old had one of the worst seasons of his career in 2019 in his 16th and likely final season with the Chargers. Rivers can still put up numbers as he gets closer to retirement, but fantasy owners will likely be drafting him as a backup for the 2020 season, no matter where he winds up.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is eligible for an contract extension, but team chairman Clark Hunt said the two sides may not reach an agreement this offseason. Hunt said signing Mahomes to an extension is a priority, but it needs to be at the right time for both sides.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and will receive a new deal at some point. He should be one of the first quarterbacks selected in all fantasy drafts in 2020.
Kansas City Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said the team could wait until next year to sign quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a long-term contract extension. "I don't want to say necessarily it has to be this offseason, but I will say that it's a priority to get him done," Hunt said. A first-round pick in 2017, Mahomes is eligible for a contract extension now that he's finished his third year in the NFL, but it sounds like the Chiefs aren't exactly in a hurry to get something done. The 24-year-old didn't post the gaudy numbers he had in 2018 -- 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns -- but he was still more than adequate with 4,031 yards, 26 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 14 games. Mahomes is an elite signal-caller with exceptional athleticism with both his arm and legs. He's here to stay as a high-end QB1 and will take on the 49ers in the Super Bowl this Sunday.
Free-agent RB Alex Collins (Ravens) and QB Chris Streveler (CFL) worked out for the Miami Dolphins recently.
San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (knee, hamstring) said he's not 100 percent and will play through pain of knee tendonitis and a hamstring injury in the Super Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy, who hasn't had a touch since Week 15 and who was inactive for the AFC Championship against the Titans, said he's not ready to retire after this season. "Nah, I'm not ready to retire, yet," McCoy said. "I still can play. So, I'm not going to retire yet, but that day is coming. That day is definitely coming." The 31-year-old has taken a back seat to running backs Damien Williams and rookie Darwin Thompson down the stretch, and he's unlikely to have much of a role, if any, in the Super Bowl against the 49ers. Shady has become more of a mentor in the running back room than an on-field performer for fantasy owners.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) said his injured shoulder is feeling good but wants to see how his range of motion is and how he will be able to manage the pain in his shoulder.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor Coleman's practice participation this week to see if he will be in any danger of missing the Super Bowl. He will be part of a committee if he plays and can be a flex option.
Los Angeles Chargers impending free-agent QB Philip Rivers' status with the Chargers is uncertain at this time, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The team may consider placing the franchise tag on him or let him leave in free agency.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor the situation to see where Rivers will be playing in 2020. He likely will find a starting job this offseason but may only be a No. 2 quarterback in fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (shoulder) said he has been playing the last two seasons with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and does not plan to have surgery on the shoulder.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle seems to be playing fine despite the injury and continues to be an important part of the running and passing game. He continues to be one of the top tight ends in the NFL and is a must-start fantasy option.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (shoulder) said that he's been playing through a torn labrum in his right shoulder since the start of the 2018 season. "So I dislocated my shoulder last year," Kittle said Sunday on the Pardon My Take podcast, "and my labrum is completely torn. So I don't get surgery on it -- [The protective sleeve] basically helps me, so it doesn't hurt all the time." He didn't miss any games in 2018 and set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377. Kittle said there's "no chance" he has surgery in the future. The 26-year-old has been quiet in the postseason with four catches for 35 yards in two games, but the Niners haven't really needed him with their ground game humming. That could change in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2.
Free-agent WR Tommylee Lewis (Lions) signed a Reserve/Future contract with the New Orleans Saints Monday, Jan. 27. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Chicago Bears WR Taylor Gabriel could be released this offseason since the team could save $4.5 million in salary cap space.
Fantasy Spin: Gabriel struggled with concussions this season but can be a role in an offense because of his playmaking abilities. He probably will be avoided in most fantasy leagues no matter where he plays in 2020.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, who will be a free agent in March, emotionally admitted that he would fail a drug test to a police officer during a traffic stop recently. This was caught on video of the police officer's dash cam during the traffic stop. Hunt also admitted that the small amounts of marijuana found in the car were his, but the officer let Hunt off with just the speeding ticket. It remains to be seen if the NFL will consider a suspension for the 24-year-old from this incident. Hunt was released by the Chiefs during the 2018 season due to a domestic-violence incident, and he served a suspension before making his Browns debut in 2019. If he signs with another team this offseason and is given bell-cow duties in the backfield, Hunt could have RB1 upside.