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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Superbowl

Sweep of Texans key to Titans' 1st AFC South title since '08

Thu Dec 12 4:40pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer

Players: Ryan Tannehill, DeAndre Hopkins, Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry, Deshaun Watson

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is pressured by Denver Broncos linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (97) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson (22) breaks up a pass intended for Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)


Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel watches during the first half of an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Titans in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) scores past Oakland Raiders free safety Erik Harris (25) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have some very simple math to clinch their first AFC South title since 2008 and second playoff berth in three seasons.

Sweep the Houston Texans.

The Titans (8-5) have won four straight and six of seven to have a chance at the postseason after a 2-4 start in a season salvaged after the switch at quarterback from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. How much better this season becomes depends on what they do Sunday when they host the Texans, the first of two games between these teams in the final three weeks.

Titans cornerback Logan Ryan says the old cliche of one week at a time has helped them put together a nice streak. Ryan says that string won't help against Houston (8-5).

“We got to handle Houston," Ryan said. "Just like in years past we never could win in Indy, and we won in Indy. We're due to have a bad upset in Oakland, and we didn't. So I just think we're taking it one week at a time, and we've got a big matchup with their receiving corps coming to town, and Deshaun Watson, so I think that's enough on our plate.”

Beating the Raiders 42-2 1, combined with Houston's surprise 38-24 loss to Denver last week is what allowed Tennessee to tie the Texans atop the division. The Texans currently have the tiebreaker thanks to a better conference record. The Titans' first sweep in this rivalry since 2007 would give Tennessee the division title.

The stakes are equally as big for Houston, with the Texans trying to win their fourth AFC South title in six seasons under coach Bill O'Brien. The Texans host Tennessee in the regular-season finale.

���You just always want to be in your own driver's seat and control your own destiny,” Texans linebacker D.J. Reader said. “That's all you can ask for.”

HENRY'S HAMSTRING

Derrick Henry is second in the NFL with a career-high 1,243 yards rushing, and he's tied for the league lead with 13 TDs rushing. He also has a pair of TD catches. But his left hamstring has had him on the injury report now three straight weeks. Even though Henry said Thursday he will be ready Sunday, he obviously was affected last week even as he notched his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game.

Henry's longest run was a 24-yarder, the type he might threaten to take to the end zone in previous weeks. Did the hamstring slow him down?

“I was just trying to be nice,” Henry said.

DEFENDING HOPKINS

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is coming off a season-high 120 yards receiving last week along with a touchdown. He has the NFL's second-longest streak with 16 straight games with at least five or more receptions. The Titans will be trying to defend Hopkins with a banged-up secondary.

Safety Kenny Vaccaro currently is in the concussion protocol after being knocked out of last week's game. Starting cornerback Adoree' Jackson missed that game with an injured foot. Cornerback LeShaun Sims practiced fully Thursday after his right ankle kept him out of the last two games. Look for Ryan to stick closely to Hopkins.

PILING UP TACKLES

Houston linebacker Zach Cunningham leads the team with a career-high 114 tackles and his 79 solo tackles are also first among the Texans. The third-year player tied a career-high with 16 tackles last week and has five games this season with at least 10 tackles. Cunningham has 39 tackles since Week 12, most in the NFL in that span.

“He's really an outstanding player,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Cunningham, a rookie when Vrabel was Houston's defensive coordinator in 2017. “Just to see him grow, he's done a fantastic job.”

BIG PRODUCTION

The Titans rank second in the NFL averaging 31.4 points a game over the past eight weeks, and they're also tied with San Francisco for the most big plays with 62 in that span. The Titans have 32 runs of 10 or more yards and 30 pass completions of 20 yards or longer. The 49ers have their 62 such plays in eight games compared to seven for the Titans.

NOT THIS WEEK

O'Brien gave Vrabel his first coaching job in the NFL, hiring him to work with the linebackers in 2014. Vrabel credits O'Brien with helping him prepare to be an NFL head coach. Not only are the men friends, but their wives are friends. O'Brien said he watches Vrabel's son, Tyler, play weekly at Boston College, and they talk regularly about family.

Not this week.

���I tried to call him this morning, but he didn't call me back,” O'Brien said.

Player Notes
Josh McCown Jan 22 10:20pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Josh McCown spoke with head coach Doug Pederson about a potential role on the coaching staff, but McCown isn't ready to retire just yet. The veteran QB came out of retirement last August to sign a one-year deal with the Eagles. He's currently recovering from a torn hamstring that he suffered in the wild-card loss to the Seahawks. McCown threw only five passes during the regular season and served as a de facto player/coach as Carson Wentz's backup. He has some potential as a future offensive coordinator, but it's unlikely he would immediately be considered as Mike Groh's successor in Philly. Wherever McCown is playing in 2020, he'll strictly be a backup and won't have any fantasy value.

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Travis Kelce Jan 22 8:00pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (knee) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Kelce will be just fine to suit up on Feb. 2 against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. He was the top fantasy tight end in 2019 and hasn't slowed down in the postseason, catching 13 of 16 targets for 164 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans and Titans. Most of that production came in the Divisional Round when he had 10 grabs for 134 yards and three scores, but Kelce can go off at any time and could be the X-factor in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

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Tevin Coleman Jan 22 7:50pm ET

San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) was unable to practice on Wednesday, but the team remains hopeful that he will be available for the Super Bowl against the Chiefs. The team didn't practice on Wednesday, but they were required to submit an estimated practice report. Coleman dislocated his right shoulder in the first half of the NFC Championship against the Packers and played just eight snaps. If he's active for the Super Bowl, Coleman will split snaps with Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers. Matt Breida will be the No. 3 back.

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Jarvis Landry Jan 22 6:20pm ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip), who had a career-high 1,174 receiving yards and six touchdowns on his way to his fifth Pro Bowl selection in six years, said he played the entire 2019 season with a hip injury. "I'm good. I'm good," Landry said. "Just in this recovery process, this rehab process to make sure I can get back to my 100 percent self." The good news is that Landry won't require surgery on his hip in the offseason, and he should be fully healthy in 2020 under new head coach Kevin Stefanski. Cleveland's offense struggled to find consistency last season, but Landry was a consistent bright spot next to Odell Beckham Jr. He should once again be a rock-solid WR2 for owners in PPR leagues.

From RotoBaller

Eli Manning Jan 22 5:20pm ET

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From RotoBaller

Chris Jones Jan 22 4:00pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (calf) should have a bigger role in the Super Bowl against the 49ers after playing just 28 of a possible 66 defensive snaps in the AFC Championship due to a strained calf. "I think he feels pretty good," head coach Andy Reid said. "He didnt have a setback so that was good." That's bad news for a 49ers offense that is expected to run the ball often in the big game. Jones had 36 total tackles (23 solo), nine sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 13 games played this season. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be paramount if Kansas City hopes to slow San Francisco's ground game.

From RotoBaller

Mark Ingram Jan 22 3:50pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (calf) said that his calf is "really good." "(I was) trying to be ready for divisional. Felt good but we just werent able to pull it out," Ingram said. Ingram was hurt in Week 16, sat out of Week 17 and had just six carries for 22 yards in the Divisional Round loss to the Titans. He was more than effective for fantasy owners in his first season in Baltimore, going for his third 1,000-yard season while also scoring 15 total touchdowns (10 rushing, five receiving). Gus Edwards and Justice Hill are more than capable of splitting the workload without Ingram, but he'll continue to carry the load in 2020 as a touchdown-dependent RB2.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick Jan 22 3:50pm ET

Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said he "fully expects" quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to return to the team in 2020. The Dolphins are expected to take a quarterback in the first round of this year's draft at No. 5 overall, with Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa the most likely outcome. However, Fitz played so well in 2019 that the Dolphins wouldn't mind having him under center for one more year while a rookie learns behind him. The 37-year-old journeyman gunslinger completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,529 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 15 games in 2019. While he can go off for big games based on the opponent, Fitz won't be anything more than a QB2 streamer if he's starting games for the Dolphins in 2020.

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Drew Brees Jan 22 3:40pm ET

New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said the team wants quarterback Drew Brees back as long as he wants to keep playing. "No different than its been the last few years, even though hes technically a free agent. "Its easy to take him for granted yet I dont take him for granted," Loomis said. Despite just turning 41 years old, Brees still has some juice left in the tank. He played in just 11 games due to a freak finger injury in 2019, but he still completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 2,979 yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions. The ceiling won't be as high if Brees returns for another season, but he'll still have QB1 upside in the right matchups, mainly at home in the Superdome if he re-signs with the Saints.

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Case Keenum Jan 22 2:10pm ET

Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum believes he's still capable of being a starter in the NFL, but he's not expecting to return to Washington in 2020 with Dwayne Haskins in the picture. The Redskins drafted Haskins with the 15th overall pick in 2019 for a reason. The soon-to-be 32-year-old signal-caller was impressed with the progress that Haskins made toward the end of the season. "I think Dwayne did an incredible job towards the end of the season, adapting and getting a lot better," Keenum said. "I think it's his team moving forward." Haskins has some nice weapons in Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims Jr. and Derrius Guice, but he won't be seen as anything more than an upside QB2 in fantasy drafts this fall.

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Demarcus Robinson Jan 22 2:00pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (illness) won't practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Andy Reid. Robinson should have plenty of time to get healthy for the Super Bowl against the 49ers in two weeks. Aside from a huge six-catch, 172-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Raiders back on Sept. 15, Robinson has done very little this year and is buried on the receiver depth chart behind Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman. In the two postseason games against the Texans and Titans, Robinson has only three catches on six targets for 35 yards. He's a long shot to return any kind of value in the Super Bowl.

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Shaquil Barrett Jan 22 1:30pm ET

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Devin McCourty Jan 22 12:10pm ET

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Devin McCourty Jan 22 9:53am ET

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Matthew Stafford Jan 22 12:43am ET

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back, hip) is 'pretty much at full health,' according to GM Bob Quinn, who adds that the team is 'totally happy and comfortable' with Stafford as their starting quarterback in 2020.

Fantasy Spin: Stafford was playing very good football prior to getting injured and looking like a borderline QB1. Assuming everything progresses as planned with his recovery he'd make a nice backup fantasy quarterback that can step in as needed.

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Hunter Henry Jan 21 11:33pm ET

Impending free-agent TE Hunter Henry is believed to be a candidate for the transition tag if he and the Los Angeles Chargers can't reach a long-term agreement before the start of free agency, according to sources via Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline.

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Jay Gruden Jan 21 11:13pm ET

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Nick Foles Jan 21 10:30pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars plan to hire former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden as their next offensive coordinator, according to sources. A deal isn't officially done, but the Jaguars are very close to adding Gruden in the role. The biggest question for Jacksonville's offense heading into the 2020 season will be who is the starter under center, Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew. Leonard Fournette can be an effective bell-cow back in the backfield if he can stay healthy, while the Jags have a nice three-receiver mix in place of D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. The Jaguars finished 2019 with 341.8 yards per game, 235 passing yards per game, 106.8 rushing yards per game and only 18.8 points per game. Gruden's addition is good news for this very mediocre offense across the board.

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James Looney Jan 21 9:13pm ET

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Yannick Ngakoue Jan 21 9:00pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell seems confident that the team will re-sign defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Jacksonville wants Ngakoue back, and Caldwell said something "should be done hopefully relatively easily." He'd become one of the top pass rushers available if he hits the open market after logging 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits and 42 tackles for loss in 63 games since being a third-round pick in 2016. Retaining Ngakoue is the top priority for the Jaguars this offseason as they look to build their defense back up around the ferocious pass rusher.

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