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FFL: Offseason | NFL: Offseason

As Eagles return to Super Bowl site, Vikes await in key game

Thu Oct 10 5:09pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer

Players: Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs, Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer watches from the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


In this Feb. 4, 2018, file photo, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor, right, catches a pass next to New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game in Minneapolis. The Eagles return to Minnesota this week for their first game there since winning the Super Bowl almost two years ago. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)


Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) celebrate after a touchdown against the New York Giants during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)


Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson follows the action at the NFL football team's practice facility in Philadelphia, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) When the Philadelphia Eagles arrive in Minnesota, their first visit since winning Super Bowl 52, there might be some subtle reminders at U.S. Bank Stadium of the scene that night when the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy was secured.

They'll have to look and think hard, though. The interior decoration will be different, downtown Minneapolis won't be decked out for the seminal event, and while the air might be chilly there won't be below-zero temperatures like that frosty week in early February 2018.

Two seasons later is like an eternity in the what-have-you-done-lately NFL, so don't expect the Eagles (3-2) to treat this game on Sunday against the Vikings (3-2) as a stop on some nostalgia tour of the Twin Cities area.

''It's a great place. Obviously, we had success the last time, but this is different. Crowd is going to be different. Environment is going to be different. It's a noon game,'' coach Doug Pederson said. ''We have to get ourselves ready to play a good football team, and obviously the crowd will be in their favor.''

The Eagles reached that Super Bowl, of course, by blowing out the Vikings in the NFC championship game in Philadelphia. Watching the Eagles celebrate on their home turf two weeks later was tough to take, but the Vikings were at least able to get any lingering bitterness out of their system last fall with a victory in Philadelphia.

''No real ill feelings. They won fair and square,'' wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. ''So that was more like a last year thing when we got to play them again. But this year is just like going to another game, trying to prepare the right way and just get a win.''

Here are some key angles to the game:

GROUND CHALLENGE

The Eagles have the NFL's top run defense since 2016 and are allowing a league-low 63 rushing yards per game this season, but the Vikings will present their greatest challenge on the ground yet. Dalvin Cook is second in the NFL with 542 rushing yards, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt, and Alexander Mattison has chipped in with 189 yards on an average of 5.6 yards per carry.

''It looks like they've clicked the speed of the film up a little bit. They're making big plays everywhere. It's not just Dalvin Cook,'' Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, adding: ''We're a pretty strong run defense. They're a pretty strong run offense. It's going to be a great matchup.''

The Eagles were interested in Cook in the 2017 draft, but he went to the Vikings at No. 41 overall, two ahead of Philadelphia's spot in the second round.

''I really liked his explosiveness, not only with the ball in his hands, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield,'' Pederson said. ''There was a lot of explosive plays on his tape. I was really comfortable with him, and we were close to pulling the trigger on that one.''

SACK ATTACK

The Eagles' pass rush busted out of a slump in a big way by recording 10 sacks against the New York Jets last week after only registering three in the first four games. Defensive end Brandon Graham had a career-best three sacks and cornerback Orlando Scandrick had two sacks plus two forced fumbles, one that he returned for a touchdown in his first game in Philadelphia.

''I'm just happy we all went out there and had one of those games we've been dreaming about as a defensive line,'' Graham said. ''We're coming together at the right time, especially after all of the emotional games we have played. We have to keep it going. We have a lot of people that were new. We need everybody.''

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has been sacked 11 times this year, is plenty familiar with the Eagles and their front seven from his time playing them twice per season with Washington.

''I have so much respect for their pass rush. Every time I've played them, you know what they can do and the effect they can have on a game,'' Cousins said. ''I think it was a big reason why so many of those guys have Super Bowl rings, because of the way they can rush the passer.''

ALL RIGHT NOW

Diggs created a stir last week by missing practice, an absence that drew him a fine of more than $200,000, and later acknowledging his dissatisfaction with the state of the team in light of an ugly loss at Chicago during which Cousins and the passing game faltered. After the Vikings beat the New York Giants last week, though, the good vibes were back in the locker room, and Diggs said he never wanted out.

''I wasn't unhappy or uncomfortable with my role. I said I wanted to win. That's where my frustrations were,'' Diggs said.

PIVOTAL GAME

With 11 of the 16 teams in the NFC toting two or fewer losses, the competition for six spots in the playoffs over the final two-thirds of the season has set up to be as fierce as ever. As far as mid-October games go, this one will carry a lot of weight for both the Eagles and the Vikings, both in their respective division standings and for wild-card capital that could be useful in a crowded race down the stretch.

Since the 12-team postseason format was first used by the NFL in 1990, a total of 134 of 213 teams (62.9 percent) to win four of their first six games have gone on to make the playoffs. The number of postseason qualifiers dropped to 78 of 216 teams (36.1 percent) that have won three of their first six games.

''They're trying to catch momentum just as we are, coming off a win, so it's going to be a good one,'' Diggs said.

Player Notes
Dwayne Haskins Feb 27 3:40pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Tom Brady Feb 27 1:50pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Ryan Kerrigan Feb 27 1:40pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Jadeveon Clowney Feb 27 1:30pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Graham Feb 27 12:30pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Frank Clark Feb 27 12:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Tom Brady Feb 27 12:10pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Josh Norman Feb 26 11:50pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Marquise Goodwin Feb 26 11:40pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Feb 26 11:30pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Case Keenum Feb 26 3:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Von Miller Feb 26 1:50pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Chase Daniel Feb 26 1:20pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Amari Cooper Feb 26 12:50pm ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Leighton Vander Esch Feb 26 10:20am ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Tua Tagovailoa Feb 26 10:10am ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Baker Mayfield Feb 26 10:00am ET

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.

From RotoBaller

David Njoku Feb 26 1:50am ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Garoppolo Feb 26 1:40am ET

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.

From RotoBaller

Dante Pettis Feb 26 1:30am ET

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.

From RotoBaller