Thu Oct 3 3:03pm ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (84) celebrates a a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders with quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) during the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) hands off to running back Darrel Williams (31) for a 1-yard touchdown rush during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) reacts after a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The primetime showdown Sunday between the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs was supposed to be a matchup of Super Bowl contenders with young quarterbacks poised to begin a rivalry that could stretch the next decade or more.
Then the Colts' Andrew Luck announced his stunning retirement and all bets were off.
But the most curious of things has happened through the first four weeks of the season: Jacoby Brissett has not only filled in quite admirably for the departed Luck, he has thrived under Colts coach Frank Reich to the point that he, too, is considered a potential star going forward.
Suddenly, that matchup of Super Bowl contenders is back on. And so is that matchup between young quarterbacks, only with Brissett going head-to-head with reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes.
''Jacoby has really been sharp, really No. 1 just from a perspective of competitiveness and poise, and I think he's passing his first test here with flying colors," Reich said. ''Nothing is too big for him. He seems the most poised in the biggest moments. Physically, he's showing his accuracy is very good and his ability to extend plays is very good. And mentally he's handling our offense."
Just so happens that those traits are what have made Mahomes special, too.
Brissett has thrown for more than 900 yards with 10 touchdowns and two picks, helping the Colts (2-2) off to a solid start. But there is still a yawning gap from Brissett to Mahomes, who has thrown for 1,510 yards with 10 touchdowns and no picks in helping Kansas City start 4-0.
''It's honestly just, play our game. You can't get into the game where you're playing offense versus offense or defense versus defense, things like that," Brissett said. ''Just go out there and play football. You put your best foot forward."
The Colts struggled to do that the previous time they visited Arrowhead Stadium.
Indianapolis rolled into town in January for a divisional playoff matchup, and the Chiefs rolled to a 24-7 halftime lead. Mahomes wound up throwing for nearly 300 yards, the Chiefs held Luck to a tick over 200 yards passing, and Kansas City won 31-13 - its first home playoff win in 25 years.
''Any time you get to play at Arrowhead Stadium it's exciting," Mahomes said, ''but from the experience I got the last few years from primetime games, how the fans show up and they're loud, it's going to be an awesome feeling out there."
As the Chiefs prepare for just their second home game of the season, and the first of three primetime games in a four-week stretch, here are some things to know:
Indianapolis safety Malik Hooker tore the meniscus in his knee two weeks ago and the other starter, Clayton Geathers, was diagnosed with a concussion following last week's loss to Oakland.
So, the Colts have spent this week putting together backup plans. Khari Willis replaced Hooker in the lineup last week while George Odum and Rolan Milligan are next on the depth chart, though the Colts have toyed with using cornerback Quincy Wilson at safety.
''He's played multiple spots for us," defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. ''He's played in the dime package over certain guys and played in our pressure packages at times. We're going to look at him there. He's certainly an option."
Brissett and Mahomes are tied for the league lead in touchdown pass, and some are already making comparisons. But if Brissett gets the chance Sunday, he may sneak a peek or two at reigning MVP.
''It's kind of cool to see some of the stuff he does," Brissett said. ''Hopefully he doesn't do it this week, but the things he can do with the ball, it's very impressive. You just watch and you are like, `Yeah, I can't do that. But it's fun to see somebody else do that."
Colts defensive end Justin Houston spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Chiefs, setting all kinds of records. On Sunday, he'll be using the visiting locker room for the first time.
General manager Chris Ballard, who got to know Houston during his tenure in Kansas City, jumped at the chance to sign the 2014 league sacks champion in hopes of helping the pass rush. He has been productive, recording 11 tackles, three quarterback hits, one sack and recovering one fumble.
''We know certain things to take him out of the game because we've gone up against him here in practice," Chiefs offensive guard Andrew Wylie said. ''Our tackles are really cued into his strengths."
SPEAKING OF BALLARD
Chiefs coach Andy Reid heaped praise on Ballard, a longtime friend, for constructing a roster in Indianapolis that could deal with Luck's retirement so close to the start of the season.
''They've got good leadership with Chris, obviously, and in their front office," Reid said. ''They have a quarterback with over a 100 rating. He's doing a heck of a job. We liked him coming out. He did well in New England. They're all doing well over there."
Veteran cornerback Morris Claiborne is expected on the field for the Chiefs for the first time this season after serving a four-game ban for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Claiborne is coming off a productive two-year run with the New York Jets, and he is expected to eventually take over the starting cornerback job opposite Bashaud Breeland in the Chiefs' base defense.
''He has a lot to bring to this team," Breeland said. ''We're all excited to get him out there."
The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a one-year deal with tight end Demetrius Harris on Wednesday, according to sources. Harris was cut by the Browns recently and spent time with head coach Matt Nagy when they were both with the Chiefs. The 28-year-old caught just 15 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 despite David Njoku missing most of the year with an injury in Cleveland. Chicago was looking to upgrade their tight end room after both Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen missed large chunks of last season due to injuries. Harris will have an opportunity with his new team, but it's still unlikely he has a huge pass-catching role is Burton and Shaheen are on the field.
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and intends to continue his playing career in 2020, according to sources. Reed suffered a reported seventh concussion of his career in the preseason and didn't play at all in 2019. He expects to be released by the Redskins in the coming days, but he wants to continue playing. Washington would save $8.5 million against the salary cap if they release Reed by June 1, and he would count $10.3 million toward the cap if he stays. Only 29 years old, it remains to be seen if he has anything left if he keeps playing after the 'Skins inevitably release him. It will depend on where he lands, but Reed probably won't even be touched as a TE2 in fall drafts.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen is likely to remain with the team heading into the 2020 season. However, his future in Miami doesn't look bright with Ryan Fitzpatrick coming back for another year and the Dolphins widely expected to take a franchise signal-caller with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the draft. It's clear that the team doesn't view Rosen, 23, as the future under center at this point. The former 2018 first-round pick was acquired from the Cardinals before last season, but he couldn't beat out Fitzpatrick and will have to learn another new offense, one that Fitzpatrick is familiar with. Unless something unexpected happens this summer, Rosen will open up the 2020 season holding a clipboard again.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly (Achilles), who is coming off a torn Achilles that ended his 2019 season prematurely, is expected to be ready for Week 1. Dissly was on the fantasy map as a TE1 with 23 catches for 262 yards and four touchdowns in six games before his injury, but he's played in just 10 games in his two seasons with Seattle because of injuries. On top of that, the Seahawks signed veteran Greg Olsen on Wednesday. Olsen and Dissly could form a strong one-two punch at tight end in 2020, but Dissly is unlikely to be a consistent fantasy performer unless Olsen misses time with an injury, which is entirely possible.
The Minnesota Vikings aren't releasing wide receiver Stefon Diggs, although they could get calls from other teams to see if they are interested in trading him. But the odds remain long that Diggs would be traded, as he's under contract through 2023 with reasonable salaries. This comes after Diggs removed Vikings photos from his social media. Minnesota is also in win-now mode, so they'll need Diggs to remain a contender going into the 2020 season and beyond. The 26-year-old can be a bit much at times, but he put up his second straight 1,000-yard season last year and added six touchdowns and a career-high 17.9 yards per catch. He produced for fantasy owners with Adam Thielen (hamstring) nursing an injury last year and should be a solid WR2 target going into fall drafts.
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said the team will be changing some things in quarterback Baker Mayfield's footwork this offseason "to help him." One specific thing is that they will have Mayfield put his left foot in front instead of his right foot out of the shotgun when he takes the snap. Van Pelt thinks it will help Mayfield be more fluid in his three-stop drop out of the shotgun formation. High expectations were placed on Mayfield and the Browns in his second season, and he failed to live up to them, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. as his No. 1 receiver. There's still time for the 24-year-old to bounce back in a new offensive scheme, but fantasy owners will be drafting him as a QB2 this fall.
The Washington Redskins exercised the 2020 team option on running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday. Peterson led the team in attempts (211), rushing yards (898) and rushing touchdowns (five) in 2019 and will enter the 2020 season having started in 154 of the 164 games he's appeared in. The veteran is ranked eighth in NFL history in rushing attempts (3,036) and sixth in yards per game (86.7). He needs 1,054 rushing yards to pass Barry Sanders for fourth on the all-time list and needs 13 rushing TDs to pass Marcus Allen for No. 3. Peterson is a seven-time Pro Bowler and four time first-team All-Pro, but he'll take a back seat to Derrius Guice next year if Guice can stay healthy.
The Seattle Seahawks are signing former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen to a one-year, $7 million deal on Tuesday, according to a source. The deal includes $5.5 million in guarantees. Olsen visited with the Bills and Redskins before making the decision to go to Seattle. Will Dissly ruptured his Achilles in 2019, Ed Dickson is a candidate to be released and Luke Willson (unrestricted) and Jacob Hollister (restricted) are free agents. Olsen, a three-time Pro Bowler in 13 NFL seasons, should be the team's primary pass-catching tight end and will have low-end TE1 value with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing him passes. He was the first tight end in history to have 1,000 yards receiving in three straight seasons from 2014-16, but the 34-year-old (35 in March) has dealt with injuries in recent seasons.
Impending free-agent DE Jadeveon Clowney (Seahawks) once to be one of the highest-paid defensive players - if not the highest-paid - with a contract that will set the market for his position, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.
Impending free-agent TE Jason Witten (Cowboys) made it clear to reporters Tuesday, Feb. 18, that he intends to play next season and hopes to do so with the Dallas Cowboys, although he is not opposed to finishing his career somewhere else. He is hoping to make a more concrete decision about his future following the NFL Scouting Combine next week.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who will be a free agent next month, wants to play another season and hopes he can remain with the Cowboys. However, Witten understands that he might have to go elsewhere if he wants to play in a 17th NFL season. The veteran tight end has met with new head coach Mike McCarthy and has talked with owners Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones. Witten hauled in 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 in his return from a one-year absence from the game. He's headed into his age-38 season, and while he can still give something to a team, he won't be anything more than a touchdown-dependent, low-end TE2 if he plays again in 2020 for the Cowboys or another squad.
Impending free-agent LB Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) could receive in upwards of $20 million per season on his next contract, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may ultimately decide to use the franchise tag on him if the two sides are unable to come to a long-term agreement before the start of free agency.
Denver Broncos QB Joe Flacco (neck) recently got good news after undergoing an MRI. As a result, he is expected to be physically cleared to return to action this season, although there is some question as to whether or not he will be back with Denver, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Impending free-agent RB Kareem Hunt 'expects to be in the (Cleveland) Browns' plans next year,' according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make an attempt to re-sign linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL in 2019 with 19.5 sacks in his first year with the team. Barrett, who is scheduled to be a free agent in March, would be looking at potentially $20 million per season on the open market, so it won't be easy for the Buccaneers to retain him. If they choose to, Tampa could place the franchise tag on Barrett to ensure that he's around for at least one more season. In addition to the 19.5 sacks, the 27-year-old pass rusher had a career-high 58 tackles (45 solo), six forced fumbles and one interception. In his four seasons with Denver prior to 2019, Barrett had a combined 14 sacks.
An MRI exam taken on Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco (back) last week showed encouraging results, but his agent, Joe Linta, is seeking a second opinion from spine specialist Dr. Andrew Dossett. "Joe has every intention to play but not at the risk of his long-term health," Linta said Tuesday. Flacco went on season-ending Injured Reserve with a bulging disc in his neck after the team's eighth game of last season. The veteran QB has two years at $20.25 million and $24.25 million left on his contract, which will be way too high as a backup quarterback. The Broncos could either restructure Flacco's contract, trade him or release him. The 35-year-old would be Drew Lock's backup in Denver if he stays, and he'd be auditioning for a backup job on the open market as well, most likely.
The Atlanta Falcons signed kicker Younghoe Koo and punter Ryan Allen to one-year contract extensions on Tuesday. Koo, 25, played in the team's final eight games in 2019 after the club parted ways with veteran Matt Bryant. He made 23 of his 26 field-goal attempts and made 15 of his 16 extra points. Koo made his only field-goal try from 50-plus yards and was also pretty successful with onside kicks in the second half of the season. In an Atlanta offense that could easily bounce back in 2020, Koo could be a fantasy sleeper at the kicking position heading into drafts.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt expects to be in the team's plans for 2020 despite admitting that he would fail a drug test during a routine traffic stop. Hunt is a restricted free agent, so he's hoping Cleveland will place a first-round tender on him or try to sign him to a long-term deal. The 24-year-old was suspended for the first eight games last year for a domestic-violence incident, and he took a back seat to Nick Chubb in the ground game. However, he was used consistently as a passer out of the backfield with 37 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown through the air. If he returns, he'll continue to have RB3/flex appeal in PPR leagues behind Chubb.
Free-agent TE Greg Olsen (Panthers) is signing a one-year, $7 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks, according to a source. The deal includes $5.5 million in guaranteed money.
Fantasy Spin: Olsen turns 35 in March and has a history of injuries in recent seasons, which makes him a risky option in any fantasy setting. The addition helps QB Russell Wilson the most and hurts TE Will Dissly (Achilles), whose outlook already was questionable after consecutive seasons ending due to major injuries. Olsen is a fringe starter in 12-team fantasy leagues but has limited upside, substantial risk, and figures to be inconsistent given all of Seattle's other ways to attack.
The New Orleans Saints seem likely to give quarterback Taysom Hill, who will be a restricted free agent in March, at least a first- or second-round tender offer now that Drew Brees has announced he will return for at least one more season. Teddy Bridgewater is expected to have a big market in free agency and seems destined to leave town now that Brees is returning, so Hill would be in line as the heir apparent if Brees hangs up his cleats after the 2020 season. Hill attempted just six passes last year despite Brees missing time with injury, and it remains to be seen if they really believe he can be a franchise signal-caller in the long-term. He's a great Swiss Army knife for the Saints, but he probably won't have much fantasy appeal in redraft leagues next season unless Bridgewater leaves and Brees misses more games due to injury.