Wed Oct 16 3:58pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Oct. 6, 2019, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws a pass during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Kansas City, Mo. Mahomes has thrown 202 consecutive passes without an interception. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) scores a touchdown next to tight end Jordan Akins (88) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) reacts with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay runs with the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) does a flip as he celebrates a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
DENVER (AP) Keeping Patrick Mahomes on the sideline has worked wonders for Kansas City's opponents, providing a blueprint for the Broncos on Thursday night as they seek their first win over the Chiefs in four years.
''Every game has its own personality,'' cautioned Broncos coach Vic Fangio .
Every team also builds its own reputation, and the Chiefs (4-2) have a dud of a defense to go along with that firecracker offense. Exploit that and the Broncos (2-4) can jump right back into the AFC West race after their September stumble.
Over the past four weeks, the Chiefs, who have lost two in a row after a 4-0 start, have allowed an average of 190 rushing yards and 4.97 yards a carry as their opponents piled up eight TD runs.
''We have to fix it,'' Chiefs coach Andy Reid said.
The Chiefs have allowed a 100-yard rusher in four consecutive weeks, and it would have been five if not for the Raiders' Josh Jacobs' hydration problems - he finished with 99 yards on just 12 carries.
''I mean, look, there's just one area we don't feel great about and it's stopping the run,'' said first-year coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who has transitioned the Chiefs from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. ''We don't want to be looking at the number of run plays, the yardage they're putting up with runs - somehow, some way we have to figure it out. Until we stop it, we're going to see it.''
Up next are the Broncos, winners of two straight and the NFL's only team that sports two running backs each with at least 400 scrimmage yards. But if Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, who have accounted for 973 yards so far, are relishing the matchup, they're masking it pretty good.
''Every game in the NFL is tough,'' Lindsay said.
Freeman looked at the rushing totals the Chiefs have allowed the past four weeks: Ravens (203), Lions (186), Colts (180) and Texans (192), and shrugged.
''Every team goes out there and they make their adjustments week to week,'' Freeman said. ''You've got to assume they're going to go out there and try to switch things up. Plus, we have a short week, so you never know what to expect.''
Just look at Denver's defense , which found a quick fix to its run game problems. After allowing Leonard Fournette to go wild as the Jaguars piled up 269 yards on them, the Broncos allowed just 35 yards to the Chargers and 39 to the Titans.
''It's the NFL. Guys change things every week,'' Freeman said. ''Our defense has done a great job flipping the script.''
It's time for Denver's offense to do likewise, he added.
The Broncos are averaging just 17.6 points. Even during their two-game skid, the Chiefs averaged 18.5 points despite losing the time of possession by an average of 38 minutes to 22 minutes.
Other subplots as the Broncos try to snap a seven-game skid and beat Kansas City for the first time since Sept. 17, 2015:
Tyreek Hill had two TD grabs last week in his return from a broken collarbone. The Chiefs were without Sammy Watkins because of a hamstring injury, and they'll be missing him again against Denver, where DB Kendall Fuller (thumb), DT Chris Jones (core muscle), LT Eric Fisher (core muscle) and LG Andrew Wylie (ankle) are all out.
SANDERS GOOD TO GO
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders returns from a sore knee that knocked him out last week. Sanders has caught just two passes for 9 yards the past two weeks. Sanders' injury in his third in a year (ACL, ankle).
Reid and Fangio are the same age - 61. Reid is in his 28th NFL season, 21 as a head coach and is seeking his 200th regular-season win. Fangio is in his 33rd NFL season but first as a head coach. ''He's one of the special defensive minds of the game,'' said Reid, who knows all about Fangio's reputation.
Mahomes is 2-0 in Denver, winning his first career start on Dec. 31, 2017, when he left a 24-10 lead to No. 3 QB Tyler Bray but returned to salvage a 27-24 win with a last-minute field-goal drive. Last year, he led the Chiefs to a 27-23 win with more fourth-quarter heroics and his famous left-handed throw to avoid a sack.
Von Miller isn't the Broncos' sacks leader. It's backup DE DeMarcus Walker, who has three sacks after getting just one in each of his first two seasons. His first came against Mahomes when both were rookies.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) and tight end Eric Ebron (ankle) both remained sidelined for Tuesday's estimation of their practice report. The Colts aren't ruling Hilton out for a return on Thursday night against the Texans, but fantasy owners would like to see him at least get in a limited session on Wednesday. While he's been out since Week 8, Hilton would have high-end WR2 upside against a weak Texans secondary if he were to return this week. He's been notorious for having huge games against Houston in the past. Ebron looks to be in danger of sitting out on the short week. If that were to happen, Jack Doyle would have low-end TE1 appeal after throwing up a donut in Week 11. Zach Pascal has been the team's primary receiver in Hilton's absence, but he's a low-upside flex in this run-first offense.
Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (knee) recently underwent a second surgery on his knee and is not expected to play this season. Brown is expected to be ready for the start of the offseason program, however.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion, knee), WR DIontae Johnson (concussion) and DE Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (concussion) were officially placed in the league's concussion protocol Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Los Angeles Rams WR Brandin Cooks (concussion) is expected to return from a two-game absence and play in Week 12 versus the Baltimore Ravens.
Fantasy Spin: Such news in previous years would have been cause for celebration, but Cooks' poor production this season - mostly due to the regression Jared Goff has experienced - makes the 26-year-old receiver a risky fantasy starter, especially given the matchup. There's also the matter of Cooks' troubling history with concussions, and the fact one more in 2019 could put his season - if not his career - in some jeopardy.
Arizona Cardinals RB Chase Edmonds (hamstring) was held out of practice again Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Fantasy Spin: It was likely a light session with the upcoming bye week, suggesting Edmonds isn't anywhere close to a return. Kenyan Drake appears to have taken control of the backfield for now, but we'll see if David Johnson can use the time off to close the gap and earn back some touches.
Indianapolis Colts CB Pierre Desir (hamstring) is expected to be a game-time decision for Week 12 against the Houston Texans on Thursday, Nov. 21.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill (hamstring) will have an MRI on his hamstring in the next day or so, and there will be a better timetable after that.
Fantasy Spin: The Chiefs are on a bye in Week 12, and it's possible that he could avoid missing time. However, hamstrings are usually multiple-week issues.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (hamstring) will undergo an MRI exam on his hamstring in the next day or so, according to a source. At that point they'll have a better idea for a timeline. Hill missed both of his targets on Monday night against the Chargers before leaving the game and never returning, so it was a tough pill to swallow for his fantasy owners. The good news is that the Chiefs are on their bye in Week 12, so Hill may not end up missing any games as long as his MRI yields positive results. If he's forced to miss time, Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson would once again be attractive flexes in deeper leagues behind Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (hamstring) was not seen at the portion of practice open to the media on Tuesday. The Cardinals are going on their bye in Week 12, so Edmonds will have another week to rest up. He's been out since Oct. 27 against the Saints. In the meantime, the Cardinals signed Kenyan Drake, and he has now leaped an injured David Johnson on the running back depth chart. Edmonds could get some run in Week 13 if he's ready and DJ is still slowed by his injuries, but Edmonds is still unlikely to have any standalone value the rest of the way. He can be left to the waiver wire in most leagues.
Free-agent TE Orson Charles (Broncos) re-signed with the Denver Broncos on an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Nov. 19. FB Andy Janovich (arm) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) can play Thursday, Nov. 21, if he receives medical clearance from doctors and clearance from the team, according to head coach Frank Reich.
Fantasy Spin: It's still pretty questionable with the short week. Hilton would be a WR2 against the Houston Texans.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he's "excited about the potential return" of rookie running back Benny Snell Jr. (knee) for Week 12 against the Bengals. Snell has missed the last two games and will be evaluated in practice this week. The 21-year-old has 28 rushing attempts for 118 yards in five games this season. He could have a role in the team's backfield if he returns this weekend if James Conner (shoulder) remains sidelined, but Jaylen Samuels would still likely see most of the touches as Pittsburgh's lead back. Snell is only worth stashing in deeper leagues if you own either Conner or Samuels.
Retired tight end Rob Gronkowski won't rule out a return to football in the future, but he has no plans to come back in 2019. If he had planned to return to football this season, Gronk would have to do so by Nov. 30, per league rules. The Patriots offense could surely use Gronkowski on the field this year, as they predictably haven't gotten much production from the tight end position without him. The combination of Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo and Benjamin Watson has left a lot to be desired. The veteran Watson has become the primary pass-catching tight end of late, but he's a low-end TE2 for fantasy purposes. It looks like the Pats will continue to roll with Watson for the foreseeable future.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (knee) is expected to play in Week 12 against the New England Patriots. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones himself is the source here, who said he expects his top wide receiver to play in a huge game against the 9-1 Patriots. Cooper played on just 55 percent of offensive snaps in Week 11, but Jones stating this early in the week that Cooper will play could be good news. Fantasy owners should keep a close eye on practice reports this week to see how limited Cooper is leading up to Sunday.
The Miami Dolphins waived running back Mark Walton on Tuesday morning. Walton was already suspended for violating the league's personal conduct policy, but the Dolphins were, "made aware of a police matter earlier this morning regarding Walton" according to Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier. Kalen Ballage will continue as the lead back for the Dolphins presumably for the rest of the season. Walton, still only 22 years old, may already be running out of chances in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns FS Morgan Burnett (Achilles') was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Michael Badgley took advantage of the thin air in Mexico City and drilled a 49-yarder, the second longest good kick of his career. While Badgley did barely miss a 40-yard shot in the first quarter, he was able to make kicks from 27, 26, and 49 yards on the night. Badgley's leg kept LA in the game since their offense sputtered terribly once they were staring down the goal line, but unfortunately, the Chargers fell to the Chiefs anyway. Badgley has made 80% of his field goal tries and all of his extra points since he returned from a severe groin injury. He's not a superstar or Mr. Dependable, but he's getting the job done well enough for an LA franchise that struggled with kicking woes for years.
Los Angeles Chargers safety Rayshawn Jenkins made a slashing leap in front of a Chiefs receiver to snag his third interception of the year on Monday night. The pick was just the second one of the season for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and LA is the first defense this season to hold Mahomes under 200 yards passing when he played a full game. Unfortunately, failures on the offensive side of the ball cost the Chargers the game even though the defense held KC to just 24 total points. While it looks like the season is a wash for LA, their defense can still be useful if they can play like that more often.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen finally ended his touchdown drought. In the third quarter of Monday night's loss to the Chiefs, Allen was able to snag a quick pass and dive his way through a couple of defenders to get the score. It was Allen's first touchdown in eight games, and his 71 yards receiving are the most he's posted since Week 3. After a monster start to the year, Allen has become a ghost. While it's easy to blame it on Allen, it's starting to look like the problem originates with Philip Rivers instead. Rivers appears to be getting real old real fast, and that could explain why Allen, traditionally the team's outside man, has gotten lost in the shuffle.