Thu Oct 10 7:43pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Sept. 8, 2019, file photo, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, in East Rutherford, N.J. Darnold has been cleared by doctors to play this week after he missed three games while recovering from mononucleosis. The Jets announced in a Twitter post that Darnold will start Sunday at home against Dallas. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Sam Darnold stepped to the podium as the New York Jets' starting quarterback again, his once-swollen spleen no longer keeping him from playing in a game.
Nearly a month of medical tests, tough questions, major concerns and big-time frustration is over.
And so is Darnold's time on the sideline.
''The spleen is good, finally,'' a smiling Darnold said Thursday. ''I finally get to wear a white jersey out there and be part of the team. It's been good to be back officially and get some practices under my belt.''
Darnold will start Sunday at home against Dallas, his first game since the season opener. A bout with mononucleosis sidelined him for three games after being diagnosed on Sept. 11. He was cleared by doctors Monday to play in a game, and Darnold has no concerns about getting back out on the field - with Cowboys defenders looking to make for a rough return.
''When I'm out there playing, I'm not worried about guys hitting me or anything,'' Darnold said. ''I'm trusting the guys up front to do their thing and I'm trusting the receivers to get open when it's time to pass the ball. For me, it's all about trust.
''When I do get hit, I know I'm not in danger anymore. They're letting me go out there and play because it's safe, so I'm not worried about that.''
Darnold will wear customized protective padding around his ribs/spleen area - likely for the rest of the season - just as a precaution. He said it's not restrictive, and will surely give him peace of mind.
The 0-4 Jets have struggled mightily without their starting quarterback, failing to generate much in his absence. Trevor Siemian started the second game of the season, but was lost for the season with an ankle injury, so third-stringer Luke Falk was under center the past two games - as New York rolled up a total of just 233 yards combined.
''You are what your record says you are and right now we aren't a very good offense,'' offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. ''Sam is not a magic wand. He is a really good player that is going to lift the execution of this team and he is a really gifted player with the ball in his hands and we are really excited to have him.
''But there are still things that we need to clean up, fundamentally and technically, to make sure the other 10 guys are doing their jobs the right way.''
The offensive line has allowed an NFL-worst 23 sacks, including 10 last week at Philadelphia. Falk, in a tough spot after being merely a practice squad quarterback until Week 2, held on to the ball too long at times. He had no chance to do anything at others.
''Yeah, he should be good, we should not have him dying on the field,'' coach Adam Gase joked of Darnold. ''We need to do a better job protecting the quarterback and we need to get the ball out on time, we need to run the right routes, it's got to be the right play call.''
That combination of errors so far has affected the entire operation of the offense, from Le'Veon Bell and the running backs to the wide receivers and tight ends. The Jets rank last in the NFL in total offense.
Darnold now is being looked at by some as a savior of sorts, someone who'll immediately get everything back on track.
The 22-year-old quarterback is keeping things in perspective, though.
''For me, it's all about staying within myself,'' he said. ''Not doing too much.''
The comeback nearly happened last week at Philadelphia as Darnold went through two days of practices running the first-team offense. But a medical test last Thursday night confirmed he wasn't yet healthy enough to play.
''When you're out that long,'' he said, ''you realize how awesome the game is because you miss it so much.''
Now, he'll be able to knock the rust off for real, with a chance to get the Jets in the win column for the first time this season.
''Having a couple of weeks of practice under my belt is a good thing,'' Darnold said. ''It's definitely going to help, but there's nothing like Sunday. Playing the first couple of series will be a little bit of a shock to the system, you could say, but I think I'm going to be ready.
''And hopefully, after those couple of series, I think, I'll feel right at home.''
NOTES: LB C.J. Mosley (groin), DE Henry Anderson (shoulder), LG Kelechi Osemele (shoulder/knee/illness) and RB-KR Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle) didn't practice. ... CB Nate Hairston (knee) was limited after not practicing Wednesday. Also limited were LB Jordan Jenkins (calf), DL Quinnen Williams (ankle) and WRs Josh Bellamy (shoulder) and Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee). ... S Jamal Adams won his appeal of his $21,056 fine by the NFL for his hit on Browns QB Baker Mayfield in Week 2. ''I knew I was going to win it because it was legal,'' Adams said of the hit. He added that with the money he'll be able to keep, he'll spend it to buy his mother Michelle a gift for her birthday - which was also Thursday.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) missed another practice on Wednesday, but he wants to play again this season when he's cleared by doctors. However, Detroit is currently 3-6-1 and has very little chance of making the playoffs, so it's not like the Lions will rush their starting quarterback back. Stafford is expected to miss his third straight game after his streak of 136 straight starts was broken two weeks ago. He doesn't when it'll be, he just wants to make it back this season. Stafford was second in the NFL at the time of his injury with 19 touchdowns, and he was leading the NFL in 20-plus yard completions (41). He remains week-to-week, and fantasy owners must come to grips with the fact that he might not help them again in 2019. Jeff Driskel will remain the starter while Stafford is out.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Adams will be fine to play on Sunday night against the 49ers. The 26-year-old has seen a healthy 21 targets in his two games since returning from turf toe, and he went for 118 yards before the Week 11 bye against Carolina. Adams is a must-start as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' top target, but the Niners have been very good at limiting opposing wideouts in 2019. Consider him more of a low-end WR1, and he'll be looking for his first touchdown of the season this weekend.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (foot, wrist) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Barring a setback in practice later this week, Lindsay will be good to go for Week 12 against the Bills. The second-year back has mostly been a disappointment in 2019 while sharing backfield work with Royce Freeman in an offense that doesn't score many points, but Denver proved last week that they plan on giving more work to Lindsay to close out the season. The 25-year-old had his most carries (16) since Sept. 22 against the Packers. He's the better fantasy back in Denver's backfield and will have low-end RB2 appeal this weekend.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle had been one of the most consistent players on the team before he disappeared in Week 11 with no targets or catches. In Week 12, you can't count on him to produce a lot, and his ceiling was never all that high anyway. He only has three touchdowns on the year, and he's only gone over 50 yards in a game one time this season. Good fantasy football tight ends are hard to find, especially when two or three of them are on byes this week, but you can still find a better option than Doyle.
Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines saw his stock shoot up earlier this week when starting running back Marlon Mack (hand) was announced as out for Thursday's game with the Houston Texans. In PPR formats, Hines can easily get you 10 to 12 points with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. The Texans have given up more receptions to running backs than any other team in the NFL this season. Hines still doesn't present much value in standard leagues, but he gives you a decent flex option if you're short-handed this week in PPR leagues.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jordan Wilkins has essentially been a non-factor all season, but with starter Marlon Mack (hand) out for Week 12, he presents some deeper league sleeper potential. Running back Jonathan Williams was the hot hand in Week 11, but Wilkins is more experienced with the team. Head coach Frank Reich could opt to split carries and ride whatever running back is rolling. Wilkins could be that, as he boasts a career yard-per-carry average of 5.8. Unless you're desperate, though, don't count on him for anything consistent.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Williams was thrust into a major role after starter Marlon Mack (hand) left the game in Week 11. In Week 12, he'll receive a fair bit of work against the Houston Texans, but it's tough to tell how much. The Colts were up comfortably for much of their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he was the hot hand on the afternoon. Against the Texans, the Colts could go for more of a committee approach, which could lower Williams' ceiling. If he gets rolling like he did last week, he's a great play. Otherwise, he could come out with a dud. He shouldn't be relied upon unless absolutely necessary, especially since he could play second fiddle to Jordan Wilkins on early downs.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) is questionable heading into the team's Week 12 matchup with the Houston Texans, but if he plays, you almost have to start him. He's been an elite player when he's been on the field this season, and he's consistently torn up the Texans in the past. He's about two weeks removed from his injury, and it's still questionable if he'll be able to suit up. With Hilton's talent and the Texans' inability to stop opposing pass-catchers, he's startable this week if he's active.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal has steadily been fading over the last month of the season. In Week 12, he has some upside against the Houston Texans, who he went for six catches, 106 yards and two touchdowns against earlier this season, but he's been too inconsistent to rely upon every week. There are a number of good offenses with good wide receivers that are on byes this week that could force you into playing Pascal, and he has the ability to score a fair bit of points. However, his inconsistency should have you looking elsewhere. With T.Y. Hilton (calf) potentially returning as the team's No. 1 receiver, it'll give you even more reason to fade Pascal in this run-first offense.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron remains firmly in the TE2 category thanks to his athleticism and abilities in the red zone. In Week 12 against the Houston Texans, he is again a TE2 with upside thanks to a soft defense. You likely drafted Ebron to be your top tight end, and he hasn't been that this season with just three touchdowns through 10 games. This could be the week he gets back into the end zone, but there are still a few players with better matchups and outlooks than him.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett has a matchup with the Houston Texans in Week 12, and he has the potential to have a big week. The Texans have the offense to put up a lot of points, but their defense has been suspect due to injuries and player moves. The Colts will be without running back Marlon Mack (hand), which will put more work on Brissett's shoulders. The Colts Defense has given up points at times this year, and they gave up 23 in the first matchup of these teams. Brissett and the team put up 30 in that matchup, and if wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) is able to play, his ceiling shoots way up.
Indianapolis Colts RB Jonathan Williams might be counted upon to start the Week 12 game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 21 with RB Marlon Mack (hand) out. If Williams gets the start, it will be in the building where he had his last starting assignment in the 2014 Texas Bowl for the University of Arkansas.
Fantasy Spin: Williams went for over 100 yards last week once Mack went down, and Jordan Wilkins is coming off an ankle injury, so it's likely a good bet Williams gets first crack at the lion's share of the work. By the way, he had 105 yards in that Texas Bowl win over the Texas Longhorns, so fantasy owners hope lightning strikes twice at NRG in Week 12.
Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett enters the Week 12 game Thursday, Nov. 21 against the Houston Texans with a 4-0 career record with seven touchdowns, no interceptions and a 107.2 passer rating, going 3-0 with the Colts and 1-0 as a member of the New England Patriots.
Fantasy Spin: Brissett will have the good fortune of not having to face J.J. Watt, since he is out for the remainder of the season, too. He's not a bad low-end QB1 in fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams, and it sounds like he'll have T.Y. Hilton back, too.
Indianapolis Colts WR Devin Funchess (collarbone) has not yet been activated from the Reserve/Injured list, so it is extremely unlikely he plays in Week 12 against the Houston Texans.
Fantasy Spin: Funchess hasn't shed his non-contact jersey, and the team is unlikely to rush him and risk aggravating his injury. Fantasy owners will want to see him officially return and knock off the rust, making it through a full game without any setbacks. Unfortunately for most owners, time is running out for that to happen in the fantasy regular season.
Indianapolis Colts RB Nyheim Hines is still expected to see his normal role in the passing game in Week 12 against the Houston Texans, and not an increase in work despite the loss of RB Marlon Mack (hand).
Fantasy Spin: Hines will see his regular work on passing downs, but it appears Jonathan Williams and/or Jordan Wilkins will be counted upon as the workhorse back for carries.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (knee) was limited during practice Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert has been limited during practice over the last few weeks but has not missed a game. He has been held to 35 yards or less in each of the last three games and probably can be avoided in most leagues.
San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps), PK Robbie Gould (quadriceps) and OT Joe Staley (finger) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 20. DT D.J. Jones (groin) was limited during practice, while LB Azeez Al-Shaair (concussion) fully participated in practice.
San Francisco 49ers WR Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Sanders did not practice last week but was able to play in Week 11, so he may not do much during practice this week. He should be a starting option in all leagues if he is active for the game.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle, knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle has missed the last few games because of the injuries and probably will miss another game if he does not practice. Fantasy players should check on his status later in the week but will need other options available.
The Oakland Raiders Defense is coming off back-to-back stellar weeks and is in a superb spot to keep the trend going in Week 12. Led by the reigning Defensive Player of the Week Maxx Crosby, they've piled up 10 sacks and five turnovers in their last two games, helping them earn double-digit fantasy point totals in each contest. Their Jets opponent this weekend is allowing the second-most fantasy points to the D/ST position, and the third-most sacks in the league (41). Managers looking for a streaming option this week should ride the Raiders defense with confidence.