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.
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.