Thu Dec 5 6:28pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Andrew Wylie (77) picks up celebrating running back LeSean McCoy (25) after McCoy scored a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to throw against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates a touchdown by running back Darwin Thompson (34) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Chiefs coach Andy Reid's expectations are simple heading into Kansas City's latest matchup with the Patriots.
''I think they know us, and we know them. You get in and you battle,'' Reid said.
That was exactly what the teams did in their two meetings last season.
New England got a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski as time expired to escape with a 43-40 victory during the regular season. The Patriots then needed overtime to do it again in the AFC championship game, outlasting Kansas City in another shootout, 37-31 in Arrowhead Stadium.
Another close game is expected for their latest matchup on Sunday, with playoff implications for both teams.
New England (10-2) can extend its NFL record to 11 consecutive playoff berths with a win. Kansas City (8-4) can clinch the AFC West title with a win and Oakland loss.
The two teams that have beaten the Patriots this season - Baltimore and Houston - both have dual-threat quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he sees similarities in how both of them attacked a New England defense that is allowing an NFL-low 12.1 points per game.
''I think the biggest thing was when they had their opportunities, they hit them,'' Mahomes said. ''They're not going to give us a lot of opportunities, they're a very good defense and very sound with what they do. It's about taking what's there and when you get the big shot or the big play, you hit that and score touchdowns when you do.''
Coming off a week in which New England's defense gave up four passing touchdowns in its loss to the Texans - doubling its total allowed in 2019 - safety Devin McCourty said the challenge against the Chiefs will be keeping track of all their playmakers.
''It's almost like they don't win the same way each week. They just have so much talent. I think you see that all throughout the season,'' McCourty said. ''The threat of Mahomes is always there of running the ball, of rolling one way being able to throw the ball back across his body. ... We got to see it last year twice of just his ability of being able to make plays. So, I think we know it, but with this team, the hardest thing is going out there and executing and playing to it.''
Keeping Kansas City out of the end zone will be even more imperative because of New England's ongoing issues on offense.
The Jets, Dolphins and Broncos rank in bottom five in the NFL in points per game in 2019 but are all averaging more points than New England (18 ppg) since start of November. The Patriots went 2-2 last month.
Brady's 88.2 passer rating is also his worst since 2013.
The 42-year-old quarterback has expressed his frustrations with the offense in recent weeks and acknowledged during his weekly appearance on Boston's WEEI radio that injuries have also affected their expectations. But it hasn't altered their resolve to fix their deficiencies.
''It's not like we haven't dealt with losses before,'' Brady said. ''I think a lot of it is about mental toughness and realizing that when you don't play well, you don't win. You're not supposed to win when you put less than your best out there. Sometimes you get away with it, and sometimes you don't.''
The Patriots could be dealing with another change on the offensive line.
James Ferentz may get the start at center with Ted Karras recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the third quarter of last week's loss to Houston.
Karras has started all 12 games this season in place of David Andrews, who is recovering from blood clots. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn also spent nine games on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Ferentz said he'll be ready if called upon.
''Your job is to step in and that the train doesn't slow down,'' he said. ''We have a bunch of guys on this team that have embraced that role and I just try to keep up with those guys.''
Brady enters the week with 535 regular-season touchdown passes, the second most in NFL history. Peyton Manning holds record with 539. Drew Brees is third with 532.
With 300 or more yards passing Brady will also have his 93rd 300-yard game, tying Manning for second in NFL history. Brees is first with 118. The Patriots are 76-16 in Brady's 300-yard games.
MOVING ON UP
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce leads the AFC with 923 receiving yards in 2019.
He needs just 77 receiving yards to become the fourth tight end to have four seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards in NFL history.
The others are Dallas' Jason Witten, Hall of Famer and former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez and former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin), who is six weeks removed from groin/abdominal surgery, said he is jogging "a little bit" and is on track to take part in "spring football." Mosley has also started a vegan diet after playing in just two games last season because of his injury in his first year in New York. The 27-year-old should be ready for a full training camp heading into the 2020 season, and he should give Gang Green a steadying presence in the middle of the field next season. Mosley recorded 100-plus tackles in four of his five seasons in Baltimore before signing with the Jets in free agency last offseason.
Former Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry, who did not play at all in 2019, plans to play in 2020 after intentionally taking the season off to rest his body and mind. Berry was cut by the Chiefs in 2018 and has only played in three games since 2016 due to injuries and a bout with cancer. The former first-round pick in 2010 has 14 career interceptions and five touchdowns and could provide a team with a veteran presence in the secondary in 2020. However, it remains to be seen if any team will take a chance on the veteran moving forward. Berry is unlikely to be an asset in IDP leagues if he gets picked up by a team.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will become a free agent in March, said he is still waiting to decide if he will play a 20th season in the NFL. "Then, I'll kind of lay low for a little bit, get away and then assess. I kind of have a process in mind. And I'll give it a month or so," Brees said. If the 41-year-old does decide to return, it'll be for the Saints. General manager Mickey Loomis also said that the team would welcome him back if he decides to keep playing. Brees' arm strength is starting to deteriorate, but he still put up great numbers when he came back from a fractured thumb last season, and he should remain in play as a QB1 if he returns for the 2020 season.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hernia) underwent sports hernia surgery recently to fix a lingering groin injury that he suffered during the season, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly. The 25-year-old aggravated the injury in the Divisional loss to the Chiefs. Fuller missed five games with a chronic hamstring injury in 2019, and the Texans were 8-3 with him and 2-3 without him. He has 94 catches for 1,452 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 22 regular season games with quarterback Deshaun Watson, yet Fuller continues to struggle to stay on the field with regularity. Fuller is an excellent deep threat but is a frustrating player to own as a boom-or-bust WR3. He should be fully recovered in time for training camp this summer.
Miami Dolphins SS Reshad Jones is unlikely to return to the team for the 2020 season under his current contract but a restructured deal isn't out of the question, according to The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson. If Jones does not come back, the team is expected to use DBs Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe at safety.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (groin) underwent sports hernia surgery, according to sources Saturday, Jan. 25. He's expected to make a full recovery.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller was limited to 11 games in 2019. He managed to catch 49 of 71 targets for 670 yards and three touchdowns, but he's now four years into his career and has yet to play more than 14 games. He'll again be a risky but high-upside WR3 in 2020 drafts.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle in 2019 received the highest-ever full-season grade given to a tight end by Pro Football Focus, and has been named the site's 2019 Dwight Stephenson Award winner as the best player regardless of position.
Fantasy Spin: In catching 85 of 107 targets for 1,053 yards and five TDs, Kittle finished as fantasy's No. 3 tight end in both standard and PPR leagues. He's made more of an impact with his run blocking so far this postseason, but he'll be near the top of fantasy TE wish lists this summer once again.
Free-agent S Eric Berry (Chiefs) sat out the 2019 season but plans to play in 2020.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston is coming off an up-and-down season in which he hit career highs in yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) but also interceptions (30), including seven pick-sixes, and former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said it's time the Bucs and Winston part ways. 'I would be surprised if they pay him,' Dominik told PewterReport.com. 'Maybe they will. It's their decision, but I would be shocked if the Bucs franchised Winston -- or transitioned him. I think the decision they have is certainly difficult because there has been some production there, but I don't know how you could justify paying Jameis Winston more money this year than he made last year.'
Fantasy Spin: Unless your league deducts heavy penalties for turnovers, Winston was fantasy gold last season, finishing only behind Lamar Jackson in total fantasy points. The interceptions and miscues, though, are a little more unforgivable in real football, and whether or not Winston is retained by the Bucs promises to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark doesn't expect his role to change going into next season under new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Chark became the team's No. 1 receiver under John DeFilippo in 2019, and he expects Gruden to do the same to utilize his playmaking abilities. The second-round pick of 2018 had a breakout year in 2019 and thinks Gruden's West Coast offense is a good fit for him. Chark is in his first Pro Bowl after catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 14 catches for 174 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. He'll have WR2 upside going into 2020, but the uncertainty at quarterback will make him a bit volatile in fantasy drafts.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson won't have any of his $9.5 million salary guaranteed for the 2020 season unless he's on the roster for Week 1 of the regular season. The Dolphins are likely to discuss a restructuring of his contract in the weeks ahead. There will be $1.3 million in dead money but $9.5 million in salary cap savings if the Dolphins cut him. The 27-year-old slot receiver missed three games due to injury last season and caught 43 passes for 351 yards and just one touchdown in his second year in Miami. He could never really get on track after his slow start because of injury, and Wilson will be an afterthought in redraft leagues going into the 2020 season.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes reminds retired QB Brett Favre of himself with some of the traits he has displayed on the field. 'I see the comparison,â?³ Favre said. 'He may not admit this but he probably feels there is no throw he can't make or no angle he can't make it from. Whether he's flushed left or to the right, his vision always is down the field. I was always looking for the big play first and knew I could always react underneath if I needed, too. You have to have a certain confidence or air about you that you can make any throw, and it has been proven he can make any throw.'
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is off to a particularly impressive start in the postseason with 13 total touchdowns (including two rushing), 1,313 total yards (125 rushing) and no interceptions in four playoff contests over two seasons. He'll challenge Lamar Jackson for first-QB-off the-board fantasy honors this summer.
The New England Patriots want to know if impending free-agent QB Tom Brady will return to the team for the 2020 season before the legal tampering period for free agency begins March 16, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Spin: Schefter reasoned that the Patriots want a quick decision so they can pursue other quarterbacks in free agency in case Brady chooses to leave the only organization he has ever played for. New England wants to avoid a situation similar to last season when Rob Gronkowski waited until late-March to announce his retirement, meaning that the best free-agent tight ends had already been signed by other clubs. From a fantasy standpoint, Brady should be viewed as a QB2 in most formats at this stage of his career but he could merit consideration as a low-end QB1 if he has plenty of offensive weapons surrounding him.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) were limited during practice Friday, Jan. 24, but are not listed on the injury report for Super Bowl LIV. LB Dre Greenlaw (ankle), S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) and WR Dante Pettis (illness) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. said he expects to have a similar role in the offense next season under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Fantasy Spin: Chark was one of the breakout players this season and finished with 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He likely will be the main target in the passing game again next season and could be at least a No. 3 fantasy receiver.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is considered questionable for Super Bowl LIV.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman probably will need to practice at some point next week if he wants to play in the Super Bowl. He will share playing time with Raheem Mostert and Maatt Breida if he is active and could be a flex option.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman's (shoulder) MRI results were positive, but Coleman did not participate in any practices this week, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on Coleman's practice participate next week to see if he has a chance to play in Super Bowl LIV. Coleman will be part of a committee if he is active and should see some touches during the game. He can be considered a flex option.
Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson likely will be asked to restructure his contract this offseason if he wants to remain with the team. The Dolphins would save $9.5 million in salary cap space if they release Wilson.
Fantasy Spin: Wilson had a disappointing 2019 season with 351 yards and one touchdown. The Dolphins likely will look to upgrade at the position so Wilson probably would drop down the depth chart if he stays. He probably can be avoided in fantasy leagues next season.
Kansas City Chiefs S Jordan Lucas (illness) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is considered questionable for Super Bowl LIV. DT Chris D. Jones (calf) was limited during practice and is considered questionable. WR Demarcus Robinson (illness), WR Mecole Hardman (back), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and C Austin Reiter (wrist) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is not on the injury report for Super Bowl LIV.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce appears to be on track to play and probably will see more practice time next week. He is a must-start option in fantasy leagues.