Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws the ball under pressure from Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (97) during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Fresh off a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season, the San Francisco 49ers had a difficult decision to make.
With salary cap room tight and star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner headed into the final year of his contract looking for a big pay day, the Niners dealt the cornerstone of their defense to Indianapolis for a first-round pick in a move that has not turned out well so far.
San Francisco (2-3) goes up against Buckner on Sunday night when the Colts (2-4) come to town for a visit for the first time since a trade general manager John Lynch has called one of his most difficult decisions ever.
''It wasn't something we were high-fiving or anything over after it happened,'' coach Kyle Shanahan. ''It came down to, `Do you want to pay this amount of money to one guy or do you want to keep two of the guys you already have that you will lose and plus add a 13th pick in the draft?'
''So, it had nothing to do with not valuing Buck or anything like that. ... So, a tough decision we had to make.''
The Colts traded the 13th overall pick for Buckner and immediately gave him an $84 million, four-year contract and he became an All-Pro in his first season in Indianapolis.
Buckner said he wanted to stay and was willing to take a little less to remain with the Niners, but it didn't work out.
''It really did teach me a lot about the business side of things. I felt like I did all the right things on and off the field. Obviously I wanted to be there long term,'' he said. ''When you're drafted to an organization, your initial thoughts are, `I want to be here until I retire,' but unfortunately it didn't shake out that way.''
The Niners opted to use a big chunk of the savings on Buckner to retain defensive lineman Arik Armstead with a five-year, $85 million contract. They then used the pick to draft defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
Armstead hasn't played up to the level he had in a breakthrough 2019 season and Kinlaw has been slowed by knee injuries the past two years and has been mostly underwhelming.
The Niners haven't quite replaced Buckner.
''He was the heart and soul when he was here,'' safety Jimmie Ward said. ''I wasn't happy about it. But I understand the business side.''
Buckner won't be the only Indy player having a reunion this weekend.
Colts quarterback Carson Wentz will also get to see 49ers quarterback Trey Lance, another North Dakota State grad. The two developed a friendship before Lance was taken in the first round this year.
''I know him as a person and as a quarterback and as a guy,'' Wentz said when asked about Lance. ''I have a lot of respect for him, great friend over the years getting to talk to him and see his development there in college. I think he's got a bright future. He's in a good system there for his skill set.''
Each of the Bison's last three quarterbacks -- Lance, Wentz and Los Angeles Chargers backup Easton Stick -- are now in the NFL.
Lance is not expected to play because of a knee injury.
Jimmy Garoppolo should step back in at starting quarterback for the Niners after missing one game before the bye with an injured right calf. Lance started in his place two weeks ago in Arizona but sprained his left knee in that game and will likely miss this week. Garoppolo was able to get healthy and will be back this week.
TURNING IT OVER
Turnovers have played a big part in the Colts' success over the last several years and that hasn't changed this season.
Indy's plus-7 turnover differential is tied for No. 3 in the league, trailing only Buffalo and Arizona. The Colts also have the league's third-longest active streak of consecutive games with a takeaway (seven) and two-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard has four straight games with a takeaway.
''We have a points system on turnovers and he's leading the defense with like seven points,'' Buckner said. ''The other guys on the board all have like one or two points. He's a different cat playing the linebacker position. The ball always finds him or he just finds the ball.''
Colts running back Jonathan Taylor caught the eye of 49ers linebacker Fred Warner a long time ago. When Taylor was a freshman at Wisconsin in 2017, he rushed for 128 yards and a TD against Warner and BYU. The performance left a lasting impression that Warner didn't hesitate when he was asked at the combine who was the best player he faced in college.
''I always said Jonathan Taylor,'' Warner said. ''He's for some reason just always stuck my mind and so got a lot of respect for Jonathan. He's got the breakaway speed. It looks kind of deceptive on tape, but he's got the breakaway speed. He runs the ball hard. He's a really good back.''
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor is not a starting fantasy option in any format in a Week 12 game against the New York Giants. Reagor has put up a top-50 fantasy wide receiver performance only twice this season, and has scored under five fantasy points eight times. It's been a disaster of a season for the former first-round pick, and he cannot be relied on in any format at this point. There are few, if any, fantasy leagues where he should even be on a roster.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert will look for another TE1 week in a Week 12 game against the New York Giants. Goedert has seen an enormous 30% target share over the past four games, but with the Eagles only throwing on one of every three offensive plays, that's translated to just 7.8 fantasy points per game. Still, while the range of outcomes for Goedert is larger than others ranked around him, his upside is also much higher. He's a fairly safe mid-range TE1 with top-tier upside every week.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott will look for another strong performance in a Week 12 contest against the New York Giants. Elliott has been extremely consistent this season, making 18 of his 20 field goal attempts and all 29 of his extra point tries. Despite the consistency, Elliott has finished outside of the top-20 fantasy kickers six times due to low volume and the lack of long-yardage opportunities. He's a decent option against the Giants, since the Eagles should be able to move the ball fairly well.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense has had an up-and-down fantasy season, but they've been a top-six fantasy option in three of the past four weeks. A Week 12 matchup against Daniel Jones and the New York Giants shouldn't be too tough of a test for the unit that came up with a fumble recovery, two interceptions, and a defensive touchdown in Week 11. While there's always risk with the Eagles defense, there's some nice upside to go with it in Week 12.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell is unlikely to have a big role in a Week 12 game against the New York Giants. Gainwell was a healthy scratch in Week 11, and even with Jordan Howard (knee) already ruled out, the rookie likely won't be much more than a change of pace option behind Miles Sanders and Boston Scott. Gainwell is nothing more than a desperation play in the deepest fantasy formats this week.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith is a risky but potentially strong option in a Week 12 matchup against the New York Giants. Smith has put up a 14-258-3 line over the past four weeks, good for the overall WR16 performance in that time. All that despite seeing just 21 targets, as the Eagles have only attempted a pass play on one-third of their offensive plays. Smith has a low floor because of his limited opportunities, but he's the lead receiver on a team that has shown the ability to score points. He'll come in as a WR2 but with a wider range of outcomes than others ranked around him.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins is almost guaranteed to have a better game in Week 12 than he did in Week 11. Week 11 was the first time Watkins was held without a catch this season, putting up zero fantasy points and only being targeted once. He hasn't shown much upside this season, but had been a solid floor play in PPR formats in previous weeks. He'll continue to operate in a much more real-life-relevant role as the WR2 on the Eagles offense.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders could be a solid fantasy option in a Week 12 matchup against the New York Giants. Sanders will remain the starter and should be the lead back in the backfield, but quarterback Jalen Hurts will likely continue to operate as the team's first rushing option. Still, Eagles running backs have averaged over 30 carries a game since Week 8, and Sanders picked up 5.9 yards per run on 16 touches in Week 11. With Jordan Howard (knee) not expected to play, it'll be a lot of Sanders with some Boston Scott mixed in, making Sanders a solid RB2 with upside this week.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott could find his way into some fantasy value in a Week 12 matchup against the New York Giants. With Jordan Howard (knee) not expected to play, the Eagles backfield will be made up of Miles Sanders and Scott. Sanders will be the starter, and quarterback Jalen Hurts could end up with more rushing attempts than either running back, but with Eagles running backs averaging almost 31 carries per game since Week 8, there should be some touches for Scott against a Giants defense that hasn't been great against running backs. Scott is looking like a decent floor RB3/FLEX play, with some possible upside.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Chester Rogers will see an increased opportunity with star A.J. Brown (chest) ruled out for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. The 27-year-old recorded four receptions on six targets for 41 yards in the Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans. Rogers will have an increased role in Week 12; unfortunately, it's against a tough Patriots defense which ranks number one against the pass. New England ranks 22nd in DVOA against WR2s; Rogers cold see some open looks but is not on the fantasy radar in Week 12.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine becomes the team's de facto number one wide receiver after star WR A.J. Brown (chest) was ruled out for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots. He led the Titans with seven receptions on eight targets for 107 yards in the Week 11 loss to the Texans. The Patriots rank number one in DVOA against the pass and second against the opposing team's top targets. Westbrook-Ikhine could see an uptick in targets, but the Titans' offense could have trouble moving the ball on Sunday against a surging Patriots defense. Fantasy managers in deep-league formats can use the 24-year-old as a streaming option, but even with the increased role, Westbrook-Ikhine is a boom-or-bust flex option in Week 12.
Tennessee Titans running back Dontrell Hilliard led the team's backfield with 63% of snaps and was targeted 10 times in the Week 11 loss to the Houston Texans. He was signed to the Titans 53-man roster earlier in the week. Tennessee waived veteran running back Adrian Peterson in a corresponding move. Hilliard had a massive role last Sunday, rushing for 35 yards on seven carries and catching eight passes for 47 yards. The Titans will be without star wide receiver A.J. Brown (chest); Hilliard could lead Tennessee in targets in Week 12 against the Patriots. The Titans backfield will be tough to trust, but the 26-year-old should have a vital role in the passing game and is a solid option in deep-league formats this Sunday.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be without one of his top weapons as A.J. Brown (chest) was ruled against the New England Patriots for Sunday's game. The 33-year-old struggled mightily last Sunday against the Texans, throwing one touchdown and four interceptions in the Week 11 loss. He faces a surging Patriots defense in Week 12 that just shut out QB Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense. Tannehill has been mediocre in 2021 and has failed to throw multiple touchdowns in nine of 11 games this year. The veteran will be without his top pass-catchers and mainly an option in Superflex leagues in Week 12.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (pectoral/shoulder) got in a full practice on Friday and is without an injury designation heading into a Week 12 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincinnati has been tough on opposing quarterbacks in 2021, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game. Roethlisberger has been pedestrian for much of the season but he's been trending up of late, having thrown five touchdowns over his past two games. The veteran signal-caller threw for 318 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions back when these two teams met in Week 3. Treat him as a low-end QB2 for Week 12.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (calf) is expected to be activated and on the field when his team takes on the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Hunt has been sidelined since injuring his calf during a Week 6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The veteran running back will take on a Baltimore defense that is allowing the 17th-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. If Hunt is active, look for him to slot in for the majority of the work in the passing game plus his usual 12-14 carries on the ground. That will be enough to treat him as a low-end RB2 in fantasy for Week 12.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton should have an expanded role on Sunday as the team will be without WR Sterling Shepard (quad) and most likely Kadarius Toney (quad) for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The 24-year-old has caught 16 passes for 227 yards and touchdown over seven games in 2021. Slayton is the Giants' top downfield threat and faces an Eagles that has been tough against WR2s and ranks sixth versus the opposing team's secondary targets. Even with the expanded role, the Giants offense has struggled most of the season, and Slayton is a boom-or-bust flex option in Week 12.
Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper has been trending up in recent weeks, having caught eight balls for 78 yards and a touchdown over his past two games. Hooper will take on the Baltimore Ravens on the road in a Week 12 divisional matchup. Baltimore has been generous to opposing tight ends this season as they are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game. Hooper still carries some risk as a fantasy option but he has become a bit more reliable of late. Treat him as a mid-range TE2 in Week 12.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (knee) got in a limited practice session on Friday and will head into his team's Week 12 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens without an injury designation. Landry has been playing through a knee injury for much of the season, which has limited his mobility on the field. The Ravens represent a neutral matchup for Landry as they are allowing the 14th-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers in 2021. Landry and the Cleveland passing game has been struggling over the past few contests, which makes the veteran wideout a risky option in fantasy in Week 12. Treat him as a low-end WR3 this weekend.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (groin, shoulder, foot) got in full practices on Thursday and Friday and is listed without an injury designation as he gears up to take on the Baltimore Ravens on the road in Week 12. Mayfield is playing through an assortment of injuries that have affected him on the field, but he continues to suit up and play through a variety of ailments. Baltimore sets up as a plus matchup for Mayfield in Week 12 as they are allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per game to the quarterback position in 2021. That being said, Mayfield has not played well over the past month and will be tough to trust against Baltimore. Treat him as a low-end QB2 for Week 12.
New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay has had a forgettable season in 2021. He's caught 20 passes for 322 yards and has yet to find the end zone. The 28-year-old is averaging 4.0 YAC per reception and 15% of the team's target share, ranked 61st among all wideouts this season. Golladay will try to turn things around against a Philadelphia Eagles defense that ranks 26th in DVOA against wide receivers on the year. The Giants will be without wide receivers Sterling Shepard (quad) and most likely Kadarius Toney (quad) for Sunday's game. Golladay should see an uptick in targets while both receivers are sidelined. The former Detroit Lion hasn't produced in fantasy this year and can't be trusted as anything more than a boom-or-bust flex option in Week 12.