Thu Oct 17 5:51pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) scores a touchdown next to Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson (54) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) runs past a tackle attempt by Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill (22) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates his touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) is upended by Kansas City Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu (32) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde (23) is held back by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) and cornerback Kendall Fuller, rear, during the second half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich heads off the field after the Colts defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 19-13 in sn NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich prefers taking the aggressive approach.
His coaching staff understands it. His players respect it. And opponents know they must be prepared to confront it.
Sometimes, the fourth-down gambles pay off - as they did earlier this season at Tennessee and Kansas City. Sometimes, they backfire. Either way, though, Reich acknowledges he's willing to take the same risky call against Houston on Sunday as he did in last year's home overtime loss to the Texans.
''Those decisions always come down to what's best for the team in the moment,'' Reich said. ''A lot of things go into those decisions, but primarily like you said, it's a belief in the players. Yes, we think situationally it calls for it, but it really stems from a belief that we'll get it done.''
Nobody has been better playing the odds this season than Reich.
Indy has converted all seven fourth-down attempts, the gutsiest call coming from its 35-yard line with less than 2+ minutes to go in a two-point game at Tennessee.
And when things don't go right, such as the incompletion on fourth-and-4 from the Indy 43 with 24 seconds left in overtime against Houston, Reich still seems to hit the jackpot. While the Colts lost that game, he won over the locker room with a season-changing moment.
Indy has won 13 of its 19 games since then including twice at Houston late last season.
''Frank made the call he felt was best for his team and that's in my opinion what Frank does well,'' coach Bill O'Brien said after the Texans converted a key fourth down at Kansas City last week. ''He's an aggressive coach. You know sometimes you have to do in your mind what's best for your team from your preparation and where you are in the game. Those are things that Frank does very well.''
It keeps everyone on their toes - and the bye week may only give Reich more time to contemplate how to play it Sunday.
''I think that mentality is what carries beyond that one play,'' he said. ''I think that's an example of what happened last year. Yeah, that was one play, but it was the belief and conviction in our players I think that carries longer than the one play.''
Four-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton has thrived against the Texans over the years.
In 15 games, the Colts receiver has 78 receptions, 1,506 yards and nine touchdowns. Late last season, with an ankle injury, he still managed to haul in 11 catches for 260 yards in the games at Houston.
The Texans know just tough Hilton can be.
''He's fast, great route runner, can come in and out of his breaks, understands how to attack leverage, has great experience,'' O'Brien said. ''He's seen all of the coverages there are, so he knows how to get open. He's got good chemistry with Jacoby and I think he's targeted quite a bit. It's a challenge.''
HOLDING THE LINE
The Colts went from worst in sacks allowed in 2017 to first last season. Now Houston is trying to follow a similar blueprint.
While Jacoby Brissett has gone down just six times, tied for the second fewest in the league, the Texans have made a dramatic turnaround after giving up 18 sacks during the first four weeks.
Neither Brissett nor Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson have been sacked in their past two games.
''They're doing a heck of a job of playing as a unit,'' Watson said. ''Everyone is up there with the right mindset, positive attitude and always playing the next play. So, those guys up there have been doing a heck of a job.''
The Colts, meanwhile, have only allowed one sack in their past five October games.
Running back Carlos Hyde fit exactly what the Texans wanted when they acquired him from Kansas City on Aug. 31 - after losing Lamar Miller to a season-ending knee injury.
Hyde has been the key to the league's No. 5 rushing attack (139.8 yards) and ran for a season-high 116 yards and one touchdown last weekend.
He's 10th in the NFL with 426 yards rushing and has three touchdowns this season.
HOME, SWEET, HOME
After Indy won 13 straight home games to open the series, Houston has taken three of past four at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Colts' lone victory during this current run came in the 2017 season finale, with Brissett closing out the season as the starter. Indy also had a seven-game home winning streak snapped by Oakland on Sept. 29.
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.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry tacked another 69 yards onto his season total in Monday night's loss to the Chiefs. He's now either tallied 60+ receiving yards or a touchdown in six of the seven games he's played this season, and he's still averaging 12.5 yards per reception this season. Henry has been in a constant struggle with his health, but he seems to be fully healthy now. When he's at the top of his game, Henry is arguably the best tight end in the NFL, and he's proving it this season. Even with a quarterback who has been struggling, Henry is putting up a fine season.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was the man to beat on Monday night, but even he couldn't will the team to a victory. Ekeler carried the ball five times for 24 yards and caught eight of 12 passes sent his way, tallying another 108 yards. Unfortunately, the moment that will get the most attention was the game-ending interception Philip Rivers threw Ekeler's direction. There's no question that the pick was purely Rivers' fault, but his performance really overshadowed what should have been a star-studded Sportscenter appearance for Ekeler, a backup running back who happens to be incredibly valuable. Unfortunately, the unpredictability in Ekeler's touches from week to week limits his dependable fantasy value.
With the game on the line and 75 yards to go, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams picked a huge moment to make a phenomenal catch. Having only caught one pass so far in the match, Williams launched himself up and hauled in a bomb from Philip Rivers to get his team just outside the red zone. Unfortunately, Rivers would throw a game-sealing pick a few plays later. The big play at least gave Williams a respectable fantasy performance, and he now has a reception of 43+ yards in each of his last four games. He's also caught at least one pass for 20 or more yards in his last nine games, and he's become a regular fixture in the Chargers passing attack.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers put up a couple of nice numbers on Monday night as he completed 28 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown, but he also only completed 53.9% of the passes he threw and tossed four interceptions including a game-ending pick in the end zone. Rivers has now moved into sole possession of second place in the league in interceptions with 14, and he's only posted a QB rating over 85 in two of his last seven games. He still has the ability to sling it on occasion, but for the most part, it looks like time has caught up to Rivers. He just can't make the throws anymore, and his decision-making hasn't accepted that fact yet.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon rushed the ball 14 times for 69 yards and caught three passes for 21 more yards in Monday's loss to the Chiefs. Averaging 4.9 yards per carry, it was surprising LA didn't lean more heavily on Gordon's ground game, especially with Philip Rivers throwing interception after interception. However, Gordon still topped 90 scrimmage yards, even if he didn't get to hit the end zone on any of his touches. With Rivers looking like a shell of his former self, Gordon could be in for some greater use over the team's remaining games. He remains one of the most potent parts of the Chargers offense.
Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker has been one of the more reliable fantasy kickers all season. In most games Butkler has been able to connect on multiple field goals, but Week 11 was not one of those games. It wasn't his fault, Butker hit a 41 yard field goal in the victory over the Chargers. That was his only field goal attempt of the game as the Chiefs won 24-17. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12 so fantasy owners who don't have a lot of depth might consider dropping Butker. The Chiefs offense is strong and Butker gets plenty of chances each week. It's not wise to drop Butker for the upcoming bye week, unless you have no other options.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins was expected to have a solid game after having reliable performances the last few weeks. Instead, Watkins was only able to haul in two of three targets for 26 yards in this one. Tyreek Hill (hamstring) left after the opening drive, but Watkins wasn't able to capitalize. The Chiefs were able to get the win in Week 11, but Watkins didn't do much to help that. Kansas City has a bye week in Week 12, but then has a strong matchup against the shaky Raiders secondary. However, at this point in the season it's tough to trust Watkins. Fantasy owners should consider him a WR3 going forward.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman gave a nice jolt to the offense when Tyreek Hill (hamstring) and Sammy Watkins went down earlier in the season. However, they were both healthy the last few weeks. Hardman has seen his usage take a hit because of that, but that might change once again. Hill went down after the first drive during the Week 11 victory over the Chargers. However, Hardman was only targeted four times and caught two of them for 13 yards. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12, so that might give Hill enough time to recover. Otherwise, Hardman could be on the flex radar with Hill sidelined. When Watkins and Hill are healthy, Hardman is only worth using in deep leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) was not able to do much damage during the Week 11 victory over the Chargers. Williams rushed four times for seven yards and caught one pass for six yards. He left during the second quarter due to a ribs injury and didn't return. Veteran LeSean McCoy and Darrel Williams took over the running back duties from there. Both players scored a touchdown in this one, but that pattern is unlikely to continue. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12, so it remains to be seen if Williams will miss any time from this ribs issue.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was by far the best offensive player on the field Monday against the Chargers. Tyreek Hill (hamstring) went down early and that forced Kelce into an even bigger role than normal. Kelce caught seven of 10 targets for 92 yards and one touchdown in the Week 11 victory. He's now hauled in three touchdowns over the last four weeks, so fantasy owners are loving that. Kelce heads into a bye week in Week 12, but then gets a juicy matchup against the Raiders, a team he crushed earlier in the season.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams was not expected to do much heading into the game, but saw more action due to injuries. Lead back Damien Williams (ribs) left in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Veteran LeSean McCoy saw more action as well, but it was likely because of the injury to Williams. The third string back Williams saw 11 attempts for 35 yards and one touchdown. The Chiefs head into a bye week, so Williams probably won't have much fantasy value going forward. He's not worth an add in basically any format despite a decent fantasy output here.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy was a healthy scratch during the Week 10 loss to the Titans, but returned here. McCoy carried the ball seven times for 29 yards and a touchdown in the Monday night victory over the Chargers in Week 11. Damien Williams (ribs) left the game early in the second quarter, so that helped McCoy see more action than usual. Darrel Williams saw 11 carries, so the Chiefs backfield is a messy situation right now. The Chiefs head into a bye week in Week 12, so fantasy owners will have to wait and see what happens next. McCoy should only hold low-end flex value in most formats going forward.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was not the MVP type of QB that fantasy owners are used to watching. He completed 19 of 32 passing attempts for 182 yards and one touchdown with one interception. It was a career-low in passing yards for Mahomes in the Week 11 win over the Chargers. Mahomes ran five times for 59 yards on the ground. Losing Tyreek Hill (hamstring) in the first drive of the game didn't help at all. The Chiefs head into a bye week, but fantasy owners shouldn't be worried about Mahomes' performance going forward. It was a shaky game for Mahomes, but he'll bounce back fine against the Raiders in Week 13.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that it "has not been looking good" on getting rookie wide receiver Jalen Hurd (back) back this season. Hurd suffered a setback recently and probably will not come off Injured Reserve to play in what has become a lost rookie season. Hurd has a chance to make some noise in 2020 and beyond next to rookie standout Deebo Samuel, so he's a good candidate to stash in dynasty/keeper leagues. Emmanuel Sanders will remain the team's No. 1 wideout the rest of the way, with Samuel gaining steam. All of Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James and Dante Pettis just can't be trusted in this run-first offense.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said he expects wide receiver Brandin Cooks (concussion), who has missed the last two games, to return in Week 12 on Monday night against the Ravens. It's great news for Cooks owners and for quarterback Jared Goff, who has struggled mightily the last two games. However, Cooks will be a risky boom-or-bust WR3 against a much-improved Baltimore secondary if he returns on Monday night. The deep threat would be more appealing if Robert Woods (personal) misses another game, but that's probably unlikely.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams (ribs) suffered an injury on Monday night against the Chargers and is questionable to return. Williams ran the ball just four times for seven yards before leaving the game in Mexico City. He managed one catch for six yards on his only target in the passing game. It's frustrating for Williams' fantasy owners after he had taken over this backfield in recent weeks, but now LeSean McCoy might be back in the fold as the primary rushing option for KC if Williams is forced to miss time. Darrel Williams would serve as the change of pace for McCoy if Williams' injury is significant. Check back later for more updates on Williams' injury.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (knee) is "still fighting through" a knee injury that had him limited in practice last week. He looked to favor his knee on a seven-yard reception in the first quarter of Week 11's win over the Lions and played just 41 of 74 offensive snaps. Cooper was also being shadowed by cornerback Darius Slay, so that didn't help matters. It was a disappointment for Dallas' No. 1 wideout, as he caught just three passes for 38 yards in the win. Week 12 will be tough, too, with Stephen Gilmore and the Patriots on tap on the road. Cooper's injury and limited playing time last week is concerning, but he should remain a matchup-proof WR1 with the way he's played in 2019.