New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning speaks to the media after an NFL football practice in East Rutherford, N.J., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Canavan)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) is tackled by New York Jets defensive end Nathan Shepherd (97) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson (96) tackles Miami Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns (17) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The 2019 season isn't ending the way Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores or New York Giants counterpart Pat Shurmur had hoped months ago.
Both knew they were taking young teams into the season, and they were hoping to find a way to contend for a playoff spot in December.
So much for that idea. The Dolphins dropped their first seven games, and the Giants headed south after a 2-2 start highlighted by rookie Daniel Jones replacing 38-year-old Eli Manning as the starting quarterback.
When the Dolphins (3-10) visit the Giants (2-11) on Sunday the outcome only will help decide the selection order in the draft next spring and give one team a rare chance to celebrate.
The Giants are trying to stop a nine-game slide, matching a franchise record, that has put Shurmur's job in jeopardy. New York has won seven of 29 games in his tenure.
Shurmur insists he sees improvement. It might not help his future.
''I understand the numbers. I get it. I get all that,'' he said. ''But you just try to keep inspiring the players to play.''
The Dolphins will be playing their second straight game at MetLife Stadium. They were a little upset last weekend after the Jets posted a 22-21 win on a last-second field goal set up by a video replay that overturned a non-call and awarded a pass interference penalty.
''It was a tough one last week, but in this league you have to deal with adversity, move on and move onto the next challenge, which we've got a big one this week,'' Flores said. ''I don't necessarily think about going back to MetLife as - whatever stadium it is - to me, it's the idea and the goal is always to try and get a win.''
Here's five things to watch Sunday:
NON CENTURY MARK
Giants running back Saquon Barkley has struggled since returning from a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games. The No. 2 pick overall in the 2018 draft has gone seven straight games without running for 100 yards.
In his rookie season, Barkley had seven 100-yard games, including five in the final seven games. He had 100-yard games in the opening two games of the season and then got hurt just before halftime in the third game.
The streak has a shot at ending. The Dolphins are tied for 30th in run defense, allowing an average of 141.1 yards.
IN WAKE OF DEMOTIONS
Dolphins defensive end Taco Charlton and rookie guard Michael Deiter are eager to bounce back from recent demotions.
Charlton leads Miami with five sacks, twice the total of any teammate, but was inactive last week.
''It made me hungrier,'' Charlton said. ''I want to be a player that no matter what, the game plan is you can't sit me.''
Deiter had started every game until last week, when he played briefly off the bench.
''I just need to play better,'' Deiter said. ''I'm confident that I can go out there and help us win, but I need to do it more consistently.''
GO TO GUY
Despite having Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate III on the roster, Jones and Manning have a new go-to guy for their passes.
Rookie Darius Slayton is putting up unexpected numbers this season for the Giants. The fifth-round draft pick from Auburn is second on the team with 42 receptions, two behind tight end Evan Engram. His 659 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches lead the team, along with his 15.7 yard average. He had two TD catches Monday night against the Eagles.
What makes the performance more surprising is Slayton was hampered by a hamstring problem in training camp and was inactive for the first two regular-season games.
The Dolphins rookie known as the intern may get a heavier workload after playing well in his first NFL start last week.
Patrick Laird contributed 48 yards rushing and 38 receiving. He has climbed from the bottom of the depth chart to become Miami's fourth starter at running back this year.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Laird tends to get overlooked. He was a walk-on at California and went undrafted out of college.
Shortly after joining the Dolphins as a free agent, Laird had lunch with team interns who assumed he was part of their group rather than a player. That earned him a nickname that stuck: the intern.
Because of injuries, the Dolphins' secondary is a work in progress.
The nine defensive backs on the roster have a combined total of nine career interceptions. They're in a scramble to become part of rebuilding Miami's long-term plans.
''You've got to take full advantage,'' cornerback Nik Needham said. ''We're all trying to do that.''
Buffalo Bills DE Jerry Hughes (wrist) had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his wrist this week.
Miami Dolphins QB Josh Rosen hasn't been written off, according to general manager Chris Grier, and Grier said he saw improvement in Rosen during practice throughout the year.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Mid-week downgrades aren't good, but we still have another full week before the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, so Kelce should be just fine to play in the big game against the 49ers. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (illness) returned to a full practice after sitting out on Wednesday. Although Kelce had just three catches for 30 yards in the AFC Championship against Tennessee, he busted out for 10 grabs, 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round against Houston. Kelce was the top-scoring fantasy tight end in 2019 and could easily have a big game in the Super Bowl against San Francisco.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) is expected to turn himself in to police but hadn't done so as of the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 23, according to a public information officer for the Hollywood Police Department in Florida. 'I believe they've given him ample opportunity to turn himself in,'' Christian Lata told USA TODAY Sports. An arrest warrant was issued against Brown following an incident with a moving truck driver Tuesday, Jan. 21. 'I'm sure it's going to be within today or tomorrow, but I'm not sure exactly when,'' Lata said late Thursday afternoon. 'I would assume it would be sooner than later.''
Fantasy Spin: There's less and less reason to hold out hope of Brown finding his way onto an NFL roster and becoming fantasy relevant in 2020. Dynasty owners should be looking to move on.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman did some solo work as he recovers from a dislocated shoulder. Expect him to play in Super Bowl LIV Sunday, Feb. 2.
Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones (calf) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 23. CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and C Austin Reiter (wrist) practiced in full. DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (hand) was removed from the injury report. S Jordan Lucas (illness) didn't practice.
San Francisco 49ers WR Dante Pettis (illness) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23. LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral), DL Dee Ford (quad, hamstring) and S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) were limited. LB Dre Greenlaw (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce and the Chiefs have a long way to go until Super Bowl LIV Sunday, Feb. 2. He should be fully expected to be on the field.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson (illness) returned to a full practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Robinson has scored just one touchdown since Week 3, and he hasn't recorded 100 or more receiving yards since Week 2. He's a risky flier without a guaranteed role in the offense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) was seen running on a side field ahead of the team's practice Thursday, Jan. 23.
Fantasy Spin: It appears Coleman will be able to suit up for Super Bowl LIV after dislocating his shoulder in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. He'll continue splitting work with Raheem Mostert and, to a lesser degree, Matt Breida. Any or all of the three could have a big game, but it's Mostert with the hot hand following the NFC Championship.
Houston Texans CB Gareon Conley (ankle) recently underwent a procedure to have a screw removed from his right ankle but is expected to be recovered in full for the beginning of the team's offseason workout program, according to a league source Thursday, Jan. 23.
Oakland Raiders CB Nevin Lawson signed a one-year contract extension Thursday, Jan. 23. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) is doing some running on a side field at the team's practice on Thursday. Despite sitting out of practice, Coleman appears very much in play to suit up for the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2. He suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers, but Coleman has an extra week to heal up and should be good to go for the big game. He will continue to serve as a change-of-pace back for Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers.
The Atlanta Falcons plan to tender a contract to impending exclusive-rights free-agent kicker Younghoe Koo. The 25-year-old place kicker solidified the team's kicking position in the final eight games of the season, making 23 of his 26 field-goal tries and 15 of his 16 extra points. Koo went 7-for-9 on kicks from 40-49 yards and hit his only attempt of 50-plus yards. While he should enter the 2020 season as the favorite to kick for Atlanta, the Falcons will also bring in some competition to push him. With an offense that can be explosive and put up points, Koo will have some fantasy appeal if he sticks around.
Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2020, said he'd be happy to stay with the team for the long-term. "Whatever coach decides to do, I'm happy. I'd be happy to stay there with Deshaun (Watson) and help win games," Tunsil said. He was traded to the Texans from the Dolphins last season and was a massive upgrade for Houston's offensive line and quarterback Deshaun Watson. It remains to be seen if the team will offer Tunsil a long-term deal, but one thing that is certain is that Tunsil's presence on Watson's blind side is great news heading into next season as the Texans look to get back to the postseason.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert gained 158 of his 220 rushing yards after contact in the NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Jan. 19. It was the most yards after contact by a running back in the postseason since 2006.
Fantasy Spin: Next up is a Chiefs run defense that surrendered 128.2 yards per game during the regular season -- seventh most in the league -- but the larger fantasy question is whether Mostert will enter 2020 as the Niners' lead back. A standout game on the Super Bowl stage surely will go a long way toward cementing that.
The Dallas Cowboys haven't had contract discussions with wide receiver Amari Cooper, but he said that he wants to be in Dallas for a long time. Cooper will become a free agent in March, but he is the team's No. 2 priority this offseason behind quarterback Dak Prescott. Despite dealing with nagging injuries for most of the season, Cooper had 79 receptions for a career-high 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns over a full season in 2019. It's hard to imagine Dallas letting him walk in free agency, and his fantasy value would remain the highest as a high-end WR1 if he stays with the Cowboys moving forward. If he goes elsewhere, Michael Gallup would become the team's No. 1 wideout.
Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr is tiring of the quarterback rumors surrounding the team -- the latest resulting from a photo taken of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, a pending free agent, and Raiders owner Mark Davis talking at Jan. 18 UFC fight in Las Vegas. 'C'mon man, when's it going to end?' Carr asked.
Fantasy Spin: Carr, who set career highs in passing yards (4,054) and completion percentage (70.4) in 2019, is entering the third year of a five-year, $125 million contract but his release would save the Raiders $16.5 million against the 2020 salary cap. It's likely he sticks with the Raiders for another season -- the franchise's first in Las Vegas -- but he remains an up-and-down QB2 for fantasy purposes.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees isn't rushing his decision on whether he'll return for another season. I wanted to give it at least a few weeks, months, postseason, just to take a deep breath and decompress a little bit and get some time with the family and then just reassess,' Brees said Wednesday, Jan. 22, during an interview at the Pro Bowl.
Fantasy Spin: Brees just turned 41 and is coming off a season where he missed five games due to a thumb injury, but he still finished eighth among fantasy QBs with an average of 23.9 fantasy points per game while helping guide the Saints to another NFC South title. He'll be in the low-end QB1 discussion once again if he's back for his 15th season in the Big Easy.
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, a pending free agent, could receive the franchise tag from the Bengals this offseason. 'The franchise tag is not the best thing,' Green said in a TV interview. 'But like I said, I'm not turning down 18 million dollars. It just happens. When you run a business, you have to make difficult decisions. But I feel like when you put that on me, then that's what you're showing me, you only want me for one year. And I always play with a chip on my shoulder.'
Fantasy Spin: Green's situation will be one of the intriguing offseason storylines -- in fantasy and reality -- to follow, but keep in mind he'll turn 31 in July and, more importantly, has played a total of 17 actual snaps since Week 8 of the 2018 season. That sets up a fantasy sleeper situation, rife with boom or bust potential.