Mon Dec 9 4:01pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer
Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith, right, catches a touchdown pass against Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel watches during the first half of an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Titans in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Tennessee Titans inside linebacker Jayon Brown (55) celebrates with inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard (59) after scoring against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Coach Mike Vrabel told his Tennessee Titans what happens in the second half of an NFL season is what matters most.
They listened carefully.
Not only have the Titans salvaged a 2-4 start to put themselves into playoff contention, they have won four straight and six of seven to tie Houston atop the AFC South. The division rivals play twice in the final three games, starting Sunday when the Titans (8-5) host the Texans (8-5).
'"It's been good to be able to put ourselves in a position now to focus and concentrate on the Houston Texans," Vrabel said Monday.
The Titans had some help trimming the gap with Houston after the Texans lost 38-24 to Denver. Tennessee followed up by routing Oakland 42-21 on the road.
“Every game is big for us from here on out," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. ``There is no looking ahead to anything. It's one game at a time and take advantage of the opportunity that's in front of us."
The offense keeps improving seemingly with each game. The Titans are averaging 31.4 points a game since Tannehill became the starter - second most in the NFL in that span. They also have 27 touchdowns over the last seven games, a big jump from the 11 scored through the first six games. It's why Tennessee now ranks 10th in the NFL in points scored per game.
The Titans averaged 9.36 yards per play against Oakland, the highest single-game average in franchise history and the best for any team this season. That comes two games after they averaged 9.06 yards per play against the Jaguars.
Derrick Henry is second in the NFL in rushing, just 38 yards back of Cleveland's Nick Chubb, despite being cautious with a sore left hamstring. Henry is tied with Dalvin Cook of Minnesota with 13 TDs rushing.
Tannehill threw for a season-high 391 yards in Oakland, completing a pass to 10 receivers as Tennessee piled up a season-high 552 yards. He leads the NFL with a 118.5 passer rating
“My confidence only grows when I see them make those plays," Tannehill said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The banged-up secondary. Starting cornerback Malcolm Butler is on injured reserve, and Adoree' Jackson missed the Raiders game with an injured foot. LeShaun Sims was out for a second straight week with an injured right ankle. Then starting safety Kenny Vaccaro suffered a concussion against Oakland.
The offensive line has struggled mightily this season with sacks and too many penalties. But the Titans did not allow a sack against the Raiders for only the second game this season. Left tackle Taylor Lewan, who publicly apologized after his own flag-filled game Nov. 10, has not been penalized in the three games since that post-game tirade at himself.
Kicker Ryan Succop. He clanked a 42-yard field goal off the left upright just before halftime. Succop now is 1 of 5 on field goals since being activated from injured reserve, and the Titans still rank last in the NFL, making 47.1 percent of their field goals. The Titans signed Ryan Santoso on Nov. 27 to handle kickoffs and have some insurance, and Vrabel said they will keep working with Succop on his process and his accuracy.
“He just needs to put a good swing on it, trust that he's made a lot of kicks in this league and will continue to make kicks for us," Vrabel said.
Vrabel declined to give an update on his secondary, noting an injury report will be out Wednesday after practice. Vaccaro is in the concussion protocol. Henry kept his left hamstring warm during the Raiders' game with a pad wrapped around the back of his leg, the same hamstring that has had him on the injury report the past two weeks.
“There's no quit in me," Henry said. “My leg would have to be halfway off for me to stop.”
2007 - That's the last season the Titans swept the season series with the Texans.
Beat the Texans on Sunday to take the AFC South lead for themselves before hosting New Orleans with the regular-season finale looming Dec. 29 in Houston. A sweep of the Texans means Tennessee's first division title since 2008 and first playoff game at home since January 2009.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett had a good matchup in Week 14, and he took advantage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He finished the day 19-of-36 for 251 yards and two touchdowns. He also added four carries for 26 yards. Brissett has been without a number of receiving weapons this year due to injuries, but he was able to utilize the weapons he did have on Sunday afternoon. Brissett's matchups get difficult down the stretch, and he'll be trending downward with the Colts playoff hopes taking a major hit with the latest loss.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marcus Johnson took advantage of a great matchup and opportunity in Week 14 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With a number of other pass catchers out, Johnson was quarterback Jacoby Brissett's second-favorite target on the day. He caught three of his seven targets for 105 yards and a touchdown. As long as wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) remains out, Johnson will likely continue to see work while the Colts' coaching staff looks to determine their key pieces for the future.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack, in his return from a hand injury, was inefficient in Week 14 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he was able to get into the end zone to salvage his day. He finished with 13 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown. He didn't add anything in the passing game, but, in a big shootout, he wasn't utilized a ton. In the final weeks of the season, Mack won't be counted on for a ton of production, but he's still giving you an RB2 level of play on an every week basis.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal has shown the ability to be a great player this season, and he showed that again in Week 14. Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he caught five his nine targets for 74 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett consistently relies on Pascal as his top wideout option every week, and it's just a matter of him completing the catches to be a good play in fantasy. His matchups are less-than-stellar down the stretch, but he still has the volume every week to give him consistent upside.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle exploded in Week 13, but he struggled in a big way in Week 14 despite a great matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He caught two of his six targets for 27 yards, and he failed to get into the end zone. Doyle gets the volume to be a consistent fantasy tight end, but he didn't convert on it this week. He'll be a consistent option down the stretch, but he'll never be a high-ceiling player like some of the other guys at the position.
Updating a previous report, Cincinnati Bengals WR Auden Tate (knee) was diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee after an MRI on Monday, Dec.9, showed no structural damage, according to ESPN's Ben Baby.
Fantasy Spin: It most likely means he's out for Week 15 and perhaps the rest of the season. Owners can wait for further confirmation if they want, but he can be dropped in most leagues. Alex Erickson figures to see a few more snaps and targets in his absence, although it's unlikely he'll be worth using in fantasy the rest of the way.
Detroit Lions running back J.D. McKissic rushed one time for two yards and made four catches for 16 yards in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. McKissic continues to be the passing downs option in the Detroit backfield but isn't getting enough work to warrant starting in fantasy. He has a good matchup with the Buccaneers in Week 15, but is nothing more than an inexpensive DFS dart throw in the hope he scores in a game that could turn into a shootout.
Detroit Lions running back Bo Scarbrough rushed 19 times for 65 yards in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. Scarbrough added one catch for five yards through the air. Scarbrough has completely taken over this backfield as no other Lion had more than two carries. Despite the work, Scarbrough's fantasy value is capped somewhat by the Lions offense starting rookie David Blough at quarterback making scoring opportunities rare in the Motor City. Still, Scarbrough can be trusted as a borderline RB2/3 based on volume alone with more value in non-PPR leagues.
San Francisco 49ers CB Richard Sherman (hamstring) underwent an MRI on Monday, Dec. 9 on his injured hamstring, which he reported felt pretty sore after the Week 14 game against the New Orleans Saints. His status for Week 15 versus the Atlanta Falcons is 'in doubt,' but he'll do everything he can to be ready, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones caught just three of seven targets for 38 scoreless yards in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. Jones hasn't had more than 46 yards in four straight games now and has been reliant on nine touchdowns this season to find fantasy production. Rookie QB David Blough starting for Detroit hasn't helped matters for Jones but a matchup with the Buccaneers in Week 15 should keep Jones in fantasy lineups as a WR3.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Danny Amendola made five catches for 34 yards in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. Amendola had eight targets, which was tied for the team lead, but couldn't do much with them vs a stout Minnesota defense. Amendola continues to have more fantasy value in PPR leagues as he gets a lot of targets but with not a lot of air yards. Amendola has a great matchup with the Buccaneers in Week 15 but will be hard to trust in fantasy as the third receiving option on a team starting a rookie, third-string quarterback.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay caught six of eight targets for 58 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. Golladay was having a quiet afternoon before a 10-yard touchdown with about two minutes to play gave his fantasy owners something to smile about. Golladay has the talent but will be hard to trust with rookie David Blough under center in Detroit. A matchup with a porous Buccaneers secondary in Week 15, however, will keep Golladay as a must-start fantasy receiver.
Chicago Bears LB Roquan Smith (pectoral) suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Week 14 versus the Dallas Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season, according to head coach Matt Nagy.
Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough went 24-for-40 passing for 205 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in a loss to the Vikings Sunday. Blough connected with Kenny Golladay for a touchdown in garbage time but overall played like a rookie who was third on the depth chart most of the season. Blough shouldn't be owned in typical fantasy leagues but does have streamer appeal in 2QB leagues with a matchup against an atrocious Buccaneers pass defense in Week 15.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate caught all four of his targets for 30 yards and a touchdown in a Week 14 win over Indianapolis. Brate had one target less than O.J. Howard and both should see their target share increase with wide receiver Mike Evans injuring his hamstring in the game. Fantasy managers would need to see it with Brate before buying in as his usage has been sporadic all season making it almost impossible to trust Brate in fantasy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber had 11 carries for 36 scoreless yards in a win over the Colts Sunday. Barber caught both of his targets for 19 yards in the passing game. Tampa Bay abandoned the run game early in this one falling behind by multiple scores making Barber a spectator on the sidelines for most of the second half. Barber and fellow running back Ronald Jones both played less than 40 percent of the offensive snaps and will be hard to trust moving forward as part of a timeshare backfield on a pass-first team. Barber will be a touchdown-dependent dart throw in deep leagues at best in Week 15 at Detroit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Justin Watson launched himself into fantasy relevance Sunday making five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Watson, who had just one catch coming into the game, played 43 snaps after starting receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) left with an injury. Head coach Bruce Arians said he's be shocked if Evans played in Week 15 so expect Watson to play in three-wide receiver sets which should get him on the field plenty for the pass-happy Bucs. Watson's eight targets Sunday were second on the team to Chris Godwin so Watson has some fantasy appeal in deeper leagues, but is too untested to trust in 10 or 12 team leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman caught three of five targets for 70 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Colts Sunday. Perriman played a season-high 83 percent of the team's offensive snaps with star receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) making an early exit in this game. Perriman has been the third receiver in this offense but should be a starter as long as Evans is sidelined. Fantasy owners scrambling to replace Evans should look to Perriman as a possible replacement. There are worse situations to be in than the starting wide receiver in a potent Tampa Bay passing attack. Expect Perriman to be a flex-worthy starter in Week 15 at Detroit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) is scheduled to undergo an MRI Monday for a hamstring injury. Evans pulled up lame at the end of a 61-yard touchdown catch in the first half which was his only production in the game. Head coach Bruce Arians said he's be "shocked" if Evans can play in Week 15 vs Detroit. Breshad Perriman was working as the number two receiver after Evans' injury with Justin Watson playing in three-WR sets. Expect both to see more targets with Evans sidelined with tight end O.J. Howard also expected to see a bump in production.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. has reportedly told players and coaches on other teams to 'come get me' in reference to him wanting out of Cleveland.
Fantasy Spin: It has been a trying season with just a 59-844-2 line that likely cost you a first-round pick to draft him. He can still be a game changer any given week the rest of the way, but his ceiling is as a WR2 right now.