Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden listens to questions during a news conference at the end of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Kansas City won the game 28-10. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Kansas City won the game 28-10. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins throws as he falls during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins fumbles as he is hit during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) During his nine-year hiatus from the NFL sideline, Jon Gruden evaluated players like he was still a coach, drawing particular attention as an analyst for ESPN for his one-on-one film breakdowns with quarterback prospects entering the draft.
Kirk Cousins was one of those pupils. Though only a fourth-round pick by Washington in 2012, the eighth player selected at his position that spring, Cousins made a clear impression on Gruden with his attention to detail and ability to communicate. Gruden even remarked at the end of that episode that perhaps he'd get back in the game to coach him.
Well, this week, Gruden and the Oakland Raiders have been scheming against Cousins, who will try to bounce back for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday from one of the worst performances as a pro.
''He works hard at football. He's had a lot of production,'' said Gruden, who took over as coach of the Raiders last season. ''Hopefully we can find a way to slow him down and win a football game.''
That's what Green Bay did last weekend, when Cousins posted the second-worst completion percentage of his career and committed three turnovers in a 21-16 defeat. The comeback bid was waylaid by a first-and-goal interception in the end zone, an off-balance throw he said afterward he should've sent to the seats. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer expressed anew the team's confidence in Cousins, who's in the second season of a three-year, $84 million, fully guaranteed contract.
''You've got to play well to earn peoples' confidence, so if he's saying that, it's because he's seen practice reps, he's seen game reps, he's seen what we're capable of as an offense throwing the football,'' Cousins said. ''So you've got to go out and earn it. Believe me, I'm not going to be playing quarterback here if I go out and play the way I did this past Sunday for much longer. So I understand that, and I look forward to getting out there and playing at a much higher level.''
Here are some other angles to follow on Sunday:
The Raiders (1-1) have begun this week a whopping 48-day stretch without a game at the Oakland Coliseum. After visiting the Vikings, the Raiders will travel to Indianapolis, then London for a ''home'' game against Chicago. After their bye week, they go back on the road to play Green Bay and Houston. The Raiders won't play in Oakland again until Nov. 3 against Detroit.
''We're still trying to understand how that happened, but we're going to have to deal with it,'' said Gruden, whose team went 1-7 on the road last year. ''We've just got to showcase our mental toughness and deal with it. It's uncommon, maybe unprecedented, maybe unrealistic that this should ever happen in pro football. I'm not excited about it, but we'll adapt and do it the best we can.''
The Raiders will get a boost on the offensive line this week when left guard Richie Incognito makes his debut for the team. The four-time Pro Bowl pick missed the first two games, while suspended for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He's eager as ever to see the field for the first time since a Jan. 7, 2018, playoff game with Buffalo. Incognito did not play at all last season.
''All the negative stuff is behind me. Just eyes forward, staying positive,'' he said. ''Relishing the opportunity, enjoying every day in here because you don't know how many more you're going to have.''
Another talented veteran with a troubled past who joined the Raiders this year, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, is well-known to Zimmer, who was the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati during his first three NFL seasons. Burfict has been repeatedly fined and suspended by the league throughout his career for late, violent hits.
''He knows the defense as well as anybody, probably as well as I do. He's very instinctive. He's very athletic. He reads things extremely quick, and he's a thumper,'' Zimmer said. ''We better make sure the officials know he has to play clean.''
Gruden wasn't having that.
''Burfict's played for us for two games. He hasn't had any penalties. So I don't know about all that,'' Gruden said. ''He's had a bulls-eye on him in his career in Cincinnati, and I'm sure the referees are looking out for him. I don't think the refs need any more help than they already have.''
The Vikings, though, were prepared to keep their head on a swivel when catching a pass in traffic.
''We've all lost our emotions at times, or what have you, so I think he's learned from that stuff, and I think he's been a pretty clean football player recently,'' wide receiver Adam Thielen said.
FAST START, SLOW FINISH
The Raiders have made a bad habit in one-plus season under Gruden of stalling by the offense after fast starts. They're tied for fifth in the NFL with an average of 2.83 points per drive on their first possession since the start of 2018, but that production has dropped to barely half of that over the rest of the game, with an average of 1.46 points per drive following their opening possession. Last week against Kansas City, Oakland had 10 points after two drives but didn't score the rest of the game.
''We've always been able to start fast, which is good, and hopefully we can do that again this week but then maintain it and then cut out the penalties,'' quarterback Derek Carr said.
The Vikings, with Dalvin Cook leading the NFL in rushing, aren't the only team in this pass-favored league that's content to keep the ball on the ground. Rookie Josh Jacobs, one of three first-round draft picks by the Raiders, has 184 rushing yards, fourth in the NFL.
''He runs hard, for sure,'' Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen said. ''He has the quickness to get the ball outside and cut it outside quick. He's a downhill runner, and he can make the big play.''
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell caught his only target for 15 yards in Week 6's 38-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Treadwell played 7-of-71 (10%) offensive snaps operating as the fourth receiver and hasn't been in on more than 15% of snaps in a game since being re-signed prior to Week 4. Treadwell will likely continue to work in as the fourth receiver moving forward but won't offer any fantasy value with his very limited role in the offense.
Minnesota Vikings tight end caught 3-of-3 targets for 36 yards in a Week 6 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. This was Rudolph's best game this season by quite a large margin, which just reinforces that he can't be trusted as a starting tight end even with the position being as shallow as it is. He played in 68-of-71 (96%) offensive snaps and had the third-most targets this week, but he still possesses a low weekly floor and ceiling with his lack of red-zone usage. Rudolph is only a desperation play as a TE2 heading into Week 7's road game against the Detroit Lions.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill (shoulder) fully participated in practice Monday, Oct. 14. The Chiefs did not practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Hill returned from injury last week and posted two touchdowns. He is the main option in the passing game for the Chiefs and is a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (ankle) fully participated in practice Monday, Oct. 14. The Chiefs did not practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes was held under 300 yards for the first time this season in Week 6 but still threw for three touchdowns. He has been completing less than 60 percent of his passes over the last three weeks but is still a must-start option in fantasy leagues.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) was limited during practice Monday, Oct. 14. The Chiefs did not practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Watkins was not able to play in Week 6 but may have a chance to play this week. He would be facing a solid Denver Broncos defense but could still be at least a No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.
New York Jets DT Steve McLendon (hamstring) and LB Neville Hewitt (stinger) are considered day-to-day because of injuries.
Baltimore Ravens LB Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) is considered day-to-day because of his ankle injury. Head coach John Harbaugh said Onwuasor likely will play in Week 7 if he is able to practice this week.
New York Jets TE Chris Herndon was activated from the Reserve/Suspended list Monday, Oct. 14. The team also waived LB Frankie Luvu.
Fantasy Spin: Herndon is currently dealing with an injury but should have a role in the passing game when he is healthy. He should be owned in most fantasy leagues and can become a starter at some point this season.
New York Jets LB C.J. Mosley (groin) may be able to participate in practice this week, according to head coach Adam Gase.
Buffalo Bills OT Cody Ford (concussion) and DE Trent Murphy (concussion) participated in practice Monday, Oct. 14.
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (ankle) continues to make progress from his preseason ankle injury, but head coach Zac Taylor offered only a 'we'll see' when asked about Green's potential availability for Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Fantasy Spin: While there is always a chance the Bengals could hold him out until after the Week 9 bye in what is quickly becoming a lost season, there is definitely some incentive for him to give him some time to knock off the rust. There is also no question Cincinnati's offense needs Green, if only because Tyler Boyd has been held in check in three of the last four games. Although the second-half schedule is not particularly favorable for Green, he remains a nice buy-low candidate - albeit with obvious injury risk.
Updating a previous report, Washington Redskins RB Chris Thompson (foot) underwent an MRI on his injured foot Monday, Oct. 14. The team is reportedly still awaiting the results.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst had just one catch for four yards during the win over the Bengals on Sunday. Even with Marquise Brown (ankle) out of the lineup, Hurst continued to be a non-factor in the team's offensive attack. He likely won't have a consistent role moving ahead, especially with Mark Andrews in the mix, but he will be good for an occasional touchdown from time-to-time.
Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill had 31 yards on five carries in the win over Cincinnati on Sunday. With Lamar Jackson going crazy on the Bengals Defense by rushing for 152 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts, Hill continued to play second fiddle to Gus Edwards, who had just three more yards than the former. Nonetheless, outside of dynasty formats, Hill has relatively no fantasy value at the moment, with that likely to continue until either Mark Ingram or Edwards goes down with an injury.
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards finished with 34 yards on six carries during the win over the Bengals on Sunday. Averaging just over seven touches per game, this type of performance has been the norm for the 24-year-old this season. He should continue to outpace Justice Hill but don't expect much of anything from a fantasy standpoint unless Mark Ingram goes down with an injury.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Seth Roberts pulled in both of his targets against the Bengals on Sunday, finishing with just 23 yards in a game that was highlighted by the play of quarterback Lamar Jackson, who rushed for 152 yards on 19 carries. While Marquise Brown (ankle) wasn't in the lineup, Roberts wasn't able to get anything going. Continue to not expect much from 28-year-old, however, even if Hollywood misses more time in the weeks ahead.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Miles Boykin had two catches (three targets) for 28 yards against the Bengals in Week 6. Though Marquise Brown (ankle) wasn't in the lineup, quarterback Lamar Jackson virtually monopolized the team's offensive attack by rushing for 152 yards on 19 carries. Don't expect much from Boykin moving forward in all formats, even if Hollywood misses some more time.
Baltimore Ravens CB Maurice Canady (hamstring) reportedly suffered a hamstring injury of unknown severity in Week 6 versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead had three catches for 18 yards on Sunday. With Lamar Jackson and company running all over the Bengals Defense, Snead was unable to get involved despite the absence of Marquise Brown (ankle), who was ruled out for the week. The 26-year-old continues to be included as the No. 3 receiving option outside of Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, often picking up the duo's leftovers from week-to-week. He still has value in deeper PPR formats, with his stock rising if Hollywood misses more time.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Jarius Wright pulled in just one catch for six yards against the Buccaneers in London. With Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel gobbling up most of the targets from week-to-week, Wright has relatively no fantasy value at the moment. If one of those guys gets injured, his stock may rise, but not enough to make a difference from a fantasy standpoint.