The Washington Redskins entered last weekend riding a three-game winning streak and with a firm grip on first place in the NFC East.
Just a few short days later, the Redskins have a decidedly different viewpoint entering Sunday's matchup at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Sure, Washington (5-3) still is atop the division but last week's 38-14 drubbing by the Atlanta Falcons may have altered the course of the team's season. The Redskins lost three starters to season-ending injuries, including guards Shawn Lauvao (torn ACL) and Brandon Scherff (torn pectoral muscle).
With perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams sidelined after undergoing thumb surgery and right tackle Morgan Moses dealing with a sprained knee, Washington could be without four starters on the offensive line for the next few weeks -- reminiscent of the injuries that ravaged the unit a year ago.
"It's something you don't want to go through, but it is pro football and you have to go through it," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Fortunately we have a very good offensive line coach in coach (Bill) Callahan and we'll figure it out and make it work. ... We have to move some people around that are already here, we can do that. But, we can't slow down, the train doesn't stop."
Such a string of injuries could be devastating to any team, but particularly for an offense like Washington that is reliant on the league's 10th-ranked ground game (121.9 yards per game) behind a reborn Adrian Peterson.
"You've just got to stay positive and keep pressing," said Peterson, who was limited to 17 yards on nine carries against Atlanta. "It's not the end of the world, and it's not the end of the season for us. We all have to perform better. That's the mindset that I have."
Washington, which signed three offensive linemen earlier this week to plug the holes, was in a similar spot heading into a road game at the Seattle Seahawks a year ago. Moses was the only starting lineman on the field and yet the Redskins came away with a 17-14 victory.
"You don't think back at all," Redskins center Chase Roullier said. "You're just focused forward on what we can do in the future here, what we're going to be able to do on the next play."
Washington still has two games remaining against defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, so it will look to take advantage of a sliding Tampa Bay squad that has dropped five of six and allowed 79 points in back-to-back losses at Cincinnati and Carolina.
The Buccaneers are allowing a league-high 34.4 points and part of the problem is a minus-15 turnover ratio, which also is the worst in the league. Tampa Bay has not created a turnover in five games, putting more pressure on a struggling defense.
"It is what it is, Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter said of his defense. "These guys are fighting and scratching and clawing. We have to do better as a football team."
Offensively, Koetter has gone back to Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback after Jameis Winston threw 10 interceptions in 3 1/2 games since returning from his three-game suspension to start the season.
Fitzpatrick has lots of outside weapons to throw to and has consistently rallied the team, putting up three games with four touchdown passes, but he put the Buccaneers in a hole last week with a first-quarter interception.
Washington's defense has been opportunistic this season and Tampa Bay has been brutal holding onto the ball. That will be key to limiting what has the potential to be a big-play offense when the quarterback play is there.
One of the game's key matchups will feature Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans squaring off against Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. Evans has 47 catches for 786 yards and four touchdowns but was limited to one reception for 10 yards last week and is dealing with a knee injury that forced him to miss practice Wednesday.
Washington quarterback Alex Smith finally eclipsed 300 yards passing last week against Atlanta after three straight games of failing to throw for more than 178 yards, but Washington fell behind 14-0 early and was blown out.
Smith does protect the ball with nine touchdowns versus only three interceptions and will likely continue to play it safe with his offensive line and wide receivers ravaged by injury. Tampa Bay will challenge Smith to beat them over the top since he doesn't like to force throws down the field.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams is poised for a stellar season in his debut year with the Silver and Black. Lining up across the field from Antonio Brown, Williams will serve as the deep threat for the offense and will undoubtedly get his share of targets with Brown drawing most of the attention from opposing defenses. The 6-foot-4 wideout is a boom or bust player on a weekly basis but has the potential to surpass his value on his current 156 ADP. Williams caught 41 balls for 653 yards and five touchdowns with the Chargers last season despite being nearly non-existent in the second half of the year. He does own a 1,000-yard season under his belt, so he has sneaky potential on a team lacking a depth of weapons. As the bonafide number two receiving option for quarterback Derek Carr, Williams is a good late-round target, but the week-to-week consistency is a question mark.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (ACL) is expected to be ready to go for the start of the 2019 season. Fuller's played just 17 games over the past two seasons, but when he's on the field he's one of the NFL's best downfield weapons and has developed great chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Even with serious injury concerns, the upside is too great with Fuller to pass up on him in the middle rounds of the draft. He has 11 touchdown catches over the past two seasons and with DeAndre Hopkins playing across the field from him, defenses aren't able to double Fuller, allowing him to get open deep on a routine basis.
Houston Texans running back D'Onta Foreman had a disastrous 2018 season, rushing for negative yardage on seven carries while adding two catches for 28 yards and a touchdown. Recovering from an Achilles tear, Foreman appeared in just one regular season game, playing 31 snaps in a loss to the Eagles. Foreman is expected to play a much bigger role this year now that Houston's long time backup, Alfred Blue, is gone, and Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle expects 2019 to be an audition of sorts for Foreman in preparation for Lamar Miller's impending free agency, with Foreman seeing a decent amount of work this season. Foreman makes sense as a late round pick for this reason, though questions about how he'll play after the Achilles injury loom large.
The Denver Broncos have signed running back David Williams, who the team originally drafted in 2018 before letting go. Williams was a Jaguar last season, but carried the ball just eight times for 36 yards with Jacksonville. It's hard to imagine a situation where Williams has fantasy value in a Broncos backfield that already has Royce Freeman and Phillip, but stranger things have happened. He's not draftable in any format, but a good training camp could put him in the mix for some of Devontae Booker's snaps as the number-three back.
The NFL will not suspend Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill for violating the league's player-conduct policy. Hill was under investigation for an incident in which his son's arm was broken. With Hill cleared to be on the field, the Chiefs wideout is once again on track to be one of the league's top receivers thanks to his speed and the prolific passing of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Hill's a second-round fantasy pick at worst now, and will be a huge value for fantasy owners who drafted early and took him at his lower offseason ADP.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill is unlikely to resume contract talks for several weeks or months with the team.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not be suspended by the NFL as the league found that he did not violate the personal conduct policy. He will be able to attend training camp and participate in all team activities.
Fantasy Spin: The news has a big impact on the fantasy landscape as Hill immediately returns to WR1 status with the cloud clearing over him. Hill had an 87-1,479-12 breakout last season, and talks on a long-term deal could also rekindle.
Rival teams believe the Buffalo Bills could release someone from the group of RBs LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon, according to MMQB's Albert Breer, who notes that McCoy is set to earn far more money than Gore or Yeldon.
Fantasy Spin: Barring injury, Devin Singletary is going to make the 53-man roster. Beyond that, training camp will sort things out, though Yeldon seems the most like casualty at this stage.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is now the top receiver on his team but still has to prove to some that he belongs among the league's elite. After finishing top six in the NFL last year in both receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,426), the third-year pass catcher is in a position to repeat his breakout season. Without Antonio Brown in town, Smith-Schuster will be Ben Roethlisberger's first look. In half-PPR mocks, he's been going in the early-to-middle of the second round. The talent and opportunity are certainly there for the 22-year-old to be considered a top eight receiver in fantasy drafts.
Denver Broncos TE Troy Fumagalli spent time with the first-team offense during training camp Thursday, July 18.
Oakland Raiders RB Jalen Richard could lose a 'good chunk' of his snaps on receiving downs to RB Josh Jacobs, according to Vic Tafur of The Athletic.
Fantasy Spin: Richard's value was already limited to PPR formats, and now that Jacobs is in the mix and potentially headed for an every-down role, Richard is slipping into handcuff territory. Meanwhile, Jacobs looks like a RB2 candidate as a rookie.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones remains unsigned with one week remaining before training camp opens. He is one of five first-round picks yet to agree to terms with his organization. Jones is still scheduled to arrive to training camp on Monday when all rookies and select veterans report. He is expected to sign a four-year, $25.5 million contract, with a $16.6 million guarantee, when he arrives, or even shortly before. That is the financial slot for the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. Last season RB Saquon Barkley signed a day before he arrived at camp, so there isn't cause for alarm with Big Blue.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Demarcus Robinson will be expected to take over the role that Jacksonville Jaguars WR Chris Conley filled for the offense last season.
Fantasy Spin: Conley finished last season with 32 catches for 334 yards and five scores while Robinson logged 22 grabs for 288 yards and four scores. Combine those numbers on top of a potential suspension for Tyreek Hill, and Robinson could be worth a late-round flier as a WR5.
Denver Broncos WR River Cracraft's chances of earning a spot on the 53-man roster have improved following the retirement of WR Aaron Burbridge, according to Benjamin Allbright of 104.7 FM Denver.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley rolled up 261 carries, 1,307 rushing yards while adding 91 receptions last season. Beat writer John Schmeelk expects the number of receptions for Barkley to drop by as many as 15-20. Early in the season Barkley had many non-consequential dump-off receptions, posting 58 grabs in the first half and 33 in the second half. Barkley likely will have more impactful plays that gain more yardage, even if his catch total declines. Running backs coach Craig Johnson expects the improvement in Year 2 for Barkley to be in his attention to detail, including pass protection, more precise route running, technique and perfect execution of the playbook. Barkley remains a sure-fire Round 1 selection in all fantasy formats, and is a consideration for No. 1 overall pick in PPR formats.
New York Giants placekicker Aldrick Rosas booted 32 field goals in 2018, the fifth-most in franchise history. He connected for a 97.0 field-goal percentage, setting a franchise record. His only missed field-goal attempt was a 52-yard try with 28 seconds remaining in the first half in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He also hit a 57-yarder against the Chicago Bears, setting a new franchise record. Rosas has emerged as a fantasy option after a rough first season for Big Blue. And the team should struggle at times on offense, settling for more field-goal attempts than point-after tries, which is always good for fantasy.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins expects to be used in various spots on the field in 2019. While the battle for playing time at the tight end position will be tough between Akins, Jordan Thomas, and rookie Kahale Warring, Akins being able to be used in the backfield and in the slot can help him carve out a role. Still, with wide receiver Keke Coutee expected to see most of the slot minutes, Akins' versatility isn't enough to make him a trustworthy fantasy player in 2019 unless injuries hit in Houston.
New York Giants safety Jabrill Peppers was the main kick and punt returner man for the Cleveland Browns, and beat writer Lance Medow expects him to reprise that role with the Giants in 2019. However, since he is the team's starting safety, too, his usage will likely be managed at times. "It's a lot of different scenarios, and it's good to have options," special teams coach Thomas McGaughey said last month. Peppers is considered the front runner for the job, however, and others like wide receivers Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, Golden Tate, Cody Latimer and Brittan Golden have also see time in the return game in the past. Rookie Darius Slayton could also factor in.
New York Giants undrafted rookie tight end C.J. Conrad turned heads during organized team activities, making a lot of plays and rarely dropping passes, according to beat writer Dan Salomone. He has plenty of size at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds and he could emerge as an option in the red zone, and Conrad could be used in two tight end sets with fellow TE Evan Engram as more of a hybrid wideout-tight end, running fly patterns and working out of the slot. At this point he doesn't warrant fantasy consideration, but he is a name to watch as he head into camp.