Thu Nov 8 1:46 am
Khalil Mack went through his first full practice in nearly a month this week.
The return of Mack to the lineup could provide a huge lift for the Chicago Bears, getting their elite pass-rushing linebacker healthy in time for a 12-day stretch that will feature three games against NFC North opponents.
Chicago holds a slim half-game edge over Minnesota atop the division as it prepares to host Detroit on Sunday -- the first of two matchups against the Lions in 12 days sandwiched around a showdown against the Vikings.
"We're halfway through the season now and we've got three big divisional opponents coming up, and we kind of know where we're at as a team," Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. "These next three games will tell a lot about who we are and where we're headed."
Chicago bounced back from losses to Miami and New England with back-to-back victories over the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills to maintain its hold on first place. It's the latest the team has been atop the NFC North since 2012.
"First place right now doesn't matter," Bears running back Tarik Cohen said. "It's all about where you finish at the end. So we don't even feel like we're in first place."
Even with Mack sitting out both games, Chicago's defense dominated the Jets (24-10) and Bills (41-9), holding them to a combined 19 points and not allowing a touchdown in either game until the fourth quarter.
Trubisky has not been needed to do much in the past two wins, throwing for 220 yards against the Jets and a season-low 135 in the rout of Buffalo. That has led to skepticism among the media and fans about whether Trubisky can handle the upcoming three-game stretch, but Bears head coach Matt Nagy wants his quarterback to tune out the noise.
"I think any time you are drafted as a quarterback early and high in the draft, you're always gonna be critiqued," Nagy said. "But again, the only thing that he needs to worry about is what I think about him and what people in this building think about him. Everybody's entitled to their opinion and that's OK ... but as long as he just understands that the only thing that matters is what we think, nothing will affect him."
Nagy brushed aside the fact that Trubisky struggled with his accuracy against the Jets and Bills, instead giving credit to some "pretty solid defenses." The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, Trubisky passed for more than 300 yards in three straight games prior to the last two wins.
"It really doesn't matter what anybody says on the outside," Trubisky said. "We're the ones putting the work in preparing for each game and putting it on the line every Sunday. What everybody has to say about it, they only know so much."
The Lions (3-5) have tumbled into the division basement after scoring just 19 points in consecutive losses to the Seattle Seahawks and Vikings. Detroit failed to get into the end zone in the 24-9 loss at Minnesota and quarterback Matthew Stafford absorbed a staggering 10 sacks.
"Look, no one likes a game that we had on Sunday. Certainly not a good situation for us there," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. "There's a lot of contributing factors to something like that. But I think again, it's a full team game, so probably should have done something better all the way around to help everybody because obviously we didn't win, and that's the main thing is trying to win."
Stafford failed to throw for a touchdown pass for the first time this season in Detroit's first game since trading away wide receiver Golden Tate. The Lions may lean more on the running back tandem of rookie Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount.
Although Johnson was limited to 37 yards on 12 carries against the Vikings, he has 503 yards rushing through eight games and is on pace to be the franchise's first 1,000-yard running back since Reggie Bush in 2013.
Chicago's passing game could receive a boost with the potential return of wide receiver Allen Robinson II, who went through a full practice for the first time since suffering a groin injury in Week 7 against New England that sidelined him the past two games.
Detroit also is expecting a bigger contribution from defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who last week saw his first action since the season opener and recorded one sack while playing 12 snaps.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (hip) has progressed in his rehab without setbacks since suffering a hip injury in October, according to a league source. Doctors have ruled out surgery once and for all for Wilson and has raised hope that he will be able to get back on the field this spring. The belief is that Wilson will be ready for the start of the offseason program in April. Wilson ranked third on the team in touchdowns (four receiving and one passing) despite missing nine games, and his yards-per-catch average (15.0) led the team. Although Miami's quarterback situation is up in the air, Wilson should have a prominent place in the team's offense next year regardless.
The New York Jets officially hired Dowell Loggains as their next offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach on Wednesday. Loggains has worked under head coach Adam Gase in both Chicago and Miami. With Gase likely running the show on offense, Loggains' main task will be to continue the development of quarterback Sam Darnold, who was very up and down in his rookie season. The Jets ranked 29th in yards per game (299.2), 25th in passing yards (197.8), 26th in rushing yards (101.4) and 23rd in the league in points per game (20.8) in 2018.
The Arizona Cardinals signed veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to a one-year deal on Wednesday so that he can return for a 16th season. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Fitzgerald will turn 36 at the end of August but will remain the No. 1 wideout on the team because of his experience. His numbers took a hit in one of the worst offenses in the NFL in 2018, but he still led the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (734) and touchdowns (six). While Fitz can still make an impact on the field, he'll be returning to his third head coach in three years, but the addition of Kliff Kingsbury could improve the offense moving forward. We won't say for sure that Fitzgerald will return to the 1,000-yard mark, but he should be a serviceable WR3 at the very least.
Former Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano is expected to land with the New England Patriots in a top defensive role when linebackers coach Brian Flores heading to the Miami Dolphins.
Former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has emerged as the favorite to be hired as Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator, according to sources.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald announced Wednesday, Jan. 23, that he'll return for the 2019 season.
Fantasy Spin: Fitz had a 69-734-6 season, which was well below the 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons the three years previously. The rookie quarterback was part of the problem, but he doesn't have much more upside next season. He's still a PPR asset, but he'll be a mid-round option as a WR3.
Updating an earlier report, Arizona Cardinals impending free-agent WR Larry Fitzgerald re-signed with the Cardinals on a one-year deal. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson (hip) is on schedule with his recovery from an October hip injury that landed him on IR and could be at full speed when the team's offseason workout program begins in April.
Fantasy Spin: After four largely nondescript seasons in Kansas City, Wilson flashed some playmaking ability before getting injured against the Lions. There are far too many variables in Miami for an accurate read on Wilson's fantasy prospects for 2019, but he did enough last year to warrant your attention.
Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles would be eligible to be franchise or transition tagged and then traded if the team decides not to pick up his option, which ESPN's Chris Mortensen believes is a possibility as doing so would allow the Eagles to influence Foles' destination.
Fantasy Spin: Mortensen indicates such a move would prevent Foles from going to a division rival, but it's all speculation at this point. While it's far from a sure thing, Foles could have some fantasy value in the right situation.
Oakland Raiders CB Daryl Worley (shoulder) had successful surgery on his ailing shoulder last week, according to head coach Jon Gruden.
Baltimore Ravens WR Michael Crabtree is likely to be released in the offseason, according to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec.
Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent WR Cole Beasley claimed Tuesday, Jan. 22, that the Dallas front office encourages the coaching staff to get the football to certain players. 'I haven't been a huge priority in that regard. Maybe that will change but I'm not sure,' Beasley said.
Fantasy Spin: Beasley's frustrations are evident and understandable, although Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott and Michael Gallup are all bigger, more talented threats with the ball. Beasley does have a role to play and put together his second best season from a statistical standpoint. That being said, he's only a mid- to late-round PPR flier if he stays in Dallas.
Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said the team is "optimistic" that quarterback Alex Smith (leg) will be ready for the start of the 2019 season, but he also said "we'll see." In his first year with Washington, Smith was a disappointment, throwing for 2,108 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions with an 85.7 QB rating in 10 games before his gruesome leg injury. He'll be heading into his age-35 season and is unlikely to be ready for training camp or the regular season, so he's one to avoid for fantasy purposes. The 'Skins are in dire need of a long-term quarterback.
The Kansas City Chiefs relieved defensive coordinator Bob Sutton of his duties on Tuesday. Sutton was head coach Andy Reid's defensive coordinator for all six of his years in KC, but the Chiefs defense continued to trend downward in 2018 and was their Achilles heel in the AFC Championship loss to the Patriots last weekend. Defensive end Chris Jones -- third in the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2018 -- and linebacker Dee Ford are the linchpins of this defense, but they must improve their talent in the secondary. The Chiefs ranked 31st in yards allowed per game (405.5), 31st in passing yards allowed (273.4), 27th in rushing yards allowed (132.1), 24th in points allowed (26.3) and tied for eighth in takeaways (27) in 2018.
Oakland Raiders impending free-agent TE Jared Cook will be re-signed if head coach Jon Gruden has his way, but Gruden admitted that Cook will be a popular name on the free-agent market.
Fantasy Spin: Cook was one of the few bright spots for the Raiders this season, and maybe the lone bright spot. He's a top-five fantasy tight end candidate now after finishing 2018 as the TE5.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones led all receivers with 24 receptions for first downs on 30 third-down targets this past season.
Fantasy Spin: Despite a slow start in the TD department (none in his first seven games) Jones also wound up leading the league in receiving yards (1,677) for the second time in the last four seasons. And even with Jones turning 30 this offseason (on Super Bowl Sunday), he remains an elite WR1 in all fantasy formats.
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team is unsure if impending free-agent running back Marshawn Lynch plans to play in 2019. Gruden said "we'd love to have him back" if he decides to play another season. Beast Mode will turn 33 in April and is coming off a season in which he played in just six games due to injury. Lynch ran 90 times for 376 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and three scores. Even if Lynch returns, he'd be more of a low-upside, injury-risk RB2 for Oakland that is more attractive in standard-scoring leagues.
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said the team would like to re-sign impending free-agent tight end Jared Cook, but he knows the market for his services will be competitive. He'll be in high demand after he set career highs across the board in catches (68), targets (101), yards (896) and touchdowns (six) for the Raiders. Given the sad state of the tight end position in fantasy, Cook was a strong TE1 this year and will likely be drafted as one again this year, depending on where he lands. Staying in Oakland might be the best for his value.
The Cincinnati Bengals are hiring former Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach Brian Callahan as their next offensive coordinator. Callahan has never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL but has been a QBs coach since 2015. He'll oversee an offense that could easily bounce back after serious injuries to quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green derailed them in 2018. Cincinnati finished 26th in yards per game (310.8), 24th in passing yards per game (205.6), 21st in rushing yards per game (105.1) and 17th in points per game (23.0) in 2018.
Oakland Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch, an impending free agent this offseason, hasn't announced whether he plans on playing in 2019, but if he does, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said Tuesday, Jan. 22, that 'we'd love to have him back.'
Fantasy Spin: Lynch will be 33 by the time next season rolls around, but he'd still be a fantasy RB2 consideration if were to be projected to be the primary RB in Oakland.