Thu Dec 5 6:28pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Andrew Wylie (77) picks up celebrating running back LeSean McCoy (25) after McCoy scored a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to throw against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates a touchdown by running back Darwin Thompson (34) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Chiefs coach Andy Reid's expectations are simple heading into Kansas City's latest matchup with the Patriots.
''I think they know us, and we know them. You get in and you battle,'' Reid said.
That was exactly what the teams did in their two meetings last season.
New England got a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski as time expired to escape with a 43-40 victory during the regular season. The Patriots then needed overtime to do it again in the AFC championship game, outlasting Kansas City in another shootout, 37-31 in Arrowhead Stadium.
Another close game is expected for their latest matchup on Sunday, with playoff implications for both teams.
New England (10-2) can extend its NFL record to 11 consecutive playoff berths with a win. Kansas City (8-4) can clinch the AFC West title with a win and Oakland loss.
The two teams that have beaten the Patriots this season - Baltimore and Houston - both have dual-threat quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he sees similarities in how both of them attacked a New England defense that is allowing an NFL-low 12.1 points per game.
''I think the biggest thing was when they had their opportunities, they hit them,'' Mahomes said. ''They're not going to give us a lot of opportunities, they're a very good defense and very sound with what they do. It's about taking what's there and when you get the big shot or the big play, you hit that and score touchdowns when you do.''
Coming off a week in which New England's defense gave up four passing touchdowns in its loss to the Texans - doubling its total allowed in 2019 - safety Devin McCourty said the challenge against the Chiefs will be keeping track of all their playmakers.
''It's almost like they don't win the same way each week. They just have so much talent. I think you see that all throughout the season,'' McCourty said. ''The threat of Mahomes is always there of running the ball, of rolling one way being able to throw the ball back across his body. ... We got to see it last year twice of just his ability of being able to make plays. So, I think we know it, but with this team, the hardest thing is going out there and executing and playing to it.''
Keeping Kansas City out of the end zone will be even more imperative because of New England's ongoing issues on offense.
The Jets, Dolphins and Broncos rank in bottom five in the NFL in points per game in 2019 but are all averaging more points than New England (18 ppg) since start of November. The Patriots went 2-2 last month.
Brady's 88.2 passer rating is also his worst since 2013.
The 42-year-old quarterback has expressed his frustrations with the offense in recent weeks and acknowledged during his weekly appearance on Boston's WEEI radio that injuries have also affected their expectations. But it hasn't altered their resolve to fix their deficiencies.
''It's not like we haven't dealt with losses before,'' Brady said. ''I think a lot of it is about mental toughness and realizing that when you don't play well, you don't win. You're not supposed to win when you put less than your best out there. Sometimes you get away with it, and sometimes you don't.''
The Patriots could be dealing with another change on the offensive line.
James Ferentz may get the start at center with Ted Karras recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the third quarter of last week's loss to Houston.
Karras has started all 12 games this season in place of David Andrews, who is recovering from blood clots. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn also spent nine games on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Ferentz said he'll be ready if called upon.
''Your job is to step in and that the train doesn't slow down,'' he said. ''We have a bunch of guys on this team that have embraced that role and I just try to keep up with those guys.''
Brady enters the week with 535 regular-season touchdown passes, the second most in NFL history. Peyton Manning holds record with 539. Drew Brees is third with 532.
With 300 or more yards passing Brady will also have his 93rd 300-yard game, tying Manning for second in NFL history. Brees is first with 118. The Patriots are 76-16 in Brady's 300-yard games.
MOVING ON UP
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce leads the AFC with 923 receiving yards in 2019.
He needs just 77 receiving yards to become the fourth tight end to have four seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards in NFL history.
The others are Dallas' Jason Witten, Hall of Famer and former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez and former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty, who will be a free agent in March, intends to play in 2020, whether it's in New England or elsewhere. The Patriots project to have $28 million in salary cap space for 2020. Despite being 32 years old, McCourty is still an impact defender and allowed a completion percentage of 54.3 in 2019. His 65 straight starts also marks the third longest active streak by a defensive back, according to ESPN Stats and Information. McCourty had an interception in each of the first four games of the season. Time will tell if the Patriots bring back their eight-time captain, but McCourty could be effective in 2020 if he's forced to play elsewhere.
New England Patriots impending free-agent FS Devin McCourty intends to play in 2020.
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (back, hip) is 'pretty much at full health,' according to GM Bob Quinn, who adds that the team is 'totally happy and comfortable' with Stafford as their starting quarterback in 2020.
Fantasy Spin: Stafford was playing very good football prior to getting injured and looking like a borderline QB1. Assuming everything progresses as planned with his recovery he'd make a nice backup fantasy quarterback that can step in as needed.
Impending free-agent TE Hunter Henry is believed to be a candidate for the transition tag if he and the Los Angeles Chargers can't reach a long-term agreement before the start of free agency, according to sources via Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline.
Updating a previous report, former Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden verbally accepted the Jacksonville Jaguars' offer to become their next offensive coordinator Tuesday, Jan. 21.
The Jacksonville Jaguars plan to hire former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden as their next offensive coordinator, according to sources. A deal isn't officially done, but the Jaguars are very close to adding Gruden in the role. The biggest question for Jacksonville's offense heading into the 2020 season will be who is the starter under center, Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew. Leonard Fournette can be an effective bell-cow back in the backfield if he can stay healthy, while the Jags have a nice three-receiver mix in place of D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. The Jaguars finished 2019 with 341.8 yards per game, 235 passing yards per game, 106.8 rushing yards per game and only 18.8 points per game. Gruden's addition is good news for this very mediocre offense across the board.
Free-agent TE Evan Baylis (Packers), OT Cody Conway (Packers), RB Damarea Crockett (Packers), CB Kabion Ento (Packers), TE James Looney (Packers), LB Randy Ramsey (Packers), WR Darrius Shepherd (Packers), QB Manny Wilkins (Packers) and LB Tim Williams (Packers) signed Reserve/Future contracts with the Green Bay Packers Tuesday, Jan. 21. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell seems confident that the team will re-sign defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Jacksonville wants Ngakoue back, and Caldwell said something "should be done hopefully relatively easily." He'd become one of the top pass rushers available if he hits the open market after logging 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits and 42 tackles for loss in 63 games since being a third-round pick in 2016. Retaining Ngakoue is the top priority for the Jaguars this offseason as they look to build their defense back up around the ferocious pass rusher.
Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DE Yannick Ngakoue is the top priority for the Jaguars this offseason, and general manager David Caldwell said he hopes the two sides will be able to reach an agreement relatively easily.
Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner (ankle, knee) will not need surgery on his ankle or knee this offseason, according to head coach Pete Carroll.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's (neck) surgery "went well." "I feel really good about it. I feel really good about him making a full recovery and being ready to participate in everything," Jones said. The second-year linebacker should be good to go for the team's offseason workouts after missing the final five games of the 2019 season. He recorded a total of 72 tackles (43 solo), half a sack and one forced fumble in his nine games played. LVE was a beast his rookie season with 140 total tackles, and he could return to being an IDP force again in 2020 if he can just stay on the field.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that quarterback Dak Prescott is the team's "No. 1 priority as we go into the offseason." Despite the Cowboys missing the playoffs in 2019, Prescott wasn't the problem. He had his best season with 4,902 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his fourth year in the NFL. The Cowboys continue to reiterate that Prescott is their QB of the future, so expect a contract extension to come soon. If that doesn't happen, the franchise tag is another option to retain him for 2020. Prescott finished as the No. 3 fantasy signal-caller last season, and he'll head into the 2020 campaign as a strong high-end QB1.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (shoulder) underwent a shoulder procedure last week that is said to involve "not a lengthy rehab," and Edelman is expected to be ready for the team's offseason program, according to a league source. The 33-year-old was noticeably hindered by his shoulder to close out the year, but overall it was a very successful 2019 season. Edelman had 100 receptions for a career-high 1,117 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. It was the second time in his career that he reached the 100-catch mark as quarterback Tom Brady's only real trusted receiving option. Edelman's outlook may change if Brady isn't under center in 2020, but he should at least be a solid WR2 in PPR leagues.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (shoulder) had a minor shoulder surgery last week, but he's expected to be ready for the offseason program.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman's fantasy value will hinge largely on whether Tom Brady returns to the team. Edelman should be a low-end WR2 in PPR formats.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hamstring) will be unable to participate in the Pro Bowl due to a lingering hamstring injury. He'll be replaced by Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) isn't expected to have surgery this offseason and will play in the Pro Bowl.
Fantasy Spin: Landry had a career-high 1,174 receiving yards to go with 83 grabs and six scores. The 27-year-old played in all 16 games for the sixth straight year and will be a low-end WR2 option in drafts next year.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen) underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to fix a core muscle injury. A full recovery is expected. OBJ didn't miss a game in his first season with Cleveland despite fighting through injuries. He caught 74 passes for 1,035 yards and only four touchdowns in what was a very disappointing first year with the Browns. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was extremely inconsistent behind a terrible offensive line, which didn't help matters for Beckham's fantasy owners. Another offseason to gain chemistry with Mayfield should help Beckham rebound in 2020, and he could be a nice value pick as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is not expected to undergo surgery, and he will play in the Pro Bowl. It's great news for a Browns offense that will be looking to shake off the disappointment of the 2019 season heading into 2020. Landry was the team's most consistent wideout last year, catching 83 passes for a career-high 1,174 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. In his six NFL seasons, Landry has had at least 81 receptions and four touchdowns and has never missed a game. He's a very consistent WR2/3 in PPR leagues, and the presence of Odell Beckham Jr. should continue to take attention away from him.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen) underwent surgery to repair his core muscle Tuesday, Jan. 21, in Philadelphia. He dealt with the injury for multiple weeks during the season.
Fantasy Spin: OBJ had a miserable season by his standards after most likely being a top-five pick. It's not a lock that he returns to the Browns after considerable drama that comes along with his immense talent. He's a risky fantasy asset because of that, but he'll be a WR1 in drafts again next year.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel combined for just three catches for 65 yards in the NFC Championship victory against the Green Bay Packers. Samuel added two rushes for 43 yards. The Niners opened up the game with a dominant running attack and a 27-0 lead, resulting in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes. While the stat sheet was underwhelming, both aerial playmakers made the most of their opportunities, picking up chunk gains on each touch. With the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs offense on deck, the Niners will conceivably need to throw the ball more in the Super Bowl.