In this Dec. 8, 2019 file photo Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Houston. After each of his three touchdown throws in Denver's 38-24 win at Houston, Lock impersonated Buzz Lightyear firing his laser beam. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller, left, breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes grabs the face mask of New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, right, as he rolls out to pass in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. Mahomes was penalized on the play. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) celebrates a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Drew Lock grew up about 15 miles from Arrowhead Stadium in suburban Kansas City, and his family has bled the red and gold of the Kansas City Chiefs for just about as long as the young quarterback can remember.
They'll be trading in their usual colors for orange and blue on Sunday.
Lock will attempt to continue his dazzling rookie run when he leads the suddenly hot Denver Broncos into the stadium where he once dreamed of playing. His task? Take down the Chiefs, who are coming off a victory in New England that sealed their fourth consecutive AFC West title.
''You think about it,'' Lock said, ''that's my home. I've been there a thousand times. Nothing new about it.''
Except that he'll be the visitor in one of the NFL's hostile environments.
Making it an even more intriguing homecoming, Lock's father Andy played for Chiefs coach Andy Reid when they were both at the University of Missouri. Andy Lock was good enough to warrant some NFL attention before a leg injury near the end of his senior season caused the offensive lineman to go undrafted. He wound up signing with the New York Giants as a free agent, but he never made his mark in the NFL - he wound up becoming a successful restaurateur.
''In his heart he was really a quarterback. I used to joke with him about that,'' Reid said with a grin.
Well, his kid has turned into a heck of a quarterback.
Drew Lock became the first NFL rookie to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in his first road start when he led the Broncos (5-8) to a surprising win over the Texans last weekend. His total of 309 yards was third-best by a rookie in franchise history, giving Denver fans some hope that the organization has at long last found a franchise quarterback.
He's the seventh quarterback to start a game for the Broncos since midway through the 2017 season.
''I don't put ceilings or floors on guys. They can go as high as they want, hopefully not too low,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. ''I think overall he's had a good two-week start to his career.''
The trick now is to carry it into their game against the Chiefs (9-4), who have their own superstar quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and a rapidly improving defense that caused Tom Brady and the Patriots all kinds of trouble.
The task facing Lock is daunting: The Broncos have won just three of the 17 games they have played at Arrowhead Stadium in December. John Elway won one of those games in seven tries, and a long list of other quarterbacks have struggled with the raucous crowd and often-ugly weather - snow showers are in the forecast for Sunday with temps in the 20s.
''I think it was good that we got (Lock) his first start at home so when he got his first start on the road it wasn't his overall first start,'' Fangio said. ''We have to go play another really good team this week. He's going to have to deal with the hometown stuff that you guys and they will want to write about. I feel good where he's at.''
As the Broncos visit the Chiefs, here are the things to know:
Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark has been dealing with a stomach situation the last couple of weeks that the team thought at first was just a virus. He was well enough to play against the Patriots but it flared up again, so the team sought an expert to figure out what is going on. If he's sidelined down the stretch, it would mean the Chiefs lose their best chance of consistent quarterback pressure at a crucial juncture of the season.
SPEAKING OF THE PASS RUSH
The Chiefs finally showed progress under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo during a 30-6 rout of Denver in Week 7, when their defense had nine sacks and held the Broncos to just 71 yards rushing. The Broncos need to give Lock more time than they afforded Joe Flacco if they have any hope of moving the ball against Kansas City.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF RUSH
The Chiefs hope to have Damien Williams back from a rib injury this week. He will join a running back corps that has been leaning on veteran LeSean McCoy, rookie Darwin Thompson and journeyman Spencer Ware since losing Darrel Williams to a season-ending injury. None of them have been particularly effective on the ground.
AIRING IT OUT
The biggest bright spot for the Broncos - other than Lock's emergence - has been the play of wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who is 10th in the NFL in yards-per-catch and is closing on 1,000 yards. Sutton has put up those numbers while catching passes from Lock, Flacco and Brandon Allen - not exactly the elite of the elite.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
The Broncos are mathematically still alive in the playoff chase, though realistically they are trying to build some momentum for next season. And while the Chiefs have wrapped up their playoffs spot with a division title, they still harbor hopes of climbing past the Patriots to secure a first-round postseason bye.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Josh McCown spoke with head coach Doug Pederson about a potential role on the coaching staff, but McCown isn't ready to retire just yet. The veteran QB came out of retirement last August to sign a one-year deal with the Eagles. He's currently recovering from a torn hamstring that he suffered in the wild-card loss to the Seahawks. McCown threw only five passes during the regular season and served as a de facto player/coach as Carson Wentz's backup. He has some potential as a future offensive coordinator, but it's unlikely he would immediately be considered as Mike Groh's successor in Philly. Wherever McCown is playing in 2020, he'll strictly be a backup and won't have any fantasy value.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (knee) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Kelce will be just fine to suit up on Feb. 2 against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. He was the top fantasy tight end in 2019 and hasn't slowed down in the postseason, catching 13 of 16 targets for 164 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans and Titans. Most of that production came in the Divisional Round when he had 10 grabs for 134 yards and three scores, but Kelce can go off at any time and could be the X-factor in the Super Bowl in two weeks.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) was unable to practice on Wednesday, but the team remains hopeful that he will be available for the Super Bowl against the Chiefs. The team didn't practice on Wednesday, but they were required to submit an estimated practice report. Coleman dislocated his right shoulder in the first half of the NFC Championship against the Packers and played just eight snaps. If he's active for the Super Bowl, Coleman will split snaps with Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers. Matt Breida will be the No. 3 back.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip), who had a career-high 1,174 receiving yards and six touchdowns on his way to his fifth Pro Bowl selection in six years, said he played the entire 2019 season with a hip injury. "I'm good. I'm good," Landry said. "Just in this recovery process, this rehab process to make sure I can get back to my 100 percent self." The good news is that Landry won't require surgery on his hip in the offseason, and he should be fully healthy in 2020 under new head coach Kevin Stefanski. Cleveland's offense struggled to find consistency last season, but Landry was a consistent bright spot next to Odell Beckham Jr. He should once again be a rock-solid WR2 for owners in PPR leagues.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will hold a news conference on Friday to announce his retirement, according to sources. The writing has been on the wall for Manning after the Giants replaced him with rookie Daniel Jones during the 2019 season. The 39-year-old former first overall pick played in just four games for the G-Men in his 16th and final NFL season. Manning will finish his career with a 60.3 completion percentage, 57,023 passing yards, 366 touchdowns and 244 interceptions. He'll best be known for besting Tom Brady and the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl. Manning's best season came in 2011 when he threw for 4,933 yards, 29 TDs and 16 picks.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (calf) should have a bigger role in the Super Bowl against the 49ers after playing just 28 of a possible 66 defensive snaps in the AFC Championship due to a strained calf. "I think he feels pretty good," head coach Andy Reid said. "He didnt have a setback so that was good." That's bad news for a 49ers offense that is expected to run the ball often in the big game. Jones had 36 total tackles (23 solo), nine sacks, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 13 games played this season. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be paramount if Kansas City hopes to slow San Francisco's ground game.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (calf) said that his calf is "really good." "(I was) trying to be ready for divisional. Felt good but we just werent able to pull it out," Ingram said. Ingram was hurt in Week 16, sat out of Week 17 and had just six carries for 22 yards in the Divisional Round loss to the Titans. He was more than effective for fantasy owners in his first season in Baltimore, going for his third 1,000-yard season while also scoring 15 total touchdowns (10 rushing, five receiving). Gus Edwards and Justice Hill are more than capable of splitting the workload without Ingram, but he'll continue to carry the load in 2020 as a touchdown-dependent RB2.
Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said he "fully expects" quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to return to the team in 2020. The Dolphins are expected to take a quarterback in the first round of this year's draft at No. 5 overall, with Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa the most likely outcome. However, Fitz played so well in 2019 that the Dolphins wouldn't mind having him under center for one more year while a rookie learns behind him. The 37-year-old journeyman gunslinger completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,529 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 15 games in 2019. While he can go off for big games based on the opponent, Fitz won't be anything more than a QB2 streamer if he's starting games for the Dolphins in 2020.
New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said the team wants quarterback Drew Brees back as long as he wants to keep playing. "No different than its been the last few years, even though hes technically a free agent. "Its easy to take him for granted yet I dont take him for granted," Loomis said. Despite just turning 41 years old, Brees still has some juice left in the tank. He played in just 11 games due to a freak finger injury in 2019, but he still completed 74.3 percent of his passes for 2,979 yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions. The ceiling won't be as high if Brees returns for another season, but he'll still have QB1 upside in the right matchups, mainly at home in the Superdome if he re-signs with the Saints.
Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum believes he's still capable of being a starter in the NFL, but he's not expecting to return to Washington in 2020 with Dwayne Haskins in the picture. The Redskins drafted Haskins with the 15th overall pick in 2019 for a reason. The soon-to-be 32-year-old signal-caller was impressed with the progress that Haskins made toward the end of the season. "I think Dwayne did an incredible job towards the end of the season, adapting and getting a lot better," Keenum said. "I think it's his team moving forward." Haskins has some nice weapons in Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims Jr. and Derrius Guice, but he won't be seen as anything more than an upside QB2 in fantasy drafts this fall.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (illness) won't practice on Wednesday, according to head coach Andy Reid. Robinson should have plenty of time to get healthy for the Super Bowl against the 49ers in two weeks. Aside from a huge six-catch, 172-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Raiders back on Sept. 15, Robinson has done very little this year and is buried on the receiver depth chart behind Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman. In the two postseason games against the Texans and Titans, Robinson has only three catches on six targets for 35 yards. He's a long shot to return any kind of value in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett said that he's hoping to remain with the team moving forward. "I dont know where its going to end up at but Im confident that Im going to be where I should be, which I think is Tampa," Barrett said. Things couldn't have gone any better for Barrett in his first year with the Bucs in 2019, as he led the NFL with 19.5 sacks after never having more than 5.5 sacks in a single season in his four years with the Broncos. He also added 58 total tackles (45 solo), six forced fumbles and one interception during his career year. Barrett is set to become a free agent in March, but it's unlikely that Tampa lets him get away.
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.