Fri Dec 21 6:04pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Dec. 2, 2018, file photo, Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph speaks to reporters during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati. Game management issues have kept Joseph from making the most of a second chance, but he has made strides despite a rash of injuries that sent seven starters to injured reserve and a rugged schedule that will include nine playoff teams if Seattle and Baltimore both get in. (AP Photo/Frank Victores, File)
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Across the airwaves, the consensus is that Vance Joseph is about to coach his final two games in Denver.
Although the Broncos (6-8) must beat the Raiders and Chargers to avoid their first back-to-back losing seasons in 46 years, there's a strong case for John Elway to keep the coach who's won just 11 of 30 games since taking over a team that was a year removed from a Super Bowl title.
Elway reportedly flirted with bringing back Mike Shanahan a year ago but decided to give Joseph another shot after the first-time head coach went 5-11.
Game management issues have kept Joseph from making the most of that second chance, but he has made strides despite a rash of injuries that sent seven starters to injured reserve and a rugged schedule that will include nine playoff teams if Seattle and Baltimore both get in.
''Oh yeah, definitely he has a great case,'' Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said Friday. ''I don't think we had enough players for him to really succeed. Injuries just killed us. We had a tough schedule. We lost a lot of one-score games. I mean, he definitely improved from the first year to the second year.''
Joseph has declined to discuss his job situation, saying he's focused only on beating the Raiders on Monday night.
The question facing Elway is this: Did Joseph improve enough this year to stick around in 2019?
''We're a win-now organization,'' Harris said, ''so he doesn't get a lot of time.''
If Elway fires Joseph, he'll be looking for the team's sixth head coach in 12 years - and he won't have Peyton Manning as bait.
After eight double-digit losses last year, the Broncos have been more competitive this season, losing six times by a combined 23 points. Those included close calls against some of the league's heavyweights such as the Chiefs (twice), the Rams and the Texans.
Despite a sensational rookie class that includes Phillip Lindsay , the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl, Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, Joseph was still saddled with a roster dotted with dead weight from previous draft classes that didn't shine like this one.
Elway also traded away two of Denver's best players, cornerback Aqib Talib to the Rams in the offseason and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Texans at the October deadline.
Both have been sorely missed.
Cornerback Bradley Roby had a hard time adjusting to his starting role and now he's covering opponents' No. 1 receiver with Harris on IR with a chip fracture in his right leg.
''I feel like we were definitely going to make it to the playoffs if I hadn't gotten hurt,'' said Harris, who was injured at Cincinnati on Dec. 2, when the Broncos improved to 6-6 after surviving the league's toughest schedule through 13 weeks.
Then Emmanuel Sanders tore his left Achilles tendon at practice and the 49ers and Browns, two sub-.500 teams, were able to focus on bottling up Lindsay.
Case Keenum is playing behind a line made up of four tackles and a guard at center after losing Matt Paradis, Ronald Leary and Max Garcia. Keenum, who also lost his top two tight ends in Jake Butt and Jeff Hauerman, has set career highs with a dozen interceptions and 32 sacks to go with 15 TD passes.
That's not exactly the franchise quarterback that would attract top-tier head coaching candidates.
Other factors facing Elway as he ponders Joseph's future:
-The Broncos have the NFL's seventh-youngest team (26.2 years), the third-toughest strength of schedule (.536), the fifth-most games missed with injury (132) and the seventh-most snaps played by rookies (4,047).
-Losing the locker room is a red flag and a green light to change coaches. That hasn't happened in Denver. The Broncos haven't tuned out their coach and they've continued to play hard.
-In an era favoring explosive offenses, Denver's defense is 10th in points allowed, a testament to Joseph's defensive roots. The tattered offense, coordinated by Bill Musgrave, has averaged just 19 points since Thomas was traded.
-Joseph, who still has two years and nearly $6 million left on his contract, is one of several minority coaches on the hot seat. Joseph, Marvin Lewis, Todd Bowles, Ron Rivera and Steven Wilks could face similar fates to Hue Jackson, who was fired by the Browns this season.
If all are fired, the Steelers' Mike Tomlin and the Chargers' Anthony Lynn would be the only remaining minority head coaches, creating a crisis for a league that's worked hard to bolster those numbers.
-If Elway moves on, another team could reap the benefits.
''I don't think he's done,'' Harris said. ''I think everybody around the league understands what situation he was put in. I can see him getting better. He's already gotten way better.''
The New York Jets Defense was dominated by the Patriots in a 33-0 loss to the Patriots Monday night. The Jets allowed a 16-play touchdown drive to open the game and things went downhill from there as Tom Brady and the Patriots did anything they wanted in the game. Brady had clean pockets to throw out of all night as the Jets didn't record a sack and running back Sony Michel scored three touchdowns. The lone bright spot for the Jets defense was an interception by Trumaine Johnson on a tipped ball, but overall it was a night to forget for New York. The Jets will try and bounce back next week at Jacksonville but are nothing more than a low end streaming defense in the deepest of leagues.
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell rushed 15 times for 70 yards while hauling in one of four targets for an additional six yards vs the Patriots Monday. Bell's 16 touches aren't ideal for fantasy, especially after getting only 15 touches last week, but he still dominated the backfield touches with the lower workload this week likely because New England dominated time of position and put the Jets in a passing game script early. No other Jet had more than two carries so fantasy owners can still insert Bell in their lineups expecting 15-20 touches weekly. The Jets offense has looked brutal at times this season but Bell is a borderline RB1 on volume alone, and with the schedule for New York softening a bit, Bell is a great buy-low running back.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder made four catches for 26 yards on five targets in a brutal home loss to the Patriots Monday night. Crowder's four catches lead the team on a night QB Sam Darnold only completed 11 passes, but he could do nothing with those catches against the elite New England secondary. Crowder's five targets are his fewest in three games with Darnold as Demaryius Thomas was targeted nine times in this game. Crowder will look to bounce back next week against a Jaguars secondary that will be a better matchup for him than this week vs the Patriots number one ranked defense.
New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson caught one pass for 10 yards on eight targets in an ugly loss to the Patriots Monday night. Anderson was blanketed by All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore all night and could get nothing going downfield as QB Sam Darnold was under pressure almost every snap. Anderson has had one game this year that was good for fantasy, and that included a 92-yard touchdown. The boom-or-bust nature of Anderson can be frustrating for fantasy, but the Jets schedule gets softer in the coming weeks so Anderson still has plenty of opportunity to make the big plays that he needs to have big fantasy weeks. He should be owned in 12-team leagues and started when he has a good matchup.
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin both passed concussion protocol on Monday and should be fine heading into Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers. Both players missed time on Sunday but reentered the game. The health clearance sets up Breida as an RB3 against a weak Panthers rush defense, but hes taken a backseat to Tevin Coleman in recent weeks. Goodwin did not record a catch in Week 7 and has just 15 yards over the past two contests. Hell be a zero-floor WR5 against one of the leagues top pass defenses.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had a night to forget vs New England in Week 7 completing only 11 of 32 passes for 86 yards. Darnold, who was out with mono during the Jets' first meeting with the NFL's number one defense, threw a career-high four interceptions and also lost a fumble in a 33-0 beatdown. Darnold looked uncomfortable all night playing behind an offensive line that was down two starters and it showed. He consistently threw off his back foot, facing pressure on almost every drop back as the Jets had no answer for the vaunted Patriots Defense. While this night was rough, Darnold's schedule gets better in the next few weeks and could be a viable starter in two-quarterback leagues or desperation bye-week replacement.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas caught three passes for 42 yards in a loss to the Patriots Monday night. Thomas' nine targets lead the team, but he could do little with that opportunity as QB Sam Darnold was under pressure all night and only completed 11 passes total. Thomas has been getting more involved in recent weeks, but is still the third option behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. He's nothing more than a desperation flex in deep leagues.
The New England Patriots have declared TE Matt LaCosse, DL Michael Bennett, WR Josh Gordon, SS Patrick Chung, OT Korey Cunningham, RB Rex Burkhead and TE Ryan Izzo inactive for Week 7.
The New York Jets have declared LB Albert McClellan, OT Kelvin Beachum, DL Henry Anderson, TE Chris Herndon, RB Trenton Cannon, LB Neville Hewitt and OG Kelechi Osemele inactive for Week 7.
Oakland Raiders WR Tyrell Williams (foot) is considered questionable for the Week 8 game at this point, according to head coach Jon Gruden. Williams was able to do some running Monday, Oct. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players should monitor Williams' practice participation during the week to have a better idea of his status for Week 8. He is the team's top option in the passing game when healthy and can be a No. 3 fantasy receiver.
Los Angeles Chargers LB Melvin Ingram (hamstring) hopefully will be able to play in the Week 8 game, according to head coach Anthony Lynn.
Free-agent RB C.J. Anderson (Lions) recently worked out for the Oakland Raiders.
Pittsburgh Steelers CB Steven Nelson (groin) participated in practice Monday, Oct. 21.
Washington Redskins S Deshazor Everett (ankle), LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring), OG Wes Martin (chest), FS Montae Nicholson (ankle), CB Josh Norman (hand, thigh) and WR Steven Sims (toe) did not participate in practice Monday, Oct. 21. LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow) and OT Donald Penn (non-injury) were limited during practice. The Redskins did not hold a practice Monday, so these are estimations.
Philadelphia Eagles DT Akeem Spence was released Monday, Oct. 21.
Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum (foot, shoulder) fully participated in practice Monday, Oct. 21. The Redskins did not hold a practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Keenum struggled in inclement weather last week and will be facing another tough opponent again this week. He should be avoided in all fantasy leagues.
Washington Redskins TE Vernon Davis (concussion) was limited during practice Monday, Oct. 21. The Redskins did not hold a practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Davis still needs to receive medical clearance to play, so he should be considered questionable this week. Fantasy players should look for other options to use and can keep Davis on the bench.
Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson (ankle) did not participate in practice Monday, Oct. 21. The Redskins did not hold a practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Peterson recently underwent an MRI on his ankle, so his status for the Week 8 game is uncertain. Fantasy players should keep an eye on the situation over the next few days since Peterson could be a possible flex option if he plays.
Washington Redskins RB Chris Thompson (toe) did not participate in practice Monday, Oct. 21. The Redskins did not hold a practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Thompson did not practice last week and missed Week 7, so he may be facing an uphill battle to play in Week 8 . Wendell Smallwood likely will fill in for Thompson again this week but probably can be avoided in most leagues.
Minnesota Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (thumb) fully participated in practice Monday, Oct. 21. The Vikings did not hold a practice Monday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: Rudolph is coming off his best game of the season where he posted 58 yards and one touchdown. He may see a new more targets this week if Adam Thielen is not able to play and can be a low-end No. 1 fantasy tight end.