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FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

Dolphins stun Patriots 27-24, denying NE first-round bye

Sun Dec 29 4:52pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Nick Folk, Benjamin Watson, Julian Edelman, Brandon Bolden, Mohamed Sanu, Rex Burkhead, James White, Albert Wilson, Phillip Dorsett, DeVante Parker, Jason Sanders, Sony Michel, Patrick Laird, Mike Gesicki, Isaiah Ford

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline in the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, left, catches the winning touchdown pass in front of New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, center, celebrates his touchdown run with teammates in the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick runs past New England Patriots linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, left, on the way to a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


New England Patriots running back Sony Michel scores a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick passes under pressure in the first half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


New England Patriots running back Sony Michel, center, runs from Miami Dolphins linebackers Calvin Munson, left, and Andrew Van Ginkel, right, in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Miami dropped defending Super Bowl champion New England into the wild-card playoff round when Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki with 24 seconds remaining for a stunning 27-24 victory Sunday.

New England (12-4) will have to play in the opening weekend of the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Patriots never have made the Super Bowl while playing in the wild-card round.

The Patriots won their first eight games, the split the next eight, including the rarity of two losses at home.

It is the second straight season the Dolphins have denied the Patriots an unbeaten division record. They scored on a wild series of laterals on the final play in their second meeting last season, in Miami.

After trailing throughout the game, Tom Brady threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to James White to put New England in front 24-20 with 3:53 left. But Fitzpatrick, who finished 28 of 41 for 320 yards and a touchdown, was unflappable, leading Miami on a 13-play, 75-yard drive that included him recovering a fumbled snap, and completing a 24-yard pass to DeVante Parker.

Miami (5-11) made New England play catchup for most of the game and led 10-0 early and 20-17 in the fourth quarter.

Brady finished 16 of 29 for 221 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He went over 4,000 yards for the 11th time in his career, tying him with Philip Rivers for fourth on the all-time list.

The Dolphins drove inside the Patriots 20 early in the fourth quarter, but settled for a 32-yard field goal by Jason Sanders to take a 20-17 lead with 8:29 remaining.

Brandon Bolden gave the Patriots good field position, taking the ensuing kickoff and returning it 38 yards to the New England 40. Rex Burkhead rushed 14 yards on the first play to get the Patriots across the 50.

Brady completed a short pass to Ben Watson, followed by a 20-yard strike to Mohamed Sanu. Three plays later, Brady connected with White for the go-head score.

But it wasn't enough.

The Dolphins made it clear from the outset that they weren't going to allow the Patriots to coast. Miami took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter when Eric Rowe stepped in front of Brady's pass to Julian Edelman and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. It was Brady's first career pick-6 against the Dolphins.

It also marked the first time the Dolphins led the Patriots by double digits since Week 8 of the 2013 season. New England won that game 27-17.

Miami twice saw its leads evaporate on Sunday as well.

The Patriots got a 25-yard field goal from Nick Folk. They tied it by capping a five-play, 82-yard drive with a 4-yard run by Sony Michel just before the half. Michel's TD was setup by a 50-yard pass from Brady to Phillip Dorsett along the sideline, his first catch since Week 13.

Later, trailing 17-10 in the third, the Patriots went deep in the playbook when Brady connected with linebacker and part-time fullback Elandon Roberts for a 38-yard touchdown.

NOTHING TO LOSE

With no postseason to look forward to, Miami pulled out plenty of trickery.

Facing a fourth-and-3 on the Patriots 45 on the opening drive, the Dolphins attempted a fake punt. But holder Matt Haack's pass to Deon Lacey was high and landed far out of bounds.

The tricks continued when receiver Isaiah Ford scrambled for a first down after an aborted pass attempt. The Dolphins drove to the Patriots 9 before the 12-play, 80-yard drive ended with a 27-yard field goal by Sanders that put Miami in front 3-0.

Miami used even more misdirection in the third quarter when receiver Albert Wilson tossed a 20-yard pass to running back Patrick Laird. Four plays later, Fitzpatrick ran it in from 2 yards to put Miami in front 17-10.

IRON MAN

Sunday's start also marked Brady's 16th season starting 16 games, tying Peyton Manning for second all time. Brett Favre holds the NFL record at 17 seasons of 16 starts.

INJURIES

Dolphins: Safety Walt Aikens left in the fourth quarter with an ankle issue.

UP NEXT

Dolphins: End of season.

Patriots: Will play on the opening weekend of the postseason for the first time since 2009.

Player Notes
Teddy Bridgewater May 30 1:00am ET

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule had great things to say about quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's character and influence on Around The NFL on Friday. Rhule has been able to familiarize himself with and strengthen his bond with Bridgewater during the virtual offseason program. "The best players in the world bring out the best in their teammates and I can tell you, since free agency started, the amount of the guys that want to come and play with Teddy has nothing to do with me or anybody else," Rhule said. The head coach has always admired Bridgewater since coaching against him in college. The 27-year-old is finally getting another chance to start in the NFL and has his head coach fully behind him. Bridgewater doesn't have the strongest arm and may not run as much as he did early in his career, but he has a strong supporting cast and could be playing from behind often in a tough division. He's not a QB1 target or even a high-end QB2, but Bridgewater could surprise some as a fantasy backup and occasional streamer.

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Josh Allen May 29 4:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs have gathered in Florida this week to work out together. Allen and backup Matt Barkley threw to rookies Isaiah Hodgins, Gabriel Davis and Zack Moss in California earlier this month. It's the first time that Allen and Diggs have met since the Bills acquired Diggs from the Vikings in March. Others present in Florida include quarterback Jake Fromm, receivers John Brown, Robert Foster, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie and Nick Easley, running back Devin Singletary and tight ends Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, Nate Becker and Jason Croom. Allen has the weapons around him to take another leap in 2020 if he develops as a passer, giving him top-five QB upside. Diggs' ceiling depends on how much Allen improves with deep-ball accuracy, making him a midrange WR2.

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Aldon Smith May 29 3:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith reportedly "feels great" despite not appearing in an NFL game since November 10, 2015. Smith said, "I still feel young. I still can move well. I still have a great knowledge of the game, if not better knowledge of the game." Smith is still just 30 and has the record for most sacks in the first two seasons of an NFL career, with 33.5. With his personal life perhaps finally under control, Smith could still be a difference maker for the Cowboys Defense in 2020.

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DeForest Buckner May 29 2:30pm ET

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Dee Ford (knee) had "a pretty extensive cleanup" on his knee a couple weeks after the season and said that he feels great. Ford was limited during the 2019 season because of knee tendinitis and missed five games with a hamstring injury as well. The 29-year-old played just 22 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season, according to Next Gen Stats, but saw that number increase to 53.2 percent in the playoffs. The pass-rusher had 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles during the regular season and added a sack and three tackles in the postseason. The former Chief has struggled with injuries in his career, but when healthy he can be a pass-rushing force. The Niners need him to be that in 2020 to help make up for DeForest Buckner's absence.

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Patrick Peterson May 29 1:30pm ET

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes during the 2014 season, and living with diabetes could force him to decide whether or not to play should the NFL return this year during the coronavirus pandemic. Peterson said he'll be comfortable playing if the proper protocols are followed by the league. The 29-year-old doesn't have an increased chance of acquiring the virus, but he has a greater risk of serious complications arising from the virus. However, his risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is lower if his diabetes is well-managed. We'd bet on Peterson playing this year if the season starts on time, but it's not a guarantee. He'll be looking to bounce back after a trying 2019 season that saw him miss six games due to suspension.

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Deshaun Watson May 29 1:20pm ET

The Houston Texans and right guard Zach Fulton agreed to a reworked contract on Friday, according to a source. Fulton was due $14 million over the next two years with no guarantees, but now he'll be due $5 million guaranteed in 2020 and $3 million non-guaranteed in 2021. The Texans will also get some salary cap relief with the move. The 28-year-old just finished his second season in Houston and will help bring more continuity to an offensive line that must remain solid in front of quarterback Deshaun Watson and new running back David Johnson. Fulton was a sixth-round draft pick of the Chiefs in 2014 and spent the first four years of his career in Kansas City.

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Lamar Jackson May 28 11:00pm ET

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that quarterback Lamar Jackson must make defenses pay if they stack the box against the Ravens offense in 2020. "Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on some downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it. We absolutely have to make them pay," Harbaugh said. Jackson led the league with 36 touchdown passes in the NFL's highest-scoring offense in 2019, also setting an NFL record for rushing yards for a QB with 1,206 on his way to MVP honors. At age 22, he was the youngest QB to win the award. But on throws that traveled at least 15 yards, Jackson ranked 27th in completions (35) and 22nd in completion rate (43.8 percent). He certainly has the arm to make teams pay, and it would be good news for second-year wideouts Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin if Jackson takes the next step as a deep thrower. Even if Jackson runs less than he did a year ago, he should be either the first or second QB selected in fantasy drafts.

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Chris Jones May 28 9:50pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones hasn't had much traction with the team on a contract extension, but both sides still have until July 15 to work something out. Jones has yet to sign his franchise tender, but he's kept in touch with the Chiefs during the virtual offseason program, according to sources. The market for high-end defensive tackles like Jones is $20-plus-million per season. The 25-year-old former second-round selection in 2016 has racked up 33 sacks in his four seasons with the Chiefs, including 14.5 the last two years. He was a Pro Bowler in 2019 for the first time in his career and should be considered a top-20 defensive lineman in IDP formats.

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Matt Judon May 28 8:00pm ET

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon signed his one-year franchise tender on Thursday, according to a source. The one-year deal will carry a value of $16.27 million in 2020. The Ravens and Judon still have until July 15 to work out a long-term extension, but that's unlikely to happen considering the Ravens initially tagged Judon with the possibility of trading him. The former fifth-round pick in 2016 has 135 solo tackles, 45 tackles for loss, 82 QB hits, 28.5 sacks, eight passes defensed and seven forced fumbles in his four seasons. Judon was a Pro Bowler in 2019 when he had a career-high 9.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 33 QB hits. He'll be entering his age-28 season in 2020.

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Joe Flacco May 28 7:00pm ET

New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (neck) says that he is embracing his new role as the backup quarterback to Sam Darnold. He says that his job is to help the team get better and to help a young quarterback see things as clearly as possible. Flacco started the first eight games for the Denver Broncos before suffering a season-ending neck injury. He still believes he can be a starting quarterback in the league, but understands his new role with the Jets.

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DeAndre Hopkins May 28 6:50pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins expects to put up numbers in the team's pass-happy offense under head coach Kliff Kingsbury in his first season in 2020. "So myself, being a receiver, of course I see my stats going up. ... But I definitely see myself having one of my more productive seasons," Hopkins said. He also said he hasn't met up with quarterback Kyler Murray yet, but he plans on getting together with him and the other receivers "soon." Arizona has plenty of aerial weapons in an attack that will feature a lot of four-wide sets, but Nuk will be the No. 1 option for a young QB with a ton of potential. He's consistently one of the most efficient fantasy wideouts on a yearly basis and is a no-doubt top-five fantasy receiver for drafts this fall.

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Eli Apple May 28 6:40pm ET

The Carolina Panthers agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with cornerback Eli Apple on Thursday. Apple agreed with the Raiders earlier in free agency, but the Raiders backed out of the deal and put Apple back on the open market. The 10th overall pick in 2016 by the Giants, Apple failed to live up to his draft billing in two-plus seasons in the Big Apple, and he was underwhelming in 15 games for the Saints last year (53 solo tackles, no interceptions, four passes defensed). But with Donte Jackson and Corn Elder currently set as the two starting corners on the outside, Apple should see plenty of playing time for a Carolina secondary with plenty of questions.

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Justice Hill May 28 5:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill played sparingly during his rookie season last year. Hill finished the year with just 66 touches after getting stuck behind Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards. The Ravens added to their crowded running back room in the 2020 NFL draft when they used a second-round pick on J.K. Dobbins. That leaves an unclear role for Hill in 2020. Head coach John Harbaugh is still high on Hill, however, stating that he expects the sophomore runner to make a big jump. He also went on to tell reporters that there is a role for all four runners in Baltimore. Hill remains a deep dynasty stash but he may not be fantasy relevant until 2021 when Ingram is presumably out of the picture.

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Nick O'Leary May 28 4:40pm ET

The Las Vegas Raiders re-signed tight end Paul Butler to an undisclosed deal on Thursday. In a corresponding move, tight end Nick O'Leary (undisclosed) was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list. Butler hasn't appeared in a regular season game in two years in the NFL with the Raiders and Lions. O'Leary was signed as a free agent after catching 13 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in 12 games (five starts) with the Jaguars and Dolphins in 2019. He was buried on the tight end depth chart to begin with, behind Darren Waller, Jason Witten and Foster Moreau. Las Vegas also has Derek Carrier and rookie Nick Bowers at the position.

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Gardner Minshew II May 28 4:30pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II has impressed new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden with his work during the virtual offseason program. Gruden likes how Minshew has taken charge and seems to have a good grasp of the offense. "He has shown a skill set where he can sit in a pocket, step up, make things happen outside the pocket. He's accurate, he's tough and obviously he's a great leader, so he's got the intangibles you want in a quarterback," Gruden said. The sixth-round pick went 6-6 as a starter in his rookie season and had the highest passer rating and fewest interceptions among rookie QBs in 2019. The 24-year-old took the league by storm last year out of nowhere and has the ability to make things happen outside the pocket and with his legs, as he rushed for 344 yards in 2019. All things considered, though, Minshew is a low-end QB2 that will likely see more inconsistency in his second season.

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Aaron Rodgers May 28 4:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is looking for his offense to find more explosive plays under quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2020, the coach admitted on ESPN Wisconsin's Wilde & Tausch. The Packers ranked 19th in explosive-play rate in 2019, according to Sharp Football Stats. However, other than free-agent addition Devin Funchess in the passing game, the Packers didn't really give Rodgers any added help outside of receiver Davante Adams and running back Aaron Jones. It will be on LaFleur to scheme up more explosive situations this year, but it definitely helps to have Rodgers throwing the passes, even if he's getting older. What's certain is that the Packers will need someone besides Adams and Jones to step up for Rodgers to hold off the naysayers.

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Jimmy Garoppolo May 28 3:20pm ET

San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams agreed to a restructured deal in the final year of his contract in 2020. Williams is due to make $12.5 million this year, but the 49ers agreed to give him some of that up front after he didn't make any money in 2019. The Redskins traded Williams to San Francisco during the draft in April, where he'll immediately become the blind-side protector for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after not playing at all last season. Even though Williams will turn 32 years old in July, the seven-time Pro Bowler is an immediate upgrade for the team's offensive line and should continue to be one of the better left tackles in the NFL.

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Chandler Jones May 28 2:40pm ET

Arizona Cardinals All-Pro linebacker Chandler Jones has more sacks and forced fumbles than any defender since he entered the league in 2012, and his 96 sacks through eight seasons are four more than Bruce Smith, the all-time sacks leader, at the same point in his career. Jones was one of two players in NFL history in 2019 to have 19-plus sacks and eight-plus forced fumbles in a single season. He's been really good, but he wants to work on improving against the run, his eye placement and his hand work. Jones plans to spend more practice time with the defensive line so that he can get more comfortable playing between the tackles. The two-time All-Pro and member of the league's 2010s All-Decade team can certainly get to the QB, but he'll need to improve his tackling numbers in order to justify his high price in IDP leagues.

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Patrick Peterson May 28 2:20pm ET

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said he hasn't really had any contract talks with the team as he enters the final year of his current deal. "I feel I have a lot to prove," Peterson said. He also said he would love to stay with one team in his career and praised the organization. The 29-year-old was suspended for the first six games of 2019 and was a bit rusty upon his return. He finished with 53 tackles (46 solo), two interceptions, seven passes defensed and one forced fumble in his 10 games. The Cardinals have potential on defense with some playmakers in the middle of the field, but they'll need Peterson to return to his All-Pro form in order to make some noise in a loaded NFC West division.

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Miles Sanders May 28 1:20pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles are interested in both running backs Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy, who remain free agents. The Eagles offered a contract to Carlos Hyde before he signed with the Seahawks. Freeman also received an offer, but he's also weighing another offer from the Buccaneers. Philly has yet to make an offer to McCoy. The Eagles would like a veteran presence behind Miles Sanders as he heads into his second NFL season, with Boston Scott as his current backup. Both Freeman and McCoy are past their prime, but they could be effective in spurts while spelling Sanders behind a solid offensive line. Freeman would probably have more fantasy appeal as a handcuff on early downs and in goal-line situations.

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