Detroit Lions cornerback Justin Coleman (27) celebrates an interception against the Green Bay Packers with teammates Darius Slay (23) and Will Harris (25) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) makes a leaping catch while covered by Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King, right, during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, left, throws a pass as he is pressured by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook scores on a 1-yard touchdown run ahead of Philadelphia Eagles inside linebacker Zach Brown, left, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs from Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas (32) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Lions are thankful they have a short week to prepare to play Minnesota in a possibly pivotal NFC North matchup.
A quick turnaround gave the Lions less time to lament critical calls that didn't go their way on Monday night in a loss at Green Bay.
''It's kind of a blessing in disguise because we don't have time to think about anything but Minnesota,'' Lions center Frank Ragnow said. ''And, the Vikings are really good - especially on defense.''
The Vikings (4-2) have won two in a row, leaning on one of the NFL's best defenses and an offense that is starting to perform up to its potential.
Minnesota has averaged 33 points the past two weeks with a grinding running game led by Dalvin Cook that helps Kirk Cousins make big plays through the air. After a slow start, Cousins had six touchdown passes and one interception in wins over Philadelphia and the New York Giants.
''That team is on fire right now,'' Lions coach Matt Patricia said.
Detroit (2-2-1) has dropped two straight after an unbeaten, three-game start because it failed to keep double-digit leads against the Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.
''You can't let it stick around in your head because there's a long season left,'' Flowers said.
If the Lions don't win Sunday at home, though, their chances to contend in the competitive division will take a hit.
Minnesota, meanwhile, wants to avoid starting 0-3 in the NFC North after playing its first three division games as visitors.
''We get them all at home at the end, so it all evens out,'' Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
Here are some things to watch when the Lions face the Vikings:
STACKS OF SACKS
Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter leads the league with eight tackles for losses. He set an NFL record with a sack against the Eagles that gave him 46 for his career, the most in history by a player younger than 25. Hunter has two more games before his birthday, and the Lions have provided him plenty of pass-rushing opportunities in the past. Hunter has seven sacks in six games against them, plus three fumble recoveries and one he returned for a 32-yard touchdown.
The Lions lost to the Packers at least in part because they scored only one touchdown and had to settle for Matt Prater's five field goals. That followed a trend.
In goal-to-go situations, Detroit ranks 30th in the NFL with four touchdowns in nine chances.
''That's not good enough,'' quarterback Matthew Stafford acknowledged.
Inside the 20, Detroit has gotten into the end zone on half of its 16 opportunities to rank among the bottom third of the league.
The problem may be ominous for the Lions because they were relegated to scoring only on field goals in two losses to Minnesota last year.
Stafford is 87 yards passing from setting a record for the fewest games to reach the 40,000-yard mark. Matt Ryan reached that number in 151 games, five more than Stafford has played.
''When you step back and look at stuff like that, I think it's just pretty amazing,'' Patricia said.
Stafford has bounced back from a lackluster year with a solid season so far as the league's ninth-ranked passer. He has thrown nine touchdown passes and two interceptions, both coming in a Week 2 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
''Stafford is playing outstanding, maybe the best I've ever seen him,'' Zimmer said. ''He's throwing the ball into a lot of tight windows. He's pulling the trigger. He's still scrambling.''
Though Minnesota hasn't been stung by questionable late-game calls quite like Detroit was at Green Bay, penalties have been an uncharacteristic problem for the team.
The Vikings had four penalties for 30 yards against them in their win over the Eagles last week, both season lows for a team that has been charged with the third-most penalty yardage in the league (456) and irritated its discipline-driven coach in the process.
The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a one-year deal with tight end Demetrius Harris on Wednesday, according to sources. Harris was cut by the Browns recently and spent time with head coach Matt Nagy when they were both with the Chiefs. The 28-year-old caught just 15 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 despite David Njoku missing most of the year with an injury in Cleveland. Chicago was looking to upgrade their tight end room after both Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen missed large chunks of last season due to injuries. Harris will have an opportunity with his new team, but it's still unlikely he has a huge pass-catching role is Burton and Shaheen are on the field.
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and intends to continue his playing career in 2020, according to sources. Reed suffered a reported seventh concussion of his career in the preseason and didn't play at all in 2019. He expects to be released by the Redskins in the coming days, but he wants to continue playing. Washington would save $8.5 million against the salary cap if they release Reed by June 1, and he would count $10.3 million toward the cap if he stays. Only 29 years old, it remains to be seen if he has anything left if he keeps playing after the 'Skins inevitably release him. It will depend on where he lands, but Reed probably won't even be touched as a TE2 in fall drafts.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen is likely to remain with the team heading into the 2020 season. However, his future in Miami doesn't look bright with Ryan Fitzpatrick coming back for another year and the Dolphins widely expected to take a franchise signal-caller with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the draft. It's clear that the team doesn't view Rosen, 23, as the future under center at this point. The former 2018 first-round pick was acquired from the Cardinals before last season, but he couldn't beat out Fitzpatrick and will have to learn another new offense, one that Fitzpatrick is familiar with. Unless something unexpected happens this summer, Rosen will open up the 2020 season holding a clipboard again.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Dissly (Achilles), who is coming off a torn Achilles that ended his 2019 season prematurely, is expected to be ready for Week 1. Dissly was on the fantasy map as a TE1 with 23 catches for 262 yards and four touchdowns in six games before his injury, but he's played in just 10 games in his two seasons with Seattle because of injuries. On top of that, the Seahawks signed veteran Greg Olsen on Wednesday. Olsen and Dissly could form a strong one-two punch at tight end in 2020, but Dissly is unlikely to be a consistent fantasy performer unless Olsen misses time with an injury, which is entirely possible.
The Minnesota Vikings aren't releasing wide receiver Stefon Diggs, although they could get calls from other teams to see if they are interested in trading him. But the odds remain long that Diggs would be traded, as he's under contract through 2023 with reasonable salaries. This comes after Diggs removed Vikings photos from his social media. Minnesota is also in win-now mode, so they'll need Diggs to remain a contender going into the 2020 season and beyond. The 26-year-old can be a bit much at times, but he put up his second straight 1,000-yard season last year and added six touchdowns and a career-high 17.9 yards per catch. He produced for fantasy owners with Adam Thielen (hamstring) nursing an injury last year and should be a solid WR2 target going into fall drafts.
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said the team will be changing some things in quarterback Baker Mayfield's footwork this offseason "to help him." One specific thing is that they will have Mayfield put his left foot in front instead of his right foot out of the shotgun when he takes the snap. Van Pelt thinks it will help Mayfield be more fluid in his three-stop drop out of the shotgun formation. High expectations were placed on Mayfield and the Browns in his second season, and he failed to live up to them, especially with Odell Beckham Jr. as his No. 1 receiver. There's still time for the 24-year-old to bounce back in a new offensive scheme, but fantasy owners will be drafting him as a QB2 this fall.
The Washington Redskins exercised the 2020 team option on running back Adrian Peterson on Wednesday. Peterson led the team in attempts (211), rushing yards (898) and rushing touchdowns (five) in 2019 and will enter the 2020 season having started in 154 of the 164 games he's appeared in. The veteran is ranked eighth in NFL history in rushing attempts (3,036) and sixth in yards per game (86.7). He needs 1,054 rushing yards to pass Barry Sanders for fourth on the all-time list and needs 13 rushing TDs to pass Marcus Allen for No. 3. Peterson is a seven-time Pro Bowler and four time first-team All-Pro, but he'll take a back seat to Derrius Guice next year if Guice can stay healthy.
The Seattle Seahawks are signing former Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen to a one-year, $7 million deal on Tuesday, according to a source. The deal includes $5.5 million in guarantees. Olsen visited with the Bills and Redskins before making the decision to go to Seattle. Will Dissly ruptured his Achilles in 2019, Ed Dickson is a candidate to be released and Luke Willson (unrestricted) and Jacob Hollister (restricted) are free agents. Olsen, a three-time Pro Bowler in 13 NFL seasons, should be the team's primary pass-catching tight end and will have low-end TE1 value with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing him passes. He was the first tight end in history to have 1,000 yards receiving in three straight seasons from 2014-16, but the 34-year-old (35 in March) has dealt with injuries in recent seasons.
Impending free-agent DE Jadeveon Clowney (Seahawks) once to be one of the highest-paid defensive players - if not the highest-paid - with a contract that will set the market for his position, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.
Impending free-agent TE Jason Witten (Cowboys) made it clear to reporters Tuesday, Feb. 18, that he intends to play next season and hopes to do so with the Dallas Cowboys, although he is not opposed to finishing his career somewhere else. He is hoping to make a more concrete decision about his future following the NFL Scouting Combine next week.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who will be a free agent next month, wants to play another season and hopes he can remain with the Cowboys. However, Witten understands that he might have to go elsewhere if he wants to play in a 17th NFL season. The veteran tight end has met with new head coach Mike McCarthy and has talked with owners Jerry Jones and executive vice president Stephen Jones. Witten hauled in 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 in his return from a one-year absence from the game. He's headed into his age-38 season, and while he can still give something to a team, he won't be anything more than a touchdown-dependent, low-end TE2 if he plays again in 2020 for the Cowboys or another squad.
Impending free-agent LB Shaquil Barrett (Buccaneers) could receive in upwards of $20 million per season on his next contract, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may ultimately decide to use the franchise tag on him if the two sides are unable to come to a long-term agreement before the start of free agency.
Denver Broncos QB Joe Flacco (neck) recently got good news after undergoing an MRI. As a result, he is expected to be physically cleared to return to action this season, although there is some question as to whether or not he will be back with Denver, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Impending free-agent RB Kareem Hunt 'expects to be in the (Cleveland) Browns' plans next year,' according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make an attempt to re-sign linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who led the NFL in 2019 with 19.5 sacks in his first year with the team. Barrett, who is scheduled to be a free agent in March, would be looking at potentially $20 million per season on the open market, so it won't be easy for the Buccaneers to retain him. If they choose to, Tampa could place the franchise tag on Barrett to ensure that he's around for at least one more season. In addition to the 19.5 sacks, the 27-year-old pass rusher had a career-high 58 tackles (45 solo), six forced fumbles and one interception. In his four seasons with Denver prior to 2019, Barrett had a combined 14 sacks.
An MRI exam taken on Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco (back) last week showed encouraging results, but his agent, Joe Linta, is seeking a second opinion from spine specialist Dr. Andrew Dossett. "Joe has every intention to play but not at the risk of his long-term health," Linta said Tuesday. Flacco went on season-ending Injured Reserve with a bulging disc in his neck after the team's eighth game of last season. The veteran QB has two years at $20.25 million and $24.25 million left on his contract, which will be way too high as a backup quarterback. The Broncos could either restructure Flacco's contract, trade him or release him. The 35-year-old would be Drew Lock's backup in Denver if he stays, and he'd be auditioning for a backup job on the open market as well, most likely.
The Atlanta Falcons signed kicker Younghoe Koo and punter Ryan Allen to one-year contract extensions on Tuesday. Koo, 25, played in the team's final eight games in 2019 after the club parted ways with veteran Matt Bryant. He made 23 of his 26 field-goal attempts and made 15 of his 16 extra points. Koo made his only field-goal try from 50-plus yards and was also pretty successful with onside kicks in the second half of the season. In an Atlanta offense that could easily bounce back in 2020, Koo could be a fantasy sleeper at the kicking position heading into drafts.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt expects to be in the team's plans for 2020 despite admitting that he would fail a drug test during a routine traffic stop. Hunt is a restricted free agent, so he's hoping Cleveland will place a first-round tender on him or try to sign him to a long-term deal. The 24-year-old was suspended for the first eight games last year for a domestic-violence incident, and he took a back seat to Nick Chubb in the ground game. However, he was used consistently as a passer out of the backfield with 37 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown through the air. If he returns, he'll continue to have RB3/flex appeal in PPR leagues behind Chubb.
Free-agent TE Greg Olsen (Panthers) is signing a one-year, $7 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks, according to a source. The deal includes $5.5 million in guaranteed money.
Fantasy Spin: Olsen turns 35 in March and has a history of injuries in recent seasons, which makes him a risky option in any fantasy setting. The addition helps QB Russell Wilson the most and hurts TE Will Dissly (Achilles), whose outlook already was questionable after consecutive seasons ending due to major injuries. Olsen is a fringe starter in 12-team fantasy leagues but has limited upside, substantial risk, and figures to be inconsistent given all of Seattle's other ways to attack.
The New Orleans Saints seem likely to give quarterback Taysom Hill, who will be a restricted free agent in March, at least a first- or second-round tender offer now that Drew Brees has announced he will return for at least one more season. Teddy Bridgewater is expected to have a big market in free agency and seems destined to leave town now that Brees is returning, so Hill would be in line as the heir apparent if Brees hangs up his cleats after the 2020 season. Hill attempted just six passes last year despite Brees missing time with injury, and it remains to be seen if they really believe he can be a franchise signal-caller in the long-term. He's a great Swiss Army knife for the Saints, but he probably won't have much fantasy appeal in redraft leagues next season unless Bridgewater leaves and Brees misses more games due to injury.