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.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) had a doctor visit on Friday and said, "It was a good report. I got to bypass the tennis ball throwing for a month and go right to the football. Still going to be about 2.5-3 months until I get total clearance from doc but we are doing good!" The Steelers posted a video on Twitter of Roethlisberger lightly tossing a football in a gym on Saturday. The veteran gunslinger played in just two games in 2019 before needing season-ending right elbow surgery. He seems to be coming along well and should be ready for the season opener in 2020, barring any setbacks. Big Ben is injury prone at his age, but he put up career highs in passing yards and touchdowns in 2018 and will be a QB2 with QB1 upside if he can stay healthy.
The Green Bay Packers agreed to a three-year contract extension with kicker Mason Crosby on Saturday, according to a source. Crosby has been with the Packers since he was drafted in 2007, and he missed just two field goals and one extra point in 2019. The veteran kicker will turn 36 before the start of the 2020 season, but he should remain fantasy relevant as at least a low-end fantasy kicker as long as the Packers offense remains effective under quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Crosby finished last season with 106 fantasy points, which came in at 14th in the league.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) was seen lightly throwing a football in a video that the Steelers posted on Twitter on Saturday. Roethlisberger only played in two games in 2019 before needing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, but it looks like he's making progress. He's focused on returning to finish out his contract, which runs through the 2021 season. Pittsburgh's front office and coaching staff are optimistic that Roethlisberger will be ready for Week 1. Turning 38 next month, Big Ben will be an injury risk as a QB2, but he could be a steal if he returns to the form he displayed in 2018 when he had a career-high 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns.
The Detroit Lions re-signed wide receiver Danny Amendola to a one-year deal on Saturday, according to his agent, Erik Burkhardt. All three of Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Amendola are in contract years in 2020. Amendola, 34, had 62 catches for 678 yards and a touchdown in his first season with Detroit last year. The 678 yards were the second-highest total in his career. The veteran slot man has caught 547 passes for 5,362 yards and 21 touchdowns in 141 games in his career with the Patriots, Rams, Dolphins and Lions. Unless one of Golladay or Jones are injured in 2020, though, Amendola's fantasy ceiling will be limited.
The New York Jets signed wide receiver Josh Doctson to an undisclosed deal on Saturday. Doctson was taken 22nd overall in the first round by the Redskins in 2016, but he's mostly been a disappointment in his career to this point. He finished three seasons with Washington with 81 catches, 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. Doctson signed with Minnesota in 2019 but spent most of the year on Injured Reserve. Robby Anderson is expected to leave in free agency and Demaryius Thomas could as well, while Quincy Enunwa's status is in the air because of a neck injury. Doctson won't be the only wideout New York adds this offseason, and he'll mostly serve as receiver depth heading into the 2020 season.
Atlanta Falcons two-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper will become a free agent on March 16, and he could reset the tight end market with his next deal. Hooper was fifth in the league in catches among all players with 52 through the first eight games of last season. He missed three games with a knee injury but still managed to finish with a career-high 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Hooper is expected to top Jimmy Graham's $10 million per-year-average from his 2014 contract with the Saints, even if the Falcons re-sign him. With the Falcons having little room with the salary cap, they'll have to do reshuffling to keep Hooper. Staying with Atlanta would probably be best for his fantasy stock, but Hooper could easily remain a high-end TE1 if he goes elsewhere.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen), who had surgery on Jan. 21 on a core muscle, posted a video on his Instagram of him running on a treadmill on Thursday. A league sources estimates that Beckham will be healthy in a month. There's no guarantee that OBJ will take part in the offseason program, which begins on April 6 for teams with new head coaches. Cleveland's new offensive system will challenge quarterback Baker Mayfield, who won't be able to work with his top receivers until training camp. If Beckham and Mayfield can get on the same page, they should have a good shot to improve on their numbers last season. However, Beckham will be seen as more of a low-end WR1 with upside until the Browns prove us wrong.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have considered signing quarterback Jameis Winston to a two-year deal this offseason, with the first year guaranteed and the second year a team option, according to sources. The first year of the deal would be roughly the same as the franchise tag of $27 million. Tampa could also just use the franchise or transition tag, with the transition tag around $2.5 million cheaper than the franchise tag. The 26-year-old led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and 33 touchdowns last year, but he also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. Winston's fantasy value will be the highest as a QB1 if he stays in Tampa with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his top two receivers.
The Chicago Bears are releasing wide receiver Taylor Gabriel and cornerback Prince Amukamara on Friday, according to a source. Gabriel played in just nine games in his second and final season in Chicago in 2019 because of injuries, catching only 29 passes (48 targets) for 353 yards and four touchdowns. He's still on the right side of 30 years old but offers a limited upside in fantasy and limited size (5-foot-7, 168 pounds). Gabriel did manage a career-high 67 catches, 688 yards and two scores in 2018. Depending on where he lands in free agency, he's likely to be a complementary piece of a passing offense. Amukamara, 31 this June, had 53 tackles (44 solo), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 15 games for the Bears last season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) is making good progress from the plantar fasciitis issues he dealt with last season. In his first year with the Raiders, Williams caught 42 passes for 651 yards and six touchdowns. He only missed two games but was slowed by his foot issues, mostly in the second half. Williams started off with five touchdowns in his first five games, but he predictably fell off from there with just one more touchdown on the season. He gives the Raiders a downfield threat, but the problem is that quarterback Derek Carr doesn't often challenge defenses deep. If Las Vegas addresses the receiver position in free agency or the draft, Williams could have even more trouble being a consistent performer. As of now, he's a touchdown-dependent flex option.
The Jacksonville Jaguars exercised their team options for fifth-year wide receiver Chris Conley and fourth-year safety Jarrod Wilson on Friday. Conley will be under contract for 2020, while Wilson is now under contract through 2021. Conley set a career high in catches (47), receiving yards (775) and yards per catch (16.5) in his first season with the Jaguars in 2019. He managed five touchdowns in all 16 games (14 starts). The 27-year-old has 10 touchdowns in the last two seasons, but his fantasy ceiling is limited in a run-first offense while also competing for targets with D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook. Think of Conley as more of a WR5/flex play in deeper leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery could be open to a trade if the team explores one this offseason. However, he could be tough to trade coming off a Lisfranc foot injury while having high salary cap numbers the next two seasons. Jeffery has a history of injuries during his playing career and managed to play in just 10 games for the Eagles in 2019, catching 43 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns. It was his lowest yardage total since his rookie year in 2012 with Chicago. The 30-year-old posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Bears in 2013-14, but he's become an inconsistent, injury prone wideout the last two seasons in Philly. A change of scenery wouldn't necessarily make him any more attractive to fantasy owners.
The Washington Redskins are growing increasingly hopeful that left tackle Trent Williams will return to the team, as head coach Ron Rivera has made him one of his offseason priorities in trying to get him to return. Williams held out last season because of beef with the team's previous front-office regime and training staff, but those parties are all gone. Rivera and Williams have had positive phone conversations, and it sounds like they have a good shot to retain him. It's all good news for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who looked a little overmatched in limited playing time in his rookie season. The 'Skins are slowly rebuilding, and having Williams anchor down Haskins' blind side would be huge.
The Indianapolis Colts are expected to be in the market for wide receivers this offseason, and they've already been linked to Philadelphia Eagles impending free-agent wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Agholor had his best season in 2017 when Frank Reich and Mike Groh were offensive assistants -- they are both with the Colts now. In just 11 games in 2019, Agholor disappointed with 39 receptions for 363 yards and three touchdowns. An injury ended his season early, but he couldn't take advantage of DeSean Jackson's injury that kept him out for the majority of the year. A change of scenery would probably serve him well, but he wouldn't be guaranteed a large role in Indy's run-first offense with questions at quarterback.
The Detroit Lions plan to release defensive tackle Damon Harrison in the coming days, according to a source. The move will free up around $6.7 million in salary cap space but will leave the team with a hole on their defensive line up the middle. Even though Snacks Harrison had a down year in 2019 due to knee and groin injuries, he was their best defensive player in the second half of 2018 after he was acquired from the Giants. Harrison finished with 49 tackles last year, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2012, and he only had two sacks in 15 games. He will consider retirement this offseason while seeing what materializes in free agency. In his prime, Harrison was one of the best run-stuffing nose tackles in the game.
The Tennessee Titans aren't expected to pick up wide receiver Corey Davis' fifth-year team option for the 2021 season. If the Titans were to pick it up, Davis would be owed around $15.8 million in 2021. The 25-year-old former fifth overall pick in 2017 had 65 catches for 891 yards in his sophomore season in 2018, but he regressed in 2019 when he had only 43 receptions for 601 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie A.J. Brown became the Titans go-to No. 1 receiver last year. Tennessee envisioned Davis becoming that guy when they drafted him, but he's failed to live up to expectations in his three seasons. Heading into 2020, he'll be a WR4/5 without much upside in this run-first offense.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said on Thursday that wide receiver A.J. Green is "a guy we want to be around." Green hasn't played in a game since December of 2018 and hasn't been a Pro Bowler since 2017 in his last full season. He's due to become a free agent next month and has played in just nine games the last two years, but the Bengals could still use him. If Cincinnati can't reach a long-term extension with the veteran, they're likely to use the franchise tag on him. Turning 32 this summer, Green has had 1,000 yards receiving in six of his eight seasons, but his fantasy stock will be way down since he hasn't been able to stay healthy of late. If he remains with the Bengals, as is expected, he'll likely have LSU quarterback Joe Burrow throwing him passes in 2020.
The Washington Redskins released tight end Jordan Reed on Thursday. The move was expected and will save the team $8.5 million in salary cap space. Reed missed all of the 2019 season with a concussion, his seventh documented one in his seven seasons. He was just cleared from the league's concussion protocol on Wednesday and has never played a full season in the NFL due to head and other injuries. Despite the lingering concussion concerns, a source close to Reed said he wants to continue playing. In a career-high 14 games in 2015, Reed had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. Without Reed in the picture, Washington's top tight end is Jeremy Sprinkle, who had 26 catches in 2019. However, he's considered more of a blocker, so the 'Skins will surely look to bolster the position in free agency or the draft. If Reed continues his career and lands elsewhere, he'll strictly be a low-end injury risk as a TE2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is expected to be sidelined six to eight months after having surgery to shave down some cartilage and remove two pieces of bone embedded in the labrum of his left hip on Feb. 4. The Browns expect Landry to make a full recovery for the 2020 season, but he might be limited in training camp and could be questionable for the Week 1. He will be on crutches for two weeks and then can continue with physical therapy and riding a stationary bike. Despite dealing with the hip injury in 2019, Landry didn't miss a game for the sixth straight year and had career highs in yards (1,174) and yards per catch (14.1). His six touchdowns were the second-best total of his career. With a new coaching staff in place, losing repetitions in training camp could be problematic. Landry will have some added risk as a WR2 in PPR leagues in 2020.
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen met two figures that voided the final three years of his contract by securing six or more sacks and playing 57 percent or more of the defensive snaps in 2019. As such, Griffen has exercised his right to opt out of his deal, according to a source. That will free up roughly $13 million in salary cap space for the Vikings, with $800,000 in dead money. The 32-year-old was already at risk of being cut with a $13.9 million cap hit in 2020. The Vikings might try to keep him around at a reduced price, as Griffen had eight sacks and 24 QB knockdowns last season. He's been a great complement to Danielle Hunter on the other side of the line, so losing Griffen would be a blow to the Vikes pass rush.