Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) looks to pass under pressure from Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser (54) during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) scrambles away from Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (50) during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates his touchdown pass to running back Rex Burkhead (34) in the first half of an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby (98) gets a poke in the eye as he closes in to sack New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs have struggled over the years to stop the run, regardless of who was directing their defense. But they showed in last week's win over the Baltimore Ravens that they could rise to the challenge.
They have another big one this weekend.
The New England Patriots roll into Arrowhead Stadium behind new quarterback Cam Newton, himself a threat to run, and a backfield that went roughshod over the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend. Sony Michel needed just nine carries to pile up 117 yards, Rex Burkhead reached the end zone three times and the Patriots totaled 250 yards rushing in the win.
''Cam being in a role there that he's fully accepted, I think he's enjoying it,'' Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, ''and we anticipate them being able to run the ball, but don't be fooled, because Cam can throw the ball very well, too.''
That may be true, but it's not as if the Chiefs (3-0) are preparing for Tom Brady in his heyday. The first order of business any week may be to stop the run - something the Chiefs did quite well against the Ravens on Monday night - but the challenge is even more important when the Patriots (2-1) have shown such a propensity for grinding out yards on the ground.
They lead the league in rushing through the first three weeks. The Chiefs are 27th at defending the run.
The Patriots also hope their running game allows them to control the clock, shortening the game and thereby keeping record-setting quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the dynamic Chiefs offense off the field.
''Ball control and points. You know that,'' Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said. ''Let's get the points and let's control the ball; I don't care how we do it. Dink-and-dunk, quarterback sneak, I don't give a (darn). Just get it done.''
They have a lot of guys who can get it done, too. Michel, Burkhead and Newton are a considerable three-headed monster, but undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor also has gotten into the mix. James White was back at practice this week after the death of his father in an auto accident, as was Damien Harris, who has been on injured reserve with a finger problem.
''We're a bunch of competitors,'' Taylor said, ''but we also want to see each other succeed.''
The Patriots will need them to against the Chiefs on Sunday.
CAM AND GET IT
Newton is the fourth straight quarterback the Chiefs have prepared for that can run. They faced the Texans' Deshaun Watson in the opener, then prepared for the Chargers' Tyrod Taylor in Week 2, though he was ruled out shortly before kickoff because of a medical mishap. Then came the Ravens' Lamar Jackson last week.
''Cam can do anything. Cam, he's been the passer, he's been the runner, he's been the whole deal,'' Reid said. ''You have to prepare for everything and we went in that way with Lamar, the same thing.''
The Chiefs will be without rookie cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, who has two picks through his first three games, but who had surgery this week on the collarbone he broke Monday night in Baltimore. They also could be without Chris Jones, who came into the week leading the AFC with 3 1/2 sacks, because of a groin injury. Top cornerback Bashaud Breeland remains out while serving the final game of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
MAHOMES IN 2020
The reigning Super Bowl MVP continues to have an unforgettable a year. He led the Chiefs to their first title in 50 years, signed a long-term deal that could pay him a half-billion dollars, got engaged to his long-time girlfriend and this week announced the couple is going to have a baby. Oh, and he's also started the season by throwing for nearly 300 yards per game with nine touchdown passes, another touchdown on the ground and no interceptions.
''I mean, all the superlatives that have been said about him, I'd just be repeating them all,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
PASSING THE BUCK
While the biggest challenge facing the Chiefs may be stopping the run, the biggest facing the Patriots will be covering their fleet of pass catchers. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins are merely the start of the headaches - fellow wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson, tight end Travis Kelce and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire are all threats.
''They have five good receivers out there on almost every play,'' Belichick said, ''so it's hard to match up with two, three or four of them, but they've got five and a great quarterback and a great offensive system. They maximize the amount of pressure they put on you and they do a lot of different things.''
The Chiefs will welcome about 17,000 fans to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. It's the 22% of capacity that they were allowed for their Week 1 win over Houston, but welcome news after empty stands on visits to the Chargers and Ravens.
Five Sleepers: Week 7
Detroit Lions LB Jarrad Davis received reps with the first-team defense during practice Friday, Oct. 23, and could be in line to see increased playing time after being successful in a limited role.
Las Vegas Raiders S Jeff Heath appears to be the leading candidate to start at strong safety in place of SS Johnathan Abram for Week 7's contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After being on the field for an average of just 10 percent of the team's defensive snaps through the first four games, Heath began to see more playing time in Week 6's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, when he was on the field for 42 percent of the Raiders' defensive plays.
New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley (knee) is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament next week and doctors are optimistic that he will be ready for training camp. Barkley needed to wait for his medial collateral ligament injury to heal before he was eligible to undergo ACL surgery.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch has both made and received calls about WR Dante Pettis recently, although no deal appears imminent, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
The Las Vegas Raiders defense has been statistically one of the worst defenses in the league this season. They are averaging under two fantasy points per game and face an ascending Buccaneers offense this week. Tom Brady is currently fourth in the league in passing touchdowns, and this Tampa Bay offense is ascending after hanging 31 offensive points on Green Bay in Week 6. The Raiders rank 27th in scoring defense and 24th in yards allowed. There is nothing to suggest they will have a good performance this week and should be kept on the bench or dropped entirely.
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller has a tough test against the Buccaneers this week, but he should be able to produce a solid fantasy performance. Waller has been great at home this season, with 21 catches, 193 yards, and a touchdown in two games. The Buccaneers have one of the league's best defenses, but the Patriots are the only team to hold Waller under five catches so far this season. He currently ranks third in fantasy points per game among tight ends, and he leads the Raiders in targets. The Buccaneers rank sixth in the league against tight ends, but fantasy owners should feel comfortable starting him based on his performances so far this season.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III will have a tough matchup against a good Buccaneers secondary in Week 7. Ruggs had a breakout performance in his last game against the Chiefs, but his value rests with the deep ball at this time. That is not great news considering the Buccaneers are one of the best defenses against the deep ball, ranking third in the league in allowing receptions of over 20 yards. He was able to get loose in the Chiefs secondary with a 72-yard reception in the first half but caught just one other pass the rest of the game. Ruggs' big-play potential makes him a fringe flex option in deeper leagues, but don't expect a lot of targets for the rookie this week.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will face one of the league's best run defenses this week in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers are allowing just three yards per carry and rank second in the league in total rushing yards allowed. Jacobs is having a productive year and is certainly a must-start option, but he is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry on the season. Jacobs has just one game this season where he has rushed for over four yards per carry. With that being said, he is still seventh in points per game among running backs. It will not be an easy day for Jacobs, but fantasy owners should feel encouraged that he can put up a solid fantasy performance despite a difficult matchup.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will have one of his most difficult tests of the year against a great Buccaneers Defense. The Buccaneers defense has allowed just seven passing touchdowns and have grabbed eight interceptions in their six games this season. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 82 against this Todd Bowles defense. They confused Aaron Rodgers and made him uncomfortable, so this will not be an easy day for Carr. With that being said, Carr has thrown for almost 600 passing yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in two home games this season. The Raiders are coming off a bye, and Carr is having a career year. However, he is likely a bench option this week due to the matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs RB Le'Veon Bell is expected to see some snaps against the Denver Broncos in Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: It is no surprise that the Chiefs plan to ease Bell into action. There is no denying his upside, but he needs to be left on the bench until his role and workload become clear.
New Orleans Saints WR Bennie Fowler (shoulder) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Friday, Oct. 23.
The Philadelphia Eagles waived DE Daeshon Hall from the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list Friday, Oct. 23.
The Denver Broncos released DT Sylvester Williams Friday, Oct. 23.
The New Orleans Saints Defense faces a middle-of-the-pack matchup against the Carolina Panthers in Week 7. It's a date with former Saint Teddy Bridgewater, who started five games for the team in 2019. New Orleans' defense is finally starting to get healthy after a rash of injuries, as they will get Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) back and essentially be at full strength. This unit may start to put together some good performances, starting with this week. They can be used as a starting option.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz faces a favorable matchup in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers. Lutz is perfect on the season, having made all nine field-goals and all 18 extra-points. Carolina ranks 22nd in fantasy points allowed to kickers, making this a juicy matchup for Lutz. Expect strong fantasy numbers from the 26-year-old.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook could see more opportunities in Week 7 against the Panthers. Cook had one of his better games against the Chargers, catching two passes for 52 yards and a score. New Orleans is down two of it's best pass-catchers- Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19)- heading into the contest against the Panthers. The veteran tight end should see more targets, making him a good start as a TE1 in Week 7.
Seattle Seahawks RB Carlos Hyde (shoulder, toe) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hyde will serve as the backup for Chris Carson but should see a handful of touches during the game. Fantasy players should be able to find better options and can keep Hyde on the bench.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (ankle) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and has been ruled out for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert is expected to miss multiple weeks because of the injury, so fantasy players should look for other options to use. Jerick McKinnon and JaMycal Hasty likely will share playing time while Mostert is sidelined. McKinnon probably has more fantasy value and can be a flex option in leagues. Hasty should be rostered in leagues and has a chance to be a flex option depending on the opponent.
Los Angeles Chargers WR Keenan Allen (back) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Allen has been targeted at least eight times in four of the five games this season and seems to have a good connection with Justin Herbert. Allen can be considered a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) was limited during practice Friday, Oct. 23, and is listed as questionable for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins likely will be able to play despite the injury, but fantasy players will need to check the inactive list for his status. He is a must-start option in all leagues if he is active for the game.