In this Oct. 20, 2019, file photo, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, left, encourages quarterback Josh Allen as he warms up before an NFL football game Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Allen and Daboll are overseeing an offensive renaissance in Buffalo in which the suddenly pass-happy Bills are among the NFL's most explosive teams three weeks into the season. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) passes against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Derek Carr and Josh Allen first crossed paths seven years ago at a summer camp at Fresno State.
Carr was the star quarterback for the Bulldogs at the time, while Allen was a scrawny high school kid hoping to get a scholarship offer from his local college and follow in Carr's footsteps.
That offer never materialized and Allen eventually ended up in college at Wyoming before becoming a first-round pick by Buffalo in 2018. Now he gets the chance to play against Carr when the Bills (3-0) visit the Las Vegas Raiders (2-1) on Sunday.
''It's unbelievable,'' Carr said about Allen's rise from the time they met at the camp in 2013. ''I think that's the last time I was taller than him. He sprouted up, he went on to Wyoming and did fantastic things. We don't text each other all the time or anything like that. I got too many kids running around. But everything I know about him, he's a great person. He's a heck of a competitor. He is having a great year, a hot start to the season. Happy for him and all those kinds of things.''
After an up-and-down start to his career, Allen has reached another level this season. He has thrown for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns in leading the Bills to three straight wins and has also run for two more scores.
He has a franchise record two straight games with at least four TD passes and has tied Jim Kelly for the Buffalo record with three 300-yard passing games in a row as experience and the addition of Stefon Diggs have made a major difference.
''I think the better I play, the more I know, the more comfortable I feel, and it's going to just cycle,'' he said. ''So I've just got to stay on top of it, understand what the defense is doing. Understand that it's really about what they do, it's about how we react to what they do.''
Allen's fast start has caught the attention of Raiders coach Jon Gruden.
''The quarterback is eye-opening,'' he said. ''He is a fun guy to watch, man. He can really throw the ball. He's got a great playing style. He's got a lot of John Elway playing style. He can scramble, he's strong, he's tough. He's a big-time player. And they've got an arsenal around him.''
Allen always believed Raiders receiver Rico Gafford had NFL-caliber talent. The two were teammates at Wyoming, where Gafford played defensive back before making the switch to receiver with the Raiders.
''I wish like heck he was on the offensive side of the ball when I was there because he was unbelievably fast,'' Allen said.
Unlike Allen, who was selected with the seventh pick in the 2018 draft, Gafford was an undrafted free agent, who first signed with the Tennessee Titans before spending most of the 2018-19 seasons on the Raiders practice squad. He then scored a touchdown on a 49-yard catch in his second NFL game.
After catching 12 passes for 105 yards and a TD in a Week 2 win over New Orleans, Raiders tight end Darren Waller was neutralized by New England. The Patriots focused their coverage on Waller and held him to two catches for only 9 yards. The Raiders hope to get more from their top receiving option this week.
''We got Waller open a couple of times. Unfortunately, we didn't get it there,'' Gruden said. ''It was perhaps an issue here or there. ... We're doing the best we can to give Waller the ball, but we also have to get a lot of production from the guys around him.''
Before being hired by Buffalo, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll held the same title on Alabama's 2018 national championship team, which featured Raiders running back Josh Jacobs and receiver Henry Ruggs III.
''Josh was second or third on the depth chart. ... but you could tell right from the get-go how special he was,'' Daboll recalled. ''And Henry, he just caught touchdowns as a young freshman. Two good young players. Not surprised by the success that those guys are having.''
The Raiders will once again play in their new stadium without any fans. Owner Mark Davis has said he doesn't want to allow fans until all season-ticket holders are allowed to come. Nevada changed its regulations this week to allow venues to apply for waivers for 10% capacity, which would be about 6,500 fans at Allegiant Stadium. UNLV has said it hopes to have some fans at games this season even if the Raiders won't.
''I'm just going to stick to coaching football,'' Gruden said. ''I'm talking a lot about masks right now and protocols. We're doing the best we can. I'm going to let Mark Davis and the governor handle all of that. I'd like to see as many fans there as soon as possible, but I understand the reality of it all.''
Bills rookie receiver Gabriel Davis is drawing praise for how quickly he's made an impact. The fourth-round pick out of Central Florida has seven catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. The abilities he showed in training camp led to the Bills being comfortable in opening the season with various four-receiver formations, with Davis filling various spots alongside Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley. Diggs said Davis might know more of the playbook than he does.
''In a game, when I say, 'Hey, Gabe, what do I got on this side?' he's probably going to know. I trust Gabe,'' Diggs said. ''He's a smart rookie.''
Five Sleepers: Week 7
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.
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.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith faces a tricky matchup in Week 7 against the Panthers. However, matchup concerns are alleviated by the fact that New Orleans will be without Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Smith will be busy against a Panthers Defense that has surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts. With a good chance of finding the end zone, Smith is looking like a high-end WR3 in Week 7, despite the matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23, and has been ruled out for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Demarcus Robinson served as the No. 2 receiver for the Chiefs last week and probably will have a similar role this week. He can be a flex option or bye week replacement in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara gets an excellent matchup against the Panthers Defense. Kamara has offered fantasy managers the safest floor of any running back, particularly in PPR formats, as he's had at least 19 fantasy points in every game this season. He'll go up against a Panthers defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing halfbacks. The Saints will probably go with a more run-heavy approach, seeing as their top-two wideouts- Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19)- are out for the contest. Kamara is a must-start in redraft leagues and is well worth the price in DFS formats.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray has a favorable matchup in front of him against the Panthers in Week 7. Murray has had at least 13 touches in three of five contests this season, with two of those games coming against teams that struggle to stop the run. New Orleans will be without Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) against the Panthers' 24th-ranked run defense. Murray is a good bet for 12-15 touches in Week 7, putting him squarely in the flex discussion.
Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods (groin) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on the situation to see if Woods will be able to play in Week 7. He can be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues if he is cleared to play.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (hand) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Higbee probably will need to practice Saturday, Oct. 24, if he wants a chance to play in the Week 7 game. He is coming off his best game of the season and would see a few targets if he plays this week. He could be a low-end No. 1 tight end in some leagues.
Los Angeles Rams OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury) and DT Aaron Donald (non-injury) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 23.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees faces the Panthers in Week 7. Brees will face a sneakily-good Carolina defense without his top two receivers, Michael Thomas (ankle, hamstring) and Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19). Despite not having Thomas, Brees has thrown for at least 250 yards or two touchdowns in each game this season, giving fantasy managers a solid floor. The Panthers allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, limiting Brees' upside. However, he should be able to finish as a solid QB2 in Week 7.