Wed Sep 30 2:19pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets head coach Adam Gase walks on the sidelines during an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Indianapolis. Gase is doing all he can to tune out all the negative talk and criticisms aimed directly at him. And there's lots of it. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio walks the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Banged up, struggling and desperate for a win.
That describes both the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, who'll square off Thursday night at MetLife Stadium with their seasons spiraling, coaches on the hot seat and rosters ravaged by injuries.
Yeah, this might not exactly be a meaty matchup for a prime-time TV audience. But, the results of this game could have intriguing consequences.
''We understand the situation we're in,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. ''We can't change anything that's happened. All we can do is look forward and prepare for our next game, which is coming here quickly on Thursday. I think our attitude is good.''
The Broncos and Jets are both 0-3 for the second straight season, and each is looking to avoid dropping their first four games in consecutive years for the first time in franchise history. Barring a tie, it's about to get worse for one of them.
The woeful starts have made Fangio and Jets coach Adam Gase the targets of plenty of criticism and cast some doubts on their long-term futures with their teams. Speculation has been flying that Gase could be out as soon as Friday if the Jets lose.
''For me, I have to do a great job of making sure that I keep our players in the right headspace,'' Gase said. ''When a lot of negativity is coming at you and things are hard, that's when everybody's character has to really show up and they've got to go to work and we've got to get it fixed.''
That's easier said than done, of course.
The Jets have been inept on offense, and Sam Darnold has not played like a quarterback on the verge of taking the next step in his third year. The defense has also been alarmingly porous. New York's injury list is longer than a shopping receipt, with Le'Veon Bell, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims among those sidelined.
The Broncos have had similar issues on all counts. Their roster sported a combined 18 Pro Bowls when the 53-man roster was finalized. Now, it has just Melvin Gordon's pair of all-star appearances after Von Miller, Jurell Casey, Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and A.J. Bouye all got hurt.
They're also about to start their third straight different quarterback. Brett Rypien will make his first NFL start, going Thursday night in place of the benched Jeff Driskel - who had taken the place last week of the injured Drew Lock.
''No matter who we're playing, right now, we definitely need a win,'' said Rypien, the nephew of 1992 Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien.
SAM THE MAN?
Darnold's performance last week, when he threw three interceptions and had two returned for touchdowns at Indianapolis, has many wondering if he can be the franchise quarterback the Jets expected when they made him the No. 3 overall pick in 2018.
''He's like everybody in this profession, he does not like to lose,'' Gase said. ''It just eats at him and I love the fact that it just drives him to just keep coming into the building and trying to find ways to improve. I can see it on his face after that last game, like he was (angry).
''He was not only mad at the score, but just kind of how it went down and things that he knows that he can do better and things that may have been out of his control that we've just got to move on from and we can't hang on to. I think that's what I love about him.''
WORLD OF HURT
The Broncos have lost six starters and three backups to IR, and that doesn't even include Lock, whom they're keeping on the active roster so he can attend practice and get mental reps.
The injured Broncos are making a combined $53.4 million this season, by far the highest IR payroll in the NFL and nearly $20 million more than the runner-up Dallas Cowboys at $33.5 million.
Fangio is 7-12 through his first 19 games, same as Gase's record with the Jets. Fangio is the first of the Broncos' 14 head coaches ever to post back-to-back winless Septembers.
The Broncos had just one winless September in the previous 48 years when Fangio hit all the red lights in starting 0-4 in 2019. Before that, the last Broncos head coach who went into October still searching for his first win was Wade Phillips in 1994.
It's only three games and injuries have been a major reason, but New York's offense has sputtered to start the season.
The Jets rank last in the NFL in total yards, scoring, yards passing yards, first downs and red-zone efficiency. They're also second-to-last in total touchdowns, third-down conversions and yards per play.
The Broncos have allowed a whopping 13 sacks in the past two weeks, but it took Elijah Wilkinson's shin injury to force a change up front.
Denver is inserting 12th-year veteran Demar Dotson into the right tackle spot. He joined the team in the summer but couldn't unseat Wilkinson, who was coming off an offseason ankle operation.
''He's probably played 10,000 snaps at right tackle in this league, so we feel good about putting him in there,'' Fangio said. ''He had a good camp with us.''
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.