Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill (22) intercepts a pass intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss (18) and returns it for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) gestures during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) runs off the field following an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan (26) intercepts a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) during the second half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders are moving in opposite directions heading into a stretch run.
The Titans (7-5) have won five of six games since switching to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, turning a mediocre season into a promising one headed into Sunday's game against the struggling Oakland Raiders (6-6), who are one game behind Tennessee in the race for the final wild-card spot.
''I think guys kind of know what's at stake, know we need to win as many games as we possibly can to put ourselves in position to win the division and make this playoff run,'' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. ''So I think guys are going to be locked in.''
The Raiders are trying to get back to that form after back-to-back lopsided losses to the Jets and Kansas City, marking the first time since 1961 the team lost consecutive games by at least 30 points.
Despite that, Oakland is only one game behind Tennessee and Pittsburgh in the race for the final wild-card spot and still has hope of making the final scheduled season in Oakland a successful one.
''We feel like we've played pretty good football all year,'' coach Jon Gruden said. 'We've had some ups and downs obviously, especially the last couple weeks. You know, we're 6-6. That's nothing to really brag about, but we're excited about progress.''
The Titans still have their sights set higher than the wild-card race. Tennessee trails Houston by one game in the AFC South but plays two of the final three games against the Texans, putting the division title in the Titans control.
''If you look ahead, at the end of the day if we lose this game now what's ahead doesn't really matter,'' four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. ''So we want to make sure to we take care of this game right now, keep ourselves in a good position.
Both teams rely heavily on the running game led by a pair of backs who played college ball at Alabama. Tennessee's Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 1,725 yards rushing over his past 16 games. He has 11 TD runs this season and leads all running backs with 31 runs of at least 10 yards. His counterpart in Oakland and successor at Alabama, Josh Jacobs, has been almost as effective his rookie season, ranking fourth in the NFL with 1,061 yards rushing so far.
''He's been doing that all these years I've been playing with him at 'Bama,'' said Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans, a teammate of Jacobs' at Alabama in 2016-17. ''It's going to be like another reunion and have a guy I been practicing against for three years and being able to now play against him is going to be definitely fun.''
The Raiders' once efficient offense has stalled of late. Starting with a victory in Indianapolis in Week 4 and continuing through a home win against the Chargers in Week 10, the Raiders led the NFL in yards per play (6.34) and ranked sixth in points per drive (2.35). Over the past three weeks, the Raiders rank 18th in the league in yards per play (5.14) and last in points per drive (0.85).
''We've had a rough two weeks,'' quarterback Derek Carr said. ''I've had a rough two weeks. It's time to get back on track.''
The Titans started the season holding their first seven opponents to 20 points or less. Now they've gotten back on track the past two weeks, making nine games this season that Tennessee has held a team to 20 points or below. The Titans rank seventh in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 19.5 points a game.
After back-to-back road games in cold weather, the Raiders will be happy to come home for the final scheduled homestand at the Coliseum. The Raiders previously endured a seven-week stretch away from Oakland and will finish the season with road games against the Chargers and Broncos following next week's home finale against Jacksonville. The Raiders are set to move to Las Vegas next season.
''We do like playing at home like everybody else,'' Gruden said. ''We've been on the road more than anybody in the history of the world now. You know 45,000 miles of travel is a joke, and it's taken a toll on our team. I believe that. But it's good to be home, sleep in your own bed, play a home game, especially with the kind of fans that we have.''
Gruden did exaggerate slightly as the Raiders are traveling about 32,000 miles this season, most in the NFL.
The Titans have been leaning more and more on Henry since Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback. Even though the Titans aren't asking Tannehill to throw much, he's been very effective. Tannehill is second in the NFL with a 113.9 passer rating, second to Drew Brees completing 72.7 percent of his passes, and he's leading the NFL averaging 9.1 yards per pass attempt.
Since Tannehill moved into the lineup, the Titans are scoring 29.7 points a game, second in the NFL behind only the Ravens (37) in that span.
''For him to come off the bench, that's a real hard thing to do - and earn the trust and respect of his whole team,'' Gruden said. ''He's been money at crunch time.''
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (groin) underwent sports hernia surgery, according to sources Saturday, Jan. 25. He's expected to make a full recovery.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller was limited to 11 games in 2019. He managed to catch 49 of 71 targets for 670 yards and three touchdowns, but he's now four years into his career and has yet to play more than 14 games. He'll again be a risky but high-upside WR3 in 2020 drafts.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle in 2019 received the highest-ever full-season grade given to a tight end by Pro Football Focus, and has been named the site's 2019 Dwight Stephenson Award winner as the best player regardless of position.
Fantasy Spin: In catching 85 of 107 targets for 1,053 yards and five TDs, Kittle finished as fantasy's No. 3 tight end in both standard and PPR leagues. He's made more of an impact with his run blocking so far this postseason, but he'll be near the top of fantasy TE wish lists this summer once again.
Free-agent S Eric Berry (Chiefs) sat out the 2019 season but plans to play in 2020.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston is coming off an up-and-down season in which he hit career highs in yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) but also interceptions (30), including seven pick-sixes, and former Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said it's time the Bucs and Winston part ways. 'I would be surprised if they pay him,' Dominik told PewterReport.com. 'Maybe they will. It's their decision, but I would be shocked if the Bucs franchised Winston -- or transitioned him. I think the decision they have is certainly difficult because there has been some production there, but I don't know how you could justify paying Jameis Winston more money this year than he made last year.'
Fantasy Spin: Unless your league deducts heavy penalties for turnovers, Winston was fantasy gold last season, finishing only behind Lamar Jackson in total fantasy points. The interceptions and miscues, though, are a little more unforgivable in real football, and whether or not Winston is retained by the Bucs promises to be one of the most intriguing storylines of the offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark doesn't expect his role to change going into next season under new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Chark became the team's No. 1 receiver under John DeFilippo in 2019, and he expects Gruden to do the same to utilize his playmaking abilities. The second-round pick of 2018 had a breakout year in 2019 and thinks Gruden's West Coast offense is a good fit for him. Chark is in his first Pro Bowl after catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 14 catches for 174 yards and no touchdowns as a rookie. He'll have WR2 upside going into 2020, but the uncertainty at quarterback will make him a bit volatile in fantasy drafts.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson won't have any of his $9.5 million salary guaranteed for the 2020 season unless he's on the roster for Week 1 of the regular season. The Dolphins are likely to discuss a restructuring of his contract in the weeks ahead. There will be $1.3 million in dead money but $9.5 million in salary cap savings if the Dolphins cut him. The 27-year-old slot receiver missed three games due to injury last season and caught 43 passes for 351 yards and just one touchdown in his second year in Miami. He could never really get on track after his slow start because of injury, and Wilson will be an afterthought in redraft leagues going into the 2020 season.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes reminds retired QB Brett Favre of himself with some of the traits he has displayed on the field. 'I see the comparison,â?³ Favre said. 'He may not admit this but he probably feels there is no throw he can't make or no angle he can't make it from. Whether he's flushed left or to the right, his vision always is down the field. I was always looking for the big play first and knew I could always react underneath if I needed, too. You have to have a certain confidence or air about you that you can make any throw, and it has been proven he can make any throw.'
Fantasy Spin: Mahomes is off to a particularly impressive start in the postseason with 13 total touchdowns (including two rushing), 1,313 total yards (125 rushing) and no interceptions in four playoff contests over two seasons. He'll challenge Lamar Jackson for first-QB-off the-board fantasy honors this summer.
The New England Patriots want to know if impending free-agent QB Tom Brady will return to the team for the 2020 season before the legal tampering period for free agency begins March 16, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Fantasy Spin: Schefter reasoned that the Patriots want a quick decision so they can pursue other quarterbacks in free agency in case Brady chooses to leave the only organization he has ever played for. New England wants to avoid a situation similar to last season when Rob Gronkowski waited until late-March to announce his retirement, meaning that the best free-agent tight ends had already been signed by other clubs. From a fantasy standpoint, Brady should be viewed as a QB2 in most formats at this stage of his career but he could merit consideration as a low-end QB1 if he has plenty of offensive weapons surrounding him.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) were limited during practice Friday, Jan. 24, but are not listed on the injury report for Super Bowl LIV. LB Dre Greenlaw (ankle), S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) and WR Dante Pettis (illness) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. said he expects to have a similar role in the offense next season under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Fantasy Spin: Chark was one of the breakout players this season and finished with 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns. He likely will be the main target in the passing game again next season and could be at least a No. 3 fantasy receiver.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is considered questionable for Super Bowl LIV.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman probably will need to practice at some point next week if he wants to play in the Super Bowl. He will share playing time with Raheem Mostert and Maatt Breida if he is active and could be a flex option.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman's (shoulder) MRI results were positive, but Coleman did not participate in any practices this week, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to keep an eye on Coleman's practice participate next week to see if he has a chance to play in Super Bowl LIV. Coleman will be part of a committee if he is active and should see some touches during the game. He can be considered a flex option.
Miami Dolphins WR Albert Wilson likely will be asked to restructure his contract this offseason if he wants to remain with the team. The Dolphins would save $9.5 million in salary cap space if they release Wilson.
Fantasy Spin: Wilson had a disappointing 2019 season with 351 yards and one touchdown. The Dolphins likely will look to upgrade at the position so Wilson probably would drop down the depth chart if he stays. He probably can be avoided in fantasy leagues next season.
Kansas City Chiefs S Jordan Lucas (illness) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is considered questionable for Super Bowl LIV. DT Chris D. Jones (calf) was limited during practice and is considered questionable. WR Demarcus Robinson (illness), WR Mecole Hardman (back), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and C Austin Reiter (wrist) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 24, and is not on the injury report for Super Bowl LIV.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce appears to be on track to play and probably will see more practice time next week. He is a must-start option in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints impending free-agent QB Drew Brees said he will only play for the Saints in 2020 if he decides to continue his playing career.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy players will need to monitor the situation to see if Brees returns to the Saints next season. He posted solid numbers this season even though he missed some time because of an injury and could be a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback if he plays.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will be a free agent in March, plans to return to the Saints if he comes back for a 20th season in the NFL. "I have never been in the situation where I was mulling over the thought of [returning]," Brees said. "To me, each one of these contracts, I don't know how many it's been with the Saints, I've played with them 14 years, it's not a matter of if it gets done, it's when. At this stage of my career, it's not a given that I'm coming back every year, but when that time comes, I'll always be a Saint." Despite diminished arm strength, Brees was one of the best quarterbacks when he returned from his thumb injury last season. He may no longer have sky-high QB1 upside for fantasy owners, but Brees will at least be a midrange QB1 target next season if he returns to New Orleans, which is what is expected.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had a 'really, really good ' first year in head coach Matt LaFleur's offense, general manager Brian Gutekunst said Friday, Jan. 24, and the GM is looking forward to the encore in 2020. I'm really excited to see what he can do in Year Two,' Gutekunst said. 'I know Matt talks a lot about what Matt Ryan did in Year Two, the comparatives there. I'm really excited to see where him and the offense can go.'
Fantasy Spin: Rodgers threw for one more TD (26-25) than he did in 2018 but his passing yards declined by 440 yards as he finished 12th among fantasy QBs in terms of total points. Rodgers will turn 37 before next season ends but don't be surprised if he takes a jump into solid QB1 territory with a year in the system under his belt and the Packers expecting to add wide receiver and, possibly, tight end help this offseason.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, a pending free agent, will be re-signed and remain the team's quarterback, Cowboys vice president Will McClay said Thursday, Jan. 23. 'We expect Dak to be our quarterback,' McClay said. 'If the owner/GM says we're going to get it done, he signs the checks. So we'll get that done.'
Fantasy Spin: Even though the Cowboys were an overall disappointment at 8-8, Prescott had a career year with 4,902 yards and 30 passing TDs to finish as fantasy's No. 3 QB. Barring an shocking turn of developments, Prescott will land a lucrative new deal from the Cowboys and be back in the QB1 mix this offseason.
Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt's car was found to contain marijuana following a traffic stop Tuesday, Jan. 21, in which Hunt was issued a speeding citation in Ohio.
Fantasy Spin: Although Hunt wasn't cited for possession, he could face scrutiny from the league after sitting out the first half of the 2019 season due to a personal-conduct suspension. Without a ban, Hunt projects as a low-end RB2 entering next season.