Thu Jul 19 7:02am ET
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
ESPN is going with a fresh approach for its first 2018 regular-season broadcast of ''Monday Night Football.''
Two announcers with plenty of NFL credentials but far more entrenched in the college game these days will be handling the Jets-Lions game from Detroit: Beth Mowins and Brian Griese.
''We are pretty excited to bring the franchise on the air, and hoping some pretty good story lines will play out,'' says Mowins, who did last year's second half of the opening doubleheader with analyst Rex Ryan. Mowins also does a few CBS telecasts of NFL games during the season, as well as Oakland Raiders preseason contests, but her main gig is college sports.
Griese is one of the top analysts of the college game, an insightful and often critical but fair voice.
''Guys who can shoot from the hip are always fun to work with,'' Mowins says.
Of course, he also played 11 pro seasons, starting 83 games. So his knowledge of both levels of football is expansive.
''I think the pro game in a lot of ways is more familiar to me than the college game,'' Griese notes. ''I have had to learn the college game as it has grown. I spent 11 years in the NFL playing quarterback and it's more similar to what I know.''
What both Mowins and Griese know is that the fan bases of both teams will be stoked for the game, even though Jets-Lions isn't quite the marquee matchup. Indeed, the NFL gave ESPN what appears to be a better game in the nightcap, Jon Gruden's return as the Raiders host the Rams. The regular and new Monday night crew of Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten will be in the booth for that one.
''No question both these teams have reasons for optimism, for different reasons,'' Griese says. ''Jets fans should be excited about Sam Darnold, who can be a game changer and a franchise quarterback in the making. For Detroit, it's a whole new ballgame for the fans with Matt Patricia hired as coach, a new way of doing things. I'm eager to see how he will impact the franchise. And they have their bellwether in Matthew Stafford at quarterback.''
Adds Mowins: ''You tell the truth with a heavier emphasis on the hope, and that is what all of these fan bases are having. The history is part of the story heading into the season and something we absolutely talk about graphically. The nice thing about the opener is everyone has hope again, and we can also focus on the changes these teams have made to improve.''
To its credit, ESPN is willing to make changes or go outside the box for its Monday night showcase. One area of expertise that Mowins and Griese - and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge - bring to the telecast is an advanced awareness of NFL newcomers.
That could be particularly enlightening for Jets-Lions with the likes of Darnold - even if he doesn't play and Josh McCown starts - and Lions rookie running back Kerryon Johnson on hand.
''One of the things I have noticed over the last several years and doing the Raiders games in preseason, you have a head start on rookies coming into the league,'' Mowins says. ''I sort of have that background of who they were and relationships they might have with other players and coaches. That provides a nice jumping-off point, especially early in the season. Some of the rookies the NFL fans may not have seen in college, but I have had a chance to call their games in college, and so has Brian.''
Mowins and Griese have not done game broadcasts together, but have had many conversations and learning sessions. Last year, when the Broncos played in the opener Mowins and Ryan announced, she reached out to Griese, who does Denver's preseason games.
''I've talked with Beth quite a bit through the years, we are in the same college football realm, so we see quite a bit of each other's work,'' Griese says. ''I'm very familiar with her work in college football.
''The approach for me will be a little bit different because I will probably go to both teams' training camps to familiarize myself with the teams. I don't ever do a game where I have not seen a team live or in person (at practice or in a game). That will be the only difference for you in preparation.''
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff was one of the best and most consistent quarterbacks for the majority of the year, but he has struggled over the last month, including the team's Week 15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He had 339 yards with two interceptions to go with two carries for 11 yards. For whatever reason, Goff just hasn't looked as comfortable as of late. In Week 16, Goff gets a good matchup against the Arizona Cardinals who he had a great game against earlier in the season. The Cardinals have been exploited a lot in recent weeks, and Goff will likely finish as a QB2 next week.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (calf) saw just one target in Week 15, netting it for seven yards. Goodwin battled a calf injury all week so its possible he was limited. With emerging rookie wideout Dante Pettis and stud tight end George Kittle dominating target share, Goodwins become a whisper in the San Francisco offense. Hes not an advisable start in Week 16 against the Chicago Bears lockdown defense.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Garrett Celek caught two passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks. Celeks 41-yard touchdown in the second quarter was his first catch since Week 3. His yardage total for the year spiked from 29 to 90 after the big game. The Seahawks focused on containing fellow tight end George Kittle, opening opportunities for Celek. With just five catches on the year, hes not on the fantasy radar.
Detroit Lions tight end Levine Toilolo caught all four of his targets for 28 yards in the loss to Buffalo on Sunday. Toilolo has been the only tight end used in this offense recently and in turn has provided the most steady play from the position all season. He's now caught 12 passes for 144 yards in his last three games. While his upside is capped because his scoring potential is low, Toilolo is gaining traction as a viable option for Matthew Stafford. However, a matchup with Minnesota' defense looms in Week 16, so Toilolo is yet again an afterthought for fantasy purposes.
Detroit Lion wide receiver TJ Jones caught one of three targets for just five yards in Sunday's loss to the Bills. Jones was expected to be the direct beneficiary to Bruce Ellington (hamstring) missing the game but that was not the case. Three targets ties his season-high but he still has nothing worthwhile to show for it. In a Week 16 matchup with Minnesota, even if Ellington misses a second-consecutive game, Jones has no business being on your mind for fantasy purposes.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Brandon Powell caught all three of his targets for 11 yards, while also taking a carry for four yards in the 14-13 loss to the Bills on Sunday. This was the busiest game of Powell's young career, having only caught one career pass coming into the game. While his name as always popped up as a possibility to see an chances on offense, his work has strictly been related to special teams. If Bruce Ellington is forced to miss a second game next week against Minnesota, Powell could maintain a similar role but that does not make him a fantasy relevant player in this stagnant offense.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay caught seven of eight targets for 146 yards in Sunday's loss to the Bills. This is the third game this season in which Golladay has had over 100 receiving yards; it was the first time since Week 11. Golladay has enjoyed decent success as the Lions WR1; however, the overall ineffectiveness of the team's offense has capped Golladay's production. It's encouraging to see the second-year man have a solid day against a streaky defense because he'll have a tough matchup in Week 16 against the Minnesota Vikings. Consider Golladay as a WR2 heading into championship week.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Andy Jones caught two passes for just nine yards but he scored his first career touchdown in the loss to Buffalo on Sunday. It's nice to see Matthew Stafford connecting with other receivers than Kenny Golladay but Jones isn't a game changer the Lions are looking for. It's impossible to trust in a similar outcome next week when the Lions host the Vikings, especially if Ellington returns to action. Stay away from any Lions pass catcher not named Golladay right now.
Detroit Lions running back Zach Zenner took 10 carries for 45 yards, while also finding pay dirt in the loss to the Bills on Sunday. The score was Zenner's second on the season and the second in consecutive weeks. He also caught three passes in the game, but didn't net any positive yardage. The 27-year-old has come on in the past two weeks to take a solid bulk of the rushing opportunities away from LeGarrette Blount. It will be interesting to see if Kerryon Johnson returns next week against the Vikings, because if he does, Zenner is sure to take a seat to the rookie. However, in the meantime, Zenner is the Lions running back to own heading into a tough matchup with Minnesota. It's safe to assume his increase in volume means he has gained the trust of head coach Matt Patricia, but he's still not a start-able option heading into Week 16.
Detroit Lions running back LeGarrette Blount took seven carries for just nine yards in Sunday's loss to the Bills. This continues a trend downward for Blount, as both Zach Zenner and Theo Riddick have been receiving the bulk of the rushing work. The bruising back heavily relies on volume to produce, so on an offense that is devastated by injuries, his production is set up for failure from the beginning. Next week against the Vikings, Blount is essentially un-usable because there are so many question marks with the Lions offense right now.
Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick rushed for 47 yard on just eight carries, while also hauling in two passes for a paltry nine yards in the loss to the Bills on Sunday. Riddick has seen an increase in carries the past three games which typically would help increase his floor; however, it has taken away from his work in the passing game and he still has yet to find the end zone this season. In Week 16 against the Vikings, Riddick will continue to be a low-end flex option in PPR leagues, but pay attention to Kerryon Johnson's availability because if the rookie returns from injury, Riddick's rushing numbers should all but disappear.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman registered seven receptions for 90 yards on 11 targets in Week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, but he has still managed 63 receptions, 711 yards and four scores on 92 targets. He remains a tremendous WR3 or flex fantasy option in PPR leagues with slightly lesser value in standard play.
San Francisco 49ers DL DeForest Buckner finished with 11 tackles, including seven solo stops and two sacks, in a 26-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Cre'Von LeBlanc (concussion) was evaluated for concussion in the Week 15 game against the Los Angeles Rams and he was cleared to return.
Seattle Seahawks FS Bradley McDougald (knee) suffered a knee injury against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15.
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (knee) is questionable to return in the second half on Sunday night against the Eagles. The Rams offense runs through Gurley, so they'd be in trouble if this is a serious injury, as would his fantasy owners. The good news is Gurley had already carried the ball 11 times for 47 yards and a touchdown and caught all five of his passing targets for 38 extra yards. Justin Davis and rookie John Kelly will handle touches in the backfield if Gurley is unable to return. Davis will be a popular waiver addition next week heading into fantasy championship week if Gurley's injury puts him in danger of missing Week 16.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford finished 22 of 29 for 208 yards and a touchdown in the 14-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. While nothing special, this was a better day than the Week 14 offering from Stafford. The Lions offense is a mess due to injuries and the 30-year-old is dealing with a nagging back injury himself. Next week against the Vikings, Stafford will have his hands full with a defense that has been tough all season. Due to the lack of explosiveness in the Lions offense right now, it's best to avoid him altogether, especially in many leagues' championship week.
San Francisco 49ers WR Dante Pettis caught all five of his targets for 83 yards in a 26-23 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: The rookie continued his recent hot streak, and he has emerged as a quality flex option late in the season.
New England Patriots RB Sony Michel ran 13 times for 59 yards in the Week 15 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fantasy Spin: Michel has missed time this season, but he has had a very productive rookie campaign. The rookie is up to 177 attempts, 765 yards and five scores through 11 outings. At this point he is a decent low-end RB2 or must-start RB3/flex fantasy option heading into Week 16 against the Bills. He also posted a career-high 133 yards and touchdown in on Nov. 25 on the road against the Jets, the team's Week 17 opponent.
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley (knee) left the Week 15 game against the Philadelphia Eagles due to a knee ailment and he is considered questionable to return.
Fantasy Spin: Well that's not what fantasy owners wanted to see. He is receiving treatment on the sidelines and he has his helmet on, so we'll stay on top of it and let you know if he is ruled out. It's a close game, so there is no danger of him being rested as a precaution.