Thu Oct 17 2:10pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes under pressure from the New York Giants in the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are still rolling right along with a high-powered offense and a stingy defense that has their record blemish-free.
The New York Jets look a bit different, though, from the team Bill Belichick's bunch beat 30-14 less than a month ago. And, it all starts at quarterback.
Luke Falk was under center then, making his first NFL start and looking overwhelmed and overmatched. Sam Darnold is back this time around, fully recovered from mononucleosis and coming off one of the best performances of his young career.
''He's a big, strong kid that can stand in the pocket and he's hard to tackle,'' Belichick said. ''He's not an easy guy to bring down. He's big, he can see and find guys under pressure.''
Darnold showed no signs of rust after missing three games because of his illness, going 23 of 32 for 338 yards and two TDs with an INT in a 24-22 win over Dallas and being selected the AFC's offensive player of the week.
It was a big boost for what had been a badly struggling Jets offense. Darnold's day was highlighted by his 92-yard touchdown throw to Robby Anderson, the longest offensive play in the NFL this season and the second-longest in franchise history.
Now, Darnold and the Jets hope to use that momentum to get something going against the Patriots' top-ranked defense at MetLife Stadium in a prime-time showdown.
''You've got to continue to grind,'' Darnold said. ''We know that after a good win, you've got to come right back in here because we got a tough one Monday night against the Pats. We know what our job is, we've just got to come in and get back to work.''
The Patriots are off to a 6-0 start for the fourth time in team history, with a chance to get to 7-0 for just the third time. They also have a chance to sweep the two-game regular-season series against the Jets for the fourth straight year.
Brady is 28-6 against the Jets in the regular season, including seven straight wins. He's also 16-7 in Monday night games, including 2-0 against New York. Meanwhile, Belichick is 18-8 on Monday nights - but just 9-7 in those games on the road.
''Monday night is always a high-energy game,'' Belichick said. ''We'll point to that and know it's always tough down there in New York. So, we need to have a good week here and be ready to go.''
Here are some other things to know for the latest Patriots-Jets showdown:
BEEN A WHILE
The Jets and Patriots play on a Monday night for the eighth time, and New York leads those matchups 4-3.
The previous time the AFC East rivals squared off on ''Monday Night Football'' was in 2010, when New England cruised to a 45-3 victory.
It's also the first time the Patriots are playing a Monday night game on the road against the Jets since 2005, when they won 31-21.
The Patriots entered Week 7 allowing a league-low eight points per game. One of the reasons is how stingy their defense has been on third down.
New England has held teams to an NFL-low 10 of 73 (13.7 percent) conversion rate in those situations. The fewest third downs allowed in a 16-game season is 49 by the 1991 New Orleans Saints.
In their Week 3 win over the Jets, the Patriots did not allow a third-down conversion, which is something New England has accomplished five times since 2000. Only five teams have not allowed a third down twice in the same season - the Packers (2005), Eagles (2009), Giants (2010), Dolphins (2011) and Saints (2018).
Le'Veon Bell hasn't had a breakout-type game for the Jets, but the fluid quarterback situation certainly hasn't helped.
With Darnold back and the offensive line improving the past few weeks, the star running back could start seeing some more opportunities to make plays. He has 256 yards rushing and a TD on 85 carries for a 3.0 average, and 28 catches for 169 yards and a score.
''Hopefully we can open it up a little bit for him,'' coach Adam Gase said. ''We've seen a lot of loaded boxes, he's had a lot of tough runs. He's made the most of what he's had and probably gotten us more than what we should have.''
WELCOME BACK, WATSON
Tight end Ben Watson is back for another stint with the Patriots and it's right on time for an offense looking for some stability and more production from the position.
The 38-year-old Watson was re-signed by New England on Wednesday, less than a week after being released. Belichick left the door open for Watson to return, saying he was cut simply because there wasn't an available roster spot once he returned from serving a four-game suspension for a positive banned substance test following last season.
Circumstances changed when Matt LaCosse injured his knee during the Patriots' win over the Giants on Thursday.
Without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots haven't gotten a ton of production in the pass game from their tight ends. LaCosse and Ryan Izzo have combined for only nine catches for 169 yards.
Michael Bennett will be missing from the Patriots' defensive huddle on Monday night.
The defensive end was suspended for what he said in a statement to ESPN was a ''philosophical disagreement'' with defensive line coach Bret Bielema. Bennett also offered an apology for any distraction it might have created.
Belichick declined to comment when asked about the suspension this week.
The Patriots traded for the 11-year veteran in March, but his usage has steadily decreased over New England's first six games. Bennett has started just once and played a season-low 11 snaps in the Patriots' win over the Giants in Week 6.
Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills recorded just one catch for six yards during the Thursday night win over the Indianapolis Colts. Stills logged his worst performance of the year and was a victim from a production standpoint by the return of Will Fuller (hamstring), who missed the team's previous three games. He likely has a few more decent performances left in the tank between now and the end of the season, but his potential will continue to be relegated by Fuller's presence in the lineup moving ahead.
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins played well against the Colts on Thursday night, finishing things up with six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. After recording just two scores during the first six games of the year, the 27-year-old has turned it up as of late by visiting the end zone in three of his last five games. Hopkins continues to get his looks from quarterback Deshaun Watson, and besides Michael Thomas, he remains the most efficient fantasy wide receiver in the league. He will look to keep things going against a rough Patriots Defense in Week 13.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller was targeted 11 times during the win over the Colts, finishing with seven catches for 140 yards. After accumulating 217 yards and three touchdowns against the Falcons in Week 5, Fuller fizzled in his previous two contests coming into Thursday night, so this performance was a step in the right direction. Fantasy managers shouldn't expect this type of production consistently moving ahead, especially in Week 13 against a tough Patriots Defense, but the ceiling is always high when the matchup is in his favor, as long as he can stay healthy and on the field.
Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson finished with 22 yards on five carries to go along with one catch for eight yards during the win over the Colts on Thursday night. This was yet another disappointing performance from the 26-year-old, who has now recorded just three receptions over the last two games. While he may have a few more games where he catches four or five passes, his ability to get it done on the ground will continue to be relegated by Carlos Hyde, who is averaging 16 touches per outing on the year. For those who are desperate, Johnson does have the potential to score from a week-to-week basis but don't hold your breath waiting for consistent production.
Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde Ran for 67 yards on 16 carries during the win over the Colts on Thursday night. This was a routine performance from the 29-year-old, who is averaging 76 yards on 16 touches per game this season, and while he has only four touchdowns on the year, he is well on his way to the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career. With this game in the books, Hyde will have a tough matchup in Week 13 against the top-ranked Patriots Defense.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson played better against the Colts on Thursday, finishing the night with nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns (one interception) on 19-for-30 passing. After struggling during the Week 11 blowout loss to the Ravens, it was an acceptable showing from the 24-year-old. He has struggled to some degree over his last six outings, and while he has thrown for nine touchdowns during that span, he has also thrown six picks after tossing just one throughout the first five games of the year. Things aren't looking good moving ahead, nonetheless, as Watson and the Texans will host the Patriots in Week 13.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Williams was announced as the starter for the team's Week 12 game against the Houston Texans, and he made the most of his opportunity. He finished with 26 carries for 104 yards and a big touchdown in the second half. He also caught all three of his targets for 17 yards. The Colts continued their strategy of establishing the run, and it worked well for the majority of the game. As long as starting running back Marlon Mack (hand) remains out, it looks like Williams is going to have fantasy relevance every week.
Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines was expected to see more work in Week 12 with starting running back Marlon Mack (hand) out, and he showed a little bit of something with those snaps. He finished with nine carries for 51 yards and two catches for 10 yards. That's good enough for 8.1 PPR points, and that's likely more than you were hoping for after the quiet season he has had thus far. Hines still remains nothing more than a deep league flex option in PPR formats, but this was a positive development to see with Mack out.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) had been out for a couple of weeks before his return in Week 12, and it wasn't a triumphant one. He caught three of his six targets for just 18 yards. While some of that lack of production could be contributed to rust, the offense as a whole wasn't able to get anything going through the air and Hilton was also on a pitch count in his return. The matchups don't get particularly easy moving forward for Hilton, but you'll likely be forced to start him because of the connection he has shown with quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron relies on touchdowns for the majority of his value, but in Week 12 he was able to get some solid yardage. He caught four of his five targets for 44 yards, and he'll likely finish among the top 10 in tight ends for scoring this week with just 8.4 PPR points. Ebron has remained a pretty big disappointment after the elite fantasy season that he produced in 2018. When the team has gotten down into the red zone, a number of their scores have come on the ground. Ebron remains the No. 2 receiving target in this offense, but that doesn't turn into much when the offense struggles to move the ball.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle failed to register a target in Week 11, but he showed some life in Week 12. He caught three of his four targets for 28 yards, which fell right in line with his level of production that he's maintained throughout the year. He's now caught three or more passes in seven out of the team's 11 games. Doyle will likely never be the breakout player that he was two seasons ago, but when you need to make sure that you don't have a zero in your tight end spot, he's about as safe as you can get.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett had his second straight game with under 150 passing yards in Week 12. He finished the night 16 of 25 for 129 yards. Thankfully for his fantasy owners, he scampered into the end zone on one of his four carries that went for a total of 20 yards. It was still a quiet night for Brissett, and he hasn't displayed the same level of production that we saw from him earlier in the season. He only has a couple of easy matchups remaining on the schedule, so his days as your starting quarterback may be numbered.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle, knee) and wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder) were all limited in practice on Thursday. It's NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco's opinion that all three will play on Sunday night against the Packers. That'll especially ring true if all three get in at least another limited practice on Friday. If that's the case, Kittle will be a must-start TE1, with both Sanders and Samuel being acceptable WR3 cases with upside. The rookie Samuel has back-to-back 100-yard games and is closing the season out hot. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would also be a more appealing QB2 if all of his receivers are active.
The New England Patriots won't be re-signing wide receiver Antonio Brown, according to a source. There were rumors circling that the Pats were looking at Brown again with Mohamed Sanu (ankle) potentially missing multiple games with a high ankle sprain. That's not the case, though, and Brown is highly unlikely to be signed with the NFL still investigating sexual-assault charges tied to Brown. Even after the investigation is up and if Brown avoids a suspension somehow, it's hard to say if an NFL team will take a chance on him in 2020. Julian Edelman and rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers might be in three-receiver sets if both Sanu and Phillip Dorsett (concussion) don't play this weekend.
Concerns have surfaced around Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck), who has already missed one game this year with a neck injury, and he's not expected to play in Week 12 against the Patriots, according to sources. Vander Esch underwent an MRI exam on Thursday after a flare-up of the injury. It would be a big blow to Dallas' defense on the road against a Patriots offense that is vulnerable right now with their receivers banged up. LVE being out would be good news for mainly running backs Sony Michel and James White and slot wideout Julian Edelman. You'll need to look elsewhere at linebacker in IDPS leagues with Vander Esch expected to sit. Expect Sean Lee to see more playing time on Sunday.
The Houston Texans activated tight end Jordan Thomas (ribs) from the Injured Reserve on Thursday and waived defensive end Joel Heath and wide receiver Steven Mitchell in corresponding moves. As a sixth-round rookie last year, Thomas had 20 receptions for 215 yards and four touchdowns. Thomas has some long-term intrigue, but he'll return to a team that has been using Jordan Akins and Darren Fells at the position. It's possible that Thomas could produce a spark here and there, but don't expect him to see a ton of playing time over the other two to close out the season. You can leave him to the waiver wire in most redraft leagues.
New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (concussion) is 'looking good' to play against the Chicago Bears in Week 12, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: Shepard has been out since early October, and while he has the potential to be a WR3, you will probably want to take a wait-and-see approach whenever he makes his return.
Miami Dolphins CB Eric Rowe is expected to be a full-time starter at safety moving forward after CB Bobby McCain (shoulder) and S Reshad Jones (chest) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.
Detroit Lions running back Bo Scarbrough looked solid in Week 11, posting 55 yards on 14 attempts and one touchdown just one day after being promoted from the practice squad. Week 12 presents an excellent opportunity for Scarbrough to take control of a Lions backfield that has been in disarray since Kerryon Johnson (knee) was lost for the season. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel's tendency to run and the lack of a pass-game role for Scarbrough does limit Scarbrough's ceiling, but he has a real chance to take over as the go-to running back on this squad with no other real threats around. The Lions play the lowly Washington Redskins in Week 12. Fantasy owners can slot Scarbrough in as a RB3 for this matchup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber is trending towards being cemented as the clear cut No.2 option in the Bucs backfield. Barber did not get a touch in Week 11, and while he did find the end zone on one of his two targets on the day, it looks like Ronald Jones II is the back to own on this team. The Bucs travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in Week 12, and while the Falcons are not the scariest squad, they are not the most giving on the ground. Barber is not a recommended start in Week 12 and can be safely dropped in all formats.