Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden listens to questions during a news conference at the end of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Kansas City won the game 28-10. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Oakland, Calif. Kansas City won the game 28-10. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins throws during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins throws as he falls during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins fumbles as he is hit during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) During his nine-year hiatus from the NFL sideline, Jon Gruden evaluated players like he was still a coach, drawing particular attention as an analyst for ESPN for his one-on-one film breakdowns with quarterback prospects entering the draft.
Kirk Cousins was one of those pupils. Though only a fourth-round pick by Washington in 2012, the eighth player selected at his position that spring, Cousins made a clear impression on Gruden with his attention to detail and ability to communicate. Gruden even remarked at the end of that episode that perhaps he'd get back in the game to coach him.
Well, this week, Gruden and the Oakland Raiders have been scheming against Cousins, who will try to bounce back for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday from one of the worst performances as a pro.
''He works hard at football. He's had a lot of production,'' said Gruden, who took over as coach of the Raiders last season. ''Hopefully we can find a way to slow him down and win a football game.''
That's what Green Bay did last weekend, when Cousins posted the second-worst completion percentage of his career and committed three turnovers in a 21-16 defeat. The comeback bid was waylaid by a first-and-goal interception in the end zone, an off-balance throw he said afterward he should've sent to the seats. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer expressed anew the team's confidence in Cousins, who's in the second season of a three-year, $84 million, fully guaranteed contract.
''You've got to play well to earn peoples' confidence, so if he's saying that, it's because he's seen practice reps, he's seen game reps, he's seen what we're capable of as an offense throwing the football,'' Cousins said. ''So you've got to go out and earn it. Believe me, I'm not going to be playing quarterback here if I go out and play the way I did this past Sunday for much longer. So I understand that, and I look forward to getting out there and playing at a much higher level.''
Here are some other angles to follow on Sunday:
The Raiders (1-1) have begun this week a whopping 48-day stretch without a game at the Oakland Coliseum. After visiting the Vikings, the Raiders will travel to Indianapolis, then London for a ''home'' game against Chicago. After their bye week, they go back on the road to play Green Bay and Houston. The Raiders won't play in Oakland again until Nov. 3 against Detroit.
''We're still trying to understand how that happened, but we're going to have to deal with it,'' said Gruden, whose team went 1-7 on the road last year. ''We've just got to showcase our mental toughness and deal with it. It's uncommon, maybe unprecedented, maybe unrealistic that this should ever happen in pro football. I'm not excited about it, but we'll adapt and do it the best we can.''
The Raiders will get a boost on the offensive line this week when left guard Richie Incognito makes his debut for the team. The four-time Pro Bowl pick missed the first two games, while suspended for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He's eager as ever to see the field for the first time since a Jan. 7, 2018, playoff game with Buffalo. Incognito did not play at all last season.
''All the negative stuff is behind me. Just eyes forward, staying positive,'' he said. ''Relishing the opportunity, enjoying every day in here because you don't know how many more you're going to have.''
Another talented veteran with a troubled past who joined the Raiders this year, linebacker Vontaze Burfict, is well-known to Zimmer, who was the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati during his first three NFL seasons. Burfict has been repeatedly fined and suspended by the league throughout his career for late, violent hits.
''He knows the defense as well as anybody, probably as well as I do. He's very instinctive. He's very athletic. He reads things extremely quick, and he's a thumper,'' Zimmer said. ''We better make sure the officials know he has to play clean.''
Gruden wasn't having that.
''Burfict's played for us for two games. He hasn't had any penalties. So I don't know about all that,'' Gruden said. ''He's had a bulls-eye on him in his career in Cincinnati, and I'm sure the referees are looking out for him. I don't think the refs need any more help than they already have.''
The Vikings, though, were prepared to keep their head on a swivel when catching a pass in traffic.
''We've all lost our emotions at times, or what have you, so I think he's learned from that stuff, and I think he's been a pretty clean football player recently,'' wide receiver Adam Thielen said.
FAST START, SLOW FINISH
The Raiders have made a bad habit in one-plus season under Gruden of stalling by the offense after fast starts. They're tied for fifth in the NFL with an average of 2.83 points per drive on their first possession since the start of 2018, but that production has dropped to barely half of that over the rest of the game, with an average of 1.46 points per drive following their opening possession. Last week against Kansas City, Oakland had 10 points after two drives but didn't score the rest of the game.
''We've always been able to start fast, which is good, and hopefully we can do that again this week but then maintain it and then cut out the penalties,'' quarterback Derek Carr said.
The Vikings, with Dalvin Cook leading the NFL in rushing, aren't the only team in this pass-favored league that's content to keep the ball on the ground. Rookie Josh Jacobs, one of three first-round draft picks by the Raiders, has 184 rushing yards, fourth in the NFL.
''He runs hard, for sure,'' Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen said. ''He has the quickness to get the ball outside and cut it outside quick. He's a downhill runner, and he can make the big play.''
Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin was targeted just once in Week 7, but he made it count, catching that one target for a one-yard touchdown. Jarwin continues to play behind starter Jason Witten and won't have any predictable fantasy value unless Witten is forced to miss time. Even then, he won't be a high-upside play by any means.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten caught all four of his targets in Week 7, gaining 33 yards. Witten had yet another very typical Jason Witten game, making a handful of catches and picking up just a few yards with each one. He'll continue to be a low-floor, low-ceiling depth option when the Cowboys return from their bye after Week 8.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense played well in a Week 7 win over the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. They allowed just 10 points, recovering three fumbles and securing one interception. They were also able to sack Carson Wentz three times. The Cowboys ended up winning a blowout in what was expected to be a much closer game. Dallas goes into their bye week in Week 8, but should come out as one of the better fantasy defensive units after the bye.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher had a big game in a Week 7 win. He knocked through all four of his extra points and made his three field goal attempts too. He knocked through a 63-yard boot and has proven to be one of the more consistent kicking options while also having a big enough leg to make the long kicks. He's one of the better fantasy options at an unpredictable position.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott accounted for two touchdowns in Week 7. He completed 21 of his 27 passes, gaining 239 yards and throwing one touchdown and one interception. He added five carries, adding 30 yards and another touchdown. Prescott's passing score was a one-yard toss to Blake Jarwin, and his rushing score came on an eight-yard run in the fourth quarter. It was an overall productive day for Prescott, although the Dallas running game was really mostly in charge. The Cowboys go into their bye week comfortably in first place in the NFC East.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard notched eight carries in a Week 7 blowout win over the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. Pollard's eight carries were well behind starter Ezekiel Elliott's 22, but he was still able to pick up 28 yards. Pollard has shown well while on the field, but he won't be able to do much as long as Elliott is around. Pollard has league-winning upside if something were to force Elliott to miss time, but even in blowout wins, Pollard's value is severely limited by his place on the depth chart.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball 22 times for 111 yards and a touchdown in Week 7, adding six catches for 36 more yards. Elliott was most of the Cowboys offense in this one, and was more than what they needed against a struggling Eagles team. Elliott ceded eight carries to rookie Tony Pollard once the game was firmly in hand, but he remains one of the highest-volume backs in the league and will continue to be an easy RB1 play every time he takes the field.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper caught all five of his targets in Week 7, gaining 106 yards. Cooper wasn't even a sure thing to start in this one, but he came down with every ball thrown his way and went over 100 yards in a game the Dallas offense dominated. He should be even healthier after the Cowboys Week 8 bye, and will return as a surefire WR1.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Tavon Austin missed his lone passing game target in Week 7, but he was given a single carry and took it in 20 yards for a touchdown. Austin has defense-burning speed, but little else to offer as a football player. That means some plays will set him loose on the field but there will never be a predictable enough matchup to determine his value. He's not a fantasy option despite the single impressive play on Sunday Night Football this week.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup only came up with three catches on his four targets in Week 7, gaining 34 scoreless yards. It was certainly a dud in a matchup where Gallup was occasionally being considered a WR1 option, but the Dallas offense simply didn't need him in a game where they had no trouble moving the ball against a scuffling Eagles Defense.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott connected on his one field goal try and on his one extra point try in a Week 7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Elliott made his 38-yard field goal in the third quarter, but wasn't needed much in what ended up being a blowout loss to the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. Elliott should fare better next week in what is expected to be a closer matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made just two catches in Week 7, coming up with 38 yards. He tied for the team lead with five targets, but much like the rest of the Eagles offense, he wasn't able to do much. Jeffery was running as the team's WR1 with DeSean Jackson (abdomen) still on the sideline. The Eagles desperately need Jackson's seam-stretching ability and could have him back for Week 8. Unfortunately, they'll have another tough matchup against a strong Bills Defense.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz came down with just two passes in Week 7, gaining 38 yards. Ertz was targeted five times but he was soundly outplayed by Dallas Goedert, who scored the only Eagles touchdown. Ertz has been mostly disappointing this season so far, and next week against the Buffalo Bills Defense doesn't look like a likely get-right spot. He's a TE1 no doubt, but perhaps moving slowly out of the top tier.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor had another disappointing week in Week 7, catching just two passes and gaining 24 scoreless yards. Agholor was targeted four times in a game where almost the entire Philly offense struggled to get anything done. With DeSean Jackson (abdomen) possibly back next week to take on a stout Buffalo defense, Agholor will be nothing more than a last-ditch effort in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Mack Hollins was targeted only once in Week 7 and was unable to come down with a catch. Hollins has been running in three-wide sets in place of DeSean Jackson (abdomen) for several weeks, but has been unable to do anything at all. Even if Jackson can't return for next week's tough matchup against Buffalo, Hollins will not be a recommended fantasy option in any format.
The Philadelphia Eagles Defense struggled in Week 7 against the Dallas Cowboys, allowing 37 points and recording just three sacks and one interception. The Cowboys offense had its way with the Eagles secondary, as was mostly expected. The Eagles will take on the Buffalo Bills next week and should see better results, although there are likely stronger DST options on most league's waiver wires.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott tallied seven carries in Week 7, gaining 32 yards. He also caught his lone target, picking up five more yards. Scott actually ended up with just one touch less than Miles Sanders. With the Eagles taking on a similarly tough Bills Defense in Week 8, Scott won't be worth much in most fantasy formats, but the Eagles backfield has certainly become one worth keeping an eye on going forward.
Miami Dolphins running back Kalen Ballage only had three carries for seven yards in a 31-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, but two of them came inside Buffalo's five-yard line, with Ballage cashing in the second of the two for a three-yard touchdown. Ballage was far out-touched by Mark Walton and Kenyan Drake and is currently the clear third option on the league's worst team, making him nothing but fodder for the waiver wire. Even if Drake is traded before this month's deadline, it seems that he'd still be behind new starter Walton in the pecking order, which should give fantasy owners few reasons to roster the once-popular sleeper pick ahead of a Week 8 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led the team in receiving in Week 7. He caught four passes, gaining 69 yards and scoring a touchdown. Goedert's score came on a 28-yard pass from Carson Wentz. Goedert was also charged with a lost fumble, however. In a game where the Eagles offense could barely do anything, Goedert was the lone bright spot. It could be more of the same types of struggles next week for the Philly offense, making Goedert a TE2 at best.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard did as asked in Week 7, running the ball 11 times for 50 yards. He added two catches for six more yards. Howard didn't have a ton of room to run, but he out-touched Miles Sanders 13-to-9, again solidifying his spot atop the Philly running back depth chart. The entire Eagles offense struggled in Week 7, and they should have another tough time in Week 8 against a stout Bills Defense. Howard will be a volume-based RB2/3.