Mon Dec 24 11:36pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Oakland Raiders running back Doug Martin (28) runs against Denver Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (55) and inside linebacker Todd Davis (51) during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph reacts while talking to an official during the second half of an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Broncos in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard, top, celebrates with tight end Lee Smith (86) after scoring against the Denver Broncos during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Denver Broncos wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (17) catches a touchdown pass against Oakland Raiders defensive back Marcus Gilchrist (31) during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden, right, watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph gestures during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Oakland Raiders running back Doug Martin (28) scores against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) passes against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
An Oakland Raiders fan holds up a sign before an NFL football game between the Raiders and the Denver Broncos in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Oakland Raiders' Dwayne Harris, center, celebrates with fans after returning a punt for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Oakland Raiders' Dwayne Harris (17) returns a punt for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Fans watch the opening kickoff from a general view of Oakland Alameda County Coliseum during the first half of an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos in Oakland, Calif., Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Dwayne Harris returned a punt 99 yards for a touchdown after Denver failed to down it, and the Raiders gave their fans plenty to celebrate in their possible final game in Oakland, beating the Broncos 27-14 on Monday night.
The Raiders (4-11) are set to move to Las Vegas in 2020 and have no lease for next year. With Oakland officials having sued the team over the move, the Raiders are looking into other options for 2019, including AT&T Park in San Francisco.
A decision is expected before the Super Bowl, but many of the die-hards came out for this game knowing it could be the last NFL game ever in the stadium that opened in 1966.
It has been almost that long since the Broncos (6-9) had gone back-to-back seasons with losing records, having last done it in 1971-72. After going 5-11 in coach Vance Joseph's first season, Denver has done little better in year two and general manager John Elway could be ready to make a change after the season.
The Broncos opened the month with playoff aspirations, but three straight losses to teams that entered the game with losing records ended those hopes and have the team searching for answers.
Shortly after Oakland native Marshawn Lynch lit the torch in honor of late owner Al Davis before the game, Harris delivered the biggest highlight with a punt return that was tied for the second-longest ever.
Andre Holmes deflected Colby Wadman's punt just before it crossed the goal line and Isaac Yiadom was in position to down it at the 1. But he couldn't hold onto the ball and Harris picked it up before racing 99 yards down the sideline for the touchdown that stunned the Broncos. Only Patrick Peterson (99 yards) and Robert Bailey (103) have punt returns that long in NFL history.
The Broncos weren't much better at the other phases of the game, committing pre-snap penalties, generating almost no consistent offense in the first half and then allowing Doug Martin to scamper 24 yards untouched around the end to make it 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
Martin, who was born in Oakland, finished with 107 yards for his biggest rushing day since 2015.
Case Keenum got the Broncos on the board with a pair of TD passes in the second half to DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton. But it wasn't enough as Jalen Richard scored on a 3-yard run for Oakland and the Raiders sealed the win with interceptions by Marcus Gilchrist and Erik Harris.
RED FLAG ALERT
Raiders coach Jon Gruden threw his challenge flag after Keenum's 19-yard TD pass to Sutton, believing that Keenum crossed the line before the throw. But scoring plays are automatically reviewed and the replay booth confirmed the call without a stoppage. Oakland was charged with a timeout, the second time this season Gruden has tried to challenge a TD.
The Raiders came into the game allowing the most points per game in franchise history since 1961, but gave up nothing in the opening half against the Broncos. It's the third straight meeting between the teams where Denver failed to score in the opening half. Those are the only times in the past 90 games that Oakland has pitched a first-half shutout.
Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the first half, joining Dominic Rhodes and LaGarrette Blount as the only undrafted rookies to top 1,000 in a season in the Super Bowl era. Lindsay ran for 46 yards before leaving with a hand injury and as has 1,037 on the season. He needs 68 more to break Rhodes' record set in 2001 for Indianapolis.
Broncos: Host the Chargers on Sunday.
Raiders: Visit the Chiefs on Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is now the top receiver on his team but still has to prove to some that he belongs among the league's elite. After finishing top six in the NFL last year in both receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,426), the third-year pass catcher is in a position to repeat his breakout season. Without Antonio Brown in town, Smith-Schuster will be Ben Roethlisberger's first look. In half-PPR mocks, he's been going in the early-to-middle of the second round. The talent and opportunity are certainly there for the 22-year-old to be considered a top eight receiver in fantasy drafts.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones remains unsigned with one week remaining before training camp opens. He is one of five first-round picks yet to agree to terms with his organization. Jones is still scheduled to arrive to training camp on Monday when all rookies and select veterans report. He is expected to sign a four-year, $25.5 million contract, with a $16.6 million guarantee, when he arrives, or even shortly before. That is the financial slot for the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. Last season RB Saquon Barkley signed a day before he arrived at camp, so there isn't cause for alarm with Big Blue.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley rolled up 261 carries, 1,307 rushing yards while adding 91 receptions last season. Beat writer John Schmeelk expects the number of receptions for Barkley to drop by as many as 15-20. Early in the season Barkley had many non-consequential dump-off receptions, posting 58 grabs in the first half and 33 in the second half. Barkley likely will have more impactful plays that gain more yardage, even if his catch total declines. Running backs coach Craig Johnson expects the improvement in Year 2 for Barkley to be in his attention to detail, including pass protection, more precise route running, technique and perfect execution of the playbook. Barkley remains a sure-fire Round 1 selection in all fantasy formats, and is a consideration for No. 1 overall pick in PPR formats.
New York Giants placekicker Aldrick Rosas booted 32 field goals in 2018, the fifth-most in franchise history. He connected for a 97.0 field-goal percentage, setting a franchise record. His only missed field-goal attempt was a 52-yard try with 28 seconds remaining in the first half in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He also hit a 57-yarder against the Chicago Bears, setting a new franchise record. Rosas has emerged as a fantasy option after a rough first season for Big Blue. And the team should struggle at times on offense, settling for more field-goal attempts than point-after tries, which is always good for fantasy.
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Akins expects to be used in various spots on the field in 2019. While the battle for playing time at the tight end position will be tough between Akins, Jordan Thomas, and rookie Kahale Warring, Akins being able to be used in the backfield and in the slot can help him carve out a role. Still, with wide receiver Keke Coutee expected to see most of the slot minutes, Akins' versatility isn't enough to make him a trustworthy fantasy player in 2019 unless injuries hit in Houston.
New York Giants safety Jabrill Peppers was the main kick and punt returner man for the Cleveland Browns, and beat writer Lance Medow expects him to reprise that role with the Giants in 2019. However, since he is the team's starting safety, too, his usage will likely be managed at times. "It's a lot of different scenarios, and it's good to have options," special teams coach Thomas McGaughey said last month. Peppers is considered the front runner for the job, however, and others like wide receivers Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, Golden Tate, Cody Latimer and Brittan Golden have also see time in the return game in the past. Rookie Darius Slayton could also factor in.
New York Giants undrafted rookie tight end C.J. Conrad turned heads during organized team activities, making a lot of plays and rarely dropping passes, according to beat writer Dan Salomone. He has plenty of size at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds and he could emerge as an option in the red zone, and Conrad could be used in two tight end sets with fellow TE Evan Engram as more of a hybrid wideout-tight end, running fly patterns and working out of the slot. At this point he doesn't warrant fantasy consideration, but he is a name to watch as he head into camp.
In an article this week discussing the Buffalo Bills as potential playoff contenders, NFL.com writer Adam Rank expressed his optimism for the team, and in particular, for Robert Foster. Rank deemed Foster "the best receiver on this roster," while also favorably discussing fellow wideouts John Brown and Cole Beasley. The 6'2" Foster certainly showed flashes of potential as a legitimate #1 outside receiver during his rookie campaign last year, but he still has a lot to prove, and now he has more competition for targets from the aforementioned Brown and Beasley. Nonetheless, Foster is a very intriguing sleeper option heading into 2019 and should be on everyone's radar throughout training camp and preseason.
Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane had encouraging words to say about LeSean McCoy to beat reporters. "Were focused on this year," Beane said. "Thats what we have him under contract for, and I definitely think hes got enough left in the tank to help us in 2019. McCoy is 31 years old and entering a contract season. His 3.2 yards per carry last year was a career-worst mark, but the Bills have added some offensive line help as well as more reliable backups in Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon. Don't reach for McCoy on draft day, but there's some sneaky value in McCoy if he falls in your draft. As of now, he stands to receive a good amount of carries in what should be an improved Buffalo offense.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory will reportedly apply for reinstatement this week. Gregory recorded six sacks last season, playing in 16 games including playoff games. He was suspended in February for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. It seems that Dallas feels Gregory at least has a good chance at being reinstated however, as the team signed him to a one-year extension in April. For now, the talented defensive lineman is suspended "indefinitely" but no one knows what that means in the NFL's discipline department.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills (foot) is unlikely to be ready to go for the start of training camp. Mills was placed on injured reserve in October after suffering a foot injury and did not participate in any of the offseason program. Reports state that Mills was not even on the field working with the other injured Eagles players. It's unknown for now if Mills is expected to be ready for Week 1, but he'd need to get a lot of work in soon for that to be a realistic possibility. The Eagles may have some depth chart issues in their secondary if some of their guys don't heal quickly.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox could have a bigger role in the defensive secondary this season. He played very well in his rookie season last year and reports stated he was "one of the best players on the field" throughout the Eagles offseason program. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills seem to be atop the depth chart, but both have legitimate injury concerns which could open up a starting role for Maddox. Even if both guys are healthy, Maddox has looked good enough to earn some time in base packages besides playing his role as slot corner.
Approaching training camp, the San Francisco 49ers first two picks of 2019 remain unsigned. Defensive end Nick Bosa, the second overall pick, and wide receiver Deebo Samuel represent two of the eight total 2019 NFL draftees that have not reached a deal. Bosa, who many experts expect to make an immediate impact, could lift the Niners defense from its 28th-ranked fantasy DST. More worrisome is Samuel, who will miss valuable reps with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo if hes unable to report to camp on time. With a crowded receiving corps, the rookie could conceivable sink on the depth chart, severely negating any redraft value he currently possesses.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Jalen Mills (foot) is unlikely to be ready when training camp opens.
Philadelphia Eagles CB Sidney Jones could wind up being trade bait for a team that is patient as Jones develops in the weight room.
Detroit Lions CB Darius Slay and DT Damon Harrison's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, will meet with the Lions this week to discuss contract extensions for both players.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Matt Judon said this week that his representatives have opened contract extension talks with the team. He is entering the final season of a four-year, $2.595 million rookie deal, and he can be an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season. Judon has registered 131 total tackles with 19 sacks, three forced fumbles and seven passes defensed in three NFL seasons, and he has 15 sacks over the past two campaigns. He is a key member of a Ravens defense which will be a Top 5 fantasy DST again this season.
The Baltimore Ravens signed rookie wide receiver Miles Boykin to a four-year contract this week. Boykin signed his four-year rookie deal, the team announced on Wednesday, and the club now has all of its rookies signed just in time for them to report to training camp. Boykin, a third-round pick out of Notre Dame, missed time during offseason training activities (OTAs) due to a hamstring injury. He will be jockeying with Willie Snead, Seth Roberts and Chris Moore for a meaningful role in the Baltimore offense to start.
The Atlanta Falcons brought in free-agent tight ends Logan Paulsen and Luke Stocker during the offseason to provide depth behind Austin Hooper, who is in a contract year. Stocker, who signed a two-year, $5.5 million deal in the offseason, received a $1.5 million signing bonus. He might also see some time at fullback in addition to tight end, but neither is expected to move the needle in terms of fantasy appeal unless disaster strikes Hooper. TE Jaeden Graham has also seen some time at fullback during offseason practices.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Eric Saubert was one of the team's three players at the position in 2018, but team re-signed Logan Paulsen while adding Luke Stocker in free agency. And Austin Hooper is the unquestioned starter and one of the more productive tight ends in the NFC. Saubert might be the odd-man out heading into training camp and the preseason unless they elect to keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster. Either way, Saubert isn't someone to bother with in fantasy football.