Thu Oct 3 8:40pm ET
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Pro Football Writer
New York Giants' Ryan Connelly, right, tackles Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Buffalo Bills in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
In this Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, file photo, New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski looks at the scoreboard in the second half of a preseason NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, Tenn. The Patriots have placed kicker Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve. The team announced the move Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019 but didnt disclose the 35-year-olds injury. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden watches the game against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants defeated the Redskins 24-3. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) One of these NFL franchises is not like the other. At all. On one side, there’s the New England Patriots: Led by Bill Belichick’s defense and Tom Brady at quarterback, they’re the reigning Super Bowl champs and just so happen to be 4-0 this season.
On the other? The Washington Redskins are 0-4, have a coach, Jay Gruden, that everyone assumes will be gone at the end of this season, if not sooner, and a starting QB spot that’s completely unsettled.
No wonder New England is favored by about two touchdowns on the road Sunday.
As of Thursday, no one knew for sure whether it would be Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins or Case Keenum taking snaps this weekend.
Redskins running back Chris Thompson made the case that such uncertainty at the sport’s most important position was not a big deal.
“That’s not something we think about. We’ve gone through OTAs and training camp. You get used to everybody. There’s not a player in here that hasn’t caught a pass from all three quarterbacks,” Thompson said. “Right now, it doesn’t affect anything. I don’t think it affects the morale of the team, the players, or anything like that.”
That’s certainly possible.
Still, it’s hardly the ideal way to prepare for Sunday’s game against the visiting Patriots and a defense that ranks No. 1 overall in the NFL, No. 2 against the run and No. 2 against the pass, and has allowed a grand total of one TD all season.
“We just got to keep staying hungry,” said Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after eight tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in a 16-10 win at Buffalo.
Their defense also leads the league with 10 interceptions - twice as many as any other club - and has 18 sacks, tied for the league lead.
New England is allowing 6.8 points per game, the fewest among the 32 teams. Washington, meanwhile, is giving up the second-most, 29.5.
“Everything that they do is different than any other team in the league. They can roll with seven DBs on one play, and then they’ll have five linebackers out there next. You just never know,” Thompson said about New England’s defense. “With them, it’s never situational. It’s never like, ‘Oh, it’s third-and-5, they’re going to put all their DBs out there.’ They might do it on second down, just for the heck of it. And everything they do, they’re sound and disciplined. It’s a big challenge, for sure. And the fact is, our offense hasn’t been the best, especially the last two weeks.”
That’s certainly true.
Washington puts up 16.5 points per game, keeps handing the ball to the opponent and has neither run nor passed all that effectively. Plays are there to be made, thanks to Gruden’s keen offensive mind, but they’re not always being made.
Keenum had five turnovers in Week 3, then threw a pick before yanked in Week 4; his replacement, first-round draft pick Haskins, threw a trio of interceptions in his NFL debut last week at the New York Giants.
McCoy hasn’t played since breaking his leg last season. If he’s deemed completely recovered, he might just get his chance to show what he can do in an offense he knows so well.
Whoever is at QB for them this week, the Redskins know full well how difficult things will be.
“We could sit here and make it about the Patriots, and we would be here all day: Super Bowls; best quarterback of all time; one of the greatest coaches of all time. I really don’t care about any of that,” Washington defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “I’m focused on what the Redskins have to do. ‘Cause if we don’t do what we’ve got to do, it doesn’t matter what they do, ‘cause we’re not going to win.”
Here are some other things to watch:
The Patriots will have someone other than Stephen Gostkowski kicking field goals and extra points for the first time since 2010 after placing the 35-year-old on IR this week and signing Mike Nugent to replace him. Gostkowski is the franchise’s career leading scorer, but he’s already missed four extra points in 2019. “I think sometimes the outside world doesn’t know what he means to our special teams unit and us as a team,” safety Devin McCourty said. “Just the stability at that position; we never waver if there’s a kick on the line.” New England is Nugent’s eighth NFL team.
The Redskins are still without their best offensive lineman, left tackle Trent Williams, who is holding out, and they have two other starters dealing with injuries: RG Brandon Scherff (ankle) and C Chase Roullier (knee).
TIGHT END HELP?
New England’s Ben Watson is eligible to make his regular-season debut after serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance after last season. He signed a $3 million, one-year deal with the Patriots to help try to fill the hole created by the retirement of Rob Gronkowski. Without Gronk in the lineup, the Patriots are looking for a boost at tight end: Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse have four catches for 77 yards with no touchdowns this season.
NO RUNNING GAME
The Redskins are averaging 17 rushing attempts, the fewest in the NFL, and they rank 31st in average gain per carry, 2.9 yards. Adrian Peterson, who topped 1,000 yards last season, has 90 yards on 33 carries so far this season. “Sometimes it’s what the defense is doing. Got to pat those guys on the back,” Peterson said. “And sometimes it’s what we aren’t doing right, whether that’s from the running back position or the offensive line.”
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) is doing some running on a side field at the team's practice on Thursday. Despite sitting out of practice, Coleman appears very much in play to suit up for the Super Bowl against the Chiefs on Feb. 2. He suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers, but Coleman has an extra week to heal up and should be good to go for the big game. He will continue to serve as a change-of-pace back for Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers.
The Atlanta Falcons plan to tender a contract to impending exclusive-rights free-agent kicker Younghoe Koo. The 25-year-old place kicker solidified the team's kicking position in the final eight games of the season, making 23 of his 26 field-goal tries and 15 of his 16 extra points. Koo went 7-for-9 on kicks from 40-49 yards and hit his only attempt of 50-plus yards. While he should enter the 2020 season as the favorite to kick for Atlanta, the Falcons will also bring in some competition to push him. With an offense that can be explosive and put up points, Koo will have some fantasy appeal if he sticks around.
Houston Texans left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2020, said he'd be happy to stay with the team for the long-term. "Whatever coach decides to do, I'm happy. I'd be happy to stay there with Deshaun (Watson) and help win games," Tunsil said. He was traded to the Texans from the Dolphins last season and was a massive upgrade for Houston's offensive line and quarterback Deshaun Watson. It remains to be seen if the team will offer Tunsil a long-term deal, but one thing that is certain is that Tunsil's presence on Watson's blind side is great news heading into next season as the Texans look to get back to the postseason.
The Dallas Cowboys haven't had contract discussions with wide receiver Amari Cooper, but he said that he wants to be in Dallas for a long time. Cooper will become a free agent in March, but he is the team's No. 2 priority this offseason behind quarterback Dak Prescott. Despite dealing with nagging injuries for most of the season, Cooper had 79 receptions for a career-high 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns over a full season in 2019. It's hard to imagine Dallas letting him walk in free agency, and his fantasy value would remain the highest as a high-end WR1 if he stays with the Cowboys moving forward. If he goes elsewhere, Michael Gallup would become the team's No. 1 wideout.
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway said that outside linebacker Bradley Chubb (knee), who tore his ACL on Sept. 30 against the Jaguars, is making "really good (progress)." "He looks great. I (jokingly) asked with about five weeks left in the season if he was ready to go. He should be ready to go for OTAs (in May) or even the offseason program (in April)," Elway said. Losing the pass rusher for most of the 2019 season was a big loss for Denver's defense. The 23-year-old was a force in his rookie season with 60 total tackles (41 solo), 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He should be able to bounce back across from Von Miller in 2020 and give Denver a formidable pass rush once again.
The Minnesota Vikings are turning to Gary Kubiak, who has been an assistant head coach and offensive advisor, as their next offensive coordinator, according to sources. Minnesota's previous offensive coordinator, Kevin Stefanski, has left to become the Browns head coach. Not much will change in Minnesota with Kubiak at the helm of the offense, but it is mostly good news for running back Dalvin Cook, who will continue to be the focal point of this offense moving forward. Quarterback Kirk Cousins also benefited from plenty of play-action passing plays while Kubiak was an offensive advisor.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham is expected to be released during the offseason, in the opinion of The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Pete Dougherty, who called the prospective move a 'given.' Graham has one year remaining on his deal. Releasing him would free up $8 million in cap room.
Fantasy Spin: Graham posted a 38-447-3 line in his age-33 season, and despite playing well in the playoffs he has been a disappointment since signing with the Packers. Wherever he plays (if he does) in 2020, Graham's days as a TE1 seem far in the rear view.
Green Bay Packers S Adrian Amos (pectoral) is unlikely to require surgery on his injured pec, according to head coach Matt LaFleur. Amos suffered the injury during the NFC Championship Game.
Updating a previous report, impending free-agent Austin Hooper (Falcons) is expected to receive overtures from the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins if he is allowed to reach the open market, according to sources via Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline.
Impending free-agent DE Robert Quinn (Cowboys) would prefer to remain with the Dallas Cowboys, and sources have told Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline that team owner/general manager Jerry Jones has been 'aggressive' in letting Quinn know he wants him to return.
Atlanta Falcons TE Austin Hooper is not close to a contract extension with the team, according to general manager Thomas Dimitroff Tuesday, Jan. 21. 'The reality right now is that we are trudging along,' Dimitroff said. 'Once we get back from the Super Bowl, after the Super Bowl week we'll continue to look and see how we are moving forward. But at this point there are no updates on Austin.'
Fantasy Spin: Hooper is coming off a career year in which he caught 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns. He's an excellent third option behind WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in Atlanta, but his play this year may have priced him out of the Falcons' budget for 2020 and beyond. His potential free-agent destination would have a big impact on his 2020 draft stock.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Josh McCown spoke with head coach Doug Pederson about a potential role on the coaching staff, but McCown isn't ready to retire just yet. The veteran QB came out of retirement last August to sign a one-year deal with the Eagles. He's currently recovering from a torn hamstring that he suffered in the wild-card loss to the Seahawks. McCown threw only five passes during the regular season and served as a de facto player/coach as Carson Wentz's backup. He has some potential as a future offensive coordinator, but it's unlikely he would immediately be considered as Mike Groh's successor in Philly. Wherever McCown is playing in 2020, he'll strictly be a backup and won't have any fantasy value.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) had an arrest warrant on a felony charge of burglary and battery issued against him Wednesday, Jan. 22, by Hollywood, Fla. police. A moving truck driver claimed he was assaulted by Brown and his trainer. Brown also was charged with one count of burglary of an occupied conveyance and one count of criminal mischief.
Fantasy Spin: Dynasty owners should be preparing to move on from Brown before finalizing their rosters ahead of 2020 drafts.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. will sit down with new head coach Kevin Stefanski Thursday, Jan. 23, to discuss Stefanski's plan for personal conduct. 'I'm looking forward to sitting down with Odell face to face,' Stefanski said. 'I haven't had the chance to do that yet and I get the chance to do that (Thursday). And at that point, that's when I can start laying out my expectations for Odell and all of our players.' Beckham was caught on video at the College Football Playoff Championship Game earlier this month appearing to hand out cash to LSU Tigers players, as well as appearing to slap a security officer on the butt in the locker room. Charges had been filed against Beckham for the latter incident, but they were later dropped.
Fantasy Spin: Beckham totaled 1,035 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his first season in Cleveland. Bigger things were expected, and the hiring of Stefanski should help lead to improvements for 2020. He remains a top-end WR1.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (knee) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Kelce will be just fine to suit up on Feb. 2 against the 49ers in the Super Bowl. He was the top fantasy tight end in 2019 and hasn't slowed down in the postseason, catching 13 of 16 targets for 164 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans and Titans. Most of that production came in the Divisional Round when he had 10 grabs for 134 yards and three scores, but Kelce can go off at any time and could be the X-factor in the Super Bowl in two weeks.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) was unable to practice on Wednesday, but the team remains hopeful that he will be available for the Super Bowl against the Chiefs. The team didn't practice on Wednesday, but they were required to submit an estimated practice report. Coleman dislocated his right shoulder in the first half of the NFC Championship against the Packers and played just eight snaps. If he's active for the Super Bowl, Coleman will split snaps with Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns against the Packers. Matt Breida will be the No. 3 back.
Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (shoulder) indicated that he will be ready for the start of offseason workouts. Cook is entering the final year of his contract and is a candidate for an extension this offseason.
Fantasy Spin: Cook was one of the top running backs in the NFL this season with 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns during the regular season. He will continue to be a focal point on offense for the Vikings next season and will be an early round pick in fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral), DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) and S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) were limited during practice Wednesday, Jan. 22. LB Dre Greenlaw (ankle) fully participated in practice. The 49ers did not hold a practice Wednesday, so the injury report is an estimation.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 22. The 49ers did not hold a practice Wednesday, so this is an estimation.
Fantasy Spin: The 49ers are optimistic about Coleman's status for Super Bowl LIV, but he may be a game-time decision. He will share snaps with Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida if he plays and could be a flex option in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints impending free-agent QB Drew Brees is a player that the Saints want to keep as long as he wants to keep playing, according to general manager Mickey Loomis.
Fantasy Spin: Brees will be a free agent this offseason, but the Saints will try to re-sign him. He finished with 2,979 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season and can be considered a No. 1 quarterback in most fantasy leagues in 2020.