Wed Sep 11 2:13pm ET
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, left, and outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (54) tackle Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (18) during the first half an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson tackles Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters (22) tackles Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton (72) lifts running back Christian McCaffrey (22) following McCaffrey's touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) drives against San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (75) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw (57) hits Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) during the first half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) tries to keep a loose ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) breaks out of the pocket against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) runs while Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Cory Littleton (58) tackles during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy won't allow himself to get overhyped when he lines up Thursday night against his former team, the Buccaneers - even though he has plenty of motivation.
After nine full seasons in the NFL, McCoy said he knows better.
''I've been on teams where guys are playing their former team and the night before the game they're losing their minds; day of the game they're losing their minds,'' McCoy said. ''It's like, `Bro, relax. Just go play the game.'''
He said a lot of those players didn't play well because of their emotions clouded their ability to focus on making plays.
Still, McCoy admits he's eager to play the Buccaneers, a team that cut him in May after a nine-year stint where he was selected to six Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro and became the face of the franchise.
McCoy's departure from Tampa Bay did not come without some bad feelings.
There are still people at Buccaneers headquarters McCoy doesn't like, adding that they ''know who they are.''
It all started when new Bucs coach Bruce Arians said during the offseason McCoy was ''not as disruptive as he was four years ago.'' Arians ultimately released McCoy and, a few days later, signed free agent Ndamukong Suh to replace him - and promptly gave him McCoy's No. 93.
''At first, it bothered me, I can admit that,'' said McCoy, who now wears No. 93 in Carolina.
McCoy let it be known publically he was disappointed over that decision, which drew the ire of former Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Sapp has been someone McCoy initially considered a mentor, and later ''family.''
''You get measured by playoff wins,'' Sapp told the Tampa Bay Times in August. How many playoffs did you win? He never was in a playoff game. We were in nine. We won championships. ... You deserve something like this? Bad call, young fella.''
When asked this week if Sapp's comments hurt, McCoy simply shrugged his shoulders.
The 31-year-old McCoy still plans to sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Buccaneers when he calls it quits. He said that has been prearranged with Bucs ownership.
As for how he views his legacy in Tampa Bay, McCoy said ''I don't know ... ask Warren Sapp.''
Yep, let the game begin.
Tampa Bay is bracing for a big dose of Christian McCaffrey, who ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and also had 10 receptions for 81 yards in the Panthers' opener.
Arians called McCaffrey the best dual back threat in the NFL.
''I used to think it was David Johnson, but Christian's passed him up,'' Arians said. ''As a receiver, he's a hell of a matchup problem, and as a runner, he's a great runner.''
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles agreed, saying ''I don't think you can stop him with one guy. ... They are very talented across the board. We've just got to play disciplined football.''
Bucs QB Jameis Winston became Tampa Bay's career passing leader last week. He also tossed three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in a 31-17 loss to San Francisco. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich expects the fifth-year pro, who threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-17 victory over the Panthers late last season, to respond with a sharper performance Thursday night.
''That's what this league's all about. You can't have any hangovers, no carry-overs, so he's just got to stay locked in,'' Leftwich said. ''The good thing is we had to (begin preparation) the next day and get to rolling with this game being so quick.''
COMING ON STRONG
Arians believes one of the best things the Bucs can do to help Winston cut down on turnovers and realize his potential as the No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft is run the ball more effectively.
With second-year pro Ronald Jones II leading the way, Tampa Bay rushed for 121 yards in last week's loss. Jones, coming off a disappointing rookie season, ran for 75 yards against the 49ers, finally showing signs of why he was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft.
He was impressive, but apparently not good enough to crack the starting lineup. Peyton Barber, an undrafted free agent who led the team in rushing the past two years, will line up first against the Panthers.
''If Peyton gets a little tired, he will get (Jones) in there,'' Arians said. ''And if he has the hot hand, he stays in there until he gets tired.''
Panthers coordinator Norv Turner said he wanted to cut down on McCaffrey's reps, but not his touches this season. Well, McCaffrey not only got 29 touches in a Week 1 loss to the Rams but also played all 67 offensive plays. Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers will need to think about limiting his reps moving forward, but quickly added ''When he's playing the way he is, you want to keep the rhythm going.''
THE 3-4 DEFENSE
Both the Panthers and Buccaneers have moved to a 3-4 defense this season, which should make for an interesting matchup. Neither unit looked particularly invincible in the season opener with the Bucs giving up 31 points and the Panthers 30.
Five Cold Plays: Week 2
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) was not present at practice on Friday for the second straight day. There were reports that Thomas "felt fantastic" at practice on Thursday, and there is a "glimmer of hope" that he can play in Week 2 on Monday night against the Raiders, but it's a long shot, at best. The All-Pro receiver is dealing with a high ankle sprain, which can keep players out up to a month or more. The 27-year-old is known as a quick healer and wants to get back out there as soon as possible, but fantasy managers need to keep realistic expectations. You should be planning to be without Thomas this week. Both Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook should have heavy target shares with Thomas likely out.
Chicago Bears linebackers Khalil Mack (knee) and Robert Quinn (ankle) are both questionable to play in Week 2 against the Giants. Mack was also questionable for the season opener against the Lions, but he played and was quiet with just four combined tackles. Quinn missed Week 1 with Chicago after a big season with the Cowboys. The Bears are counting on the combination of Mack and Quinn to be a big pass-rushing force this year, so if they both sit out, it'll be excellent news for Daniel Jones and the Giants passing attack. Chicago's defense/special teams should be considered a midrange starting unit in fantasy, but they'll lose a little luster if one or both of Mack and Quinn are ruled out.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (ankle) practiced in full the last two days and was taken off the Week 2 injury report. Conner will be active this Sunday against the Broncos, but he might play second fiddle to Benny Snell Jr. after Snell replaced the injured Conner in Week 1 against the Giants and ran for over 100 yards on the ground. Conner couldn't stay healthy last year as the team's lead back, so perhaps this will become more of a backfield committee in 2020 to preserve Conner's health. Snell is probably the more attractive RB3/flex this week, but both running backs are hard to trust because of the uncertain playing time split.
New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Week 2 against the Bears. Tate sat out in Week 1 against the Steelers, but he was much more active in practice on Friday than he was last week. Even if the 32-year-old plays this weekend, there are likely better flex options you can plug into your fantasy lineups. If he doesn't play for the second straight week, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram would all stand to benefit from extra targets in the passing game. Slayton was the biggest beneficiary in Week 1, hauling in two touchdowns.
The Carolina Panthers Defense has ruled out defensive tackle Kawann Short (foot) and rookie defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (concussion) for Week 2 against the Buccaneers. A shaky Panthers defense that allowed over 30 points to the Raiders in Week 1 will be hoping that rookie defensive tackle Derrick Brown can step up against their division rivals on Sunday. Already at the bottom of the pile for fantasy defenses, Carolina should be avoided like the plague this weekend against Tom Brady and the Bucs, who are looking for their first win of the season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (hamstring) practiced in full on Friday and was taken off the Week 2 injury report. Evans will be good to go against the division-rival Panthers. The 27-year-old should draw the coverage of cornerback Donte Jackson, but he's good enough to put up points, and he should be targeted even more by cornerback Tom Brady with Chris Godwin (concussion) doubtful to play. Evans had a quiet Week 1 but still managed to find the end zone to salvage his day. With Godwin likely out, Evans will be a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 this Sunday.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Week 2 against the Bills. Parker is in line to be a game-time decision on Sunday morning, but fantasy managers will know well in advance of the early games whether Parker will be able to play. The 27-year-old was able to get in three practices this week, so that bodes well for his availability. However, Parker will be a risky flex option for fantasy managers if he plays, since he'll likely be covered by Bills All-Pro cornerback Tre'Davious White. Preston Williams, Miami's No. 2 wideout, would be more attractive as a flex if Parker suits up. Otherwise, he'll likely draw the coverage of White in this one.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said that tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) is out for Week 2 against the Vikings. Doyle missed practice all week and will give way to Mo Alie-Cox as the team's starting tight end with Trey Burton already on Injured Reserve. Alie-Cox is a low-end TE2 to begin with, but on top of it, the Vikings were the best against opposing tight ends in 2019. When healthy, the 30-year-old Doyle is a low-ceiling TE2 in a Colts offense with plenty of mouths to feed, even after Marlon Mack's (Achilles) season-ending injury. He went for 49 yards in the season-opening loss to the Jaguars.
Veteran running back C.J. Anderson announced his retirement from football on Friday at the age of 29. Anderson went to the Pro Bowl in 2014 and won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015 after being an undrafted free agent. He plans to pursue a career in coaching. Anderson managed 10 total touchdowns in 2014, and he also ran for 1,007 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 in his final full season with the Broncos. He'll finish his career with 776 carries for 3,497 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground while catching 108 passes for 900 yards and five additional scores.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) will not play in Week 2 against the Jaguars. Brown is dealing with a bone bruise in his knee and is listed as week-to-week. Make sure you remove the second-year receiver from your starting lineups this weekend. Corey Davis, who surprisingly caught seven of eight targets for 101 yards in the Week 1 win over the Broncos, should see a healthy amount of targets once again with Brown out. Consider him in the picture as a WR3/flex. Adam Humphries and Kalif Raymond should comprise three-wide sets on Sunday, with Humphries being a sleeper in DFS. Tight end Jonnu Smith has TE1 upside with Brown out.
Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) hasn't practiced all week due to a neck injury, and a decision will be made on his availability for Week 2 against the Falcons on Saturday. Head coach Mike McCarthy said that Smith wants to play. This is something to monitor since the Cowboys already have offensive lineman La'el Collins and Cam Erving on Injured Reserve. Losing Smith against Atlanta would be another big blow to their offensive line and could be bad news for quarterback Dak Prescott's protection this Sunday. Terence Steele would likely step in on Prescott's blind side if Smith doesn't get clearance.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said that wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) has been dealing with a hamstring injury for a couple of weeks, but he added that "my concern level is low" for the injury impacting Jones' play. The 31-year-old veteran All-Pro often deals with nagging injuries but has managed to play through them and remain productive in Atlanta's offense. Jones caught nine of his 12 targets for 157 yards in the Week 1 loss to the Seahawks. He has been limited this week with the hamstring injury, but he should be just fine to suit up this Sunday against Dallas. Jones is an elite WR1 that is a must-start if he's active.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (hamstring) is expected to play in Week 2 against the Rams after sitting out the season opener. Sanders practiced in full on Thursday and should make his season debut as the team's bell-cow back this weekend. Against a Rams Defense that gave up plenty of yardage on the ground against the Cowboys in Week 1, fantasy managers should consider Sanders a strong RB2 this weekend. In other injury news, defensive end Derek Barnett (hamstring) is also expected to play after practicing in full on Thursday. Undrafted rookie Nate Herbig will start at right guard, according to head coach Doug Pederson.
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia said that wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) will be "very limited" in practice on Friday. Golladay missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and is in real danger of missing his second straight game to kick off the 2020 season. Detroit's No. 1 receiver is on the wrong side of questionable for Sunday against the Packers, and you might even say he's doubtful at this point. You should be preparing for him to miss another game. Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola and rookie Quintez Cephus should operate in three-receiver sets, with tight end T.J. Hockenson seeing more targets if Golladay sits again.
Updating a previous report, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (concussion) practiced Friday, Sept. 18, but still has not cleared the league's concussion protocol and will be listed as doubtful for the Week 2 game against the Carolina Panthers. Godwin is scheduled to go through more tests tomorrow and if doctors clear him then, he will be upgraded to questionable.
Fantasy Spin: Godwin owners are likely going to need to monitor the situation right up through the release of the pre-game inactive list Sunday.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) said Friday, Sept. 18, that things are 'definitely trending in the right direction' for Week 2 after practicing Wednesday and Thursday.
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy GMs will definitely to check his practice status later Friday, but things are surprisingly looking up for Conner following his early-game Week 1 injury. Have him ready for a RB2 role if he proves good to go.
Free agent PK Mike Nugent (Patriots) on Friday, Sept. 18, was signed to the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (ankle) is not expected to miss any time in Week 2. Cooper was a late addition to the injury report this week, which is always concerning, but it seems he is fine and fully expected to play. Cooper is a high-upside WR1 as long as he suits up, as the Falcons Defense was annihilated by the Seahawks passing game last week. Cooper will match up with rookie defensive back A.J. Terrell.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol and will be listed as doubtful for Week 2 against the Panthers. Godwin will go through more tests on Saturday, and if doctors clear him then, he will be upgraded to questionable. The good news is that Tampa's game is early on Sunday, but even then, you should be making plans to be without Godwin this weekend. Mike Evans will be a strong WR1 play with Godwin likely sidelined, while slot man Scotty Miller is also quickly rising up the PPR ranks as a flex play in deeper leagues. Both tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard become a bit more attractive as well in a good matchup against Carolina's shaky defense.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper (ankle) is expected to play in Week 2, head coach Mike McCarthy said Friday, Sept. 18. '(Cooper) went through the mock game and everything today,' McCarthy said. 'I don't foresee a setback there.'
Fantasy Spin: Cooper caught 10-of-14 targets for 81 yards in the Cowboys' opener, and has an even better matchup Sunday against the visiting Falcons. Barring any reversals of fortune in the next 48 hours, lock him in as a WR1 this week.