AROUND THE NFL

Bill Barnwell of ESPN with thoughts on the diminished preseason – does it matter or not matter?

 

The march of the league has been toward risking starters less frequently during the preseason for years now, but that trend is accelerating. The key mover here is likely Sean McVay, who kept most of his first-team offense out for the entirety of the 2018 preseason and then repeated the decision again this time around. Unsurprisingly, in a copycat league that has fallen in love with many of McVay’s choices, the rest of the league is beginning to follow.

 

In addition to Jared Goff, there are four other teams that sat their starting quarterback for the entirety of the preseason. Mitchell Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz all have not thrown a pass in advance of the final exhibition week, when starters typically do not play. Rodgers might have played had the Packers arrived to a more suitable field in Winnipeg against the Raiders, but there are other quarterbacks who have barely had a sniff of the field this preseason. Drew Brees has thrown six passes this August. Deshaun Watson is at seven, with former Vikings playoff starter Joe Webb throwing 86 of Houston’s 99 pass attempts.

 

The final tipping point for fans who are forced to pay over the odds for preseason tickets as part of their regular-season package is likely the complete absence of their star quarterbacks. It’s one thing for rabid fan bases like the Eagles and Packers, who have season-ticket waiting lists, but how can the Chargers ask their fans to buy home preseason tickets if they’re not even going to see a token series or quarter from Rivers, let alone the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram?

 

I’m not arguing that teams should play their starters in meaningless exhibition games. The Rams are smart for sitting their stars. The Chargers shouldn’t risk Rivers. In making a rational, logical decision, though, these teams are taking a preseason product that already bore little resemblance to their regular-season stars and making it unrecognizable. It’s one thing to ask fans to root for laundry; it’s another to ask them to pay regular-season prices for the privilege of doing so in a stadium. That perverse incentive is going to affect the upcoming CBA negotiations.

 

The Verdict: Matters

 

As far as the DB is concerned, an interesting trend is protecting the backup QB as well.  Detroit gave a team-high 41 passes in the first three games to QB DAVID FALES and cut him.  The majority of Tampa Bay’s passes have been thrown by QB RYAN GRIFFIN who may not be in the Buccaneers’ plans at all.  Third-stringer TIM BOYLE has more passes thrown in Green Bay than backup DeSHONE KIZER who we would think could use all the work he can get.  With the Giants, 56 of 99 passes have been thrown by someone other than ELI MANNING or DANIEL JONES.  You can scroll through all the team’s stats and the third-stringer often has more throws than the backup.

– – –

A Carli Lloyd updated from Shanna McCarriston of CBSSports.com:

 

Carli Lloyd has proved her athleticism on the soccer pitch, but after showing off on the football field, she has been presented the chance to become the first woman to ever play in an NFL game.

 

Last week when a video of the USWNT legend kicking a 55-yard field goal perfectly down the uprights at Eagles training camp went viral, she noted that a few NFL teams had reached out with interest.  Her trainer James Galanis told Fox Sports on Monday that one of the teams that took note of Lloyd’s kicking skills has presented her with the opportunity to join the roster and play in a preseason game.

 

“Today, she got another call from another NFL team,” Galanis told FOX Sports. “The one that called today, I don’t want to say who it is, was willing to put her on the roster for their next (game). They were willing to put her on the roster.”

 

Lloyd did show interest, according to the trainer, but the proposed game is on the same day as the USWNT’s matchup against Portugal. He is not saying which teams have shown interest or who offered the roster spot, and with all 32 teams playing on Thursday it does not narrow it down, though there are some clear teams who could use the help in the kicker position.

 

More from Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSports.com:

 

I think the Bears should give Lloyd a tryout and if all goes well, they should let her kick in a preseason game and if all goes well again, they should consider letting her kick in a game that matters. This isn’t a joke. I think it could be the Bears’ version of the fake Hollywood movie that Ben Affleck created. I think it could be their best bad idea … by far.

 

Lloyd didn’t materialize as a viable option until Tuesday when video emerged of Lloyd nailing a field goal at the Eagles-Ravens joint practice. The field goal didn’t necessarily come from an impressive distance, but the kick was impressive nonetheless given Lloyd’s inexperience with kicking footballs (she did go up against Vince Wilfork in a kicking competition a few years ago, as documented on “Hard Knocks”). For those who don’t know, soccer balls are not shaped like footballs.

 

“I started at 25 yards and I just kept moving back,” Lloyd told Sports Illustrated’s Planet Futbol TV. “I was aiming for (Jake) Elliott and (Justin) Tucker’s 61-yarder record. I attempted a 57, had the length, but it didn’t go in between the small goal posts.”

 

As Tucker noted, the uprights were skinnier than the uprights used in regular NFL games. NFL uprights are 18.5 feet wide. The uprights Lloyd used were nine-feet wide.

 

“It was really impressive seeing her just knock down a 55-yarder like it was nothing,” Tucker told the Ravens’ team account. “Randy asked her, ‘Hey do you need to get a little warmup or anything? She’s like, ‘Nah, I’ll just ease into it.’ She just started kicking balls. By the third or fourth one, they were all hitting three-quarters of the way up the net on the skinny uprights. Those uprights, by the way, they’re nine-foot goals. They’re half the size of these. So, it was pretty impressive.”

 

Obviously, Lloyd wasn’t kicking against a rush on Tuesday. She wasn’t dealing with the pressure of kicking in a real game. Lloyd admitted she didn’t expect any of this to blow up the way it did. But it’s doubtful the pressure of the moment would be the thing that would derail Lloyd’s hypothetical kicking career.

 

She’s scored 114 goals for the USWNT — including the game-winning, overtime goal against Brazil in the Gold Medal match at the 2008 Olympics, a brace in a 2-1 win over Japan in the Gold Medal match at the 2012 Olympics, and a hat-trick in the World Cup final against Japan in 2015. Only six women’s soccer players have scored more goals on the international stage. Of those goals, at least 12 have come from the penalty spot, which is important because penalty kicks are somewhat comparable to field goals in the sense that the match completely stops and all pressure falls on the one person kicking the ball. For so much of her career, Lloyd was that person and for so much of her career, she converted from the spot.

 

So often, kicking in the NFL doesn’t come down to skill or talent. Most NFL kickers are physically capable enough to hit nearly every field goal they attempt. Parkey didn’t miss that 43-yarder because of any physical limitations. He probably missed it because of the pressure of the moment — and because the Eagles did well to subtly deflect the ball. It’s difficult to imagine Lloyd missing a kick because she couldn’t handle the pressure.

 

She’d fail because she’s never been a kicker before. She’s not as skilled as other NFL kickers because she’s never really practiced kicking a football before. But it’s not as if Lloyd is incapable of learning how to kick a football. Look at what she did without any real training.

 

Former Raiders and Bengals kicker Jim Breech, who also happens to be the Bengals’ all-time leading scorer, told CBS Sports that she looked capable enough for a team to give her a chance — even if that team isn’t necessarily the Bears.

 

“She looked pretty good to me. If she can do it in the 1.2-1.3 seconds it takes, why not?” Breech said in a text message. “Any team that already has a kicker that wouldn’t take away from someone making the team … give her a shot.”

 

Former Pro Bowl kicker Martin Gramatica, who said he’d be open to training her, told TMZ that with a few alterations to her kicking technique, Lloyd could replace an active NFL kicker. Like Breech, Gramatica talked about how Lloyd needs to make sure her approach is short enough to work in the NFL when 11 defenders are trying to block the ball before it clears the trenches.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Bill Barnwell is impressed, but not overwhelmed, by the impressive preseason play of QB DANIEL JONES:

 

QB Daniel Jones’ breakout

Let’s finish up by getting to one of the most impressive performances this preseason. There was certainly no shortage of opinions when the Giants drafted Jones with the sixth overall pick, and the the Duke product has been brilliant in his first preseason. Ahead of Thursday night’s 16-game slate, Jones has gone 25-of-30 passing for 369 yards with two touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 140.1. No player who has thrown more passes than Jones this preseason has a superior passer rating to the 22-year-old.

 

The Giants, naturally, are thrilled. After seeing him get booed at Yankee Stadium earlier this offseason, Pat Shurmur is already feeling his told-you-sos. “You can ask me all you want about why I like him,” Shurmur said last week. “I think it’s time to start asking the people that didn’t like him what they think, quite frankly.”

 

Allow me to disagree. This is not that time. Several years ago, I researched first-round picks and how they performed during their debut preseasons as a response to a hot start from Blake Bortles. A then-rookie Bortles finished the preseason with a passer rating of 110.0, and despite the Jaguars publicly suggesting after the draft that they wanted to redshirt him and rebuild his throwing mechanics, the UCF product was inserted into the starting lineup by Week 4.

 

Of course, things didn’t end up working out for Bortles in Jacksonville. Mark Sanchez, who posted a passer rating of 111.0 during his debut preseason with the Jets, enjoyed early success with a great defense but was never able to hold up his end of the bargain on offense. The Sanchize also threw nearly twice as many interceptions (20) as he did touchdown passes (12) during that rookie campaign.

 

There are exceptions, of course. I mentioned Prescott earlier, and while the Cowboys weren’t planning on starting the fourth-round pick during his rookie season, it took one injury to Romo to change their plans. Prescott posted a beautiful 137.8 passer rating during the preseason and then impressed enough as a starter to keep the job when Romo was healthy enough to return.

 

The takeaway here is that preseason numbers are far too messy and poisoned by context to take seriously. First-round picks — especially ones who aren’t playing with the ones — are going up against vanilla defenses full of players who are either going to play special teams or bounce around practice squads. Their coaching staffs invariably want to place their shiny new toys in situations where they can succeed and build confidence. It’s no surprise that most impress and then struggle upon their first lengthy stretch of regular-season action.

 

The Giants obviously like Jones. They have every right to be proud of how he has played. Fans who were skeptical of the decision have every right to feel hopeful about Jones given how he has performed. It’s certainly better to play well in the preseason than struggle and throw a bunch of interceptions, of course.

 

The idea that people who criticized Jones need to suddenly answer for their middling evaluations because Jones has looked good, though, is a foolish one. Jones has played all of three series against a No. 1 defense, all of which came against the Bengals last week. Those three possessions produced seven points, and while Jones’ numbers (7-of-9 passing for 115 yards) look good, they include a strip sack and a pair of long completions on isolation routes in which Jones threw up passes and had receivers Darius Slayton and Brittan Golden outmuscle opposing defensive backs. I’m not sure how sustainable that’s going to be against starting defenses throughout the season, especially if Golden and Slayton are the targets.

 

Should the Giants use what they’ve seen from Jones to accelerate his ascent into the starting lineup? They should be pushing their rookie into the lineup, but that has nothing to do with his preseason performance. This team is going nowhere with Eli Manning as the starter. Jones isn’t going to post a 140.1 passer rating during the regular season. He’s going to struggle for stretches. Better to get those struggles out of the way and start getting Jones used to the actual speed of the NFL now.

 

If he continues to play at a high level when the games count and he’s up against talented defenses, the Giants should start crowing about their controversial pick. Until then, what we’ve seen so far doesn’t tell us much at all about Jones’ likelihood of succeeding in the long term.

 

The Verdict: Doesn’t matter

 

 

WASHINGTON

At the moment, Coach Jay Gruden does not think disgruntled T TRENT WILLIAMS will be traded.  A tweet from John Keim:

 

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he still “seriously doubts” they trade tackle Trent Williams. “Very strongly,” Gruden said when asked if he still feels that way.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

Will WR JULIO JONES have his new deal by next Sunday?  Stay tuned.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Atlanta Falcons open the 2019 season in 12 days versus the Minnesota Vikings. Owner Arthur Blank still hopes to get a deal done with Julio Jones before kickoff.

 

“I would hope so, but I don’t know that,” Blank told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. “We’ll have to let things take their course. I know that we are definitely in serious negotiations. It’s our goal and their goal as well to get it done before the start of the season.”

 

The Falcons have been vocal about getting a new deal for Jones done, one that would likely make him the top-paid receiver in football and keep him in Atlanta for the balance of his career.

 

Last offseason, the team brass shifted around money to give Jones a raise with the promise of re-working his contract this offseason, to coax Jones to forgo his holdout. This year, Jones is in camp, continuing to progress from his reportedly mild foot issue, but has yet to put ink to paper.

 

“I’ve said this publicly and privately to Julio and Julio has said the same thing to me, both privately and publicly,” Blank said. “We expect Julio to be a Falcon for life and we have no reason to think that’s going to change at all.

 

“The negotiations continue to move along in a positive way. It’s a big contract and it’s complex and what have you. It takes a little more time than we’d like. Probably a little more time than he would like, but I know we are in a good place.”

 

Deadlines spur action. If the start of the regular season is a true deadline and not a hope-branded line easily walked over, we should be hearing about a new contract for the superstar receiver soon. If it’s not a hard deadline for either side, it will be interesting to see how Jones responds when the season begins.

 

 

CAROLINA

PK GRAHAM GANO is not healthy.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

As we inch closer to the start of the regular season, the Carolina Panthers continue to deal with an injury to a key player. We’re not talking about Cam Newton this time.

 

Kicker Graham Gano remained out of practice with a leg injury.

 

“Well, we’ll see. Hopefully what’ll happen is, in the next day or two as he continues going through his process of working back to health, we’ll know whether he’s going to kick or not,” coach Ron Rivera said Monday, via the Charlotte Observer. “If he’s able to, he most certainly will. That’s for sure.”

 

Through camp, Rivera has remained optimistic the veteran would be ready for the regular season and repeatedly backed Gano, but the coach is finally voicing concern.

 

“It is uneasy, to be honest with you,” Rivera said. “Because again, you want him to be able to kick to make sure everything’s fine. We’ll know hopefully in the next day or two.”

 

With Gano remaining out, rookie kicker Joey Slye has been perfect through the preseason. The Virginia Tech product nailed 6 of 6 field goal attempts — including from 55 and 54 yards — and both of his extra-point tries.

 

The last time Gano was challenged in Panthers camp was 2017, when Harrison Butker showed out during the preseason. Carolina, however, stuck with the (more expensive) veteran and cut Butker, who landed in Kansas City and has been a big-legged stalwart for the Chiefs. Gano responded to that challenge with a Pro Bowl season. Now, however, he’s coming off a disappointing 2018 campaign in which he dealt with injury and made just 87.5 of his field-goal attempts with three missed PATs.

 

The Panthers would save nothing on the salary cap by cutting Gano, per Over The Cap, but it’s fair to wonder whether the injury and the previous experience with Butker will heavily influence Carolina’s kicker decision when cutdown day comes.

 

But, per Ron Rivera, QB CAM NEWTON is healthy – or will be a week from Sunday.

 

The Panthers have left “cautiously optimistic” in the rear view mirror.

 

Via Joe Person of TheAthletic.com, Panthers coach Ron Rivera just said there was “no doubt in my mind” quarterback Cam Newton would play in the regular season opener against the Rams.

 

That’s fantastic news for them, after he left last week’s preseason game against the Patriots, and was in a walking boot with a mid-foot sprain. He’s been out of the boot and working on the side with the team’s athletic training staff the last two days, so the concerns about his status have lessened dramatically.

 

For some reason, they felt compelled to play him against the Patriots as he returned from last year’s shoulder surgery, but they appear to have dodged the worst-case scenario bullet for teams in the preseason.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com on the importance of QB TAYSOM HILL’s preseason:

 

QB Taysom Hill’s preseason

The Saints have a plan at quarterback. Drew Brees is going to lead the way. If he gets injured or struggles to the point where the Saints need to replace him, Sean Payton re-signed Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal worth $7.25 million. Hill exists somewhere between those two in a role somewhere between quarterback and gadget player. He took 181 offensive snaps last season and threw seven passes, yielding 64 passing yards and an interception. When you consider that Hill ran the ball 37 times and was targeted on seven pass attempts, the BYU product’s ratios are far closer to someone like Wildcat-era Ronnie Brown than they are to a typical passer.

 

During the preseason, though, Hill has vastly outplayed his competition for the backup job. With Bridgewater limping to a 73.5 passer rating and averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt, Hill has gone 27-of-42 for 343 yards with three touchdown passes against one interception, good for 8.2 yards per attempt and a passer rating of 103.6. Throw in 13 carries for 113 yards on the ground, and he’s been wildly productive as both a passer and runner so far this preseason.

 

Is that enough to fundamentally change the way the Saints view Hill? I don’t think so. Look back at last preseason, when Hill carved himself out a roster spot by going 36-of-49 for 365 yards as a passer while running 19 times for 161 yards and two scores. Payton was impressed, but he still went and traded a third-round pick to the Jets for Bridgewater and a sixth-round pick. Hill has been effective in the preseason, but plenty of passers put up impressive numbers against backups and then struggle to translate that into regular-season success. (Nathan Peterman, to pick a quarterback, posted a 124.7 passer rating and averaged 10.5 yards per attempt last preseason.)

 

The Saints have a useful player in Hill, and Payton has done a great job to carve out a unique role for the 29-year-old’s skills, but I don’t think we’ve seen enough to suggest that Hill should be the Saints’ No. 2 quarterback, nor do I think the Saints themselves feel that way.

 

The Verdict: Doesn’t matter

 

NFC WEST

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com on whether or not it matters that QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO has been struggling:

 

QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s awkward Week 2

You have to figure Garoppolo didn’t imagine his return would have gone the way it did. After missing 11 months with a torn ACL, Garoppolo made his return to an NFL field against the Broncos in Week 2 of the preseason. The much-anticipated return was a mess, as he went 1-of-6 for zero yards with an interception. You might even argue that the stats undersold how bad Garoppolo looked, which is pretty hard to do when you’re 1-of-6 for zero yards. This performance came after Garoppolo threw interceptions on five consecutive pass attempts in a midweek practice.

 

He did look better in a longer Week 3 performance against the Chiefs, but I’m still concerned. His footwork looks choppy, especially at the end of a longer drop or when he turns his back to the defense and has to work off play-action. The Chiefs barely pressured Garoppolo, which allowed him to cycle through his progressions and make throws from a steady base.

 

Coincidentally, the issues bothering him are the same problems Tom Brady had when he returned from his own serious knee injury during the opening weeks of the 2009 season. Garoppolo still seems unsure and unsteady when he’s asked to plant his front foot and make a throw, especially under pressure. The result is a loss of accuracy and velocity, along with a propensity to sail throws, all of which showed up on his interception against the Broncos.

 

Brady was able to conquer his fears, although it took some time. The future Hall of Famer posted a 2.3% interception rate during that 2009 campaign, which would be the highest interception rate he would post in a single season after that legendary 2007 campaign. Garoppolo’s true interception rate is almost surely higher than Brady’s, which could lead to an ugly number if his footwork is inconsistent over a full 16-game season.

 

Kyle Shanahan doesn’t need his quarterbacks to be Tony Romo or Russell Wilson, and Garoppolo has never been much of a scrambler. What the 49ers coach needs, though, can be at odds with where Garoppolo seems to be in his recovery. He needs a quarterback who is comfortable working in the pocket under pressure to find an open receiver. Shanahan also builds so much of his offense off the outside zone and play-action, asking his quarterback to start from under center and bootleg away from a play-fake to reset and make a strong throw. He could theoretically make it easier for Garoppolo by working out of shotgun more frequently and reducing the steps Garoppolo has to take in a given game, but it’s more likely that the 49ers will start the year hoping that Garoppolo grows into the role. He’ll get there, but the early returns could be ugly. It helps that the 49ers start the year with a trip to Tampa Bay.

 

The Verdict: Matters

 

 

AFC WEST

 

KANSAS CITY

Backup QB CHAD HENNE is having surgery for a broken ankle.  The team scurries for another ex-Dolphins QB.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Chiefs aren’t going into the season without a veteran backup quarterback, and they’re not wasting any time acquiring him.

 

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Chiefs are signing quarterback Matt Moore.

 

They needed a replacement for Chad Henne, who suffered a broken ankle and will need surgery.

 

Moore, 35, last turned up while helping the Dolphins scout quarterbacks this offseason, apparently retired and content to move on. The longtime backup spent seven of his 11 NFL seasons with the Dolphins, also playing for the Panthers and Cowboys.

 

He’s played in 49 games, with 30 career starts (15-15 record), but hasn’t played since 2017.

 

I mean, it’s better than the spot the Colts are in after Andrew Luck retired and their ostensible backup is suspended the first two games, but if Moore has to play this season, things have gone very wrong.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

QB LAMAR JACKSON thinks he’s going to throw nearly 500 passes this year.

 

The Ravens have done a very good job of keeping everyone guessing as to how their offense will look in 2019.

 

The latest piece of evidence that adds to a jumbled, muddled puzzle is quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s assessment to Adam Schein of SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio that the second-year signal-caller will throw “probably 30 passes a game,” via NFL.com.

 

Jackson averaged 22.5 passes thrown in seven regular-season starts last season, and he ran the ball 17 times per game.

 

Unable to attract free-agent receivers with options due to the perception that the Ravens will set offensive football back to the days of leather helmets and clouds of dust, Baltimore drafted a fair of high-end wideouts, and they’ve tried to create the impressions that their offense will be revolutionary. But they’ve kept the details tightly under wraps.

 

We’ll begin to find out what it will be in 12 days, when the Ravens and the Dolphins get together on the first weekend of the 2019 regular season. The next week comes a game against Arizona, which also has an offense that is creating plenty of questions.

 

In 2019, the NFL range was from 26.7 passes per game (Seattle) to 43.1 (Pittsburgh) with a mean of 34.8 (surprise, the Ravens).

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Bill O’Brien says he is okay without the services of RB LAMAR MILLER this season.

 

The Texans lost starting running back Lamar Miller for the season to a torn ACL last weekend, so they are early in the process of figuring out how their backfield will wind up looking when they are in New Orleans on the first Monday night of the regular season.

 

On Monday, head coach Bill O’Brien said that he thinks the team is in a “good situation” at the position despite Miller’s loss and cited the trade for Duke Johnson as a leading reason for that opinion. The Browns made heavy use of Johnson as a receiver the last four years, but O’Brien said he’s confident that Johnson can take on a bigger role.

 

“I wouldn’t call him a third-down back,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I know that he is a substituted back, so in the past he’s played a lot against sub defenses, but you can see sub defenses on first, second or third downs. I think with us he’ll be used in a lot of different ways, and he’s had a lot of snaps. He’s been out there playing a lot. . . . I don’t think it’ll be him exclusively. We’ve got a lot of other guys at that position that we can mix and match with.”

 

Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones, Cullen Gillaspia, Karan Higdon and Damarea Crockett are the other backs on hand, but O’Brien said “anything can happen” in terms of tweaking that group to ensure he continues to feel good about life without Miller in the backfield.

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

With JACOBY BRISSETT now the starter, is CHAD KELLY now the backup?  Not for the first two games as we are reminded by this from late May.  John Breech of CBSSports.com:

 

If Chad Kelly ends up making the Colts’ roster this year, he’s going to have sit out the first two weeks of the season.

 

The NFL announced on Friday that Kelly has been suspended two games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Kelly’s suspension stems from an incident in October when he was arrested in Denver on suspicion of first-degree trespassing.

 

The bizarre incident took place on the same night that Kelly had attended Von Miller’s Halloween party. According to a police report from the arrest, Kelly stumbled into the house of someone he didn’t know and proceeded to sit on their couch, which was especially alarming to the people living there, because they were also sitting on the couch. Kelly, who was dressed as a Cowboy, was also mumbling “incoherently.”

 

Kelly eventually left the house when one of the residents started hitting him with an aluminum vacuum tube. At the time of his arrest, Kelly was playing for the Broncos, but the team decided to cut him less than 24 hours after he was charged.

 

The case was eventually closed in March when Kelly decided to plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of second-degree criminal trespassing. After the arrest, Kelly had a tough time finding NFL work, but he did eventually find a job on May 20 when the Colts decided to sign him.

 

Thoughts from Brissett on his ascendency.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Jacoby Brissett met the media on Monday for the first time since Andrew Luck‘s retirement pushed him into the starting quarterback job for the Colts.

 

Brissett said he was “shocked” when Luck told him that he was stepping away from football. Brissett didn’t delve into the contents of that conversation, but said Luck was “actually smiling when he told me” and that seeing Luck at peace was all that really mattered when it came to his reaction to the news.

 

He added that he wished Luck could have announced his retirement as planned rather than have it come out during Saturday night’s game and that it’s been a “roller coaster of emotions” as Luck’s absence has started to sink in.

 

“The main thing is not being able to see Andrew every other day,” Brissett said.

 

Brissett was asked at one point what he needs to be going forward now that his role has changed. Brissett answered by saying “Jacoby Brissett” and many will be watching to see if that’s the right answer to keep the Colts moving forward in 2019.

– – –

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com on how the Colts’ odds have changed since Saturday night:

 

When the news of Andrew Luck’s retirement broke on Saturday night, it shook the NFL world to its core. A 29-year-old franchise quarterback, set to make more than $25 million in 2019, coming off the best season of his career and playing for a reborn contender in the Colts was just walking away from football? It made no sense.

 

And it sent the gambling world scrambling to adjust what were previously pretty secure future prices. The Colts were one of the top Super Bowl favorites at 12-1 and their odds dipped precipitously to 60-1 with Jacoby Brissett replacing Luck. The Colts went from the favorites (-130) in the AFC South to the biggest underdogs (4-1 and more in some spots).

 

But perhaps the biggest shift was in the win total for Indy. Previously the Colts had a win total of 9.5, with the over juiced heavily. The under was +105 when the Luck news broke and the over varied between -130 and -150 depending on where you looked.

 

After the news, the over dipped down a whopping three games, moving to 6.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey. As T.A. Cleveland of Sharp Football Analysis explained to me on the Pick Six Podcast (our daily NFL pod — we even bust out emergency pods when Andrew Luck retires — go ahead and subscribe or listen to the show with T.A. below), that’s an overreaction.

 

“I thought it was an overreaction. I got some guys that agree with me, others don’t actually read [the Twitter thread] and say they’re not winning the division. That wasn’t my point. It’s not that the Colts are a Super Bowl contender, it wasn’t that the Colts are going to win the division,” T.A. explained. “It was more of, the instant reaction was an overreaction. I think 6.5 is too low. That’s the sixth or seventh lowest win total on the board right now. And I don’t think the Colts are the sixth- or seventh-worst team in the NFL. I think the division will be very competitive. All four teams have a shot. I think Tennessee is the worst team in the division, to be honest. I actually have their win total under, been sitting on it for a while.”

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Blood clots in the lungs.  That sounds serious for C DAVID ANDREWS. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com

 

New England Patriots starting center David Andrews has blood clots in his lungs, and his 2019 season is in jeopardy, league sources confirmed.

 

Andrews was hospitalized while undergoing tests to pinpoint the cause of the clots, sources said. He was reportedly released from the hospital Monday night.

 

A team captain in his fifth NFL season, Andrews played 28 snaps in the Patriots’ preseason win over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday but wasn’t at practice the past two days.

 

Andrews’ leadership and steadiness have been critical for the Patriots since he became a full-time starter in 2016, as he developed a rapport with quarterback Tom Brady. With Andrews at center and up-and-coming Joe Thuney (fourth year) and Shaq Mason (fifth year) as starting guards, the interior of the line has been one of the strengths of the team.

 

Andrews, 27, has played in 60 career regular-season games (57 starts), in addition to making nine playoff starts. The University of Georgia alumnus, who made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2015, was the starter in each of the Patriots’ past three Super Bowl appearances.

 

The Athletic first reported Andrews’ condition.

 

The Patriots’ top backups are four-year veterans Ted Karras (45 career games, five starts) and James Ferentz (23 career games, zero starts).

 

Earlier Monday, Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia — while taking a wait-and-see approach on Andrews’ condition — said that he believes the attrition the team has already experienced on the line with multiple retirements hasn’t left the unit short-handed.

 

“We got what we got. The cavalry, they’re not coming over the hill,” he said. “But we have good players. I like the guys we got.”

 

Andrews was not fully healthy early in training camp. He missed the team’s first few practices before returning on a limited basis.

 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick previously noted that centers are in the middle of every play, so communication — coupled with angles and gaining favorable position — is a big part of the job description.

 

“David’s good at all those things,” Belichick said in 2017. “He has a lot of experience in his life playing center. I think a lot of those things come pretty naturally to him, the understanding of how far you have to go, how quickly you have to get there, how close in proximity is your teammate, where is the play designed to run and so forth. He has a good instinct for the position.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE BY OPPOSING QBs

According to Mike Sando of The Athletic, if no one gets hurt, post-Luck, the Bears face the toughest Murderer’s Row of opposing QBs:

 

New England will play the easiest slate of opposing quarterbacks this season. The Chicago Bears face the toughest group from top to bottom.

 

Below I’ve stacked the 32 NFL teams from toughest to easiest opposing quarterback schedules while pointing out how many games each faces against teams with quarterbacks in a higher tier than their own projected starters.

 

The Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray was not in the QB Tiers survey because he’s a rookie, so I used my judgment in slotting him at the bottom of the third tier, between San Darnold and Lamar Jackson.

 

Luck’s replacement, Jacoby Brissett, likewise was not in the survey this summer. For this exercise, I took his average tier vote from my 2018 survey (3.96) and adjusted it upward to 3.75. That slotted Brissett between Josh Allen and Ryan Fitzpatrick in Tier 4, which seemed to account for likely improvement from Brissett without unfairly moving him ahead of players who played last season and could appear more promising.

 

1. Chicago Bears

Opposing QB average: 2.22

Mitch Trubisky’s average: 3.07

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 9

 

The Bears draw Drew Brees at home following a bye week, which beats facing him in the Superdome. They’re also home against Patrick Mahomes and Philip Rivers. Oh, and they have a pretty good defense.

 

2. Minnesota Vikings

Opposing QB average: 2.26

Kirk Cousins’ average: 2.71

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 9

 

It’s tough finding long-term quarterback solutions. Just think about all the work Minnesota has put into finding quarterbacks. From Brett Favre to Christian Ponder to Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Bradford to Kirk Cousins, the Vikings have constantly been searching for upgrades.

 

Minnesota’s 2019 schedule features the four quarterbacks with the longest current regular-season starting streaks: Philip Rivers (208 games), Matt Ryan (147), Matthew Stafford (128) and Russell Wilson (112). Eli Manning would be leading that list if Ben McAdoo hadn’t benched him for one game in 2017.

 

3. Arizona Cardinals

Opposing QB average: 2.36

Kyler Murray’s projection: bottom of the third tier

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 9

 

The Cardinals face Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson all in September. That’s a lot of potential running around for the Arizona defense. At least the games against Newton and Wilson will be in the Cardinals’ air-conditioned indoor stadium.

 

4. San Francisco 49ers

Opposing QB average: 2.37

Jimmy Garoppolo’s average: 2.89

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 9

 

Sean McVay and his understudies will have their fingerprints on one-quarter of the 49ers’ opposing quarterback schedule this season. That includes the usual two NFC West games against Jared Goff, plus one against Rodgers (now coached by former McVay understudy Matt LaFleur) and one against Andy Dalton (now coached by former McVay understudy Zac Taylor).

 

Also of interest: a Week 15 game against Matt Ryan, whose 2016 MVP season came with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan running the Falcons’ offense.

 

The 49ers do not play Indy this season, but Luck’s retirement had a big impact on where they rank on this list. They went from 14th to fourth because so many other teams’ opposing quarterback averages changed.

 

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Opposing QB average: 2.37

Jameis Winston’s average: 3.04

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 8

 

The Bucs owned the toughest opposing quarterback schedule before Luck’s retirement. This schedule’s toughness could vary depending on the health situations surrounding Cam Newton, Jimmy Garoppolo and Marcus Mariota. Murray is another wild card. The Buccaneers are expecting a big improvement on defense this season and might get it, but the lineup of opposing quarterbacks isn’t doing them any favors.

 

6. Denver Broncos

Opposing QB Average: 2.38

Joe Flacco’s Average: 2.98

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 8

 

The Broncos’ five games against Tier 1 quarterbacks ranks tied for most in the NFL. That’s a product of playing in the AFC West (Mahomes, Rivers) while drawing Green Bay in the scheduling rotation. An ascending Baker Mayfield could outplay his 2.53 average. Nick Foles and Derek Carr are wild cards.

 

7. Oakland Raiders

Opposing QB average: 2.38

Derek Carr’s average: 2.93

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 7

 

The Raiders will play seven of their games against quarterbacks rated no worse than Deshaun Watson. Before Brissett’s ascension into the Colts’ lineup, the lowest-rated quarterback on the Raiders’ schedule was the ascending Sam Darnold.

 

8. Indianapolis Colts

Opposing QB average: 2.40

Jacoby Brissett’s average: 3.75

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 15

 

The Colts’ quarterback schedule got tougher on paper when Nick Foles replaced Blake Bortles as the Jaguars’ starter. That’s what logic says, anyway. Bortles was 4-4 against the Colts, tossing 12 touchdown passes with one interception in those games. Indy has eight games against Tier 3 quarterbacks, so if Brissett outplays the fourth tier, the Colts’ could in theory play only seven games against quarterbacks in higher tiers than their own.

 

9. Carolina Panthers

Opposing QB Average: 2.40

Cam Newton’s Average: 2.56

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 8

 

Cam Newton has a few running mates on the schedule. Rodgers, Wilson, Watson, Mariota and Murray all can pick up yards with their legs.

 

10. Baltimore Ravens

Opposing QB average: 2.43

Lamar Jackson’s average: 3.67

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 14

 

The Ravens and Texans are the only teams to face both Brady and Mahomes this season. Mayfield’s addition to the AFC North schedule also changes the outlook.

 

11. Atlanta Falcons

Opposing QB Average: 2.50

Matt Ryan’s Average: 1.82

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 3

 

The Falcons face a high number of opposing quarterbacks coming off injury-shortened 2018 seasons. Wentz, Newton, Garoppolo and Mariota all fit into that category. Luck was in a similar category until his retirement. There’s volatility to this schedule.

 

12. Los Angeles Rams

Opposing QB average: 2.50

Jared Goff’s average: 2.27

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 4

 

The Rams’ schedule is packed with quarterbacks who are either tough to bring down because of their size/strength (Roethlisberger, Newton, Prescott, Winston), tough to catch because of their speed/quickness (Wilson, Trubisky, Murray, Jackson) or both.

 

13. Detroit Lions

Opposing QB average: 2.51

Matt Stafford’s average: 2.22

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 4

 

The Lions get most of their toughest quarterback matchups out of the way early. They draw Mahomes and Rivers at home in September. Their first meeting with Rodgers falls after a Week 5 bye. Wentz is the next-highest-rated quarterback on their schedule. The Lions visit him in Week 3.

 

14. Los Angeles Chargers

Opposing QB average: 2.51

Philip Rivers’ average: 1.40

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 0

 

The Rivers-era Chargers are 4-6 against the Tier 1 quarterbacks who are on their schedule this season. That includes 3-3 against Roethlisberger, 1-1 against Mahomes and 0-2 against Rodgers. Winning against Mahomes at Arrowhead Stadium last season felt like a breakthrough.

 

15. Kansas City Chiefs

Opposing QB average: 2.52

Patrick Mahomes’ average: 1.13

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 0

 

The Chiefs have October home games against Watson and Rodgers. Luck was also part of that October group, but now the Chiefs will draw Brissett instead. They are also one of five teams and the only non-NFC East team to face both Brady and Rodgers this season. Kansas City also faces Trubisky, the one quarterback selected ahead of Mahomes in the 2017 draft.

 

16. Tennessee Titans

Opposing QB average: 2.54

Marcus Mariota’s average: 3.13

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 7

 

Luck’s retirement offers welcome relief for the Titans in a division that appeared to get tougher when Nick Foles replaced Blake Bortles in Jacksonville. Before Luck departed, the Titans were scheduled to play nine games against Tier 1-2 quarterbacks, which would have ranked tied for the league-high. Without Luck, seven teams have more of those games than the Titans will play.

 

17. Seattle Seahawks

Opposing QB average: 2.55

Russell Wilson’s average: 1.47

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 0

 

The Seahawks get their first look at Garoppolo since the quarterback made his 49ers debut with two pass attempts in a 2017 game.

 

Other quarterbacks on the schedule are much more familiar. Counting the playoffs, Matt Ryan has attempted 254 passes against Seattle since Pete Carroll arrived in 2010. That’s the most for any quarterback outside the NFC West. While the Seahawks get a break from Rodgers, who is second on that list (234 attempts), they get another look at Newton, who ranks third with 230 attempts, and Brees, who is fourth with 219.

 

18. Houston Texans

Opposing QB average: 2.56

Deshaun Watson’s average: 2.27

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 4

 

The Texans are the only team to face Brady, Brees and Mahomes. This season marks the fifth in a row that Houston has faced Brady in the regular season or playoffs. Only the AFC East teams and Pittsburgh have faced Brady more times over that span.

 

Even without Luck on the schedule, Houston plays against four of the top five remaining Tier 1 quarterbacks, plus a game against Matt Ryan, who heads the second tier. Brissett’s addition did move the Texans’ ranking on this list from sixth to 18th, the largest change for any team (the Titans moved 11 spots and the Jaguars moved 10).

 

19. Jacksonville Jaguars

Opposing QB average: 2.59

Nick Foles’ average: 2.76

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 6

 

As noted earlier, Bortles was actually 4-4 against the Colts with 12 touchdown passes and one interception. There’s obviously room for improvement on the won-lost front, but Foles will have a hard time improving upon the TD-INT ratio. Darnold had been the lowest-rated opposing quarterback on the Jaguars’ schedule before Luck retired. Brissett fills that void, moving the Jaguars’ opposing schedule from ninth to 19th on this list.

 

20. Green Bay Packers

Opposing QB average: 2.61

Aaron Rodgers’ average: 1.04

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 0

 

The Packers’ two games against Tier 1 quarterbacks are both away from Lambeau Field. They’ll see Mahomes in Week 8 and Rivers in Week 9. Tier 2 QB Wentz is on the schedule early (Week 4). Two other quarterbacks coming off injuries are on the schedule later: Newton in Week 10 and Garoppolo in Week 12, after the Packers’ bye.

 

21. Washington Redskins

Opposing QB average: 2.63

Case Keenum’s average: 3.84

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 14

 

While Washington does face Rodgers and Brady, it’s a Week 8 date with quarterback emeritus Kirk Cousins that’s scheduled for prime time. That game is at Minnesota, which takes off some of the edge. It could be Keenum vs. Cousins in a trading-places situation unless Dwayne Haskins is starting for Washington by then.

 

22. Dallas Cowboys

Opposing QB average: 2.64

Dak Prescott’s average: 2.73

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 7

 

The Cowboys are the only team to face the top three players in the 2019 QB Tiers survey — Rodgers, Brady and Brees. There are enough lower-rated quarterbacks on the schedule to drag down the average overall.

 

23. New Orleans Saints

Opposing QB average: 2.65

Drew Brees’ average: 1.07

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 0

 

Only one game against Tier 1 quarterbacks for the Saints? It’s three if you think Matt Ryan belongs in the top group. Voters were conflicted on that. Ryan wound up ninth overall, the first quarterback in Tier 2. Ryan has an 8-13 record against the Saints despite 39 touchdown passes, 13 interceptions and an 8.0-yard average per attempt in those games.

 

24. Cincinnati Bengals

Opposing QB average: 2.65

Andy Dalton’s average: 3.04

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 7

 

The seven touchdowns and no interceptions Mayfield threw against Cincinnati last season affirmed the quarterback dynamics in the AFC North have changed. No longer on the divisional schedule: Flacco, who had more picks (25) than touchdown passes (21) against the Bengals while posting a 9-11 record against Cincy.

 

The Bengals also see Brady for the first time since 2016. He has eight touchdowns and one pick against Cincinnati for his career.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles

Opposing QB average: 2.70

Carson Wentz’s average: 2.20

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 3

 

The Eagles’ NFC East opponents field some of the lower-rated quarterbacks on Philly’s schedule this season. Rodgers and Brady are well qualified to pick up any slack. The Eagles also draw Wilson, who has a 3-0 record against them, partly because Philadelphia has not scored more than 15 points in any of those games. Wilson has six touchdown passes and no picks against the Eagles in those games.

 

26. Miami Dolphins

Opposing QB average: 2.71

Ryan Fitzpatrick/Josh Rosen average: 3.78/3.89

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QBs: 11

 

Wentz and Mayfield are second-tier quarterbacks with Tier 1 upside, which means the Dolphins’ schedule could get tougher. While injuries have ended Wentz’s last two seasons prematurely, he has made it into December both times — notable with the Dolphins scheduled to face him on Dec. 1 this season.

 

27. Cleveland Browns

Opposing QB average: 2.74

Baker Mayfield’s average: 2.53

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 4

 

The Browns are tied for the league-low with five games against quarterbacks in the top two tiers. With Mayfield ascending into the second tier already, that means Cleveland plays only four games against teams with higher-tiered quarterbacks. That includes the Browns’ first game against Brady since 2016.

 

28. New York Giants

Opposing QB average: 2.78

Eli Manning’s average: 3.05

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 5

 

Fitzpatrick, Allen and Winston finished 2018 with the highest interception rates among 33 quarterbacks with at least 200 pass attempts. All three are on the Giants’ schedule. So is Darnold, who ranked fifth on that list (Nick Mullens was fourth).

 

29. Buffalo Bills

Opposing QB average: 2.78

Josh Allen’s average: 3.69

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 12

 

Unsettled quarterback situations in Washington and Miami account for Buffalo’s quarterback schedule ranking among the easiest. Of course, Fitzpatrick is so streaky that it’s tough knowing what to expect from him in any single game.

 

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

Opposing QB average: 2.82

Ben Roethlisberger’s average: 1.42

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QBs: 0

 

Voters slotted Roethlisberger at No. 7, right below Rivers and right ahead of Wilson in the second half of the top tier. There was some debate over whether Roethlisberger still belonged in the top tier at this stage of his career. The Steelers face both Rivers and Wilson this season, so we’ll get to see that debate play out on the field.

 

31. New York Jets

Opposing QB average: 2.83

Sam Darnold’s average: 3.15

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QB: 5

 

Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a long history against Brady dating to Williams’ tenure as the Bills’ head coach from 2001-03. That history includes Buffalo’s famous 31-0 victory over New England in the Patriots’ first game after cutting Lawyer Milloy. It also includes the Patriots’ 52-7 victory over Williams’ Redskins in 2007, the year New England went 16-0 and was accused of running up the score in that game specifically.

 

32. New England Patriots

Opposing QB average: 2.94

Tom Brady’s average: 1.05

Games when opposing QB is in higher tier than own QBs: 0

 

To summarize, the Patriots’ schedule of opposing quarterbacks includes:

 

Two games against Tier 1 quarterbacks, tied for the second-fewest

Zero road games against Tier 1 quarterbacks (29 teams have at least one)

Six games against Tier 4 quarterbacks, tied with the Jets for the most

Eleven games against Tier 3-4 quarterbacks, tied for the most

 

New England’s record since 2014 with Brady in the lineup against Tier 3 quarterbacks is 15-9, surprisingly poor by Patriots standards. The Patriots over that span are 13-0 against Tier 4, 20-4 against starters who weren’t in the survey (rookies and backups typically), 13-3 against Tier 2 and a stellar 10-3 against Tier 1, which affirms one of my original points: New England’s success transcends its opponents.

 

As for the weak AFC East, the Patriots’ winning percentage since 2001 is about the same inside the division (.746) as outside it (.737).

 

 

2020 FANTASY

Here is how Matthew Berry of ESPN.com ranks the top 30 quarterbacks for Fantasy purposes with Andrew Luck gone:

 

Top 30 Quarterbacks For 2019

 

RANK, PLAYER         TEAM

1. Patrick Mahomes   KC

2. Deshaun Watson    HOU

3. Aaron Rodgers        GB

4. Baker Mayfield       CLE

5. Carson Wentz         PHI

6. Matt Ryan              ATL

7. Kyler Murray           ARI

8. Ben Roethlisberger PIT

9. Cam Newton           CAR

10. Jared Goff             LAR

11. Drew Brees           NO

12. Jameis Winston    TB

13. Russell Wilson       SEA

14. Mitchell Trubisky   CHI

15. Lamar Jackson     BAL

16. Dak Prescott         DAL

17. Tom Brady            NE

18. Philip Rivers          LAC

19. Josh Allen            BUF

20. Kirk Cousins          MIN

21. Sam Darnold         NYJ

22. Derek Carr            OAK

23. Jimmy Garoppolo SF

24. Jacoby Brissett     IND

25. Matthew Stafford  DET

26. Andy Dalton          CIN

27. Nick Foles             JAC

28. Ryan Fitzpatrick    MIA

29. Marcus Mariota     TEN

30. Dwayne Haskins   WAS

 

30 QB and 32 teams.  We don’t see JOE FLACCO of the Broncos and we don’t see a Giants QB.

 

DWAYNE HASKINS of the Redskins ahead of Week 1 starter COLT McCOY.

 

LAMAR JACKSON ahead of TOM BRADY and PHILIP RIVERS among others.

 

MATTHEW STAFFORD behind DEREK CARR and JOSH ALLEN among others.

– – –

Meanwhile, Dalton Del Don of YahooSports.com has a list of overvalued Fantasy players on every team.

 

The term “bust” doesn’t fit perfectly with every team, but the following are players whom I’ve deemed overvalued in drafts.

 

Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald

He’ll see a nice improvement in environment with the Air Raid coming to the desert, but Fitzgerald will also have more competition for targets. The Hall of Famer will soon turn 36 years old and managed just 6.6 YPT while finishing 59th among WRs in yards per route run last season, so fantasy owners should aim higher.

 

Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley

He’s an exciting young player with a bright future, but Ridley’s not in a great situation for a huge sophomore campaign. His TD percentage is sure to regress (he had 10 touchdowns on 92 targets as a rookie), especially with the Falcons realizing they were allowed to throw to Julio Jones in the RZ during the second half of last year. With Austin Hooper ready to breakout, Devonta Freeman finally healthy again and Mohamed Sanu still around, it’s going to take injuries for Ridley to be worth his ADP.

 

Baltimore Ravens: Wide Receivers

As someone who loves Lamar Jackson, can’t stop hyping Mark Andrews and has Mark Ingram ranked much higher than his ADP, there’s not a lot of hate from me with Baltimore, but I’m not drafting any of its wide receivers, mainly for the reasons I love the other three Ravens.

 

Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy

He’s now 31 and approaching 2,500 career carries, managed 3.2 YPC to go along with an ugly elusive rating last season and is almost certainly an inferior option to rookie Devin Singletary at this stage of their careers. There are better ways to spend roster spots than to use one on McCoy, even if his cost is free.

 

Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen

He’s 34 years old, has missed 16 games over the last two seasons (when he’s failed to total 500 yards) and has dealt with foot issues for a while now. Even if a fully healthy Olsen returns, he’ll now be sharing the field with two WRs in D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel who are more worthy of looks, so it’s not a good situation for the aging tight end.

 

Chicago Bears: Tarik Cohen

He was being drafted too high even before Matt Nagy came out and said he plans on using him less this season. Cohen can be plenty helpful in PPR formats, but the 5-foot-6 back has a hard cap on his touch ceiling, greatly limiting his upside.

 

Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green

He’s still being drafted as a borderline top-25 wide receiver despite undergoing ankle surgery that will have him missing “multiple regular-season games.” Green hasn’t reached 1,100 yards or scored nine touchdowns in a season since 2015. Drafters are taking a far too optimistic view of his injury status.

 

Cleveland Browns: Jarvis Landry

He was one of the bigger busts last season who continually burned fantasy owners on a weekly basis despite seeing a ton of volume and often finding himself in extremely favorable matchups (enticing DFS users over and over), and then Cleveland added Odell Beckham Jr. during the offseason. After Landry saw 94 targets over the first half of last season, Baker Mayfield settled in, and Landry was given 55 targets over the second half (producing just 56.0 ypg and two scores). He will almost certainly see his lowest target share in years in 2019.

 

Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten

While returning to the field may have been a smart way to exit a rough situation in the MNF booth, Witten is 37 years old and averaged his fewest ypg (35.0) since his rookie season the last time we saw him before sitting out a year. There are a bunch of intriguing tight end sleepers, so Witten shouldn’t be an option even in the deepest 2-TE leagues.

 

Denver Broncos: Courtland Sutton

He struggled as a rookie, and while it’s safe to expect improvement in Year Two, it’s not going to be easy in a Broncos environment that now features Joe Flacco (who owns the lowest YPA in football since signing his big contract in 2013) throwing to him. He’ll be competing for inaccurate passes with a returning Emmanuel Sanders, DaeSean Hamilton and rookie TE Noah Fant, so target other WRs with more upside around his ADP.

 

Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson

Rookie tight ends rarely make fantasy impacts, and we should expect nothing less from one playing for a slow Lions team (Detroit ranked 29th in pace in neutral situations last season) that’s going to feature the run while also employing two strong WR options (including in the red zone). The rookie is even slated to open the year behind Jesse James on the TE depth chart. Hockenson is a fine dynasty investment, but otherwise, take a flier on Gerald Everett or Darren Waller instead.

 

Green Bay Packers: Jimmy Graham

He managed to play a full season again last year but saw his TDs drop from 10 to 2 with his red-zone looks getting cut into a third from his last season in Seattle. Entering his age-33 season, Graham will be competing for looks with Davante Adams and an improved Marquez Valdes-Scantling, while GB also spent a third-round pick on TE Jace Sternberger. Again, there are a lot of intriguing tight end fliers (Jordan Thomas is another) this year, making picks like Graham suboptimal.

 

Houston Texans: Keke Coutee

He has nice PPR potential as Houston’s slot man, but Coutee repeatedly suffered hamstring injuries during his rookie season last year and is currently sidelined with an ankle sprain. He’ll also be competing for targets with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller at WR, while Duke Johnson provides a much better threat as a receiver out of the backfield, and it’s possible Jordan Thomas may emerge at tight end as well. Most importantly, Coutee simply needs to learn how to stay on the field.

 

Indianapolis Colts: Marlon Mack

No running back in the NFL relied more on game script than Mack last year, and Indy’s entire season outlook took a major hit once Andrew Luck retired. Mack’s a poor blocker and also cedes passing down work to Nyheim Hines, and his elusive rating was outside the top-50 backs last year. Mack isn’t going to enjoy life without Luck.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette

Volume matters most, and a healthy version of Fournette would see a good amount this year, but few players can match his injury risk, and he’s also been bad when on the field during the first two years of his career. Moreover, some minor Chris Conley buzz has been odd after he finished 94th out of 96 receivers in yards per route run while playing for the league’s No. 1 offense last season and is now going to Jacksonville. Take a flier on D.J. Chark instead.

 

Kansas City Chiefs: Sammy Watkins

He once looked promising, and of course, we want ties to Kansas City’s league-best offense. That said, Watkins hasn’t reached 600 yards since 2015 and averaged just 51.9 ypg with three touchdowns over 10 contests on the explosive Chiefs while dealing with his usual foot injuries last season. KC is loaded with weapons on offense, and even if something were to happen to Tyreek Hill, there’s a deep-threat replacement ready in second-round pick, Mecole Hardman.

 

Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler

After getting 6.4 YPC (and owning impressive under-the-hood stats) in limited work, Ekeler’s play noticeably dropped off once given a starting opportunity last season, when his YPC fell to 3.2. It’s looking increasingly likely Melvin Gordon misses games, but there remains a possibility he returns at any second, eliminating all of Ekeler’s value, which is already capped with Justin Jackson likely sharing significant work.

 

Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley

While Round 2 prices in some of his risk (he’d be the top overall player if fully healthy), Gurley’s upside just isn’t the same now that he’s looking at fewer touches even if everything goes perfectly health-wise, making him just not worth the (significant) risk. The arthritic knee condition can’t be healed, and it’s an injury that’s so serious, it kept him off the field during the most important moments last season, so fantasy gamers will be constantly worried it pops back up any time.

 

Miami Dolphins: Kalen Ballage

He has terrific speed, but that never translated into big production in college, and Ballage was tackled by the first defender on 43 out of 45 touches last season. The superior Kenyan Drake (he does need to work on his blocking, however) is out of his walking boot and is more deserving of touches, and Miami is likely to have a shaky QB situation with arguably the league’s worst offensive line.

 

Minnesota Vikings: Adam Thielen

He had 39 catches for 448 yards and three touchdowns over the second half of last season, including seeing just 12 targets over the final three games after the team fired its OC and switched offensive philosophies to feature the run game. The Vikings hired Gary Kubiak as assistant coach and will employ the same play-caller from those final three games (new OC Kevin Stefanski), and Thielen also has to compete for looks with one of the better young receivers in the league in Stefon Diggs, so he’s a bit riskier than ADP suggests.

 

New England Patriots: Sony Michel

There’s league-leading TD potential here, but Michel is often removed from the field on passing downs (he saw fewer than one target per game last year) and most importantly, has a distressing history with one knee in particular. The Pats spent a third-round pick on Damien Harris, who’s the better target given their prices.

 

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees

He’s 40 years old and more of a caretaker at this point of his career, as New Orleans has enjoyed great success since becoming more of a run-heavy team. Brees managed just 6.7 YPA with a 7:5 TD:INT ratio over the final six games last year (playoffs included), and while maybe it was due to playing injured or just small sample noise, it could also be a red flag that the decline phase is here. The Saints ranked in the bottom-10 in pass attempts per game last season, so even if Brees returns to his prime, his lack of volume (and even more importantly, any rushing ability) gives him lower fantasy upside than at least a dozen passers in 2019.

 

New York Giants: Golden Tate

He’s opening the year serving a four-game suspension, is currently in concussion protocol, and if you’re somehow able to roster him for long enough, will be seeing passes from Eli Manning and Daniel Jones once he returns. Tate was not good after being traded to Philadelphia last season, and he’ll be learning another new system this year.

 

New York Jets: Le’Veon Bell

He just sat out an entire year, has played 16 games only once during his career (and not since 2014) and is about to see a big downgrade in offensive lines, so Bell seems risky as an automatic RB1 like the market suggests. He’s easily one of my favorite running backs ever to watch, but Bell’s patient style might not fit best in New York, where his new coach finished last in plays per game last season (and in 2016), didn’t even want to sign the back in the first place and is a little bit out there. Sam Darnold could very well develop into a star, which would certainly help, but there are other backs I prefer at Bell’s cost.

 

Oakland Raiders: Antonio Brown

He’s dealing with a frostbite injury that sure didn’t look great, is in a debate with the NFL over a helmet and will be experiencing a big downgrade in quarterbacks in Derek Carr, who rarely throws deep (no WR had more downfield targets than Brown over the last three seasons). Oakland has a tough-looking schedule against the pass, and now on the wrong side of 30, Brown is coming off his lowest yards-per-target mark (7.7) since 2012. It’s already difficult to switch systems when playing the wide receiver position, and Brown’s missed practice with his new team throughout most of August. His off-field distractions date back to last season, and at this point probably shouldn’t be totally ignored.

 

Philadelphia Eagles: Zach Ertz

He just set the NFL record for catches by a tight end, but it’s tough to expect anything close to a repeat. Ertz averaged 831 yards (and five TDs) over his previous three seasons, which seems like a reasonable projection for 2019. The Eagles have a deep receiving corps, including another tight end who’s currently being drafted as a top-15 option in NFFC leagues, as Dallas Goedert is too good not to see the field more this season. Philadelphia runs an innovative offense, and Ertz should have a fine season, but I’m expecting a step back and view him as a tier below Travis Kelce and George Kittle. Don’t just draft last year’s stats.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: James Washington

I’m betting on Donte Moncrief running away with Pittsburgh’s WR2 role (with Diontae Johnson a legit threat to overtake the WR3 job at some point too), and while Washington has been given praise by teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster, he’d need to show some pretty huge strides after an awful rookie campaign.

 

Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson

The Seahawks ranked last in passes per game last season and enter 2019 with the same offensive system and same plan to win games in place. Wilson is terrific in real life, but he attempted just 206 passes over the final eight games last season (Ben Roethlisberger attempted 203 passes in December) and while an effective rusher, ran the ball a career-low 67 times in 2018 (he’s run for one TD or fewer in three of the last four seasons). No matter how good Wilson is, his TD% is one of the safest bets to regress in 2019, and with no projectable reason to expect any real increase in volume, it’s tough to treat him as an elite QB being mostly a game manager on one of the most run-heavy teams in football.

 

San Francisco 49ers: Matt Breida

He’s one of the fastest running backs in the league and would have nice upside should he become San Francisco’s workhorse (and Jerick McKinnon looks likely to open the year on IR), but Breida is a smallish back who’s simply a massive injury risk. He’s looked great in the preseason but realize, the durability concern here is real.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Peyton Barber

We’ve already seen what he can do with a full workload, and it was detrimental to fantasy owners who used up a starting spot on him. There might be leagues deep enough for this type of weekly production to be helpful, but I have yet to play in one. Ronald Jones or any back who’s an unknown (including Dare Ogunbowale) would qualify as a better fantasy pick than Barber.

 

Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis

While volume is usually a good thing, it’s not great when 112 targets are turned into just 891 yards (and four scores) like Davis did last season. Put differently, Davis finished 11th in target share and No. 8 in WOPR yet wasn’t a top-20 fantasy wide receiver despite playing all 16 games, which isn’t easy to do. Maybe he makes a massive leap in Year Three, but he’ll have to do so with the same rough QB situation in Tennessee, and more likely Davis sees a sharp drop in targets to newcomers Adam Humphries, A.J. Brown, as well as the returning Delanie Walker.

 

Washington Redskins: Derrius Guice

There’s a workhorse role there for the taking in Washington, but Guice is a huge injury risk and will have to deal with a shaky QB situation and an offensive line possibly missing Trent Williams. Moreover, Adrian Peterson recorded the fifth-most carries in the NFL last season, so the 34 year old isn’t just handing the job over either.