Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) watches a replay on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. The Philadelphia Eagles won 32-6. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith speaks to an official during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) beats Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) to the endzone to score on an 11-yard touchdown reception during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) spikes the football after his 2-yard touchdown reception against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) after Gronkowski caught a 2-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Scott Audette)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Two touchdown connections in the Super Bowl, then two more in a season-opening victory.
The long-running Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski show rolls on with no real signs of slowing down.
The prolific duo - now in their second seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after nine highly successful years in New England - moved ahead of Steve Young and Jerry Rice into third place on the NFL's career list for regular-season TDs by a passing combo during last week's 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
Brady threw for 379 yards and four TDs, including a pair to Gronkowski, who has been on the receiving end of a TD pass from the 44-year-old quarterback 86 times during the tight end's stellar career with the Patriots and Bucs.
Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (112) and Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates (89) have combined to reach the end zone more often during the regular season. Including playoffs, Brady and Gronkowski have done it 100 times.
''It's cool. I didn't really realize it at the moment,'' Gronkowski said, reflecting on the milestone.
Instead, the 11th-year pro who came out of retirement in 2020 to join Brady in Tampa Bay is focused on doing whatever he can to help the Bucs to become the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champs since Brady led the 2003 and 2004 Patriots to consecutive titles.
The Bucs (1-0) host NFC South rival Atlanta (0-1) on Sunday. The Falcons failed to score a touchdown in a 32-6 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
''I think a lot of people get caught up with Gronk the personality and don't see the worker,'' Bucs coach Bruce Arians said, adding it's easy to see why the 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end has such a good relationship with Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl winner.
''He works his tail off,'' Arians said. ''I mean, he's here early, he leaves late. He doesn't leave anything unturned in his preparation. He's meticulous, just like Tom, and I think that's why he's one of Tom's favorite players.''
Despite having to shed a year of rust and learn a new offensive system, Gronkowski finished the 2020 regular season with 45 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdowns. He had eight catches for 90 yards and two TDs last week, including two for 26 yards on the game-winning field-goal drive Brady led in the final minute.
''It's unbelievable the chemistry they have,'' Arians said
''The only way you can stay on top of your game is trying to find ways to take it to another level,'' Gronkowski noted. ''That's how you keep going in this league.''
The Bucs take a nine-game winning streak into Sunday. Including their Super Bowl run, they've scored at least 30 points in eight straight. The streak includes a pair of victories over the Falcons, who led 17-0 at halftime before Brady rallied the Bucs to a 31-27 victory on the road in December.
Two weeks later, the Bucs won 44-27 in Tampa.
The streak of eight consecutive victories while scoring 30-plus points matches the longest such stretch in NFL history. The only other teams to do it were the 2007 and 2010 Patriots, both led by Brady.
Arthur Smith, the Falcons' first-year coach, isn't making any bold predictions.
''Not many people have slowed him down. But it's a football game. It's a challenge every week,'' Smith said.
''There's a graveyard of guys who've popped off with arrogance about Tom Brady. Nobody's done it better than him,'' the coach added. ''We've got all the respect in the world. There's a reason he's won seven Super Bowls.''
LOOKING FOR FIRST CATCH
After setting career highs with 72 receptions for 786 yards and four touchdowns last season, there was an expectation that Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage might be in line for even bigger numbers this season. With the trade of Julio Jones to Tennessee, Gage was regarded as the No. 2 receiver behind Calvin Ridley.
Gage is still waiting for his first catch after being shut out on two targets against the Eagles. He insists he's not worried about his role.
''Same old approach for me,'' Gage said. ''I'm out here every day to get better. Every now and then you're going to have games like that. As long as I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do and what's asked of me from coach, I know the ball is going to find me eventually. That's not nothing that I'm worried about.''
SUPER PAINFUL REMINDER
Matt Ryan had a quick response when a reporter mentioned the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead to Tom Brady's New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51 following the 2016 season. The Patriots won 34-28.
''I've never heard it,'' Ryan said with a laugh when asked about it. The follow-up suggestion that beating Brady and the Buccaneers could help make up for that Super Bowl loss drew another laugh.
''Listen, of course we want to win this game, but it's not going to make up for that,'' Ryan said. ''It's one of the things that is part of your past, but it's got no bearing on this week.''
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase caught eight passes on 10 targets for 201 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 rout of the Ravens. He led the team in catches and receiving yards in Week 7. Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Chase showed great chemistry on Sunday, connecting for an 82-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The 21-year-old has had an impressive rookie campaign, hauling in 35 receptions, 754 yards, and six touchdowns over seven games. Chase is a borderline WR1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23-of-38 pass attempts for 416 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah for two touchdowns and fired an 82-yard score to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. In his sophomore campaign, the 24-year-old has been excellent, throwing for 1.956 yards and a 17:8 TD: INT ratio over seven games in 2021. Burrow is a borderline QB1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense struggled again in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. In a 33-22 loss, the Eagles defensive unit allowed Derek Carr to throw for 323 yards and let multiple Raiders runners combine for over 100 yards on the ground. They did not record a sack or force a fumble, but they did end up with one interception. All of that made for a fantasy score of -2.0 in standard scoring, the fourth time this season where they've scored one point or less. This is not a defense worth starting in fantasy, regardless of their opponent. They can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins made two catches in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Watkins saw four targets, catching half of them for 37 yards. Watkins is playing an important role on the Eagles offense, but this is not a passing game that can support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers. With tight end Dallas Goedert and rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith ahead of Watkins on the passing tree, Watkins is not much more than a hold-and-hope asset in most fantasy formats.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (ankle) is undergoing X-rays on his injured ankle, but head coach Nick Sirianni doesn't think Sanders suffered a broken ankle in the Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Sanders was carted off the field and was quickly ruled out with his ankle injury. While he may have avoided a broken ankle, it doesn't mean that he won't be forced to miss time moving forward. The 24-year-old has been a huge disappointment so far this year and had six carries for 30 yards before his injury, adding one catch for minus-three yards. Quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team with 13 carries for 61 yards, but Boston Scott had seven carries (two more than rookie Kenneth Gainwell) for 24 yards and a rushing score after Sanders left the contest. Gainwell was second on the team with eight targets, catching four of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. If Sanders misses time, Scott and Gainwell figure to share the backfield, with Scott being the early down back and Gainwell playing in passing situations.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor finally did something useful in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Reagor was targeted twice, catching both for 25 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter to bring the Eagles within two scores. Last year's first round pick has two touchdowns on the year and hasn't totaled more than 25 yards since Week 3. He's been jumped on the receiver hierarchy by Quez Watkins and does not need to be rostered in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott attempted and made two extra points in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Elliott did not get a chance to attempt a field goal, leaving him with just two fantasy points in most scoring formats. Elliott is a decent enough NFL kicker, but he's kicking at a very low volume in this offense and doesn't have the big leg upside to make him worth starting in any formats. He can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell scored a touchdown in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With starter Miles Sanders (ankle) forced to leave the game early, Gainwell and Boston Scott took over in the Eagles backfield. Both of them worked behind quarterback Jalen Hurts, however, who once again led the Eagles in rushing yards and attempts. Gainwell ran the ball five times for 20 yards and added four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. He saw eight targets and scored on a 13 yard catch in the first quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Gainwell should get the first crack at leading the Eagles running back room with Scott working behind him. Gainwell is likely to be one of the top waiver wire adds heading into Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led the Eagles in receiving yards in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. After the Eagles traded Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals, Goedert worked in an alpha-TE1 role in this one. He was the only Eagles tight end to see a target. He was thrown to five times, catching three for 70 yards. It was a decent game for Goedert, but more importantly it was a sign of things to come. Without Ertz around, Goedert should be an easy TE1 every week.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught five passes in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Smith led the Eagles in targets, seeing nine balls thrown his way. He came down with five, gaining 61 yards. Smith continues to see WR1 usage but just hasn't done much with his plentiful targets of late. He gained 122 yards in Week 4 but has gained just 169 total since then. He may be a decent buy-low target in redraft leagues right now, there should be big weeks ahead for the rookie.
The Las Vegas Raiders ruled running back Josh Jacobs (chest) out of the Week 7 game against the Philadelphia Eagles after he was injured during the game, but early indications are that he avoided a major injury, according to a source. The Raiders are on bye next week as well, so Jacobs will have extra time to recover and may not have to miss a game. The 23-year-old had six carries for 29 yards and managed to find the end zone before leaving the game, so at least it wasn't all bad for his fantasy managers on Sunday. He also caught all three of his targets for 39 yards. Jacobs has scored in three straight games after a rough start to the season, and it sounds like he won't have to miss much time, if any. With Peyton Barber a healthy scratch, Kenyan Drake led the team with 14 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown with Jacobs leaving the game against Philly.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had another solid fantasy performance in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurts attempted 34 passes, completing 18 of them for 236 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he led the team in rushes and yards, running 13 times for 61 yards. It was another up-and-down performance on the field for Hurts, but he's the only quarterback in fantasy to score 20 points or more every week of the season (in standard scoring formats). Hurts has shown that he's probably not the long-term answer on the NFL field for the Eagles, but he's a valuable QB1 in all formats as long as he keeps running the ball.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott shows up on offense in Week 7 and scored a touchdown, his first of the season. Starting running back Miles Sanders (ankle) was forced to leave with an injury, leaving backfield duties to rookie Kenneth Gainwell and Scott. Scott had been playing exclusively on special teams this season, but ran the ball seven times in this game, gaining 24 yards and scoring a touchdown. His score came on a one-yard plunge at the end of the third quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Scott will likely find his way into a role on offense, but he's unlikely to develop much if any fantasy value.
New York Jets running back Michael Carter has seemingly run away with the lead back job over the last few weeks. The fourth round rookie continued his success against the New England Patriots in Week 7. Carter rushed 11 times for 37 times, but hauled in a team-high eight receptions and 67 yards through the air. The rookie back hasn't surpassed 40 rushing yards in a game since Week 2. Despite that, Carter has continued to have fantasy value in PPR formats. Although, it's uncertain if his fantasy value will continue with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) likely sidelined next week. Fantasy managers in deep leagues might need to look for another option if Carter's touches decrease.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (finger, shoulder) is in danger of missing more time moving ahead. The veteran has reportedly been playing through multiple fractures in his finger, and even worse, a torn rotator cuff. However, he didn't appear to be injured by any means in Week 7, at least on the statistical end, as he would record two sacks during the win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Nonetheless, while it's apparent that the 32-year-old isn't as effective as he once was, any further absences would certainly be unfortunate for any fantasy manager participating in formats that utilize individual defensive positions.
New York Jets quarterback Mike White came into the game unexpectedly during the Week 7 matchup with the New England Patriots. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) was forced out of the game earlier than expected on Sunday. That forced White into action and he struggled as expected against a tough Patriots secondary. White completed 20-of-32 passing attempts for 202 passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss. It's uncertain whether or not Wilson will be able to make the next start versus Cincinnati next week. White might be asked to start and wouldn't be a recommended streaming option in any format.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore had just two catches for 17 yards during the win over Houston on Sunday. Moore had only three targets on the afternoon, one less than he got in Week 6 and three fewer than he had in Week 5. Nonetheless, the rookie should have a few more games of effective play moving forward. However, it's clear he's the No. 4 option behind DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and A.J. Green, and with Zach Ertz now in town, his place on Kyler Murray's priority list could be even lower. Yet, he's worth a stash, especially in dynasty setups, and could see his value rise if an injury were to occur at some point. Still, his outlook isn't bright against the Packers on Thursday, although the upside is always there for DFS contests.
Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) is set to be designated to return and practice on Wednesday. After the designation, the team will have 21 days to activate him and place him back on the roster or be forced to keep him on the injured reserve list for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign. Taylor hasn't played since suffering a Grade 2 hamstring strain during the second game of the year against the Cleveland Browns. He played relatively well before succumbing to the ailment and had thrown three touchdowns while maintaining an acceptable 70.5 completion percentage. Although it's unlikely Taylor suits up for the upcoming matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, there is a chance he could be back for Week 9 against the Dolphins. His presence would mean Davis Mills would head back to the bench, while Brandin Cooks could benefit from the play of a more stable signal-caller.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton caught 5-of-9 targets for 63 yards in Sunday's 25-3 win over the Carolina Panthers. He returned to action on Sunday after missing the last three weeks due to a hamstring injury. Kadarius Toney (ankle), Kenny Golladay (knee), and Sterling Shepard were ruled out ahead of Sunday's game. The 24-year-old was QB Daniel Jones' top option and led the Giants in targets (9) and receiving yards (63). Slayton's role in the Giants offense will depend on the availability of Toney, Golladay, and Shepard for Monday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green had three grabs for 66 yards in the win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. The veteran was entering this one coming off a 79-yard, one-touchdown effort against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. Yet, while this wasn't the worst outing from a statistical standpoint, fantasy managers were hoping to capitalize on the favorable matchup in Week 7. Nonetheless, Kyler Murray has shown love to all of his wideouts this season, so it's logical to believe Green will find the end zone some more throughout the year. He's been healthy, which is even more promising news, and he should continue to be considered for any fantasy lineup ahead of Thursday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers.