Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) throws against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden stands on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin looks at the scoreboard during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Tomlin spent four years on Jon Gruden's staff in Tampa Bay in the early 2000s, helping mold a defense that won a Super Bowl and gleaning what he could from his fiery boss.
Nearing two decades later, the lessons Tomlin - now in his 15th season as the head coach in Pittsburgh - learned from Gruden endure.
''Gruden has no fear,'' Tomlin said. ''He doesn't. He looks at an issue or a problem, and he sees it as an opportunity. I worked for him for four years. You can't fake that. It's every day from him.''
And so it is with Gruden's former pupil, who will stand on the opposite sideline from one of his mentors when Tomlin and the Steelers (1-0) host Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) on Sunday.
One of the tenets of Tomlin's coaching philosophy is the idea of not living in fear. His team embodied that philosophy during a season-opening win at Buffalo last week, rallying from 10 points down to stun the defending AFC East champions.
Even the veterans whooped it up after the Steelers sent a message that even with a rookie-laden offense and 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger throwing on a rebuilt right elbow, they're still relevant in the tough AFC North.
It was thrilling for Pittsburgh. It was also just one game out of 17. The same goes for Las Vegas, which surged past Baltimore on Monday night, suggesting the rebuild Gruden began when he returned to coaching in 2018 after a decade away may finally be taking hold.
It looked that way a season ago, too, before a 2-0 start faded to an 8-8 finish. So Gruden, quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of the Raiders are not getting too far ahead of themselves. Still, Las Vegas is heading east with a chance to send the same kind of message the Steelers sent at Buffalo.
''As a football fan, I'm honored that I get to even step on the field at Heinz Field and get to play against these guys,'' Carr said. ''It's cool for me as a fan, but as a competitor, you want to do well and win the game.''
Las Vegas has done that lately against the Steelers. The Raiders are 5-2 against Pittsburgh since Roethlisberger arrived in 2004. All five wins came in seasons in which Las Vegas finished with a losing record and Pittsburgh was .500 or better.
Weird, right? Then again, weird always seems to come with the territory when the Raiders and Steelers meet. This is the rivalry that produced The Immaculate Reception, after all. The painful memory for the Raiders still resonates nearly 50 years later.
''Like I said that ball touched the ground (on the Immaculate Reception),'' Carr said.
HARRIS IN A HURRY?
Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris endured a relatively quiet NFL debut, running for 45 yards on 16 carriers behind a new-look offensive line that needed a full half to start finding its footing.
Still, Harris didn't miss any of Pittsburgh's 58 snaps, a sign of how confident Tomlin is in both Harris' conditioning and his potential. The sledding for Harris and the line could be a bit easier against the Raiders, who allowed Baltimore to run for 189 yards in the opener even with the Ravens decimated by injuries to their top three running backs.
The Raiders overhauled their offensive line this offseason and the early results weren't overly impressive. New center Andre James and rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood both had issues run blocking and in protection. Las Vegas also lost right guard Denzelle Good to a season-ending knee injury and will be without left guard Richie Incognito (calf) for a second straight week.
''Very proud of those guys, but still, we're in the process of getting better and playing more games together,'' Carr said. ''Every game that goes by is more experience together and so hopefully this game against a great defense and a great team like this will be a great challenge for us.''
There will be extra pressure on the pass protection with running back Josh Jacobs out with injures to his toe and ankle.
WALLING UP WALLER
Carr targeted 6-foot-6 tight end Darren Waller 19 times in the opener, with Waller hauling in 10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He presents a matchup problem for anyone, even a defense that held the high-powered Bills to 16 points in Week 1.
''You can describe him as a tight end, but I think that that seems less than appropriate, to be honest with you,'' Tomlin said. ''That's putting him in a box.''
Tomlin figures the Steelers can't truly stop Waller, just limit him the way they did Buffalo wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the opener. Diggs averaged 7.7 yards per reception against Pittsburgh's swarming secondary that limited deep shots.
The Raiders have a tough task this week, heading on a long trip following an emotional win Monday night. They've lost the last six times they had to travel after a Monday night game. Last season, they got beat 36-20 by New England following a prime-time win at home over New Orleans in their first game ever in Las Vegas. Gruden gave the team a lighter week with just a walkthrough on Wednesday before two days of practice.
''You just try to adapt to the schedule,'' he said. ''Do the best you can.''
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins caught 7-of-15 targets for 62 yards in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He led the team in targets (15) but was only able to haul in seven of them on Sunday. Bengals QB Joe Burrow looks Higgins way in most games, but it hasn't generated much fantasy success. The 22-year-old has a catch rate of 41.9% on 43 targets in 2021. Higgins hasn't found the end zone since Week 2 and has only eclipsed 50 yards receiving just three times this season. The Clemson product is a boom-or-bust WR3 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
New York Jets running back Ty Johnson put together arguably his best game of the season against the New England Patriots in Week 7. He rushed five times for six yards, but also hauled in six of his seven targets for 65 yards in the loss. It was an active day for the Jets running backs in this game. Both Johnson and Michael Carter were the two leading receivers for New York on Sunday. However, neither player carries much fantasy value through the rest of the season. Carter has a bit more upside because he gets a significant amount of carries. Johnson can remain on the waiver wire for their battle with the Cincinnati Bengals next week.
New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis has been starting to heat up with his new team. Sadly, most of his momentum is gone with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) expected to miss some time. In Week 7, Davis hauled in four of his six targets for 47 yards and one touchdown in the blowout loss to the New England Patriots. Fantasy managers can usually count on Davis as a solid WR3, but those days might be numbered. Backup quarterback Mike White is likely to take over, which means Davis could see his value take a significant hit.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon rushed for 59 yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He salvaged his fantasy day by busting out a 21-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter. The 25-year-old has rushed for 539 yards and four touchdowns while catching 13 passes for 90 yards and over seven games in 2021. Mixon continues to lead the Bengals backfield and is a solid fantasy option against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah caught all three targets for 92 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The 28-year-old exploded for two scores, including a 52-yard touchdown reception. He has now hit pay dirt in three of his last four games. The Bengals' tight end has reeled in 17 catches for 256 yards and five touchdowns across seven games in 2021. Uzomah is a boom-or-bust low-end TE1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
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.