Mon Nov 29 3:01pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) It's beginning to feel like old times in New England.
The Patriots were solid in all three phases as they romped to a 36-13 win over Tennessee on Sunday. It was their sixth straight victory and kept them atop the AFC East standings with five games remaining.
It marked the 15th winning streak of six or more games since 2001 for New England (8-4). It hasn't had a nine-game win streak since starting the 2015 season 10-0.
It sets up a pivotal three-game stretch that includes two games against defending division champion Buffalo (Dec. 6 and Dec. 26). That sandwiches the Patriots' Week 14 bye and a trip to Indianapolis (Dec. 18) to face a Colts team that blew out the Bills earlier this month.
''It's a huge challenge. We know that,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ''When the schedule comes out, it's always going to be tough in New York, Miami, Buffalo. Division games on the road are always challenging. We look forward to every game: home, away, neutral site. Wherever they are, we'll be ready to go and be ready to compete.''
The Patriots' blueprint for success has been to follow the lead of a defense that has forced 17 turnovers and allowed just 11 points per game during the win streak.
That has taken a lot of pressure off rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who continues to be efficient while developing chemistry with a receiving corps that has hauled in 10 of his 16 passing TDs this season over the last six games.
Receiver Kendrick Bourne said it's why he doesn't think there's a limit on what this team can achieve.
''I don't think there is a ceiling at all. We try to emphasize that,'' he said. ''(Team captain Matt) Slater just talked to us about not getting overzealous about ourselves. Nothing like that. Just being in the moment and playing each game, each week, and thinking about that game. We're on to Buffalo now and that's the focus. That'll be good for us to just certify ourselves.''
The defense forced four turnovers for the third time this season, coming away with three fumble recoveries and an interception. CB J.C. Jackson had the pick, increasing his two-year interception total to 16 (nine in 2020 and seven in 2021) to tie Asante Samuel (10 in 2006 and six 2007) for the most INTs in consecutive seasons in team history. Jackson also was credited with his first career forced fumble.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Patriots have had trouble scoring touchdowns in the red zone at times and those problems returned Sunday. They scored on each of their first four possessions of the game, which included three straight trips inside the 20. But only one of those drives resulted in a touchdown. That inefficiency could be a hindrance to making a deep run in the postseason.
''It just needs to continue to improve,'' Jones said. ''We've put a lot of stress on it, so there's nothing that the coaches aren't doing or anything. It comes down to us and executing.''
K Nick Folk connected on five field goals, marking his fifth game in 2021 with four or more. The NFL record for most games in a season with at least four field goals is six by David Akers in 2011 with San Francisco.
The Patriots' run defense had a rough day, surrendering a season-high 270 yards to a Titans team playing without star Derrick Henry. Dontrell Hilliard and D'Onta Foreman both eclipsed 100 yards.
The Patriots had only a few players leave the game briefly and all were able to return. The list included linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who missed a few plays in the first half after being poked in the eye.
3 - number of consecutive wins by 20 points with the same rookie starting quarterback. The only other team to do that was the Seahawks with Russell Wilson in 2012 (Weeks 14-16).
New England gets an extra day of rest heading into next Monday night's matchup with the Bills. The Patriots have a bye in Week 14.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Monday, Nov. 29, and will miss the remainder of the season with the ankle injury he suffered in Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins.
Fantasy Spin: This is an absolutely crushing blow for the Panthers and fantasy managers alike, especially considering the injury was initially considered minor. It also brings into question (yet again) how Carolina has managed McCaffrey's reps in recent years. Chuba Hubbard should be expected to handle the bulk of the early-down workload following the team's Week 13 bye, although Ameer Abdullah should expect to see at least five carries per game and most of the work on passing downs. Both players should be added in all leagues if they are available.
New Orleans Saints DT Montravius Adams was signed off the practice squad by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, Nov. 29.
The Carolina Panthers placed running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle) on Injured Reserve on Monday and he will miss the rest of the season. Initial X-rays on McCaffrey came back negative, according to head coach Matt Rhule, but something else must have come up during additional tests on Monday after he tweaked his ankle in the Week 12 loss to the Miami Dolphins. CMC was seen wearing a walking boot on his left foot after the game. The 25-year-old has been an absolute bust the last two years due to injuries and missed five more weeks this season due to injuries. McCaffrey will finish with 99 carries for 442 yards and one touchdown while catching 37 of 41 targets for 343 yards and a touchdown in seven games in 2021. Rookie Chuba Hubbard becomes a priority waiver-wire addition this week, as he'll see the majority of backfield work the rest of the way while sharing touches with Ameer Abdullah.
Houston Texans head coach David Culley said that quarterback Tyrod Taylor will remain the team's starter when he's healthy. The only way that rookie Davis Mills will play again this year is if Taylor suffers another injury. Taylor was a huge disappointment in the Week 12 loss to the New York Jets, going 17-for-26 for 158 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while also gaining 30 yards on the ground on two rushing attempts. The 32-year-old has played in only five games this year due to injury and is completing 62.8% of his passes for 921 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. Taylor doesn't have a lot of help in the least explosive offense in football, and he'll remain a bottom-of-the-barrel QB2 option in Week 13 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Will Fuller (finger) is "getting better" but still isn't ready to return, according to head coach Brian Flores. The Dolphins will re-evaluate Fuller when they begin practice preparations for the week on Wednesday. Fuller remains on Injured Reserve and hasn't played since Week 4. It's a mystery as to why he hasn't returned yet from his broken finger. In just two games played in 2021, Fuller has four receptions for 26 yards on eight targets. Rookie Jaylen Waddle has been the team's undisputed No. 1 receiver and target hog in 2021, and Albert Wilson and Mack Hollins have stepped up in recent weeks with both Fuller and DeVante Parker on IR, but Waddle is the only real reliable Miami pass-catcher on a weekly basis in fantasy. Fuller should remain on the waiver wire in most leagues.
Updating earlier reports, Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook (shoulder) suffered a torn labrum and dislocated his shoulder in Week 12, an MRI revealed. The injury is not season-ending, but he's expected to miss a couple of games.
Fantasy Spin: The team is 5-6 and are a game out of the second wild card spot. If the Vikings drop the next game or two, is there really any reason to come back? Time will tell. Alexander Mattison is a must-own back in all leagues.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury remains hopeful that quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) will play in Week 13 against the Chicago Bears, but he won't fully commit to it until he sees them practice this week. Both Murray and Hopkins haven't played since they were injured in Week 8. Murray has been closer to returning and has been a game-time decision for the team's last two games. With each player having the bye in Week 12 to rest up, they have a much better shot at returning to action this weekend. Rust could be a factor due to their long layoffs, but fantasy managers were starting both Murray and Hopkins each and every week with no questions asked when they were fully healthy. Keep a close eye on their practice participation this week.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said the team isn't considering benching quarterback Baker Mayfield when the team returns from their Week 13 bye. "We're not doing that," Stefanski said. Mayfield has been playing through shoulder, foot, knee and groin injuries for almost two months and completed less than 50% of his passes in the Sunday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. Backup Case Keenum isn't better than a healthy Mayfield, but he could be just as good as an injured Mayfield. The Week 13 bye will allow Mayfield to rest his injuries a bit, but he'll be facing the same Ravens team in Week 14 and will be a low-end QB2 to avoid in fantasy. The 26-year-old is the No. 25 fantasy QB through 12 weeks, and he has only 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in 10 games played.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his left shoulder after suffering a dislocation in the Week 12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, according to sources. The good news is that the injury isn't considered season-ending, and the hope is that the team will rest him for a few games and then have him healthy for a playoff run like they did in 2019. But fantasy managers will be without Cook for at least several games. Backup Alexander Mattison, who is rostered in 50% of Yahoo leagues currently, will be the No. 1 waiver priority this week with Cook in line to miss several games. With upcoming matchups against the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers, Mattison will have clear RB1 upside in fantasy. Rookie Kene Nwangwu will back up Mattison for however long Cook is sidelined.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin had his third consecutive game with three or fewer catches and under 40 yards receiving. Entering Week 12 as TE13 says more about the tight-end landscape than it does for Conklin's outlook for the rest of the season. While Conklin is the fourth receiving option on a Viking offense that ranks 10th in pass attempts per game, teammates Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen command most of the targets. There just isn't enough volume to treat Conklin as anything other than a touchdown-dependent TE2. The Vikings take on the Detroit Lions in Week 13.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) is undergoing an MRI exam on his groin on Monday, and while he's expected to miss a little time, it's not considered a major injury, according to a source. It sounds like fantasy managers will be without the 25-year-old, who is second in the NFL with 994 receiving yards, for the team's Week 13 date with the Seattle Seahawks. But the good news is they should have him for the fantasy playoffs to close out the regular season. Samuel, also the No. 2 fantasy wideout in overall points, caught just one of four targets on Sunday for 12 yards, but he salvaged his fantasy day with six carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns. With him set to miss a little time, Brandon Aiyuk will basically become a must-start fantasy receiver, and Jauan Jennings could be worth a pickup in deeper leagues after he scored a TD in the win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that initial X-rays on running back Christian McCaffrey's ankle came back negative, but he's going for more medical tests on Monday. McCaffrey tweaked his ankle in the first half of the Week 12 loss to the Miami Dolphins and left the game in a walking boot on his left foot. Initial indications are that this isn't a serious injury, and with the Panthers on bye in Week 13, CMC may not even miss any game action. Carolina doesn't play again until Dec. 2 at home against the Atlanta Falcons. The 25-year-old had only 10 carries for the second straight week and gained only 35 yards on the ground against Miami, failing to reel in his only target through the air. If McCaffrey does need to miss any time coming off the bye week, rookie Chuba Hubbard would be in line to handle most of the backfield work.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) is already playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, according to a source, and he's undergoing tests on Monday to see if he tore the other side when he dislocated his shoulder in the Week 12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The 26-year-old had to be carted off the field on Sunday with his latest shoulder injury, and fantasy managers should expect him to miss some time. Backup Alexander Mattison should immediately step in and have RB1 upside as the team's workhorse back, with rookie Kene Nwangwu serving in a change-of-pace role. In relief of Cook on Sunday, Mattison carried seven times for 21 yards and a touchdown and added two catches on three targets for seven additional yards. Depending on how much time Cook has to miss, Mattison could be a league-winner down the stretch, and he's rostered in just 50% of Yahoo leagues.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen just keeps scoring touchdowns. All offseason, the narrative was the same: Thielen's touchdown regression is coming. But fantasy managers who ignored that advice have been rewarded almost weekly. Thielen's two touchdowns in the Vikings Week 12 loss to the San Francisco 49ers vaulted him into a tie for the league-lead in receiving touchdowns with 10 on the season. Thielen's healthy target share coupled with his habit of finding the end zone makes him a high-end WR2 most weeks with occasional WR1 games along the way. Thielen and the Vikings will take on the Detroit Lions in Week 13.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson entered Week 12 as one of the hottest players in the league. With 17 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns in his previous two games, Jefferson had positioned himself inside the top five wide receiver rankings in PPR leagues. While he did lead the team with nine targets and 83 yards, his four catches were only good for third on the team. He continues to be one of the most exciting players at the position and an every-week WR1. Jefferson and the Vikings will look to bounce back in Week 13 against the winless Detroit Lions.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for 238 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in a 34-26 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 12. Although the interception was only his third of the season, it was a costly one that gave the 49ers a short field that resulted in a touchdown on the next play. Despite that interception and a head-scratching play late in the game in which he lined up under the guard instead of the center, Cousins has had an exceptional 2021 season. Cousins is now over 3,000 yards for the year with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions. The Vikings will look to get back on track in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has vaulted into second place in completion percentage as he has connected on 70.5% of his pass attempts this season. Tagovailoa went 27-of-33 in Sunday's win over the Panthers and looked much more comfortable running the offense. He was able to connect with Jaylen Waddle on nine of his 10 pass attempts, as it looks like the former Alabama teammates are starting to get in a groove together. With Tagovailoa under center, Waddle has been very productive and is playing his way into must-start territory in PPR leagues because of his high reception and target totals on a weekly basis. Tagovailoa should still be valued as a QB2, but he could be an intriguing streaming option moving forward with some decent matchups in the next couple of weeks.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy will miss the Week 13 game due to COVID-19 protocols. Assistant head coach Rob Davis is in line for a bigger role, but it'll be a group effort against the New Orleans Saints.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be coaching in Thursday night's game against the New Orleans Saints. There have been reports of up to eight positive tests in Dallas as results continue to flood in. The Cowboys have been dealing with COVID-related issues for a couple of weeks now, as Amari Cooper has missed the past two games after testing positive before Week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs. This is something to monitor as more players and personnel are put into COVID protocols because on a short week it means they are all but guaranteed to miss Week 13.
Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Dan Arnold (knee) will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks after suffering an MCL sprain. Based on the timeline for his return, it likely means that his season is over. James O'Shaughnessy made his return to the lineup in Week 12 against the Atlanta Falcons, so he will now be the clear No.1 tight end for Trevor Lawrence moving forward. From Week 8 to Week 10, Arnold saw 25 targets and had 60+ receiving yards in all three games, so O'Shaughnessy could have low-end TE1 appeal in fantasy down the stretch when you consider Lawrence's tendency to look for his tight ends. The 29-year-old could see similar usage to his Week 1 stat line in the next couple of games, where he caught six of eight targets for 48 yards.