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FFL: Week 11 | NFL: Week 11

It's looking like a different kind of December for Patriots

Mon Nov 23 5:45pm ET
By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) walks the turf before the first half of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Charlotte , N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Houston Texans strong safety Justin Reid (20) breaks up a pass intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) bats down the ball after his pass was deflected during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)


New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) reacts after failing to complete a pass on fourth down during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)


Well, at least the New England Patriots have plenty of experience playing in meaningless December games.

The 11-time defending AFC East champions may still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs this season. But for all practical purposes, they are playing out the string after losing on Sunday to the then-two-win Houston Texans (both against Jacksonville).

The Patriots (4-6) are three games out of first place in the division, and two games behind in the race for the extra, seventh playoff berth in the AFC. After coasting into the postseason during much of their two-decade dynasty, New England is about to see things from the other side.

''It's been must-win for us for the past three to four weeks,'' safety Adrian Phillips said. ''You can't lose another one.''

The Patriots won six Super Bowls, nine AFC titles and 17 division championships after Tom Brady took over at quarterback in 2001. In many of those years, they coasted into the playoffs: Since they last missed the playoffs in 2008, their average margin in the division has been more than three games, and in none of those seasons has the division title been up for grabs in the final week.

Some of those years, coach Bill Belichick seemed ambivalent about winning down the stretch, treating those Christmastime games like the fourth week of the preseason.

With Brady gone for Tampa Bay, we could be seeing that again this year.

WHAT'S WORKING

Quarterback Cam Newton may have found a secondary receiver option in Damiere Byrd.

Two weeks after Jakobi Meyers caught 12 passes for 169 yards - his first career 100-yard game - Byrd caught six passes for 132 yards and a 42-yard touchdown. It was the first career 100-yard game for Byrd, and every single one of his catches resulted in a first down or a touchdown.

Byrd is in his first season with the Patriots, though he did play with Newton for three years in Carolina from 2016-18.

''You never know what game you'll get called upon to get to do that, to be factor on the offense,'' Byrd said. ''Today was my lucky day and Cam trusted in me and we were able to make a few plays.''

Newton threw for 365 yards and a touchdown, completing 26 of 40 passes. (Fifty of those yards came on the final-play Hail Mary that only made it to the 12-yard line.)

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Newton had four of his passes batted down by J.J. Watt on Sunday. According to SportRadar, Newton entered the week with the second-most passes batted down in the league - 10. That was tied with Kyler Murray, who is 5-foot-10; Newton is 6-foot-5.

He gave all the credit to Watt, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

''He's J.J. Watt. What do you expect?'' Newton said. ''He's an All-Pro, perennial All-Pro. He's a Defensive Player of the Year, one of the best players in this generation.''

STOCK UP

The Patriots' kicking game continues to be strong.

Placekicker Nick Folk was a perfect 4-for-4 - two field goals (45, 36 yards) and two extra points. He has not missed a field goal since a 51-yard attempt against Seattle in Week 2, a streak of 17 in a row. He missed a PAT last week in heavy rain and wind but has made 18 of 20 for the season.

Punter Jake Bailey averaged 50.3 yards per punt, a 10-yard advantage over Texans counterpart Bryan Anger.

STOCK DOWN

Receiver and kick returner Gunner Olszewski fumbled one kickoff, which forced the Patriots to start one drive at their 17, and on another kickoff he stepped out of the back of the end zone before fielding the ball. That resulted in a touchback, which was actually a better outcome than the return because he didn't make it to the 25.

INJURED

Running back Rex Burkhead sustained a knee injury and didn't return from Houston with the rest of the team. Belichick said he will be evaluated when he comes back. Burkhead needed to be helped off the field, taken to the locker room on a cart and quickly announced as out for the rest of the game, indicating that it was a serious injury. Tackle Isaiah Wynn, who was listed as questionable on the practice report with an ankle injury, left late in the game after another player rolled up on his ankle.

KEY NUMBER

.500 - The Patriots haven't been below .500 on Thanksgiving since 2000, Belichick's first season in New England. This year's team has beaten three teams with winning records (Miami, Baltimore and Las Vegas) and has lost to three teams with losing records (Denver, San Francisco and Houston).

NEXT STEPS

Newton was signed in June to plug in at quarterback after Brady ended his 19-year tenure with the team. The Patriots now have the rest of the season to decide whether to continue with the 2015 NFL MVP long term, turn the team over to Jarett Stidham, or find another option.

Asked whether he is interested in coming back in 2021, Newton said on his weekly radio show: ''I have interest in winning the Arizona Cardinals game. How about that?''

''As the Bible says, `My cup runneth over' with just trying to focus on the near future rather than the far future,'' he said.

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Player Notes
Mike White Nov 23 5:03pm ET

New York Jets QB Mike White was released Monday, Nov. 23. TE Ross Travis was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and returned to the practice squad.

From TheHuddle

Vic Beasley Nov 23 5:00pm ET

The Las Vegas Raiders signed former Falcons and Titans outside linebacker Vic Beasley to their practice squad on Monday. Beasley didn't work out for the Titans this year and was released three weeks ago after recording only three combined tackles and one forced fumble in five games in 2020. Beasley was the eighth overall pick by the Falcons in the 2015 draft out of Clemson, and he excelled as an inside linebacker with Atlanta in 2016. Beasley recorded a league-high six forced fumbles (one for a touchdown) and 15.5 sacks that year on his way to being named a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro. Since then, though, the 28-year-old has 18 sacks in four seasons. He'll provide intriguing pass-rushing depth for Las Vegas.

From RotoBaller

Adam Thielen Nov 23 4:53pm ET

Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, Nov. 23.

Fantasy Spin: It's unclear at this point whether or not Thielen tested positive or was deemed a close contact - the distinction being that the former would rule him out for Week 12 while the latter would give him a chance to play against the Carolina Panthers. Stay tuned. If Thielen can't go, Justin Jefferson would step up into the lead role. Olabisi Johnson would likely start opposite him, but he'd be a desperation play at best. Irv Smith might stand to benefit the most from a fantasy perspective.

From TheHuddle

Adam Thielen Nov 23 4:50pm ET

The Minnesota Vikings placed wide receiver Adam Thielen on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. It's not immediately clear whether Thielen actually tested positive for the virus or if he's just a high-risk close contact of another individual on the team or otherwise that tested positive for COVID-19. If Thielen is just a high-risk close contact, he has a shot at playing in Week 12 against the Panthers if he continues to test negative while quarantining all week. But this news will put his availability in question for this weekend. Thielen has 123 yards receiving in Week 11 and has four touchdowns in the last two weeks, so losing him would be big for fantasy managers and the Vikings. Rookie Justin Jefferson would become the team's top wideout, with OlaBisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe or Chad Beebe likely joining him in three-wide sets.

From RotoBaller

Greg Olsen Nov 23 4:30pm ET

The Seattle Seahawks placed tight end Greg Olsen (foot) on Injured Reserve on Monday. The 35-year-old veteran suffered a ruptured plantar fascia in his foot in the Thursday night win over the Cardinals, most likely ending his season and possibly his career. Olsen has been in the league for 14 years and considered retirement previously after dealing with foot injuries while at the end of his tenure with the Panthers. He wasn't very fantasy relevant in 10 games this year with Seattle, catching 23 of his 35 targets for 224 yards and one touchdown. With Olsen out for most likely the rest of the year, Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister should split pass-catching duties at tight end, making it hard to predict which player will be more productive on a weekly basis.

From RotoBaller

Danny Amendola Nov 23 4:23pm ET

Detroit Lions WR Danny Amendola (hip), CB Mike Ford (concussion), DL Da'Shawn Hand (groin), CB Jeff Okudah (shoulder) and RB D'Andre Swift (concussion) did not participate in practice Monday, Nov. 23. DE Austin Bryant (thigh), LB Jarrad Davis (knee), WR Kenny Golladay (hip), WR Marvin Hall (toe), S Will Harris (groin), TE T.J. Hockenson (shoulder), OG Jonah Jackson (knee), LB Christian Jones (knee), LB Reggie Ragland (ankle), QB Matthew Stafford (thumb) and OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot) were limited. The Lions did not practice on Monday, so the report is an estimation.

From TheHuddle

Eddie Jackson Nov 23 4:23pm ET

Chicago Bears S Eddie Jackson was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, Nov. 23.

From TheHuddle

Christian McCaffrey Nov 23 4:20pm ET

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule considers running back Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) week-to-week with his injury, but McCaffrey is considered unlikely to play in Week 12 against the Vikings, according to a source. All fantasy managers can do now is hope that the Pro Bowl running back can return during the fantasy playoffs, which run from Weeks 14-16 in most leagues. Backup Mike Davis had 19 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 15 yards in the Week 11 shutout win over the Lions. He'll remain Carolina's featured back with RB1 upside for as long as McCaffrey continues to be sidelined. Keep an eye on McCaffrey's practice status later in the week but have other plans ready in case he misses another game.

From RotoBaller

Teddy Bridgewater Nov 23 4:20pm ET

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said that he expects quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) to practice on Wednesday. Bridgewater is dealing with an MCL sprain in his right knee and was inactive in the Week 11 shutout win over the Lions. Backup QB P.J. Walker went 24-for-34 for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the start with Bridgewater sidelined. He'd have some low-end QB2 upside against Minnesota's defense if he were to make another start for Bridgewater. Fantasy manager would like to see Bridgewater get in a full practice at some point this week in order to feel comfortable rolling with him as a QB2 if he were return to action on Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Uchenna Nwosu Nov 23 4:10pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (shoulder) is expected to miss around three weeks with a Grade 2 AC joint sprain in his shoulder after getting injured in the Week 11 win over the Jets. Nwosu will seek a second opinion but will be a candidate for Injured Reserve. A second-round pick out of USC in 2018, the 23-year-old has contributed 23 tackles (15 solo), eight QB hits, two passes defensed and 3.5 sacks in 10 games so far this season. The Chargers Defense will be a little bit short-handed in the middle of the field for at least the next three weeks. They'll be more of a back-end starting fantasy unit against a high-powered Bills offense coming off their bye in Week 12.

From RotoBaller

Eddie Jackson Nov 23 4:10pm ET

The Chicago Bears placed star safety Eddie Jackson on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. If Jackson was deemed a high-risk close contact of someone else that tested positive for the virus, he'll have a good chance of playing in Week 12 against the division-rival Packers if he continues to test negative. Losing him against Green Bay, though, could become a big issue for one of the stronger defensive units in the NFL. Jackson has also been IDP relevant as a playmaker in the secondary in 2020, ranking 14th in fantasy points at his position. The former fourth-round pick in 2017 has 58 tackles (46 solo), three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown this year.

From RotoBaller

Vance McDonald Nov 23 4:00pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that tight end Vance McDonald has been cleared to come off the COVID-19 list and will return to practice on Tuesday. Meanwhile, tight end Zach Gentry (knee) is dealing with a significant knee injury and will not play on Thursday night against the division-rival Ravens. McDonald hasn't played since the Week 9 win over the Cowboys, but it looks like they'll have him this week against Baltimore. As long as Eric Ebron remains healthy, McDonald just isn't fantasy relevant with all of the offensive weapons around him. The veteran tight end has only nine receptions on 11 targets for 61 scoreless yards in eight games this season.

From RotoBaller

Tua Tagovailoa Nov 23 3:50pm ET

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said that rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains the team's starting quarterback despite being benched in the fourth quarter in the Week 11 loss to the Broncos. "He's a talented player. He's a young player," Flores said. "He's a developing player. We have a lot of confidence in him. That's why he's the starter. He's got my full support. He's got the support of the coaching staff and the locker room." Tagovailoa was 11-for-20 for 83 yards with one touchdown and six sacks. He looked lost for long stretches, struggled with pressure and looked panicked in the pocket. The rookie from Alabama looked good at times in his previous three starts, but he hasn't been more than a low-end QB2 option in single-year formats to this point. Tagovailoa will have some more upside in Week 12, though, as he faces the winless Jets.

From RotoBaller

Teddy Bridgewater Nov 23 3:43pm ET

Carolina Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater (knee) reportedly felt good and got through his pregame warmup without issue in Week 11, but head coach Matt Rhule opted to go with backup P.J. Walker anyway. Rhule told reporters Monday, Nov. 23, that he expects Bridgewater to return to a full practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.

From TheHuddle

Christian McCaffrey Nov 23 3:43pm ET

Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) was deemed 'week-to-week' by head coach Matt Rhule on Monday, Nov. 23.

Fantasy Spin: McCaffrey has already missed two games with his shoulder. Taken at face value, Rhule's comments make it sound like he is pessimistic that the stud running back will be ready to play in Week 12 against the Minnesota Vikings, although it would make some sense with Carolina eyeing a bye in Week 13. At least for now, it appears Mike Davis is set up to make at least one more start.

From TheHuddle

Denver Broncos Nov 23 3:40pm ET

The Denver Broncos Defense was pretty much left for dead after allowing 30-plus points four weeks in a row, but they turned things around to help pull out the 20-13 win over the Dolphins in Week 11. In most leagues, the Denver D finished as a top-five fantasy unit. They were able to confuse rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and saddle him with his first NFL loss while also recording six sacks. A defense that has failed to turn the ball over much in 2020 also had an interception from standout safety Justin Simmons. They held Tagovailoa to 83 passing yards and one touchdown before he was benched and didn't allow a running back to go over 43 yards. It was a nice bounce-back performance from the unit, but we still wouldn't recommend them as a starting fantasy unit with the Saints coming to town in Week 12.

From RotoBaller

Julio Jones Nov 23 3:33pm ET

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (hamstring) could be a game-time decision for Week 12 against the Las Vegas Raiders, according to comments made by interim head coach Raheem Morris.

Fantasy Spin: Jones logged just over 20 snaps in Week 11, so fantasy owners should be relatively happy they were able to get the two catches and 39 yards from him. Olamide Zaccheaus has stepped up in a couple of spots this season and would seem to be the best target for fantasy owners looking for a direct replacement for Jones if he can't go. If Jones does try to go, he's an obvious risk for an in-game setback.

From TheHuddle

KJ Hamler Nov 23 3:30pm ET

Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver K.J. Hamler contributed four catches for 35 yards on six targets in the 20-13 Week 11 win over the Dolphins on Sunday. Hamler continues to have a role in the Broncos offense, but they relied mostly on a successful ground attack in this upset victory over Miami. The 21-year-old rookie out of Penn State does have 26 targets for 14 receptions and 160 yards over the last three games, but he has just one touchdown on the season in eight games so far. The quick and explosive slot weapon can break big plays at any time and has become a WR4/5 in deeper leagues as he sees an increased role in the offense. Hamler could be a surprise performer in a Week 12 matchup against the Saints, but fantasy managers in 12-team leagues should still have better flex options.

From RotoBaller

Brandon McManus Nov 23 3:30pm ET

Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus made both of his field-goal attempts and both of his extra points in the 20-13 win over the Dolphins in Week 11. McManus has made exactly two field goals in each of the last three weeks and has made all nine of his extra points and all seven of his field goals since missing an extra point in Week 7 against the Chiefs. He's only missed one of his 21 field-goal tries (95.2 percent) in 2020 as well. McManus has been money all year in the accuracy department, but he's tied for 12th in the league with his 21 attempts through 11 weeks. He's also boosted when he plays in the altitude in Denver at home. He'll be there again in Week 12, but McManus will be more of a low-end kicking option in a game in which the Broncos won't be afforded the luxury of settling for field goals.

From RotoBaller

Brandon Allen Nov 23 3:23pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals QB Brandon Allen and OG Quinton Spain were signed off the practice squad Monday, Nov. 23.

From TheHuddle