Sun Dec 29 4:24pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
Buffalo Bills running back T.J. Yeldon (22) hurdles New York Jets strong safety Jamal Adams, bottom, during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (82) catches a pass for a touchdown in front of Buffalo Bills' Dean Marlowe (31) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell (26) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Buffalo Bills cornerback Levi Wallace (39) is carted off the field during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken (9) reacts after missing a field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019 in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Sam Darnold hit Jamison Crowder for a 1-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and the New York Jets avoided finishing their fourth consecutive season with double-digit losses in a 13-6 win over the Buffalo Bills' backups Sunday.
The Jets missed the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season, but finished at 7-9 under first-year coach Adam Gase for their best record since going 10-6 in 2015.
The playoff-bound Bills had very little to play for while resting most of their starters, including quarterback Josh Allen after the first quarter. Buffalo dropped to 10-6 - still its best finish since going 11-5 in 1999 - and entered the game already locked in as the AFC's fifth seed.
The Bills will travel to play AFC South champion Houston Texans in the wild-card playoff round next weekend. The Texans were assured of the No. 4 seed after Kansas City defeated the Los Angeles Chargers.
Otherwise, the game between the Jets and Bills was a defensive struggle that befitted the sloppy conditions, with a persistent drizzle falling for most of the afternoon.
With the score tied at 3, and following Jets kicker Sam Ficken missing two of his first three field-goal attempts, Darnold oversaw a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, which he capped by hitting Crowder cutting across the middle on second-and-goal with 13:31 left.
The touchdown was Darnold's 19th of the season, and 36th of his career. The 2018 first-round draft pick fell one touchdown passing short of matching Joe Namath's record for most by a Jets player in his first two seasons.
Darnold and the Jets had a better finish to the season than their start. Beginning by squandering a 16-0 third-quarter lead in a 17-16 season-opening loss to the Bills, New York opened 1-7 during a stretch that included Darnold missed three games due to mononucleosis.
Darnold closed strong by going 6-2 in the second half of the season, in which he combined for 13 touchdowns passing and just four interceptions. Against Buffalo, he finished 23 of 36 for 199 yards, with an interception. He was sacked twice by Trent Murphy.
Allen lasted two series before backup Matt Barkley and the second stringers entered the game late in the first half.
Barkley was 18 of 35 for 232 yards with two interceptions and a lost fumble. In Barkley's defense, he was overseeing an offense that opened the game minus starters John Brown and Cole Beasley, and with just three active receivers, all backups.
The lack of chemistry showed on Barkley's second interception with 5:17 remaining. After gaining 45 yards on three plays, Barkley lobbed a pass directed toward T.J. Yeldon only to have the running back turn the wrong way, with the ball easily intercepted by Arthur Maulet.
The turnover led to Ficken hitting a 47-yard field goal to put the Jets up 13-3 with 2:05 left.
The Bills were unable to avoid injuries.
Starting cornerback Levi Wallace was carted off the sideline with a right ankle injury. He was hurt when his cleat got caught in the turf in intercepting Darnold's pass that caromed off the back of teammate Taron Johnson's helmet.
Bills right tackle Ty Nsekhe was also carted off the sideline after hurting his ankle on the opening drive of the third quarter. Nsekhe had just returned to the lineup after missing five games with an ankle injury.
In what could be his final home game, Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander stood with his family on Buffalo's sideline while his daughter, Zoie, sang the national anthem. The 36-year-old Alexander has said he intends to retire after completing his 13th NFL season.
The Bills also called timeout before the Jets second series to allow Alexander to come off the field for one final time on defense.
Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore played his 226th career regular-season game, tying Emmitt Smith for most by a running back in NFL history.
Gore was coming off his first career game in which he had no yards from scrimmage. Starting in place of rookie Devin Singletary, the 36-year-old Gore was limited to playing the first half in which he finished with six carries for 26 yards and three catches for 16.
Jets: season over.
Bills: AFC wild-card playoff at Houston Texans.
Interview with a Champ
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense put together a strong performance in a 30-20 playoff win over the New Orleans Saints. Tampa Bay allowed 20 points and failed to register a sack, though they generated four turnovers. The secondary delivered a strong performance on tape, surrendering just 190 passing yards and picking off Drew Brees three times. Linebacker Devin White, a rising star, was arguably the player of the game, as he was all over the field with 11 tackles and an interception, which he returned for 28 yards. Tampa Bay will travel to Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the NFC title game. They hammered Rodgers and the Green Bay offense for four sacks and two interceptions in a 38-10 regular season drubbing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught one of five targets for 14 receiving yards in a 30-20 win over New Orleans. Gronkowski had yet another quiet outing as a pass-catcher, though he was far more involved in the gameplan this time. Tom Brady looked his way in the red zone, so the usage was pretty promising for fantasy purposes. The problem is, Gronkowski has been out-produced by fellow tight end Cameron Brate, who has 130 yards over the last two games. Still, Gronkowski should remain a part of the offense next week against the Packers, who surrendered a 5-78-1 line to him in their regular-season meeting.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate led the team in receiving yards in a playoff win over the Saints. Brate hauled in four of five targets for 50 receiving yards, as he once again showed some good chemistry with Tom Brady down the field. The veteran tight end has produced eight catches for 130 yards in two playoff games, while fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski has just one reception. Clearly, Brady will continue to look Gronkowski's way in the red zone, though Brate has carved out a role for himself as a pass-catcher between the 20s. He'll get ready to take on the Packers at Lambeau Field next week with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown caught just one pass for 10 receiving yards in Sunday's 30-20 divisional-round win over New Orleans. Brown was held in check for much of the game, though it should be noted that he was tending to a knee issue. It occurred sometime in the first half, with Brown requiring some attention from the team trainer- though the team didn't offer much more information on his status. This game snapped a streak of four straight contests with a touchdown reception for Brown, whose practice reps will be worth monitoring ahead of a huge title game clash with Green Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin hauled in four of seven targets for 34 receiving yards in Sunday's victory over New Orleans. Godwin did lead the team in targets, though it could have been a far more productive day had he hauled in a long pass from Tom Brady in the end zone. The drops have certainly been an issue for the fourth-year pro- he has six in two playoff games- though he remains one of Brady's favorite pass-catchers on the roster. Godwin has seen at least six targets in 12 of 14 games, a role that makes him enticing to turn to for fantasy purposes. He'll look to be more productive with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line next week against Green Bay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans caught one of three targets for a three-yard touchdown in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Evans was held in check for most of the day by Saints' corner Marshon Lattimore- though he was able to beat him in the end zone for a score. That's his 14th touchdown of the year, including the regular season and playoffs, as he continues to be one of Tom Brady's favorite red-zone targets. Evans will look to be more of a factor between the 20s in an NFC Championship game matchup against the Packers.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook finished with five receptions for 28 yards on seven targets in Sunday's loss to Tampa. The tight end also lost a crucial fumble which swayed the outcome of the game. Cook finishes 2020 with 37 receptions for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. The tight end will be a free agent this offseason and will turn 34 in a few months. His fantasy value remains low heading into 2021 considering his age and the uncertainty about the size of his role on a potentially new team next season.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith grabbed three receptions for 85 yards and two scores on three targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to Tampa. Smith paced the team in yards and had a fantastic showing in the team's last game of the season. The WR finished 2020 with 34 receptions for 448 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Because of his inconsistency and smaller role on this offense, Smith should be considered a deeper-league flex at best heading into 2021.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II carried the ball 13 times for 62 rushing yards in a playoff victory over New Orleans. Jones averaged 4.8 yards per carry and showed some good burst in his first game back from a quad injury. He ripped off a long run that was called back due to a holding penalty and appeared to grimace after the play, though he was never taken out. Jones was out-touched by Fournette 22-13, though he may eat into those carries a bit if he can put in a full practice ahead of next week's NFC title game against Green Bay.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas finished with zero yards on four targets in Sunday's divisional-round loss to the Buccaneers. After a terrific wild-card showing last week with five receptions for 73 yards and a score on seven targets, Thomas fell flat this week. Despite an injury-ridden season, the WR is clearly the top receiving option on the team heading into 2021 and remains a WR1 despite the potential change at QB.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette was the engine of his team's offense in a 30-20 divisional-round win over the Saints. Fournette turned 22 touches into 107 scrimmage yards, adding a touchdown to yet another solid outing. With Tom Brady struggling a bit, the 25-year-old came up with some timely runs and receptions, none bigger than a six-yard touchdown catch that tied the game late in the third quarter. Fournette has topped 20 touches and 100 yards in each of his last two games- he should remain a focal point of the offense when the Buccaneers travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers next week.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hauled in six receptions for 48 yards on nine targets in Sunday's loss to Tampa. Sanders bounced back from a poor wild-card showing last week in which he only mustered two receptions for three yards. Nevertheless, this week and last week's performance summarize just how inconsistent the WR's 2020 season was. Sanders should be considered as only a WR3/flex option heading into 2021 drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady completed 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, adding a rushing score in a 30-20 win over the Saints. Brady struggled to move the ball for much of the game but came up with big plays when they were needed. He fired touchdown passes to Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette, then scored on a quarterback sneak to give his team the lead for good in the fourth. Brady has thrown for 580 yards and scored five total touchdowns in his past two playoff games, both against top-five pass defenses from the regular season. He'll get ready to travel to Lambeau Field for an epic clash in the NFC Championship against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara finished with 18 carries for 85 yards and three receptions for 20 yards on six targets in Sunday's loss to the Bucs. Kamara still managed to be effective despite the Saints' offense not being able to get going during the game. The RB finished the season with a career-high 932 rush yards and 16 rush touchdowns. As a focal point of this offense, he remains a solid RB1 heading into 2021 drafts.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees finished with 134 yards, one touchdown, and three picks in Sunday's divisional-round loss to Tampa. Brees had a tough time producing in this loss which ultimately ended the Saints' season. Earlier today, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported Sunday could very well be Brees' last game in the NFL and the QB would retire as one of the most accomplished players in league history.
The Cleveland Browns Defense played well in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Cleveland picked up one sack and forced one turnover in the loss. The Chiefs' offense would have turned in a much better game but they lost quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion early in the third quarter. Top Cleveland defender Myles Garrett played through an oblique injury to log the team's only sack of the afternoon while safety Karl Joseph picked off a Chad Henne pass in the fourth quarter. Cleveland's defense was a team weakness during the 2020 season, so expect the front office to dedicate a significant portion of their offseason resources to augmenting the unit. They could be one of the most-improved fantasy defenses heading into the 2021 campaign.
Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper was overshadowed by teammate David Njoku in their team's 22-17 Divisional Round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Hooper wound up catching just two of three targets for 13 yards, although one of his catches was a clutch diving grab to convert a fourth down. Many DFS gamers were eager to plug Hooper into lineups to take advantage of a plus matchup against the Chiefs, but instead it was forgotten man David Njoku who came up big. Njoku caught four of five targets for 59 yards to finish second on the Browns in receiving. Hooper was a big free-agent signing by the Browns last offseason but he wound up as a bust on his new team. He should be treated as a low-upside TE2 in fantasy for the 2021 season as Cleveland doesn't pass frequently enough to support him. Njoku has a $6 million cap hit in 2021 and spent much of the past season angling for a trade out of Cleveland. He could very well be in a different uniform in 2021.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce scored a touchdown versus the Cleveland Browns in an AFC Divisional Round victory on Sunday. Kelce also caught eight of his 11 targets for 109 yards on the afternoon. Kelce had one of the most dominant seasons every for a tight end this season and that has carried over the playoffs. Kelce will be a TE1 option every week, but managers may want to double check that quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) is playing before going with Kelce in a tough matchup versus the Buffalo Bills next weekend for the AFC Championship.
According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees plans to retire after the season ends. With the Saints are getting ready to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on Sunday night, Glazer tweeted, "Today will be Drew Brees' last game in the Superdome" earlier in the day. If the Saints lose to Tampa Bay, it will close the book on a Hall of Fame career for Brees. If the Saints win, they will head to Green Bay to take on the Packers for a chance to go to the Super Bowl. With Brees out of the picture in 2021, there's a chance that the Saints to turn to Taysom Hill as the team's starting quarterback but they could bring in a veteran as several quality signal-callers will be available this offseason, either through free-agency or via trade. Either way, it will be the end of an era for the Saints and the NFL as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in league history hangs them up.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins led his team in receiving in a 22-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round. Higgins caught five of seven targets for 88 yards but he will instead be remembered for the play he didn't make. Higgins appeared on his way to a touchdown near the end of the second quarter but wound up fumbling the ball through the Kansas City end zone, resulting in the Chiefs offense getting the ball at the 20-yard line. It was a tough play as he appeared to take a helmet-to-helmet hit but all Browns fans will remember is that he didn't score what would have been the game-deciding touchdown. Higgins is now an unrestricted free-agent and could be playing for a different team next season, also Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski appeared to be a fan of Higgins during his first year at the helm. If he stays with the Browns, the return of Odell Beckham Jr. would push Higgins back to the No. 3 WR role in Cleveland.