Thu Oct 10 4:12pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Aug. 13, 2019, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Efe Obada (94) takes the field during an NFL football training camp in Spartanburg, S.C. For Panthers defensive end Efe Obada the game Sunday between Carolina (3-2) and the Bucs (2-3) is a homecoming. The Nigerian native who arrived in England as a 10-year-old after being trafficked with his sister from the Netherlands, comes back to London as an NFL player and a star attraction after first picking up the sport of American football at age 22. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
LONDON (AP) For most members of the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game in London is an opportunity to see a new country and experience a different culture.
For Panthers defensive end Efe Obada the game Sunday between Carolina (3-2) and the Bucs (2-3) is a homecoming.
The Nigerian native who arrived in England as a 10-year-old after being trafficked with his sister from the Netherlands, comes back to London as an NFL player and a star attraction after first picking up the sport of American football at age 22.
''I'm a bit overwhelmed right now,'' Obada said Thursday at an NFL-sponsored flag football event for local kids in the town of Harrow, just north of London. ''I'm just enjoying the moment.''
On a team with many more high-profile players such as star running back Christian McCaffrey, 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly, and three-time Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, it was a player with just 15 career games who got the biggest reaction when the team arrived at the airport.
''What are the chances of me being on a team that's going to go back to London? I feel like the stars are aligning,'' Obada said.
Obada started playing in London in 2013 and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Dallas two years later. He spent time on the Cowboys practice squad and in the offseason with Kansas City and Atlanta before joining Carolina in 2017 as an International Pathway player, given an extra spot on the practice squad.
He then became the first International Pathway player to make a 53-man roster the following season and is part of Carolina's rotation on the defensive line.
''He deserves it,'' Kuechly said of the attention this week. ''He's worked super hard since he got here. ... His journey from where he was until now shows how hard he works and how persistent he is.''
While coming home brings back good memories for Obada, Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians is hoping for a happier time in London this year than he had two years ago in his first game here with the Arizona Cardinals.
''Not very good,'' Arians said about his memories from the 33-0 loss to the Rams in 2017. ''We got beat soundly, and our quarterback (Carson Palmer) broke his arm and we lost him for the season in the second quarter. So it was not fond.''
The Bucs are waiting until Friday to arrive, getting in close to a full practice week back home before holding a final one here in London.
Arians said he relied on experts to determine the plan and the approach of when and how much players should sleep to make sure the team is in the best position to win Sunday.
Here are some other things to watch:
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston is off to one of the best starts of his career with a franchise-record 1,371 yards passing through five games. He's also tied for second in the league with 11 TD passes, one behind Seattle's Russell Wilson. The fifth-year pro, who's earning $20.9 million in the final season of the contract he signed as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, had a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns during a season-opening loss to San Francisco. He's been solid since, stringing together solid performances against the Panthers, Giants, Rams and Saints as makes his case for being the Bucs' long-term solution at quarterback.
ADDISON ON A TEAR
Panthers defensive end Mario Addison is off to the best start of his NFL career with six sacks in the past three games, including a sack-fumble last week against the Jaguars that was returned 56 yards for a touchdown by teammate Brian Burns. Addison had at least six sacks in six straight seasons for the Panthers and is on pace to top his career high of 11 set in 2017.
Tampa Bay's Chris Godwin is coming off consecutive games in which he's had at least 125 yards receiving and two TDs. If he does it again Sunday, the third-year receiver will join Andre Rison (Falcons, 1990), Hall of Famer Don Maynard (Jets, 1967-68) and Cloyce Box (Lions, 1952) as the only players in NFL history with three straight games with those gaudy numbers. Two weeks ago, Godwin had 12 receptions for 172 yards and two scores against the Giants. He had seven catches for 125 yards and two more TDs vs. the Saints.
Panthers kicker Joey Slye will be looking to bounce back from a troubling performance last Sunday when he missed two field goals and an extra point. That came after Slye was selected as the NFC special teams player of the month when he made 10 of 11 field goals in September, including four from beyond 50 yards. So the big question is whether it was a just a blip on the radar or if the team needs to be concerned moving forward with the undrafted rookie. Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes Slye might have sped up his kicking motion last week after his initial field-goal attempt was blocked.
Bucs OLB Shaquil Barrett leads the NFL with nine sacks, despite having none in Sunday's 31-24 road loss at New Orleans. With opposing teams beginning to make adjustments to try to slow the sixth-year pro who had just 14 sacks in four seasons with Denver before signing a one-year, $4 million contract with the Bucs in free agency, Tampa Bay coach Brian Arians said other members of the Bucs defense have to take advantage of the extra attention being paid to Barrett.
The New York Jets Defense is getting star middle linebacker C.J. Mosley back for a tough Monday night matchup vs the Patriots. Mosley was a monster in the one game he played this season forcing two turnovers and scoring a touchdown in a Week 1 loss to Buffalo. The Jets defense hasn't looked the same without him so adding Mosley to a defense that already has safety Jamal Adams gives the Jets defense sleeper appeal in the second half against a soft schedule. Despite the good news, the Jets defense shouldn't be started this week against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has a rough matchup Monday against a Patriots Defense that allows the fewest fantasy points against to opposing wide receivers. Thomas got five targets last week, so he's been getting more involved in the offense, but is still not seeing the type of target share to warrant consideration in standard-size fantasy leagues. Thomas got five targets last week but is the clear third option behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder and won't carry much fantasy appeal as long as those other two are healthy.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder will face a tough test Monday when the Patriots No. 1 ranked pass defense comes to town. New England allows the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and shut down Crowder in Week 3 when they held him to only 25 yards on two catches. Third-string quarterback Luke Falk started that game, so Crowder should have more success with Sam Darnold back under center. In two games with Darnold, Crowder has 20 catches for 197 yards, so he has major fantasy upside moving forward, especially as the Jets' schedule gets softer. In Week 7, however, Crowder is only a borderline WR3 who has more appeal in PPR formats.
New York Jets Le'Veon Bell will face a tough matchup Monday night when the Patriots elite defense heads to MetLife Stadium. New England allows the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs so it's a tough matchup for Bell, but he should put up RB2 numbers based on volume. Bell has played 92.2 percent of the team's offensive snaps so far and has the second-most targets on the team. Bell should see his usual 20-25 touches and fantasy owners should start him with confidence he can put up a decent day even if he doesn't score a touchdown.
New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson will look to change his fortunes against the Patriots in a tough matchup Monday. In seven career games against New England, Anderson hasn't scored a touchdown and his 39.5 percent catch rate is by far his lowest mark against any team he's faced more than once. This season, the Patriots are as daunting a matchup as there is in the NFL allowing the fewest fantasy points against to wide receivers. There is always the chance Anderson grabs a long touchdown, like the 92-yard score he had last week, so he has some appeal as a flex in deeper leagues. However, where possible, owners should look to steer clear of Anderson in this matchup.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will face a tough challenge Monday night against the Patriots, the team that has given up the fewest fantasy points this season to opposing quarterbacks. Darnold, who missed three games with mono, had a strong showing in his return to the field Sunday when he put up 338 yards and two touchdowns. Fantasy owners shouldn't expect that type of performance Monday against arguably the best defense in the NFL, especially with two starters on the offensive line unlikely to play. Darnold is best left on the bench this week, however, the Jets schedule gets very soft after the game vs New England so Darnold is a good bench stash for those matchups.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (hamstring) and cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) were limited in practice this week and are questionable for Week 7 against the Bills. Even if Grant plays this weekend, he's nowhere close to being fantasy relevant behind Devante Parker, Preston Williams and Albert Wilson on the depth chart. Grant has only nine catches (19 targets) for 52 scoreless yards in four games this year. Howard is the team's best cornerback, but the Dolphins Defense/special teams is also well off the fantasy radar. If Howard sits, it'll be good news for Bills wideout John Brown.
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie tight end Josh Oliver (hamstring) practiced in full the last two days and isn't on the Week 7 injury report against the Bengals. Oliver has yet to play in his rookie season, but this weekend would be good timing for him to make his debut with Geoff Swaim out and James O'Shaughnessy on Injured Reserve. There's no guarantee that Oliver is heavily involved in the offense in his first game, but he's one to watch for those that are desperate at the position.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) was limited in practice on Friday and was removed from the Week 7 injury report against the Raiders. With Davante Adams (toe) out, Geronimo Allison (concussion) doubtful and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) questionable, Graham could see his biggest workload of the season this weekend. The Packers will continue to lean on the running game with their receivers beat up, but Graham could easily be quarterback Aaron Rodgers' favorite target against Oakland. The Raiders have also allowed the sixth most fantasy points per game (9.7) to tight ends. Graham has clear WR1 upside in Week 7.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (chest, concussion) missed practice all week and is doubtful to play in Week 7 against the Raiders. The Packers are holding out hope that Allison can get cleared from the concussion protocol, but it doesn't look like it's happening. Davante Adams (toe) has already been ruled out and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) will be a game-time decision. Green Bay could be without their top three wideouts, so Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard and rookie Darrius Shepherd could be their three receivers on Sunday. Kumerow and Lazard will be in play as DFS sleepers and flex options in deeper leagues, but expect the Packers to lean heavily on their ground game.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Michael Badgley (groin) practiced in full the last two days and is listed as questionable for Week 7 against the Titans. Badgley has been out all season but looks to have a good chance to make his season debut on the road in Tennessee. As usual, the Bolts have had a nightmare on special teams in the kicking game this year and were using their punter, Ty Long, for field-goal duties earlier this year with Badgley sidelined. They've been using rookie Chase McLaughlin in recent weeks, but he's predictably been unreliable in the kicking game. The Chargers will give Badgley a shot to win his job back, but he should be avoided in fantasy for the time being if he's active.
Following two straight close losses, the Jacksonville Jaguars enter their contest against the Cincinnati Bengals needing a victory to remain in AFC playoff conversation. At the crux of securing that win will be their defensive unit, which has been largely hit or miss over the first six weeks of the year. Despite All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey being shipped to the Los Angeles Rams earlier in the week, the team has become accustomed to playing without him. While many owners may overreact to Ramseys departure, Jacksonville is coming off holding New Orleans to 13 points last week, and now squares off with a much-maligned Bengals offense. Andy Dalton and the rest of the offensive unit are averaging just 16.2 points per game and their 56.5 average rushing yards per contest enters the week as the lowest in the league. The Jaguars defense is not the same dominant group that has been in years past, but should be a serviceable fantasy unit in Week 7.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson could have some luster as a flex option against the Atlanta Falcons. Running back Malcolm Brown (ankle) is doubtful this week, but Todd Gurley (thigh) is expected back. Gurley's workload could be spotty, and Henderson could see extended run. He rushed six times for 39 yards in Week 6, but he lost a key fumble to open the second half. He'll have a chance at redemption against the midrange matchup.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks has been irrelevant for a couple of weeks for fantasy owners. He left the Oct. 3 game with a concussion, and the entire Rams offense was plugged up last week. He had four catches for 47 yards in the two games combined. He has an awesome matchup against the Atlanta Falcons this week. They are the worst at defending the position in the league. They've allowed just over 15 catches for 219 yards and nearly two touchdowns per game to receivers over the last five games. Cooks is a low-end WR2 option for Week 7.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp broke a four-game string with 100 receiving yards last week as the entire offense was shut down by the San Francisco 49ers. The good news, though, is the Rams face the leaky Atlanta Falcons Defense, which is the worst at defending receivers the last five weeks. Kupp is sixth in the league in fantasy points over the last five weeks at the position despite having four catches for 17 yards last week. He'll return to the WR1 section this week.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods has been Jekyll and Hyde in the matter of a couple of weeks. He busted out with 13 catches for 164 yards three weeks ago and didn't catch a last on four targets last week. He'll have a brighter matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, who are the best matchup for opposing receivers the last five weeks. The Rams spread the ball around a lot, though, and Woods is limited to a flex option in point-per-reception formats.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee has been an afterthought in the offense this season with 16 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown in five games. He has a good matchup against the Atlanta Falcons this week, but he is too spotty to rely on in traditional leagues. He'd be someone to take at a basement price in daily formats, though.
Jacksonville rookie signal caller Gardner Minshew hit a significant bump in the road last week for the first time as a starter. The cure for that skid? It may just prove to be a matchup against a Bengals Defense yielding greater than 425 yards per game. Minshew failed to toss a touchdown last Sunday against New Orleans, the first time he did not record one in six games. While his 240.3 passing yard per contest average is far from gaudy, he has tossed nine touchdowns to just two interceptions, making him a safe option in traditional fantasy, as well as a high-upside low-priced option in DFS.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen) and running back Darren Sproles (quadriceps) both missed practice all week and have officially been ruled out for Week 7 against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Jackson is closer to returning than Sproles, but there remains no timetable for either player. D-Jax has been out since getting hurt in Week 2, and the Eagles offense is surely missing their deep threat, as Mack Hollins hasn't come close to replicating Jackson's production as a field-stretcher. Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Hollins will continue to operate in three-receiver sets in the big divisional showdown on Sunday evening.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense shouldn't be played against the Atlanta Falcons this week. They've had their issues on the ground, but they still put up points and air it out. The Rams are amidst a tough portion of their schedule and really haven't played well enough to hang onto in traditional formats.