Thu Dec 12 4:40pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is pressured by Denver Broncos linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (97) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson (22) breaks up a pass intended for Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel watches during the first half of an NFL football game between the Oakland Raiders and the Titans in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) scores past Oakland Raiders free safety Erik Harris (25) during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans have some very simple math to clinch their first AFC South title since 2008 and second playoff berth in three seasons.
Sweep the Houston Texans.
The Titans (8-5) have won four straight and six of seven to have a chance at the postseason after a 2-4 start in a season salvaged after the switch at quarterback from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. How much better this season becomes depends on what they do Sunday when they host the Texans, the first of two games between these teams in the final three weeks.
Titans cornerback Logan Ryan says the old cliche of one week at a time has helped them put together a nice streak. Ryan says that string won't help against Houston (8-5).
“We got to handle Houston," Ryan said. "Just like in years past we never could win in Indy, and we won in Indy. We're due to have a bad upset in Oakland, and we didn't. So I just think we're taking it one week at a time, and we've got a big matchup with their receiving corps coming to town, and Deshaun Watson, so I think that's enough on our plate.”
Beating the Raiders 42-2 1, combined with Houston's surprise 38-24 loss to Denver last week is what allowed Tennessee to tie the Texans atop the division. The Texans currently have the tiebreaker thanks to a better conference record. The Titans' first sweep in this rivalry since 2007 would give Tennessee the division title.
The stakes are equally as big for Houston, with the Texans trying to win their fourth AFC South title in six seasons under coach Bill O'Brien. The Texans host Tennessee in the regular-season finale.
���You just always want to be in your own driver's seat and control your own destiny,” Texans linebacker D.J. Reader said. “That's all you can ask for.”
Derrick Henry is second in the NFL with a career-high 1,243 yards rushing, and he's tied for the league lead with 13 TDs rushing. He also has a pair of TD catches. But his left hamstring has had him on the injury report now three straight weeks. Even though Henry said Thursday he will be ready Sunday, he obviously was affected last week even as he notched his fourth straight 100-yard rushing game.
Henry's longest run was a 24-yarder, the type he might threaten to take to the end zone in previous weeks. Did the hamstring slow him down?
“I was just trying to be nice,” Henry said.
Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is coming off a season-high 120 yards receiving last week along with a touchdown. He has the NFL's second-longest streak with 16 straight games with at least five or more receptions. The Titans will be trying to defend Hopkins with a banged-up secondary.
Safety Kenny Vaccaro currently is in the concussion protocol after being knocked out of last week's game. Starting cornerback Adoree' Jackson missed that game with an injured foot. Cornerback LeShaun Sims practiced fully Thursday after his right ankle kept him out of the last two games. Look for Ryan to stick closely to Hopkins.
PILING UP TACKLES
Houston linebacker Zach Cunningham leads the team with a career-high 114 tackles and his 79 solo tackles are also first among the Texans. The third-year player tied a career-high with 16 tackles last week and has five games this season with at least 10 tackles. Cunningham has 39 tackles since Week 12, most in the NFL in that span.
“He's really an outstanding player,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Cunningham, a rookie when Vrabel was Houston's defensive coordinator in 2017. “Just to see him grow, he's done a fantastic job.”
The Titans rank second in the NFL averaging 31.4 points a game over the past eight weeks, and they're also tied with San Francisco for the most big plays with 62 in that span. The Titans have 32 runs of 10 or more yards and 30 pass completions of 20 yards or longer. The 49ers have their 62 such plays in eight games compared to seven for the Titans.
NOT THIS WEEK
O'Brien gave Vrabel his first coaching job in the NFL, hiring him to work with the linebackers in 2014. Vrabel credits O'Brien with helping him prepare to be an NFL head coach. Not only are the men friends, but their wives are friends. O'Brien said he watches Vrabel's son, Tyler, play weekly at Boston College, and they talk regularly about family.
Not this week.
���I tried to call him this morning, but he didn't call me back,” O'Brien said.
Five Sleepers: Week 3
Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (neck) isn't expected to play against the Seahawks in Week 3. Ordinarily, replacing a tackle of Smith's caliber with someone else would be an issue for any offense, but the Seahawks rank in the middle of the league this year in pressure percentage and the Cowboys passing and rushing offense should still be in fine shape in a game that many expect to be a shootout. Don't think Smith's absence means you need to downgrade Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, or any of the team's other options.
Free-agent CB Morris Claiborne (Chiefs) is not actively looking for work but is remaining in shape in case the ideal circumstance to return presents itself.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (ankle/knee) is set to return on Sunday against the New York Jets. Quarterback Philip Rivers looked to tight end Mo Alie-Cox often in last week's game and with Doyle sliding into the lineup, Rivers should continue to target the tight end position. Doyle might not see the same snap rate we're used to from the reliable veteran, but he's a definite streaming option for fantasy managers who are looking for additional help at a shallow position.
The San Francisco 49ers are promoting running back JaMycal Hasty to the active roster for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. With injuries to their top two running backs, the Niners weren't going to go into Week 3 with only Jerick McKinnon and Jeff Wilson Jr. on the roster. McKinnon and Wilson should see almost all of the work, so don't get too excited about Hasty this week, who'll likely see just a handful of touches at best and shouldn't be on anyone's fantasy radar...yet.
The Carolina Panthers have promoted running back Reggie Bonnafon to the active roster ahead of Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers. With Christian McCaffrey on the injured reserve, making this move seems like an obvious choice. Many expected Bonnafon to be the primary backup to McCaffrey this season, but he was passed by both Mike Davis and Trenton Cannon on the depth chart and wound up on the Carolina practice squad. Don't expect more than a handful of touches at most for Bonnafon, whose addition shouldn't impact Mike Davis's workload.
Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox (oblique) is considered a game-time decision for Week 3's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to head coach Doug Pederson. He practiced on a limited basis Friday, Sept. 25, after missing the team's first two practice sessions of the week, and is officially listed as questionable on the injury report.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeSean McCoy was targeted seven times in Week 2, which is just enough times to make him semi-interesting as a rosterable option in deep leagues. His complete lack of involvement in the run game and 18 percent snap rate show just how risky of an option he is, though, and he should be barely on the fantasy radar in Week 3 against the Broncos. Maybe in a 16-team league, you throw the dart at him and hope the targets continue, but otherwise steer clear of the veteran rusher.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams was unable to make much of an impact during the Thursday night victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He hauled in both of his two targets for seven yards and one touchdown. It was a disappointing game for Williams, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick only had 20 passing attempts on the night. It has been a slow start to the season for Williams, but things should pick up next week. He'll get a favorable matchup against the Seattle Seahawks who have one of the worst pass defenses in the league.
Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki was able to score a touchdown for the second time in two weeks during the Thursday night victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gesicki hauled in one of three targets for 15 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick only had 20 passing attempts in this one, so it was a bit of an odd game. Regardless, Gesicki carries TE1 value into a favorable matchup versus the Seattle Seahawks shaky pass defense in Week 4.
If you thought the Texans and their revamped wide receiver core would feature some wide-open, four-receiver sets this season, you were wrong. Houston hasn't run a single play this season with four receivers and has run just one play without a tight end. This is one of the reasons to stay away from the team's No. 4 receiver, Kenny Stills, in Week 3. Still a talented wideout, Stills is on the field less than half of the time and has just two catches for 16 yards this season. Unless there are injuries ahead of him, Stills is a fantasy afterthought right now.
Las Vegas Raiders rookie wide receiver Bryan Edwards (foot) has been removed from the team's injury report, a sign that he'll be on the field this week against the New England Patriots. With Henry Ruggs III (hamstring/knee) sitting, Edwards will look for a larger role on Sunday. He's been targeted just three times through two games, but did catch both Week 2 targets for 42 yards. The promising young wideout has some appeal in deep leagues this week with no Ruggs, but he remains an incredibly risky play until we see him get a higher target share.
Seattle Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar (knee) will be 'ready to play' against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3, according to head coach Pete Carroll.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker is clearly still not 100 percent healthy, but did play during the Thursday night win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He caught all five of his targets for 69 yards in Week 3. He'll get 10 days to heal up before his matchup with the Seattle Seahawks next week. Seattle has been horrendous at stopping the pass attack this season. Parker should be a reliable WR2 for that one, assuming he's healthy.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews will look to get back on track in Week 3 against the Chiefs. After a strong start to the 2020 campaign, the 25-year-old caught only one pass against the Houston Texans on Sunday. While that performance certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of fantasy managers, Andrews should remain starting in all formats, especially since his ceiling is higher than most at his position.
Miami Dolphins running back Jordan Howard has been having trouble finding any room to run this season. He rushed three times for one yard and one touchdown in the Thursday night win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Howard has 16 carries for 12 yards on the season, but has three touchdowns as well. Myles Gaskin has become the clear lead back in Miami, so there is little reason to keep Howard rostered in 12-team leagues. He does have a three game touchdown streak, but that won't be enough value to warrant ownership in most leagues.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown will face his most formidable task of the season against the Chiefs in Week 3. Hollywood has compiled at least five catches in each of his first two games to go along with 143 yards. While Brown hasn't found the end zone yet during the 2020 campaign, he is always in line for a productive outing, especially with so many weapons on the offensive side of the ball opening things up for him. Fantasy managers should keep him starting for the Monday night showdown with Kansas City.
Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin saw a heavy workload during the Thursday night victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Gaskin rushed 22 times for 66 yards and caught five passes for 29 yards through the air. He has become the clear lead back in Miami, but Jordan Howard and Matt Breida will still get a few touches each game. Gaskin is quickly picking up steam in PPR formats. He'll get another favorable matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4.
Miami Dolphins running back Matt Breida has been having issues finding any momentum through the first three weeks of the 2020 NFL season. He rushed three times for four yards during the Thursday night victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Breida has been horrendous this season and is a cut-candidate in most formats. Myles Gaskin has become the clear lead back in Miami. Breida will still get a few carries each week, but it won't be enough to have value in most formats.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick put together another solid performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. He completed 18 of 20 passing attempts for 160 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed seven times for 38 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown as well. The Jaguars had no answers for Fitzpatrick through the first half, but were able to slow him down after halftime. He'll get another solid matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4. Seattle is struggling to slow down the passing game, so Fitzpatrick could be a possible streaming option again.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury) fully participated in practice Friday, Sept. 25, and is not on the injury report for Week 3.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzgerald may receive a few extra targets this week with Christian Kirk ruled out. He has posted decent numbers in the first two games and can be a flex option in some leagues.