Mon Sep 28 4:25pm ET
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Pro Football Writer
Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (98) celebrates with teammates after a sack during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Tennessee Titans safety Amani Hooker, right, celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. The Titans won 31-30. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Tennessee Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski (3) celebrates after kicking a 55-yard field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. The Titans won 31-30. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) celebrates with teammate Ryan Tannehill, right, after scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Traumatic. Tenacious. Triumphant. All apply to the Tennessee Titans, who've somehow pulled out three straight wins late for their first 3-0 start since 2008.
Now the Titans and that undefeated start is about to be put to a serious test. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills, both currently 3-0, are coming to Music City to kick off a three-game homestand with the Titans still having plenty of issues to work on.
At least the ability to make game-winning plays is not on the list to fix after a 31-30 win in Minnesota.
''It's much more valuable than losing by one, but we have to be able to play better to try to not be in those tight games,'' coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. ''But I do think that our ability to function when the games are tight or maybe when we're behind or have to execute these situations, that can only help you.''
Since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback in mid-October last season, the Titans have won five games in his 13 starts in the regular season by three or fewer points. It's the most such wins in the NFL in that span.
These three wins have come by the total margin of six points, the slimmest net point total for any of the NFL's undefeated teams. It's half the margin for the next-closest team with Chicago (3-0) having won by a margin of 12 points.
''It's not what we want to rely on,'' Vrabel said. ''But it's something that we feel like we gain confidence that the players don't panic, and we're able to execute the situations as they come up down the stretch.''
The offense. The Titans are averaging 26.7 points a game so far, and Derrick Henry has a league-high 319 yards rushing. They had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in Minnesota. They also scored on five straight drives in the second half before kneeling for the victory.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Defense. The Titans are giving up 166 yards rushing per game after Dalvin Cook piled up 181 yards. Vrabel said they had ''double-digit'' missed tackles. They also are struggling to defend the pass with rookie Justin Jefferson catching seven passes for 175 yards.
It likely didn't help that Shane Bowen, the outside linebackers coach, didn't travel to Minnesota due to a COVID-19 test result. Vrabel helped fill the gap.
Stephen Gostkowski. Taking the sock off his right, kicking foot after three missed field goals and a missed extra point in Denver seemingly did the trick. He now has made more field goals (9 of 12) than the Titans managed in all of 2019 (8 of 18) with five different kickers.
The four-time Pro Bowler also became the first NFL kicker since 1970 to kick a game-winning field goal in the final two minutes of regulation in each of his team's first three games of a season. He's the first to do that in this franchise's history.
Gostkowski also hit three field goals of at least 50 yards for the first time in his career, the first in the NFL to do that since Justin Tucker of Baltimore on Nov. 27, 2016.
Jadeveon Clowney. Maybe expectations were too high or maybe he just needs more time to hone chemistry with his teammates after signing Sept. 7. He has yet to have a sack through three games. He did have another tackle for loss against the Vikings along with two tackles and two quarterback hits.
Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan hurt a shoulder in the first half. He walked to the sideline but was carted away from the sideline. Vrabel didn't have an update Monday.
Vrabel is hopeful starting cornerback Adoree Jackson, placed on injured reserve Sept. 14, might be close to practicing along with rookie offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, who's been on the Reserve/COVID list since Sept. 6.
5: The Titans lead the NFL in turnover margin with six takeaways and only one turnover.
A three-game homestand that will be capped by a visit by the defending AFC South champs, the Texans (0-3). How they handle this stretch before their bye will be crucial for their own division title hopes.
Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 6
The Los Angeles Rams signed kicker Kai Forbath on Tuesday. Forbath was cut by the Cowboys earlier this year and hasn't kicked at all in 2020. The 33-year-old kicked in just four games in 2019 with the Cowboys and Patriots and made all 11 of his field-goal tries. He's bounced around the NFL in his nine-year career, playing for Washington, New Orleans, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Dallas and New England. Forbath was signed to compete with Samuel Sloman, who has missed either a field goal or extra point in five of the team's six games this year. Sloman currently ranks 24th in the league at the kicking position in terms of fantasy points. Against the Bears on Monday night in Week 7, you can find better streaming options.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially acquired defensive tackle Steve McLendon and a 2023 seventh-round pick from the New York Jets on Tuesday in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick. In six games for the Jets this year, McLendon has 14 combined tackles (eight solo). The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder signed with Gang Green as a free agent in 2016 and recorded 154 tackles (28 for loss), 7.5 sacks and 17 QB hits in 64 games (58 starts) in his time with the Jets. He previously played six seasons for the Steelers and has 244 career tackles (41 for loss), 12.5 sacks and 28 QB hits. McLendon will join a sturdy Bucs defensive line that just shut down Packers running back Aaron Jones and limited quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's offense to just 10 points in Week 6.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (toe) returned to practice on Tuesday. If all goes well, the hope is that he will return from Injured Reserve to play Thursday night against the Eagles. Shepard led the team in receiving last year and has caught eight of his 10 targets for 76 yards in his two games in 2020, including a team-high six receptions in the season-opener. The fifth-year wideout has been out since suffering a turf toe injury in Week 2. It remains to be seen if the G-Men will ease Shepard back into the fold if he plays in Week 7, but you should check your waiver wire to see if he was dropped by his previous owner. When healthy, Shepard should be quarterback Daniel Jones' top receiving target. The matchup is a good one for New York's pass-catchers, too, as Philly's D has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to receivers through six weeks.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that linebacker Devin Bush (knee) will undergo surgery to fix his torn ACL on Wednesday. Bush will miss the remainder of the 2020 season. It's a big blow to the Steelers Defense, as the No. 10 overall pick from 2019 had been a big contributor in the middle of the field. The 22-year-old had 26 tackles (16 solo), two QB hits, three passes defensed and one sack in five games this season after recording 109 combined tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed and four fumble recoveries in a very productive rookie season in 2019. The loss of Bush will be something to watch moving forward, as Pittsburgh's defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. It's good news for Titans running back Derrick Henry in the Week 7 showdown of two unbeaten teams.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III has asked the team for a trade. The speedy former ninth overall pick had been inactive for three straight weeks before returning to action in Week 6, but he played just one snap against the Colts. Ross' agent said that his client is frustrated with his lack of playing time and they've had talks with the team about a trade, but those talks didn't go very far. The 25-year-old had a couple 100-yard games early last season, but then he got hurt and never quite established a firm role in the offense. Now he's behind Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green and rookie Tee Higgins on the receiver depth chart and has just two catches for 17 yards in three games this year. A change of scenery would be for the best, but it wouldn't guarantee that he resurfaces to fantasy relevance.
The Miami Dolphins are naming rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa their starting quarterback heading into their Week 7 bye week, according to a source. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will now serve as the backup after Tagovailoa made his NFL debut in the blowout win over the Jets in Week 6. The rookie from Alabama completed both of his pass attempts for nine yards against New York. The biggest takeaway on Sunday was that he looked fully healthy, and the Dolphins are obviously confident that he's ready for the NFL stage as their starter. That'll come in Week 8 against a tough Rams Defense looking to bounce back after a loss to the division-rival 49ers. Tagovailoa has plenty of upside as a poised and accurate QB that can also use his legs, but he'll be a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues for his first career NFL start in two weeks.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella has dropped off significantly after his two-touchdown performance in Week 3. This week, in the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys, he was held without a catch and received just two targets. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray struggled in the game, completing just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards. Christian Kirk, meanwhile, reeled in the team's only two receiving touchdowns in the game and has continued to be Murray's preferred target over Isabella. There's no need to hold on to Isabella in any fantasy leagues as long as the Cardinals are fully healthy at receiver.
The Cardinals Defense had their best outing of the year so far in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. They held the Cowboys to just 10 points in the game and came up with two Andy Dalton interceptions as well as two fumble recoveries, both as a result of Ezekiel Elliott fumbles. The Cardinals also sacked Dalton three times in the game. While it was certainly an encouraging outing from the Cardinals Defense, don't expect a similar result in Week 7 when they face the Seattle Seahawks, who have topped 30 points in four of their five games this year.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wasn't heavily utilized in the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Fitzgerald was targeted four times in the game and came down with three catches for 22 yards. It's been an extremely slow start to the year for Fitzgerald, who is yet to top 50 receiving yards in a game and also yet to score a touchdown this year. Kyler Murray had a rough day throwing the ball in this game, completing just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards. Fitzgerald shouldn't be trusted as a starting option for now and can be left on waivers in most leagues at this point.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk had only two catches in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys, but luckily they were both big ones. Kirk had a six-yard touchdown reception and an 80-yard touchdown reception, leading to his final stat line of two catches for 86 yards on three targets. The Cardinals dominated the Cowboys, winning 38-10, but their passing game struggled a bit, regardless. Kyler Murray only completed nine passes all game and totaled just 188 yards. That's three-straight solid fantasy outings now for Kirk, who should be considered a decent WR3 or flex option in most formats going forward.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a 60-yard reception in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. It was his longest gain of the season. However, he wasn't able to do much else in the game. He was targeted eight times on Monday night and came down with just two catches for 73 yards. It was a rough game from a passing standpoint for the Cardinals as quarterback Kyler Murray completed just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards. Christian Kirk had the team's only two touchdown receptions in the game. It was the first game this year in which Hopkins was held under six receptions. Look for him to bounce back strong when the team faces the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7.
Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake had a much-needed breakout game in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. Drake rushed the ball 20 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first game with over 100 yards from scrimmage this year as well as his first time averaging over five yards per carry in a game. Drake had his stat line bolstered significantly by a 69-yard touchdown run with under two minutes left when the game was already decided, but it was a true breakout game for Drake regardless. He's been a frustrating slow-starter for fantasy owners this year, but hopefully his Week 6 breakout will be a sign of things to come.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds wasn't able to contribute much to the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Edmonds had five carries for 23 yards in the game and caught one of his two targets for six yards. The Cardinals dominated the last three quarters of the game and leaned heavily on No. 1 running back Kenyan Drake to seal the victory, giving him a total of 20 carries in the game. Even though Drake has struggled out of the gate this year, the team is still sticking with him as their primary ball-carrier with Edmonds as a pass-catching option and change-of-pace rusher. Edmonds is still worth owning in most leagues and could see an uptick in usage when the Cardinals attempt to keep pace with the high-scoring Seattle Seahawks in Week 7.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray had a rough overall game despite the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Luckily, it still turned out to be a decent fantasy day. Murray completed just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 74 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. It was his first game of the year without a turnover, which is certainly encouraging, but he's now been held under 200 passing yards in two of his past three games. With 370 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns on the year, he's definitely doing enough to remain a no doubt QB1 in all formats, but it's been a shakier start to the season than fantasy owners were hoping to see from the second-year pro.
Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross approached the team about a trade. Ross is in the last year of his rookie deal and seeking a fresh start.
Updating previous reports, Kansas City Chiefs RB Le'Veon Bell will receive $500,000 for 25 percent playing time in an AFC title win and $500,000 for 25 percent playing time in a Super Bowl win.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald extended his streak with at least one reception to 249 games in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. His streak is the longest of any player with a single team, and the second-longest overall streak in NFL history (Jerry Rice, 274). Fitzgerald's streak started Nov. 7, 2004.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes tossed two touchdowns in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills, and he set a franchise record with at least one scoring strike in 16 straight outings.
Philadelphia Eagles DL Malik Jackson (quadriceps) might miss two weeks due to the a quadriceps injury he suffered in the Week 6 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup posted two catches for 15 yards on six targets in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Fantasy Spin: Gallup definitely wasn't on the same page as new starter Andy Dalton, and he was very far behind Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb for the eye of the quarterback among the wide receivers. He is only worth a look as a WR5 in fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams heading into Week 7 on the road against the Washington Football Team.