Mon Dec 6 12:36am ET
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen, left, is congratulated by teammate Travis Kelce after intercepting a pass and running it back for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams (33) runs with the ball past Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed (38) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward (35) is unable to intercept a pass as teammate Mike Hughes (21) watches during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos running back Mike Boone (26) runs with the ball as Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Melvin Ingram III (24) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos' Diontae Spencer, left, returns a punt as Kansas City Chiefs' Armani Watts (23) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs past Denver Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb (55) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) runs with the ball as Denver Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb (55) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams runs with the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (85) is stopped by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed (38) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Denver Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater scrambles under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Jarran Reed (90) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle (13) struggles for yardage as Denver Broncos linebacker Baron Browning defends during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas City Chiefs place kicker Harrison Butker (7) is congratulated by teammates after kicking a 56-yard field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Chiefs' Andy Reid is an offensive-minded coach to his core, so the Kansas City defense must have done something special against the Denver Broncos on Sunday night for him to call its performance ''beautiful.''
Three turnovers. Three fourth-down stops. One pick-6 to seal a fifth straight win.
Yep, sounds like a fitting description.
''It was just beautiful to watch,'' Reid gushed after the 22-9 victory in chilly Arrowhead Stadium, which kept Kansas City in first place in the crowded AFC West as it chases a sixth consecutive division crown.
Patrick Mahomes had just 184 yards passing with a touchdown run and an interception, and his receiving corps dropped so many passes he probably thought the ball was greased. But despite the Chiefs (8-4) gaining 257 yards of total offense, they managed to keep a one-game lead on the Chargers thanks to the other side of the ball.
''Mostly it's been about a commitment to each other, believing in each other, not letting outside noise dictate what we feel,'' Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. ''It's been a total team effort to stay committed to each other.''
Things went haywire for the Broncos early in the game, when a 20-play drive ended with a failed fourth-down play rather than an easy field goal. And they didn't get much better when Teddy Bridgewater threw a pair of second-half interceptions, including the one that Daniel Sorensen returned 75 yards for a score with 9 1/2 minutes left to put the game away.
''We moved the ball well in certain areas, certain times of the game. Guys stepped up and made plays,'' Bridgewater said. ''But when you give them opportunities and you don't maximize your opportunities, it's a recipe to get beat.''
Bridgewater was held to 257 yards passing for the Broncos (6-6), who have lost 12 in a row to their longtime rival dating to the 2015 season. Javonte Williams started in place of injured running back Melvin Gordon III and had 102 yards rushing along with a touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter.
''The loss makes you feel empty no matter what,'' Broncos coach Vic Fangio said.
The Chiefs must have spent their bye working on their opening offensive script, because they effortlessly flew downfield for a touchdown. They even overcame an offensive pass-interference call before Mahomes scampered for the score.
After the Chiefs forced a second consecutive three-and-out, Harrison Butker made a 56-yard field goal.
That was just about the last anyone saw of Mahomes and Co. for a while.
The Broncos answered with a field goal of their own. Then, after forcing a quick punt, they embarked on a 20-play odyssey that carried them 83 yards and chewed up nearly 12 minutes of the second quarter - and resulted in no points.
Denver twice converted on fourth down to keep the drive alive, then went for the hat trick on fourth-and-2 at the Kansas City 8. Williams took the handoff and was stuffed by linebacker Willie Gay Jr. for a turnover on downs, the first time since 2009 that a 20-play driving lasting at least 11 minutes didn't result in points.
''Frustrating. That's all I can really say,'' Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton said. ''It would be nice to get points.''
That wasn't the end of the Broncos' woes. They went three-and-out on their first drive of the second half, Bridgewater was picked off by Juan Thornhill on their next, and Caden Sterns ran into returner Diontae Spencer after forcing Kansas City to punt; the Chiefs managed to hop on the muff for a fresh set of downs.
Butker hit his third field goal a few minutes later, extending the lead to 16-3 with 13 1/2 minutes to go, and Sorensen tacked on his pick-6 to put the game out of reach.
''It's tough to win in this league,'' said Reid, who improved to 20-3 coming off a bye, including 7-2 since his arrival in Kansas City. ''And to have that opportunity against a good football team, we'll feel good about ourselves for a minute here until we get ourselves ready for the Raiders come Tuesday.''
STATS AND STREAKS
The Broncos are 3-20 in December when playing at Kansas City dating to the days of the AFL. ... Bridgewater had not thrown an interception in four straight games before the Chiefs picked him twice. ... The Broncos' Patrick Surtain II, the reigning AFC defensive player of the week, had an interception. ... The Chiefs' defense has allowed 17 points or fewer in five straight games. ... Mahomes needs 73 yards passing to pass Alex Smith (17,608) for the third most in Chiefs history. ... Darrel Williams led the Chiefs in rushing (54 yards) and receiving (three catches for 60 yards).
Broncos NT Mike Purcell was a surprise inactive with a thumb injury.
Chiefs CB Chris Lammons left late in the first half with an ankle injury.
The Broncos host Detroit next Sunday. The Chiefs host Las Vegas the same day.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins has gotten somewhat lost in the storm of Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase putting up record-setting numbers. However, Higgins is a solid option, and it was fairly recently that the fantasy community was in a frenzy regarding taking Higgins over Chase in 2022. Things have changed, obviously, but Higgins is still a fantastic option for DFS and will be a draft target in 2022. A tall, possession wide receiver, paired with one of the best in the game in Chase and a gunslinger in Burrow, Higgins has the potential to go off in any given week while also holding a decent floor due to the offense's electricity and the lanky receiver's talent. With the LSU reunion in Cincinnati, the former Clemson Tiger is being overlooked to a fault.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle is nothing special, but if DFS players are scouring for a cheap wide receiver or Flex, Pringle is a good fit. In his last four games, Pringle has played 64 percent of snaps and been on pace for 81 receptions, 863 yards, and 17 touchdowns. Obviously, this is not sustainable, but behind Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, Pringle has emerged as the Chiefs' next best option through the air. Although he has little value in Dynasty and probably won't even be drafted in 2022, fantasy managers can ride the 28-year-old's hot streak in what projects to be a shootout against the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon had a surprising performance last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers with 12 carries for 61 yards and six receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. However, this apparent breakout should be analyzed skeptically. The 29-year-old accompanied a variation of lead backs in his days with the Minnesota Vikings but managed to sign a substantial deal with the San Francisco 49ers, where he would fade to irrelevance. But the Chiefs took a flier on this speedster, and after a full season with the team, he finally played a role in this offense for one game. Throughout the season, the Chiefs have been searching for an answer at running back and cycling from one guy to another. Perhaps McKinnon is what they've been looking for all along, but based on his career's history and the abruptness of his surge, it's most likely that they'll continue rotating to the next guy and McKinnon will fade once again.
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary had a stellar end to the season and has continued his dominance into the playoffs. Last week, against the New England Patriots, Singletary had 16 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns as well three catches for 13 yards. Through the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 15 to 17), the 24-year-old was the RB2, averaging 18.5 fantasy points per game. Singletary's divisional round performance against the Kansas City Chiefs may be extremely indicative of his future outlook. Against a good defense and in what's projected to be a contested game, the Bills may choose to lean on their lead-runner: a great sign for Singletary's future value. However, the Bills may also find themselves falling behind and revert to their pass-heavy ways, neglecting Singletary, which presents some downside for Dynasty managers and potential 2022 drafters. The Bills have recently reinvented themselves around this talented rusher, but only time will tell if they choose to sustain this strategy.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers has officially returned after recovering from his torn Achilles in record time, and he has returned with a bang. The sophomore amassed 18 touches for 95 total yards against the Arizona Cardinals on Wild Card Weekend. After such a great performance, it seems as though Akers has returned as the Rams' feature-back; however, this notion is not reflected in his DFS cost. A mere price of $5,700 places him in the neighborhood of questionable backups Giovanni Bernard and Jerick McKinnon. Even if Akers isn't ready to assume the full workload, this price is overcompensating for an injury that has been a minimal factor since his return. Akers should be a cornerstone of all DFS lineups this week and will be a staple of the early rounds in 2022 drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman (abdomen, hip) looked to be limited in practice on Thursday and is still a question mark to play on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round. Perriman sat out of Wednesday's walkthrough practice, but the good news is that he was able to get back on the field on Thursday. The 28-year-old caught only one of three targets for five yards in the wild-card win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week with Cyril Grayson (hamstring) inactive. If he's able to play against the Rams, he'll be a boom/bust DFS option for fantasy gamers. If both Perriman and Grayson are unable to play, Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller would have expanded roles alongside Mike Evans in three-wide sets.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (foot) is progressing well, but the team won't make a decision on his status for the Divisional Round against the Cincinnati Bengals until Friday, according to head coach Mike Vrabel. Henry has been taking contact in practice this week, but the Titans must first activate him from Injured Reserve if Henry is healthy enough to play on Saturday for the first time since Week 8. All signs are pointing to the 28-year-old being active against Cincinnati, and if he is, he should be the team's workhorse running back. Henry could be a bit risky in his first game back, especially as the most expensive RB at DraftKings, but he's also been the most dominant RB in the league when he's been healthy the last couple of seasons.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is practicing again on Thursday. Fournette remains on Injured Reserve and hasn't played since Week 15, but he could be trending towards a return for the Divisional Round game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. If Fournette is healthy enough to play, the Bucs will have to activate him no later than Saturday. With Fournette and Ronald Jones II (ankle) out in the wild-card round, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard were in a timeshare in Tampa's backfield. Fournette should operate as the team's lead back if he's activated, although he might not be used as the workhorse in the running and passing game like he was before his injury, especially if Jones is able to return as well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (ankle) was back at practice on Thursday and wasn't in his walking boot as he worked with a trainer. Jones appears to be making progress after sitting out of the wild-card win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but he's fighting an uphill battle to be ready on Sunday to face the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round. Leonard Fournette (hamstring) is making progress and could come off Injured Reserve to play this weekend, while Ke'Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard wait for their opportunity after splitting the backfield touches last weekend. Even if Jones somehow was able to play on Sunday and Fournette missed another game, Vaughn and Bernard would likely still be involved, which would make Jones tough to recommend in DFS contests.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is interviewing with the Carolina Panthers for their vacant offensive coordinator spot again Thursday, Jan. 20.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones (ankle) was working with a trainer at practice Thursday, Jan. 20, without a boot.
Fantasy Spin: RoJo could be a flex candidate even though Leonard Fournette is trending upwards.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) made his return from injury for the Bills' playoff game against New England and caught two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. He come out of that game healthy and was able to practice in full all week, meaning he will remain active against a Chiefs team who he had great success against in October when he caught three passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Now, since that time, Gabriel Davis has emerged as a key members of the wide receiver corps; however, Sanders has not been phased out. In fact, Sanders played the third-most snaps among Bills wide receivers during the Wild Card win over New England, so if the Bills need to push the pace against the Chiefs, Sanders could be an intriguing DFS dart throw in GPP lineups.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce draws a difficult matchup on Sunday against the Bills. In particular, Bills linebacker Matt Milano, who the team usually uses to cover opposing tight ends, has given up the fewest yards per target in the NFL (min. 150 targets) since 2017. Milano also leads the NFL in coverage success rate and catch rate allowed over expected. When the Bills played the Chiefs in October, Kelce had 6 catches for 57 yards, but he did find the end zone, and his clear red zone role on a good offense will always make him a fantasy option. However, with the Bills missing star cornerback Tre'Davious White, it's fair to wonder if this is a game where the Kansas City wide receivers may be more consistently impactful.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup (knee) has yet to undergo surgery on his torn ACL, per head coach Mike McCarthy. He suffered a clean ACL tear in the Week 17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The 25-year-old reportedly will undergo surgery later once the swelling subsides. Gallup will become an unrestricted free agent and may not be ready by Week 1 of the 2022 campaign since he tore his ACL towards the end of the 2021 season. He caught 35 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns over nine games in 2021. Gallup will look to recover fully, and barring any setbacks, should draw plenty of interest from teams during the offseason. Stay tuned.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said the team is taking a "wait and see" approach for running back Leonard Fournette's (hamstring) status for the Divisional Round matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. He's been sidelined since Week 16 due to a hamstring injury. The 27-year-old did practice on Wednesday and is trending in the right direction towards suiting up this Sunday. Giovani Bernard and Ke'Shawn Vaughn will lead Tampa Bay's backfield if Fournette is ruled out. The Buccaneers will have until Saturday to activate Fournette from injured reserve, and if active, the Buccaneers running back is a solid value at $7,000 price tag on FanDuel.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams (toe) didn't practice on Wednesday. He played through the toe injury in Sunday's AFC Wild Card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers but only logged one carry. The 26-year-old rushed for four yards on his only attempt and lost a fumble which was returned for a touchdown. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and is trending in the right direction towards suiting up for the Divisional Round game against the Buffalo Bills. If active, it's unclear what Williams' role will be with Edwards-Helaire most likely returning and Jerick McKinnon in the mix, who led the Chiefs backfield with 18 touches for 142 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday's win over the Steelers. Williams is a risky play at his $5,500 price tag on FanDuel.
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (knee) participated fully in Wednesday's practice. He was limited in the team's first practice on Tuesday. The 23-year-old is fully recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him three weeks earlier in the season and has averaged 23 carries over in his previous three games. He's rushed for 300 yards on 69 attempts and one touchdown while catching three passes for no gain and a score. Mitchell should see a heavy workload against a Green Bay Packers defense that allows 109.1 rushing yards per game. The 49ers running back is excellent value at his FanDuel price tag of $7,300.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Nakia Griffin-Stewart, CB Josh Jackson, LB Shilique Calhoun and LB Elijah Sullivan were released on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed DB Rashard Robinson to the practice squad on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
The Kansas City Chiefs signed free agent DT Andrew Billings (Browns) and OL Roderick Johnson (Dolphins) to the practice squad on Wednesday, Jan. 19.