If and when the season begins, Cincinnati wants the top overall pick in the 2020 draft to come and be successful immediately. In his first news conference since the Bengals selected him, Burrow said he shares the same aspirations in his first season in the NFL.
“Going into my rookie year I expect to play well and I expect to win a lot of games,” Burrow said when asked about reflecting on recent success that includes a Heisman Trophy and a national title. “If I look back now, I’m doing myself a disservice and the team a disservice.”
Burrow’s remarks came after the team announced he had officially signed his four-year rookie contract worth $36.1 million after agreeing to terms earlier this week, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Earlier in the week, Bengals coach Zac Taylor indicated where Burrow sits on the depth chart heading into camp, even if he didn’t explicitly declare the recent Heisman Trophy winner as the team’s Week 1 starter.
“Obviously we have weeks to sort out who’s starting and all that good stuff, but Joe’s going to walk in and take the first snaps at quarterback,” Taylor said Wednesday. “He’s prepared for that.”
The second-year coach said the baseline expectation for his new quarterback is to play well in Week 1 in the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. Burrow welcomed Taylor’s early hopes for him.
“It feels great to immediately have the trust of the coaching staff,” Burrow said Friday. “I’ve come a long way in the last three to four years in that aspect. It feels great coming in and knowing that they have my back and that if I make a mistake in practice that I’m not going to get benched.”
To get ready for the task ahead, Burrow spent most of the offseason living with his parents and training in southeast Ohio. Burrow said he moved to the Cincinnati area a couple of weeks ago and got together with “a lot of different guys” when asked if he had been able to throw with any of his new teammates.
Burrow did confirm being able to throw to rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins, the Bengals’ second-round pick.
“I’m really excited about Tee,” Burrow said. “I was very impressed the couple of times I threw with him. I think he’s going to be a really, really great player for us.”
The 2020 draft class will be pivotal in helping the Bengals return to the postseason for the first time since 2015. In addition to the playoff drought, Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since January 1991, which is long before Burrow or many of his teammates were born.
Ever since it became apparent last fall that the Bengals were going to have the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft and a chance to draft one of the most transcendent college quarterbacks in recent years, Burrow has been pegged as the one to lift the despondent franchise.
On Friday, he downplayed the chatter surrounding the long-term expectations for his time in Cincinnati.
“I try not to pay attention to all that stuff,” Burrow said. “My job is here to be the best I can today and get better every single day. That’s all I’m focused on right now. I let everybody else do all that talking.”
Fantasy football waiver wire for NFL Week 3 — Devonta Freeman, Dion Lewis among top pickups
We’re prone to hyperbole in analysis, as it’s hard not to overreact in a day and age where everyone is one 280-character Tweet away from chiming in on the topic du jour.
However, it doesn’t feel like hyperbole to suggest that Sunday of Week 2 was one of the most consequential days of injuries that we have seen in years. Maybe decades. It was carnage on Sunday, led by the devastating news that Saquon Barkley is expected to miss the rest of the 2020 season due to an ACL tear, per Adam Schefter and Jordan Raanan.
With so many injuries, this week’s waiver wire column is longer than normal. Here it goes.
Note: All players in this column are available in at least 50% of leagues on ESPN.com.
Dion Lewis/Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants (0.8%/0.4%): It’s unlikely that Lewis will have the backfield to himself in New York, as Gallman (another waiver-wire add) will certainly be busy for the G-Men too. I’d urge you to consider either Giants running back, with the nod to Lewis, given his passing game acumen (he’s a nifty pass-catcher) and the fact that it was he who took over for Barkley post-injury in Week 2 (Gallman was a healthy scratch). Both players should be added for now.
Mike Davis, RB, Carolina Panthers (8.0%): Davis won the back-up job to Christian McCaffrey with a strong training camp and was thrust into action after McCaffrey left Week 2 due to an ankle injury. Davis hauled in eight catches while the Panthers tried to play catch-up, a strength of his overall game. If McCaffrey does in fact miss time — he’s never before miss a game in his NFL career — Davis will be called up to be a workhorse. Another add in all leagues.
Darrell Henderson Jr., RB, Los Angeles Rams (45.7%): Following injuries to Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown (finger, which came late in the game), Henderson’s role within the Rams’ backfield ballooned in Week 2. For now, the status of Akers (ribs) and Brown is unknown, which could lead to a sustained role for Henderson — a talented third-round pick in 2019 — going forward. He rushed 12 times for 81 yards and a touchdown, while adding two catches and 40 yards in Week 2. A talented player to add in all leagues.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Free Agent (7.5%): For the first time in my handful of years writing this column, I’m advocating for a player who doesn’t even have a team. Why? Well, Freeman just feels bound to find work soon, given the rash of running back injuries around the NFL — he’s already working out for the Eagles early this week, with a visit planned for the Giants as well. In the right spot, he could become an immediate fantasy contributor. There may be no better place now than the G-Men.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling/Allen Lazard, WR, Green Bay Packers (16.8%/33.7%): After Davante Adams left the Packers’ game due to a hamstring injury, these two young wideouts were counted on even more to step up. MVS and Lazard both had nice Week 1 efforts and posted three catches apiece on Sunday. I’ll give the edge to MVS as my preferred add due to slightly more vertical-play upside, but the reality is that if Adams has to miss time, both of these players will be involved quite a bit.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans (27.2%): Davis had three catches in Week 2, one of which found the end zone. He has strung together back-to-back double-digit fantasy points performances, and there’s still no denying how much natural talent he possesses. With A.J. Brown dealing with a knee injury, Davis figures to stay busy in a Tennessee offense with a red-hot quarterback dealing.
Jerick McKinnon RB, San Francisco 49ers (18.9%): Start by checking to see if teammate Tevin Coleman is available (at last check he was around in about 47% of leagues), as Coleman took over as the primary ball-carrier after an injury to Raheem Mostert in Week 2. While Coleman was inefficient, he would figure to be a better bet to lead the team in carries over McKinnon because the team must remain smart while managing his workload. But McKinnon showed great burst in Week 2 and is such a useful pass-catcher, that he’s worth the speculative add.
Russell Gage, WR, Atlanta Falcons (20.0%): Rare is the offense that can support three wide receivers weekly in fantasy football, but the Falcons might fit the bill. Gage followed nine catches in Week 1 with another six in Week 2, good enough for 46 yards and a touchdown. Get this: Gage also nearly added another six points as a thrower, as he dropped a dime on a designed pass that Julio Jones should have caught for a nearly 50-yard touchdown. A deeper-league add who will keep finding a way.
Myles Gaskin, RB, Miami Dolphins (12.4%): I’m going to throw the flag on myself for not having Gaskin on the column last week – colleague Mike Clay was smart to urge me to consider this – as I wondered whether he would truly be the lead back in the Dolphins’ backfield. It sure appears that is the case, as Gaskin handled seven carries but more importantly six catches in Week 2. I’m not sure he’ll be a consistent top 25 play for me, but running back depth is so, so thin in fantasy football that Gaskin should be rostered in all leagues.
Joshua Kelley, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (26.4%): The Chargers have two talented backs and Kelley’s workload is impossible to miss: he handled 23 carries in Week 2 and rushed for 64 yards. While Austin Ekeler is the clear-cut top back in this backfield for fantasy purposes, there’s so much to like about Kelley’s game and role already. An add in all leagues as well.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (43.0%): Sammy Watkins left the game in Week 2 after taking a massive hit and sustaining a head injury. Hardman figures to be much more involved in Watkins is unable to play in Week 3 and many already know this: Hardman is another big play waiting to happen. He’ll likely be at best third in line for targets most weeks, but that’s certainly still good enough when you catch passes from Patrick Mahomes.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins (48.1%): I’m not sure if a Mike Gesicki fan club exists in a formal capacity, but I’ll soon be a card-carrying member if it does. Gesicki has just an absurd catch radius and is tremendous in the red zone, as was evidenced again in Week 2 with his 130-yard performance. It’s very difficult to find a reliable player at tight end, but Gesicki is a player to strongly consider if you’re struggling to find it early. Gesicki has some sincere weekly upside.
Jonnu Smith, TE, Tennessee Titans (38.4%): Another quality tight end on the waiver wire, as Smith is such a tremendous athlete and very good after the catch. He scored two more touchdowns in Week 2, giving him three for the season. Tennessee offense is once again looking sharp, so don’t be surprised if Smith’s surge continues.
Jordan Reed, TE, San Francisco 49ers (5.6%);Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys (.9%);Mo Alie-Cox, TE, Indianapolis Colts (.5%): Yes, I’m listing three players at once for this blurb, as each had an awesome Week 2, but with two tight end adds above whom I feel better about above, I don’t want to overdo it here. George Kittle could return soon for San Francisco — same goes for Jack Doyle in Indianapolis — and Schultz is an athletic and rising player, but Dallas does have three excellent wideouts who will get theirs too.
Monitor the quarterbacks: It’s hard for me to suggest making a move at quarterback, given how well the expected stars have been so far. No consensus top-10 quarterback is causing me major strife so far, so the names below are worth monitoring in case you’re looking ahead to bye weeks or for depth.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans (34.4%): If there are naysayers leftover, the pool is dwindling. Tannehill is averaging close to 22.5 points per game early on this season.
Gardner Minshew II, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (19.3%): This might be my favorite player in the NFL, which is reason enough to consider adding him. Oh, by the way, he has back-to-back games with 20-plus points.
Notable bets – Chiefs’ win equals big loss for bookmakers
The bookmaker’s email had a joke in the subject field: “Know anyone who wants to bet the Chargers?”
The punchline contained in the email was stunning.
“Game kicks off in 55 minutes,” Tom Gable, sportsbook director at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey, wrote of Sunday’s Los Angeles Chargers–Kansas City Chiefs matchup, “and we haven’t taken one single wager on the Chargers on the spread.”
The action on the game at other sportsbooks around the nation wasn’t quite as extreme, but it was close. It was all Chiefs, everywhere and every which way. People bet Kansas City to cover the spread, to win the game straight up, and on all kinds of different parlays.
The Chiefs didn’t cover the spread in a 23-20 overtime win, but the victory still proved plenty costly for the bookmakers. Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S. sportsbooks, said the Chiefs coming from behind to beat the Chargers caused a swing against the house of “several seven figures.”
As bettors shed a collective tear for the sportsbooks (wink, wink), here are this week’s notable bets, highlighted by a Sunday that saw 13 of 14 favorites win straight up and another epic collapse by the Falcons.
NFL notable bets
• On Sunday morning, 97% of the point-spread money bet on Chiefs-Chargers at William Hill books was on the Chiefs. By kickoff, according to Bogdanovich, 20 times as much money had been bet on the Chiefs as had been bet on the Chargers. For every one bet there was on Los Angeles, there were 11 on Kansas City.
• Sportsbook PointsBet reported 95% of money-line bets on that game were on Kansas City.
• John Sheeran, sportsbook director for FanDuel, said in a text message that a Chiefs comeback win caused a “big, multiple seven-figure swing” against the house. “Them not covering was huge, though, and eased the pain,” Sheeran said.
• In the final hours before kickoff, the Borgata did manage to find some Chargers bets. “We definitely took some late Chargers money after customers started cashing tickets from the early games,” Gable said. “That’s the longest that I can remember going without attracting a single individual wager on a team. We actually lost on the game due to all the teaser liability built up on the Chiefs. We ended up needing the Chargers to win that game outright because the Chiefs were involved in so many teasers and money-line parlays.”
Gable added that the Borgata suffered an overall loss on Sunday.
• The 23-20 victory ended the Chiefs’ streak of covering the spread at 10 consecutive games, tied with the 2015 Vikings for the longest such streak in at least the past 19 seasons, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
• The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas had 12 times as many point-spread bets on the Chiefs compared to the Chargers.
“That Chiefs game was so big; it was the entire week,” John Murray, executive director at the SuperBook, told ESPN.
• With the action so lopsided on the Chiefs, why didn’t the point spread grow rapidly instead of sticking at -8.5 for much of the weekend? “You try to hold the line as much as you can, because any time you move the line it costs you money,” Johnny Avello, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker and now sportsbook director for DraftKings, said Sunday afternoon. “It can cost you money because it sets you for middles, being sided and everything else, so you try to keep that to a minimum.”
Books get “middled” if a point spread on a game moves from, for example, Chiefs -8.5 to -10 and they end up winning by nine. Bettors who took Kansas City -8.5 win, and bettors who backed the other team +10 win.
Books get “sided” if a point spread moves, for example, from Chiefs -8.5 to Chiefs -9 and the game lands on nine. Bets laying 8.5 win, while those laying or taking 9 push.
• Another reason bookmakers might choose not to move the line, even when facing lopsided action like they were on the Chiefs, is because influential bettors might be on the opposite side of the one-sided action. Sometimes bookmakers will even move a number toward the underdog, even if inundated with money on the favorite. This is because managing the action at their book in a way that has them needing the same side of a game as the professional bettors is often more important than trying to balance the action, which is often impossible.
“We bumped [the line] up from 8.5 to 9 at the end, but that decision wasn’t really about the point spread. It was all about the money line,” Murray said. “Besides, the kinds of bettors who were taking Chiefs and Chiefs money line are not the players you move point spreads for. You just take bets and let the games play out. We will beat those types of bets in the long run.”
• The Falcons-Cowboys game featured the largest line movement of the week. Dallas could be found as high as a 7-point favorite to start the week, but as numerous injuries for the Cowboys surfaced and influential bettors began to back Atlanta, the line began to shrink. It closed at Dallas -3 at most shops. The Cowboys erased a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit and won 40-39, recovering an onside kick that set up a 46-yard game-winning field goal by Greg Zuerlein as time expired.
• According to Elias Sports Bureau research, teams were 440-0 when scoring 39 points with no turnovers since 1933.
• Trailing by 15 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Cowboys were 25-1 underdogs to come back and win at William Hill sportsbooks in Nevada. Three bettors took a chance on Dallas at that point, the largest wager being $20.
• Sportsbook Circa Sports said the Falcons-Cowboys game, along with Vikings-Colts, attracted the most limit bets this weekend. Circa sportsbook supervisor Chris Bennett reported taking limits on both sides of both games: Falcons +4.5, +4, +3.5 and +3, and Cowboys -2.5 and -3. Circa also took limit bets on the Vikings +3.5 and +3, and on the Colts -3. Indianapolis won 28-11.
• The Rams were the only underdogs to win straight up on Sunday. They closed as 1.5-point underdogs, and beat the Eagles 37-19.
• More money was bet on the Lions-Packers game than any of the other early kickoffs at BetRivers/PlaySugarHouse sportsbooks, with the Packers money line (-265) the most popular single bet on Sunday. Green Bay pulled away from Detroit, winning and covering the 6.5-point spread in a 42-21 win.
• The Dolphins covering the 5.5-point spread in a 31-28 loss to the Bills produced FanDuel’s biggest win on Sunday.
• Right before kickoff of the early games on Sunday, a bettor at a BetMGM sportsbook in Las Vegas placed three $150,000 bets. The bettor took the Lions +6.5, the Dolphins +5.5 and the Buccaneers -8, and went 2-1 with the Dolphins and Bucs covering the spread.
• Those weren’t the only big bets BetMGM took on Sunday in Las Vegas. In the prime-time game, the book reported taking a $450,000 bet on the Seahawks -4 (-120) against the Patriots, and a $225,000 bet on under 45 in the Seahawks-Patriots game. Seattle won 35-30.
• The Raiders are 5.5-point underdogs to the Saints on Monday night in the first NFL game in Las Vegas.
• The Ravens opened as 3-point favorites over the Chiefs in next week’s Monday night showdown.
• Big Ten teams are back on the betting board after the conference announced it would kick off its season in late October. Ohio State is the second favorite to win the national championship at 3-1, behind Clemson, at the SuperBook. Penn State re-opened at 30-1, with Michigan and Wisconsin each at 40-1.
The SuperBook also installed Ohio State as an odds-on favorite to win the Big Ten championship game. The Buckeyes re-opened at 4-9, followed by Wisconsin and Penn State, each at 7-1. Minnesota is next at 16-1, followed by Michigan at 20-1.
• Circa Sports opened with Miami as a 9-point favorite over visiting Florida State on Saturday.
• The SuperBook is now offering odds to win next season’s NBA championship. Here are the top seven favorites:
• FanDuel estimated that Game 2 of the Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Nuggets attracted roughly 50% of the betting handle compared to the Sunday night NFL game between the Patriots and Seahawks.
• Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S. Open, his first major title. He closed at 25-1 and attracted limited support at the SuperBook. Jeff Sherman, vice president of risk at the SuperBook, described Chambeau winning as a “solid” result for the book.
• At William Hill U.S. sportsbooks, 29% of the money bet on the odds to win the U.S. Open ended up on Phil Mickelson prior to the tournament teeing off on Thursday. Mickelson was 13 over after two rounds and missed the cut.
• DeChambeau is now the favorite to win the Masters at 10-1 at the SuperBook.
Ranking the most impactful injuries of NFL Week 2
Sunday started with 49ers running back Raheem Mostert taking a pitch from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and bursting up the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. It ended with the Seahawks making a goal-line stand and stopping Patriots quarterback Cam Newton to end a classic game in Seattle. In between those two moments, a star player seemed to go down with an injury every five minutes. Both Garoppolo and Mostert were done by halftime, two of five starters the 49ers lost in New Jersey.
You could make a pretty talented roster out of the players who were injured in Week 2. The list includes three starting quarterbacks, the top two fantasy picks in most drafts, the league’s leading wide receiver from Week 1, an offensive line that would rank among the best in football and most of a solid front seven. On a day when we would typically be talking about an incredible comeback by the Cowboys and a brilliant battle between two great quarterbacks in Newton and Russell Wilson, we’re instead talking about how many players are either shelved for the season or likely to miss time.
The first question I was asked when this rash of injuries popped up Sunday involved the missing preseason: Would these players have been as likely to suffer soft-tissue injuries if the NFL had been operating under a typical preseason schedule? It’s impossible to say, but I’m not convinced. In reality, many of the star players who were hurt would have seen only a handful of snaps in one preseason game. Players such as Saquon Barkley and Nick Bosa didn’t play at all during the 2019 preseason. Padded practices were reduced this summer, but prior reductions in practice time did not lead to more injuries.
If we had seen more soft-tissue injuries in Week 1, when players were ramping up to full regular-season activity without a preseason, there would be a stronger link between the missing preseason and the increased injury rate. As it is, randomness is the most likely explanation for what caused the Week 2 spike, unless we see a similar attrition rate in the weeks to come.
For now, I want to run through this week’s injuries and detail how they’re going to impact their current teams. All injuries are bad, and one injury isn’t more or less meaningful than another, but some impact the NFL season more than others. I’m going to try to go through the injuries in order of relative impact given what we know about each situation as of early Monday morning. This won’t include players who returned to the game after getting hurt, such as Bears running back David Montgomery or Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. We’ll start with the 49ers:
Injury: Expected torn ACL
The 49ers have been waylaid by injuries on both sides of the ball, but one of their most irreplaceable players went down for the season in Week 2. Bosa reportedly tore his ACL early in the 49ers’ 31-13 victory over the Jets, and while a torn ACL isn’t the sort of career-threatening injury it might have been 30 years ago, it would take a miracle or a misdiagnosis for Bosa to avoid missing the remainder of the season. I can’t recall the last time a player was diagnosed with a likely torn ACL on Sunday before the standard follow-up imaging on Monday said something different.
Bosa, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft, was one of the biggest additions to the 49ers’ defense when coordinator Robert Saleh’s unit took a step forward last season. He played a full season, racking up nine sacks and 25 hits before adding four more sacks in the postseason. Bosa would have been a viable Super Bowl MVP selection if the 49ers had held on to their lead against the Chiefs. The Ohio State product played 76% of the defensive snaps as a rookie, and when he wasn’t on the field, San Francisco’s passer rating allowed jumped by 10.5 points.
ESPN Daily podcast: Barnwell discusses the severity of injuries around the league
San Francisco also lost 2017 No. 3 pick Solomon Thomas to an as-yet-undetermined knee injury Sunday, leaving what was a vaunted defensive line as recently as February suddenly thin after just two games. DeForest Buckner is now in Indianapolis. Dee Ford already missed Week 2 with a neck injury, and even when healthy, the Niners have typically preferred to use the former Chiefs rusher as a passing-down specialist while playing about 55% of the defensive snaps. If Bosa, Ford and Thomas are all out for Week 3, they will be down to Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Kentavius Street, D.J. Jones and Kerry Hyder up front. I’ll talk more about that Week 3 game in a bit.
In the big picture, the 49ers should get Ford back and will likely have to use the 29-year-old in an expanded role. It wouldn’t be shocking to see an aggressive front office pursue options near the trade deadline, when someone like Ryan Kerrigan could come available. There’s also a deep market of veteran free agents at the position. The 49ers just had Ezekiel Ansah in for a visit and could sign the former Lions standout once Bosa goes on injured reserve.
Injury: Expected torn ACL
While Barkley is expected to make a full recovery from what is reportedly a torn ACL, this is more of a long-term disaster for the Giants than a short-term concern. While Joe Judge’s team probably wasn’t going to compete for the NFC East title this season, Barkley’s injury probably sets the organization back a year as it continues to rebuild.
To start, his injury makes it more difficult to evaluate Daniel Jones. The Giants attempted to surround their quarterback with a bevy of weapons in Barkley, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, then landed on a steal in the fifth round when they unearthed Darius Slayton in the 2019 draft. Those five players have been on the field together alongside Jones for a total of five snaps, all coming in Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Bears before Barkley tore up his knee.
This wasn’t going to be a make-or-break year for Jones, but Barkley’s absence puts more of the load on his shoulders and provides an easy excuse if he struggles. By the time 2021 starts, he will have made as many as 28 pro starts and have played alongside a healthy Barkley for a full game in just one of them: last Monday’s loss to the Steelers. Barkley suffered a high ankle sprain in Jones’ first start against the Buccaneers last season, missed three games and wasn’t his old self on a regular basis after returning.
His injury also gives an easy out to general manager Dave Gettleman, who can argue after the season that the Giants need to see what they have with his three top-five offensive picks — Jones, Barkley and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas — all on the field at the same time. This realistically needed to be a deciding year on Gettleman’s controversial reign with the team, especially after 2019 first-rounder Deandre Baker was cut after a disastrous debut season and an arrest for armed robbery.
Barkley didn’t have a serious injury history at Penn State, but the Giants chose him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2018 because he was supposed to be a player who transcended the typical concerns about running backs. While it’s through little fault of his own, he has not. The Giants haven’t had a consistently effective running game with Barkley because their offensive line has been a mess. If the ACL tear is confirmed, he will have now spent most of the past two seasons either injured or greatly limited by injuries. His injury, strangely, may buy Gettleman more time.
This also pushes back Barkley’s timeline for an extension, one Gettleman would have likely been happy to hand out to prove that he had made a successful pick. Fellow high draftees such as Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott have signed extensions after their third seasons, but they were coming off successful campaigns without significant injuries. New York will pick up Barkley’s fifth-year option for 2022, and I think he should be able to return to full health for the 2021 season, but if Barkley had stayed healthy in 2020, he would be signing an extension in the spring of 2021. Now, that deal probably won’t come into play until the spring of 2022.
Tristan H. Cockcroft breaks down which players the Giants offense will lean on to help replace the production of Saquon Barkley.
The Giants nearly overcame Barkley’s loss to come back and beat the Bears while using Dion Lewis as their primary back. The former Patriots and Titans starter, who turns 30 on Sunday, fielded 54 of the 62 snaps. He should continue to be the leader in the backfield, although he has a significant injury history and struggled as a feature back in Tennessee. Wayne Gallman could be involved as part of the rotation, while former Cowboys back Robert Turbin is a free agent and familiar with Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
The Giants also lost Shepard to a toe injury, and while he returned for one play, he then left for the remainder of the game. If the injury is serious, it would cost Jones another weapon. Given that the Giants have a pair of players who work best out of the slot in Shepard and Tate, though, I don’t think the Shepard injury is anywhere near as significant as Barkley’s.
Injury: Sprained AC joint
Speaking of injuries that set back an evaluation window, the Broncos were clearly using 2020 to evaluate what they had in Lock, a second-round pick last year. General manager John Elway loaded up the team with weapons, imported Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator and dared Lock to prove that his impressive five-game stint as the starter at the end of 2019 was an example of what the Broncos could expect if they built the franchise around him.
Lock had an uneven Week 1 start against the Titans, and after separating his shoulder in the first half against the Steelers on Sunday, he’ll miss two to six weeks, with the schedule subject to what doctors find when Lock has an MRI this week. We’ve seen quarterbacks play through sprained AC joints in the past without missing time, including Ben Roethlisberger in 2016 and Jameis Winston in 2017, but Lock’s injury might be more severe.
If we split the difference and Lock misses a month, he would return for the Week 7 game against the Chiefs before Denver’s Week 8 bye. It would mean that he played about two games of meaningful football across the first half of the season, giving the Broncos a half-season to evaluate him in advance of the 2021 offseason. Is that enough to decide whether the 2019 second-round pick is Denver’s quarterback of the future? Or will that lead Elway to recommit to Lock and give him another chance at the starting job in 2021? If the Broncos do that and Lock isn’t their guy, they’ll have wasted the better part of two years in the process.
The Broncos released Joe Flacco in March to get out from under his $20.3 million base salary, but they didn’t really do much to fill in the roster behind their new starter. Despite the fact that Cam Newton was a free agent and would eventually sign with the Patriots for less guaranteed money, they inked former Bengals and Lions backup Jeff Driskel to a two-year, $5 million deal. Driskel is a good athlete and — crucially for Elway — 6-foot-4, but he posted a passer rating of 79.6 across his first 281 career pass attempts with a sack rate of 8.8%.
Driskel had his moments Sunday and did relatively well coming off the bench against a fearsome Steelers defense, but he took six sacks on 40 dropbacks for a 15% sack rate. It’s tough to stay healthy getting hit that frequently, and if Driskel were to get injured, the Broncos would be down to practice-squad passer Brett Rypien. (Backup running back Royce Freeman was the emergency quarterback Sunday.) It’s only Week 2, but it’s hard to feel like this is going to be much more than a lost season for the Broncos unless Lock’s injury isn’t as significant as it seemed.
Injury: High ankle sprain
Unlike Lock, Garoppolo should be able to play through his injury, given that he was able to do so against the Jets in the first half before sitting out the second half of the contest. We’ve seen quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger play through high ankle sprains in the past, but the results have been mixed. Roethlisberger threw three interceptions in a 2011 loss to the 49ers after his ankle injury and wasn’t really right the rest of the season, while Manning barely missed a beat and went on to win league MVP in 2013. Daniel Jones missed several games with a high ankle sprain last season.
Injuries impact different positions differently. A high ankle sprain is a disastrous injury for a running back or wide receiver, but it’s not as concerning for a quarterback. Garoppolo would be worse off if he scrambled on any sort of regular basis, but that’s not really his game. While he does have a propensity for spin moves, he will respond to pressure on one snap with a triple spin move and then to pressure on the next step by standing totally flat-footed in the pocket, seemingly deep in thought while looking downfield. The ankle issue shouldn’t impact his mobility.
There are two places where the injury could be a problem. One is in the movement that the 49ers do ask Garoppolo to make. While coach Kyle Shanahan sprung two long runs off pitches against the Jets on Sunday, the 49ers typically build their offense around the outside zone and play-action off that core concept, both of which ask the quarterback to take a number of steps and hit a particular mesh point at an exact time. Those steps are going to be painful, and it might throw off the timing of the run game. I wonder if Shanahan will use more pitches to keep some of the stress off Garoppolo’s ankle and footwork over the next few weeks.
The other is with footwork on passing plays. Quarterbacks with ankle or foot injuries who are struggling to plant their feet with the usual authority tend to sail passes and throw more interceptions. Garoppolo already had issues with his footwork and planting after recovering from his torn ACL last summer, famously throwing five consecutive picks in practice and looking awful in a preseason start before settling down. A healthy Garoppolo is prone to some questionable decisions, so his interception rate could rise in the weeks before his ankle heals.
While he should be able to play through the injury, there are also a couple of reasons the 49ers might prefer to sit their starter. One is that their schedule isn’t particularly tough — they play the Giants, Eagles and Dolphins over the next three weeks. The other is that they might not want to risk a more severe injury. Shanahan said after the Jets game that his team was frustrated by the turf at MetLife Stadium and felt like the “sticky” surface had led to a number of their injuries.
This normally wouldn’t be an issue, but they will head back to the same stadium for a road game against the Giants on Sunday. Shanahan can’t sit his entire team, especially given the injuries they have on both sides of the football, but it wouldn’t shock me if he rested Garoppolo for a week to get him away from the turf. The team has a lot of faith in backup Nick Mullens, and while the former undrafted free agent didn’t do much against the Jets, Mullens posted a QBR of 51.7 on 274 pass attempts in 2018.
Drew Lock‘s top weapon might also be out for an extended period of time. Sutton missed Week 1 with his own sprained AC joint, and while the third-year wideout was able to make it back onto the field for the Steelers game, he suffered a knee injury while tackling Joe Haden on an interception return at the two-minute warning of the first half and did not return.
While the in-game reports suggested that Sutton, a second-round pick in 2018, was missing time with cramps, stories after the game suggested that the Broncos were bracing for the possibility Sutton had suffered a more serious knee injury. Denver has other options with players such as Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Noah Fant in the mix, but Jeudy missed time Sunday after taking a hit over the middle of the field, and Sutton’s presence was supposed to make all of those guys better. Like in Barkley’s case, a serious injury could push Sutton’s timetable for an extension back by a year.
While Panthers fans would rightfully argue that McCaffrey is a more important player than just about anybody else on this list, the evidence seems to suggest that he doesn’t have a significant ankle injury. McCaffrey was reportedly dealing with a minor ankle injury during the game, was able to limp off after his touchdown run in the fourth quarter, and the star back reportedly said he was “fine” after the game.
At the same time, Carolina was down 21-14 to the Bucs when it got the ball back and didn’t put its centerpiece back onto the field for a single snap on three subsequent drives, so it seems clear that he wasn’t just dealing with a minor ailment. If McCaffrey has a minor ankle sprain, he shouldn’t have any issues, but if he suffered a high ankle sprain, the highest-paid back in football is going to miss several weeks. The Panthers probably weren’t competing for a playoff berth with him given their rebuild on defense, but they would seemingly be close to hopeless without him on the field.
While I don’t think they have mismanaged McCaffrey this season, it calls his significant usage rate from a year ago into attention. CMC played more than 1,000 offensive snaps a year ago when no other running back topped 900. He touched the ball 403 times, 48 touches ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Seventy-seven of those touches came when the Panthers’ win expectancy was at or below 5%, 16 more than any other player. Those touches were great for fantasy football, but they probably weren’t great for McCaffrey.
Christian McCaffrey scores two short touchdowns, but it isn’t enough as the Panthers fall to the Buccaneers 31-17.
Much like the preseason argument, we can’t prove that those touches and snaps from a year ago wore McCaffrey down or caused him to suffer an ankle injury this year. The two might not be related at all. What we can say, though, is that just about everything has to go right for a player to have the sort of season he did in 2019, health included. Now that the Panthers have signed him to a massive extension, it might make sense to spot their star back a little more rest in situations where the game is out of hand.
Former Seahawks and Bears back Mike Davis is McCaffrey’s backup and played 23 of the 25 snaps where McCaffrey wasn’t on the field. If McCaffrey were to miss time, Davis would presumably take over a significant workload, although he doesn’t really have the same sort of versatility as a receiver.
Likewise, it’s unclear whether Adams has a significant hamstring issue. The Week 1 star had a quiet game in the Packers’ 42-21 win over the Lions, catching just three passes while dealing with an ankle injury and then a hamstring. The Packers didn’t need Adams and were comfortably ahead when he went out in the third quarter, so there’s a chance Matt LaFleur was just being prudent and resting his key receiver.
If Adams does need to miss time, well, you already know that there’s not much in the cupboard. The Packers have an early bye in Week 5, which could make for a natural timeline if Adams does have a meaningful issue. In that scenario, they would be without their star for the Sunday night game against the Saints and against the Falcons on Monday the following week. If this injury turns out to be little more than cautionary rest, Adams wouldn’t be this high.
While we don’t have the specifics, coach John Harbaugh suggested after the game that his slot cornerback had suffered a season-ending knee injury. If that’s true, the Ravens will lose Young for the second time in two seasons, with the 26-year-old having missed all of 2019 with a neck injury. Young will have played just one full game since signing a three-year, $25.8 million extension before the 2019 campaign.
He has no more guaranteed money remaining on that deal after the 2020 season, so Baltimore could cut him and create $3 million in cap space if so inclined. The good news for the Temple product is that Young seemed to be fully recovered from his neck injury before suffering this knee issue. A pay cut might be a compromise both sides find reasonable — he looked to be one of the league’s best slot cornerbacks before dealing with the neck and knee injuries.
The good news for the Ravens is that they were arguably the NFL’s deepest team at cornerback before Young’s injury. Veteran corner Jimmy Smith was running as the team’s fourth corner while dealing with back spasms in Week 1, but he could step in as the third cornerback. Smith is not going to play in the slot, but star corner Marlon Humphrey is capable of playing both inside and outside. The Ravens also have Anthony Averett in reserve and a pair of corners on their practice squad.
Injury: Achilles tendon
General manager Chris Ballard’s first draft pick in Indy might have played his last snap as a member of the organization. Hooker missed 14 games over his first three seasons with injuries, including a torn ACL and MCL as a rookie and a torn meniscus in 2019. While he struggled to live up to expectations on the field, the Colts this offseason declined the safety’s fifth-year option for 2021.
The Colts fear that Hooker tore his Achilles tendon during Sunday’s 28-11 win over the Vikings, a move that certainly end Hooker’s season and send the 15th overall pick in 2017 to free agency. Indy turned things over to rookie third-rounder Julian Blackmon, who himself is recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in the Pac-12 championship game last season. Blackmon, who sat out Week 1, helped stifle Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ passing attack. Indy was also without cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, who was a late scratch with a stomach illness. Coach Frank Reich can’t be thrilled about losing Hooker, but he has to be pleased with his secondary after two starters went down unexpectedly.
We’re still waiting for more details, but Scherff’s injury could be a huge loss for Washington. The 2015 No. 5 pick was forced from Sunday’s loss against the Cardinals with a knee injury and did not return, with no further reports on the severity of the injury. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins was sacked four times and knocked down four more in the 30-15 loss to the Cardinals.
Scherff is one of the best guards in football. Washington franchise-tagged him for the 2020 campaign, but the sides did not come to an agreement on a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline. If the three-time Pro Bowler’s injury is serious, it could leave Washington in a difficult position. A second franchise tag for Scherff would cost more than $18 million, a huge sum for an interior lineman, let alone one coming off a knee injury. Losing Scherff, though, would leave another hole in what might be one of the worst lines in football without the Iowa product. An injury might also force him to settle for a one-year deal in advance of trying to rebuild his value in 2021.
The prize of this year’s cornerback class in free agency, Jones was dealing with an Achilles issue heading into Week 2 and lasted just four snaps before going down with a groin injury against the Bills. Josh Allen took advantage, going after Nik Needham and Noah Igbinoghene early and often.
Jones missed just one game in five seasons with the Cowboys, which might have made him more attractive to a Dolphins team whose other star corner (Xavien Howard) has missed 24 games over his first four campaigns. There aren’t any reports on Jones’ status, but the fact that he did not return while the Dolphins were being picked apart by Allen doesn’t seem to bode well.
Injury: Sprained MCL
The 49ers were also hit hard at running back, as they lost Mostert to a sprained knee and Tevin Coleman to an undisclosed knee injury. Jerick McKinnon, who missed all of 2018 and 2019 with a torn ACL, ended up taking over as the primary back by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. They also have Jeff Wilson on their roster, and the North Texas product could serve in an early-down role after taking some goal-line reps a year ago.
Mostert’s injury sounds like it won’t keep him out for very long, which is good news. The undrafted free agent has looked terrifyingly fast this season, racking up long touchdowns in each of the first two games. Expecting a 75-plus yard touchdown every week is probably too much to ask for, but it sure looks like he is San Francisco’s best back. If you’re in a deep fantasy league, the 49ers also have JaMycal Hasty on their practice squad.
There are no secrets when it comes to starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Quarterbacks who are expected to start get reps with the ones in practice, so by the time Sunday rolls around, we almost always know who is playing. When Justin Herbert unexpectedly took snaps for the Chargers to start the game against the Chiefs, it seemed like a rare break in that pattern, only to find out that Taylor was suffering from a chest injury reported after warm-ups and would go to the hospital.
Hours later, the story seems clearer. Taylor hit the injury report on Friday with a rib issue, although there were no suggestions he would miss the game. According to the Chargers, Taylor had trouble breathing before kickoff and went to the hospital, where he was cleared. Coach Anthony Lynn said after the game that he considered Taylor his starter and would expect Taylor to start in Week 3 if healthy.
Here’s where it gets tricky for the former Bills and Browns starter. Taylor struggled in Week 1 against the Bengals, posting a passer rating of 75.4 while running six times for just seven yards. We’re almost always too easy to praise highly drafted quarterbacks when they make their first pro appearances — and Herbert made at least one brutal rookie mistake on his interception — but the Oregon product did about as well as the Chargers could have hoped given his lack of practice reps and time to prepare.
Herbert finished 22-of-33 passing for 311 yards and a Total QBR of 75.7, throwing for one touchdown pass and running for another. Coaches love saying that they’re going to sit quarterbacks and stick with their veteran starters, but when their rookies impress early in the season, they almost always change their tune. Lynn might not feel quite as much pressure as a typical coach given that there won’t be a crowd booing and calling for Herbert to play, but if Taylor struggles with his next opportunity, I don’t think he will have much of a choice. Taylor might thankfully be healthy, but his time with the job may be limited.
With the Vikings rebuilding their secondary and missing Danielle Hunter up front, the one thing they seemed able to rely upon on defense was the linebacking duo of Barr and Eric Kendricks. Week 2 took that off the table, as Barr suffered a right shoulder injury and exited the loss to the Colts after 15 snaps. Barr returned to the sideline and supported his shoulder with his left hand before leaving.
This doesn’t seem like a minor injury, and it comes after the Vikings were outclassed in each of their first two games. Minnesota also lost backup Troy Dye for a stretch of time on Sunday, although Barr’s injury primarily meant an expanded role for core special-teamer and backup linebacker Eric Wilson.
One of the NFL’s most underrated linemen, Linder was one of the few bright spots for the Jaguars in 2019 and a valuable part of their offense at the pivot. He also left Sunday’s loss to the Titans with a knee injury and did not return. The Jags are rebuilding and aren’t expected to compete for a playoff berth in 2020, but Linder is going to be a building block for the team into the next few seasons, regardless of whether it’s Gardner Minshew, Trevor Lawrence or somebody else at quarterback. Hopefully, Linder’s injury won’t cost him much time. Tyler Shatley took Linder’s place in the lineup.
The last thing the Eagles needed was another injured offensive lineman. Seumalo was blocking on a run near the goal line in the second quarter against the Rams when Miles Sanders rolled up on him from behind. The Oregon State product left the game and did not return, meaning that the only Eagles lineman to make it through the first two weeks of the season unscathed at his expected position is center Jason Kelce. Matt Pryor, who was expected to compete for a starting job once Brandon Brooks and Andre Dillard went down, took over at guard for Seumalo. There were no reports on his status after the game.
The other significant injury of the day for the Colts belonged to their second-year wideout. Campbell was hoping to impress after having his rookie season spoiled by injuries, and the second-round pick got off to a hot start with a six-catch, 71-yard game in Week 1 against the Jags. The Colts gave Campbell a carry on his second snap of the game against the Vikings, only for the Ohio State product to suffer a knee injury after being hit by Harrison Smith before being ruled out of the contest.
The good news for Campbell is that we didn’t hear immediate reports of an ACL tear, since those typically come out after one is diagnosed on the field. Even in the best case, though, it seems like Campbell will miss time with a knee injury and lose whatever momentum he had from the hot start. Rookie Michael Pittman had an increased role and was targeted six times, although the biggest performance for the Colts on Sunday came from third-string tight end Mo Alie-Cox, who took advantage of the injuries to Jack Doyle and Trey Burton to catch five passes for 111 yards.
Injury: Sprained MCL
As you might have heard, things didn’t go well for the Falcons on Sunday. Lost in the shuffle may have their starting right tackle’s knee injury. McGary, whom I mentioned as one of the 40 most compelling people in the league heading into the season, went down in the first quarter of the crushing loss to the Cowboys and didn’t return.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter later reported that McGary had sprained his MCL, although he’ll undergo an MRI on Monday. If the damage is limited to the MCL, McGary would typically miss a few weeks. Any more damage would change the equation. Swing tackle Matt Gono, who had 42 career snaps before Sunday, took over for McGary and played the remaining 55 snaps, posting a team-best 96.2% pass block win rate in the process.
The Seahawks came up with that goal-line stand to beat the Patriots on Sunday night, but they struggled to get pass pressure on Cam Newton during that final drive without the presence of Irvin, who required help getting off the field in the fourth quarter. Coach Pete Carroll said afterward that Irvin was dealing with a sprained knee, which can mean a lot of different things. The Seahawks are paper-thin along the defensive line, so any injury to Irvin would hit them in the weakest part of their roster.
Seattle also lost 2019 second-round pick Marquise Blair to what looked like a serious knee injury. Blair had just come in to replace ejected starter Quandre Diggs but went down after four defensive snaps. He played more than 68% of the snaps in Week 1 as Seattle’s third safety, so the Seahawks still had Blair ticketed for a meaningful role on defense, even after trading for Jamal Adams. Carroll said after the game that Blair’s injury “… is probably fairly serious.”
While the Rams lost Cam Akers (ribs) and Malcolm Brown (finger) to injuries during Sunday’s win over the Eagles, I’m more concerned about the injury to one of their starting linemen. It’s easy to find running backs who can work in this Sean McVay offense, but the Rams haven’t had as much luck with finding interior linemen after losing Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan before the 2019 season.
Noteboom suffered a serious knee injury in October last year, but he was good enough upon returning to the Rams to win a starting spot at guard. The Los Angeles offensive line has been better than expected to start the season, so if he misses time with a calf injury, I’m worried a line decline could start poking holes in Jared Goff and the 2-0 Rams.
If you didn’t notice Fuller during Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, well, you had a couple of reasons. One is that Fuller was erased by Marlon Humphrey & Co. during the game, with the Notre Dame product touching the ball once as a runner for zero yards without ever being targeted. After an eight-catch start to the season, Fuller just wasn’t open against the brutal Ravens pass defense.
The other was that Fuller was reportedly struggling to stay loose with a hamstring injury. While he played 36 offensive snaps in the loss, just two of them came in the fourth quarter. The Texans could have been resting him by design, and they were down 17 points with 12 minutes to go, but that’s not an impossible obstacle to overcome. Few players in the league have dealt with more injuries over the past five years than Fuller, but his upside when healthy is unquestionable. Coach Bill O’Brien will want a healthy Fuller back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Steelers, which could now be something close to a must-win for the 0-2 Texans.
The other injuries
Corey Linsley (hand) of the Packers left late in the blowout win over the Lions and did not return. The Packers have already lost Lane Taylor to a season-ending knee tear and only had Billy Turner on the active roster as an emergency lineman in Week 2, so the injuries are already piling up for one of the league’s deepest offensive lines. … The Jets added injury to insult on Sunday, with Breshad Perriman (ankle), Chris Hogan (ribs), and Connor McGovern (groin) all leaving the game. Sam Darnold‘s top weapons for Sunday’s game against the Colts could include Frank Gore, Chris Herndon, and Braxton Berrios. … The Cowboys had a league-high nine players on injured reserve and then lost Tyron Smith to a neck injury in practice before Sunday’s miraculous win over the Falcons, but their key injury Sunday was defensive back Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring), who sat out the final Falcons drive. … The Titans were already thin at cornerback with Adoree’ Jackson on IR and Malcolm Butler missing practice during the week, but things got worse when Johnathan Joseph (leg) left in the third quarter of the win over the Jaguars and did not return. The Titans probably don’t need to worry about a comprehensive passing attack against the Vikings on Sunday, but the Steelers, Bills and Texans are all deep at wide receiver and come to town during a subsequent three-game homestand.
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