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Le’Veon Bell doesn’t regret bowling trip — ‘I wasn’t a distraction until now’



FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — A flu-stricken Le’Veon Bell went bowling last Saturday night and the result was a split.

New York Jets coach Adam Gase said Tuesday the star running back’s late night on the lanes was a bad optic for Bell and the organization, considering he was too sick to play in Sunday’s game.

Bell responded later Tuesday, showing no remorse and claiming his only regret was that he was spotted in public. He joked about it, noting he bowled a career-high 251 “coming off the flu.”

“I don’t feel bad about what I did,” Bell said. “I didn’t break any rules. I wasn’t a distraction until now.”

This became more than a bowling story.

Bell added layer of intrigue to his closely scrutinized relationship with Gase, claiming he feels under-utilized in the offense. This wasn’t the first time he voiced his opinion on the matter, but these were his most strident comments of the season.

Asked if he has been afforded the opportunity to thrive, Bell replied, “Honestly, no. I think that’s just being in a new system, with new guys up front, a new coaching staff. I’m with a new organization. Everything kind of takes time, I understand that. That’s why I’ve always been patient.

“But to be honest with you, no. I feel like when I do, I’ll be back to what people are used to seeing.”

Bell battled the flu last week and missed two practices, plus the Saturday walkthrough. At 5 p.m. Saturday, the Jets announced Bell had been ruled out for their game against the Miami Dolphins. More than five hours later, he was spotted at a bowling alley in Boonton, New Jersey, first reported by the New York Post.

Bell watched the game from a private box at MetLife Stadium. Gase got wind of the bowling episode late Monday night.

Gase said he won’t discipline Bell because no team rules were violated, but he acknowledged it was a bad look.

“Yeah, I’d say so,” Gase said.

Bell, wearing bright orange pants, bowled with family and friends from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., when the alley closed.

“That wasn’t his fault that we said he’s still contagious,” Gase said. “I mean, that’s what the doctors told him. I’d rather him not be [bowling]. I’d rather him be at home, getting better. But that will be a conversation we have.”

They spoke late Tuesday about the incident. According to Bell, Gase reminded him about the perception it created.



Stephen A. Smith disagrees with Le’Veon Bell’s decision to go bowling after being ruled out by the Jets with the flu.

Asked if he plans to impose a penalty, Gase said, “What am I going to discipline him for? I can’t tell him, ‘You have to stay in your house.'”

Bell gave his side of the story, saying he wanted to play but that he had dropped nine pounds.

“They weren’t sure about my energy and hydration, so they held me out of the game,” Bell said. “But they advised me to get out of the house and move a little bit. I had a lot of family and friends there because they were expecting me to play. Everybody was at my house, just kind of looking at me. I felt better, I felt a lot better, so we went out bowling and had fun.”

Bell has regained some of the weight and is expected to play Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Yeah, he’d better,” Gase said. “We’re out of guys.”

Bilal Powell, who replaced Bell last week and rushed for 74 yards (a team-high for the season), likely will miss the game because of an ankle injury. He also has the flu.

This has been a disappointing season for Bell, who arrived with big expectations after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract in March. He hasn’t rushed for more than 70 yards in a game, and his numbers for the year are the worst of his career — 589 yards, a 3.2 average and three touchdowns. He’s second on the team with 55 catches.

Bell seemed particularly frustrated after the Jets’ Week 13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which he rushed only 10 times. Gase was opposed to signing Bell, sources said, prompting speculation that he’s trying to reduce his role.

After New York’s Week 8 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bell was so frustrated that he approached Gase and they talked it out. Bell said he’s done talking about it.

“I don’t like to keep harping on the same thing,” he said. “I said what I said. We had the conversation. That was that. I’m not about to have the same conversations over and over. We both understand each other. As time goes on, things will get better.”

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MVP bodyguard: How Ronnie Stanley found his drive at a drive-thru – Baltimore Ravens Blog



Baltimore Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley isn’t more motivated to shove defensive linemen to the ground because all the players selected before him in his draft class landed mega-deals. He isn’t going to protect Lamar Jackson any better on Sunday because he is on the same field as the league’s highest-paid player at his position.

For the NFL MVP’s top bodyguard, what has always driven him to be the best can be traced back to a Las Vegas drive-thru.

When Stanley was around 12, his mother took himself and his younger brother and sister to a fast food restaurant after one of his basketball games. She ordered for herself, grabbed the bag and drove off.

“Losers can’t have food at the drive-thru,” she told them.

The children called their father, who was often out of town for business, about what happened and cried about how losers can’t eat. For the record, Juli Stanley did eventually feed her kids but not before serving up a hard lesson in the only way she knew would grab their attention.

Give your all, all the time.

“People might think I’m crazy,” Juli said recently. “I’m not a good loser.”

The Stanley family can’t remember how many times this happened. It wasn’t frequently, but it certainly was more than once.

After another game, Juli took Stanley and his friends to the drive-thru. She bought food for everyone except Stanley.

This wouldn’t automatically come after defeats. Stanley and his siblings could win but still lose out if their mother didn’t think they gave maximum effort.

All three children went on to receive Division I athletic scholarships, although Stanley’s competitiveness continually pushed him to the top.

In high school, Stanley was Nevada’s No. 1 overall football prospect. In college, he became the first offensive lineman selected in the 2016 NFL draft. In the NFL, he is widely considered the best left tackle.

“I always wanted to be able to prove I could do what she thought I could do,” Stanley said of his mother.

The biggest question remaining is when Stanley will become the highest-paid at his position. If Stanley can overcome a hip injury and play Sunday in Houston (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), he will cross paths with Laremy Tunsil, who escalated the value for left tackles in April by signing a three-year contract that averages $22 million per season.

Stanley, who is in his contract year, earned the right to surpass Tunsil with one of the best seasons by an offensive tackle in recent memory. He excelled in protecting the blind side of Jackson, allowing the fewest pressures (six) by an offensive tackle in 14 years, according to Pro Football Focus. He opened holes for the NFL’s all-time best single-season rushing attack on the left side, where Baltimore averaged 7.2 yards per rush.

“He’s one of the best athletes out there playing tackle right now,” said Jonathan Ogden, the Ravens’ Hall of Fame left tackle. “That’s probably why he’s going to get paid well soon.”

To the rescue

Stanley’s love for football is only exceeded by affection for dogs. His heartwarming story of rescuing two pit bulls actually has a gut-wrenching beginning.

Stanley begged his parents to get a dog for years, and he was repeatedly turned down. When he was 14, his parents bought two cocker spaniels to give to the children for Christmas.

Just eight days later, a babysitter accidentally left open the gate to the pool and one of the puppies drowned. Stanley was coming home after having a great basketball game when he learned his dog had died.

It was so devastating Stanley wrote about the tragic loss of his dog for his college admission essays.

“I definitely took it hard, feeling helpless,” Stanley said. “I couldn’t do anything. It was tough.”

Helping to save dogs has become a passion. A month after getting drafted in the first round, Stanley walked into a Baltimore animal shelter and asked for “the most unadoptable” pet. He brought home Lola, a then-6-year-old pit bull who had been found locked inside a room of an empty home with no food, water or fresh air. It looked like she was trying to eat through walls and the door to escape.

A year later, Stanley decided Lola needed a companion, and he returned to the shelter to adopt Rico, a 3-year-old pit bull mix. They’re usually either playing out in Stanley’s backyard or lounging on the couch beside him while he watches TV or plays video games.

Stanley has modeled in the shelter’s Pawject Runway fundraising event and once matched donations to help abandoned animals.

“[Losing my dog] was a driving force to make sure to see how much responsibility matters,” Stanley said. “Even accidents like that can still be avoided with proper responsibility. Just really made me have that sense to take care of something and make sure you’re doing it right.”

Next man up

A few days before the start of the season, Stanley was tagged on a tweet that could’ve easily frustrated him. With Jalen Ramsey signing a deal to become the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, all five players selected ahead of Stanley in the 2016 draft had signed deals that made them among the richest athletes in the sport.

Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Joey Bosa and Ramsey all have struck deals with total values exceeding $100 million, and Ezekiel Elliott became the league’s highest-paid running back at $90 million over six years. Even DeForest Buckner, who was drafted one spot after Stanley at No. 7, signed a five-year, $105 contract.

Stanley’s reaction? “I’m definitely happy for all those guys,” he said.

Stanley’s preference is to stay in Baltimore on a market value deal. According to Spotrac, that’s an average of $22.1 million per season. There were no contract talks for six months this offseason before the sides spoke again last month. No deal is imminent.

During the summer, wide receiver Willie Snead tweeted about Stanley, writing “Pay dat mannn” along with three money bag emojis. About a half-hour later, Jackson responded with “Pleaze” and three praying hands emoji.

Stanley continues to outplay Tunsil, who signed a three-year $66 million contract after committing a league-high 17 penalties last year. In Week 1, Stanley negated Browns pass-rusher Myles Garrett, two months after he reached a five-year, $125 million deal.

After Stanley plays out his $12.8 million fifth-year option this season, the Ravens would presumably put the franchise tag on him if they can’t sign him to an extension in order to keep him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Baltimore faces the challenge of keeping six Pro Bowl players who are due new deals over the next couple of seasons, including Jackson.

The Ravens don’t believe Stanley has been distracted by the business side.

“I haven’t seen any affect at all,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “I think he’s working hard and playing hard. His attitude has been very good — like always. Ronnie has been Ronnie, which is just what you expect from a pro like Ronnie.”

Baltimore understands the difficulty of finding a quality left tackle. After Ogden retired in 2007, the Ravens went through seven starters in eight years before drafting Stanley with the No. 6 overall pick in 2016. When Stanley left Sunday’s game with an injury, replacement D.J. Fluker allowed a sack in one quarter of work.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien complimented Stanley’s intelligence, technique and demeanor, saying he plays the game calmly. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski had another description for Stanley: “A complete player.”

‘Very practical person’

When Stanley lands his big deal, no one really expects him to splurge.

Why? Oreo balls.

Stanley had a side business in high school making a wildly popular treat. He saw a girl had brought in these cake pops, which featured crushed Oreos in the center. He got the recipe and started making them on his own.

A profit was quickly made in selling baggies of five Oreo balls for $5. Instead of using the money to buy a video game or go out somewhere, he bought a food processor to help him grind up the Oreos.

“Ronnie is very practical person in his life and in his spending,” his mother Juli said. “That’s who he is.”

Stanley is known to spend to travel. Two years ago, he took a trip to Russia for the World Cup. Stanley got hooked on soccer after playing the FIFA video game and later became friends with Germany defender Jerome Boateng of Bayern Munich.

For the most part, Stanley keeps his money close to home and within the family. He supports the local YMCA in Las Vegas, where he attended camps and played sports. Stanley makes sure his 95-year-old grandmother can get to a game if he plays on the West Coast, setting up transportation and a wheelchair.

He’s also assisting his sister Raychel in attending graduate school for sports psychology.

“He’s not going to write a check,” Juli said. “He’s going to help you to help yourself.”

On the night Stanley got drafted, his mother wondered aloud whether she truly helped her son. Juli apologized to him for pushing him so much. She worried that he couldn’t enjoy the moment because whenever Stanley did well, she told him that he could do better.

Stanley then looked at her and said, “If you didn’t do that, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

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NFL Week 2 game picks, schedule guide, fantasy football tips, odds, injuries and more



The Week 2 NFL schedule is stacked with great matchups. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks.

Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a stat to know for each game, and the Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN Fantasy‘s Kyle Soppe and ESPN Chalk‘s Dave Bearman hand out helpful nuggets as well. It’s all here to help get you ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.

Let’s get into the full Week 2 slate, including a Sunday night showdown between Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.

Jump to a matchup:

Thursday: CLE 35, CIN 30

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
56.9 | Spread: EVEN (45.5)

What to watch for: Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald has zero sacks and just one tackle for loss in three career games against Philadelphia. He has a favorable matchup in this one, however, with inexperienced second-year player Nate Herbig projected to start at right guard. Center Jason Kelce will need to chip in on double-teams to prevent Carson Wentz, who was sacked a league-high eight times in Week 1, from having another rough day. — Tim McManus

Bold prediction: Donald will have a monster, multisack game to that end. In a season-opening win over Dallas, Donald knocked down Cowboys linemen as if they were bowling pins and recorded his first sack of the season. Now watch for the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year to take advantage of an inexperienced Eagles guard and make it another long day for Wentz. — Lindsey Thiry

Stat to know: This marks the second career meeting between the top two picks of the 2016 NFL draft, Wentz and Jared Goff. Wentz won the first back in 2017 with four passing touchdowns. But both enter off underwhelming Week 1 performances. Goff threw zero touchdowns for the fourth time in his past nine games, while Wentz took eight sacks.

Injuries: Rams | Eagles

What to know for fantasy: Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert has 6.1 more fantasy points over his past five games than Zach Ertz does. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: Philadelphia is 5-0-1 against the spread (ATS) against the Rams since 2006. Read more.

Thiry’s pick: Rams 24, Eagles 21
McManus’ pick: Eagles 27, Rams 24
FPI prediction: PHI, 53.8% (by an average of 1.4 points)

Matchup must-reads: SoFi Stadium videoboard: ‘Eighth wonder of the world’ targets GenZTime is now for the Eagles’ Wentz to turn the cornerMcVay’s Rams ‘ecosystem’ a challenging standard — even for its creatorEagles’ Curry, James have ‘significant injuries’

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
55.3 | Spread: DAL -4.5 (54)

What to watch for: When these teams met in 2018, running back Ezekiel Elliott had 201 scrimmage yards in the Cowboys’ win. Elliott had 122 yards on the ground and another 79 as a pass-catcher. Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes against the Falcons last week, so you should see some course correction in turns of pass defense, which means Elliott is in for a big day. — Todd Archer

Bold prediction: Falcons running back Todd Gurley II will have his first 100-yard rushing game with Atlanta. He hasn’t hit the century mark since Week 13 of the 2018 season, but Gurley does have two 100-yard games in three career meetings with the Cowboys, and the Falcons need to stick with the run. — Vaughn McClure

Stat to know: Since 2011, only four teams haven’t started a season 0-2: the Cowboys (2010), Falcons (2007), Packers (2006) and Patriots (2001). But both Atlanta and Dallas sit at 0-1 entering this matchup.

Injuries: Falcons | Cowboys

What to know for fantasy: The longest active streak of games with 75-plus receiving yards belongs to Calvin Ridley (five straight). Julio Jones and Davante Adams are chasing him, as they each have four straight. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: Atlanta is 4-0 ATS in its past four road games. Read more.

McClure’s pick: Cowboys 28, Falcons 21
Archer’s pick: Cowboys 30, Falcons 27
FPI prediction: DAL, 64.4% (by an average of 5.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Falcons run into familiar problem in opener: Not enough touchdowns early3 x 1,000 yards: Cowboys’ Cooper, Gallup, Lamb aim highFalcons’ Jones 2nd-fastest WR to record 800 catchesCowboys’ Elliott shows off ‘Feed Me’ tattoo on stomachSources: Cowboys’ Lee had surgery, out until mid-October

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
53.6 | Spread: PIT -7 (40.5)

What to watch for: The Steelers shut down one of the league’s premier running backs Monday night, allowing Saquon Barkley only 6 rushing yards. The Broncos’ rushers fared a bit better against the Titans, averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but they enter Sunday’s matchup with a question mark on Phillip Lindsay‘s availability. Look for the Steelers’ defense to dominate yet another ground game. — Brooke Pryor

Bold prediction: The Broncos will sack Ben Roethlisberger at least four times and force at least one turnover on a QB hit. Yes, Von Miller is out for the year, Bradley Chubb is still working his way back from last season’s ACL surgery and the Broncos were tepid in the pass rush in much of their Week 1 loss to the Titans. But Roethlisberger has faced the Broncos nine times in his long career, and the Broncos have sacked him at least three times in seven of those games — and at least four times in four of them. — Jeff Legwold

Stat to know: The Steelers have gone 58 straight games with at least one sack, tied for the sixth-longest streak by any team since 1970. A sack in this one would put them in a tie for the fifth-longest streak.

Injuries: Broncos | Steelers

What to know for fantasy: Roethlisberger (22.1 points) was better in Week 1 than the healthy version of him we saw in 2018 (21.4 points per game), as he threw three touchdown passes on just 32 attempts (zero TD passes on 62 attempts before his season ended in 2019). See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Broncos have failed to cover their past four games off less than a full week of rest. Read more.

Legwold’s pick: Steelers 20, Broncos 17
Pryor’s pick: Steelers 31, Broncos 16
FPI prediction: PIT, 66.8% (by an average of 6.2 points)

Matchup must-reads: QB Lock shows his leadership in season-opening lossSteelers’ Roethlisberger is sore, but elbow is good after first gameAfter drops, Broncos’ Jeudy determined to prove ‘failure is growth’

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
53 | Spread: SF -6.5 (41)

What to watch for: It’s a battle of two relatively inexperienced quarterbacks — the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and the Jets’ Sam Darnold (27 career starts each). Garoppolo (21-6) has done more winning than Darnold (11-16), who hasn’t had the same talent and coaching around him as his counterpart. How each performs on Sunday will be a difference-maker for two passing offenses looking to get going after Week 1 losses. — Rich Cimini

Bold prediction: 49ers rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk will go over 100 yards in his NFL debut. Aiyuk is back from a hamstring injury, and after a poor showing for the Niners’ receivers last week, Aiyuk will get plenty of chances to show why coach Kyle Shanahan coveted him in the first round of the NFL draft. — Nick Wagoner

Stat to know: San Francisco tight end George Kittle was held to 44 receiving yards on four catches in Week 1. But he hasn’t had back-to-back games under 50 yards since 2017.

Injuries: 49ers | Jets

What to know for fantasy: No player in the NFL accounted for a greater percentage of his team’s Week 1 scrimmage yards than Jamison Crowder (45.3%). But whether he suits up will be something to keep an eye on. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: San Francisco is 7-21-2 ATS in its past 30 games as a favorite. But in its past 20 games as a road favorite, San Francisco is 13-7 ATS. Read more.

Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 31, Jets 20
Cimini’s pick: 49ers 24, Jets 20
FPI prediction: SF, 61.1% (by an average of 4.0 points)

Matchup must-reads: It’s hitting us pretty hard right now’: Sherman latest 49ers injuryJets CEO Christopher Johnson expresses confidence in Gase, Darnold49ers’ crown means little in loaded NFC WestIf Darnold sputters, Jets will face complex question: Trevor Lawrence?Jets place RB Bell on IR with hamstring injury, sign Ballage

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
50.1 | Spread: IND -3 (48.5)

What to watch for: Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes faces his former team after being released by the Vikings in the offseason following seven seasons with the franchise. Rhodes’ debut with the Colts didn’t go too well in Week 1 against Jacksonville. He gave up a 22-yard touchdown when he was caught peeking in the backfield expecting a run. Then he was flagged for 30-yard pass interference, which ended up leading to a field goal for the Jaguars. Can he improve while trying to contain Minnesota’s passing attack? — Mike Wells

Bold prediction: Vikings receiver Adam Thielen will haul in seven catches for 120-plus yards. It’ll be his second straight week crossing the century mark, putting him on his way to matching the historic streak he set in 2018 when he started the season with eight straight 100-yard receiving performances. — Courtney Cronin

Stat to know: Colts quarterback Philip Rivers has four passing touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 1-3 record in four career starts against the Vikings. And his 35.1 Total QBR against them is his worst against any team since the metric was first tracked in 2006.

Injuries: Vikings | Colts

What to know for fantasy: Indianapolis receiver Parris Campbell not only set career highs in routes (38), targets (9), catches (6), yards (71) and fantasy points (14) in Week 1, but he also led the team in deep targets (3). See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Vikings have covered their past five games after a loss. Read more.

Cronin’s pick: Colts 28, Vikings 24
Wells’ pick: Colts 27, Vikings 23
FPI prediction: IND, 51.4% (by an average of 0.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Life without Diggs? Vikings run out of time to see new realityColts lose Mack for season with torn AchillesColts sad for Mack, excited about TaylorRivers brings turnover problems to Colts in Week 1

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
49.6 | Spread: GB -6.5 (49)

What to watch for: Can Packers receiver Davante Adams have another big day after his career-high 14-catch performance in Week 1 against the Vikings? Well, the Lions’ secondary is banged up, and Adams is a tough cover. He had at least one catch on nine different route types last week, according to ESPN Stats & Information research using NFL Next Gen Stats. The Lions played man coverage on 82% of their defense snaps in Week 1, the highest rate of any team on opening weekend. — Rob Demovsky

Bold prediction: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws four more touchdowns this week against Detroit. Rodgers has had just intermittent success against Matt Patricia’s Lions, but this is a different Detroit secondary. Its corners are banged up — Desmond Trufant and Darryl Roberts both missed practices this week — and rookie Jeff Okudah might be making his debut. Depending how the Lions match up, that debut could come against Adams. So watch for Rodgers to slice through a depleted Lions secondary. — Michael Rothstein

Stat to know: Per the Elias Sports Bureau, only two teams have gone 2-0 against an opponent in a season without ever holding a lead in regulation. The first was the 1977 49ers, who bested the Saints twice. The second was the 2019 Packers, who won both of their games against Detroit last season on game-ending field goals despite not holding a lead at any point in either game.

Injuries: Lions | Packers

What to know for fantasy: Adams was the top scoring player in Week 1 (41.6 points) and has caught six touchdown passes over his past six matchups with the Lions. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Lions have covered in six straight games against the Packers. Read more.

Rothstein’s pick: Packers 35, Lions 23
Demovsky’s pick: Packers 31, Lions 25
FPI prediction: GB, 68.0% (by an average of 6.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Why Patricia’s team struggles to close out gamesNo tailgating: Lambeau closed to fansOnce deep at CB, Lions now thin after injuries facing RodgersRodgers-Adams combo rivaling Nelson-Rodgers

1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
47.1 | Spread: TB -8.5 (47.5)

What to watch for: The Bucs fell short in their quest to go toe-to-toe with the Saints last week, but since his first career start in 2001, Tom Brady has a career 48-13 record coming off a loss (.787 win percentage), second only to that of Russell Wilson. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said it himself: “No one’s better at bouncing back from a loss than Tom Brady.” But what about Mike Evans? Can he rebound from his one-catch performance? And how quickly can a Panthers defense that started four rookies last Sunday make progress in Week 2? — Jenna Laine

Bold prediction: The Panthers will sack Brady at least five times and pull off an upset. They were one of three teams that did not get a sack in their opener and the only team that didn’t contact the quarterback while running or throwing. But coach Matt Rhule says he wants them to get more violent at the point of attack. — David Newton

Stat to know: Both of Brady’s interceptions last week came when throwing within 2.5 seconds of the snap, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He had three such picks in all of 2019.

Injuries: Panthers | Buccaneers

What to know for fantasy: The Bucs held Christian McCaffrey to 7.3 points in Week 2 last season. Since then, he has joined Emmitt Smith (23), Marcus Allen (17) and Todd Gurley (15) as the only running backs to score at least 15 fantasy points in 15 straight games. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is 10-0 ATS as an underdog of 3.5-plus points. Read more.

Newton’s pick: Panthers 34, Buccaneers 24
Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 28, Panthers 21
FPI prediction: TB, 72.5% (by an average of 8.5 points)

Matchup must-reads: Anderson hilariously mistakes Panthers mascot for a bearArians on Favre’s critique: Brady and I are ‘fine’Rhule takes blame for not calling McCaffrey’s numberIs it time to reset expectations on Bucs after disappointing start?Godwin not worried: Bucs learning life with Brady

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
43.2 | Spread: BUF -5.5 (41)

What to watch for: In two games against the Dolphins in 2019, Bills quarterback Josh Allen completed 62.7% of his passes for 458 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions, along with 11 rushes for 88 yards and a touchdown. We should keep an eye on whether that success continues against a revamped Dolphins defense which now includes former Bills edge rusher Shaq Lawson but still gave up 217 rushing yards last week to the Patriots — including 75 yards to Cam Newton. — Cameron Wolfe

Bold prediction: The Bills will have two 100-yard receivers on Sunday. They ran a four-receiver set on a league-high 25% of their snaps last week, and despite the Dolphins’ struggles against the run in Week 1, the Bills will commit once again to their passing game. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Stat to know: The Dolphins had 87 rushing yards in Week 1, and they had 13 games with fewer than 100 rushing yards last season (tied for the most in the NFL with the Jets).

Injuries: Bills | Dolphins

What to know for fantasy: Allen has thrown multiple touchdown tosses nine times in his career, and he is 4-for-4 against the Dolphins and 5-for-25 against the rest of the NFL. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Bills have covered four straight games as the favorite. Read more.

Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 31, Dolphins 17
Wolfe’s pick: Bills 27, Dolphins 16
FPI prediction: BUF, 65.3% (by an average of 5.6 points)

Matchup must-reads: Early returns exciting for Allen in Bills’ revamped passing gameDolphins’ defense faces Week 2 test: Stop another QB from running

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
35.6 | Spread: TEN -7.5 (44)

What to watch for: Titans running back Derrick Henry has terrorized the Jaguars to the tune of 498 rushing yards in his past four games against them. Jacksonville added middle linebacker Joe Schobert in the offseason, allowing Myles Jack to move to his more natural weakside linebacker spot. Pay attention to how the Titans find ways to get Henry to the second level of the defense, and how Jacksonville’s linebackers attempt to prevent explosive plays. — Turron Davenport

Bold prediction: Henry doesn’t hit 100 yards rushing. He has rushed for 238 yards and 159 yards in the past two meetings in Nashville, and he has seven 100-plus-yard rushing games since the start of the 2019 season (tied for the most), but the Jaguars’ run defense did a good job against the Colts for the final two and a half quarters last Sunday, and rookie defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton played well in his debut. The Jaguars are making Henry their top priority — they might get hurt by the pass game, but they’re not going to let Henry beat them again. — Mike DiRocco

Stat to know: Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II has three passing touchdowns in consecutive games dating to last year, and no QB in Jaguars history has thrown at least three in three consecutive games.

Injuries: Jaguars | Titans

What to know for fantasy: Henry has seven rushing scores over his past three games against the Jags, and the Titans sure weren’t shy about handing him the rock in Week 1 (31 carries, the only player in the NFL with more than 25). See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Titans have covered five of their past six against the Jaguars. Read more.

DiRocco’s pick: Titans 17, Jaguars 16
Davenport’s pick: Titans 20, Jaguars 14
FPI prediction: TEN, 72.4% (by an average of 8.5 points)

Matchup must-reads: Jaguars’ Henderson thinks great debut could have been even betterTitans’ Byard can share home-birth story with his son ‘for the rest of our days’Minshew and rookies come up big in upsetFourth-quarter comebacks becoming routine for Tannehill, Titans

1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
32.5 | Spread: CHI -5.5 (42)

What to watch for: The focus is squarely on Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The embattled former second overall pick led Chicago to a memorable fourth-quarter comeback in Week 1, but not even Trubisky’s three touchdown passes in the final 15 minutes could cover up for how inconsistent he played in the opening three quarters at Ford Field. Head coach Matt Nagy wants even play from the 25-year-old quarterback. The Giants might present Trubisky with an opportunity to have a more balanced performance on Sunday. — Jeff Dickerson

Bold prediction: Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II tops 150 yards receiving. Clearly, Robinson is not happy with his contract, and what better way to prove he deserves to get paid than to play against the Giants’ defense? Robinson’s best game last year came against the Giants, when he had 131 yards receiving and a touchdown. The Bears put him in the slot throughout that game and let him eat. The Giants apparently haven’t fixed that problem. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught six passes on six targets for 69 yards and two touchdowns out of the slot against this Giants defense on Monday night. — Jordan Raanan

Stat to know: Giants running back Saquon Barkley had just 6 rushing yards in Week 1 and averaged minus-0.2 yards before contact per rush. His 3.96 yards per rush since Week 7 of last season is the 10th-lowest average in the NFL among 32 players with at least 100 rushes in that span.

Injuries: Giants | Bears

What to know for fantasy: New York quarterback Daniel Jones has run for at least 20 yards in five of his past seven and thrown at least 40 passes in seven of his past nine. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: Chicago is 1-6 ATS in its past seven games as a favorite. Read more.

Raanan’s pick: Bears 22, Giants 21
Dickerson’s pick: Bears 21, Giants 18
FPI prediction: CHI, 65.5% (by an average of 5.7 points)

Matchup must-reads: Can Giants’ Slayton continue to produce like a No. 1 receiver?Trubisky leads Bears to comeback

4:05 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating:
38 | Spread: ARI -7 (46.5)

What to watch for: The matchup to watch will be Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray vs. Washington edge rusher Chase Young. It’s a matchup of two of the best young players in the NFL, last year’s No. 1 pick and this year’s No. 2 pick. It’s a dream matchup. In their respective openers, Murray ran for 91 yards, and Young had 1.5 sacks. While this matchup won’t determine the game, it’ll definitely have an impact and will be quite fun to watch. — Josh Weinfuss

Bold prediction: Washington will hold Murray to 50 yards rushing, and Young will sack him twice (giving him 3.5 sacks two games into his NFL career). Young can be moved around but had his best success as a right end against Jason Peters last week. He’ll also be used on some stunts inside, and that’s where he’ll get Murray. But Murray will still throw for 225 yards in a win. — John Keim

Stat to know: Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. had an off-target percentage of 30% in Week 1, which ranked No. 31 out of 32 qualified quarterbacks.

Injuries: Washington | Cardinals

What to know for fantasy: Washington posted a sack on 16% of Philadelphia dropbacks last week, the highest rate in the league and better than any performance it had last season. And since the beginning of last season, Murray ranks 27th in completion percentage when under pressure (37.7%). See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The total has gone under in nine of Arizona’s past 11 September games. Read more.

Keim’s pick: Cardinals 21, Washington 17
Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 31, Washington 24
FPI prediction: ARI, 68.2% (by an average of 6.8 points)

Matchup must-reads: Young, Washington’s pass rush ‘as advertised’ in promising startHopkins has championship aspirations with Murray as his QB

4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
75.4 | Spread: BAL -7 (50)

What to watch for: Will Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson continue to have success on the run? Both rushed for seven touchdowns in 2019, but they also each scored eight touchdowns (with no interceptions) when passing on the run, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Only then-Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston threw more touchdowns on the run last season. — Sarah Barshop

Bold prediction: Baltimore’s Jackson will rush for at least 100 yards. He showed in Week 1 that he has made great strides as a passer, but let’s not forget he’s among the league’s most dangerous playmakers when scrambling. The Texans have allowed quarterbacks to average 5.6 yards per rush since the start of 2019, which is the second-worst average over that span. Last season, Jackson ran for 79 yards against Houston, including a 39-yard run (which was his second longest of the season). — Jamison Hensley

Stat to know: Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the 2020 Texans are the second team in NFL history to face the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP in each of their first two games of a season (they faced Patrick Mahomes in Week 1). The 2004 Colts are the other, as they faced Tom Brady (Super Bowl MVP) and Steve McNair (MVP) to open their year. They started 1-1 and finished 12-4.

Injuries: Ravens | Texans

What to know for fantasy: 250 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, a passing touchdown and a rushing touchdown. Watson led the NFL with two such games in 2018, led again in 2019 with three such games and was one of two quarterbacks (Josh Allen) to accomplish the feat in Week 1 this season. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Ravens have covered in five straight regular-season games, and 10 of their past 11. Read more.

Hensley’s pick: Ravens 30, Texans 27
Barshop’s pick: Ravens 34, Texans 23
FPI prediction: BAL, 68.5% (by an average of 6.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Three ways Jackson is better than his MVP seasonTexans must quickly figure out what went wrongAll virus tests negative from Texans’ openerTexans squander chance to show they can thrive without Hopkins

4:25 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating:
73.5 | Spread: KC -8 (47.5)

What to watch for: Keep an eye on the turnover margin. In losing five of six games to the Chiefs since Anthony Lynn took over as head coach, the Chargers’ offense has committed 17 turnovers, and their defense has generated only two of them. “That’s ridiculous,” Lynn said. “You’re just not going to beat this team that way.” — Alden Gonzalez

Bold prediction: The Chiefs, who intercepted 15 passes in their past six games against the Chargers, will get a couple of picks against Tyrod Taylor. The Chiefs got consistent pressure on the Texans’ Deshaun Watson last week, and look for them to have similar success against Taylor, who isn’t as prone to throwing interceptions as ex-Chargers QB Philip Rivers but will be forced into mistakes on Sunday. — Adam Teicher

Stat to know: Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is 8-0 with an 89 Total QBR and 26 passing touchdowns in the month of September, all the best in the NFL since the start of the 2018 season. And the Chiefs have won 10 straight games overall (including playoffs), the second-longest streak in franchise history (11 straight in 2015 season).

Injuries: Chiefs | Chargers

What to know for fantasy: Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has converted just 15.4% of his career red zone carries (the RB average is 18%), so it’s worth noting that rookie Joshua Kelley out-touched him in the red zone, 4-3, in Week 1. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: The Chiefs have covered in their past seven divisional games. Read more.

Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 27, Chargers 20
Gonzalez’s pick: Chiefs 31, Chargers 24
FPI prediction: KC, 71.0% (by an average of 7.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Edwards-Helaire leads solid rookie class for ChiefsSoFi Stadium videoboard: ‘Eighth wonder of the world’ targets GenZMahomes praised for checkdowns in openerOpportunistic defense leads Chargers to narrow win over Bengals



Adam Schefter and Marcus Spears react to the news that Chargers center Mike Pouncey will need to undergo season-ending hip surgery.

8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating:
73.4 | Spread: SEA -4 (44.5)

What to watch for: Will the Seahawks continue to let Russell Wilson cook? They strayed from their usual establish-the-run M.O. and dropped back to pass on 11 of their 14 first-quarter offensive plays against Atlanta. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has said matchups will factor into how much the Seahawks throw early, and the matchup this week includes the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year in cornerback Stephon Gilmore. — Brady Henderson

Bold prediction: Undrafted rookie running back J.J. Taylor will make a play that leads the national television audience to take notice. At 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, he can play “hide and seek,” according to running backs coach Ivan Fears, who also has compared him to Dion Lewis and Darren Sproles in terms of his physical stature. — Mike Reiss

Stat to know: Cam Newton and Wilson have combined for five seasons with at least 3,500 passing yards and 500 rushing yards. The rest of the players in NFL history have combined for four such seasons.

Injuries: Patriots | Seahawks

What to know for fantasy: Newton was the sixth-highest-scoring quarterback in Week 1, and his 25.7 points were more than Tom Brady had in any single game from last season. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: This ends the Patriots’ streak of being favored in 64 consecutive games. Read more.

Reiss’ pick: Seahawks 20, Patriots 17
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 27, Patriots 20
FPI prediction: SEA, 61.8% (by an average of 4.3 points)

Matchup must-reads: Belichick calls Seattle Seahawks QB Wilson underratedBring your own energy: Carroll’s Seahawks prepared for no fans at CenturyLinkDid Patriots revamp their playbook for Newton? Not so fastAdams fires back at Jets’ Gregg Williams; not ‘bored’ in Seahawks debut

Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN
Matchup rating:
67.5 | Spread: NO -5.5 (49)

What to watch for: Las Vegas is breaking in a new stadium in the most bittersweet of circumstances. With no fans, there is not much of a home-field advantage to help cover up the Raiders’ injury woes at right tackle, where Trent Brown left the opener with a right calf issue and his replacement, Sam Young, suffered a groin injury. Keep an eye, then, on the Raiders’ willingness to run the ball if they fall behind early. — Paul Gutierrez

Bold prediction: Raiders running back Josh Jacobs will end the Saints’ remarkable streak of 44 straight games, including the playoffs, without allowing a 100-yard rusher. But Saints running back Alvin Kamara will have more than 100 receiving yards to help make up for the absence of Michael Thomas. — Mike Triplett

Stat to know: Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr is completing 71% of his passes since the start of last season, second-best in the NFL to … Saints QB Drew Brees (73%). Carr has thrown at least one passing touchdown with zero interceptions in five straight games, the second-longest active streak in the NFL and tied for the longest streak of his career.

Injuries: Saints | Raiders

What to know for fantasy: Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders led the league with four red zone targets in Week 1 and figures to stay busy with Thomas’ role now up for grabs — if he is healthy enough to play himself. See Week 2 rankings.

Betting nugget: Brees is 9-2 ATS against the Raiders in his career. Read more.

Triplett’s pick: Saints 27, Raiders 23
Gutierrez’s pick: Saints 31, Raiders 23
FPI prediction: NO, 58.0% (by an average of 2.9 points)

Matchup must-reads: Sources: Saints expect WR Thomas to miss MNFRaiders ecstatic to finally open luxurious ‘Death Star’ Allegiant StadiumSaints lock up LB Davis with 3-year extension, source saysAfter struggling, Raiders’ defense shows up when it matters most

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What’s next for the NFL after getting through Week 1? Fans at games, other looming concerns



There really can be no debate: The NFL has aced its initial efforts to practice and play amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since training camp practices began in mid-August, only seven players have produced positive test results. There have been no team outbreaks, and the only scare was caused by a contaminated private lab in New Jersey.

The success prompts two natural questions. First, are there any remaining obstacles to playing a full 2020 season, as league officials have said for months they plan to do? And second, can the protocols be loosened in any way while maintaining the current results?

The answer to the latter seems obvious. There is a strong internal push to get fans in more stadiums, wherever local and state regulations allow it. Ticket revenue is one motivation, of course, but fans would also enliven the otherwise awkward and sterile game atmosphere in empty stadiums. Commissioner Roger Goodell did not hide this ambition during a media call earlier this month.

“I believe,” Goodell said, “that we will be having a lot of teams that start with no fans at the beginning of the season, and [then] evolve to fans.”

Three teams hosted fans last weekend, in reduced capacities — Kansas City, Jacksonville and Denver — and four more will do so in Week 2. Goodell pledged to take a “cautious approach” and to cooperate with public health officials on all safety measures. To be sure, with the first 20 feet of seats in every stadium tarped off, players and coaches assuredly will maintain a safe distance from fans.

Regardless, some epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists said there is no way to eliminate the risk of bringing together thousands of people in a football stadium, ensuring there is a chance — however slight — that an NFL game could trigger community outbreak. Thursday, the Kansas City Chiefs announced that one guest at their Sept. 10 opener has since tested positive for COVID-19.

“Sports leagues like to talk about this in a binary way,” said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University. “It’s safe, or it’s not safe. The truth is that everything should be viewed over the risk continuum. More people equals more risk. And it still hasn’t been explained what is the benefit supposed to be. There’s money for the teams. There’s maybe a little bit of mental benefit for the people who get to go to the games. But I don’t think that outweighs even a minor threat to the rest of the community.

“I’m not telling people they can’t have football. I’m not telling them they can’t watch it at home. I’m saying, please just don’t go to the stadium. I don’t think, with all the sacrifices that so many other people are making, that’s an unreasonable request.”

Let’s take a closer look at both of our initial questions, utilizing the expertise of an epidemiologist, an infectious disease expert and an ethicist.

Fans in the stadium

In June, researchers at West Virginia University found a link between seasonal flu deaths and the presence of professional sports in United States cities — and their oft-packed stadiums — from 1962 to 2016. Because the flu spreads in similar ways to COVID-19, one of the authors of the paper said: “Opening pro sports games to fans is probably a terrible idea, in terms of public health.”

Three months later, more is known about limiting COVID-19 transmission. NFL teams are cutting capacity by 80% or more. The Chiefs, for instance, announced attendance of 15,895 at Arrowhead Stadium for their opener, about 20% of capacity. Others are planning for similar restrictions. They are also implementing measures that include mandatory face coverings, symptom checks, dedicated entrances and separated “pods” in the stands.

Those policies might reduce the chance of spread, but they won’t eliminate it. Contact tracing in Kansas City forced 10 people into quarantine who came into close contact with the individual who tested positive. It could take up to three weeks to know whether the disease spread among them or to anyone else associated with the game. And while teams can ensure that fans enter their assigned gate and are wearing masks at that point, they will have less control over enforcement of masking and physical distancing throughout a three-hour game.

“It has been documented in scientific literature that certain activities such as singing or yelling could lead to aerosolization of the virus,” said Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of infectious diseases and tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “[That allows] the virus to stay suspended in the air and travel further, and that could facilitate super-spreader events. These activities, even at reduced stadium volume, could lead to outbreaks. The invitation of fans into football games that already involve large groups of players who are in close contact for hours is extremely risky. There is otherwise no data to support a certain number of fans that would be safe, and this should be heavily considered before allowing fans into a stadium during an uncontrolled pandemic.”

The NFL has a bigger obligation than simply to comply with local regulations, said Don Heider, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

“When you make a decision like this, it’s not just about the players and the coaches and the teams and the fans,” Heider said. “It’s every person those people come into contact with. That’s where it gets much more difficult. As ethicists, we would ask, ‘What is the good here? If I’m trying to maximize good and minimize harm, what’s the benefit of opening the stadiums up? And is that benefit worth a human life? More than one human life? Or a resurgence in the virus in the community?'”

The Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars, who hosted 14,100 fans in their Week 1 opener, both play in outdoor stadiums. In Week 2, two teams with hybrid facilities — the Dallas Cowboys‘ AT&T Stadium and the Indianapolis Colts‘ Lucas Oil Stadium — will enter the fray. Both stadiums have retractable roofs and sides. The Cowboys haven’t confirmed how many fans they’ll admit, but the Colts have capped their attendance at 2,500. Binney called indoor stadiums “far more dangerous for transmission of COVID-19,” even if the roof and/or sides are open.

Ultimately, Heider said, teams have a “social responsibility” to their community even if it conflicts with what some fans might want.

“It’s a tough decision,” Heider said. “You hope each NFL team is really sitting down and having a serious discussion and analysis of what the ethical implications are, and what the long-term implications are, and if it’s worth it to have X number of fans in the stands.”

Complacency and community load

Binney was pessimistic about the NFL’s pandemic approach when training camp began. The league had decided against the kind of “bubble” environment employed to great success by the NBA, WNBA, NHL and professional soccer. The NFL’s protocols were closer to those of Major League Baseball, which suffered through a series of team outbreaks early in its return.

NFL players, coaches and staff would be subject to extensive masking and social distancing requirements while at the team facility. But as with those in baseball, they would be exposed to communities that in some cases were hosting raging virus spikes. Four summer hot spots — Florida, California, Texas and Arizona — are home to nine of the NFL’s 32 teams.

This week, Binney admitted he is “stunned” at how well the league has fared.

“And I’m happy to be stunned,” he said. “It has exceeded all of my expectations and, I think, many people’s expectations. What we have seen is that these protocols can work for a period of several weeks when people are very vigilant. I have no reason to believe that the protocols are going to start to fail, but it’s important to make the point that they’re constantly in a very fragile situation, and constant vigilance is required.”

Indeed, complacency might represent the NFL’s biggest obstacle to continuing its season unabated. To this point, it’s clear that NFL personnel are largely staying away from the kind of risky behavior that can increase the chances of infection. Daily testing and digital contact tracing, both cornerstones of the league’s protocol, can help minimize the spread of a single infection, but those measures can get overwhelmed if a large number of people are infected simultaneously.

“An outbreak really can happen at any time,” Binney said. “We’ve seen it in college football over and over and over again. If you don’t follow the protocols and you’re not careful, you can do something that would cause the virus to spread through the entire team. That can happen.

“But also, when a case does happen, it doesn’t necessarily mean that somebody did something risky. Cases can arise even if you’re doing your level best. Imagine a coach’s kid is in day care. Another kid gets infected, or a teacher there is infected, and infects the kid. The coach comes home, hugs his kid and gets COVID-19. He didn’t disobey any protocols. He did the best he could and still got infected.”

The chances of such a scenario would increase if community cases rise, as many public health experts are predicting this fall as the flu season arrives and cooler weather forces more people indoors.

“The United States continues to have uncontrolled community transmission in many areas around the country,” Weatherhead said. “Further uncontrolled community spread, and development of new hotspots, could jeopardize the success of football this fall and winter season, as well as jeopardize the health of players, coaches and community members. The higher the rates of community viral transmission, the greater the risk playing football will have for the athletes, staff and the community.”

During the four testing periods that began Aug. 12, the NFL has had zero, four, one and two players produce confirmed positive results, respectively. There has never been more than 10 personnel from other areas of the team to produce confirmed positive results in a single period. In reality, the NFL has some wiggle room before an increase would jeopardize the current game schedule.

“The hope,” Binney said, “is that daily testing and continued vigilance will still prevent outbreaks. So even if there is a seasonal worsening, maybe they go from one or two cases per week to maybe five or six cases but they’re all isolated on different teams. So that would be an increase in cases, but not enough to derail the season. That would be the hope.”

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