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Fantasy football highs and lows from Week 6: D’Andre Swift delivers

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Week 6 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances around the NFL on Sunday. What should we make of them? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft offer their analysis.

Yes, the matchup was extremely favorable — the Jaguars entered granting opposing running backs nearly five full PPR fantasy points above average — but Swift’s career-best 27.3 point performance contained additional promising developments. Typically the Lions’ passing-down back, with Adrian Peterson a clear step ahead of Kerryon Johnson as the team’s early-down back, Swift managed 14 rushing attempts, nearly single-handedly led his team downfield for a touchdown on their second drive, and absorbed all four of the team’s rushing attempts inside the Jaguars’ 10-yard line, punching in two of them for touchdowns (including the one on the aforementioned drive). Could it be the turning point of the rookie’s season? Perhaps, though it’s important to point out that Peterson still paced the team’s running backs in snap percentage, so it’s not like the Lions are shifting away from their committee anytime soon. But it’s important to get ahead of any potential shift in roles in this backfield: The Lions have some really good second-half matchups (see: Panthers, Week 11; Texans, Week 12; Packers, Week 14), and Swift’s ceiling, if he can earn the requisite touches, is legitimately RB1. — Cockcroft

Derrick Henry isn’t slowing down

Say hello to your Week 6, 1 p.m. ET game block PPR scoring leader (40.4), and bear in mind it was a nine-game block. While it wasn’t a career best — Henry’s 47.8 PPR fantasy points in Week 14 of 2018 still holds that honor — it’s important to note that five of his eight best single-game performances have now come in his past 11 regular-season games played, with two 200-plus yards from scrimmage playoff performances sandwiched in there. The Titans continue to utilize Henry as a true go-to running back, and while that’s something that might worry you from a fatigue standpoint, he’s a prime-age 26 years old and is the kind of back who seems to gain a ton of momentum the more you use him — a point Matt aptly made in one of our in-game discussions when Henry was off to a sluggish Weeks 1-2 start — with 32 of his 47 career regular-season touchdowns coming after halftime and seven of his 10 best single-game scores coming in the second half of the NFL season. He’s a locked-in RB1, and one who probably doesn’t receive enough credit as one. — Cockcroft

A.J. Brown thrives in his role

It’s the physical play style here, plus the red zone ability, that has Brown closing in on the WR1 tier. In his past two games, Brown has caught 12 of 16 targets for 148 yards and three scores. And all three of those touchdown grabs came inside the red zone. That’s where we see his route running, strong hands at the catch point and the one-on-one ability to body up defenders. Plus, in Tennessee’s offensive structure, with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, Brown also will be schemed open on crossers and in-breakers off play-action. And catch-and-run opportunities. With a matchup versus a very good Pittsburgh secondary in Week 7, Brown will land as a high-end WR2 in my ranks. — Bowen

Justin Jefferson continues to rack up stats

After catching nine of 11 targets for 166 yards (with two touchdowns), the rookie has topped the 100-yard receiving mark in three of his past four games. Sure, game flow played a role on Sunday, as Minnesota was down early to Atlanta. However, even in matchups in which Minnesota can control offensive tempo, Jefferson still has a high ceiling given the deep-ball play-action in this system, plus the rookie’s ability to create separation on crossers and over routes. He will be a solid WR2 in my ranks when the Vikings return from the bye with a Week 8 matchup versus the zone-heavy Packers defense. — Bowen


Quick-hitters

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens: Lamar rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Week 6 win over the Eagles, with his 37-yard score coming on a designed-run concept. However, the Baltimore passing game remains stagnant, as Jackson has now failed to top the 200-yard passing mark in four straight games. When the Ravens return from the bye with a Week 8 matchup versus the Steelers, Lamar will slide down into the mid-tier QB1 range in my ranks. — Bowen

Cam Newton, New England Patriots: Newton did rush for 76 yards and a score in the Week 6 loss to Denver, but this New England passing game looked out of rhythm from the jump, which forced hesitation from the quarterback in the pocket. Newton finished with just 157 yards passing, and has now failed to top the 200-yard passing mark in three of his four starts this season. With a lack of explosive-play targets in this offense, the Patriots need the play-action concepts to get rolling. They must open up the middle of the field for Newton on seams and crossers. Look for Newton to stay as a lower-tier QB1 for the Week 7 matchup versus the 49ers’ defense. — Bowen

David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears: Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? (#sarcasm) Gifted the most favorable matchup among running backs entering the week — the Panthers were granting opposing running backs PPR fantasy points compared to their season average, adjusting for the schedule — Montgomery bombed, scoring only 13.7 points. Worst of all, he managed season highs with 19 rushing attempts and 23 total touches, not to mention three carries on goal-to-goal plays, which included a pair of goal-line opportunities where he was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. If you were blaming most of Montgomery’s problems in terms of fantasy production on the Bears’ playcalling, that wasn’t a valid excuse Sunday, and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s truly capable of greater than midrange RB2 status. Upcoming matchups with the Rams (Week 7), Saints (8), Titans (9) and Vikings (10) don’t seem likely to vault him much higher than that in my rankings. — Cockcroft

Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: With a matchup versus the Titans in Week 7, Claypool will be on that WR2/3 line in my ranks. The rookie found the end zone for the second straight week on a schemed-up red zone carry, and we saw the explosive traits again with Claypool in the Steelers’ route tree. He gives this offense another vertical element. And with Pittsburgh finding ways to get him the ball, I expect the volume to remain consistent here. In the past two games, Claypool has racked up 197 total yards — with 5 touchdowns — on 17 touches. — Bowen

Tim Patrick, WR, Denver Broncos: Never overlook the less-competitive teams, as opportunity can do a lot to generate fantasy production. Patrick now has back-to-back 100-yard performances, capitalizing upon the injuries to Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler and now Noah Fant, and in Week 6, Patrick enjoyed a team-best 33% target share (8-of-24), the second straight game he can claim the lead in that category. Hamler’s and Fant’s injury status will have a bearing on Patrick’s usefulness in fantasy going forward, but he’s well worth a WR3 look when he’s tasked with an expanded role in the offense. — Cockcroft

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans: He just keeps piling on the fantasy stats. His 28.6 on Sunday pushed his seasonal average to a healthy 23.5 and gave him five of his 10 best single-game scores in what is now a 103-start career in his past 11 regular-season games played. Tannehill and the Titans are rolling on offense, and their bye is in the rearview. They do have a tricky midseason schedule — Bears in Week 9, Colts in Week 10 and 12 and Ravens in Week 11 — but the veteran quarterback has made quite a case for himself as a back-end, albeit matchups-conscious, QB1. — Cockcroft

Brandon McManus, K, Denver Broncos: His 24 fantasy points were the most by any kicker since Jason Myers’ 27 in Week 6 of the 2018 season. They are tied for the eighth-most at this position since at least 1950, and they were only five points shy of Rob Bironas’ single-game record of 29, set in Week 7 of 2007. — Cockcroft

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: With Leonard Fournette still banged up, Jones posted his third straight 100-yard rushing game. You can see the juice he brings to this offense, too. Downhill with speed, plus the ability to slip through defenders at the second level. He can also handle No. 1 volume. I see Jones as a RB2 in Week 7 versus the Raiders, even if Fournette is up for the game. It’s the play-speed difference there. — Bowen

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: His 2.0 PPR fantasy points were the third fewest he has scored in any of his 96 career NFL games, and keep in mind that his two worst, as well as his fourth worst, came against the Saints, and in two of those contests he was shadowed by Marshon Lattimore. While Jaire Alexander presented a problem for Evans in this one, Evans’ team-leading 24 routes combined with the comeback performance of tight end Rob Gronkowski (18.8 PPR fantasy points) and Chris Godwin’s 5-of-7 effort catching his targets signaled concern among Evans’ fantasy managers. As the Buccaneers get healthier, there’s legitimate question as to whether Tom Brady, who doesn’t offer much in terms of vertical passing, can deliver the ball consistently and effectively enough to feed all of his receivers. Evans does have six touchdowns through six weeks, so he continues to warrant WR2 consideration, but he might play frequently into the hands of his matchups and is in danger of inconsistency — often delivering stinkers at the most inopportune times. — Cockcroft

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Murray still perfect at AT&T Stadium as Cards roll

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All Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray does at AT&T Stadium is win.

Murray improved to 7-0 all-time at the stadium through high school, college and, now, the NFL after leading the Cardinals to a 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

He went 5-0 in high school there, including three straight state championships in Texas’ highest level of prep football; 1-0 in college after leading Oklahoma to a Big 12 championship; and now 1-0 in the NFL.

AT&T Stadium is 41 miles from Murray’s hometown of Allen, Texas.

Last week, in the run-up to Monday night’s game, Murray said the stadium “means a lot” to him.

“There’s been a lot of memories there, a lot of great memories,” Murray said. “Obviously, playing back home in Texas in front of friends and family, but even it being on Monday night with COVID happening, everybody will be able to watch.”

Murray made another memory Monday night.

He threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns on just 9-for-24 passing, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk, the second of two touchdown passes to Kirk, who had 164 yards and six touchdowns in three games at AT&T Stadium while at Texas A&M. Murray also hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 60-yard pass in the fourth quarter.

But it wasn’t just Murray who had a meaningful return to AT&T Stadium.

The last time Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury coached in AT&T Stadium was his last game at Texas Tech, a 35-24 loss to Baylor on Nov. 24, 2018.

On Monday, when the Cardinals’ offense couldn’t find its rhythm early in the game, Murray took it upon himself to make something happen.

He had runs of 15 and 10 before converting a fourth-and-1 with an 11-yard run. He finished with 74 rushing yards and a touchdown, which was his 10th rushing touchdown since the start of 2019, his rookie season. That was second most among quarterbacks in that stretch behind Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who has 12.

Monday was the fifth time this season that Murray had a passing and rushing touchdown, the most in the first six games of a season in NFL history. It was also the sixth time since the start of last season that Murray had a passing and rushing touchdown, the second most during that stretch.

Murray also became the third player in league history with 30 passing and 10 rushing touchdowns in the first 25 games of his career. He did it in 22 games, tying with Daunte Culpepper for the quickest to do it.

It got to a point Monday night that the Cardinals were seemingly able to do what they pleased on both sides of the ball.

Kirk had 2 catches for 86 yards and 2 TDs. Hopkins finished with 73 yards on two catches. Running back Kenyan Drake had 169 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

The Cardinals forced Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to fumble twice and scored on both possessions, which were on short fields. The first was caused by safety Budda Baker, who also had his first career interception and a sack, and was recovered by Jordan Phillips, who forced the second one which was recovered by cornerback Byron Murphy Jr.

Outside linebacker Haason Reddick had two sacks in place of Chandler Jones, who was put on injured reserve last week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn biceps.

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Lawyer for group of ex-players fires back at Iowa

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The attorney representing eight Black former Iowa football players who allege racial discrimination during their time with the Hawkeyes said Monday night that the university’s rejection of their demands, which included a payment of $20 million, is not the end of the matter.

Civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons of Tulsa, Oklahoma, had stated the players’ demands in a 21-page letter to university officials dated Oct. 5. In addition to $20 million, the players called for the firings of head football coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz and athletic director Gary Barta.

The university general counsel’s office issued its response Sunday, saying it would not give in to the demands and that work had already begun to create a more welcoming environment for Black athletes. The general counsel’s response was issued to the media along with a copy of Solomon-Simmons’ original letter.

“In response, it appears Iowa released our confidential letter to the media with the sole intention of trying to shame and intimidate our courageous clients,” Solomon-Simmons said in a statement. “It did not work. In fact, Iowa’s move has not only strengthened the resolve of our clients to continue to stand up for their rights and the rights of their teammates.”

The former players who have said they were mistreated are Akrum Wadley, Aaron Mends, Jonathan Parker, Marcel Joly, Maurice Fleming, Reggie Spearman, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Andre Harris.

Solomon-Simmons did not respond to an Associated Press request to interview the former players. Other attempts to reach the players were unsuccessful.

Solomon-Simmons’ original letter said if the players’ demands were not met by Monday, the former players would file a lawsuit seeking damages.

The university in June hired an outside law firm to review the culture of the football program after dozens of former players, most of them Black, spoke out on social media to allege racial disparities and mistreatment. Their activism came as protests against racial injustice swept the nation following the death of George Floyd and after attempts to raise concerns inside the program resulted in only minor changes.

The athletic department cut ties with longtime strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who received $1.1 million in a severance agreement. Several players had accused Doyle of using racial slurs when addressing them, an allegation he denied. Brian Ferentz, the son of Kirk Ferentz, also was alleged to have been abusive to players.

The review, which included interviews with 111 current and former players and employees, found the cultural problems were systemic.

The players’ demand letter called for the university make a payment of $10 million “for the loss of earning capacity, loss of professional opportunities, defamation, pain and suffering, mental conditions, mental anguish, PTSD, humiliation, and overall emotional distress that our clients have incurred.”

In addition, they sought $10 million to set up a fund established for athletes, not including the eight former football players, to compensate them “for the discrimination and ongoing severe and pervasive acts that constitute intentional discrimination where Defendants intended to treat African-Americans differently.”

The players also wanted mandatory annual anti-racist training for all athletic department staff, the creation of a permanent Senior Black Male Administrator position and tuition waivers for Black athletes who attended Iowa during Kirk Ferentz’s 22 years and did not graduate.

“Our monetary demand for our clients and the over 100 other impacted African-American athletes may be shortsightedly characterized as a money-grab by some,” Solomon-Simmons said in his statement. “But our demand is just because the need for vindication and accountability is just. The need for meaningful change, and not mere administrative shuffles of Black employees for the sake of public relations, is just.”

Solomon-Simmons said the issue of racial discrimination won’t be erased with “diversity councils, grandiose statements of support, helmet decals, ‘unity’ walks, prepaid expensive reports, kumbaya implicit bias seminars, and tokenizing of a few Black faculty, athletes, and staff.”

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Cowboys OL Martin out vs. Cards with concussion

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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have lost another starter on their offense with Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin suffering a concussion with 5:07 left in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals.

He was ruled out as the second half began with the Cowboys trailing, 21-3.

Martin spent a considerable amount of time in the blue tent getting looked at by the medical staff. He headed to the locker room at the start of the second quarter.

The Cowboys are playing their first game without quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a compound fracture and dislocated right ankle in last week’s win against the New York Giants. The Cowboys placed Prescott on injured reserve on Monday and he faces a 4-6 month recovery period.

A once-vaunted offensive line is now gutted. Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick retired in the offseason. Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith had season-ending neck surgery last week. Right tackle La’el Collins is on injured reserve because of hip surgery and did not play a down this season.

Joe Looney, who replaced Frederick, is on injured reserve with a knee injury but expected to return. In the season opener, the Cowboys lost tight end Blake Jarwin to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The Cowboys current offensive line, from left to right is: Brandon Knight (undrafted free agent, 2019), Connor Williams (second-round, 2018), Tyler Biadasz (fourth round, 2020), Connor McGovern 9third round, 2019) and Terence Steele (undrafted free agent, 2020). McGovern entered the game with two offensive snaps in his career.

The Cowboys scored a season-low 3 points in the first half.

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