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Intel for all 32 NFL teams ahead of Week 6



The Fantasy 32 analyzes the NFL from a fantasy perspective, with at least one mention of each of the league’s 32 teams. Though efficiency will be discussed plenty, the column will lean heavily on usage data, as volume is king (by far) in fantasy football. Use these tidbits to make the best waiver-wire, trade and lineup decisions for the upcoming week and beyond. Be sure to check back each week of the season for a new version of the Fantasy 32.

Note that data from Monday Night Football might not immediately be reflected in charts.

Opportunity alert

Throughout the below team-by-team rundowns, I’ll be referencing “OFP” and “OTD.” OFP stands for opportunity-adjusted fantasy points. Imagine a league in which players are created equal. OFP is a statistic that weighs every pass/carry/target and converts the data into one number that indicates a player’s opportunity to score fantasy points, or his “expected” fantasy point total. For example, if a player has an OFP of 14.5, it means that a league-average player who saw the same workload in the same location on the field would have scored 14.5 fantasy points. FORP is the difference between a player’s actual fantasy point total and his OFP. OTD works the same way, except instead of fantasy points, it’s touchdowns. Volume is king in fantasy football, so this is not information you want to overlook.

That said, here is the post-Week 5 OFP Leaderboard:

*Complete OTD and OFP positional leaderboards will be posted on ESPN+ this week.

Next, here are the players who exceeded their OFP by the largest margin this past week and are thus candidates to see a dip in fantasy production moving forward, assuming they see a similar workload:

And these players fell short of their OFP by the largest margin last week, and thus you shouldn’t be too quick to overreact to their performance when making lineup, trade or waiver decisions:

Team-by-team rundowns

Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray threw for 380 yards and one touchdown while adding 31 yards and a score with his legs against the Jets in Week 5. Murray entered the game with a poor 6.4 YPA, which had been exacerbated by throwing for only 133 yards on 31 attempts in Week 4. Murray, who is now averaging a solid 7.2 YPA, sits fourth among quarterbacks in fantasy points, which has been fueled by 296 yards and five touchdowns on the ground (both are most among quarterbacks). Murray’s schedule is tougher in the second half, but as long as he keeps throwing (ninth in pass attempts) and running as often as he has, the second-year quarterback will remain a strong QB1 play.

Atlanta Falcons: Russell Gage opened the season with a 9-114-0 receiving line in Week 1 and 46 more yards and a score in Week 2. He then missed most of Week 3 with an injury, but in his past two full games, Atlanta’s slot man has totaled a 4-38-0 receiving line on eight targets (he had 21 targets during Weeks 1-2). What’s most surprising about the drop is the fact that Julio Jones has been sidelined for all but 15 snaps during the slump. Even if Jones misses more time, Gage will be a shaky flex option. He’s a bench option in deeper PPR leagues.

Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson is fantasy’s No. 11 scoring quarterback. If you took the plunge on the league MVP in the early rounds of your draft, that’s obviously not what you were hoping for. Even in a good matchup against the Bengals on Sunday, Jackson was “limited” to 180 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air, while adding only 3 yards on two carries. Jackson entered the week with at least 6 rushing yards in 36 career games in which he had at least one carry. In fact, Jackson’s overall rushing production is down significantly from 2019. He’s averaging 8.2 carries for 47.6 yards in five 2020 games, compared to 12.3 carries for 84.3 yards in 16 games last season. That’s not going to cut it for a player with a grand total of seven touchdowns during his past four games. Jackson was on the injury report last week, so it’s possible he’s not 100 percent, but for now, we’ll need to keep expectations in check as it pertains to his rushing numbers. His ceiling is lower than usual, but Jackson will still be a QB1 play against the Eagles this week.

Buffalo Bills: Reaction coming after Tuesday’s game.

Carolina Panthers: DJ Moore‘s season got off to a fairly slow start, but his usage (he entered Week 5 handling 43% of the team’s air yards) suggested a big play or two was on the horizon. We saw one on Sunday, as Moore’s volume actually dipped (five targets), but a 57-yard touchdown allowed him a 4-93-1 receiving line for the game. Moore’s targets have fallen from a total of 22 during Weeks 1-2 to a total of 15 during Weeks 3-5, though his role as the team’s primary vertical threat certainly opens the door for big plays. Expect inconsistent production from Moore moving forward. He’ll be a WR3 option against the Bears in Week 6.

Chicago Bears: David Montgomery has posted rushing lines of 10-27-0 and 10-29-1 during his past two games, which opens up an opportunity for you to try to acquire the Bears’ feature back in a trade. The second-year back’s poor rushing efficiency was expected against two of the league’s elite run defenses, but also figures to lower his market value (that’s good news for you). Montgomery has been on the field for over 80% of Chicago’s offensive snaps in both games since Tarik Cohen went down for the season. He was targeted a career-high six times in Week 4 before leaping to eight in Week 5. The massive increase in passing-down work combined with his large share of the carries and perhaps the league’s easiest remaining schedule for a tailback supplies Montgomery with a high floor and perhaps even RB1 upside the rest of the season.

Cincinnati Bengals: One of the knocks on Joe Mixon during fantasy draft season was that he wasn’t used enough as a pass-catcher. That remained an issue during Weeks 1-3, as Mixon totaled a 7-58-0 receiving line on nine targets. The tide has turned in recent weeks, however, as Mixon posted a 6-30-1 line in Week 4 and a 6-35-0 line this past Sunday. Mixon had gone 22 consecutive games without reaching six targets, but now has done so in back-to-back games, including a career-high eight in Week 5. Mixon has now handled 30-plus touches in back-to-back games and the heavy usage keeps him locked into the weekly RB1 mix despite the fact that he has found the end zone only three times (all in one game).

Cleveland Browns: In their first full game without Nick Chubb, the Browns’ backfield snaps were as follows: Kareem Hunt – 50 (69%), D’Ernest Johnson – 22, Dontrell Hilliard – 0. Hunt was limited to 72 yards on 20 carries against a strong Colts run defense, but added 21 yards and one touchdown on four targets. Hunt has finished all five weeks of the 2020 season as a top-24 fantasy back, which includes three finishes of 13th or better. An extra target or two would be nice, but Hunt’s playing time and heavy usage suggest he’ll produce RB1 numbers during Chubb’s absence. Continue to lock him into lineups.

Dallas Cowboys: Dalton Schultz was held to 6 yards on three targets against the Giants on Sunday. It was a disappointing effort after the third-year tight end had strung together three straight solid-to-good performances, including a 9-88-1 receiving line in Week 2 and a 4-72-1 showing in Week 4. The good news is that Schultz was on the field for a season-high 88% of the offensive snaps on Sunday. The bad news (other than the dud) is that Dak Prescott was lost for the season during the game, which is obviously going to be detrimental to the team’s offensive success. Fantasy’s No. 6-scoring tight end prior to Sunday, Schultz is best viewed as a TE2 until we see how often Andy Dalton goes his direction (he didn’t on any of his 11 throws on Sunday).

Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy has put up receiving yardage totals of 56, 62, 55 and 61 during his first four NFL games. How’s that for consistency? The 2020 first-round pick’s target numbers were strong during his first three games (7.7 per game) and, though that number fell to three in Week 4, he did find the end zone for the first time during that outing. Jeudy’s 19% target share is enough to make him a borderline flex play and his production figures to improve once Drew Lock returns to the lineup. Lock is expected back this week against New England.

Detroit Lions: It might not seem like it, but D’Andre Swift‘s usage has been fairly consistent so far this season. That, of course, aside from a random Week 3 disappearance in which he was limited to five snaps. Otherwise, Swift has been in the 19-to-30-snap range, handled three to five carries and four or five targets. The result has been at least 11 fantasy points (but no more than 15) in three of his four outings. The second-round rookie hasn’t done much on the ground (12-42-1 line), but has made noise as a pass-catcher (13-124-1 on 16 targets). Fantasy’s No. 33 back through Week 4 despite playing only 30% of Detroit’s snaps, Swift’s playing time only figures to increase as the season progresses. Keep him on your bench, as flex (if not RB2) status is on the table in the near future.

Green Bay Packers: Believe it or not, Jamaal Williams entered the Packers’ Week 5 bye sitting 12th in receptions and ninth in receiving yards among running backs. Despite the passing-game usage, Williams sat 37th at the position in fantasy points. The 25-year-old has only 29 carries to his name (108 yards) and has yet to find the end zone despite a healthy 2.2 OTD. Though some regression to the mean is on the horizon for the latter, Williams’ averages of 7.3 carries and 3.5 targets per game put him in the range of where he’s been throughout a career in which he has zero top-30 fantasy campaigns. Aaron Jones (fantasy’s No. 2 scoring back prior to the bye) remains the obvious main man in the Packers’ backfield and 247-pound second-round rookie AJ Dillon is a strong bet for a larger share of the carries as the temperatures drop this fall and winter. Williams is worth only bench consideration in 12-plus team leagues.

Houston Texans: Fresh off a zero-catch effort in Week 4, Brandin Cooks exploded for an 8-161-1 receiving line on 12 targets against the Jaguars on Sunday. It was easily Cooks’ best game since joining the Texans, as he entered the game with 138 yards and zero scores on 21 targets in four previous games. Cooks has been on the field for 82% of Houston’s offensive snaps and his target share has risen to a healthy 20%. Especially with the Texans’ brutal early-season schedule out of the way, Cooks is back in the weekly WR3/flex discussion.

Indianapolis Colts: After totaling 162 yards on 22 targets during his first four games of 2020, T.Y. Hilton went for six catches and 69 yards on 10 targets against the Browns on Sunday. The uptick in usage suggests better days could be ahead, but Hilton has yet to score a touchdown, clear 69 yards in a game or post a weekly fantasy finish better than 26th this season (50th was his best prior to Sunday). Hilton’s usage (21% target share, 34% air yard share) suggests he remains worthy of a bench spot, but he’s not a particularly appealing flex in 10-team leagues at the moment.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Laviska Shenault Jr. led the Jaguars in targets (eight), receptions (seven) and receiving yards (79) while playing 80% of the offensive snaps against Houston on Sunday. With the exception of receiving yardage, those were all career-high marks for the second-round rookie. Shenault has quietly emerged as the No. 26 scoring fantasy receiver despite scoring only one touchdown (in Week 1). The upside hasn’t been there (no top-20 fantasy weeks), but the floor has been solid (10-plus fantasy points in four of five outings). Shenault’s role only figures to grow as the season progresses. He’s on the flex radar against Detroit in Week 6.

Kansas City Chiefs: Mecole Hardman was on the field for a season-high 71% of the Chiefs’ offensive snaps on Sunday. It’s the most playing time Hardman has enjoyed since he played three-quarters of the snaps in Week 11 last season and the fourth-highest rate of his young career. Hardman benefited from Sammy Watkins leaving the game with an injury after 25 snaps (38%) and didn’t turn the uptick in usage into much production (50 yards on three targets). Hardman entered the game having scored in back-to-back games, but he has failed to clear 50 scrimmage yards in four of five games. He’s always a threat for a big play, but Hardman should be considered only a WR3/flex option if Watkins misses time.

Las Vegas Raiders: The good news is that Henry Ruggs III made his presence felt with receptions of 72 and 46 yards against the Chiefs on Sunday. The bad news is that Ruggs was targeted only one additional time in the upset victory. Ruggs missed Weeks 3 and 4 with an injury and wasn’t overly productive in his first two NFL games, totaling a 4-59-0 receiving line on eight targets. Ruggs played 63% of the snaps during those two games, which aligned with his 64% rate on Sunday. Ruggs’ workload could increase moving forward, but at least for now, he’s no more than a boom/bust flex option in 12-team leagues.

Los Angeles Chargers: Reaction coming Tuesday.

Los Angeles Rams: Cam Akers returned from a two-game absence on Sunday, but the rookie back was limited to 12 snaps in the win over Washington. Akers made some noise with a 46-yard rush, but otherwise totaled 15 yards on eight carries and wasn’t targeted. Darrell Henderson Jr. reemerged as Los Angeles’ most productive back, putting up 38 yards and a score on 15 carries and 30 yards and another touchdown on four targets. He played 44% of the snaps, compared to 38% for Malcolm Brown, who totaled 24 yards on nine touches. This committee attack isn’t going away, but the Rams’ run-heavy offense has allowed decent production from this backfield. Henderson, who has scored four touchdowns in his past three games, has emerged as the best of the trio (he has three top-11 fantasy weeks over the past four weeks) and should be considered a borderline RB2 play for the time being. Brown isn’t a must-hold and Akers’ talent and pedigree make him worth a bench spot.

Miami Dolphins: Finally! That’s what folks who took a late flier on Preston Williams were mumbling to themselves on Sunday when the second-year receiver went for 106 yards and a touchdown on five targets against the 49ers. Williams entered the game with only 89 yards and one score on 17 targets during his first four outings of the season. Despite the big game, we should remain skeptical of Williams after he was limited to five targets in the win. It’s possible Williams will emerge into a reliable flex, but he remains best left on benches until we see more consistent usage and production.

Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook left Sunday night’s game with an injury after playing 36 snaps. Cook showed well against Seattle, with 65 yards and a score on 17 carries, as well as 24 yards on five targets. Alexander Mattison picked up where Cook left off, producing 112 yards on a career-high 20 carries and 24 yards on three targets. Mattison was on the field for 40 snaps, compared to only four for Mike Boone and one for Ameer Abdullah. Mattison is one of the most valuable insurance options in fantasy, so if Cook misses time, the second-year back would immediately join the weekly RB1 discussion and would obviously be a lineup lock.

New England Patriots: N’Keal Harry found the end zone when we last saw him in Week 4, but consistent fantasy value has eluded the second-year receiver thus far. The 2019 first-round pick appeared to be on the verge of a breakout after an 8-72-0 receiving line on 12 targets against Seattle in Week 2, but he otherwise has been limited to lines of 5-39-0, 2-34-0 and 3-21-1. Harry’s 22% target share is strong, but it might not be high enough in an extremely run-heavy scheme led by Cam Newton. Harry should be on your radar for a flex or DFS start when the matchup suggests New England will be close or behind on the scoreboard and need to pass more than usual.

New Orleans Saints: Reaction coming Tuesday.

New York Giants: It hasn’t taken long for Devonta Freeman to take control of the Giants’ backfield. The former Falcons star has played 53% of the offensive snaps in back-to-back games, but set a season high with 17 carries in Week 5. He turned that usage into 60 yards and one touchdown while also adding 27 yards on three targets. Freeman has now reached 15 touches in back-to-back games and that figures to be the norm moving forward. Freeman will be in the RB2 discussion most weeks and that’s the case this weekend against a Washington defense that has been roughed up by the Browns’ and Rams’ backs in recent outings.

New York Jets: Le’Veon Bell returned from injured reserve on Sunday and played 70% of the offensive snaps. Bell ran the ball well (13-60-0), but was held to 7 yards on his only target. Frank Gore carried the ball on nine of his 19 snaps (30%) and rookie La’Mical Perine didn’t play. It’s hard to get excited about anyone in the New York offense, but Bell’s combination of skill and opportunity will keep him locked into the weekly RB2 discussion. Of course, he’ll need more involvement in the passing game. Bell was targeted on 78 (21%) of his 366 routes in 2019, but sits at three targets (7%) on 42 routes in 2020.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have invested a lot of assets on the wide receiver position in recent years, but it’s a player whom they claimed off waivers in August who has emerged as their best option at the position. Travis Fulgham, a 2019 sixth-round pick by Detroit, posted a 10-152-1 receiving line on 13 targets against a good Steelers defense on Sunday. Fulgham has now scored in both of his games with Philadelphia. The Eagles could have DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery back in the next week or two, but it’s hard to imagine Fulgham not remaining one of Carson Wentz‘s top targets. Add him on waivers and consider him for your flex in Week 6.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Chase Claypool exploded onto the fantasy scene on Sunday with seven catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns on 11 targets, as well as 6 yards and an additional score on three carries. Claypool entered the game with a 6-151-1 receiving line on nine targets during his first three NFL games. The second-round rookie was on the field for 70% of the offensive snaps, a number that likely would’ve been much lower if not for an early-game injury to Diontae Johnson that limited the Steelers’ target leader to six snaps. Of course, the cat seems to be out of the bag on Claypool and, though his touchdown rate is certain to regress (5 TDs, 1.1 OTD), it’s hard to imagine him not playing a near full-time role along with Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster moving forward. Obviously a must-add if he’s still out there on waivers, Claypool should be viewed as a flex option with upside for more. He’ll be in the WR2 discussion if Johnson misses time.

San Francisco 49ers: Raheem Mostert returned from injury on Sunday and immediately stepped back in as the 49ers’ lead back. Mostert was on the field for 53% of the offensive snaps, carrying the ball 11 times for 90 yards and adding 29 yards on three targets. Jerick McKinnon took a back seat with one carry and four targets on 24% of the snaps. Jeff Wilson Jr. played 20% of the snaps and racked up four carries and one target in the blowout loss. Mostert has delivered three top-20 fantasy weeks in as many tries and his usage and continual elite efficiency keep him locked into the weekly RB2 mix. McKinnon belongs on benches.

Seattle Seahawks: A few weeks back in this very column, I noted that while DK Metcalf was undoubtedly a weekly WR1 option, his efficiency was going to regress to the mean and he’d need a boost in volume to reach elite production. Perhaps that volume is now on the table, as Metcalf set new career-high marks in both targets (13) and air yards (255) against Minnesota on Sunday night. Metcalf has now scored five touchdowns on the season, has 92-plus yards in all five games and sits fourth among wide receivers in fantasy points. Metcalf’s 25% target share and 50% air yard share for the season are more than enough to allow WR1 production in a Seattle offense that is both pass-heaviest in the league and has scored four-plus touchdowns in every game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tyler Johnson exploded onto the fantasy scene with four catches for a team-high 61 yards on six targets against the Bears on Thursday night. The fifth-round rookie played 81% of the offensive snaps, trailing only Mike Evans among the team’s wide receivers. Despite the strong showing, Johnson is unlikely to be worthy of a bench spot (let alone flex consideration) moving forward. Both Chris Godwin and Justin Watson were out on Thursday and Scotty Miller (0 targets on 42 snaps) was seemingly a decoy at less than 100 percent health. That said, Johnson is a very intriguing dynasty hold, as his collegiate résumé includes a combination of heavy volume and high-end efficiency. Note that, among this year’s rookie class, Johnson joined CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins and Jerry Jeudy (those three were top-35 picks in April’s draft) as the top four wide receivers in yards per route run last season.

Tennessee Titans: Reaction coming after Tuesday’s game.

Washington Football Team: J.D. McKissic caught six of eight targets for 40 yards against the Rams on Sunday. McKissic has now managed at least six catches, eight targets and 40 yards in back-to-back games and sits fourth among running backs in targets for the season. McKissic hasn’t been much of a factor as a rusher, however (three carries during his past two games), and has yet to score a touchdown (1.1 OTD), which has left him without a single top-30 fantasy week. McKissic is leading Washington’s backfield in snaps, but he’s by far second fiddle to Antonio Gibson for touches. Consider McKissic for a bench spot only in deep PPR leagues.


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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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