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Waiver wire for NFL Week 7: Travis Fulgham, Justin Herbert among top pickups

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Believe it or not, we’re closing in on the halfway point of the fantasy football regular season. Weird. It always flies by.

The reason I bring this up as that while things can change at a moment’s notice — it is 2020 after all — you likely have a general sense of which direction your fantasy roster is headed and what needs you may have at this time and going forward.

Maybe your roster is largely set week-to-week and you just need some complementary parts. Maybe you’re in a bit of a rut and need to start swinging for the fences. No matter your situation, I’ll keep offering up key players for the waiver-wire adds of the week.

Without further ado, the Week 7 ESPN Fantasy waiver column.

Note: All players in this column are available in more than 50% of leagues on ESPN.com

Week 7 byes: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback club

A look at some quarterback options to consider as bye-week fill-ins or even your weekly starter. Yes, I’m breaking our own 50% threshold rule with two of them. No, I do not apologize, because these players are worth it!

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans (54.1%): In 15 games since taking over as the Titans’ starter, Tannehill now has 40 total touchdowns. That is not a typo. He is sizzling hot with back-to-back 30 point fantasy weeks, and he is a quarterback we need to take incredibly seriously as a weekly top-eight consideration. Add him, start him, ride the wave of goodness. Tannehill is incredible.

Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (50.7%): Trivia: Name the Eagles’ three best wide receivers who are currently healthy. Wentz has been a fantasy magician of late, scoring at least 21 points in three of four games while doing so minus a laundry list of offensive contributors, including his top wideouts not named Travis Fulgham. His next three games are against the Giants, Cowboys and Giants again. If Philly’s offense starts to get healthier too? Watch out for Wentz.

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (45.4%): I suspect this will be the final time I’ll be able to cover Herbert in this column, as we are on the heels of his bye week and heading into a matchup with the Jaguars that is just ideal. Herbert has at least 20 fantasy points in three of his four starts and has looked the part of a viable fantasy quarterback at nearly every turn so far. He’s athletic enough to earn some fantasy points with his wheels as well. The arrow is pointing up for this rising star.

Non-QB options

Travis Fulgham, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (45.5): The incredible story continues for Fulgham as he piled up another six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in Week 6, bringing his streak of games with at least 50 yards and a touchdown to three. The Eagles are woefully banged up right now and are looking for player to count on, and Fulgham has emerged as exactly that. Even when DeSean Jackson (as soon as Thursday) and Alshon Jeffery return, the Eagles must keep Fulgham in the fold. He’s earned a spot in Philly’s offense and all fantasy leagues.

Boston Scott, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (10.9%): We don’t yet know the status of Miles’ Sanders ankle injury that caused him to leave the game in Week 6, but we do know that Scott is the likeliest starter if he misses any games. Scott had 11 total touches in Week 1 when Sanders was absent and was a very useful player for the Eagles down the stretch in 2019. It’s a depleted offensive line he would be running behind, but volume should push Scott onto the radar in the event that Sanders is out.

Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (43.8%): While A.J. Green in Week 6 looked the best he has in any game this season, it did not come at the cost of Higgins’ rise. The 33rd overall pick in this year’s draft had 125 receiving yards for his fourth straight fantastic game, looking very much the part of a long-term fixture in the Bengals’ offense going forward. Chase the upside here in fantasy too, as he’s going to have plenty of huge days in this pass-heavy offense.

Preston Williams, WR, Miami Dolphins (40.9%): It’s unclear how severe the groin injury is that caused DeVante Parker to leave the Dolphins’ Week 6 win early, but Williams is the Dolphins’ wideout best equipped to step into a larger role if Parker is forced to miss time. While Williams has been held to two or fewer catches in every game but one so far this season, it’s important to note that he is coming off of a torn ACL and still working his game back to the point it was at last season. He also has a touchdown in three of his past four games.

J.D. McKissic, RB, Washington Football Team (22.7%): With at least six catches and 40 yards in three straight games, McKissic has carved out a role that at least merits some consideration in deeper leagues. We’re going to soon enter weeks with even more fantasy-relevant running backs on a bye, so you’ll be tapping into your bench depth soon enough. McKissic has been a hybrid running back and wide receiver in his career, so his aptitude in the passing game should come as no surprise.

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (24.1%): As the Eagles’ injuries mount, Goedert could provide a beacon of good news, as he is now eligible to return from injured reserve after missing three games due to a broken thumb. He was exceptional earlier this season prior to the injury and should provide a much-needed boost to the Eagles’ passing game. For those still seeking a starter at tight end to count on, Goedert is an option.

La’Mical Perine, RB, New York Jets (11.9%): It came as no surprise that the Jets got Perine more involved following the release of Le’Veon Bell, though he’s still very much in a work share that prominently involves Frank Gore. So I’m not advocating adding Perine as a player you can use imminently, as Gore will stay involved and this Jets’ offense — to put it mildly — stinks. But running back depth is near impossible to find, so stash Perine on your bench if you have the room and hope that he becomes a workhorse at some point for the Jets.

Keelan Cole Sr., WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (14.3%): Cole fits into one of those sweet spots in fantasy football that is hard to size up. The good news is that he has at least five targets in every game and now has 10-plus points in four of six games. Yet, he’s also likely to be the third-ranked wideout on his own team most weeks behind DJ Chark Jr. and Laviska Shenualt Jr. Nonetheless, the numbers tell a story that puts him on the radar as an add in leagues with at least 12 teams for bench depth and potential flex usage as bye weeks continue to pile up.

Tim Patrick, WR, Denver Broncos (18.2%): A nice story in development in Denver, as Patrick has blossomed with the Broncos after originally entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and being waived by two separate teams. He now has three straight double-digit fantasy games with 100-plus receiving yards in consecutive weeks. Jerry Jeudy has the goods to be an elite vertical receiver in the NFL, but Patrick will help the Broncos in that regard too. He is a player to stash in deeper leagues as well.

Trey Burton, TE, Indianapolis Colts (5.2%): Here’s a name to keep an eye on if you are on the hunt for a fill-in tight end, as Burton now has at least five targets in each of the three games he has played since being activated off of injured reserve. Mo Alie-Cox missed Week 6, and Jack Doyle has been quiet for much of this season, while Burton offers the Colts their best athletic playmaker at the position — to that point, Burton scored a rushing touchdown in Week 6. He is fill-in player to consider.

Gus Edwards, RB, Baltimore Ravens (1.4%): We’re monitoring an ankle injury that limited Mark Ingram in Week 6, with an eye on Edwards alongside J.K. Dobbins in the Ravens’ backfield. Edwards had 14 carries for 26 yards and a touchdown on Sunday and is a player whom the Ravens have long valued as a north-south toter of the rock. If Ingram is out as far as Week 8 — that might be unlikely — Edwards would make his way onto the flex radar for deeper leagues in non-PPR scoring, as he’s a virtually zero in the passing game.

Darren Fells, TE, Houston Texans (2.8%): Tight end is the toughest position in fantasy football to find consistency, but if you’re going to roll the dice with a fill-in, finding one who is a red zone threat for an offense led by one of the best players in football is a reasonable hedge. Fells has three touchdowns already this season, and he had seven in 2019 — Deshaun Watson uses Fells’ massive frame to the Texans’ advantage. Houston has been hot on offense and will need to stay that way, as they’ve allowed at least 28 points in five of six games this season. That helps Fells’ outlook.

Anthony Firkser, TE, Tennessee Titans (0.1%): As we monitor the news surrounding Jonnu Smith, who left Sunday’s win with an ankle injury, our best option to replace him could be in-house, as Firkser had a huge day in Week 6 with eight catches and a touchdown. He’s playing in an offense quarterbacked by one of the hottest players in football, as Ryan Tannehill continues to scorch defenses this season. The Titans have scored at least 30 points in four straight games, and with the way they are throwing the ball, Firkser at least has a shot at making noise if he is needed to step into a starting role.

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

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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.”

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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

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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

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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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