The Atlanta Falcons waived former first-round draft pick Takk McKinley on Monday, days after the defensive end called out the team for failing to trade him at the trading deadline.
McKinley had expressed his desire to be traded before the trade deadline and took to social media to say the Falcons turned down fifth- and sixth-round draft pick offers from multiple teams despite his request to be traded.
The fourth-year veteran also said that he requested a trade last year but Atlanta turned down a second-round pick offer for him then. Now McKinley is free to choose where he goes once he clears waivers.
The Falcons declined to pick up McKinley’s fifth-year option, which carried a $10.3 million price tag.
The 2017 first-round pick has been disappointing, totaling only 17.5 sacks in 49 career games. Atlanta has used a combination of Steven Means and Charles Harris more recently to replace the disgruntled McKinley.
McKinley was sidelined the last two games because of a groin injury and illness. He has played just 81 snaps and has only one sack in four games this season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) and New Orleans Saints (5-2) were already embroiled in one of the NFL’s most compelling division battles heading into Sunday night’s crucial showdown in Tampa (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). Now they’re about to add two of the greatest receivers of the past decade for the second half of the season: Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas.
Brown will make his debut with the Bucs, appearing in his first game in 14 months. Thomas, meanwhile, appears likely to play for the first time since he suffered a high ankle sprain at the end of New Orleans’ Week 1 victory over the Buccaneers.
Thomas is officially listed as questionable. But he practiced all week on a limited basis, and a source told ESPN’s Dianna Russini that he is expected to play.
Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians said Brown could play somewhere between 10 and 35 snaps on Sunday. Saints coach Sean Payton — who respected Brown’s talent enough to bring him in for a tryout in New Orleans late last season — said that could be enough for the four-time first-team All-Pro to make an impact.
“You know, one big play at the wrong time could [be a game-changer]. And it doesn’t require 11 catches,” Payton said. “He’s explosive and smart. He understands football.
“The challenge this week is not having any idea about, ‘Does he come out and play the Z or the X? How much?’ So you have to be prepared for where they might put him in their scheme.”
Matthew Berry and Field Yates discuss Antonio Brown’s fantasy relevance and why Tom Brady is the key to his success in Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers should have a better idea of what to expect if New Orleans gets its full complement of offensive playmakers back. (Receiver Emmanuel Sanders was also activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week after missing the past two games.) But that won’t make the Saints any easier to defend.
The Saints have started to find a rhythm on offense during their recent four-game win streak, led by Alvin Kamara’s historic start as a runner and receiver.
“Without even giving him the ball, you have to account for Mike Thomas,” Kamara said. “Defense is an anticipating game. They’ve gotta anticipate what’s gonna happen when Mike Thomas is on the field. … And obviously, when you put the ball in his hands and you get him moving around and running how he’s used to running and doing the things he’s used to doing, it’s not many players, not many defenses that can stop him.”
Here’s a look at how much of an impact Brown and Thomas could have down the stretch — and what else the Buccaneers and Saints have to do to win the South.
Brown demands defenses’ attention
Unlike Thomas, Brown won’t be the focal point of the Bucs’ passing game. But his presence takes some of the attention off of players who have been doing the heavy lifting, such as Mike Evans, who said he is just now starting to feel close to 100 percent after suffering an ankle injury in Week 4. The injury impacted Evans’ ability to cut, but he has also seen a lot more double coverage when Chris Godwin hasn’t been out on the field, which has significantly impacted his production. Godwin’s status for Sunday isn’t certain, and much of that will depend on soreness, but Arians said Friday after Godwin caught passes for the first time since his surgery Oct. 27, “I would anticipate him probably playing.”
What Brown brings to the Bucs’ offense that can help the team make not only a playoff push but also a Super Bowl push is that he can do it all as a route runner. He’s just as dangerous on the go routes and deep routes used with Targets on Post Routes Since 2017
The Bucs will create some packages for Brown against the Saints, but Arians is keeping it close to the vest. In Brown and Brady’s one and only game together last season — a 43-0 win over the Dolphins in Week 2 — Brown lined up in the slot on 12 snaps and outside on 12 others.
Although he didn’t run any for the Patriots, you can’t overlook Brown’s ability on post routes, which has become a defining characteristic of Brady’s move to Arians’ offense. Brown has caught 67% of his post routes since 2017. Brady has already thrown as many post route attempts this season (14) as he did all of last season, with only Top 3 in YAC on Post Routes Since 2017
Brown doesn’t need to play a ton of snaps to do some damage. In his one game with the Patriots, Brown was targeted eight times on 14 routes run (57.1%), and he caught four passes for 56 receiving yards and a touchdown. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, there have been more than 2,300 instances of a WR running 10-plus routes in a game since the start of last season; only one was targeted more frequently than Brown was in that game.
“He’s efficient in everything he does. … There’s not much wasted movement, so one small movement or one error, he’ll definitely leave you in the dust,” Bucs cornerback
1 p.m. ET | CBS Matchup rating: 78.5 | Spread: BAL -3 (47.5)
What to watch for: This matchup is all about the Ravens’ rushing attack and the Colts’ run defense. The Ravens lead the NFL in rushing at 178.7 yards per game, while the Indianapolis D is the second stingiest in the league in that category at 79.9 yards per game. The Colts should have the advantage in this area on Sunday because they’re heading into the game healthy on the defense, whereas the Ravens will be without starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle). — Mike Wells
1 p.m. ET | Fox Matchup rating: 76.2 | Spread: SEA -3 (55)
What to watch for: The Seahawks are allowing 358.7 passing yards per game; no team has ever allowed even 300 passing yards per game over the course of a full season. It could be a get-right game for the Bills’ passing attack, which has averaged just 210.5 yards over its past four games after averaging 316.3 in the first four weeks of the season. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Bold prediction: Seattle safety Jamal Adams will get two sacks. The All-Pro’s return from a four-game absence comes one week after the Seahawks executed one of the most blitz-heavy game plans in 11 seasons under Pete Carroll, something they had to do without the ability to get pressure with their front four. The addition of Carlos Dunlap to the Seahawks’ defensive line would ideally make them less reliant on blitzing, but expect that to still be a big part of their defensive approach now that Adams is back in the lineup. — Brady Henderson
Stat to know: Seahawks wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are the first pair in NFL history with 500 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns each in their team’s first seven games.
Injuries: Seahawks | Bills
What to know for fantasy: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is pacing toward a season with 4,900 passing yards and nearly 600 rushing yards. There has only been one instance in which a quarterback threw for 4,500 yards and ran for 400 in NFL history: Daunte Culpepper in 2004. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Bills have failed to cover in four straight games. Read more.
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 30, Bills 27 Louis-Jacques’ pick: Bills 35, Seahawks 31 FPI prediction: SEA, 54.8% (by an average of 1.7 points)
Matchup must-reads: How blitzing could be key to reviving Seahawks’ pass rush … Bills crank up run game, give needed boost to pass-heavy attack … Metcalf emerges with Lockett to give Seahawks two No. 1 wide receivers
Mike Clay loves the matchup for Stefon Diggs and John Brown against the Seahawks secondary.
1 p.m. ET | Fox Matchup rating: 65.8 | Spread: KC -10.5 (52.5)
What to watch for: Can the Panthers find a strategy to keep the game close? If the Chiefs score points like they have recently — they’re averaging 39 over their past two games — Carolina won’t be able to keep up. Whether it’s to run the ball consistently to chew up the clock or find a defensive scheme to frustrate quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the Panthers have to figure out a plan that works, something the Chiefs’ past two opponents, both also under .500, couldn’t do. — Adam Teicher
Bold prediction: Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey will have 150 total yards from scrimmage after missing six games with a high ankle sprain. He returns against the league’s 29th-ranked run defense (142.8 yards per game), and his performance will help keep Mahomes off the field with sustained drives. — David Newton
Stat to know: Mahomes has 21 touchdown passes and one interception this season. That’s the highest touchdown pass count with no more than one pick through a player’s first eight games of a season in NFL history, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Injuries: Panthers | Chiefs
What to know for fantasy: Touching the ball is the best way to accrue fantasy points, making Curtis Samuel a free-agent bargain, given that he ranks eighth among wide receivers with 6.9 touches per game. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is 20-4 ATS in his career as an underdog, including the playoffs. Read more.
Newton’s pick: Chiefs 35, Panthers 28 Teicher’s pick: Chiefs 33, Panthers 16 FPI prediction: KC, 84.1% (by an average of 13.5 points)
Matchup must-reads: Why McCaffrey will again be Panthers’ workhorse — immediately … Mahomes has some advice for “young Patrick” … Panthers will have to fight through as schedule turns tougher … Mahomes adds deep ball back into bag of tricks
1 p.m. ET | Fox Matchup rating: 48.2 | Spread: TEN -6.5 (47.5)
What to watch for: Who plays left cornerback for Tennessee? Adoree’ Jackson missed practice on Thursday and is yet to be added to the 53-man roster after spending most of the season on the injured reserve list. If Jackson is activated, it’s not likely that he’ll see a high volume of snaps, so someone will have to rotate in. The Titans released veteran Johnathan Joseph, leaving Tye Smith and Breon Borders as possibilities on the left side. — Turron Davenport
Bold prediction: Bears quarterback Nick Foles will be sacked a minimum of four times. Chicago could be without four Week 1 starters along the offensive line against the Titans — and the best-case scenario still leaves it down two of them. Foles has been under tremendous pressure since he took over for Mitchell Trubisky in Week 3, as the Bears have surrendered 20 sacks (tied for ninth most in the NFL) and rank 21st in pass block win rate, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. Foles is in for a long afternoon. — Jeff Dickerson
Stat to know: Tennessee is last in the NFL in opponent third-down conversion rate allowed at 61.9%. The team was eighth last season at 36.3%. But luckily for the Titans, the Bears’ offense ranks 31st in third-down conversion rate at 34.9%, meaning third down could be interesting on Sunday.
Injuries: Bears | Titans
What to know for fantasy: Titans running back Derrick Henry has five straight games with at least 15 fantasy points but three or fewer receptions. That’s the longest streak of its kind since one by Arian Foster in 2012, and it might continue against a Bears defense that is worse against the run than you might think (below league average in both running back rushing yards and yards per carry). See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: When Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill starts regular-season games for Tennessee, overs are 15-2, including 6-1 this season. Read more.
Dickerson’s pick: Titans 21, Bears 13 Davenport’s pick: Titans 21, Bears 17 FPI prediction: TEN, 62.0% (by an average of 4.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Bad to worse: Bears O-line beset by injury … Davis proving his worth to Titans ahead of critical offseason … Bears can’t pull out another miracle win … Titans release DB Joseph after getting King
1 p.m. ET | CBS Matchup rating: 40.8 | Spread: MIN -4 (52.5)
What to watch for: Who’s going to suit up at quarterback for the Lions after Matthew Stafford was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday? While coach Matt Patricia would not speculate about the QB’s status, it’s possible Stafford plays in Week 9 if he continues to test negative every day this week. If not, it’ll be Chase Daniel or David Blough under center. Since Stafford was drafted by Detroit in 2009, the Lions are 5-22 (.185) when he doesn’t start, including 0-8 last season. — Courtney Cronin
Bold prediction: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins continues his dominance over Patricia’s Lions with a 275-yard, three-touchdown day in which he completes 75% of his passes. Last year, Cousins threw for 580 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions against Detroit, and he has yet to have a game under 70% completions against the Lions since Patricia took over in 2018. — Michael Rothstein
Stat to know: This will be running back Adrian Peterson’s third career game against Minnesota, a team he spent 10 seasons with earlier in his career. Peterson’s teams are 0-2 against his former club.
Injuries: Lions | Vikings
What to know for fantasy: Lions wideout Kenny Golladay will not be active this week, so it’s worth noting that Marvin Jones Jr. averages 22.2 points per game during his Lions career when seeing at least 10 targets. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Minnesota has covered each of the past five meetings between these teams. Read more.
Rothstein’s pick: Vikings 31, Lions 23 Cronin’s pick: Vikings 28, Lions 20 FPI prediction: MIN, 66.5% (by an average of 5.8 points)
Matchup must-reads: With Golladay out, Hockenson could emerge as go-to guy … Key to Vikings’ success: Keep ball out of Cousins’ hands? … What is happening to Lions run game? … Stafford on COVID list again
1 p.m. ET | CBS Matchup rating: 39.4 | Spread: ATL -4 (50)
What to watch for: The Falcons’ secondary is improving, thanks in part to a pass rush that has generated 20 of its 47 QB hits and six of its 13 sacks over the past three games. And Broncos QB Drew Lock is completing an NFL-worst 58% of his passes and has the fifth-highest off-target percentage in the league, per ESPN Stats & Information. — Mike DiRocco
1 p.m. ET | Fox Matchup rating: 26.1 | Spread: WSH -1 (42.5)
What to watch for: How will Washington handle Giants QB Daniel Jones? Jones is 3-0 against Washington and 1-16 against everyone else. He has thrown seven touchdowns with three picks and owns a 75.0 total QBR in those three games — his best showing versus any NFC East team. Washington has sacked Jones just twice, and in Week 6, he threw for only 112 yards but ran for 74. — John Keim
Bold prediction: Giants RB Wayne Gallman will run for over 100 yards, making him New York’s first 100-yard rusher this season. No team is better at defending the pass than Washington. It is allowing just 185.9 yards per game. So how do you attack it? Run the ball! The Giants have rushed more effectively in recent weeks. That will continue on Sunday against Washington, with New York’s best individual effort this season. — Jordan Raanan
Stat to know: Washington is averaging 292.7 yards of offense per game this season, the third fewest in the NFL (Jets at 259.0, Giants at 291.8). And the team also has the second-worst QBR this season at 41.0.
Injuries: Giants | Washington
What to know for fantasy: New York wide receiver Sterling Shepard has gone over 15 fantasy points in both of his games back from injury, and he averaged 18.3 against Washington a season ago. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: The Giants have covered seven straight and 16 out of 20 on the road since 2018. Read more.
Raanan’s pick: Giants 22, Washington 17 Keim’s pick: Washington 20, Giants 19 FPI prediction: WSH, 65.4% (by an average of 5.4 points)
Matchup must-reads: Frustrated Tate absent from Giants’ practice on Wednesday … Washington coach Rivera won’t speculate on Kerrigan trade talk … Giants’ Ryan says trainer’s advice helped save wife’s life
Field Yates and Mike Clay agree that Evan Engram has gotten “back on track” thanks to the sheer volume of targets.
1 p.m. ET | CBS Matchup rating: 10.5 | Spread: HOU -7 (50.5)
What to watch for: Don’t be surprised to see the Texans blitz more than they already do, even with outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus out. The Texans blitz an average of 12 times per game, per ESPN Stats and Information. On Sunday, they’ll be facing rookie quarterback Jake Luton, a sixth-round pick who hasn’t taken a game snap since Nov. 23, 2019, when Oregon State played Washington State. — Mike DiRocco
Bold prediction: Houston RB David Johnson will run for more than 100 yards for the first time this season. When these two teams played in Week 5, Johnson ran for 96 yards on 17 carries. And the Jaguars rank 28th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. — Sarah Barshop
Stat to know: Luton had 28 passing TDs and three interceptions last season at Oregon State. That 9.3 ratio ranked fifth in the FBS behind only Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Burrow and Dustin Crum.
Injuries: Texans | Jaguars
What to know for fantasy: Houston wideout Brandin Cooks is very quietly one of just three wide receivers with at least seven catches in each of his past three games. On a per-game basis, he is WR5 over that stretch (21.6 fantasy points per game). See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: These two teams are a combined 3-12 ATS this season. Read more.
Barshop’s pick: Texans 27, Jaguars 17 DiRocco’s pick: Texans 24, Jaguars 13 FPI prediction: HOU, 68.8% (by an average of 6.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Watt ‘not looking to rebuild’ as Texans stumble … Jaguars to start rookie QB Luton vs. Texans … Texans close facility after Martin tests positive for coronavirus … What kind of ‘crazy’ stuff should Marrone try? Here are some ideas … Texans sign quarterback McCown, 41, to active roster
4:05 p.m. ET | Fox Matchup rating: 36.9 | Spread: LAC -1 (51.5)
What to watch for: This is always a battle, but the matchup brings a little extra this year: rookie QB Justin Herbert vs. seven-year vet Derek Carr, who has been putting up impressive numbers. Both offensive lines are in flux, but each unit should be back at full strength or close to it on Sunday. But the Chargers will miss defensive end Joey Bosa, which should make Carr feel a little more comfortable in the pocket. — Shelley Smith
Bold prediction: The patchwork Raiders offensive line will throw a shutout against the Chargers’ hobbled pass rush, a week after shutting out an obviously hobbled Myles Garrett in frigid Cleveland. And Carr, able to extend plays, will rush for at least one first down. — Paul Gutierrez
Stat to know: The Raiders are 3-1 on the road this season after going a combined 3-13 on the road in the previous two seasons. And they will seek to win three straight road games for just the third time in the past 15 seasons.
Injuries: Raiders | Chargers
What to know for fantasy: Herbert has four straight games with at least 21 fantasy points, tying Deshaun Watson for the longest such streak by a rookie quarterback among active players. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Six of seven Raiders games have gone over the total this season. Read more.
Gutierrez’s pick: Raiders 23, Chargers 21 Smith’s pick: Chargers 24, Raiders 17 FPI prediction: LV, 53.9% (by an average of 1.4 points)
Matchup must-reads: Raiders entering potentially season-defining stretch vs. AFC West foes … Will Chargers wide receiver Williams put it all together after up-and-down start? … When will the Raiders’ massive, and expensive, O-line get back together? … Lynn on Chargers blowing another double-digit lead: Got to figure this out
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS Matchup rating: 54.9 | Spread: ARI -4.5 (49)
What to watch for: Despite the Cardinals playing well as of late, they’ll be down Byron Murphy Jr., and maybe Dre Kirkpatrick, at cornerback. If Kirkpatrick is out too, watch for Miami rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa to have a big outing, because whomever Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson isn’t guarding will be picked on all day. — Josh Weinfuss
Bold prediction: The Dolphins will hold Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins to under 50 receiving yards. In games during which both Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are healthy, the Dolphins are allowing just 5.5 yards per attempt and 13.8 points per game. They have the NFL’s No. 1 scoring defense, and a big reason is their big-money cornerbacks. This is a marquee prove-it game for the Dolphins’ defense, though, and neutralizing Hopkins — who is currently averaging more than 100 receiving yards per game — would be a big accomplishment. — Cameron Wolfe
Stat to know: Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray finished 1-2 in the 2018 Heisman Trophy voting. This will be only the fifth time that quarterbacks who finished 1-2 in the Heisman in the same year have started against each other in the NFL. (Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson are the most recent pair to meet, earlier this season.)
Injuries: Dolphins | Cardinals
What to know for fantasy: Hopkins has been a top-10 wide receiver in five of seven games this season, and he faces a Dolphins defense that ranks 21st this season against fantasy wide receivers. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Miami has covered games by 11.5 points per contest this season, which is on pace to be the best mark in the Super Bowl era. (The current record is 11.1, by the Oakland Raiders in 1967.) Read more.
Wolfe’s pick: Dolphins 23, Cardinals 20 Weinfuss’ pick: Cardinals 31, Dolphins 24 FPI prediction: ARI, 69.7% (by an average of 7.0 points)
Matchup must-reads: The Tagovailoa tour: Four days, three states, two wins and one unforgettable weekend … Cardinals’ Baker is ‘chill’ until ‘he flips that savage switch’ … Flores says Dolphins are not auditioning Tua … Kingsbury confirms 2 Cardinals tested positive for coronavirus
4:25 p.m. ET | CBS Matchup rating: 40.5 | Spread: PIT -14 (42)
What to watch for: The Cowboys have had more than 25,000 fans in each of their past three games at AT&T Stadium, and a similar crowd is expected Sunday. How many of them will be Steelers fans? The Cowboys will be starting their fourth different quarterback against a ferocious pass rush. And Pittsburgh has a balanced offense that has scored at least 26 points in each game. When the Steelers visited in 2012, AT&T Stadium was overrun by Terrible Towels among the crowd of 95,595. The crowd will be smaller on Sunday, but the percentage of Steelers fans could be higher. — Todd Archer
Bold prediction: Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott will have his first 100-yard game. The Steelers struggled to stop the Ravens on the ground last week, giving up 265 yards — including 113 to rookie J.K. Dobbins. And they will likely be without defensive lineman Tyson Alualu, linebacker Devin Bush and defensive back Mike Hilton in their run defense. Still, Pittsburgh has had its fair share of tough tests on the ground, and it’s not getting any easier this week, as the Cowboys will likely lean on their rush attack with the quarterback situation in flux. — Brooke Pryor
Stat to know: The Steelers are forcing 1.9 turnovers per game, tied for the second most in the NFL behind the Seahawks (2.0). The Cowboys, meanwhile, are committing a league-high 2.3 turnovers per game.
Injuries: Steelers | Cowboys
What to know for fantasy: Elliott is averaging 8.8 fantasy points per game in the three weeks following the Dak Prescott injury (RB25). He was RB4 in the five weeks prior, averaging 22.3 points in the process. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Dallas has failed to cover games by an average of 10.1 points per contest this season. That’s on pace to be the second-worst mark in the Super Bowl era. (The Baltimore Colts were at minus-10.7 in 1981.) Read more.
Pryor’s pick: Steelers 35, Cowboys 20 Archer’s pick: Steelers 37, Cowboys 17 FPI prediction: PIT, 78.0% (by an average of 10.4 points)
Matchup must-reads: Return of ‘Backyard’ Roethlisberger signals more good things ahead for Steelers … Cowboys to start Gilbert or Rush at QB against Steelers … Steelers changing their ways with another in-season trade … Once Cowboys’ strength, this position group has been hit hard … Dalton news is proof it can get worse for Cowboys
What to watch for: Wide receiver Antonio Brown will make his debut with the Buccaneers, who look to avenge a Week 1 loss at New Orleans and maintain hold of the NFC South. Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said they’re “light-years” from where they were in Week 1 as an offense, and Todd Bowles’ defense has become one of the league’s best. But that D has shown some vulnerability over the past two weeks against the Raiders and Giants, having to overcome slow starts and rely on second-half interceptions to be the difference-makers. It’ll need a much faster start against Drew Brees. — Jenna Laine
Bold prediction: Bucs quarterback Tom Brady will burn the Saints with a 50-yard TD pass. OK, this one actually isn’t so bold, since the Saints have allowed an astounding seven passes of 48-plus yards over their past five games. New Orleans’ secondary has made gradual improvements, but who better to find and expose a breakdown in coverage than Brady — especially now that he has so many diverse playmakers to work with in Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, Brown and possibly Chris Godwin (if he is healthy)? — Mike Triplett
Stat to know: Saints running back Alvin Kamara has six straight games with 100 scrimmage yards, the longest active streak in the NFL and the longest streak by a Saints player since Deuce McAllister’s team-record nine-game streak in 2003. Kamara’s 27 career games of 100 scrimmage yards are tied with Joe Horn for third in franchise history.
Injuries: Saints | Buccaneers
What to know for fantasy: In his past three matchups with the Saints, Evans has just five catches on his 119 routes run. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: All seven New Orleans games have gone over the total this season. Read more.
Triplett’s pick: Buccaneers 27, Saints 23 Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 29, Saints 26 FPI prediction: TB, 64.9% (by an average of 5.2 points)
Matchup must-reads: Scars of the NFL’s QB guard: How Brees, Brady and others have worked through injuries … Brown says he’s grateful to be back in football … Saints are 5-2 because Kamara is making NFL history … What can the Buccaneers expect from receiver Brown?
Mike Clay isn’t benching Michael Thomas, but expresses concern about his matchup against Bucs CB Carlton Davis.
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN Matchup rating: 22.5 | Spread: NE -7.5 (42.5)
What to watch for: The Patriots have lost four straight. The Jets have lost eight straight. Each team has gone three straight without a touchdown pass. Both quarterbacks, Cam Newton and Sam Darnold, are struggling. Once upon a time — say, 10 years ago — this was a fun rivalry. Then it became one-sided. Now it looks no-sided. — Rich Cimini
Bold prediction: Rookie Patriots linebacker Josh Uche, who played 13 snaps in his debut, will take on a larger role and get involved in creating a turnover that helps the Patriots to a victory. Uche, a second-round pick from Michigan, is the type of fast, physical linebacker the Patriots desperately need to become a centerpiece of their defense. — Mike Reiss
Stat to know: Over his past three games, Newton has zero touchdowns, five interceptions, a 21% off-target percentage and a 25.3 Total QBR. Part of the problem might be his wideouts. That group has one receiving TD this season (fewest in the NFL), and the Pats have thrown eight picks when targeting a wide receiver (one fewer than the most in the NFL).
Injuries: Patriots | Jets
What to know for fantasy: Is New England running back Damien Harris getting enough attention? His per-game average would have him trending toward an 1,100-yard season, and he finally got into the end zone last week in Buffalo. His role is game-script dependent, but even the struggling Patriots are 7.5-point road favorites over the Jets. See Week 9 rankings.
Betting nugget: Bill Belichick is 6-1 ATS in his career in New England when facing a team 0-3 or worse outright. Read more.
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 26, Jets 17 Cimini’s pick: Patriots 20, Jets 10 FPI prediction: NE, 72.6% (by an average of 8.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Dolphins trade WR Ford to Patriots … Jets optimistic Darnold will play Monday night despite shoulder injury … After decades of dominance, Patriots are a long shot to win AFC East … Jets GM Douglas shoulders blame while backing Darnold, Gase … Projected 2021 NFL draft order: Who has the No. 1 pick?