The suspensions, announced Thursday by league vice president Kiki VanDeWeghe, also noted the players’ “continued escalation following the incident.”
Embiid and Towns became tangled in the third quarter of the Sixers’ 117-95 victory and wrestled each other to the floor before coaches and teammates separated them. Towns initially threw a punch that didn’t land on Embiid, who later poked Towns in the eye with his thumb.
Embiid reveled in the skirmish on his way off the court, shadow boxing and pumping his arms to the frenzied Sixers fans before disappearing into the tunnel.
Embiid and Towns also exchanged barbs on social media late into the night, including some coarse language.
The 76ers’ Ben Simmons was not disciplined for his role in the skirmish.
At the bottom of the scrum, Simmons at one point had his forearm around Towns’ throat as he forcefully held his opponent down. The officials deemed Simmons a “peacemaker” who was trying to break up the fight. The Timberwolves disputed that characterization.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report.
ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams says he no longer trusts the organization and feels they were vindictive in how they waited until the last minute to try to trade him. He also remains upset over how long he said it took the team to take care of a cancerous growth on his scalp.
Williams, who ended his holdout Tuesday, spoke publicly for the first time since the end of last season — and held little back.
“There’s no trust there,” Williams said. “There are some things that happened that are hard to look past.”
Williams said he held out because he was upset with the medical staff, though he didn’t name anyone in particular, and because the Redskins wouldn’t give him more guaranteed money in the last two years of his contract. It expires after the 2020 season.
But it wasn’t until he had a cancer scare that he wanted to end his relationship with the organization. Williams said he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP). Williams said he first asked the Redskins’ medical staff about the growth on his head six years ago, but he said nothing was done until this offseason.
“I was told it was something minor so I didn’t really question them,” he said. “But I mean the lump continued to grow over the years, it was concerning but there was no pain involved, and if I’m being told by the very people I put my career in the hands of, people are telling me I’m fine, I’m fine. That’s how I looked at it.”
But this offseason he was told he needed surgery to remove the growth, and that put him on a different course.
“It was cancer. I had a tumor removed from my skull — attached to my skull — it got pretty serious for a second,” Williams said. “I was told some scary things from the doctors. It was definitely nothing to play with. It was one of those things that will change your outlook on life.”
Williams’ scalp remains sensitive from the surgery; he underwent his first one in January and he had two follow-up cosmetic procedures in the spring. Williams told the team in the spring that he no longer wanted to play for them. But the Redskins had told teams the price tag to obtain Williams was high — and they did not try to aggressively shop him until before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.
“I mean, when you give them 48 hours to strike a deal it probably isn’t going to happen,” he said. “I just felt like that was done to embarrass me, try to make it feel like, ‘Ain’t nobody want you; you’re not good enough for us to trade for.’ I felt like that was the play more so than to get me moved.”
Crown Jewel marked WWE’s fourth major show in Saudi Arabia and a pair of unique participants in Tyson Fury and Cain Velasquez took the spectacle to new heights as they stepped into the WWE ring for their first matches.
Tim Fiorvanti, Matt Wilansky and Marc Raimondi recapped all the action as it happened.
Bray Wyatt is the new Universal champion. The most popular character in the WWE today absorbed a comical level of damage during his match against now former champ Seth Rollins, including eight stomps on a variety of different surfaces, countless superkicks and weapons shots. Even faulty pyrotechnics couldn’t keep “The Fiend” down.
Put aside the unsustainability of a villain so completely impervious to pain or injury that fire and explosives couldn’t slow him down. Forget that this was the second consecutive Universal title match that was too long and held exclusively under red light. Push past the fact that WWE has left Rollins in no-man’s land in terms of crowd reaction and momentum, or the fact that Wyatt was drafted to SmackDown and now holds Raw’s top title.
Those are questions for another day.
After emerging from an electrical and pyrotechnic “fire,” Wyatt slapped on a mandible claw and hit a Sister Abigail on the floor of the King Fahd International Stadium. Then he covered Rollins for the three count.
In this moment, Bray Wyatt — Firefly Funhouse, “The Fiend”, his severed head lamp and all — is at once of the WWE’s top attractions and one of their top champions.
What’s next: I can’t imagine this is the last chapter between Wyatt and Rollins, for at least a dozen different reasons. But it should be. The cross-branded setup of Survivor Series will likely offer up yet another return match. Let’s hope it’s not held under red lights once again, but don’t hold your breath.
Chalk this match up to a Survivor Series-like showdown a few weeks before Survivor Series. Ten superstars and two legendary Hall-of-Famers in the same ring with no real narratives to speak of.
But attach the names Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair to any match, any stipulation, and it’s must-see TV. After lengthy entrances for every participant, including Roman Reigns, who might have received the longest and biggest pop of all, the match finally began.
Shorty G took control early, but it was Drew McIntyre who slowed the pace by overpowering Ali, giving Team Flair the first real advantage. Each competitor had a chance to shine, but the rivalries within the match never fully escalated. Rusev and Bobby Lashley took a few licks at each other, as did Shorty G and Baron Corbin.
In the end, this was about elevating Reigns, who has not had a significant storyline for months. Once he entered the ring, he cleaned house. At one point, Reigns dove over the top rope and took out the entire Flair squad.
But it was also Reigns who almost cost Team Hogan the win when Randy Orton caught him with an RKO. Moments later, though, the Big Dog took advantage of an opening created by the rest of his teammates and speared Orton for the three-count and win.
What’s next: Truthfully, nothing as far as this actual match as a whole, but obviously some of the storylines within the battle will linger on, including Lashley-Rusev and Corbin-Shorty. But some of the brief encounters, such as Rusev-McIntyre, would make for some compelling television down the road. And if nothing else, perhaps we’ll get a Team Hogan-Team Flair rematch at Survivor Series.
Natalya defeats Lacey Evans in the first ever women’s wrestling match in Saudi Arabia at WWE Crown Jewel.
Wearing modified ring attire and T-shirts adorned with their names or symbols, Natalya and Lacey Evans made history in the first ever WWE women’s match in Saudi Arabia.
“Just watching all of the women in the crowd, and the reactions that they had to seeing us out there before we did anything was surreal,” said Evans to ESPN immediately after the match. “I’m just honored to get to make this change and help open these doors that had never been opened before.”
After a slow start, with an emphasis on mutual respect and clapping for one another, followed by some basic back-and-forth, both women settled into familiar patterns from their months-long rivalry and folded their signature offense into the contest.
Dropkicks and top-rope efforts fell flat for Evans, Natalya ultimately locked in the sharpshooter and earned a submission victory.
In the aftermath of the match, Evans and Natalya raised each other’s arms in the air and tearfully hugged inside the ring. They then greeted and celebrated with several women seated in the front row of the crowd, celebrating the moment.
“I’ve never been so nervous for a match,” said Natalya. “Even when I was walking out down the ramp, I just felt like… even WrestleMania didn’t feel this big to me, and this WrestleMania was pretty hard to top, because I walked out with my best friend, Beth Phoenix, and Bret Hart. Everything about tonight felt different, because I felt like no matter what happened in the match, what we were doing was opening doors.
“Everything was just magical tonight,” Natalya continued. “Before we went to the ring, I told Lacey, ‘Remember, this isn’t just about wrestling tonight. This is so much more than just a wrestling match — headlocks and holds, comebacks and finishes. This is about your daughter. This is about you being a mom. This is about your little girl’s dreams, and when you were a little girl and what your dreams were.”
What’s next: Given they are on different shows, now, even though they briefly teamed up, each will go their own way towards uncertainty on their respective shows.
United States championship AJ Styles def. Humberto Carrillo
Whether it was a lack of connection with challenger Humberto Carrillo, the length of the show or the match’s positioning on the Crown Jewel card, AJ Styles’ United States title defense against Humberto Carrillo never felt like it got enough of a reaction from the crowd.
But it doesn’t change the fact that Styles and Carrillo put on an entertaining match that showed more flashes of the overwhelming potential Carrillo carries with him going forward.
After matches against Seth Rollins and Styles in recent weeks on Raw, Carrillo had his biggest showcase to date with a shot at the United States championship after winning a 20-man battle royal. Despite some mesmerizing lucha libre-style offense off the ropes, the fans never fully bought into the match — even during a wild sequence in the corner that included a Styles Clash attempt and multiple counters.
Styles ultimately won the match when Carrillo’s knee, which had been targeted or tweaked multiple times in the match, gave out after a moonsault attempt. Styles hit the Phenomenal Forearm and retained the title.
What’s next: For Styles, any number of new title challengers on Raw. For Carrillo, he should take the momentum from showing out against Styles and Rollins and start racking up some victories lower on the card.
Fury’s WWE debut definitely could have been worse. He took some awkward bumps, but didn’t get injured and most importantly didn’t open up any cuts around his right eye. Oh, and by the way, he beat Strowman by count out.
Strowman was trying to get back into the ring from the outside and Fury landed a right hand that sent Strowman crashing back to the floor. Strowman was unable to make the referee’s 10-count to get in the ring and the bout was ruled a count out.
Fury, boxing’s lineal heavyweight champion, didn’t look terrible considering it was his first pro-wrestling match ever. He actually didn’t punch all that much in the match. He had some decent offense with kicks that Strowman sold hard for him. His best spot was when Strowman was running around the ring to land a shoulder tackle and Fury leapt up with the help of the ropes and drop kicked him.
Strowman definitely did his best to make Fury look like a threat. Fury was bumping onto his tailbone after Strowman’s offense, so he’s likely to be pretty sore in the morning., but that’s a small price to pay for a massive payday, right?
Afterward, Strowman attacked Fury and gave him his running powerslam finisher. Could that set up a rematch down the road? It would not be surprising to see Fury back in a WWE ring at some point, that’s for sure.
What’s next: For Fury? Probably a huge boxing rematch with Deontay Wilder at some point early next year, provided Wilder gets by Luis Ortiz. This match didn’t do a whole lot to help Strowman, who definitely didn’t come across as a monster by any stretch. It wasn’t like Fury used his own combat sport — boxing — to batter Strowman. He landed the one punch, but otherwise Fury was using wrestling moves to down Strowman, which doesn’t seem all that realistic. Any hope of this match giving Strowman any kind of mainstream rub was not to be.
A year ago, hometown hero Mansoor made a name for himself by winning a 50-man battle royal at WWE Super ShowDown. And the truth is that his match against Cesaro on Thursday was booked solely for the local crowd.
Unfortunately, for Cesaro, who has become an almost guaranteed loss these days in WWE, there was never any doubt how this match would play out. Mansoor was a machine from the opening bell, although he was slowed down by a nasty uppercut from Cesaro that gave him the advantage for a few minutes. Mansoor then countered a top-rope strike from Cesaro into a drop kick, followed by a cross-body splash and a Tornado DDT. Cesaro survived a couple of near-falls and even summoned enough energy to land a gut-wrench suplex off the top rope.
Ultimately, Mansoor connected with a moonsault off the top rope to put away Cesaro, as the crowd sang the praises of their hometown hero.
Afterward, Mansoor spoke passionately to the crowd:”I woke up this morning, looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘This is my most important match — the most important match of my life.’ I’ll admit, I was scared; I was nervous. But then I stepped in here in front of all of you, in front of my family. And then I remembered, anything is possible.”
Yes, even beating Cesaro.
What’s next: Perhaps this singles bout will be the one that propels the talented Mansoor to the next level. For Cesaro, expect occasional TV time and a lot more losses.
The OC walked out of Riyadh the winners of the Tag Team World Cup, as the last ones standing in the nine-team gantlet match. Here’s how it all played out:
After a nice showcase to start the match between Robert Roode, Dolph Ziggler and the Lucha House Party, the first fall came when Roode hit a Glorious DDT on Gran Metalik.
Roode and Ziggler made quick work of Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder with a superkick and then an assisted ZigZag on Ryder.
Heavy Machinery took center stage, and Otis became an instant fan favorite, rallying the crowd. He and Tucker eventually they hit the Compactor on Roode to advance.
New Day was the next team in, and after a Trouble in Paradise knocked Otis out of the ring, Kofi Kingston flew off the top rope for an assisted Big Ending on Tucker to put Heavy Machinery out.
Big E hit a Big Ending on Curtis Axel after a short encounter with the B-Team to push himself and Kingston forward.
The Revival was next, and while Kingston rolled up Scott Dawson to keep New Day in contention, The Revival hit a shatter machine on Kingston on their way out. It’s a good setup for their SmackDown tag team title match in a setting that couldn’t be much different — Buffalo, New York — in just over 24 hours’ time.
The OC made quick work of Kingston with a Karl Anderson boot and then the Magic Killer.
After targeting Erik’s knee early in the scrap, an Anderson chop block to the back of Erik’s knee set The OC up for the Magic Killer and the Tag Team World Cup victory. It was also a pinfall over the reigning Raw tag team champions, which will likely lead to some fallout Monday.
WWE championship: Brock Lesnar (champion) def. Cain Velasquez
Just like he did six-plus months ago at WrestleMania 35, Brock Lesnar’s music kicked off the show, this time to a loud reaction from the crowd in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But this time, Lesnar’s opponent was far more of an unknown quantity than his foe at the Meadowlands, Seth Rollins.
Former two-time UFC champ Cain Velasquez made his way to the ring hoping for the same result as their showdown nine years ago at UFC 121, when Velasquez upset Lesnar to win the UFC heavyweight title.
Right away, you could see each man’s MMA pedigree, as Velasquez landed a series of kicks and knee strikes, albeit none seemed to rattle the WWE champ until Velasquez knocked his opponent to the ground with a kick to the midsection and head.
But once on the ground, Lesnar was able to catch Velasquez in a kimura lock, forcing the WWE rookie to tap.
What’s next: While a short match was anticipated, Lesnar walked away looking strong and, more importantly, avenged that loss from 2010. Velasquez is still green and there’s nothing to suggest his storyline with Lesnar won’t last for months to come.
Humberto Carrillo wins 20-man Battle Royal
Humberto Carrillo eliminated Rowan to win the Crown Jewel Battle Royal and earn a title shot against AJ Styles later in the night.
With three men left, Rowan and Harper agreed to take out Carrillo first, then set their sights on each other. As Harper lifted Carrillo over the ropes, Rowan hit Harper from behind and sent him over the ropes. Carrillo did go over the top rope, but his feet never hit the floor. He rolled back in and hit Rowan from behind to eliminate him and earn the title opportunity.
In the chaos of the final moments, R-Truth got his revenge on the Singh brothers, pinning Sunil to regain the WWE 24/7 championship.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Upset with his lack of involvement last Sunday, New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell texted coach Adam Gase after the game and later vented his frustrations in a conversation with the coach.
Bell shared his feelings in his Thursday media session, saying he and Gase are “fine” and that he expects to have more touches Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. He had only nine carries and three catches in this past Sunday’s 29-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
This comes in a turmoil-filled week for the Jets (1-6), whose star safety — Jamal Adams — accused general manager Joe Douglas of going “behind my back” and shopping him in trade talks.
Unlike Adams, who ripped Douglas on social media, Bell didn’t make any impulsive comments. He said he avoided reporters after the game because he was afraid his anger would result in an unwanted headline.
“Yeah, I was frustrated, so I didn’t want to be in front of the media and say something that everybody could run with,” Bell said. “I was frustrated. We lost the game and I didn’t feel like I was involved. Plus, I feel like that was a game we kind of let go. I didn’t want to say anything I would regret because I was angry at the time.”
Stuck behind an inconsistent offensive line, Bell is averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry — 349 yards on 109 rushes, with only one touchdown.
Despite the lack of production, and the losing, Bell has remained positive. This was the first time he showed any degree of frustration.
“I expressed the way I felt to coach Gase and things like that,” he said. “We had a good little talk. I want to be one of the main reasons for helping the team win. I don’t like not being used and we end up losing the game. I felt like I couldn’t help my team out.
“So we had that conversation. Hopefully, things are better from here on out. Obviously, I want to help my team win. That’s why I came here in the first place. I want to be involved and I want to help the team win games.
“I’m not upset at all if I’m not touching the ball and we’re winning, but we haven’t been winning and I haven’t been able to help. That’s why I had to express a little bit, but we’ll be fine.”
Bell said they have “a better game plan for me to get more involved this week, so it should be fun.”
The Dolphins (0-7) have the 31st-ranked run defense, yielding 160 yards per game. If Bell can’t get untracked against them, it will be an ominous sign. Gase, presiding over the league’s 32nd-ranked offense, acknowledged that he under-utilized Bell in Jacksonville.
“Last week was bad,” Gase said. “That was on me.”
The Jets signed Bell to a four-year, $52.5 million contract, expecting him to be the centerpiece of their offense. But it hasn’t worked out that way, as they have scored more than 16 points in only one game.
Bell said he doesn’t regret his decision to sign with the Jets, adding that he embraces the process of turning things around. He also said he wasn’t offended that his name came up in trade talks. The Jets didn’t shop Bell, Douglas said, but he received interest from other teams.
“Obviously, things aren’t sunny and roses right now, but it will get better,” Bell said. “When it does, it will feel that much better. … Once we put it all together, I feel like this team will be scary.”
Gordon had been playing through a left knee injury and was knocked out of the team’s Oct. 10 win over the New York Giants when he injured the knee while attempting to make a tackle after a Patriots fumble.
The Patriots used the minor designation for his placement on injured reserve, signifying a lesser injury. That meant the team had to release him upon his return to health.
Gordon will be subject to waivers and other teams can put in a claim for him.
Through six games, Gordon totaled 20 catches for 287 yards and one touchdown.
In December, Gordon was suspended indefinitely for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement under the NFL’s drug policy. His suspension was lifted in August by commissioner Roger Goodell.
“You can’t sit here and say it’s all on him. You have to take a look at everything going on around him,” Beckham said. “Obviously, he has to play better. I have to player better. … We all need to do better. Can’t sit back and be like, ‘It’s Baker’s fault.’ I feel like that’s the easiest thing for us to do. I’ve been in situations where one person is getting the blame, and the rest of the people are quiet to kind of stay out of the fire.
“I’m going to jump in the fire with him. I’ll be the first one. Some of these losses are on me. I need to be in the right place at the right time. I’m going to do better. And that’s what I plan to do the rest for the rest of the season.”
The Browns are 2-5, with Mayfield tied for the NFL lead with Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston with 12 interceptions. Beckham, meanwhile, has only one touchdown catch in his first season with Cleveland and is averaging career lows with only 4.9 receptions and 69.7 yards per game.
Coming off a loss at New England, Mayfield got into a testy exchange Wednesday with a reporter before abruptly walking out of his media availability. Beckham said he’d already talked about the incident with Mayfield, referencing a Drake lyric as a lesson — “You only lose when you fight back” — while also offering understanding.
“Nobody likes to feel like you’re being poked at or prodded at, especially not a guy like that,” Beckham said. “I’ve been through that journey already, I’ve been through this fire. That’s a part of me that’s able to help him in a way. This is a kid who cares about football, cares about winning. Whatever people make him out to be just because of his personality — if we were winning and he was still doing it, we’d all be here laughing. Because we’re losing, we want to kind of poke at him a little.
“I’m going to be the first one here to defend him every single time. I’ve always got his back. I know what it’s like. I’ve been there. … I understand how we’re looking for the negative. But he wants to win. He’s upset he’s not winning, or he hasn’t done to the best of his ability, that’s upsetting. Just upsetting. We want to be great.”
Despite the disappointing start, Mayfield maintained Wednesday that he still believes the Browns will turn the season around. Beckham piggybacked on that, specifically noting that he and Mayfield will begin to click through the air soon enough.
“The more games we have together, the better we’ll be, but it’s time for us to turn it on,” Beckham said. “You have a highly regarded quarterback I think is a phenomenal player, and I just want be able to help him in every which way I can.
“I have no doubt in my mind that at some point in time it’s going to be everything that we all talked about.”
After an awkward exchange following Game 7 of the World Series in which he said he was “not employed by the team,” free agent Gerrit Cole, a front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, said his “thank you” to the Houston Astros and their fans via social media on Thursday.
“Last night was a tough one for us and the heartbreak hasn’t gotten any easier today,” Cole said Thursday on Twitter. “Before I became an Astro I didn’t know much about Houston, but after just two years you have made it feel like home. So here’s what I know now. You have been overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming, and kind to my family and me. The Astros organization has been such a pleasure to play for, the Cranes are indeed special people and great owners. I’ve met lifelong friends on the team and in the community and learned a little about pitching along the way.
“… This is a relationship between a team and it’s fans like no other that I know. Thank you for making us better people and better players. This was a great season. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Cole set an Astros team record by winning his last 16 regular-season decisions and topped the AL with a career-best 2.50 ERA. His career-high 326 strikeouts were the most in the majors and set a franchise record that had stood since 1979 when J.R. Richard fanned 313.
Cole and Astros teammate Justin Verlander are the front-runners for the AL Cy Young Award.
When asked by a team official to meet with reporters after their 6-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, Cole, who was wearing a Boras Corp. hat, said “I’m not employed by the team.” However, after agreeing to interviews, he started out with, “I guess as a representative of myself …”
Boras is represented by agent Scott Boras, and is poised to command a big payday on the free agent market.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As many of his friends at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were working toward their diplomas and pondering where to go to college, Nick Bosa was already working on his education in pass rushing.
The son of former NFL defensive end John Bosa and younger brother of star Los Angeles Chargers end Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa was well on his way to an undergraduate degree in the art of pass rushing. But it wasn’t until Nick started visiting his brother Joey at Ohio State that the younger Bosa entered into the advanced curriculum.
His teacher? Buckeyes defensive line coach Larry Johnson, the pass-rushing equivalent of a professor emeritus, with 23-plus years of experience coaching some of the best defensive linemen in college football.
Thanks in part to those lessons, Bosa came to the San Francisco 49ers as the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft with a complete, polished game that has instantly translated to success on Sundays. Bosa has helped transform the Niners’ defense into one of the league’s most dominant.
Entering Thursday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox), Bosa has 20 tackles with 11 for loss, 13 quarterback hits, seven sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception. Those numbers, impressive as they are, don’t tell the full story.
According to NFL NextGen Stats, Bosa’s 23.2% disruption rate — which includes the numbers of quarterback pressures, hurries and sacks a player has divided by pass-rush snaps — is first in the NFL, not just among rookies but among all defensive ends to have played at least 100 snaps. When Bosa isn’t getting sacks, he’s forcing quarterbacks off their spot, which has led to nine sacks for his teammates, fifth in the league.
“I love Nick,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “He’s a kid and he plays like a grown man.”
A master class in pass rush
Not long after Joey Bosa opted to attend Ohio State in 2013, Nick made up his mind that he too wanted to be a Buckeye.
After Johnson arrived at Ohio State in 2014, Nick would find himself in Johnson’s office whenever the family would visit Joey in Columbus. There, Johnson began showing Nick the finer points of rushing the passer, going through tape in detail and talking about technique. Nick Bosa was intent, even as a junior and senior in high school, on expanding his repertoire of moves before enrolling at Ohio State.
“Then once he got here, he continued to build on those things every year,” Johnson said. “He’s got great leverage, great hips, can bend. Those things are very natural for him, and then it’s just a matter of giving him some things to put in his toolbox.”
When Johnson began working with Nick Bosa at Ohio State, he saw a great athlete with excellent hand-eye coordination. Johnson immediately set about drilling proper technique into Bosa.
Where Joey Bosa had to be molded a bit more, Johnson’s time spent with Nick while he was in high school made for an easier transition. Johnson’s lessons for Nick focused on things like understanding leverage and how to win individual battles. Johnson compares the art of pass rushing to playing a one-on-one game of basketball. He emphasized that a great pass-rusher doesn’t have to have a thousand moves, he just needs to know what his opponent can and can’t handle and adjust accordingly. And if one move works consistently? Keep using it.
Ask Nick Bosa about all that goes into pass rushing and his eyes light up. Bosa loves talking about his craft, but just as he draws close to offering some insight into how he does it, he pulls back.
“It’s a secret,” Bosa said. “I feel like my approach — which I’m not telling you guys about — is going to be the same because it works.”
The closest Bosa comes to revealing any of his secrets is to say he will often spend parts of the game getting a feel for what his opponent’s weaknesses are and then pick his spots to throw what he calls his “fastballs” later in the game. The only other thing he will reveal: He often tries to play with power right away, see how his opponent reacts and adjust accordingly.
And, of course, Bosa keeps in touch with Johnson, who watches tape of both Bosas and his other pupils each Wednesday night and then shares thoughts on what he sees. Joey Bosa is another resource for his brother; they remain in constant contact throughout the week.
Asked if he believes his brother entered the league more polished than he did, Joey Bosa doesn’t hesitate.
“I would definitely say so at this point of his career,” Joey Bosa said. “For sure.”
The perfect landing spot
As Nick Bosa and the Niners attempt to chase down Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray on Thursday night and for the foreseeable future, Cardinals fans might look at Bosa and wonder “What if?”
Arizona held the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft and could have gone with Bosa. In fact, had it not been for Murray forgoing baseball and entering the draft, there’s a strong chance Bosa would have ended up in the desert.
“I loved him as a player,” Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I’d love to go to the club with him. You know he’s one of those guys. He’s gonna have fun wherever he’s at. And he’s an absolute beast on the field. [He was] one of our favorite players in the draft, on and off the field.”
While Kingsbury and the Cardinals acknowledge that they “fell in love” with Bosa, they ultimately opted for Murray, largely because he was the perfect fit to run Kingsbury’s offense.
Once they did, there was no longer a question about what the 49ers would do with the second pick.
Before drafting Bosa, the Niners had traded for and then signed speedy edge rusher Dee Ford to pair with twin towers tackles DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. They envisioned Bosa as the ideal, powerful complement to Ford. Likewise, Bosa believed he’d fit well with the others and the Niners were much closer to competing than their draft position would indicate.
“He’s happy to be a 49er, I can tell you that,” Johnson said. “As soon as it happened, he said, ‘Coach, that’s where I want to go.’ That’s all you need to know, right? He’s walked into a great situation.”
That situation has improved since Bosa recovered from a high ankle sprain suffered in training camp. Bosa has been on the field more and proved a “pleasant surprise” in terms of defending the run, according to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh.
Therein lies the biggest reason the 49ers believe Bosa is a foundational player: He already has showed great polish, but he’s far from a finished product.
“He is just now tapping into his ability,” Johnson said. “A lot of people don’t realize that Nick is a fierce competitor. He wants to be the best. That’s what drives him.”
You see, two weeks ago, as you may have seen (or heard), the official Arizona Cardinals twitter handle trolled fantasy players pretty hard, telling everyone with a very cutesy cartoon that they should have started Chase Edmonds. After the fact. In a game in which starter David Johnson was active, got the first carry and then left the game, claiming to not feel right. Edmonds came in and absolutely dominated … while sitting on almost everyone’s bench. Which was understandable, especially given the fact that Johnson had practiced more that week (two days) than he had the week before (one day), when he had 18 touches for more than 100 yards and two scores.
So it was understandable … to everyone except the Arizona Cardinals Twitter handle — the official handle for the team. The way the organization communicates with the public. Instead, they trolled us. And well, I took exception to that. And then all of a sudden it went “viral” and a lot of blogs and newspapers and radio stations were writing about it or talking about it, and I even got a bunch of interview requests, which almost never happens around a specific piece of content. But on this one — an unplanned rant I went on during the podcast — I did. Don’t worry, this isn’t a column about that rant, I promise.
What was interesting was reading the reactions to the rant. Most people got it, but not everyone did. Certainly, you could tell who played fantasy and who didn’t when you read the comments. But the thing that some of them missed was that my anger wasn’t directed at Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, the team or any of the players. It was entirely about the Twitter account. Trolling fantasy players. With an incredibly obvious and trolly observation after the fact. So much so that this week, we introduced a character on The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ named “Little Red.” (The actual Cardinals mascot is “Big Red.”) Little Red is a small Cardinal puppet that appeared — and will continue to appear — to give me very obvious and not helpful fantasy advice and takes after the fact. He’s my new favorite character. I digress.
The point is about how the team’s official Twitter handle spoke to us, fantasy players. Contrast that with a Keenan Allen tweet from this past Sunday, Oct. 27. In it, after a game in which a clearly not 100% Allen was surprisingly active and gutted out seven catches for 53 yards, Allen tweeted, “Apologies fantasy guys. I owe y’all 1!” followed by emojis for the red “anti” symbol and a hat to suggest he struck out in some way. It was a wonderful gesture by Allen, but not at all necessary.
I quote tweeted Allen’s tweet and tweeted back at him with my own: “Appreciate the thought but you owe us nothing. Congrats on the win.”
To which, I was thrilled to see, many fantasy players agreed. Like any NFL player, Allen should worry only about helping his NFL team win. Which he did on Sunday for a much-needed Chargers victory over the Bears. Like I said, many fantasy players agreed.
But not all. Like @Wolf_Bray, who tweeted at him, “Thank you for admitting your mistake, Keenan. Just please go off next week.” Slap face emoji.
Allen likely shouldn’t have even been playing, but it was a desperate time for the Chargers and he gutted it out. It was incredibly impressive. His fantasy production comes not only from his play, but from the entire Chargers offensive line, from Philip Rivers, from the playcalling, from the defense he faces. “Thank you for admitting your mistake.” Arghh. It’s a good thing I’m not on the podcast right now. I’d be ranting about this clueless self-absorbed guy right now. His mistake.
And by the way, that was one of the polite ones.
Allen’s tweet got a lot of traction and I was thinking about both tweets this week. It’s Halloween, a night when people dress up in costume. Where they act different, speak different and pretend to be something they are not. Just like social media.
So many people use fake names, pictures, bios and more on social media and especially Twitter. Saying things to people they’ve never met, things that they would never utter in a million years in real life. If @Wolf_Bray ever met Keenan Allen, he would ask for an autograph, a picture or be starstruck. But he certainly wouldn’t demand an apology for not getting him enough fantasy points while playing hurt against one of the better defenses in the NFL.
It was clear to me that we needed some guidance. That fantasy Twitter is getting out of hand, wild even, with some of its behavior. Speaking with a bunch of friends and colleagues, we agreed that while there are many aspects of Twitter that are truly awful (just try wading into politics Twitter sometime. Yeesh.), fantasy Twitter is among the worst.
Twitter is a crucial platform for breaking news, and fantasy football is an important subset of that. Being on Twitter — if you know whom to follow and where to look — can have a huge benefit for fantasy success. It’s also an awful, depressing, demeaning and hateful place where not nearly enough has been done by the platform to curb and prevent the worst tendencies of people.
Look, I’m certainly not great at Twitter and don’t claim to be a social media expert by any stretch. But I have been on the platform a long time, I am on it multiple times every day and I have a nice-sized audience, so I see a lot of interactions, all specific to fantasy Twitter.
So while I am not claiming this to be the end all, be all, I will say these are my rules for interacting on fantasy Twitter.
1. Don’t tag players: We care about this dumb game, they don’t. And they shouldn’t. Don’t tag players when they didn’t meet your expectations, don’t tag them to tell them how many points you need, don’t tag them to yell at them or demand an apology. If you want to say something nice, sure, I guess. But in general, don’t tag them. It’s not a good look and it reflects poorly on all of us fantasy players.
2. Don’t cheer or root for injuries: They play a brutal game and, on every play, there is tremendous risk to not only their livelihood but also their ability to fully enjoy life later on. So I get it, you want fantasy points. We all do. But when Jamaal Williams is lying motionless on the field and they are bringing out a stretcher, you whining that you started him in your flex, or you being happy because you have Aaron Jones, is an even worse look. Thankfully, Williams was ultimately fine.
3. Don’t reply to a tweet from a fantasy analyst, especially one that has nothing to do with fantasy, with your start/sit questions: I could tweet something like “Happy Halloween!” and I’ll get a ton of “Hey, pick two …” I do rankings, podcasts, TV shows, a column and then a three-hour show on Sunday. If you don’t know how I feel about a certain player in a given week, you’re not listening.
4. Don’t ask for an opinion on a player and then argue back: This one drives me up the wall. You ask me whom I would start, I tell you whom I would start, don’t start arguing back. I’m not interested. Because it’s my opinion. This is the player I would start. You wanna start the other guy, go for it. It’s your team. But then why are you asking my opinion?
5. If after consuming all the content that I, or any other fantasy analyst, put out there, you still feel the need to ask for advice, don’t tag a bunch of fantasy analysts: It looks so desperate and that you don’t care about the advice, you just need someone, anyone, to make a decision for you. Come on, man. You’re an adult. At some point, you’re gonna need to coach your fake football team all by yourself.
6. When all is said and done, you control your team: You drafted it, you started them, this is on you. No one claims to be able to tell the future, least of all me. I give advice and reasoning as to why I think something will happen. Take it or leave it. But be adult enough to own your decisions. And if you’re not, at least don’t blame others for something that is more in your control than anyone else’s. “You convinced me to start so and so” is among the lamest things you can say.
7. Don’t follow someone you don’t like: This seems obvious, but I see people say vile, hateful things, and then you look and you’re like … why are you following me (or someone else you’ve said that to)? You clearly are not a fan, but you have actively sought out a person to follow and engage with them. It’s such odd behavior. I hope you call it out when you see it.
8. Don’t be a snob: So many times I see people say, “That’s not a real league,” “Play in a high-stakes league,” “Play in a super flex,” “He’s not available in my league, what are you, in an eight-man league?” And so on and so forth. Fantasy snobs are the absolute WORST. It’s a game, man. A game people play for fun. And there are millions upon millions of leagues out there. Yes, I am sure some are not as competitive as yours. But you shouldn’t judge a person’s house, job, looks, bank account … so why are your judging their fantasy league? I play in some very deep leagues (a 12-team, 33-man roster super flex dynasty is one of them) and often they are easier than an eight-team league. In an eight-team league you have many choices. In deep leagues, you’re just rolling with the players you have. Either way, stop judging. Or if you do, keep it to yourself, fantasy snob.
9. If you’re going to joke, please be original: To make sure I didn’t forget anything for this column, I crowdsourced folks, asking what they hated about fantasy Twitter. It got (as of this writing) 570 responses. I think I read the first 100 or so and in those I think 12 or so were some version of “You” or “Your takes.” I blocked them all (except Field, whom I just muted). Not because my feelings were hurt — I mean, seriously, my kids say worse stuff than that to me — but because it’s such a lame and obvious joke. Come on. Put a little effort into it.
10. To that end, in case you think you are being original, scroll through some replies to see if you are: As a helpful starting point, here are the most obvious and lamest lines I see every day — not just to me, but to many analysts, players and personalities: “I do the opposite of what ___ says and I win.” Any use of an eye-roll GIF. Any use of an eating popcorn GIF when two others are having any sort of discussion that isn’t filled with hugs and sunshine. But probably the most overused are the sarcastic “Great call” and “This tweet aged well.” Two of the easiest, 20/20 hindsight things you can say. You use that line and you might as well run the Arizona Cardinals Twitter account.
As always, if I have blocked you, you can get unblocked by donating to the Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research. Any amount will do, as everyone can afford different amounts. Just send a copy of the receipt and your twitter handle to Unblockme@espn.com.
In general, it’s clear from the thread I started that fantasy Twitter has a bad reputation for being a really toxic place among NFL players, among analysts and among other fantasy players. Let’s all see if we can’t be a little nicer to each other. Our hobby could use that.
In the meantime, my thanks to “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe of the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast and the Stat-a-Pillar Damian Dabrowski from The Fantasy Show on ESPN+ for their help at various points in this column. Let’s get to it.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 9
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (at Giants): Prescott is always strong off a bye (multiple touchdown passes in every game he’s played immediately following a bye) and always strong against the Giants (past five against the G-Men: 310.4 passing yards per game with 13 TDs and 0 INTs). One thing that bodes well here is that Prescott’s throwing deeper than normal this season, as his air yards per pass are up 31.5% from last season. The Giants allow both completions and touchdowns on deep throws at the third-highest rate in the NFL.
Gardner Minshew II, Jaguars (vs. Texans in London): No doubt Minshew will be a popular Halloween costume Thursday night and this weekend, but there is nothing scary about his game, he said, his Segue of the Year award no doubt being shipped as we speak. With 21 or more fantasy points in three of his past four games, Minshew should continue the good times against a Texans secondary that has given up at least three TD passes in four consecutive games.
Josh Allen, Bills (vs. Redskins): With multiple touchdown passes in three straight and a rushing touchdown or at least eight rush attempts in six of seven games this season, there’s a nice floor for Allen in a game where the Bills are a double-digit favorite. Among the many things Washington fails to do is bring pressure (fourth-lowest rate in the league), and that’s going to help Allen find open receivers. When Allen isn’t pressured, his career completion percentage is 64.5% (when pressured, just 33.1%).
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (at Chiefs): It helps if Patrick Mahomes is back for this one for Kansas City, but even if he’s not, Matt Moore should be good enough that Cousins will have to throw. And when he does, he will be successful. The Chiefs allow the fifth-most yards per deep completion (hello, Stefon Diggs), and over the past three weeks, opponents have completed 67.9% of passes vs. K.C. With one of the highest over/unders on the slate and my expectation that the Chiefs sell out to stop Dalvin Cook, Cousins should be able to take some deep shots here. Remember, Cousins is one of the best play-action QBs in the league.
Others receiving votes: I know it’s been ugly since Sam Darnold returned, but five of the seven quarterbacks to face Miami this season have scored 20-plus fantasy points. The Dolphins give up the fourth-most points to QBs, the second-most yards per attempt, the second-most TD passes per game, and there will be no ghosts this weekend. Miami is averaging the third-fewest sacks per game. Gimme Darnold this weekend against a team on a short week that made Mason Rudolph look like Big Ben. … So last week, my bold prediction on Fantasy Football Now (and he was listed as a “love” in this section last week) was 20 points for Matt Moore against the Packers. He got 19. I bring this up only slightly to humblebrag a nice, non-obvious call (please ignore my whiff on Kenny Stills, though), but mostly to point out that the 19 points was 63.3% above Moore’s career average. Carson Wentz scored 16.8% above his season average against Green Bay. Derek Carr was 11.1% above his season average. All of which is a long way of saying I like Philip Rivers as a QB2 with upside at home this weekend against Green Bay’s pass defense, ranked 32nd over the past four weeks. … Finally, I know last weekend against San Francisco was brutal for Kyle Allen, but it’s been that way for everyone. Back at home against a Titans secondary that’s 12th-worst the past four weeks, I like Allen’s chances at 15 points or more. Rivers, Jameis Winston, Minshew and Josh Allen each scored at least 17.5 fantasy points against Tennessee this season.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 9
Kyler Murray, Cardinals (vs. 49ers): Insert QB playing San Francisco here. Yes, it hasn’t always been the best competition, but quarterbacks facing the 49ers are averaging 6.1 points per game. Yes, 6.1. Or, to put in another way, half of what Eli Manning averaged this season. Only two QBs have scored more than seven points against the 49ers. Having failed to throw a touchdown pass in four of his past five games, Murray will need the rushing or a big play to pay off this weekend. The rushing is a question mark, though, as you can’t be encouraged that he had only two rushing attempts last weekend. And as for a big play, the Niners have allowed a league-low 12 completions of 20-plus yards. They also have the NFL’s second-best red zone defense, and this is a short week when the Cards are likely to be without their best offensive weapon in David Johnson (and Chase Edmonds, as well).
Lamar Jackson, Ravens (vs. Patriots): Remember how Baker Mayfield scored 11.6 points against New England last weekend? You thought it was a bad game, but he’s the only QB to score double-digit points against the Pats this season. Sure, some of it is the competition, but come on. This is an elite defense. New England has allowed only two TD passes all season while intercepting 19 passes. Jackson is unlikely to have a big day as a passer, so it comes down to the running. Since the beginning of last season, the Patriots have played five games against very athletic quarterbacks (Josh Allen twice, Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and Blake Bortles). Those QBs averaged “just” 42.4 rushing yards, with two rushing scores in those five games (not bad, but not what you are hanging your hat on). I love Lamar Jackson, but in this matchup, I’m taking Bill Belichick.
Jacoby Brissett, Colts (at Steelers): For all the struggles of the Steelers’ offense, the defense is pretty good. Pittsburgh has allowed the ninth-fewest yards per completion this season (and third-fewest on deep completions), and also has the sixth-best red zone defense thus far. I bring up the red zone defense because Brissett needs the red zone to be effective. Only Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson have more red zone fantasy points among QBs than Brissett. Meanwhile, he ranks 25th among QBs in points outside of the red zone. He’s failed to throw a touchdown in two of his past three games, and Caesars has this game (as of Wednesday afternoon) with an over/under of 42.5. In games that finish with 50 or fewer points scored, Brissett is averaging just 12.3 fantasy points per game this season.
Running backs I love in Week 9
Derrick Henry, Titans (at Panthers): With at least 15 carries in every game this season, Henry has been has been responsible for 71.9% of Tennessee’s carries (the fourth-highest rate in the NFL). That volume means plenty of chances to break one for the 6-foot-3, 247-pounder. Especially when you consider Carolina is 28th in yards per carry allowed after first contact. If they have trouble tackling in general … wait ’til they get a load of, uh, this load. Especially in the red zone, where Henry gets 75% of his team’s carries (fourth most in the NFL) and the Panthers are the fourth-worst red zone defense.
Tevin Coleman, 49ers (at Cardinals): Coleman is the No. 6 RB in fantasy since he came back from injury. He has 20 touches or more than 15.5 fantasy points in four straight games, helped no doubt by multiple catches in four of five games this season. With Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert showing up on the injury list Wednesday, there should be a solid amount of work for Coleman as the lead back in pro football’s run-heaviest offense. With a 17-2 edge in red zone carries over Breida since his return, I like Coleman’s chances to get into the end zone against an Arizona defense that is tied for the second-most red zone drives allowed per game.
Player A: 64.6% of team’s carries, 67.4% of team’s rushing yards, 5.0 yards per carry and 2.24 yards per carry after first contact
Player B: 65.8% of team’s carries, 69.3% of team’s rushing yards, 5.1 yards per carry and 1.96 yards per carry after first contact
Player A is my ride-or-die, Josh Jacobs, in 2019. Player B is … Ezekiel Elliott as a rookie. That’s what we are dealing with here. As the centerpiece of the NFL’s fourth-most run-heaviest offense, expect a strong game from Jacobs against a Lions squad coughing up the ninth-most yards per carry this season. By the way, only two teams have scored at least 24 points in each of their past four games: the New England Patriots and … the Oakland Raiders. Shoutout to Thirsty Kyle for finding a stat to work “New England and Oakland” into an exclusive list this week.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, Broncos (vs. Browns): Cleveland is tied for the seventh-most red zone drives allowed per game and the NFL’s second-worst run defense the past four weeks, so this is an inviting matchup for a Denver team likely to lean on the run even more in quarterback Brandon Allen’s first NFL start. Lindsay has at least 17 touches in three of his past four games, while Freeman has expanded his game to more of a pass-catcher, with at least four catches in five of his past six games.
Others receiving votes:Matt Breida, if he’s active, or Raheem Mostert, if he’s not (or Jeff Wilson Jr., if both are out), should have some flex appeal on, once again, the NFL’s run-heaviest team against a Cards team allowing the eighth-most rushing yards per game (130.1). … Among the RBs with 70-plus carries this season, Carlos Hyde actually ranks second in percentage of carries gaining at least 5 yards (41.5%). The Jaguars allow the sixth-most yards per carry before first contact. … After playing 67% of the snaps last week, Devin Singletary is primed for a nice game as a double-digit home favorite against a Redskins team that gives up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. … Don’t look now, but Jamaal Williams has scored in three straight games, and if you exclude the game in which he left very early due to injury, he’s averaging more than 11 touches per game. In the past four weeks, the Bolts are the third-worst run defense in the NFL and allow the third-highest completion percentage when opponents target their RBs (84.8%). … Sure, there’s a #revengegame narrative to build around Jordan Howard, but I don’t think you need it. Miles Sanders is banged up, and even if he plays, he’ll be at less than 100%. So expect decent volume for Howard, who is coming off a 23-carry effort against Buffalo. Very quietly the Bears have sprung some leaks — they are just 19th against the run in the past four weeks and they allow a TD on red zone carries at the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. Chicago has given up top-three RB weeks to Latavius Murray and Josh Jacobs in two of the past three and gave up a combined 21.6 points to Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler last week, which would have ranked 10th against running backs last week.
Running backs I hate in Week 9
LeSean McCoy, Chiefs (vs. Vikings): McCoy has no more than 12 carries in any game this season (and that includes the ones he didn’t fumble in!). He faces an uphill battle against a Vikings team that’s given up just one rushing touchdown in 181 carries this season. The Vikes are also one of two defenses yet to allow a rushing TD of 5 yards or more … so the combination of low expected volume, the Week 8 benching and limited big-play/scoring equity makes Shady merely a “cross your fingers and hope” flex for me this weekend.
Sony Michel, Patriots (at Ravens):Nick Chubb. There. I’ve now listed every running back to have more than 65 rushing yards in a game vs. Baltimore this season. The Ravens allow just 1.1 yards per carry after first contact (fewest in the league) and that’s a problem, because so far this season, Michel has the second-fewest yards per carry after first contact (minimum 70 carries). There’s always a chance he gets into the end zone, because it’s the Patriots and he’s (usually!) their goal line guy. But since Week 5, Baltimore ranks as the fifth-best red zone defense.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers (vs Packers): You already know I think the Bolts are going to have to pass to keep up in this one (see Rivers, Philip). Yes, he scored last week. If you want to bank on another 19-yard touchdown run, go for it. But you need a score to bail you out here, and that’s unlikely, as the Pack is top 10 in both preventing red zone drives and preventing touchdowns when opponents do manage to cross the 20-yard line. Gordon has yet to have a game this season with even 50 total yards, and his 11 catches have gained just 37 yards.
All Lions RBs (at Raiders):Ty Johnson, Tra Carson, J.D. McKissic … Pick one. Might as well, because it doesn’t seem like Detroit wants to. They had an almost even split of snaps last week (Johnson 37.7%, Carson 31.1%, McKissic 26.2%), so it’s hard to see a big game for any player getting one-third of the run against a Raiders squad that very quietly has been the sixth-best run defense in the NFL since Week 5.
Pass-catchers I love in Week 9
Amari Cooper, Cowboys (at Giants): An obvious name, but as of this writing I’m the only ESPN ranker with Cooper as a top-four play this week. Nine times this season a WR has seen at least seven targets against the Giants. Those players have averaged 24.0 fantasy points per game. That number includes Amari’s own Week 1 performance of 22.6. Cooper is averaging, you guessed it, seven targets per game. The Cowboys are a touchdown road favorite against the G-Men in this one, and so far this year, when Dallas wins, Cooper averages 19.9 PPG.
Allen Robinson II, Bears (at Eagles): With at least five catches in five straight games (only the second time in his career he has done that), A-Rob is the one part of the Bears passing attack that’s working. With more perimeter targets than any other Bears pass-catcher, this is a matchup made in heaven for Robinson. No team in the NFL allows more perimeter yards, attempts or touchdowns than the Philadelphia Eagles.
DJ Chark Jr., Jaguars (vs. Texans in London): You want bad Texans stats? You want bad Texans stats that are different than the ones I gave you for Gardner Minshew? I got you. The Texans allow a league-high 43.1 PPG to opposing WRs this season, and an individual WR has scored at least 18 points vs. Houston in four straight games. In fact, multiple WRs have scored 18-plus points against the Texans each of the past two weeks. So we know at least one pass-catcher is likely to go off in this game, and logic dictates it’ll be Chark. Since Week 4, Chark owns the 11th-highest target share in the NFL (25.9%, ahead of Stefon Diggs, Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans, among others). He went 7-55-1 in his first game against Houston this season, and assuming health (he popped up on the injury report Wednesday), he has a good shot to improve upon it this Sunday in London.
John Brown, Bills (vs. Redskins): With more than 50 receiving yards in every game this season and at least five catches in six of seven games, Brown is in line for another solid game against Washington. The Skins allow a TD on deep throws at the fifth-highest rate this season and give up more than 29 yards per deep completion, eighth most.
Others receiving votes: You know I’m on Sam Darnold this week, so it makes sense I also like the receiver with more receptions from Darnold than anyone else. Jamison Crowder should have a nice game against a Miami team that’s tied for the highest touchdown percentage from the slot allowed and has given up almost 16 yards per completion from the slot, the second most in the NFL. … By the way, don’t be scared to fire up Robby Anderson, either. A bad Dolphins secondary got worse when Xavien Howard was placed on IR earlier this week. … Oakland really struggles defending the deep ball this season, and sneakily this is one of the highest over/unders on the slate. Gimme some Marvin Jones Jr. in this one. … Given how often Russell Wilson looks for him in the end zone and how good the Bucs are against the run, I could certainly see DK Metcalf scoring this week, just like he did twice last week. … With at least 9.9 fantasy points in four of his past six games, Darren Fells makes for an interesting streamer facing a Jags team that coughs up the seventh-most yards per TE reception this season.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 9
Courtland Sutton, Broncos (vs. Browns): We didn’t see the bump we had hoped for following the Emmanuel Sanders trade with just a 23.3% target share in Week 8 (he had a 24.3% share in Weeks 1 through 7). And now he gets Brandon Allen under center. We have no idea what Allen can or can’t do, but it wouldn’t shock me if he was bad under pressure, you know? Many QBs are. The Browns bring pressure at the second-highest rate in the NFL and that’s a recipe for disaster, as Allen makes his NFL starting debut behind a Broncos line that allows pressure at the sixth-highest rate.
Mark Andrews, Ravens (vs. Patriots): Can’t imagine you have a lot of better options, so you most likely have to start Andrews, but I’m nervous. Volume could be an issue, as opponents are attempting just 3.1 passes to opposing TEs against New England this season (some of that is competition and talent-based, but still, that’s less than half the league average). The Patriots are known for trying to take away a team’s biggest threat, and Andrews has a good chance to be the focal point of Belichick’s defense. So potentially low volume and then there’s the whole “they don’t give up touchdown passes” thing, too. Odds are against Andrews getting into the end zone here.
Terry McLaurin, Redskins (at Bills): Oh, how I wish this wasn’t true, and considering I have to start him in a couple of deep leagues this week, I hope I’m really wrong on this one. But I’m worried I won’t be. With four or fewer catches in four straight games, things don’t get easier for McLaurin this week against a Bills team that has allowed just two TDs to wide receivers this season. In tough matchups this season (Patriots, 49ers, Vikings), McLaurin finished as WR45 or worse. And on Wednesday, Dwayne Haskins took the majority of first-team reps at QB. I prefer the Bills defense this week to any Redskins offensive player.
Jarvis Landry, Browns (at Broncos): Denver is allowing the third-fewest yards per slot pass attempt this season (6.1) and is sixth best in terms of limiting yards after the catch. Considering Landry has yet to score this season and that this game has one of the lowest over/unders on the slate, it’s hard to feel great about Landry against the third-best-scoring defense in the NFL the past four weeks.
Matthew Berry — the Talented Mr. Roto — is still working on his rules for Instagram.
AUSTIN, Texas — Doing the right thing isn’t easy. Soon-to-be six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton found that out the hard way a couple of weeks ago when he posted a message on Instagram vocalising his concerns about climate change.
“Extinction of our race is becoming more and more likely as we over use resources,” Hamilton wrote. “I’m sad to see so many people, even close friends ignore what is happening daily.
“Honestly, I feel like giving up on everything. Why bother when the world is such a mess and people don’t seem to care?”
The sentiment in the message is the same one gaining traction around the world, as awareness of climate change, and its impact on the planet, takes hold. Across the music industry, among high-profile actors and increasingly in business and politics, the desperate need for the human race to change its habits is coming to the fore.
But as a highly-paid sportsman travelling around the world to race cars, there is an unavoidable paradox woven into Hamilton’s message. How can someone who has dedicated his life to a sport that burns fossil fuels for fun state a case for saving the planet?
“It’s really difficult,” he said in a recent interview with ESPN before posting the above message. “You do one positive thing but people say ‘yeah, but you fly on a plane’ or ‘you race cars’. “So it’s a very, very conflicting message at the moment and it’s really difficult.”
Like most people who have woken up to the devastating effects of climate change in recent years, Hamilton is in a transitional phase. His job can never be 100 percent eco-friendly — the laws of physics won’t allow someone to travel the world to the extent he does without using up a significant amount of energy — but should that preclude him changing other aspects of his life?
Radiohead’s lead singer, Thom Yorke, recently admitted he was “hypocrite” for simultaneously campaigning on climate change while flying for his work. He added that the real change has to happen in parliaments around the world, warning “we’re out of time”.
By his own admission, Hamilton is not political but believes promoting a message of individual change is important.
“I don’t think I’m particularly political,” he said. “I watch the news as much as I can. I find it very interesting to watch what is happening around the world. I think it’s a scary time for all of us.
“There’s so much talk in all the different governments around the world and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of solutions, or they don’t seem to be coming up with a lot of solutions, so it definitely is a bit worrying but there’s not a lot that we can do individually except for just try to be better within our own bubble. And if you have a platform, try to project some positivity.”
Hamilton started out on his current path in go-karts at the age of eight and has become a multiple world champion in Formula One thanks to two decades of dedication to his craft. Early in his career he was only focused on winning races, but as the years have rolled by he has broadened his horizons and found interests outside the sport. From there he has spent time away from the track figuring out what is most important to him.
“I get really frustrated because there are so many things I want to do and sometimes I don’t know how to do them,” he says. “But I think ultimately understanding who you are and what your purpose is and what you want to be a part of … I guess as you get older you grow to understand the world a little bit more and you focus on things you want to focus on.
“There are so many causes, so many foundations and charities, so it’s about which ones you want to work with — you want to help all of them, but you can’t help them all. You try to figure out what you are most passionate about and for me, number one it’s people — mostly kids — and then animals, I love animals, and then the other of course is the planet, because I want my kids and your kids to have a future.
“It’s not looking too bright right now with the way we are overconsuming our resources and I look at how I can be a part of the many people that are doing stuff, at how I can also be a part of it.”
Speaking in a press conference ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, Hamilton outlined his objective of becoming carbon neutral before the end of the year. He listed ways in which he is cutting his carbon footprint, from selling his private jet over a year ago to reducing his use of plastics, including his toothbrush. And as, inevitably, he looks to a future outside Formula One, he is lining up new ventures that align more comfortably with his concerns for the planet.
Outside of F1, he works as a fashion designer for Tommy Hilfiger and his latest collection of clothing uses just under 70 percent sustainable or recycled materials, with Hamilton looking to make it 100 percent in the future. He has invested in a vegan burger chain called Neat Burger — “maybe it will be the next McDonald’s,” he says with a smile on his face — and was an executive producer on a recent documentary film about vegan athletes starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. One opportunity has led to another, and with it he has been able to open doors in the projects he is pursuing to align with his views on climate change.
“I think it’s been quite authentic and quite natural,” he says, “because it has been a part in the shift of what I’m projecting out on my socials, and how I interact with people. Things I am trying to do, like using sustainable clothing for example, it just started falling into place together.
“Starting with the Tommy thing, focusing on the sustainability, that has put me into this area and then it starts to build. So I think timing is everything and it’s just the timing that has been right.”
Yet all of the above, including his huge Instagram following, have come from his celebrity as a Formula One driver. The paths open to him at this stage of his life are based on his success in motor racing and he is not about to cut it out of his life.
“I wouldn’t be able to have the platform and the voice at the moment if I didn’t do this,” he says. “At the same time this is what I love and, ultimately, this is going to continue to go on whether I am here or not.
“But I think today, and what I’m working on right now, is offsetting my carbon footprint … but it’s a really big task. I’m trying to work on those kinds of projects in the background, and it’s about finding the people to help you make it happen.”
On a more personal level, Hamilton has made a big deal out of his plant-based diet. He stopped eating meat several years ago, but started to fully focus on a vegan diet just over two years ago around the time of the Singapore Grand Prix. He swears he has more energy and a greater level of fitness as a result and, while being careful not to force it on others, he has preached the benefits of removing meat from his diet.
“I really try not to force it on people,” he said. “I do have people, Serena [Williams], for example. She went that direction. I don’t know if she is still on it right now, but there are a few people that have gone in that direction and that’s cool.
“And then there are some fans that have also gone in that direction. But none of my family has yet gone that way, and it’s hard because unless you do it, you don’t know. It seems like hard work and a lot of people don’t like hard work. It’s easy to get a burger, and I like meat, but there is actually a cool replacement for it that tastes just as good.
“It’s down to education. We are taught at school that milk is good for you, for example, and there are all these things that we are tuned in to believing and my whole life I had meat and fish and all those things.
“It’s really odd because now I have switched to the other side and now I can’t even imagine having those things. But to get over that wall, you have to have willpower. Luckily for me, I’ve got plenty of it, but I don’t know if everyone has that kind of will power.”
While Hamilton is trying to harness control of his personal impact on the environment, he still needs to travel long distances and partake in a sport that has done little to promote its green credentials in recent years. F1 is due to launch some new initiatives in the coming months to reduce its effect on the environment and go carbon neutral, but speaking ahead of the launch, Hamilton said he was concerned by the sport’s carbon-emitting past.
“On an ethical side, I am massively concerned about what Formula One is doing,” he said. “From what I can see, [previous CEO] Bernie Ecclestone didn’t do anything and had no interest in climate change and the impact we are having in countries and around the world. The feeling that I have is the same thing with the current management, but I can’t judge because I don’t know for sure.
“There’s this whole thing of ‘trying’, but it’s super easy to enact change. You set a rule that by this date it has to change, and with every organiser in every country you say ‘Hey, we are going to do a recycling weekend’ and that’s the big thing.
“You put recycling bins everywhere, you don’t let them go out and buy plastics. I think it’s easy. People make it seem a lot harder than it is, but I don’t think they try hard enough.”
Hamilton’s current contract with Mercedes expires at the end of 2020, but he has made clear that he wants to continue in Formula One beyond that point. Although the sport is not currently aligned with his view of the world, he is hopeful that, with Mercedes, he can enact change from the inside and play a greater role in promoting the German car maker’s green products even after he has retired from racing.
“I was just on the phone to Ola Källenius, the CEO of Daimler, and I’m like ‘Hey man, what can we do?’,” he says. “In the past, I think sustainability, climate change and emissions and all that stuff, it’s been something they know it’s there, all companies around the world, but they just add it to the bottom of the list of priorities but it wasn’t a prominent lead figure. But now it is moving up the priority list for all these brands, which is a great thing.
“I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13, but you’ve got to think about how you can evolve your role and how I can be more involved with Mercedes now I’ve been with them for 20 years. How can I be more engaged with them? How can I help Mercedes be bigger and better?
“But it’s also about how I get more in-depth so that when I stop racing I am still part of it. Right now, if I stop racing, I’m just the most successful driver they have ever had — but that’s not enough, I want to be more impactful.
“So how can I help shift, for example Mercedes using suede and leather in every car. You could easily use faux leather and faux suede and nobody would know the difference — and that would make a big, big difference to the world.”
Lewis Hamilton can win his sixth Formula One world title this weekend. Watch live on ABC at 14:10 EST this weekend