Fri Nov 15 12:58am ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, A.J. Green, Dak Prescott, Mike Evans, Brandon Allen, Jacoby Brissett, Carson Wentz, Michael Thomas, Mitch Trubisky, Ezekiel Elliott, Ryan Finley, Mason Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Jacobs
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson walks the sidelines during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in London. The Houston Texans won 26-3. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)
Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson starred three years ago in one of the more meaningful and memorable games of that college football season.
This weekend, the NFL gets to stage the show.
Watson and the Houston Texans will travel to Baltimore for a matchup with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens featuring two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, both of whom are under 25, no less. The pass-run threat posed by each player already makes for good theater, but what's more, the Texans (6-3) and Ravens (7-2) have emerged as two of the strongest challengers to defending champion New England in the AFC. The Ravens beat the Patriots two weeks ago, after all.
When Watson was at Clemson and Jackson was with Louisville in 2016, the ACC foes met in a midseason classic of two top-five teams in the Associated Press poll. Behind five touchdown passes and 397 yards of offense from Watson, Clemson won 42-36 despite a total of 457 yards and three touchdowns by Jackson.
Jackson won the Heisman Trophy that year, beating out Watson, who took the ultimate prize when the Tigers won the national championship. Watson was the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and Jackson went with the 32nd overall selection in 2018. After overcoming some early-career obstacles, Watson with a torn ACL in his rookie year and Jackson with the doubts that his slithery style would translate from college to pro, they're both well on their way to becoming two of the best in the game at their much-scrutinized position.
Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jackson has accounted for 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Though they're mutual admirers, this matchup on Sunday doesn't mean they'll be trying to outdo the other. There's an opposing defense to maneuver against. What the other one does on the field has no relevance to what they do when it's their turn.
''I can't control what they're doing on their side or what Lamar's got going on,'' Watson said this week.
Jackson has captured plenty of attention since becoming the full-fledged face of the franchise this fall. His spin move during a 47-yard touchdown run last week in a win over Cincinnati was an instant pick for the NFL's highlight film for 2019.
''I'm a proud quarterback, proud friend,'' Watson said. ''All the criticism he was getting when he was coming out, he's definitely a guy I've always encouraged. He's doing everything all the naysayers said he couldn't do and even more so. His career is very, very bright.''
Week 11 began with a bang, when Cleveland beat rival Pittsburgh 21-7 on Thursday night. The game unraveled in the final seconds with a fight triggered by a takedown of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett ripped Rudolph's helmet off and hit him in the head with it, a sure bet for a multi-game suspension of a key player for the Browns (4-6). The Steelers (5-5) had a four-game winning streak stopped, as Rudolph threw four interceptions.
Green Bay (8-2), Seattle (8-2), Tennessee (5-5) and the New York Giants (2-8) have their bye this week.
ATLANTA (2-7) AT CAROLINA (5-4)
Christian McCaffrey has carried Carolina all season, not only on the ground but through the air. With four catches against Atlanta on Sunday, he would pass LaDainian Tomlinson for the most by a running back in his first three years in the NFL. The Panthers must face their nemesis Matt Ryan, who is 6-1 in his last seven starts against the NFC South rival.
Ryan and the Falcons showed some fight with one of the most surprising outcomes in the league this season, a 26-9 victory over New Orleans that snapped a six-game losing streak for the Falcons.
BUFFALO (6-3) AT MIAMI (2-7)
So much for that assumption the Dolphins were tanking this season to get the top draft pick. They've suddenly won two straight games.
''We've got two more wins than the rest of the world thought we were going to have this year, so that's pretty cool,'' defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.
Miami totaled 381 yards against Buffalo in the previous meeting, the most allowed by the Bills this year. Despite losses in two of their last three games, with a win they would post their best 10-game mark since 1999. The combined record of the opponents in Buffalo's six victories is 12-44.
DALLAS (5-4) AT DETROIT (3-5-1)
Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott has 4,836 rushing yards to lead the league. If he can reach 164 rushing yards against Detroit, he'll be the fifth player with at least 5,000 rushing yards in 50 career games, joining Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Terrell Davis, all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Elliott and the Cowboys, however, had their ground attack humbled last week in a loss to Minnesota. He had only 47 rushing yards, the fewest of his career with 20 or more carries. The success of quarterback Dak Prescott against the Vikings helped the Cowboys stay in the league lead in total yards.
The Lions squandered last-minute leads on Kansas City and Green Bay, dropping both games to begin a tailspin accelerated last week by the surprise absence of quarterback Matthew Stafford to a back injury. With five losses in their last six games and the likelihood of Stafford sitting out again on Sunday, the Lions are in a tough spot. Their defense has forced only one turnover over the last four games.
DENVER (3-6) AT MINNESOTA (7-3)
The Vikings, coming off a critical victory at Dallas fueled again by the dual productivity of running back Dalvin Cook, have a prime opportunity to match their win total from last year against the struggling Broncos before taking their bye week. They're 4-0 at home this year and 22-7 at U.S. Bank Stadium in the regular season and the playoffs, and their pass rush and the crowd noise has proven time and again to be a daunting combination for opponents, particularly with inexperienced quarterbacks like Denver fill-in Brandon Allen.
Allen performed admirably in his first start for Joe Flacco, when the Broncos last played before their bye and beat Cleveland, passing for two touchdowns without a turnover. Though Denver has dropped from 10th in the league last season in sacks per pass attempt to 22nd place this year, with Bradley Chubb on injured reserve like Flacco, the Broncos still have a capable defense that could create challenges for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Denver has allowed an average of 18.9 points per game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.
JACKSONVILLE (4-5) AT INDIANAPOLIS (5-4)
After breaking his collarbone in the season opener, Nick Foles will finally take over again at quarterback for a Jaguars team that could use a spark after a 23-point loss in London to Houston prior to the bye week. Not only does Foles conveniently return in a division game that's a must to win if Jacksonville is to have a chance to remain in contention, but he will do so with his former offensive coordinator on the other side.
Colts coach Frank Reich was one of his mentors in Philadelphia, when Foles took over two seasons ago and helped lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. Reich's current team has lost two straight games since quarterback Jacoby Brissett hurt his knee. He's expected to reclaim his starting spot on Sunday.
NEW ORLEANS (7-2) AT TAMPA BAY (3-6)
Despite their humbling defeat at home against Atlanta last week, the Saints still have a comfortable lead in the NFC South. Wide receiver Michael Thomas leads the NFL with 86 receptions and 1,027 yards, joining Randy Moss, A.J. Green and Mike Evans as the only players in history to begin a career with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Thomas had 13 catches for 152 yards against the Falcons.
The Buccaneers could be just as vulnerable, with a league-worst defense that's allowing an average 31 points per game. No team has allowed more passing yards, either, and Tampa Bay just cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
NEW YORK JETS (2-7) AT WASHINGTON (1-8)
Here's a sign of progress for the Jets: Quarterback Sam Darnold, in last week's win over the Giants, was not picked off for the first time since the season opener. Darnold threw nine interceptions over his other four starts this year.
Washington has lost three straight games, after the only win came against another struggling team in Miami. The Redskins haven't scored a touchdown during the losing streak, either. They have just 45 points over their last six games.
ARIZONA (3-6-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (8-1)
There are no undefeated teams left in the standings after the 49ers squandered several opportunities last week against Seattle and lost in overtime amid a growing list of injuries on their offense. Fortunately for them, they'll host a Cardinals team on a three-game losing streak.
Arizona is second-to-last in the league in scoring and total defense, with at least 21 points allowed in all 10 games.
CINCINNATI (0-9) AT OAKLAND (5-4)
There is one winless team remaining, with a reeling Bengals squad under rookie coach Zac Taylor having turned to rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback. One more loss would match the franchise record for the worst start to a season, established in 1993.
The Raiders have rather quietly worked their way into contention in the AFC, seeking to move two games above the .500 mark since they started 2-0 in 2017. The Raiders have a league-leading 13 touchdowns by rookies this year, led by running back Josh Jacobs.
NEW ENGLAND (8-1) AT PHILADELPHIA (5-4)
Two of the last five times these teams faced each other came in the Super Bowl, with the memory of Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis still fresh for both sides. That's when the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 left, recovered a fumble by Tom Brady with a sack on the next possession for the Patriots, and posted a 41-33 victory that ended with a disconsolate Brady sitting down on the U.S. Bank Stadium turf following a desperation incompletion on the final play.
Brady said he's still carrying ''a lot of mental scar tissue'' from that game, even though the Patriots rebounded to become the most recent NFL champions a year ago. They had their bye week to recuperate from their only loss this season, to the Ravens, and they'll send a smothering defense with several all-time records in range out to try to make the afternoon rough for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Patriots have allowed only 10.9 points and 249.3 yards per game. Wentz, who was injured prior to the 2017 playoffs and watched Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise's first Super Bowl win, has helped the Eagles tie the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East with two consecutive victories.
CHICAGO (4-5) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-4)
The Bears broke a four-game losing streak last week by beating Detroit behind three touchdown passes thrown by Mitch Trubisky that gave an ailing offense some life. There are still many issues to be ironed out for a team facing as daunting of a second-half schedule as any in the league, but the defense that fueled a 15-6 victory over the Rams near the end of last season by holding them without a touchdown for the first time in 30 games under coach Sean McVay remains a strength.
The Rams, fortunately, can stop other teams, too, because their once-potent attack has been stymied often this year. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, the Bears and Rams have seven defensive touchdowns apiece, tied for second in the NFL behind Baltimore. The Rams have limited their last four opponents to a total of 57 points, as the defense produced nine points all by itself last week in a loss to Pittsburgh.
KANSAS CITY (6-4) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-6)
This AFC West matchup moves to Mexico City for an international Monday night affair at Azteca Stadium, where heavy rain and heavy use last year left the grass unfit for NFL competition and forced a Chiefs-Rams game to be relocated to Los Angeles. The Chargers still have hope of climbing back into the chase for the division title, sitting two games behind the first-place Chiefs with the Raiders in between.
The Chiefs had quarterback Patrick Mahomes back from a knee injury last week, though they didn't welcome him back with a win despite holding a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter at Tennessee. Mahomes has 8,007 career passing yards, the most through 25 starts in NFL history.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson was solid on the ground during the second half of the Week 13 victory over the Raiders. Sadly, Thompson was unable to carry that momentum into his Week 14 matchup with the Patriots. He rushed four times for seven yards, but caught four passes for 36 yards through the air. Veteran LeSean McCoy saw most of the touches in the backfield on Sunday. The good news is, Thompson was able to show promise in the passing game. He should stay involved in the passing game if Damien Williams (ribs) is out for the Week 15 matchup with the Broncos. Thompson would have some PPR value in fantasy leagues if the Chiefs continue to target him in the passing game next week.
The New England Patriots Defense was able to contain, for the most part, an explosive Chiefs offense but came up short in the team's 23-17 loss in Week 14. The Patriots had their 21-game winning streak at home snapped as the defense totaled one sack, one interception and one forced fumble. The Patriots defense has failed to replicate their borderline historic numbers from the first half of the season and the slump the offense is currently in isn't helping matters. The vaunted unit, however, will be back at the top of the rankings in Week 15 against an awful Bengals team.
New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead carried the ball seven times for 15 yards in the Patriots 23-17 loss to the Chiefs. The offense endured one of its worst performances of the season but Burkhead's snaps went up. He even out-snapped second-year running back Sony Michel and it is fair to question if the Patriots may opt to use more of Burkhead moving forward. Even if his playing time increases, Burkhead will struggle to rise above RB4 status heading into Week 15.
Kansas City Chiefs running back LeSean McCoy was given the start against the New England Patriots in Week 14. Lead back Damien Williams (ribs) did not suit up for this one, so the veteran McCoy was given the start. However, McCoy was unable to capitalize on the extra opportunities. He rushed 11 times for 39 yards and caught one pass for four yards through the air. Spencer Ware and Darwin Thompson took snaps in the backfield as well, but McCoy didn't do anything to deserve extra snaps. At this point in the season, McCoy has turned into a desperation flex option for deep leagues. He might get another start in Week 15, but he hasn't done enough to warrant starting him in most formats.
New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu caught only one pass for 13 yards in the Patriots 23-17 loss to the Chiefs in Week 14. The veteran receiver was targeted only once and was a complete non-factor in the game. Sanu has been dealing with an ankle injury and it is fair to question whether he can truly contribute the rest of the fantasy season. He simply is struggling to get on the same page with quarterback Tom Brady and is learning a new offense on the fly. Sanu should ride the fantasy bench in Week 15.
New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry caught one pass for 12 yards in the Patriots 23-17 loss to the Chiefs. Harry caught the pass and made an excellent, athletic move towards the end zone but was called out of bounds. Upon further replay, Harry in fact scored on his lone reception but the Patriots were out of challenges to reverse the ruling. The rookie receiver has size and speed but is way behind in terms of his knowledge of the nuances in the Patriots offense. Harry is not fantasy viable right now outside of keeper or dynasty leagues.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray posted 64 rushing yards on seven carries and caught two of three targets for 25 yards in a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Murray was out-touched by Alvin Kamara 17-nine, though Murray looked like the better player in this game. It was a great rebound effort for the 29-year-old, who had seen his snaps decrease steadily over the last three games. Perhaps the coaching staff will look to Murray more moving forward, especially considering they promised him more touches earlier in the year. He and the Saints will take on a strong Indianapolis Colts run defense in Week 15.
New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers caught one pass for 35 yards in the team's 23-17 loss to the Chiefs. The rookie was able to make a splash-play but did little else with his three targets in the game. The Patriots offense is in crisis mode right now and expecting a rookie like Meyers to pull them out of it is not realistic. Meyers should, however, continue to see a consistent amount of game snaps as the Patriots offense is very thin at wide receiver right now.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was held in check by the Patriots during their Week 14 contest. The reigning MVP was held under 300 passing yards for the third straight game. Mahomes completed 26 of 40 passing attempts for 283 yards and one touchdown with one interception in the victory over New England. The Pats defense has been tough to pass against this season, so it's not surprising that Mahomes was slowed down. Fantasy owners can hope for a rebound contest against the average Denver Broncos pass defense in Week 15.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 95 yards and one touchdown in the Patriots 23-17 loss to the Chiefs in Week 14. New England's offense is in full-blown crisis mode but Edelman continues to put up career numbers. Edelman surpassed 1,000 yards receiving for the third time in his career and now has 90 receptions on the season with six touchdowns. The Patriots offense is in a deep slump but Edelman can be safely dropped into fantasy starting lineups heading into Week 15.
New England Patriots running back James White carried the ball six times for 33 yards and added five receptions for 35 yards in the Patriots Week 14 loss to the Chiefs. On a night when the Patriots offense struggled for most of the game there weren't many bright spots to be found. From a fantasy perspective, however, White is slowly taking hold of the lead running back duties in the backfield. The Patriots appear to have lost all faith in second-year back Sony Michel and White brings versatility in the passing game. Look for White's touches to continue to rise in the final three games of the season.
The Minnesota Vikings Defense came through in a big way in Week 14's victory over the Detroit Lions. Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo both had interceptions and the Vikings sacked David Blough five times in what was a dominating effort from start to finish. Defensive end Danielle Hunter was an absolute force as he picked up three sacks and three tackles for loss in the win. Hunter became the youngest player to reach 50 sacks in the history of the NFL; it's past time for him to be a household name in the league. Cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and Mike Hughes (oblique) left the contest late, but Mike Zimmer wasn't concerned about their injuries after the game. The Vikings Defense will be a recommended play in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady completed only 19 of 36 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the Patriots 23-17 loss to the Chiefs. New England had a 21-game winning streak at home snapped as the offense continued its descent into mediocrity. All of the blame should not go to Brady but the future Hall of Famer's completion percentage continues to plummet. Four rushing touchdowns have helped his fantasy production over the last month but Brady has passed for only nine touchdowns over his last eight games played. The Patriots are heading towards the playoffs but will need massive improvement if they hope to defend their title. Brady's fantasy value is in free-fall right now.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel carried the ball only five times for eight yards in the Patriots 23-17 loss to the Chiefs. The second-year running back was completely phased out of the team's offensive game plan as the Patriots search for an offensive identity. His fantasy value, in turn, has reached a new low as James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden all out-rushed Michel. The talented back has lost so much fantasy luster over the last month that fantasy owners may need to consider dropping him in favor of higher upside options moving forward.
Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton caught five of his seven targets for 34 yards in a 38-24 win over the Houston Texans in Week 14.
Fantasy Spin: Although he didn't pile up a bunch of yards, Sutton led the team in receptions and targets. A Week 15 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs should have him back in the WR2 conversation.
Denver Broncos LB Todd Davis finished with 15 tackles, including five solo stops, in a 38-24 win over the Houston Texans in Week 14.
Fantasy Spin: Davis has quietly delivered double-digit tackles in five straight games, making him a streaming option for those in the IDP market.
New Orleans Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith snagged two of his four targets for 29 yards and a touchdown vs. the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 on Sunday, Dec. 8.
Fantasy Spin: Smith missed so much time this year with ankle injury and was set back because of it. He how has scores in two of his last three but has no more than a pair of catches in any of the last five appearances. That kind of involvement is of no use in fantasy playoff lineups.
Denver Broncos CB Kareem Jackson finished with 11 tackles, including six solo stops, an interception, three passes defensed and returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown in a 38-24 win over the Houston Texans in Week 14.
Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison had 14 carries for 46 yards in Week 14, adding two receptions for 18 yards in the win. The 16 touches were a new career-high for the rookie as he got a lot of late-game run with the Vikings holding a sizeable lead. Mattison likely won't offer standalone value in the fantasy playoffs, but he remains valuable as a priority handcuff to starter Dalvin Cook.
New Orleans Saints WR Ted Ginn Jr. caught four passes for 50 yards on six targets vs. the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 on Sunday, Dec. 8.
Fantasy Spin: Ginn is merely a flier for a cheap touchdown most weeks. With so much at stake in Week 15, he's no better than a weak flex vs. Indy. The Colts gave up six WR scores in the five games entering Week 14 before allowing a trio of TDs to the position against the Bucs.