Wed Nov 25 7:20pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Rams nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (69) celebrates with defensive end Aaron Donald (99) after the team defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
LOS ANGELES (AP) Aaron Donald just played two consecutive football games without making a tackle for the first time in his life.
On Monday night in Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Rams' All-Pro defensive tackle didn't even make a single play that registered in the NFL's statistics in his 62 snaps: No sacks, no tackles, no quarterback hits.
Donald doesn't look at stat sheets, but he had no need to do so in Tampa anyway.
''I knew (from) playing the game I didn't make a damn tackle,'' Donald said Wednesday with a frustrated chuckle. ''It's like, 'Oh, (shoot), I've at least got to get one tackle.'''
Statistics are a woefully imprecise measure of Donald's impact on games, of course. The six-time Pro Bowl selection affects game plans, run schemes and quarterbacks' decision-making simply by going into a three-point stance.
Donald makes plays for the Rams even when he isn't actually the one making the play, and opponents and teammates alike know it.
''I don't feel like I'm playing bad football,'' said Donald, who is still third in the NFL with nine sacks this season. ''I feel like I'm disruptive. I'm still almost making plays, getting to the quarterback, and he's getting the ball out at the last minute, or whatever the case may be. It's just guys around me making plays, too. It's nothing that I'm mad about. If I was out there playing bad, I'd be more disappointed in that.''
Donald also didn't draw a holding penalty against Tampa Bay or Seattle - which is not to say he wasn't held. In fact, Donald gets held constantly, according to Donald and Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley.
''He hasn't drawn a holding call in, I think, three or four weeks, which we're going to have to take a look at,'' Staley said. ''That's just saying that people are blocking him straight-up, which we know is not the case.''
In fact, Staley compares Donald's dominance to another physical force who towered so far above his sport that he seemed to be officiated by different standards.
''Players like that, it's like Shaquille O'Neal back when he was playing,'' Staley said. ''This guy, I think people take for granted how good (Donald) is, and we need to make sure people are seeing the game the way they need to.''
In the most glaring example, Tampa Bay left tackle Donovan Smith's full-arm hold of Donald prevented him from sacking Tom Brady in the end zone. The play, which also included an apparent fumble by Brady that was curiously ruled an incomplete pass, would have resulted in a safety if the officials had thrown a flag for the obvious hold.
Donald realizes it's all part of being among the best ever to play his position, but that doesn't make it more palatable when referees don't see what he sees.
''In my opinion, they hold every play,'' Donald said. ''There's some blatant holds that we didn't get the call for, but you've got to keep playing. Hopefully I'll get a couple. ... All the damn time I talk to (officials). I say, 'You've got to see that holding call.' They say they don't see it. I'm like, `Man, the guy got me around my neck, grabbing, pulling on my shirt! I just beat a guy with a clean rush!' But it's all right. Hopefully I'm going to get one sooner than later, and it's going to help us big-time, so I've just got to keep playing.''
The best measure of Donald's impact might be an evaluation of how the Rams' entire defense is playing - and by that measure, Donald has never been better.
The Rams (7-3) host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday with one of the best defenses in the league playing at its highest level yet. Staley's crew is allowing an NFL-low 291.9 yards per game, and only unbeaten Pittsburgh is limiting opponents to fewer than the Rams' 19.2 points allowed per game.
Donald deserves a huge chunk of the credit, Staley believes.
''This guy is as disruptive at the point of attack as ever,'' the rookie coordinator said. ''I think the (opponents') run game hasn't expressed itself in his particular area, which is unusual. And then in the pass rush, this guy attracts more attention than anybody, and we're doing our best to get him isolated.''
The Buccaneers' game plan against Donald was clear: Brady constantly took short dropbacks and made quick throws to prevent Donald and the Rams' other pass rushers from having time to threaten him. Samson Ebukam got Los Angeles' only sack while Donald was occupying two Bucs blockers by himself.
''I definitely think (having no tackles in two games is) a statistical anomaly,'' Staley added. ''He just doesn't have that normal production that he typically has, but he's playing very well for us.''
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 12
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that wide receiver Adam Humphries (concussion) and safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion) were both scheduled to practice on Wednesday. It gives both players a chance to suit up in Week 12 against the division-rival Colts. Humphries hasn't played suffering his head injury in Week 8 against the Bengals. The 27-year-old from Clemson has been a fantasy afterthought this year with just 22 receptions for 219 yards and two touchdowns in six games. In this run-first offense, he's third on the receiving pecking order behind A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. If Humphries returns this weekend, he should be avoided against the Colts Defense, one of the top units in the NFL.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (shoulder) was expected to be a limited practice participant on Wednesday in his return, with head coach Adam Gase saying Darnold will do "quite a bit." Darnold has missed the last two games with a right shoulder injury, but his return to practice bodes well for his chances of making a return this weekend against the division-rival Dolphins. The Jets would love to see what he can do with wide receivers Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims all finally healthy, but Darnold remains questionable for Week 12 for now. Veteran Joe Flacco actually hasn't been terrible in losses to the Patriots and the Chargers, but Darnold will be the starter when healthy. If Darnold returns this week, he'll be a low-end QB2 for desperate fantasy managers.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder) was a limited practice participant on Wednesday, while wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) sat out. Murray suffered the shoulder injury in last Thursday's loss to the Seahawks, but he played through it and should be fine to face the Patriots in Week 12. Hopkins is dealing with a non-COVID-19-related illness, so he should also be fine to play Sunday. The All-Pro receiver has had some down games for his fantasy managers and will be facing a tough matchup with All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore this weekend, but he's still a top-five fantasy option at his position. Similarly, Murray should be treated as a top-five fantasy signal-caller.
The Philadelphia Eagles Defense is not a recommended option for Week 12 fantasy lineups. With a matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football on tap, the Eagles could easily find themselves in a shootout with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to close out Week 12. The Eagles defense has had its moments this season, finishing as a top-nine fantasy defense five times, but then also finishing outside of the top-20 five times. This week is much more likely to be of the "outside of the top-20" variety.
The Miami Dolphins designated running back Myles Gaskin (knee) to return from Injured Reserve on Wednesday. The club also activated defensive tackle Christian Wilkins from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Gaskin practiced in a non-contact jersey on Wednesday, but his activation from IR doesn't necessarily ensure that he'll play in Week 12 against the Jets. In fact, fantasy managers probably shouldn't expect the 23-year-old back in a featured role for Miami until Week 13 against the Bengals. Check to make sure he's not on your league's waiver wire. If he is available, pick him up now, as he should be the team's most fantasy relevant back when he's back to full health. Rookie Salvon Ahmed should retain RB2 upside in an excellent matchup this weekend if Gaskin is inactive for another game.
The Baltimore Ravens placed defensive end Calais Campbell and offensive linemen Patrick Mekari and Matt Skura on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Ravens organization this week, the NFL moved the Ravens-Steelers Thursday night Thanksgiving matchup to Sunday afternoon. It's unclear if these three players actually tested positive for the virus, but if they did, they will be out for Week 12 against Pittsburgh. Campbell, a five-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher, has been out since Week 9 due to an injury. Baltimore's defense could really use the veteran to slow down the undefeated Steelers offense. The Ravens Defense is still a fringe starting unit in fantasy, but this would surely be the week to fade them if you have better options.
Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) was limited in Wednesday's practice with a left thumb injury. This doesn't seem like an injury that would keep Tagovailoa out of action in Week 12 against the winless Jets, but it's something to watch the next few days. The Alabama product struggled mightily for the first time in four starts against the Broncos last week and was benched in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins continue to say that Tagovailoa remains their starter under center, but his performances in his first four career starts definitely have left a lot to be desired from a fantasy standpoint. The 22-year-old has yet to throw a pick but has gone over 200 yards passing just once. The matchup against the Jets is a juicy one, but the left-handed QB remains nothing more than a QB2 for fantasy managers.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott is not worth a starting spot in most Week 12 fantasy lineups. Elliott has made 10 of his 14 field goal attempts this season and all 14 of his extra point tries. He's been solid when called on, but he's been so rarely called on due to the team's general struggles on offense, that he's only finished as a top-20 fantasy kicker in three of his 10 games. Almost all leagues will have a higher-upside kicker on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert is a top-six tight end choice on Monday Night Football in Week 12. The Eagles take on the Seattle Seahawks, and despite how horrendous they've been on defense, they are actually allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Still, Goedert is more than good enough and runs plenty of wide receiver-type routes. He shouldn't have too much trouble at least repeating his Week 11 performance of five catches for 77 yards and a score. Even if Zach Ertz (ankle) returns in Week 12, Goedert is an upside TE1.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (ankle) is "trending in the right direction" to play in Week 12, according to coach Doug Pederson. Ertz hasn't played since Week 6 due to a high-ankle sprain, but he's been able to practice and seems likely to take the field against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. For as bad as the Seahawks Defense has been overall, they've actually held opposing tight ends to the fifth-fewest fantasy points, so it may not be the best matchup for a player returning from injury. Combine that with the overall struggles of the Eagles offense and the presence of a seemingly much more effective Dallas Goedert also at tight end, and Ertz is more of a wait-and-see than a must start this week.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is nowhere near the fantasy radar despite an excellent on-paper matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. Jeffery has now played in two games this season but has yet to record an offensive statistic other than three targets he's been unable to catch. Jeffery played 18 offensive snaps in Week 10 and saw just one target, then played just five snaps in Week 11 and saw two targets. He's clearly either not healthy yet or just not part of the game plan. Either way, he's completely unstartable in all formats and should likely be on most waiver wires.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz is a fantastic start this week against the Broncos. Lutz has gone 19-for-21 in field-goal attempts this season and 34-for-34 in extra-point attempts. The Broncos allow the third-most points to fantasy kickers, meaning Lutz is a solid play this week.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor has the best matchup of his NFL career on Monday Night Football in Week 12. Taking on the laughable Seattle Seahawks secondary, Reagor should be able to feast on Thanksgiving week as long as Carson Wentz can play even slightly below-average football. Unfortunately, that's anything but a given so far this season. Reagor hasn't been extremely productive this year, finishing as a WR3 or better only once this season, but he's remained heavily involved in the passing game and shouldn't have trouble getting open against the Seahawks. He's a WR4 this week, but with plenty more upside than others ranked near him.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward is only an option in the deepest PPR fantasy leagues in Week 12. With bye weeks done and the player pool much deeper, Ward is falling further and further down in the wide receiver rankings. He's been useful on the field, catching short passes and serving as another safety valve for struggling quarterback Carson Wentz, but Ward has only finished as a top-15 fantasy receiver once this season. He'll continue in his role as an effective "real life" football player, but is unlikely to make much fantasy noise, even with a pristine matchup against a Seahawks Defense that essentially does not exist.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders has some nice upside in a Week 12 Monday Night Football matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks Defense has been 23rd in the league against opposing running backs, and with Sanders getting the lion's share of carries in this backfield, he's an easy RB1 choice with plenty of upside. Despite how much the Eagles have been struggling on offense, the Seattle defense hasn't been able to slow anyone down. This is unlikely to be the week that changes.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott has settled into his backup change-of-pace role since the return of Miles Sanders from a knee injury. Scott has done well with his limited chances but still isn't getting enough volume to be a trustworthy standalone starter in most fantasy formats. Last week, Scott turned eight touches (five runs and three catches) into 50 total yards. He's a solid and talented NFL running back, but he won't be worth starting in most formats unless Sanders is forced to miss more time.
The New Orleans Saints Defense is one of the strongest plays of the week heading into Week 12. The unit compiled eight sacks and two picks against a normally potent Falcons offense last week. Now facing the Broncos this week, this unit has the potential to make some real noise against a Denver offense that features a young and turnover-prone QB in Drew Lock.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham is tough to trust in Week 12 lineups despite an excellent matchup against the Seattle Seahawks "defense" on Monday Night Football. Fulgham was a legitimate WR1 for a few weeks earlier this season, but has now gone two straight weeks with identical stat lines: one catch for eight yards. He's still seen 12 targets in those games combined, so there's hope that he can somewhat put things back together, but the Eagles offense as a whole has looked like one of the worst in the NFL, making it hard to place Fulgham in a fantasy lineup after seeing him put up 0.8 fantasy points in standard scoring two weeks in a row.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has been anything but good on the field this season, but he's still been the 14th-best quarterback in standard scoring fantasy formats. He's thrown two or more touchdowns in five of the past six games, and is always a threat to score on the ground. He's firmly in that category of QB where if he plays for your real NFL team, you hate him, but if he plays for your fantasy team, you're okay with him (especially in 2QB and Superflex formats). Week 12 presents an excellent fantasy matchup, as the Seahawks Defense is allowing the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks by a significant margin. If Wentz and the Eagles offense can't "get right" in this prime Monday Night Football matchup, then we may finally see Jalen Hurts do more than just run a predictable running play when he's on the field. Wentz, despite the pristine matchup, is a QB2 this week.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook should be considered a lower-end TE2 in Week 12. Cook has struggled the past two games, only getting one reception for six yards on three targets. In nine games played this season, the TE has only eclipsed 50 yards three times. His role has been smaller than many fantasy managers had hoped for this season, and this makes Cook a risky play going forward. Only start him this week if you are lacking other options at TE, but it's worth noting the Broncos present a stiff matchup for fantasy TEs.