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One and Done - FFL: Week 4 | NFL: Superbowl

Steelers try to maintain momentum vs. struggling Cardinals

Thu Dec 5 2:11pm ET
By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer

Players: Kenyan Drake, Jared Goff, Chase Edmonds, Kyler Murray

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges (6) stands on the field with a game ball after a 20-13 Steelers win over the Cleveland Browns in an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have a No. 1 overall draft pick under center while the Pittsburgh Steelers have a guy named “Duck” throwing the ball around the field.

Yet it's the Steelers who are making a playoff push.

Pittsburgh (7-5) has won six of its past seven games heading into Sunday's road matchup against the Cardinals. It'll be the third start for Steelers quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges, a rookie free agent who has been steady for a team that relies heavily on its defense.

Hodges threw for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception in last week's win against Cleveland. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin expects more of the same against the Cardinals.

“Football is the ultimate team game,” Tomlin said. “We try to live that out every day. When guys step up and deliver, it is just verification of it.”

The Cardinals (3-8-1) are stuck in a five-game losing streak and trying to bounce back from last weekend's 34-7 loss to the Rams, which was easily their worst effort of the season.

Arizona is rebuilding this season, so the team has been mostly upbeat even after losses. But players and coaches have made it known that getting embarrassed at home by the Rams wasn't acceptable. The Cardinals were down 20-0 by halftime and were never particularly competitive.

“Losing is losing, but that last game was a different type of losing," rookie quarterback Kyler Murray said.

Murray, the top overall pick in April, has been good for most of the season. He's already set a franchise rookie record with 2,866 yards passing despite a tough game against the Rams.

Most of the Cardinals problems are on defense, where they rank last in the NFL in total defense and passing defense. Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff - who had been struggling for a few weeks - dominated the Cardinals for 424 yards passing and two touchdowns.

Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury expects another tough challenge, even if Pittsburgh's offense hasn't put up huge numbers.

Kingsbury had a short, nomadic career as an NFL quarterback, bouncing between teams over a couple of seasons before becoming a coach. He said Hodges is making the most of his opportunity.

“I’ve been very impressed," Kingsbury said. “Having been in a similar situation, kind of that third-team practice-squad-type range, for him to step in and the poise he shows and protecting the football, you can tell those guys really play hard for him, and they believe in him. He moves around, makes some plays, and he’s been really sharp."

THREE'S A CROWD

Kingsbury was excited to have all three of the team's main running backs - Kenyan Drake, David Johnson and Chase Edmonds - healthy for the first time against the Rams on Sunday.

But the Cardinals offense never got on track. Drake ran for 31 yards, Johnson ran for 15 and Edmonds didn't get a carry.

Kingsbury said he still envisions a roll for all three against the Steelers.

“The (Rams) game got away from us, got a little funky, and we got out of some things we wanted to do and went back to dropping back, which is not what we want to do in those situations,” Kingsbury said. "That’s why you have to stay on schedule and can’t get down 27-0 or whatever it was.”

YOUTH MOVEMENT

If the Cardinals are going to get better defending the pass, they'll have to do it with a bunch of young players.

Arizona released veteran cornerback Tramaine Brock Sr. on Monday, which likely gives more playing time to Kevin Peterson and Chris Jones. Peterson is 25 and Jones is 24.

The Cardinals also have three rookies in the secondary who get substantial playing time, including cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. and safeties Jalen Thompson and Deionte Thompson.

MO POUNCEY, NO PROBLEMS

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey returns to the lineup following a two-game suspension for his role in the brawl against Cleveland on Nov. 14. B.J. Finney filled in capably during Pouncey’s absence and Pittsburgh’s running game finally found some traction, topping 100 yards in consecutive contests for the first time this season. Pouncey said the unexpected break has the 10-year veteran feeling fresh heading into the home stretch.

“I feel like this is the beginning of the year,” Pouncey said. “I’ve got a lot of energy.”

HEISMAN VS WALTER

Sunday's game will pit Murray, last year's Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, against Hodges, who won the Walter Payton Award at Samford.

The Walter Payton Award is given to the best offensive college player at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

“Now that you mention it, it is pretty unique playing against the Heisman winner and being the Walter Payton winner, the Heisman of the FCS. It is going to be a fun game,” Hodges said.

ONE-TWO PUNCH

Pittsburgh outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree have combined for 20½ sacks through 12 games, the highest total by a Steelers’ linebacker tandem since LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison did it in 2008. Watt was the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November after getting 5½ sacks last month. Watt has at least a half-sack in nine straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Dupree has been no slouch. His 8½ sacks are a career high and his four forced fumbles are tied for fourth most in the NFL. Though Dupree typically plays on the left side and Watt on the right, Tomlin will occasionally have them flip to give offenses different looks.

“They’re interchangeable in an effort to keep people off-balance and to give them something to think about,” Tomlin said.

Player Notes
Green Bay Packers Jan 19 11:50pm ET

The Green Bay Packers Defense recorded one sack and allowed 37 points in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers steamrolled past Green Bay's unit for 285 rushing yards and four rushing scores. To make matters worse, they couldn't generate much pressure or any turnovers. Despite the disappointing end, the Packers defense was much improved from last year, ranking 15th in sacks with 41 as well as third in interceptions with 17. They may not be among the top defenses drafted in 2020, though they should be on every fantasy managers' radar.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Graham Jan 19 11:40pm ET

Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham caught four of five targets for 59 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Graham was a big disappointment this season in a year filled with disappointing tight ends. The 33-year-old put up the lowest numbers since his rookie season and never really put together a good stretch of play until very recently. Graham has one year left on his contract worth about 7.5 million dollars. Given how much of a bust he was, perhaps Green Bay cuts ties with him and goes younger at the position in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Geronimo Allison Jan 19 11:30pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison caught two of three targets for eight yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. There were big expectations for Allison heading into 2019 in both the real and fantasy football worlds. Unfortunately for him, he lived up to neither, failing to eclipse 50 receiving yards in all but one game all year. Green Bay, who is in desperate need of another receiver behind Davante Adams, will have a decision to make about the 25-year-old, who is an unrestricted free agent. It's hard to see Allison being back in Green Bay in 2020.

From RotoBaller

Allen Lazard Jan 19 11:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard caught three of four targets for 36 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Lazard may not have made much noise in the two playoff games but flashed some potential in the regular season, including his first career 100-yard game. Rodgers started to develop a little chemistry with the 6-foot-4 wideout late in the season, as he looked his way 17 times in the last two contests. It would be surprising if Lazard were the number-two receiver for the Packers next year, though it still makes sense for them to bring him back in some capacity. Lazard has some sleeper potential if he's catching passes from Rodgers in 2020.

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Patrick Mahomes Jan 19 11:13pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes' 87 passing touchdowns in his first 35 games, including playoffs, are the most in NFL history. His 11 passing touchdowns and 142 pass attempts without an interception to begin his playoff career are both the most on record, and he is one of just two players to have at least 250 passing yards, three or more passing touchdowns and at least 50 rushing yards in multiple career playoff games.

From TheHuddle

Raheem Mostert Jan 19 11:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries in a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 19, becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 200 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game.

From TheHuddle

Davante Adams Jan 19 11:00pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught nine of 10 targets for 138 yards in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Adams operated as Rodgers' safety blanket yet again, capturing 79 more receiving yards than the Packers' next leading receiver. When healthy, this is what the 26-year-old did all year, as he compiled double-digit targets in all but four games, including the playoffs. Despite missing five games, Adams still almost put up a 1000-year season. It would behoove Green Bay to put together a stronger receiver group behind the star receiver. Even if they don't, a healthy Adams should be back in the discussion as an elite fantasy wideout in 2020.

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Jamaal Williams Jan 19 10:40pm ET

Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams picked up just six rushing yards on three carries and caught two passes for one receiving yard in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Williams had a disappointing end to his season, as he failed to register at least 40 rushing yards in his last three games after eclipsing the mark in his previous three. The 24-year-old did show flashes at times of being the perfect complement to Aaron Jones. Still, it will be interesting to see if Green Bay hands the reins to Jones next year or continues to spell him with Williams. For now, consider Williams more of a handcuff option than a complement heading into 2020.

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Jimmy Garoppolo Jan 19 10:23pm ET

San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo completed six of his eight passes for 77 yards in a 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 19. RB Raheem Mostert rushed 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns and caught two passes for six yards, and RB Tevin Coleman rushed six times for 21 yards. WR Deebo Samuel caught two passes for 46 yards and rushed twice for 43 yards, TE George Kittle caught his only target for 19 yards, and WR Emmanuel Sanders was held without a catch on one target. DE Joey Bosa and DL Arik Armstead both recorded a sack.

From TheHuddle

Aaron Jones Jan 19 10:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards and a rushing touchdown along with five catches for 27 yards and a receiving score in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Jones was running well and would have been able to do more damage on the ground if not for the 27-0 deficit at the half. The 24-year-old finished the year tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns with 19, then added four more scores in the playoffs. He (likely) won't score this many times next year, though Jones proved he's more than just a touchdown machine, racking up career-highs in both rushing and receiving yards. He'll be among the best options in 2020 for fantasy backs in all formats.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Jan 19 10:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 31 of 39 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. At first glance, Rodgers' stat line doesn't look so bad, though the first half was a complete struggle for him and the offense. Down 27-0 at the half, the veteran signal-caller effectively used up garbage time to post these numbers. It's a disappointing end to the season for Rodgers, though he still put up his eighth career 4000-yard season as well as his 10th season with at least 25 touchdown passes. The 36-year-old has plenty of juice left in his arm but will probably need another threat on the outside next year besides Davante Adams if Green Bay wants to make noise.

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Aaron Rodgers Jan 19 10:03pm ET

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers completed 31 of his 39 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and lost one of his three fumbles in a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 19. RB Aaron Jones rushed 12 times for 56 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 27 yards and a score. WR Davante Adams caught nine of his 10 targets for 138 yards, TE Jimmy Graham hauled in four of his five targets for 59 yards, WR Allen Lazard added three catches for 36 yards, and TE Jace Sternberger caught two passes for 13 yards and a touchdown. LB Blake Martinez led the team with nine tackles, including six solo stops.

From TheHuddle

Jaire Alexander Jan 19 9:13pm ET

Green Bay Packers CB Jaire Alexander (thumb) has been ruled out for the remainder of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Jan. 19.

From TheHuddle

Tevin Coleman Jan 19 8:53pm ET

Updating a previous report, San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (shoulder) has been downgraded to out after leaving in the first half of the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers due to what is being called a shoulder injury.

From TheHuddle

Adrian Amos Jan 19 8:53pm ET

Green Bay Packers S Adrian Amos (pectoral) suffered a pectoral injury in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Jan. 19 and he will not return.

From TheHuddle

Demarcus Robinson Jan 19 8:40pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Demarcus Robinson was not targeted often, but made it count when he was called upon. Robinson hauled in both of his targets for 31 yards during their victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. His first reception was a 24-yard catch that helped the Chiefs move upfield for their second quarter comeback. However, Robinson is normally an afterthought with Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Travis Kelce on the roster. He could have some cheap DFS value for Super Bowl 54.

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Mecole Hardman Jan 19 8:40pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman was unable to make much of an impact during the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Hardman finished with one reception for eight yards. His reception was technically a jet sweep play that was a handoff on the second drive of the game. However, he drew a big defensive pass interference call that helped the Chiefs get into scoring position. Hardman is a fantastic special teams player, but won't bring much value to DFS contests for Super Bowl 54.

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Tyreek Hill Jan 19 8:30pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was able to find the end zone twice during Sunday's AFC Championship game. Hill caught five of his seven targets for 67 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over the Tennessee Titans. His first score was a 10-yard jet sweep handoff that counted as a reception, but regardless it was a nice way for Hill to show off his ridiculous speed. The performance of Hill in Super Bowl 54 could help make or break plenty of DFS players.

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Travis Kelce Jan 19 8:30pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was surprisingly held in check by the Tennessee Titans during Sunday's AFC Championship contest. He caught three of his four targets for 30 yards in the win over the Titans. Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins were the players making the splash plays in this game. DFS players shouldn't be worried as Kelce should see plenty of opportunities during Super Bowl 54.

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Damien Williams Jan 19 8:20pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams was able to find the end zone three times last week in the Divisional Round battle with the Houston Texans. Williams continued his strong play against the Tennessee Titans in Sunday's AFC Championship game. Williams rushed 17 times for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also caught five passes for 44 yards through the air. Veteran back LeSean McCoy (illness) didn't play and rookie Darwin Thompson saw just one carry in this game. It's clear that the Chiefs trust Williams to be their lead back going forward. Look for him to make a significant impact in Super Bowl 54.

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