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Short-handed Ravens put up fight, fall short in Pittsburgh

Wed Dec 2 9:33pm ET
AP Sports Writer

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III (3) passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half during an NFL football game, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Tyus Bowser (54) runs past Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) after making an interception during the first half of an NFL football game, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) greets Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (24) after an NFL football game Wednesday, Dec 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 19-14. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) tries to fend off Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tramon Williams after making a catch during the second half of an NFL football game Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trace McSorley (7) throws against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half of an NFL football game, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 19-14. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III (3) scrambles past Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree (48) during the first half of an NFL football game, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Baltimore Ravens didn't practice for more than a week while COVID-19 raced through the locker room and forced the NFL to postpone their trip to Pittsburgh three separate times. They ran onto Heinz Field on Wednesday afternoon with 11 practice squad players added to the roster and star quarterback Lamar Jackson and starting running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins back in Baltimore.

And somehow, they hung in there against the league's last unbeaten team. While their 19-14 loss eliminated the Ravens from defending their AFC North crown, head coach John Harbaugh didn't exactly raise the white flag on the season or his club.

''I appreciate our players the way they fought through this,'' he said. ''I'm proud of our guys for doing this. This is a crazy year in a lot of ways.''

One that took a wild turn over the last week as the NFL pushed Baltimore's showdown with the Steelers from Thanksgiving night to Sunday to Tuesday to finally, Wednesday as the number of Ravens on the reserve/COVID-19 list ballooned to more than 20. Protocols forced Baltimore to work remotely while the league tried to sort things out. They finally gathered for a walkthrough on Tuesday and 24 hours later found themselves taking on longtime a rival off to a historic start.

It was ugly at times. Robert Griffin III, filling in for Jackson, turned it over twice in the first quarter, including a Pick-6 that Joe Haden returned 14 yards for a touchdown. A chance to take the lead late in the first half ended up with an incompletion to a backup tight end as time expired. There were penalties (seven for 84 yards) and just one first down achieved through the air.

And still, a 70-yard strike from Trace McSorley - who replaced Griffin in the fourth quarter after Griffin's balky left hamstring gave out - pulled the Ravens within five with 2:58 to go. Baltimore's defense had a chance to get off the field before Ben Roethlisberger's fling to James Washington in triple coverage on third-and-6 allowed the Steelers to run out the clock.

''The guys showed a lot of grit and determination today, a lot of toughness,'' Griffin said. ''I want to commend the guys on how they fought. There are no moral victories in this league but I'm proud to be a Raven.''

Baltimore (6-5) has lost three straight and four of five, a slide that began with a tough loss to the Steelers (11-0) at home on Nov. 1. A month later, the Ravens are out of the hunt for the division title and currently outside of the seven-team playoff picture looking in.

''We're going to be solid,'' said safety Chuck Clark, who along with Griffin, Harbaugh and everyone else was interviewed wearing a mask postgame. ''We're just going to win games from here on out. We're going to get in, and we can do it.''

The schedule is user-friendly. Baltimore faces just one team currently with a winning record (Cleveland) over its final five games. Yet for all of Griffin's toughness, neither he nor McSorley are Jackson. The two combined to complete just 9 of 18 passes for 110 yards, 70 of which came on the throw to Brown.

''We've got to be better, but the fight we have in our team and how we were able to come together throughout this whole week - losing guys, not knowing what was going on - we stuck together, and we kept fighting,'' McSorley said. ''So, I think that's just the core of what we have here. We've got to eliminate mistakes so that we can win games, that's the big deal.''

The Ravens also need to find a way to avoid taking any further roster hits due to COVID-19. The team believes it has it under control but their wiggle room is practically gone. Their schedule continues to be a mess, with their game against Dallas - originally set for Thursday - pushed to next Tuesday. They will be forced to play three times in 12 days and any misstep could seriously put their playoff hopes in peril a year after they went 14-2 and were the AFC's top seed.

Yet that was then. Now, things are considerably more complicated. Baltimore will press forward wary of just how thin the line is between success and failure, both on the field and in terms of trying to ward off the novel coronavirus.

''There's a lot of fight in this team,'' offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman said. ''This team is fighters. They came in, they came into the fight, they were ready to roll. We're going to get a lot of guys healthy back. We're going to just build from here. This is just the beginning. So, we're ready to work.''


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Player Notes
Breshad Perriman Dec 2 11:40pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman (shoulder) was listed as a limited practice participant on Wednesday. Don't look now, but Perriman has been fantasy relevant the last three weeks while either scoring a touchdown or topping 75 yards receiving. He caught four of his eight targets in Week 12 against the Dolphins for 79 yards. It's still hard to trust anyone on the winless Jets and Perriman has had his fair share of injuries in his career, but he might be the most trustworthy Jets receiver at this point. In deeper league, Perriman is worth considering as a WR4/flex, but don't expect him to put you over the top if you need one more win to get into the fantasy postseason.

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Cam Newton Dec 2 11:30pm ET

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (abdomen) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Newton's injury doesn't appear to be serious enough to keep him from playing in Week 13 against the Chargers. The 31-year-old former MVP was just 9-for-18 passing for 84 yards and two interceptions in the Week 12 win over the Cardinals. He added nine carries for 46 yards. Newton's rushing ability gives him a little more upside, but he's not running like he used to and has limited weapons in the passing attack, making him a midrange QB2 this Sunday with a limited ceiling. The Los Angeles defense has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to signal-caller this year, including four rushing touchdowns to the position.

From RotoBaller

Kalen Ballage Dec 2 11:30pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers running back Kalen Ballage (ankle), linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (chest) and offensive guard Trai Turner (ankle) were all limited in practice on Wednesday. Ballage was inactive in the Week 12 loss to the Bills, but he's on the right track to make his return in Week 13 against the Patriots. The 24-year-old saw double-digit carries from Weeks 9-11 and was also seeing usage in the passing game, putting him in the flex consideration. However, Austin Ekeler returned from Injured Reserve last weekend and should remain as the team's featured back to close out the season. Ballage could still be mixed in here and there alongside Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope, but Ekeler's return has all but killed the fleeting fantasy value that he had.

From RotoBaller

C.J. Prosise Dec 2 11:20pm ET

Houston Texans running back C.J. Prosise (illness) did not take part in practice on Wednesday due to a non-COVID-19-related illness. Prosise had a season-high five carries for 12 yards and caught a two-yard pass for a touchdown in the Thanksgiving win over the Lions last week as the backup to Duke Johnson. He saw some notable work in the red zone in Week 12 and should continue to see a bigger role until David Johnson returns from Injured Reserve, but Prosise still isn't seeing enough touches to be considered a realistic flex option, even in the deepest of leagues. Buddy Howell and rookie Scottie Phillips would be called on to step up behind Johnson if Prosise is unable to play in Week 13 against the Colts.

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David Johnson Dec 2 11:20pm ET

The Houston Texans activated the 21-day practice window for running back David Johnson (concussion) to return from Injured Reserve on Wednesday. It means that Johnson could technically return for the Week 13 matchup with the Colts, but that would be wishful thinking by his fantasy managers. The 28-year-old has been out since Week 9, and the Texans are just hoping that he can return sometime soon. We'd be surprised if Johnson made it back this weekend, but he should be picked up off the waiver wire if he's available. Duke Johnson will continue to have RB2 upside until David Johnson is fully healthy and cleared from the league's concussion protocol.

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D.J. Chark Dec 2 11:10pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. (ribs) was limited in practice on Wednesday after sitting out of the Week 12 loss to the Browns. Chark seems to be on the right track to return this Sunday against the Vikings and their suspect secondary, but can you trust him in fantasy lineups with quarterback Mike Glennon under center for the second straight week? To be honest, Glennon is an upgrade over rookie Jake Luton and could even be an upgrade over Gardner Minshew II. Chark has seen double-digit targets just twice this year and has only one 100-yard game, but the matchup is nice enough that he should be considered a WR3/flex with upside for more if he plays. The Vikings Defense has allowed 18 receiving touchdowns (second-most) and the third-most fantasy points to receivers in 2020. Chark's return would lower the ceilings of Keelan Cole and rookie Laviska Shenault Jr.

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Equanimeous St. Brown Dec 2 11:10pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receivers Allen Lazard (core) and Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) and safety Darnell Savage (back) were limited practice participants on Wednesday. Lazard saw a bigger role in his second game back from core muscle surgery and found the end zone, but he had just 23 receiving yards. He returned to the game after being banged up, giving him a good chance to play in Week 13 against the Eagles. Green Bay should be able to move the ball against Philadelphia, but Lazard will once again be a touchdown-dependent WR4/flex in his third game back from surgery. St. Brown doubled his reception total in Week 12 against the Bears with two catches for 39 yards. As long as Davante Adams and Lazard are on the field, St. Brown is an afterthought.

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Carlos Dunlap Dec 2 11:03pm ET

Seattle Seahawks DE Carlos Dunlap (foot) is nursing a sore foot, but head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday, Dec. 2 that he feels the pass rusher will be ready for the Week 13 game against the New York Giants. 'I can't tell you much yet, we won't know for the next couple of days, but he's just got a sore foot and we don't think he's going to miss because of that,' Carroll said.

From TheHuddle

Josh Jacobs Dec 2 11:00pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (ankle), wide receiver Nelson Agholor (ankle), safety Johnathan Abram (knee) and cornerback Damon Arnette (concussion, neck) did not practice on Wednesday. Jacobs' status will be one to watch this week. He'll be a no-doubt, must-start fantasy back if he's active against the winless Jets, but his status shouldn't be taken for granted after getting injured in the blowout loss to the Falcons last week. Devontae Booker and Jalen Richard would split backfield work if he were to miss time. Agholor caught five passes for 54 yards against Atlanta in Week 12 and has two touchdowns in the last four games. He has six scores in eight games in 2020 and is a good bet to find the end zone against the winless Jets if he's able to return to practice later this week.

From RotoBaller

Mitch Trubisky Dec 2 10:53pm ET

Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky will start against the Detroit Lions in Week 13. While he has his lowest completion percentage (58.3) since the team drafted him No. 2 overall in 2017, facing the Lions might be the cure for his ills. He has four straight games with three touchdown passes facing the Lions, including Week 1 when he had three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Fantasy Spin: Nick Foles practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday, so Trubisky will get another chance to show what he can do. Still, he is more of a QB2 in most fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams despite his success against the Lions.

From TheHuddle

Phillip Lindsay Dec 2 10:40pm ET

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (knee) wasn't able to practice on Wednesday. Lindsay left the Week 12 blowout loss to the Saints early with a knee injury after carrying the ball nine times for just 20 yards. The 26-year-old has become a low-ceiling RB3/4 in an inconsistent Broncos offense while sharing carries with Melvin Gordon III. Lindsay's lack of involvement in the passing game (just two receptions all year), makes him almost unrosterable in PPR leagues. If he's unable to get on the practice field this week, Royce Freeman would serve as the backup to Gordon in Week 13 against the Chiefs. Freeman wouldn't have standalone value, but Gordon would be a low-end RB2 with upside if he has the backfield more to himself.

From RotoBaller

Jerry Jeudy Dec 2 10:40pm ET

Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Jeudy was on the injury report last week but was taken off on Friday. He'll be fine to play this weekend against the Chiefs unless he suffers a setback. Denver's entire offense struggled in Week 12 when they were forced to start a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback, so Jeudy should have more than just one target this Sunday. The Broncos should be forced to throw the ball more often against KC, but the Chiefs Defense is allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts. Plus, Jeudy and quarterback Drew Lock haven't been efficient in their connection this year. Jeudy will be more of a WR4/flex this weekend as he looks to bounce back from a donut in Week 12.

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Denver Broncos Dec 2 10:30pm ET

The Denver Broncos activated defensive end Shelby Harris from the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday and placed cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot) on Injured Reserve in a corresponding move. Callahan will be out at least three weeks. Denver claimed safety Will Parks, who was drafted by Denver in 2016, so he's an option to take over for Callaway in the slot. Harris is recovered from COVID-19, but he could be held out in Week 13 against the Chiefs to allow him to get back up to full speed. The Broncos inexperienced and young secondary is unlikely to slow down Patrick Mahomes and his bevvy of weapons this Sunday, so fantasy managers should be looking to avoid the Broncos Defense. In their first meeting in Week 7, the Broncos allowed 40-plus points.

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Jonnu Smith Dec 2 10:20pm ET

Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (knee), cornerback Adoree' Jackson (knee) and defensive end Jeffery Simmons (knee) all missed practice on Wednesday. Smith really put his fantasy managers in a tough spot in Week 12 with zero targets in the passing game against the Colts. He has plenty of pass-catching talent, but his floor is really low if he continues to be used a lot as a blocker. Add in the knee injury and you have a tight end that is extremely volatile as a touchdown-dependent low-end TE1/high-end TE1 against Cleveland this weekend. If Smith's knee injury is serious enough to keep him out this week, Anthony Firkser and MyCole Pruitt would likely share snaps at the position.

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Calvin Ridley Dec 2 10:20pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (hamstring) and Calvin Ridley (ankle, foot) and running back Todd Gurley II (knee) were all limited practice participants on Wednesday. Jones and Gurley didn't play in the Week 12 win over the Raiders, so their participation on Wednesday is a good sign that they'll have a chance to suit up in Week 13 against the Saints. The 31-year-old Jones often plays through nagging injuries, but his fantasy managers would love to see him log a full practice this week. He caught just two passes for 39 yards in the first meeting with New Orleans in Week 11, but Jones should top that if he returns. Ridley has the higher WR1 ceiling at this point, but Jones will be a must-start if he's active. Gurley has a chance to return this week, but even if he does, he'll be one to fade against a tough Saints run defense while potentially looking at a limited workload. Brian Hill and Ito Smith shared backfield duties with Gurley out against Las Vegas, with Smith the more productive rusher. This is probably a week to avoid Atlanta's backfield entirely if you can find better options.

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Russell Wilson Dec 2 10:10pm ET

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has cooled off from his MVP pace over the last four weeks, but he's got a chance to reignite those flames in Week 13 against the New York Giants. The Giants feature one of the league's better passing defenses, as they've allowed just 15.5 points per game to the quarterback position. Wilson's outlook isn't perfect for this game, but he does have the benefit of playing at home. On the season, he's averaging over 30 fantasy points per game in Seattle. With his complement of weapons and running ability, he's firmly in the QB1 conversation for this week.

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Adam Humphries Dec 2 10:10pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Adam Humphries (concussion) returned to practice on Wednesday. Humphries has a chance to return in Week 13 against the Browns after sitting out since Week 9 with a head injury. The 27-year-old is the No. 3 receiver in this offense when healthy, behind A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. Humphries has only 22 catches on 31 targets for 219 yards and two touchdowns in six games this season, though, making it unlikely that he does much for fantasy managers if he returns this weekend. In Tennessee's low-volume passing offense, Humphries hasn't seen more than seven targets in a single game, although he's seen fewer than six targets in only two of his six games, including in Week 8 when he suffered a concussion. He'll be a desperation WR4/flex in deep PPR leagues if he is back on the field this weekend.

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Philip Rivers Dec 2 10:00pm ET

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (toe) and left tackle Anthony Castonzo (knee) did not take part in practice on Wednesday. Rivers missed some practice time last week but managed to play in the Week 12 loss to the Titans, so he shouldn't be in danger of sitting out Week 13 against the Texans. The veteran gunslinger started the year off slow with the Colts, but he's picked things up of late on the fantasy side of things with Indy forced to throw the ball more often against better competition. The 38-year-old has attempted at least 36 passes in each of the last four games and has had at least 288 yards passing in three of those four games. Houston's defense has been around middle of the pack as far as allowing fantasy points to QBs this year, but they also just lost top cornerback Bradley Roby to a PED suspension. If Houston can put up points and force the Colts to stay balanced on offense, Rivers should be a fine QB2 this weekend. Castonzo could miss anywhere from two to six weeks after suffering ACL damage in Week 12.

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Matthew Stafford Dec 2 10:00pm ET

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (thumb) was a limited practice participant on Wednesday. Stafford played through his thumb injury on Thanksgiving Day, so there should be no reason to expect him to miss Week 13's contest against the Bears. He did very little against the Texans, though, going 28-for-42 for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Chicago's defense was torched by Aaron Rodgers last week, but they have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points per game to QBs this season, making Stafford more of a low-end QB2, especially if No. 1 receiver Kenny Golladay (hip) remains sidelined. Stafford was 24-for-42 for 297 yards, one touchdown and one interception in Week 1 against these same Bears.

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