Thu Aug 22 12:08pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) That 13-3 loss in the Super Bowl looms large over the Los Angeles Rams. Their high-scoring ascent to the NFL's elite over two thrilling seasons somehow culminated in one of the most lifeless offensive performances in big game history.
It's the last thing anybody expected from a team coached by Sean McVay, who masterminded the Rams' rise with innovative thinking at every turn - until Bill Belichick's sturdy old defense had an answer for everything.
The youngest NFL coach ever to win a playoff game thinks a whole lot more about the last one he lost. Redemption for McVay and quarterback Jared Goff starts next month when the Rams resume their championship chase.
''We can build on a lot of things going into this season, and what we've been able to do over the last couple of years in developing a foundation,'' McVay said. ''But our players know you earn it every day in this league. All we can do is learn from last year, but we've got to produce right now.''
The Rams have won 24 regular-season games, two division titles and an NFC championship in the brief time since McVay took over a franchise with 13 consecutive non-winning seasons. Los Angeles returns with many reasons to think it can stay on top, but enough potential concerns to keep players and coaches sharp.
''I think it just makes us that much more hungry,'' cornerback Marcus Peters said. ''We see exactly where we can be at if we just put our focus into getting better every day. Put the hard work in, and it will pay off for us.''
Clay Matthews didn't join his hometown team until a few months ago, so he'll carry nothing from that disappointment in Atlanta into this season. And from what he's seen of the Rams so far, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker won't be surprised if he gets to play for his second championship ring this season.
''There's so much talent around here,'' Matthews said. ''There's just a level of talent that we should be able to put something together and do something special. I can't speak on behalf of any hangover or curse, or whatever you like to call it. But this team looks primed and ready to make another run at it.''
The Rams didn't add a wealth of proven veterans to their roster, but they also didn't lose a tremendous amount of talent. McVay and general manager Les Snead are counting on Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Andrew Whitworth to remain among the NFL's best at their respective jobs, and they plan to fill any gaps with coaching, effort and their veteran leadership.
''We're just excited to get going back to where we ended last year,'' Gurley said.
Here are more things to know about the Rams:
TIME TO GET PAID
Goff and Peters are likely playing to determine the largesse of their next contracts. Goff is in the fourth season of his five-year rookie deal. The Rams have repeatedly said they will sign him to a long-term contract, and his 19-for-38 performance in the Super Bowl didn't alter that plan. Peters is in the final year of his rookie deal, but said he never considered holding out.
NOT TURNOVER PRONE
Matthews and safety Eric Weddle joined the defense, but they're the only veteran newcomers likely to make an impact; another addition is backup quarterback Blake Bortles. The Rams also didn't make a first-round pick for the third straight year, but rookies including defensive back Taylor Rapp and nose tackle Greg Gaines could play early.
The Rams are taking their biggest risk on the offensive line, where untested second-year pros Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen got the jobs of departed stalwarts Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. LA had remarkable line consistency for two years, but McVay seems supremely confident in the newcomers.
Donald participated in his first training camp since 2016, no longer holding out to get the huge contract he finally received. The Rams will need the back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year in elite form from the start because he has lost the help of nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, who left as a free agent and essentially wasn't replaced. Donald's life of constant double-teams is unlikely to improve, but he's used to it.
The Rams haven't gone into detail about the condition of Gurley's knee, which limited him down the stretch and allowed the since-departed C.J. Anderson to revive his career. Gurley and the Rams actually might be better off if he isn't among the NFL's top five in touches this season, as he has been in each of the previous three years. Longtime backup Malcolm Brown should get more action, and Los Angeles used a third-round pick on Memphis' speedy Darrell Henderson to provide options for McVay. The Rams are determined to optimize Gurley's effectiveness in the final season before his four-year, $60 million contract extension begins.
Five Hot Starts: Week 4
The Cleveland Browns Defense draws a tough road matchup against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 4. Despite the unit coming off an excellent outing against Washington in Week 3, the Browns are not a recommended fantasy option vs. Dallas this weekend. The Cowboys sport an explosive offense and are installed as 4.5-point favorites for Week 4. This game has a high over/under set at 55.5 points and many expect it to develop into a shootout. Fantasy managers who have been counting on the Browns defense will want to look elsewhere for production this week.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a sleeper in Week 4 despite a tough matchup against the Cardinals. Arizona has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing signal-callers, though they've surrendered two passing touchdowns in two of three contests this season. Bridgewater quietly ranks in the top-10 in passing yards, completion percentage and yards per attempt. He's had to throw the ball at least 34 times in two games this year because his defense has struggled- and he could be forced to sling it against a Cardinals' team scoring 25.7 points per game. Bridgewater is a good play this week in 2-QB or DFS formats and could also be a nice pivot for those who have Ben Roethlisberger or Ryan Tannehill as their starting quarterbacks in redraft leagues.
The Atlanta Falcons signed kicker Elliott Fry to their practice squad on Thursday with Younghoe Koo (groin) expected to miss time with a groin strain. There's a chance that Fry is elevated to the active roster in time to make his NFL debut on Monday night against the Packers. The Falcons have no other place kicker on their roster, so we'd expect Fry to get the nod this week unless they bring in another kicker between now and Monday. The Falcons have scored plenty of points through three weeks, making Koo fantasy relevant in the majority of leagues, but Fry should be avoided if he gets a shot because of his lack of experience.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday, and it's unclear when the issue arose for Hopkins. Nuk leads the league in catches (32) and yards (356) through the first three weeks, so his status should be monitored closely as we approach their Week 4 game against the Panthers. The All-Pro receiver is obviously a must-start if he's active, but his fantasy managers need to keep a close eye on his status heading into the weekend. If Hopkins needs to sit out, Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella could be quarterback Kyler Murray's top three wideouts.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said that running back Kareem Hunt (groin) will not practice on Thursday. This is one to watch, as Hunt also missed practice on Wednesday. Even though Nick Chubb is the team's lead running back, Hunt has been involved enough in this offense to warrant weekly RB2 consideration. That would continue in Week 4 against the Cowboys if Hunt is healthy enough to play, but his fantasy managers need to monitor his status heading into the weekend. If Hunt cannot play, Chubb will be a no-doubt RB1, while receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry could see more aerial targets. D'Ernest Johnson would be next up as Chubb's direct backup.
Tennessee Titans star wide receiver A.J. Brown (knee) had a chance to play in Week 4, but he's instead expected to return in Week 5 after the team had their Week 4 contest against the Steelers pushed back due to COVID-19 concerns. Brown has been dealing with a bone bruise and has missed the last two games. He should be at or close to full strength next week against the Bills. The 23-year-old had a quiet Week 1 against the Broncos, but it could've been due to the fact that he injured his knee in that contest. If Brown is back against Buffalo next weekend, he'll have a tough matchup on his hands in All-Pro cornerback Tre'Davious White, so fantasy managers may want to temper expectations a bit.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (toe) is now considered unlikely to play on Thursday night against the Jets, according to a source. Lindsay practiced this week and is on the trip and is feeling better, but the Broncos could play it safe and hold him out for another week. A final decision will likely come closer to game time, so check back then if you were considering starting him as an RB4/flex in much deeper leagues. It'd be wise to avoid him altogether if he's active, since he'd be unlikely to see a big enough workload behind Melvin Gordon III. Royce Freeman is on track to serve as Gordon's backup yet again, but he's unlikely to see more than a handful of touches.
Baltimore Ravens All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey is signing a five-year, $98.75 million contract extension on Thursday, according to a source. The deal comes with $66 million in guarantees. Humphrey is one of the best corners in the league and had the best year of his career in 2019, racking up 65 tackles, three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. The 24-year-old former first-rounder has 14 combined tackles, two QB hits, one interception, four passes defensed and one forced fumble in three games so far in 2020. Humphrey is exceptional for the Ravens Defense, but he's not really in play for fantasy managers in IDP leagues.
Baltimore Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey agreed to a five-year, $98.75 million extension Thursday, Oct. 1.
Free-agent S T.J. Ward (Buccaneers) signed an undisclosed deal with the Arizona Cardinals Thursday, Oct. 1.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry heads to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in Week 4. Landry is off to a quiet start, averaging just 4.0 catches per game through the first three weeks of the season. While he has descended to WR3 status in fantasy, Landry does have the potential for a big game in Week 4. The Cowboys have an explosive offense and a shaky pass defense that ranks just 24th in DVOA. Those two factors could combine to turn this game into a shootout, which would benefit Landry greatly. Fantasy managers can treat Landry as an upside WR3 in Week 4.
Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper is off to a slow start with his new team. Through three games, Hooper has just seven receptions for 62 scoreless yards and hasn't drawn more than four targets in a game. He does have the potential to break out in Week 4 as the Browns travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys. Dallas has a high-scoring offense and a shaky defense, which could turn this game into a blowout. That would benefit Hooper as he could see an uptick in usage in the passing game. That being said, it will be hard to trust him as anything more than a TE2 until he proves it on the field.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is off to a modest start in 2020. Through three games has hauled in 11 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown on 22 targets. He has the potential for a big game in Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys as Dallas has an explosive offense and a shaky pass defense. Those two factors could combine to force Cleveland to throw more passes than they have attempted over the past two games. Fantasy gamers can start Beckham as a solid WR2 for Week 4's matchup with Dallas.
New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder (hamstring) will play in Week 4 Thursday, Oct. 1, against the Denver Broncos.
Fantasy Spin: The tweet ended with "he's not 100 percent, but he'll give it a go." That doesn't exude confidence in your WR3 on a Thursday night. Keep that in mind.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb travels to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in Week 4. Chubb could see an increased workload as Kareem Hunt's status for Week 4 is in question after he missed Wednesday's practice with a groin injury. If Hunt is unable to suit up, Chubb can be treated as a solid RB1 in Week 4 and a lock-button building block in DFS contests. Even if Hunt does play, fantasy gamers can still lean on Chubb as a quality RB2 in fantasy. The Cowboys run defense ranks 15th in DVOA through three games. Their pass defense has been even worse, which sets this contest up as a potential shootout. The Browns should make plenty of trips to the red zone, so Chubb has a good shot at finding the end zone this weekend.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield heads to Dallas to take on the Cowboys in Week 4. The Browns have leaned heavily on the run through the first three games of the season, which has capped Mayfield's weekly upside. The third-year quarterback is averaging just 28.3 pass attempts per game and only topped 23 attempts once, in a Week 1 blowout against the Baltimore Ravens. Sunday's game against an explosive Dallas offense could force the Browns to throw with more frequency as there is potential for a shootout considering the Cowboys' shaky defense. Mayfield remains a QB2 in fantasy but he does have high upside, especially in DFS tournaments, for Week 4.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) returned to practice on Wednesday. Thomas has been out the past two weeks while nursing an ankle sprain. In Wednesday's practice, Thomas was reportedly moving well and showing good signs of progress. He's currently questionable for Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. If he's able to go, Drew Brees will see a boost in his value, while Tre'Quan Smith and Emmanuel Sanders become more risky plays. Make sure to monitor the situation closely over the next few days if you're a Thomas owner.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) is expected to play in the team's Week 4 game on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. Crowder missed the team's previous two games while dealing with a hamstring injury. It doesn't sound as if Crowder will be 100% for the Thursday's game, but he is still worth starting as a WR3 in all fantasy formats, especially in PPR. In his only game this year, Crowder caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. The Jets have been sorely missing him in their passing game the previous two weeks.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has played well to start the year, and they finally have fantasy value in Week 4. The New York Giants look like one of the worst teams in football, and they're dealing with injuries to just about every offensive weapon they have. Lineman Aaron Donald remains one of the most dominant weapons in football, and he's going to have a field day against the interior of New York. This Rams' team can take advantage of the mistakes that quarterback Daniel Jones is going to make, and they could keep the points total extremely low.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Samuel Sloman is a top-10 option in Week 4 behind this offense. This Rams' group looks closer to the one we saw in 2018 when they could move the ball at will against most defenses, and that's going to continue against the New York Giants. The Giants just look brutal right now, and that's great for kickers. Additionally, this is a home game for the Rams, which means that weather will not be an issue inside SoFi Stadium. Behind this high-octane offense, you can safely put Sloman into your lineups this week.