New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning speaks to the media after an NFL football practice in East Rutherford, N.J., Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Canavan)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) is tackled by New York Jets defensive end Nathan Shepherd (97) during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson (96) tackles Miami Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns (17) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) The 2019 season isn't ending the way Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores or New York Giants counterpart Pat Shurmur had hoped months ago.
Both knew they were taking young teams into the season, and they were hoping to find a way to contend for a playoff spot in December.
So much for that idea. The Dolphins dropped their first seven games, and the Giants headed south after a 2-2 start highlighted by rookie Daniel Jones replacing 38-year-old Eli Manning as the starting quarterback.
When the Dolphins (3-10) visit the Giants (2-11) on Sunday the outcome only will help decide the selection order in the draft next spring and give one team a rare chance to celebrate.
The Giants are trying to stop a nine-game slide, matching a franchise record, that has put Shurmur's job in jeopardy. New York has won seven of 29 games in his tenure.
Shurmur insists he sees improvement. It might not help his future.
''I understand the numbers. I get it. I get all that,'' he said. ''But you just try to keep inspiring the players to play.''
The Dolphins will be playing their second straight game at MetLife Stadium. They were a little upset last weekend after the Jets posted a 22-21 win on a last-second field goal set up by a video replay that overturned a non-call and awarded a pass interference penalty.
''It was a tough one last week, but in this league you have to deal with adversity, move on and move onto the next challenge, which we've got a big one this week,'' Flores said. ''I don't necessarily think about going back to MetLife as - whatever stadium it is - to me, it's the idea and the goal is always to try and get a win.''
Here's five things to watch Sunday:
NON CENTURY MARK
Giants running back Saquon Barkley has struggled since returning from a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games. The No. 2 pick overall in the 2018 draft has gone seven straight games without running for 100 yards.
In his rookie season, Barkley had seven 100-yard games, including five in the final seven games. He had 100-yard games in the opening two games of the season and then got hurt just before halftime in the third game.
The streak has a shot at ending. The Dolphins are tied for 30th in run defense, allowing an average of 141.1 yards.
IN WAKE OF DEMOTIONS
Dolphins defensive end Taco Charlton and rookie guard Michael Deiter are eager to bounce back from recent demotions.
Charlton leads Miami with five sacks, twice the total of any teammate, but was inactive last week.
''It made me hungrier,'' Charlton said. ''I want to be a player that no matter what, the game plan is you can't sit me.''
Deiter had started every game until last week, when he played briefly off the bench.
''I just need to play better,'' Deiter said. ''I'm confident that I can go out there and help us win, but I need to do it more consistently.''
GO TO GUY
Despite having Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate III on the roster, Jones and Manning have a new go-to guy for their passes.
Rookie Darius Slayton is putting up unexpected numbers this season for the Giants. The fifth-round draft pick from Auburn is second on the team with 42 receptions, two behind tight end Evan Engram. His 659 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches lead the team, along with his 15.7 yard average. He had two TD catches Monday night against the Eagles.
What makes the performance more surprising is Slayton was hampered by a hamstring problem in training camp and was inactive for the first two regular-season games.
The Dolphins rookie known as the intern may get a heavier workload after playing well in his first NFL start last week.
Patrick Laird contributed 48 yards rushing and 38 receiving. He has climbed from the bottom of the depth chart to become Miami's fourth starter at running back this year.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Laird tends to get overlooked. He was a walk-on at California and went undrafted out of college.
Shortly after joining the Dolphins as a free agent, Laird had lunch with team interns who assumed he was part of their group rather than a player. That earned him a nickname that stuck: the intern.
Because of injuries, the Dolphins' secondary is a work in progress.
The nine defensive backs on the roster have a combined total of nine career interceptions. They're in a scramble to become part of rebuilding Miami's long-term plans.
''You've got to take full advantage,'' cornerback Nik Needham said. ''We're all trying to do that.''
The Green Bay Packers Defense faces a tough task this weekend in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. In their regular-season meeting, the Packers gave up 37 points and only dropped Jimmy Garoppolo only three times. They also failed to generate any turnovers. Green Bay's defense may need to lend their offense a helping hand by creating a turnover or two to swing the field position game. If Za-Darius and Preston Smith can ramp up the pressure, the Packers will have a good chance of generating a turnover or two and winning the game. It certainly won't be easy, considering how formidable the 49ers offense has been this season.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Graham has back-to-back 49-year receiving performances, but those games came against teams that struggle to defend the tight end position. The 49ers are not one of those teams. They allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends all season and were the league's stingiest pass defense. Maybe Graham makes a play in the red zone. Still, he's a cheaper DFS play but by no means a comfortable one.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (illness) is trending in the right direction to play in the NFC Championship game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. Even if available, Allison isn't an option in any fantasy format. The 25-year-old hasn't caught more than four passes in a game this season. It sure doesn't seem like he'll eclipse that mark against the league's best defense with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) is currently questionable for the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. There's certainly a risk for injury, considering he re-aggravated the ankle in last week's playoff game. Still, it's hard to ignore the two-game stretch Lazard had to end the season, where he saw 17 targets. That alone makes him worth a gamble, particularly in a must-win game for a Packers team in desperate need of another threat at receiver. Just beware, the matchup isn't ideal. The 49ers allowed only 172 passing yards to the Vikings last week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Adams produced only 43 receiving yards and a score against San Francisco in the regular season but still had 12 targets. The star receiver has seen double-digit targets in nine of 13 games played this year. There's not many receivers that you can virtually pencil in for double-digit targets- but Adams is one of them. If fellow receivers Geronimo Allison (illness) and Allen Lazard (ankle) suit up, they may be limited. Adams could be looking at more work than usual, even in a matchup this difficult.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense enter Championship weekend as the highest-priced fantasy defense. The Niners face the Green Bay Packers, who they demolished 37-8 in Week 12. In that previous contest, the Niners relentlessly harassed future Hall of Famer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dropping him five times and forcing a fumble. The Packers were a meager one for 15 on third down conversions. The 49ers will need to follow that blueprint again in the critical NFC Championship to emerge victorious. With a higher-intensity contest expected, it could be difficult to splurge on a defense in fantasy compared to other addressable positions.
San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders both offer solid fantasy value in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Both players were limited to under 45 yards apiece in last weekends Divisional Round blowout but were featured early on when the game was still in question. The rookie Samuel has emerged as a consistent dual threat in the latter half of 2019 and is likelier the safer floor. Sanders, the savvy vet has proven himself as a reliable chain-mover with big-play potential. Against the Packers 10th-best pass defense by DVOA, either option seem primed to pop in Sundays winner-take-all battle.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams will face off with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Williams has been playing second fiddle to Aaron Jones quite a lot recently, as he hasn't seen double-digit carries since Week 13 against the Giants. It's worth noting that Williams played a large role in the regular-season game against the 49ers, which saw him rack up 18 touches. Green Bay very well could utilize Williams in spurts to keep San Francisco guessing, though his recent downtrend in usage makes him hard to trust.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a reasonable DFS bet for Sundays NFC Championship matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Priced as the third-best quarterback, Jimmy G squares off against a strong Packers defensive line that ranked 12th-best in adjusted sack rate during the regular season. Garoppolo was not pressed into service in the Divisional Round blowout win, but will likely be tasked with a tougher test on Sunday. While the Niners have mostly ridden its dominant running game throughout the year, Garoppolo has answered the bell in multiple occasions with three four-touchdown games. With dangerous weapons surrounding him, Garoppolo shouldnt be ruled out in the biggest game of his career to-date.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. The 49ers Defense held Jones to just 38 rushing yards in their regular-season meeting. However, the star back has been playing some seriously good football in his last five games, with 501 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He's also had 20-plus carries in three straight contests. Expect Green Bay to utilize Jones early and often in screens and runs to combat the 49ers mighty pass rush. Even if Jones doesn't pile up over 100 yards, his propensity to find the end zone and role in the passing game make him a safer play this weekend.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on the San Francisco 49ers this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The 49ers Defense held Rodgers to just 104 passing yards and one touchdown in their regular-season meeting. However, there are a couple things that are different ahead of this matchup. First, tackle Bryan Bulaga will play in this game after being injured in the first quarter against the 49ers previously. Rodgers should have better protection than he had when these teams met. Secondly, Rodgers himself is playing better football than he was during the regular season before this matchup. He has 566 passing yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. There is also the added motivation of denying a Super Bowl berth to the team that could have drafted him. Play Rodgers on Sunday, despite the tough matchup.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is worth a gamble for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Bourne scored the only receiving touchdown for the Niners in the Divisional Round, adding to his 2019 resume as a legitimate red-zone threat. The third-year pro has just 33 catches this year, including the playoffs, but collected six scores. Despite his risks as a zero-floor fantasy option, Bourne has emerged as a trustworthy target in clutch situations.
San Francisco 49ers running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are both bankable DFS options in Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. The two backs combined for 163 rushing yards in the Divisional Round, with Coleman riding a hot hand to two touchdowns. Considered a backup for the latter half of the regular season, Coleman played 46 percent of snaps last Sunday compared to Mosterts 34 percent. While the touch forecast for either back is cloudy, the Niners draw one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing DVOA during the regular season with the second-worst defensive line in the league, yielding 4.96 adjusted yards per carry. With a likely floor of 10 touches for each Coleman and Mostert, both runners have great opportunities to make a splash.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in Thursdays practice and should be fine for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Kittle scared Niner Nation with soreness on the left ankle he chipped earlier this year, but confirms he feels fabulous. Kittle factored more as a blocker in last Sundays Divisional Round blowout but the Niners passed just 19 times. The All-Pro is an integral piece in all facets of the offense so is worth his premium TE1 price in DFS on Sunday.
Detroit Lions WR Danny Amendola is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he's a 'prime candidate' to be re-signed, in the opinion of The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett.
Free-agent WR Antonio Callaway (Browns) signed with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL Thursday, Jan. 16.
Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy (illness) remained out of practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: McCoy played just one offensive snap in last week's Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans. He's clearly behind RB Damien Williams and is no longer worth starting.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Moore (illness) and DT Chris Jones (calf) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. DT Khalen Saunders (knee), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder), CB Kendall Fuller (knee), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (neck), C Austin Reiter (wrist) and G Andrew Wylie (ankle) practiced in full.
Green Bay Packers DL Kenny Clark (back), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (knee) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OL Billy Turner (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited at practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce earned a light practice week while catching 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He's the week's top tight end option once against this week so long as he takes the field.