Fri Nov 15 12:58am ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, A.J. Green, Dak Prescott, Mike Evans, Brandon Allen, Jacoby Brissett, Carson Wentz, Michael Thomas, Mitch Trubisky, Ezekiel Elliott, Ryan Finley, Mason Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Jacobs
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson walks the sidelines during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in London. The Houston Texans won 26-3. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)
Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson starred three years ago in one of the more meaningful and memorable games of that college football season.
This weekend, the NFL gets to stage the show.
Watson and the Houston Texans will travel to Baltimore for a matchup with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens featuring two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, both of whom are under 25, no less. The pass-run threat posed by each player already makes for good theater, but what's more, the Texans (6-3) and Ravens (7-2) have emerged as two of the strongest challengers to defending champion New England in the AFC. The Ravens beat the Patriots two weeks ago, after all.
When Watson was at Clemson and Jackson was with Louisville in 2016, the ACC foes met in a midseason classic of two top-five teams in the Associated Press poll. Behind five touchdown passes and 397 yards of offense from Watson, Clemson won 42-36 despite a total of 457 yards and three touchdowns by Jackson.
Jackson won the Heisman Trophy that year, beating out Watson, who took the ultimate prize when the Tigers won the national championship. Watson was the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and Jackson went with the 32nd overall selection in 2018. After overcoming some early-career obstacles, Watson with a torn ACL in his rookie year and Jackson with the doubts that his slithery style would translate from college to pro, they're both well on their way to becoming two of the best in the game at their much-scrutinized position.
Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jackson has accounted for 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Though they're mutual admirers, this matchup on Sunday doesn't mean they'll be trying to outdo the other. There's an opposing defense to maneuver against. What the other one does on the field has no relevance to what they do when it's their turn.
''I can't control what they're doing on their side or what Lamar's got going on,'' Watson said this week.
Jackson has captured plenty of attention since becoming the full-fledged face of the franchise this fall. His spin move during a 47-yard touchdown run last week in a win over Cincinnati was an instant pick for the NFL's highlight film for 2019.
''I'm a proud quarterback, proud friend,'' Watson said. ''All the criticism he was getting when he was coming out, he's definitely a guy I've always encouraged. He's doing everything all the naysayers said he couldn't do and even more so. His career is very, very bright.''
Week 11 began with a bang, when Cleveland beat rival Pittsburgh 21-7 on Thursday night. The game unraveled in the final seconds with a fight triggered by a takedown of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett ripped Rudolph's helmet off and hit him in the head with it, a sure bet for a multi-game suspension of a key player for the Browns (4-6). The Steelers (5-5) had a four-game winning streak stopped, as Rudolph threw four interceptions.
Green Bay (8-2), Seattle (8-2), Tennessee (5-5) and the New York Giants (2-8) have their bye this week.
ATLANTA (2-7) AT CAROLINA (5-4)
Christian McCaffrey has carried Carolina all season, not only on the ground but through the air. With four catches against Atlanta on Sunday, he would pass LaDainian Tomlinson for the most by a running back in his first three years in the NFL. The Panthers must face their nemesis Matt Ryan, who is 6-1 in his last seven starts against the NFC South rival.
Ryan and the Falcons showed some fight with one of the most surprising outcomes in the league this season, a 26-9 victory over New Orleans that snapped a six-game losing streak for the Falcons.
BUFFALO (6-3) AT MIAMI (2-7)
So much for that assumption the Dolphins were tanking this season to get the top draft pick. They've suddenly won two straight games.
''We've got two more wins than the rest of the world thought we were going to have this year, so that's pretty cool,'' defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.
Miami totaled 381 yards against Buffalo in the previous meeting, the most allowed by the Bills this year. Despite losses in two of their last three games, with a win they would post their best 10-game mark since 1999. The combined record of the opponents in Buffalo's six victories is 12-44.
DALLAS (5-4) AT DETROIT (3-5-1)
Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott has 4,836 rushing yards to lead the league. If he can reach 164 rushing yards against Detroit, he'll be the fifth player with at least 5,000 rushing yards in 50 career games, joining Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Terrell Davis, all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Elliott and the Cowboys, however, had their ground attack humbled last week in a loss to Minnesota. He had only 47 rushing yards, the fewest of his career with 20 or more carries. The success of quarterback Dak Prescott against the Vikings helped the Cowboys stay in the league lead in total yards.
The Lions squandered last-minute leads on Kansas City and Green Bay, dropping both games to begin a tailspin accelerated last week by the surprise absence of quarterback Matthew Stafford to a back injury. With five losses in their last six games and the likelihood of Stafford sitting out again on Sunday, the Lions are in a tough spot. Their defense has forced only one turnover over the last four games.
DENVER (3-6) AT MINNESOTA (7-3)
The Vikings, coming off a critical victory at Dallas fueled again by the dual productivity of running back Dalvin Cook, have a prime opportunity to match their win total from last year against the struggling Broncos before taking their bye week. They're 4-0 at home this year and 22-7 at U.S. Bank Stadium in the regular season and the playoffs, and their pass rush and the crowd noise has proven time and again to be a daunting combination for opponents, particularly with inexperienced quarterbacks like Denver fill-in Brandon Allen.
Allen performed admirably in his first start for Joe Flacco, when the Broncos last played before their bye and beat Cleveland, passing for two touchdowns without a turnover. Though Denver has dropped from 10th in the league last season in sacks per pass attempt to 22nd place this year, with Bradley Chubb on injured reserve like Flacco, the Broncos still have a capable defense that could create challenges for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Denver has allowed an average of 18.9 points per game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.
JACKSONVILLE (4-5) AT INDIANAPOLIS (5-4)
After breaking his collarbone in the season opener, Nick Foles will finally take over again at quarterback for a Jaguars team that could use a spark after a 23-point loss in London to Houston prior to the bye week. Not only does Foles conveniently return in a division game that's a must to win if Jacksonville is to have a chance to remain in contention, but he will do so with his former offensive coordinator on the other side.
Colts coach Frank Reich was one of his mentors in Philadelphia, when Foles took over two seasons ago and helped lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. Reich's current team has lost two straight games since quarterback Jacoby Brissett hurt his knee. He's expected to reclaim his starting spot on Sunday.
NEW ORLEANS (7-2) AT TAMPA BAY (3-6)
Despite their humbling defeat at home against Atlanta last week, the Saints still have a comfortable lead in the NFC South. Wide receiver Michael Thomas leads the NFL with 86 receptions and 1,027 yards, joining Randy Moss, A.J. Green and Mike Evans as the only players in history to begin a career with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Thomas had 13 catches for 152 yards against the Falcons.
The Buccaneers could be just as vulnerable, with a league-worst defense that's allowing an average 31 points per game. No team has allowed more passing yards, either, and Tampa Bay just cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
NEW YORK JETS (2-7) AT WASHINGTON (1-8)
Here's a sign of progress for the Jets: Quarterback Sam Darnold, in last week's win over the Giants, was not picked off for the first time since the season opener. Darnold threw nine interceptions over his other four starts this year.
Washington has lost three straight games, after the only win came against another struggling team in Miami. The Redskins haven't scored a touchdown during the losing streak, either. They have just 45 points over their last six games.
ARIZONA (3-6-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (8-1)
There are no undefeated teams left in the standings after the 49ers squandered several opportunities last week against Seattle and lost in overtime amid a growing list of injuries on their offense. Fortunately for them, they'll host a Cardinals team on a three-game losing streak.
Arizona is second-to-last in the league in scoring and total defense, with at least 21 points allowed in all 10 games.
CINCINNATI (0-9) AT OAKLAND (5-4)
There is one winless team remaining, with a reeling Bengals squad under rookie coach Zac Taylor having turned to rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback. One more loss would match the franchise record for the worst start to a season, established in 1993.
The Raiders have rather quietly worked their way into contention in the AFC, seeking to move two games above the .500 mark since they started 2-0 in 2017. The Raiders have a league-leading 13 touchdowns by rookies this year, led by running back Josh Jacobs.
NEW ENGLAND (8-1) AT PHILADELPHIA (5-4)
Two of the last five times these teams faced each other came in the Super Bowl, with the memory of Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis still fresh for both sides. That's when the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 left, recovered a fumble by Tom Brady with a sack on the next possession for the Patriots, and posted a 41-33 victory that ended with a disconsolate Brady sitting down on the U.S. Bank Stadium turf following a desperation incompletion on the final play.
Brady said he's still carrying ''a lot of mental scar tissue'' from that game, even though the Patriots rebounded to become the most recent NFL champions a year ago. They had their bye week to recuperate from their only loss this season, to the Ravens, and they'll send a smothering defense with several all-time records in range out to try to make the afternoon rough for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Patriots have allowed only 10.9 points and 249.3 yards per game. Wentz, who was injured prior to the 2017 playoffs and watched Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise's first Super Bowl win, has helped the Eagles tie the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East with two consecutive victories.
CHICAGO (4-5) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-4)
The Bears broke a four-game losing streak last week by beating Detroit behind three touchdown passes thrown by Mitch Trubisky that gave an ailing offense some life. There are still many issues to be ironed out for a team facing as daunting of a second-half schedule as any in the league, but the defense that fueled a 15-6 victory over the Rams near the end of last season by holding them without a touchdown for the first time in 30 games under coach Sean McVay remains a strength.
The Rams, fortunately, can stop other teams, too, because their once-potent attack has been stymied often this year. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, the Bears and Rams have seven defensive touchdowns apiece, tied for second in the NFL behind Baltimore. The Rams have limited their last four opponents to a total of 57 points, as the defense produced nine points all by itself last week in a loss to Pittsburgh.
KANSAS CITY (6-4) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-6)
This AFC West matchup moves to Mexico City for an international Monday night affair at Azteca Stadium, where heavy rain and heavy use last year left the grass unfit for NFL competition and forced a Chiefs-Rams game to be relocated to Los Angeles. The Chargers still have hope of climbing back into the chase for the division title, sitting two games behind the first-place Chiefs with the Raiders in between.
The Chiefs had quarterback Patrick Mahomes back from a knee injury last week, though they didn't welcome him back with a win despite holding a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter at Tennessee. Mahomes has 8,007 career passing yards, the most through 25 starts in NFL history.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams has disappointed fantasy owners so far in the second half of the season. He's been held to under 50 receiving yards in five of his last six games, and hasn't eclipsed triple-digits since Week 1. Williams has also gone six straight games without a touchdown, making him hard to trust versus the Jaguars this week. The Jacksonville defense has allowed the 13th fewest points to the position this season and has notably been burned on the ground in recent weeks. The Raiders will undoubtedly keep their run-first mentality, creating even less volume for the team's pass-catchers. Williams is a TD-dependant WR4 for Week 15, and shouldn't be trusted for the fantasy playoffs.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller has put together back-to-back productive games after a disappointing month and a half. He's caught 13 of 15 targets for 172 yards in the two-game sample, proving to be the only fantasy relevant pass-catcher on the offense. The Jaguars are a middle of the pack defense versus the position, but did give up two touchdowns to the Chargers last week. The Raiders, however, are expected to attack on the ground and play with a comfortable lead for the final home game ever in Oakland. This could affect Waller's volume, but his high-target share keeps him in the TE1 discussion.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will take the field for the final time in front of the hometown Oakland fans this Sunday versus the Jaguars. Emotions will be running high with an electric stadium expected, but Carr shouldn't be trusted for your fantasy playoffs. His matchup is on the favorable side, but the offense funnels through the run game, which makes it difficult for the 28-year-old to receive enough opportunities to be trusted. The Raiders are also 6.5 favorites against the worst-run defense over the last four weeks, so expect the Raiders could run away with this one. The stars are aligning for a low-volume game for Carr, making him a desperation QB2 for Week 15.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (quadriceps) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Jackson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL all season and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers DT D.J. Jones (ankle) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Thursday, Dec. 12.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews (knee) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Andrews suffered the injury last week but likely will receive his normal workload in Week 15. He should be a starting option in all leagues this week.
The New York Jets have declared DL Quinnen Williams, OL Chuma Edoga, RB Bilal Powell, CB Brian Poole, WR Demaryius Thomas, S Jamal Adams and CB Arthur Maulet inactive for Week 15.
New York Jets WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring, knee) was declared inactive against the Baltimore Ravens Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Thomas scored his first touchdown of the season last week, but he isn't a safe enough option to be a consideration during the fantasy playoffs, even if he's able to return for Week 16.
The Baltimore Ravens have declared WR Jaleel Scott, CB Anthony Averett, OT Ronnie Stanley, OG Ben Powers, DL Justin Ellis, QB Trace McSorley and DB Chris Board inactive for Week 15.
Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (pectoral, thigh) and LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 12. DT Antwaun Woods (knee), G Zack Martin (elbow, ankle), P Chris Jones (abdomen), CB Byron Jones (hip), OT La'el Collins (knee) and DL Michael Bennett (foot) were limited. S Jeff Heath (shoulder), RB Tony Pollard (ankle), OT Tyron Smith (Achilles) and S Darian Thompson (biceps) participated in full.
San Francisco 49ers TE Garrett Celek (back), DL Dee Ford (quad, hamstring), DL D.J. Jones (ankle), CB Richard Sherman (hamstring), S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), DT Jullian Taylor (elbow) and CB K'Waun Williams (concussion) didn't practice Thursday, Dec. 12. WR Dante Pettis (knee) was a full participant.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury) fully participated in practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzgerald has been a solid option in the passing game over the last month and should see a handful of targets this week. He could be a possible flex option in deeper leagues.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (hand) remained a full participant in practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Prescott should be good to go for the game Sunday, Dec. 15, against the Los Angeles Rams. He's a mid-tier QB1 against the Rams.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper (knee) participated in full at practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Cooper will likely face the defensive coverage of Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey, and we've already seen him completely shut down by a top corner in New England Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore earlier this season. Fantasy managers should expect a below-average performance.
Buffalo Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury), RB Frank Gore (illness), DE Jerry Hughes (non-injury) and OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 12. DT Corey Liuget (knee) and DT Jordan Phillips (knee) were limited during practice.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) was limited during practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Landry has been a consistent option for fantasy players this season and will continue to receive plenty of targets in the passing game. He should be at least a No. 3 receiver this week.
Los Angeles Chargers LB Thomas Davis Sr. (non-injury) didn't practice Thursday, Dec. 12. LB Uchenna Nwosu (ankle) was limited. LB Drue Tranquill (elbow) practiced in full.
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku (knee) fully participated in practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Njoku will have a favorable matchup this week against the Arizona Cardinals and can be a low-end No. 1 tight end in fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (ankle) was limited during practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Kirk should have a decent chance to play in the Week 15 game, but fantasy players should keep an eye on the situation over the next few days. He can be a No. 3 receiver or flex option in leagues if he plays.
San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel has lived up to his second-round billing in recent weeks and remains a steady WR3 in Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons. Over his last five contests, Samuel has either surpassed 100 scrimmage yards or scored a touchdown, becoming an instrumental piece of the offense. Even with veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders reassuming No. 1 receiver status, Samuel has continued finding ways to make an impact. Against an Atlanta Falcons Defense ranked 26th in DVOA, there should be ample opportunities for all Niners playmakers.