Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury watches the clock during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Arizona Cardinals middle linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) knocks the helmet off Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels on the tackle during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt, right, scores a 3-yard touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Cleveland. The Browns won 27-19. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield throws during the fist half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens answers questions during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Cleveland's Baker Mayfield might be headed for some relief in his up-and-down second season in the NFL.
Arizona's defense has made a lot of opposing quarterbacks look pretty good.
The Browns (6-7) will try to keep their playoff hopes alive and win for the fifth time in six games when they visit the Cardinals on Sunday. Mayfield hopes to play better than he did last week, when he completed just 11 of 24 passes for 192 yards and two interceptions in Cleveland's 27-19 win over Cincinnati.
''As long as we win, ultimately, that is the main goal, but you have to continue to work on that stuff, get the ball in our guys hands and let them make plays,'' Mayfield said.
Arizona's defense is last in the league in yards allowed and passing yards allowed. The Cardinals have given up at least 21 points in all 13 games this season.
Arizona's Kyler Murray is looking to bounce back from his first three-interception game as an NFL quarterback. Murray has usually avoided big mistakes during his rookie season, but Sunday's three interceptions - all in the second half - were a big reason the Cardinals (3-9-1) lost their sixth game in a row.
''I think as a couple of these losses have stacked up, maybe (he's) trying to do a little too much, trying to win it by himself,'' Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury said. ''He's got to get back in that rhythm like he was prior to the bye, where, `Hey, you're just doing your job, executing at a high level and not trying to do too much.' We'll work through that.''
The rumors, rumblings and reports of Odell Beckham's unhappiness in Cleveland aren't going away any time soon. And while there's smoke, it's still not clear if there's any fire.
Beckham has not said he wants to leave the Browns, but he hasn't publicly stated that he's planting roots either.
This week, coach Freddie Kitchens and several teammates said Beckham has not given them any indication he wants out. In fact, they claimed he has been engaged, motivated to win and seems to enjoy being part of the team's rebuilding effort.
Mayfield was asked if Beckham, who has been dealing with a sports hernia injury for months, will be back for a second season with the Browns.
''I can't answer that for him,'' he said. ''There are all the rumors going around, but I have had my conversations with him and I know what we talk about so I trust him wholeheartedly.''
Beckham's injury has limited his production, but he has played in all 13 games and 96.4 percent of the snaps.
It has been a mostly disappointing season for Cardinals running back David Johnson, who hasn't had much of a role in the offense since returning from an ankle injury a few weeks ago. He did have a good moment against the Steelers last Sunday, catching a 24-yard touchdown pass to pull the Cardinals within 20-17 in the fourth quarter.
He hopes to have a bigger role in the offense going forward. Johnson has lost time in the running back rotation to Kenyan Drake - who was added by the Cardinals in a midseason trade with the Dolphins - and to a lesser extent Chase Edmonds.
''Any guy who's in the NFL wants to be on the field, so it's tough when you're not out there,'' Johnson said.
BACK ON TOP
Nick Chubb's second season has been impressive. It may also be historic.
The Browns haven't had an NFL rushing leader since 1968, when Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly gained 1,239 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Chubb enters Sunday's game with a league-leading 1,281 yards, but his only goal remains getting wins - not titles.
The unassuming Chubb said leading the league would be nice, but nothing he planned to do.
''It will mean a lot to me only because how hard I worked and it paid off for me,'' he said. ''That's really the biggest thing for me is just when I work hard, it shows and I get the results that I want.''
Even at the age of 36, Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald is having another productive season.
He's leading the team with 64 catches for 669 yards. Fitzgerald hasn't committed to playing a 17th season, but Kingsbury said there's no doubt the team wants him back.
''You see what he's done every week, and that's with a young quarterback and with an offense that's still learning how to play in the system,'' Kingsbury said. ''He's as productive a player as we've had on this offense week-in, week-out, reliability and catching the football. He's still a huge weapon for us, and I don't see that changing.''
Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was fired last year after just one season as the Cardinals coach. As he prepared to return to Arizona, Wilks said he's not seeking revenge - simply a victory.
''To be honest, I don't really have any emotions in regards to this week,'' said Wilks, who was dismissed after going 3-13. ''I want to win this game just like I wanted to win last week's game just like I wanted to win the first game against Tennessee.''
Wilks had numerous challenges during his first head coaching gig, but said they made him better.
''What I learned is just really how to deal with adversity as a head coach trying to prepare each and every week, trying to get your guys up to perform at a high level,'' he said. ''So it was difficult going through the struggles, but I thought the guys performed and played well and they stayed together throughout.''
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had an incredible performance against the Tennessee Titans during their Week 10 matchup. He caught 11 of his 19 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Tennessee. He'll get another chance to run over the same team in the AFC Championship matchup on Sunday. Hill hasn't been able to get over 100 yards receiving in a single game since that matchup. DFS players know that Hill has a chance to be a complete bust, but the fact he destroyed Tennessee the first time is hard to ignore. Hill has given DFS players a lot to think about before Sunday's kickoff.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He hauled in 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round victory. The Tennessee Titans main focus has to be slowing down Kelce. They allowed seven receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown to Kelce earlier in the season. Kelce isn't going to be cheap for DFS contests, but he's proven all season long that he's worth the risk.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been tough to watch all season long. He started off the year with a three touchdown performance, but it was downhill after that. Watkins was only targeted more than five times in a game once over the last five games. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have taken over the passing attack in Kansas City. Watkins was able to haul in five receptions for 39 yards during his regular season matchup against the Titans. DFS players shouldn't expect a better performance out of Watkins this time around.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to battle with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC Championship on Sunday. Mahomes is coming off a five touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He's already faced off against the Titans once this season and Mahomes didn't disappoint. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in that game. DFS players should be able to lean on Mahomes to at least be efficient on Sunday. He has a solid chance of being the best quarterback out of the bunch in the division title games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He rushed 12 times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards through the air. LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson have been absent from the backfield lately. The Chiefs have been leaning on Williams and it's been paying off. He's been able to find the end zone when he's called upon and piled up 109 yards against the Titans earlier in the season. Fantasy owners are aware that Williams has been up and down this season, but he's red-hot right now. He'll be used in both the rushing and passing attack, so DFS players should give Williams a long look for Sunday's slate.
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.