Mon Jan 21 9:28pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay and Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff hold the NFC Championship trophy after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) celebrates in the locker room after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game, against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) and Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett (81) celebrate in the locker room after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game, against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay reacts in the locker room with broadcaster Terry Bradshaw after overtime of the NFL football NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in New Orleans. The Rams won 26-23. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) When the Los Angeles Rams' team bus rolled into their suburban training complex after a boisterous flight from New Orleans, the players and coaches were greeted by rowdy fans welcoming home the new NFC champions in the middle of the night.
The Rams and their fans lost some sleep Sunday night - but not about that missed pass interference on Nickell Robey-Coleman that could have altered the outcome of Los Angeles' 26-23 overtime victory in the NFC championship game.
''I'm not going to sit here and say there clearly wasn't a little bit of contact before that ball actually arrived,'' Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday. ''But whether he catches it or not, there's a lot of things that go into that. ... I feel bad for when it occurred in the framework of the game, but I thought (Saints coach) Sean (Payton) said it best: There's a lot of other opportunities, and there's a lot of things that do dictate and determine the outcome of the game.''
And after watching the tape of their remarkable win, the Rams had a few questions of their own for the officiating crew.
Specifically, the Rams couldn't understand how the refs didn't call Saints linebacker A.J. Klein's apparent grab of Jared Goff's facemask on the Rams' previous drive. A penalty would have given a first down to the Rams at the New Orleans 1, putting them in prime position to take a 24-20 lead with a touchdown with 5:03 to play.
''When you slow it down, clearly you can see some of the things that took place. If you want to do that on every single play, though, there's a lot of instances. You want to slow some things down with a facemask on Goff, some different things,'' McVay said. ''What we try to do a good job of understanding is that it is an imperfect game.''
The Rams' latest victory wasn't perfect, but it was historic. This franchise is still deep in the years-long process of rebuilding its once-huge fan base in Southern California after 21 years away in St. Louis.
A trip to the Super Bowl in just their third season back home is an awfully good way to send that process into warp speed.
The Rams are headed to their first Super Bowl in 17 years. The Rams had only two winning seasons in between those Super Bowl runs, but McVay's team has swiftly reversed years of failure and put the Rams on the brink of Los Angeles' first NFL championship since the 1983 season, when the Raiders won it all.
''We've been through a lot, and for us to go out there and grind through all this adversity just shows you how close we are in this room,'' said guard Rodger Saffold, the longest-tenured Rams player in his ninth season. ''The fans were excited for us to come back, and now, three years later, we're on the biggest stage in sports. The city is electric for us.''
Aside from the late-game theatrics and twists, the Rams' victory was even more surprising because of the relatively small role played by their biggest offensive star.
Todd Gurley touched the ball only five times, while backup C.J. Anderson led the Rams' meager rushing game with 44 yards. Gurley was on the field for 32 snaps to Anderson's 37, but last season's Offensive Player of the Year didn't look like himself.
McVay on Monday reiterated his claim that Gurley is fully healthy even though the running back missed the Rams' final two regular-season games with an injured knee.
''He's feeling good, and he sure looked pretty healthy on that touchdown run where he ran through guys and demonstrated some explosion,'' McVay said. ''More than anything, I've got to get him more opportunities.''
Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas recently suggested that Houston will use a committee approach at tight end with Thomas, Jordan Akins, and rookie Kahale Warring, but Thomas is expected to be the leader of that committee and the player most likely to be a weapon in Houston's passing game. Thomas caught four touchdowns last season, but he saw his snap percentage fade as the season went along. Even if Thomas gets the most snaps, quarterback Deshaun Watson doesn't target tight ends at a rate that would make Thomas a sustainable fantasy starter.
Washington Redskins LB Josh Harvey-Clemons is expected to serve as the team's nickel linebacker this year, after bulking up in the offseason.
Washington Redskins LB Mason Foster is expected to be used as a starter at one of the team's inside linebacker spots, although it remains uncertain if he will appear in nickel sets.
Former Washington Redskins LB Preston Smith had attracted interest from the Indianapolis Colts during free agency before he ultimately signed with the Green Bay Packers.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (knee) is expected to be completely recovered from his torn anterior cruciate ligament in time to play against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller missed the entirety of spring workouts and figures to be limited at best early in training camp, but he will be roughly 10 months removed from surgery by the time the Texans visit the Saints on Sept. 9. Of course, his biggest challenge will be staying on the field - something he has struggled to do as a pro. He's a high-end WR3 who owners need to have a backup plan for, as he has missed 17 of a possible 48 games in his three-year NFL career.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill could be traded early next season if a contract extension can't be worked out, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
Fantasy Spin: Hill should be headed for another year of WR1 production as one of the main weapons in Kansas City's high-powered offense, but his ceiling could change dramatically if he switches teams. The trade talk is just speculation for now, but it is one more reason to try to acquire Mecole Hardman in keeper formats.
Seattle Seahawks WR Jaron Brown will likely enter the 2019 season as a starter in three-receiver sets, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR Amara Darboh could 'steal a roster spot' if he can build on his performance from OTAs, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Seattle Seahawks WR David Moore will open the season as a top-three receiver, according to Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times.
Fantasy Spin: Tyler Lockett is likely to be the top target in the passing attack, but the pecking order is wide open from there. With Seattle looking to replace Doug Baldwin, Moore could be worth a flier as a WR5.
Houston Texans RB D'Onta Foreman's performance this year will be a 'season-long audition' to show he deserves to be the lead back in 2020, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
Fantasy Spin: Lamar Miller enters 2019 as the starter, but he is also in a contract year. Foreman is a high-end handcuff in redraft leagues for now, but his upside in keeper formats is enormous. By next season, he could be the featured back in a potent offense.
Houston Texans TE Jordan Akins said he is prepping to play a variety of positions this season. 'I would say slot receiver,' Akins said. 'Special teams as well, up-back, punt return as well as fullback.'
Denver Broncos RB Royce Freeman could see a 'bigger market share of carries' this season, specifically near the goal line and in short-yardage situations, according to Benjamin Allbright of 104.7 FM Denver.
Fantasy Spin: It sounds like Freeman could essentially serve as a power back, giving him some value in touchdown-only formats. Overall, Phillip Lindsay is still the Denver back to own, but his owners should target Freeman as an insurance policy.
Denver Broncos QB Kevin Hogan was 'overshooting open receivers on multiple occasions' during practice Saturday, July 20, according to Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com.
The battle to be the backup quarterback rages this offseason for the Seattle Seahawks, but Geno Smith is getting a lot of compliments from the coaching staff so far. Head coach Pete Carroll made specific mention of Smith's comfort with handling the huddle and making adjustments at the line, and he compared Smith's savvy to that of longtime backup Tarvaris Jackson. That's high praise from the coach since it's incredibly rare that a backup QB is held in high a regard as Jackson was, but Smith has to win his competition with Paxton Lynch first. Lynch signed with Seattle early in the offseason, but the coaching staff hasn't made any indications about who is winning the job yet. For now, it looks to be a battle that will go on throughout all of training camp.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaron Brown filled a red-zone niche for the team last year, but head coach Pete Carroll seems to already be scheming for him in 2019. Carroll told reporters that he felt the team had "underused" him last season and expects to get more out of his this year. Brown only caught 14 passes last year, five for touchdowns, but he's still incredibly fast. With D.K. Metcalf in the mix, Brown could see more utilization in a dual deep threat type of set, and fantasy owners shouldn't forget that Russell Wilson is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league on deep balls. If Carroll is telling the truth about the team's plans, Brown could be a surprise star in Seattle.
The Seattle Seahawks see big things in wide receiver Tyler Lockett, even if he's not very large. With the retirement of their steady No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin over the offseason, Seattle will be trying to fill big shoes in the passing game. It all begins with Lockett. Lockett had a breakout season in 2018 as Baldwin dealt with injuries that would eventually end his career, and it looks like the torch can be passed in most ways. Both are small, quick receivers who run excellent routes and have steady hands, so the feel of the offense shouldn't change dramatically. The real question will be how much use Lockett will get, even if he is the go-to guy. Seattle is notorious for spreading the ball around and not letting Russell Wilson do too much of the work, but there's no clear-cut No. 2 receiver behind Lockett, so he will likely see the vast majority of the looks, especially on third down.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver David Moore burst onto the scene in 2018 by making a host of acrobatic, highlight-reel catches to announce his presence. Unfortunately, he slowed down with time, and it turned out that his acrobatics covered up for the fact that he struggled to get open on a consistent basis. His highs have been outstanding and stick in peoples' minds, but he also fades into the background during most games. Entering camp in 2019, Moore will be competing against Jaron Brown and D.K. Metcalf to try to lock up the No. 2 spot in the wide receiver pecking order. His competition is talented, but all three receivers have their warts. If Moore can improve his ability to get separation on a regular basis, he could easily run away from the others (metaphorically speaking).
Arizona Cardinals TE Charles Clay (knee) was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Saturday, July 20.
Fantasy Spin: Clay has a good chance to be the starter for the Cardinals this season but may not have a big role in the passing game. He probably can be avoided in most leagues.
Arizona Cardinals DT Robert Nkemdiche (knee), OT Max Garcia (knee), LB Brooks Reed (hip) and CB Brandon X. Williams (back) were placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list Saturday, July 20.
The Eagles are bringing back running back Darren Sproles for one more season. After playing in just six games last year, it looked like Sproles might be done in the NFL, but the Eagles decided to bring Sproles back to an already crowded backfield that features Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, and Miles Sanders. Clement might be in the most trouble from the Sproles signing, but overall it's looking more and more like this is a running back committee that fantasy owners should stay away from. This move does almost guarantee that either Josh Adams or Wendell Smallwood are cut before the season opens.