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.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon hung 99 rushing yards on the Denver Broncos two weeks ago, and he'll need to find that same charge this week when he squares off against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are allowing the 6th-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this year, so Gordon will have to be at the top of his game if he's going to have a solid day. Gordon has topped 90 scrimmage yards for five straight weeks, but Minnesota is easily the best defensive front he's seen since he returned to full usage. Expect it to be hard slogging for Gordon, and don't be surprised if he posts his first poor day since he took over the full workload.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has been on fire recently, recording a touchdown in three of his last four games and topping 100 yards receiving on two occasions. Ekeler also chipped in a 101-yard rushing day last week. Ekeler has proven time and time again that he has the playmaking ability to bust huge gains on limited touches, but he'll be going up against another strong defense this week. Minnesota has had a top-10 rushing defense all season, and last time Ekeler faced a strong defensive front, he was held to 16 yards on nine carries. It's unlikely Ekeler will be able to break a lot of big plays this week like he did in Jacksonville, but hopefully he can still weave his way into the end zone for a score.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is coming off a phenomenal game in Jacksonville, but he'll have his work cut out for him this week when the Minnesota Vikings come to town. Rivers will be squaring off against a top-10 defense versus opposing quarterbacks, and Minnesota's defense is tied for third in interceptions this year. With Rivers' penchant for turnovers this season, that could spell disaster for the 38-year old QB. The good news is that all of his offensive weapons will be healthy, but he's still a risky start.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett will miss his third straight outing Sunday versus the Dallas Cowboys due to a knee injury. Everetts absence will pave the way for Tyler Higbee to once again take over the primary tight end duties, which he has capitalized upon to deliver back-to-back 100-plus-yard efforts, putting him once again in line for TE1 status during season-long playoff matchups. After having combined for just three targets in his last two games played, Everetts next chance at suiting up comes next Saturday when the Rams take on the San Francisco 49ers, although there is no guarantee that Everett can reclaim his former starting status in the wake of Higbees explosive play.
The Washington Redskins Defense has played well enough to win two of its last three games, and kept the third respectable in a tough road matchup with the Packers last week. Up next is an Eagles offense that has struggled at times to score points, and whose depth at WR will be tested with Alshon Jeffery out for the year and Nelson Agholor on the pessimistic side of questionable for this matchup. Washington pressures opposing quarterbacks at the NFL's third-highest rate, and ranks top-10 in turnover rate as well. If the Redskins can contain Philly's rushing attack and accomplish the more difficult task of holding Zach Ertz in check, there is a scenario in which this unit could return start-worthy fantasy value in a potentially low-scoring game. Search elsewhere if you can help it, but the Redskins could serve as a high-risk, high-reward last resort if you're scrambling.
Washington Redskins WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) did not participate in practice Friday, Dec. 13, and has been ruled out for Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Terry McLaurin will continue to be the main option in the passing game and should be the only Redskins receiver used in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz could be busy against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15. The 25-year-old has made at least two field goals in five straight games and at least four extra points in three of the last five. He'll face a Colts Defense that has given up 30-plus points in back-to-back games. Lutz should be able to stay hot in Week 15 and is a must-start.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (hamstring) did not practice all week and has been ruled out for Week 15 against the Detroit Lions. LB Anthony Nelson (hamstring) was limited in practice all week, while DL Beau Allen (ankle) did not practice Friday, Dec. 13; both players have also been ruled out. OT Donovan Smith (ankle, knee) did not practice all week and is listed as doubtful. OG Alex Cappa (elbow) and QB Jameis Winston (thumb, knee) practiced in full Friday and are listed as questionable. Ndamukong Suh (non-injury) did not practice Friday but is expected to play. OT Demar Dotson (non-injury), WR Scott Miller (hamstring) and LB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) practiced in full Friday and have been removed from the injury report.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Jordan Howard (shoulder) was limited during practice Friday, Dec. 13, and is listed as questionable for Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Howard probably will be a game-time decision, so fantasy players will need to check the inactive list for his status. He has missed the last few weeks and probably would only receive a handful of carries if he plays. He can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook (concussion) gets a good matchup against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15. Cook was able to practice again today, this time without the non-contact jersey. He has a pretty good chance of suiting up on Monday night. What a game it was for Cook against the 49ers- he caught both of his passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with the injury. Cook and Drew Brees have been seeing eye-to-eye lately, resulting in at least six targets for Cook in three of his last five games. He has played himself into must-start territory at the thin tight end position and could be looking at another good game against the Colts' 22nd-ranked pass defense.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Kelvin Harmon could benefit from a tough Eagles run defense on Sunday. While Washington clearly prefers to run the ball and limit what is asked of Dwayne Haskins through the air, the Redskins may not be able to get away with that game plan against a Philly defense holding opposing running backs under four yards per carry. As such, the matchup may force Washington's hand into a more pass-heavy approach than it's comfortable with. If that's how it plays out, Haskins can't just throw the ball exclusively to Terry McLaurin and Chris Thompson all day. Someone else will have to find a way to contribute, and Harmon's chances were fractionally increasing in the three games prior to last week's one-catch, four-target outing. The risk here speaks for itself, but there's at least the possibility that game script works in Harmon's favor this Sunday.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady (elbow) fully participated in practice Friday, Dec. 13, and is not on the injury report for Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Brady has not been as productive this season as he has been in the past but should have success against the Cincinnati Bengals. He can be considered a low-end No. 1 quarterback in fantasy leagues.
Indianapolis Colts OL CB Kenny Moore II (ankle) and OL Le'Raven Clark (non-injury) did not participate in practice Friday, Dec. 13. CB Pierre Desir (groin) and WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) were limited.
Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor (knee) did not participate in practice Friday, Dec. 13, and is listed as questionable for Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Agholor missed all three practices this week and probably will not be able to play this week. Fantasy players should look for other options to use even if Agholor is active for the game.
New Orleans Saints LB Kiko Alonso (quad), OT Andrus Peat (forearm), S Vonn Bell (knee) and CB Patrick Robinson (calf) did not take part in practice for a second straight day Friday, Dec. 13. OT Terron Armstead (ankle), DE Cameron Jordan (abdomen), C Will Clapp (elbow), LB A.J. Klein (knee) and FB Zach Line (knee) were limited. TE Jared Cook (concussion) was upgraded to a full practice Friday, while QB Drew Brees (elbow) also participated in full.
New Orleans Saints wide receivers Tre'Quan Smith and Ted Ginn both get favorable matchups against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15. The problem is, neither has put together a consistent body of work this year. Smith caught his third touchdown of the year last week but hasn't seen more than four targets in a game this year. Ginn exceeded 50 yards for the first time since Week 1 last week. Both are boom-or-bust WR4 options for Week 15.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin's Week 15 opponent is an Eagles Defense that has allowed opposing wideouts to average 14.75 yards per reception. Philly has also surrendered 18 touchdowns to the position, which is tied for the fourth-highest total in the league. As always, McLaurin's fantasy profile is limited by suspect quarterback play and an all-around below-average offense, but the Redskins' number-one WR carries some promise into this matchup. What's more, many fantasy owners are reeling from injuries to weekly starting options like Mike Evans, Marvin Jones, Calvin Ridley and D.J. Chark. If you find yourself among those afflicted by any of these casualties, there are worse replacements out there than McLaurin.
New England Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu (ankle) was limited during practice Friday, Dec. 13, and is listed as questionable for Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Sanu will have a favorable matchup if he is able to play this week. He has not been a big factor since joining the Patriots but could be at least a flex option in fantasy leagues.
Detroit Lions OG Joe Dahl (back, knee), LB Jarrad Davis (ankle, knee), DT A'Shawn Robinson (shoulder), QB Matthew Stafford (hip, back) and OT Ricky Wagner (knee) were unable to practice all week and have been ruled out for Week 15 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. DT John Atkins (illness) and RB Bo Scarbrough (ribs) did not practice Friday, Dec. 13, and are listed as questionable. LB Christian Jones (shoulder) was limited in practice all week and is also listed as questionable. DT Damon Harrison (calf, knee, shoulder, rest) was limited in practice Friday but has been removed from the injury report. CB Jamal Agnew (ankle), DE Austin Bryant (hip), P Sam Martin (abdomen) and CB Rashaan Melvin (ribs) practiced in full Friday and also no longer appear on the injury report.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will face the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15. Thomas is coming off a great game against the 49ers' league-best pass defense, in which he saw a season-high 15 targets. Double-digit targets are a lock for Thomas again this week, considering how much stronger the Colts have been against the run than the pass. New Orleans may also be without tight end Jared Cook (concussion), which would free up some more targets for Thomas. Fantasy owners of the All-Pro receiver should have him locked into their lineups this week.