Fri Dec 8 8:38am ET
Field Level Media
GAME OF THE WEEK
Thanks to their respective divisions, head-scratching losses by one, a pair of the NFL's elite teams entering the season are on very different paths.
We'll target the "losing" team and ride with its depth, but before we expound, let's briefly check the rearview mirror.
The Atlanta Falcons are becoming the "just-get-it-done" team. They covered against the Jets, but - thanks to those Jets - the game failed to cash our teased "over" of 28.
We loved the Rams last week - even more after they confirmed our confidence by turning back the addled Cleveland Browns.
Perhaps we should be wary of running it back with LA, due in part to meeting the Ravens in Baltimore.
See how the primary play developed, along with a bonus play and a player prop below.
Bills at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET
The line: Chiefs -1.5, total 48.5 (FanDuel)
The "loser" mentioned above? That's Buffalo.
Hyped and supported before the season began, the Bills quickly fell on hard times and now are underdogs to make the playoffs.
At 6-6 entering Sunday, their win total this week is posted at over/under 8.5 wins (-124 at FanDuel).
If you're a Bills believer, now is the time to invest, and the comeback starts in Kansas City against a Chiefs team looking for redemption.
Kansas City stumbled in Lambeau against the Green Bay Packers in a game during which its flaws were plain to see.
Patrick Mahomes has virtually no help.
Travis Kelce isn't the easy escape plan he once was.
The improved defense can be beaten, since Jordan Love and an iffy running game did the job last Sunday.
Josh Allen leads a Bills' offense that rolled to 34 points and moved the ball well through the air at Philadelphia. Buffalo is coming off a bye week while the Chiefs try to rebound from a road defeat.
Can Buffalo win three or even four of its remaining five games? After KC, the Bills are home for Dallas, at the Chargers, home for the Patriots and at the Dolphins.
The Bills just have more talent available than KC, and are certainly the more desperate team. They're fifth in both passing and rushing EPA and average 260 passing yards per game (also fifth in the NFL).
It's Buffalo vs. Patrick Mahomes and whatever Mahomes can coax out of his teammates.
We'll take a shot with the Bills - and maybe peruse the various sportsbooks for win totals, postseason odds and sprinkle a little belief on a Super Bowl winner wager (+3500 at FanDuel late in the week).
The bet: Same-game teaser parlay, Bills +7.5 parlayed with Josh Allen passing yards over 225 (odds of -120 at FanDuel).
THEY SAID IT
"We don't want to be in situations like this but we feel like we've been in this situation before, and it has produced some of our best football."
--Bills quarterback Josh Allen
Rams at Ravens, 1 p.m. ET
The line: Ravens -7.5, total 40.5 (FanDuel).
Matt Stafford is still a quality NFL quarterback, and when he's fully healthy he's still among the top third in the league.
With a Kyren Williams-led rushing attack and an improving defense, LA looks like a playoff team.
The Ravens are still figuring out the right buttons to push since losing standout tight end Mark Andrews to an ankle injury.
Lamar Jackson lost his security blanket and the offense now will rely on Jackson's passing accuracy in the face of a pass rush led by fearsome Aaron Donald.
Yes, the Baltimore defense is typically stout as the season grinds into December, but another vaunted defense, the Browns, posed little trouble for LA last week.
The play: Rams +7.5 (-118 at FanDuel).
This prop feels a little "Grinchy" as the holidays roll toward us, but the weather outside looks frightful.
The overwhelming choice (-9000!!) for Rookie of the Year, CJ Stroud, is a great story. He's been poised and has shown all the traits of a terrific leader.
This week, he just needs to lead Houston to a win over the New York Jets.
He doesn't need to take crazy shots downfield in a game expected to be played in the rain - and perhaps more than a little wind.
The Texans should be able to control the Jets and returning starter Zach Wilson on Sunday with a measured, if a little boring, attack.
The New York secondary is still very competent, and no one - not even the Grinch - wants to risk a pick-6.
Prop play: Texans QB CJ Stroud under 226.5 passing yards. (-114 at FanDuel).
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder has been held under 170 passing yards in each of his last two starts since returning as the team's starter. Ridder did very little during last week's win over the New York Jets. Despite that, the Falcons plan to stick with Ridder for at least the rest of this season. However, it's uncertain if he'll be back as the team's starter next season if he continues to play like he has lately. In the meantime, he'll be a desperation deep league option against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (ankle) doesn't sound too close to being ready to suit up for the Week 14 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The stud signal-caller reportedly has a lot to prove before being cleared to play this weekend. The organization wants to see Lawrence at something close to full capacity before letting him get back on the field. Otherwise, C.J. Beathard (shoulder) would be tasked with starting against the Browns this weekend. A banged up Lawrence wouldn't be a reliable starter in 12-team formats, so hopefully he'll get close to 100 percent before Sunday.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jake Bobo (knee) was a full participant during Thursday's practice. It appears Bobo is feeling better after only getting through a limited practice on Wednesday. This season, Bobo has 15 receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns as well as a rushing touchdown. It's hard to imagine Bobo having much of an impact with a majority of the Seahawks wideouts being healthy. Fantasy managers should look elsewhere for a streaming option for Week 14.
Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams (knee) was a limited participant during Thursday's practice session. It's a step in the right direction after Adams was forced to sit out of Wednesday's practice. It looks like Adams should be able to suit up for the Week 14 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Adams has 44 tackles and two passes defended in eight games this season. His presence is certainly an upgrade to the sometimes shaky Seahawks defense.
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones hasn't made a sack in the past two weeks, and that trend isn't likely to change in Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have allowed the fewest sacks this season. In his past three games, Josh Allen has only been taken down twice. Jones is coming off a zero-tackle game against the Green Bay Packers, his second of the season. After a career year in 2022, Jones is making fewer tackles and fewer QB hits, and he is not a consistent producer in IDP fantasy football.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (concussion) was a limited practice participant on Thursday. Goodwin remains limited just as he was on Wednesday, with the 5-foot-9, 185-pound wideout having been on the mend for four weeks of action due to a concussion. With Amari Cooper (concussion/ribs) not practicing with a concussion of his own, the Browns will hope the 33-year-old Goodwin can find the fountain of youth for some big-play ability if he returns for Week 14's home date with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Eight of Goodwin's 11 targets have come on deep passes this year, and the low-percentage looks have left him at a lowly 10 yards on three receptions in eight games overall. Despite the prospect of the big-armed Joe Flacco under center for Cleveland, Goodwin is unlikely to muster up enough appeal to make him fantasy viable if he is cleared to play on Sunday.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. (ribs) was a full participant in Thursday's practice. An injury to Mims' ribs limited his practice reps during Wednesday's session, but a return to full activity on Thursday firmly puts him on course to be active for Week 14's home contest versus the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers. A three-game stretch with 233 receiving yards and a touchdown from Weeks 2 through 4 seem like a distant memory at this point for the 21-year-old second-round rookie, who has managed just 45 scoreless yards over the subsequent eight outings dating back to Week 5. Assuming he is available for Sunday's action, Mims would line up to take on his normal complementary role as a situational deep threat for quarterback Russell Wilson behind top targets Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.
Dallas Cowboys running back Rico Dowdle (ankle) practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday. After getting in a limited practice on Wednesday as well, Dowdle would appear to have a decent chance of suiting up as Tony Pollard's breather back for Week 14's key matchup between two of the NFC's finest squads with the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Dallas played on Thursday Night Football in Week 13, so Dowdle will have had 10 days to recuperate by the time Sunday arrives. The shifty 25-year-old is arguably one Pollard injury away from potential league-winning fantasy status and makes for a shrewd bench stash for teams already settled into favorable playoff positioning. Dowdle has taken 63 carries for 261 yards with 11 receptions for 76 yards and three total touchdowns as Pollard's clear-cut backup over Deuce Vaughn in Arlington this year.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon (groin) was a full practice participant on Thursday. Head coach Andy Reid originally anticipated McKinnon returning to the backfield mix after a one-game absence for last Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers, but the 31-year-old satellite back ended up being ruled out once again with the groin injury. McKinnon was only able to log two limited sessions during Week 13 preparation, but Thursday's full activity gets him back on track to re-enter the Chiefs' lineup for his usual change-of-pace role behind lead-back Isiah Pacheco in Week 14's battle with the Buffalo Bills. McKinnon ranks as fantasy's overall RB55 in full-PPR points per game (5.6), but fantasy managers still holding out hope may recall that the veteran was tearing it up as a late-season league winner at this time last year. McKinnon scored eight touchdowns in the final six games of the 2022 campaign.
Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson (illness) did not participate in practice on Thursday. The Raiders have added Carlson to the injury report as a DNP for Thursday's session due to an illness, suddenly threatening his ability to suit up for Sunday's interconference tilt against the Minnesota Vikings. We'll see if Carlson is feeling better on Friday. The 28-year-old former All-Pro has yielded shaky results this season, hitting 83.3% of his 24 field-goal attempts after burying at least 90% of his tries in each of the prior three years. Las Vegas would likely need to find an emergency option off the scrap heap if Carlson's illness ends up costing him Week 14, as they don't currently employ a second kicker on their practice squad.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens secured five of his six targets for 19 yards in a Week 14 loss to the New England Patriots. Pickens, who had been averaging an impressive 17 yards per catch on the season, was utilized close to the line of scrimmage on Thursday night with quarterback Mitch Trubisky starting in place of the injured Kenny Pickett (ankle). If Pickett is forced to miss another contest, it will be very difficult to trust Pickens for fantasy purposes in Week 15 when the Steelers travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth recorded three receptions for 18 yards on seven targets in a 21-18 loss to the New England Patriots. Although quarterback Mitch Trubisky frequently looked for Freiermuth, the 25-year-old struggled to find success against a Patriots defense that has shut down tight ends all season. Given the state of the Steelers' offense, Freiermuth should not be expected to produce for fantasy purposes consistently. He'll look to bounce back in a more favorable matchup against the Indianapolis Colts next week.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson recorded three receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown on seven targets in a 21-18 loss to the New England Patriots. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky looked Johnson's way often and found him downfield for a 25-yard score late in the second quarter. After finishing with zero touchdowns last season, Johnson has scored three times in nine games in 2023. If Kenny Pickett (ankle) is inactive again in Week 15, Johnson will likely operate as Trubisky's favorite target once again in a showdown with the Indianapolis Colts.
For the second straight day this week, New York Jets tight end Tyler Conklin (hamstring) put in a limited practice. Conklin hasn't missed a single game all year and appears to be on the right track to suit up in Week 14 against the Houston Texans. He has yet to find the end zone in 12 games in 2023, but it's worth nothing that he drew a season-high nine targets in the Week 13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, catching only three of them for 35 yards. While Conklin isn't going to suddenly jump onto the TE1 fantasy tier given the poor offense he resides in, but he should have a higher ceiling now that quarterback Zach Wilson is taking back over as the starter this weekend.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren managed just 11 yards on seven carries and hauled in four of his five targets for 29 yards in a Week 14 loss to the New England Patriots. Although Warren's seven carries were his fewest in a contest since Week 8, his utilization in the passing game was encouraging. Still, it didn't amount to much fantasy production as the Patriots held Warren and Najee Harris to 88 total yards combined. Fortunately, Warren will have a good shot to return to form in Week 15 against a struggling Indianapolis Colts defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed 21 of his 34 pass attempts for 169 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in a 21-18 loss to the New England Patriots. He added 30 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown on eight carries. Filling in for the injured Kenny Pickett (ankle), Trubisky struggled to lead the Steelers' offense on Thursday night. Although he connected with Diontae Johnson on a nice deep ball for a 25-yard score, the 29-year-old missed open receivers and made questionable decisions on multiple occasions. If Pickett is ruled out again in Week 15, Trubisky would likely be in line to make a second consecutive start against the Indianapolis Colts.
New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (Achilles) had a planned off day in his rehab on Wednesday but returned to a limited practice on Thursday. The fact that Rodgers is even practicing at all after tearing his Achilles in Week 1 is amazing in itself. With that said, the 40-year-old still isn't close to game action and isn't going to attempt a miraculous comeback in 2023 unless the Jets somehow start winning games to get into the postseason picture in the AFC. For fantasy purposes, it's even more of a long shot that Rodgers will make an impact this year. In a best-case scenario, Rodgers was hoping to potentially return in Week 16 on Christmas Eve against the Washington Commanders.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris handled 12 carries for 29 yards and secured all three of his targets for 19 yards in a Week 14 loss to the New England Patriots. The 25-year-old continued to split work with backfield mate Jaylen Warren, but neither of them managed to do much against a stout New England run defense. Pittsburgh's offense struggled to move the ball with Mitch Trubisky under center as Harris was held to fewer than 50 total yards for just the second time since Week 6. Harris and the Steelers will look to bounce back against a vulnerable Indianapolis Colts defense next Saturday.
New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe completed 19 of 28 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception during Thursday's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had one of the best games of his career, leading the underdog Patriots to just their third victory of 2023 (and their first since Week 7). This performance is all the more impressive when you consider that Zappe didn't have key offensive playmakers Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle), Demario Douglas (concussion), and DeVante Parker (knee) at his disposal. The Patriots will draw a tough matchup against the Chiefs in Week 15, but Zappe could remain on the fantasy radar as a low-end QB2 if New England falls behind early and has to pass a lot.
New England Patriots wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster caught four of six targets for 90 yards during Thursday's upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a revenge game for Smith-Schuster, who played in Pittsburgh from 2017 through 2021. He accumulated a large portion of his yardage on the opening drive with a spectacular 37-yard grab down the sideline. There's no denying that the 27-year-old benefitted from being the top wide receiver with Demario Douglas (concussion) and DeVante Parker (knee) out. Despite his big game, he'll be tough to trust in fantasy football against another one of his old teams, the Chiefs, next week. By then, Douglas or Parker (or both) could be back, taking Smith-Schuster off the fantasy radar.