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Arthur Smith credits defense as Falcons eye three-game win streak

Mon Dec 4 6:32pm ET
Field Level Media

After a three-game losing streak, the Atlanta Falcons are in position to piece together a three-game winning streak Sunday when they host the rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Following a 13-8 road win over the New York Jets, Atlanta is 6-6 overall and 3-0 in the NFC South. If the season were to end this week, Atlanta would earn the fourth seed in the NFC playoff bracket. The rival Bucs and New Orleans Saints are each one game back in the division race.

"You are going to hit adversity in some seasons. There have been some really great teams that have had a three-game skid," Smith said.

"In the NFL, very rarely has anybody had a perfect season. Everybody strives for it, but what you're seeing is, everybody is going to have adversity. But if you don't have the right people, it can go sideways in a hurry."

Smith praised his defense for helping to right the ship. The Falcons haven't allowed a touchdown in two weeks -- the Saints made five field goals in Atlanta's 24-15 two games ago before the Jets were limited to two field goals and a safety Sunday.

In the win over New York, the Falcons recorded four sacks, forced four fumbles (two of which were recovered) and had one interception.

The Jets had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead, but Trevor Siemian was sacked by Arnold Ebiketie, which put New York in a fourth-and-17 situation on its 37-yard line.

On the next play, Bud Dupree nailed Siemian, which forced an errant throw and ended the game.

"This is the NFL, people are going to make plays, but don't give up (and) turn those into disasters and let them get momentum," Smith said. "That's a credit to mindset, but a lot of things we've been trying to work on week to week, certainly coming out of the bye, and we'll continue to try to do that."

Ebiketie leads Atlanta in sacks with 5.5, while Dupree has five. Despite the losses of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, starting defensive linemen Calais Campbell, David Onyemata and Kentavius Street have joined Ebiketie and Dupree in making it tough on opposing offenses.

"When those guys are rolling, you can have the best scheme but it's going to come down to the fundamentals," Smith said about his team's defense. "We have some guys that are heavy-handed and play with good technique and leverage.

"You may think you have Calais Campbell doubled, but Calais is a grown man out there. He makes it hard to run close-sided on him, and David is as good as anybody. His stats may not show up in the stat sheet, but if you ask any player or coach in this league they'll tell you he's a real dude inside."

Atlanta ranks 10th in the league in total defense (315.9 yards per game) and seventh in scoring defense (20.0 points per game).

Tampa Bay (5-7, 2-1 NFC South) is coming off a 21-18 win over Carolina. Star wide receiver Mike Evans has scored five touchdowns in the past four games, so Atlanta's secondary could have its hands full, especially if top cornerback A.J. Terrell is sidelined. Terrell left the game against the Jets and is in concussion protocol.

Regardless, Smith wants his team to keep stacking wins.

"It's a big game. But we're looking forward to it," Smith said.

--Smith said the injuries to Terrell, right tackle Kaleb McGary and linebacker Nate Landman were "not long-term" and he would know more about their status Wednesday.

McGary and Landman are dealing with knee injuries.

"It may be a week or two weeks, but luckily it's not season-ending for Kaleb or Nate," Smith said.

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Player Notes
Zach Ertz Dec 4 7:30pm ET
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When asked about whether the team would consider adding free-agent tight end Zach Ertz, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said, "We like our tight ends. I think right now we'll roll with those guys." Mark Andrews (ankle) is expected to miss the rest of the season, but the Ravens are comfortable using second-year tight end Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar to replace him the rest of the season. Ertz was released by the Arizona Cardinals last week and is free to sign with any team. The veteran tight end wants to go somewhere he can win another Super Bowl ring, with the Bills, Chiefs and Eagles seemingly his best options. Philly makes the most sense given Dallas Goedert's (forearm) injury and the fact that Ertz began his career with the Eagles.

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Travis Etienne Dec 4 7:20pm ET
Travis Etienne

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (ribs) is officially active for Monday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals to close out Week 13 action. Etienne was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but he was always expected to play after being limited in practice last week. There's a chance that the 24-year-old loses a few snaps to backups D'Ernest Johnson and rookie Tank Bigsby on Monday, but he should continue to be Jacksonville's clear lead back. Etienne is currently the RB3 in half-PPR scoring this year and should be locked into all starting fantasy lineups, especially against a Bengals defense that has allowed the second-most rushing yards per game (139.6) in 2023.

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Tyler Higbee Dec 4 7:10pm ET
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Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee (neck) has cleared the league's concussion protocol but is dealing with a neck stinger after taking a hard hit in the Week 13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Higbee came out of nowhere for his first two touchdowns of the year in Week 12 and had two receptions on four targets for only 35 yards in the win over Cleveland before getting knocked out of the game. We'll have a better idea of whether Higbee can play in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens when the Rams begin practicing on Wednesday. Even if he's active, fantasy managers should consider him a low-upside TE2 in a tough matchup. Hunter Long and Brycen Hopkins would have bigger roles for the Rams at the position if Higbee misses any time.

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Puka Nacua Dec 4 7:00pm ET
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Los Angeles Rams rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua (shoulder) suffered an AC sprain in his right shoulder in the Week 13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, according to head coach Sean McVay, but the Rams doesn't expect the injury to impact Nacua's availability for a Week 14 showdown against the Baltimore Ravens. The 23-year-old also had to leave Sunday's game briefly due to cramping, but he finished out the 36-19 win and had four receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown to continue his amazing rookie campaign. Fantasy managers should expect Nacua to miss some practice time this week but to ultimately suit up in a tough matchup this weekend against Baltimore. As long as he's active, Nacua has become a must-start in fantasy lineups in 2023.

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Stephen Anderson Dec 4 6:43pm ET
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Los Angeles Chargers TE Stephen Anderson reverted back to the practice squad Monday, Dec. 4, after being on the active roster for the Week 13 game.

From TheHuddle

JuJu Smith-Schuster Dec 4 6:40pm ET
JuJu Smith-Schuster

New England Patriots wide receivers DeVante Parker (knee) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (ankle) were both listed as limited on Monday's estimated practice report. Rookie receivers Demario Douglas (concussion) and Kayshon Boutte (shoulder) picked up DNPs, so New England's already thin receiving corps is pretty banged up heading into a Week 14 matchup versus the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. Parker led the Pats in targets (nine) and receiving yards (64) in Sunday's 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, and he should benefit again if he plays this Thursday night and Douglas remains in the league's concussion protocol. If Parker and Smith-Schuster are limited at all or out this week, second-year man Tyquan Thornton would see an even bigger role in the worst offense in the NFL.

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Ezekiel Elliott Dec 4 6:40pm ET
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New England Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott (thigh) is on the Week 14 injury report and was listed as limited on Monday's estimated practice report. Elliott's status this week takes on added importance heading into Thursday night's clash against the Pittsburgh Steelers with lead back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) unlikely to play after spraining his ankle in the Week 13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Elliott saw a season-high 17 carries on Sunday but picked up only 52 rushing yards (3.1 yards per carry) and caught four of five targets for an extra 40 yards in the shutout loss. If Zeke is able to play in Week 14, he'll be a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex with an increase in volume as the Patriots' go-to option in their backfield.

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Joe Flacco Dec 4 6:33pm ET
Joe Flacco

Cleveland Browns QB Joe Flacco reverted back to the practice squad Monday, Dec. 4, after being on the active roster for the Week 13 game.

Fantasy Spin: Flacco probably will return to the active roster for the Week 14 game if Dorian Thompson-Robinson is not able to play. He posted decent numbers in his start against the Los Angeles Rams but can be avoided in leagues if he starts again this week.

From TheHuddle

Rhamondre Stevenson Dec 4 6:30pm ET
Rhamondre Stevenson

New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) was listed as a non-participant on Monday's estimated injury report. Stevenson reportedly suffered a sprained ankle early in Sunday's 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and never returned. The 25-year-old was undergoing more tests on Monday, but he's in line to miss some time, especially on a short week with the team facing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football in Week 14. Ezekiel Elliott (thigh) is also on the injury report, but he should be able to play this Thursday and would have added value as New England's primary backfield option if Stevenson is ruled out. The Patriots also have Ty Montgomery and JaMycal Hasty as backfield options.

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Demario Douglas Dec 4 6:30pm ET
Demario Douglas

New England Patriots rookie wide receivers Demario Douglas (concussion) and Kayshon Boutte (shoulder) were listed as non-participants on Monday's estimated practice report. Douglas, who had become New England's most targeted wideout after Kendrick Bourne's (knee) season-ending injury, suffered a concussion in Week 12 and did not play in the Week 13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Neither he nor Boutte, a rookie that has been active only three times in 2023, are likely to suit up on a short week this Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. DeVante Parker was the biggest beneficiary in the passing game with Douglas out this past Sunday, as he led the team in receiving, but it's extremely tough to trust any Patriots receivers in fantasy lineups right now.

From RotoBaller

Dorian Thompson-Robinson Dec 4 6:20pm ET
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Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said that rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol on Monday. Thompson-Robinson suffered a concussion in the Week 12 loss to the Denver Broncos and sat out in favor of veteran Joe Flacco in the Week 13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The 24-year-old will likely go back to starting under center for the Browns when he's healthy, but he should be considered questionable, at best, to play in Week 14 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In his first action of 2023, Flacco went 23-for-44 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a serviceable performance after just recently being signed by Cleveland.

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Jerome Baker Dec 4 6:13pm ET
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Miami Dolphins LB Jerome Baker (knee) is dealing with a medial collateral ligament injury and is considered week-to-week.

From TheHuddle

Matt Barkley Dec 4 6:13pm ET
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New York Giants QB Matt Barkley was waived Monday, Dec. 4.

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Zach Wilson Dec 4 6:10pm ET
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The New York Jets want to make a switch again at quarterback after benching Tim Boyle for Trevor Siemian in their Week 13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, and they are leaning towards Zach Wilson taking over. However, he is reportedly reluctant to step back in and the Jets are discussing their next steps. Aaron Rodgers (Achilles) reached out to Wilson in an effort to advise him to resume the starting role. Head coach Robert Saleh said he's not ready to name a starting QB for Week 14 against the Houston Texans. "Let's be clear, if he were reluctant to play, he wouldn't be here," Saleh said of Wilson. The 24-year-old QB is apprehensive due to perceived injury risk as it pertains to his future value to another organization beyond this season. Wilson is probably New York's best option to lead the offense as long as Rodgers is out, but it he'll remain nothing more than a low-end QB2 option if he starts in Week 14.

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C.J. Uzomah Dec 4 6:10pm ET
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New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh said that tight end C.J. Uzomah (knee) will go on Injured Reserve after injuring his knee in the Week 13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Going on Injured Reserve will require Uzomah to miss four games, so there's a good chance he won't play again in 2023 with only five games remaining. The 30-year-old suffered a sprained MCL on Sunday. Uzomah has been well off the fantasy radar in New York this year with only eight catches for 58 yards and one touchdown in 12 games played. Tyler Conklin will continue serving as the team's top pass-catching tight end, while Jeremy Ruckert will be the No. 2 the rest of the way in New York.

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Arik Armstead Dec 4 5:53pm ET
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San Francisco 49ers DE Arik Armstead (foot, knee) is dealing with both a foot and knee injury, and the team needs more information before determining his status, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

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Christian Watson Dec 4 5:50pm ET
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Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said they don't know yet if the hamstring injury that wide receiver Christian Watson suffered at the end of the Sunday night win over the Kansas City Chiefs is as severe as the one that kept him out for the first three games of 2023. The good news is Watson looked to be moving around better on Monday during a brief sighting in the locker room. Before the 24-year-old's injury in Week 13, he had seven catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns while adding 15 rushing yards on two carries. We may not know much more on Watson's status until Green Bay begins practicing on Thursday for their Monday night game in Week 14 against the New York Giants. A questionable tag would make fantasy managers' decision to start Watson even more difficult this week. If Watson is forced to miss time, Romeo Doubs and rookies Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks would work in three-receiver sets for the Packers.

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Tank Dell Dec 4 5:30pm ET
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Houston Texans rookie wide receiver Tank Dell (leg) underwent surgery on Monday for the broken fibula he suffered in the Week 13 win over the Denver Broncos, and head coach DeMeco Ryans confirmed that Dell will miss the rest of the season. It's a big blow to the Texans' offense, as Dell had become one of their top receivers after being taken in the third round earlier this year. The promising 24-year-old pass-catcher will finish his first NFL campaign with 47 receptions for 709 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games played. He added 51 rushing yards on 11 carries. It's a bad ending to his first season, but Dell should maintain plenty of long-term fantasy value with quarterback C.J. Stroud in Houston. With Dell now out, Nico Collins, Noah Brown and veteran Robert Woods should see more targets as the Texans battle for a playoff spot.

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Derek Carr Dec 4 5:13pm ET
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New Orleans Saints QB Derek Carr (concussion, ribs) is in the concussion protocol after the Week 13 game and is also dealing with injured ribs, according to head coach Dennis Allen. Allen said Carr is not dealing with a shoulder injury.

Fantasy Spin: Carr's status for Week 14 is uncertain since he will need to be cleared by the doctors before he can play. Jameis Winston will start if Carr is not able to play, but neither quarterback should be a starting option in standard leagues.

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Reuben Foster Dec 4 5:13pm ET
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Free-agent LB Reuben Foster (Commanders) is scheduled to work out for the Miami Dolphins Wednesday, Dec. 6.

From TheHuddle