Wed Dec 8 5:37pm ET
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) cannot make the catch on a pass as Baltimore Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett (23) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The way Anthony Averett's role has evolved this year is a microcosm of what the Baltimore Ravens have gone through as a team.
In his first three seasons with Baltimore, Averett made seven starts total. In 2021, he's made 11, pressed into more significant responsibility in a secondary that - like the rest of the Ravens - has been beset by injuries.
''It's like nobody (is) left from the beginning,'' Averett said. ''We've just got to continue to move forward.''
The latest major injury for the Ravens was the loss of cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who went on injured reserve Wednesday. That takes a two-time Pro Bowler off the field for Baltimore, which lost another key cornerback - three-time Pro Bowler Marcus Peters - to a season-ending injury just days before the team's opener in September.
Preseason injuries to Peters and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards had the Ravens facing challenges from the start. They've handled that well enough that they lead the AFC North with five games remaining, but there's still a sense that any one of these injuries could be a breaking point.
The Ravens will do their best to make sure that doesn't happen.
''Our guys are going to handle adversity well,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''That's something that is established. We're just going to go play the game. We have all the players that we need to do it. We have all the schemes. We have all the coaches. We have the people.''
Baltimore (8-4) takes a one-game lead in the division into this weekend's game at Cleveland, but the Ravens lead the last-place Browns by only two games. Since starting the season 5-1, Baltimore is 3-3 - and there have been few signs of a letup when it comes to the injuries.
The Ravens have 17 players on IR. That doesn't count tackle Ja'Wuan James, who on Wednesday was designated for return, or kicker Jake Verity, who is on practice squad/IR.
In addition to Humphrey, Peters, Dobbins and Edwards, Baltimore's IR list includes starting safety DeShon Elliott, veteran linebacker Pernell McPhee, starting tackle Ronnie Stanley, and defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, who started down the stretch last season. Offensive lineman Patrick Mekari isn't on IR but does have a hand injury - and Averett actually missed practice as well Wednesday after talking to reporters. He has a knee issue.
The Ravens have had little choice but to ask players like Averett to step up. He's played 670 snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That's more than he had in his first three seasons combined.
''Everybody's pretty much going to be playing everything,'' Averett said. ''All replaceable parts. That's how we're pretty much going to do it from now on.''
Averett gives Harbaugh credit for helping the team overcome a lot of its obstacles this season.
''He's the main man. He's what keeps our mind right. We pretty much just let him take the lead,'' Averett said. ''It's not really all about us sometimes, too. It's the coaching, too, that prepares us for these type of things. So everybody's just got to be ready for the opportunity for the new faces that come on the field.''
One area that's become more healthy as the season has progressed is the receiving corps. Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman have all missed time, but they're able to play now. That hasn't been much help to an offense that's scored under 20 points in five of the last six games.
What has helped the Ravens is that every team in the AFC has four losses or more, so Baltimore is still atop the division despite all its problems.
But that position looks awfully precarious at the moment.
''Nobody thought we were going to be in this position - No. 1 in the AFC North - anyway,'' Averett said. ''So, we've just got to continue to move forward.''
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Pat Freiermuth will suit up against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14's Thursday Night Football contest. Freiermuth had a six-game streak of at least 8.1 PPR fantasy points broken in his three-catch, 26-yard dud against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13. He will look to bounce back in a tough matchup against a Minnesota defense that is allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Despite the tough matchup, Freiermuth's recent production speaks for itself at a position where it can be tough to come by fantasy points, leaving him as a low-end TE1 for Week 14.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson is in the midst of a hot streak as he has caught 24 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns over his past three games. He will suit up against the Minnesota Vikings on the road in Week 14's Thursday Night Football contest. Johnson finds himself in a smash spot against a Minnesota secondary that is allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Fantasy gamers should lock Johnson into starting lineups as a no-brainer WR1 in Week 14.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool is listed without an injury designation after getting in a full practice on Wednesday. Claypool will suit up against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14's Thursday Night Football game. The second-year wideout has been playing through a toe injury over the past few weeks, although it will not prevent him from taking the field on Thursday in a plus matchup against Minnesota. Claypool has a chance to have a big game as the Vikings are allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers in 2021. Although he has just one touchdown on the year, Claypool has been reasonably productive of late as he has at least 52 receiving yards in each of his past three games. Treat him as a solid WR3 for Week 14.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris has been held out of the end zone for two straight games as opposing defenses have done a nice job shutting him down of late. He will look to bounce back in Week 14's Thursday Night Football contest against the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota is allowing the 12th-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs in 2021. Harris has been slumping a bit of late but he remains one of the safest bets for a heavy rushing workload in the league and his receiving prowess keeps his fantasy floor high. Treat Harris as a top-five fantasy running back in Week 14.
Minnesota Vikings linebackers Eric Kendricks (biceps) and Anthony Barr (hamstring, knee) both practiced in full on Wednesday and were removed from the final injury report for Week 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. Kendricks and Barr will return after the Week 13 loss to the Detroit Lions. Barr has missed six games this year due to injury, but he's been effective when on the field with 32 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Kendricks enters Week 14 action as the fifth-ranked IDP linebacker thanks to 63 tackles, four sacks, four passes defensed, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in 11 games. Return him to your starting lineups if he's on your roster.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got in a full practice on Wednesday and was removed from the injury report ahead of his team's Thursday night game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14. Roethlisberger draws a plus matchup against a Vikings defense that is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2021. Big fantasy weeks have been few and far between for Roethlisberger this season but he does have some upside against a Minnesota offense that can put plenty of points on the board. Treat Roethlisberger as a mid-range QB2 in fantasy for Week 14.
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden (foot) missed practice all week and will miss the Week 14 game on Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings. It will be the fourth straight game that Haden has missed. The Steelers will miss their 32-year-old cornerback, but the Steelers defense/special teams might be worth throwing in your starting fantasy lineups this week as a streamer while going up against a Vikings offense that won't have wide receiver Adam Thielen (ankle) and could be without their star running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder) for a second straight game. Star linebacker T.J. Watt is healthy and can wreck an offensive game plan almost single-handedly.
The Los Angeles Chargers placed wide receiver Mike Williams and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Receiver Keenan Allen is also on the COVID-19 list, so the Chargers could be down their top two receivers this weekend against the New York Giants. If both Williams and Allen are vaccinated, they could be cleared to return if they are asymptomatic and return two negative tests 24 hours apart before Sunday's game. However, fantasy managers can't count on that and should prepare to be without them just in case. Jalen Guyton, who caught his first touchdown of the year last week, is now a hot waiver-wire pickup as a plug-and-play option if both Williams and Allen don't get cleared. Rookie Josh Palmer would serve as the No. 2, while tight ends Jared Cook and Donald Parham would see more targets as well.
Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott (knee) fully participated in practice Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Fantasy Spin: Elliott has been held to under 50 rushing yards in each of the last four games but has been involved in the passing game during those games. He should see plenty of touches this week and can be at least a No. 2 running back in fantasy leagues.
Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown (groin) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 8. WR Cedrick Wilson (ankle) was limited during practice.
Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Fantasy Spin: Williams probably will miss the Week 14 game since it is only a few days away. Jalen Guyton may be the main option in the passing game if Williams and Keenan Allen are not able to play and can be a No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (knee) was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and is expected to play in Week 14 against the New York Jets. Kamara has been out since Week 9, but all signs are pointing toward him having a full workload this weekend, especially with veteran Mark Ingram II on the COVID-19 list. Despite the long layoff due to his knee injury, Kamara will be a must-start RB1 in his return against a Jets defense that has allowed the third-most rushing yards per game (133.4) and the most fantasy points per game to RBs in 2021. If Ingram isn't cleared by Sunday's game, expect Ty Montgomery and Tony Jones Jr. to spell Kamara in his return.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (finger) was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. It confirms an earlier report that he was in line to play in Week 14 against the New York Jets despite suffering from mallet finger in last Thursday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Hill won't need surgery on his finger, but that doesn't mean that the 31-year-old will be very accurate throwing the football the rest of the season. Luckily, he'll be facing a Jets defense that just isn't good. They've allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game (263.4), although they've allowed the third-fewest rushing yards to QBs. Hill isn't valuable for his arm. He should run enough to be a low-end QB1 after going for 101 yards on 11 attempts in his first start of the year last week.
Washington Football Team RB J.D. McKissic (concussion) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Fantasy Spin: McKissic still needs to pass the concussion tests to play, so his status for Week 14 is uncertain. He can be at least a flex option when healthy, but fantasy players will need a backup plan ready in case he sits again.
Washington Football Team WR Curtis Samuel (groin) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Fantasy Spin: Samuel received only two touches in the last game and finished with negative two yards. He is still working his way back from the injury but can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Washington Football Team S Landon Collins (foot), LB Jamin Davis (concussion) and OG Wes Schweitzer (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 8. DT Jonathan Allen (groin), LB Jordan Kunaszyk (hamstring), C Tyler Larsen (knee) and OG Brandon Scherff (knee) were limited during practice.
New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay (ribs) was moving gingerly during individual drills on Wednesday and went to a side field to work with trainers. He was officially listed as a non-practice participant. The Giants receivers are pretty much all injured, which is nothing new for 2021. Rookie Kadarius Toney (oblique, quadriceps) missed another practice, and Sterling Shepard (quadriceps) hasn't played since Week 8. If quarterback Mike Glennon is able to return from his concussion with Daniel Jones (neck) likely out, he might not have many good options to throw the ball to. This entire Giants offense is stuck in the mud, and their injury situation hasn't helped. Golladay had three catches for 37 yards before leaving the game last Sunday. Darius Slayton is one of the only healthy Giants receivers.
New York Giants rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney (oblique, quadriceps) missed another practice session on Wednesday and only worked on a side field with trainers. Toney has missed the last two games, and it's looking like Sterling Shepard (quadriceps), who hasn't played since Week 8, is closer to returning than Toney. Kenny Golladay (ribs) is hurt again and is in danger of missing Week 14 against the Los Angeles Chargers this weekend. What's new for the Giants this year? Fantasy managers shouldn't be relying on Toney this weekend, even if he's active, with either Mike Glennon (concussion) or Jake Fromm expected to make the start under center at quarterback. Darius Slayton is one of the few healthy wideouts for this team.
The New York Giants are "optimistic" that quarterback Mike Glennon (head) will be cleared from the league's concussion protocol and be ready to play against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, according to head coach Joe Judge. Glennon will start this weekend if he clears the protocol. He wasn't able to practice on Wednesday, but he still has a few more days to gain clearance. Daniel Jones (neck) remains limited in practice, but he's expected to miss a second straight game and has yet to be cleared for contact in practices. If Glennon isn't cleared, Jake Fromm would make his first career NFL start. The Chargers defense is a very strong streaming option in fantasy in Week 14, especially considering how beat up New York's receivers are as well.
New Orleans Saints RB Mark Ingram will be placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Fantasy Spin: Ingram's status for Week 14 is in question since the game is only a few days away. Fantasy players can monitor the situation but may need to look for other options in their lineups.