Thu Dec 5 6:40pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) makes the stop after Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) caught a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrating his touchdown with teammate tight end Mark Andrews (89) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to pass the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Appreciating how difficult it is to contain Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens' bull-dozing offensive attack, Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was put at ease watching TV last weekend.
After averaging 405 yards offense and 36 points in winning their previous seven games, the Ravens hit a speed bump in the form of the San Francisco 49ers. Though Baltimore eked out a 20-17 win on a rainy, windy afternoon on Justin Tucker's 49-yard field goal as time expired, Phillips took note how the 49ers limited Baltimore to 283 yards offense, including 125 in the second half.
''When San Fran's defense got going, that's all I needed to see,'' Phillips said. ''That put things in perspective.''
If the NFL's top-ranked defense could put a dent in the run-and-gunning Ravens (10-2), then why not the Bills (9-3) on Sunday, when the two AFC playoff contenders meet at Buffalo.
''We're built for an offense like this,'' Phillips said of a defense that's allowed the third-fewest yards in the NFL this season. ''Now, we just have to go out there and execute. Simple as that.''
Simple might not be the operative word when confronting Jackson's dynamic ability. The second-year starter leads the league with 32 touchdowns (25 passing) and oversees an offense that has scored a league-leading 49 TDs. Baltimore has an opportunity to become the first in NFL history to finish a season averaging both 200 yards rushing and passing.
The Bills defense appears to have cleaned up its issues against the run. Since allowing 492 yards over a three-game stretch, Buffalo has given up 211 - including 103 in a 26-15 victory at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day - in winning its past three.
Promising as that might sound, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows he's got his hands full in preparing to face a quarterback he compares to Michael Vick.
''Once he got out in the open field, there was really no catching Michael,'' Frazier said. ''And it's similar when you're watching Lamar.''
Frazier is also familiar with Ravens coach John Harbaugh; the two spent time together on Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia. Frazier sees the Ravens adopting Harbaugh's aggressive mentality.
''It seems like they have a ton of confidence in their ability to run the ball on anybody,'' Frazier said. ''They play with a bravado about them, and I'm sure that has a lot to with their head coach.''
Harbaugh's confidence in Jackson was apparent when asked whether he believes any defense can stop him.
''Well, I don't know what it means exactly,'' Harbaugh said. ''If it means that they're going to solve him as a player or shut him down, no. I don't think that'll ever happen until he retires, because he's that good.''
The challenge, Harbaugh said, is continuing to adapt his offense to stay a step ahead of opposing defenses.
A number of things to look out for in a game that also features Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who was selected seventh overall in the 2018 draft, 25 spots ahead of Jackson:
The Ravens can clinch the AFC North with a win and a Steelers loss or tie. They can also clinch with a tie and Steelers loss.
The Bills can clinch their second playoff berth in three years with a win and an Oakland loss or tie, an Indianapolis loss or tie, and a Houston loss.
Jackson recalled playing cornerback in youth football when he was burned by Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary.
''He was like a little stocky, cocky running back and I'm like `I'm not about to hit him by myself,' so I tried to brush him off, and he just ran up the sideline and scored,'' Jackson said.
Bills coach Sean McDermott laughed upon hearing the story, and said: ''� think if Lamar's playing corner, we'd be better off.''
Ravens punter Sam Koch hasn't seen much action. With Jackson guiding a relentless offense and Baltimore going for it on fourth down 19 times, Koch has only 24 punts this year.
That doesn't mean he's been taking it easy. One of his two punts last week was downed at the 1 by Chris Moore. Koch also serves as holder for Tucker, who hit two field-goal and two extra-point attempts.
McDermott confirmed a report by NFL.com of the Bills placing a waiver claim for kicker Chase McLaughlin, only to lose out to Indianapolis, which was higher in the claim order.
McDermott denied the team's interest in McLaughlin reflected concerns in kicker Stephen Hauschka, who missed a 50-yard field goal and extra point at Dallas.
''It's just like any position, us continuing to try to add a player to our team that we feel could help us,'' McDermott said.
After winning five straight by a combined 202-62 margin, the Ravens had to squeeze past San Francisco. Baltimore held the ball for the final 6 + minutes before Tucker's field goal. The 3-point margin of victory was the smallest for Baltimore this year.
''These games are needed,'' defensive tackle Michael Pierce said. ''When you're trying to go on a run and get to the playoffs, you never expect a blowout. You need to be in those tight games to see how players respond at some point.''
The Green Bay Packers Defense faces a tough task this weekend in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. In their regular-season meeting, the Packers gave up 37 points and only dropped Jimmy Garoppolo only three times. They also failed to generate any turnovers. Green Bay's defense may need to lend their offense a helping hand by creating a turnover or two to swing the field position game. If Za-Darius and Preston Smith can ramp up the pressure, the Packers will have a good chance of generating a turnover or two and winning the game. It certainly won't be easy, considering how formidable the 49ers offense has been this season.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Graham has back-to-back 49-year receiving performances, but those games came against teams that struggle to defend the tight end position. The 49ers are not one of those teams. They allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends all season and were the league's stingiest pass defense. Maybe Graham makes a play in the red zone. Still, he's a cheaper DFS play but by no means a comfortable one.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (illness) is trending in the right direction to play in the NFC Championship game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. Even if available, Allison isn't an option in any fantasy format. The 25-year-old hasn't caught more than four passes in a game this season. It sure doesn't seem like he'll eclipse that mark against the league's best defense with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) is currently questionable for the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. There's certainly a risk for injury, considering he re-aggravated the ankle in last week's playoff game. Still, it's hard to ignore the two-game stretch Lazard had to end the season, where he saw 17 targets. That alone makes him worth a gamble, particularly in a must-win game for a Packers team in desperate need of another threat at receiver. Just beware, the matchup isn't ideal. The 49ers allowed only 172 passing yards to the Vikings last week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Adams produced only 43 receiving yards and a score against San Francisco in the regular season but still had 12 targets. The star receiver has seen double-digit targets in nine of 13 games played this year. There's not many receivers that you can virtually pencil in for double-digit targets- but Adams is one of them. If fellow receivers Geronimo Allison (illness) and Allen Lazard (ankle) suit up, they may be limited. Adams could be looking at more work than usual, even in a matchup this difficult.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense enter Championship weekend as the highest-priced fantasy defense. The Niners face the Green Bay Packers, who they demolished 37-8 in Week 12. In that previous contest, the Niners relentlessly harassed future Hall of Famer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dropping him five times and forcing a fumble. The Packers were a meager one for 15 on third down conversions. The 49ers will need to follow that blueprint again in the critical NFC Championship to emerge victorious. With a higher-intensity contest expected, it could be difficult to splurge on a defense in fantasy compared to other addressable positions.
San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders both offer solid fantasy value in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Both players were limited to under 45 yards apiece in last weekends Divisional Round blowout but were featured early on when the game was still in question. The rookie Samuel has emerged as a consistent dual threat in the latter half of 2019 and is likelier the safer floor. Sanders, the savvy vet has proven himself as a reliable chain-mover with big-play potential. Against the Packers 10th-best pass defense by DVOA, either option seem primed to pop in Sundays winner-take-all battle.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams will face off with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Williams has been playing second fiddle to Aaron Jones quite a lot recently, as he hasn't seen double-digit carries since Week 13 against the Giants. It's worth noting that Williams played a large role in the regular-season game against the 49ers, which saw him rack up 18 touches. Green Bay very well could utilize Williams in spurts to keep San Francisco guessing, though his recent downtrend in usage makes him hard to trust.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a reasonable DFS bet for Sundays NFC Championship matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Priced as the third-best quarterback, Jimmy G squares off against a strong Packers defensive line that ranked 12th-best in adjusted sack rate during the regular season. Garoppolo was not pressed into service in the Divisional Round blowout win, but will likely be tasked with a tougher test on Sunday. While the Niners have mostly ridden its dominant running game throughout the year, Garoppolo has answered the bell in multiple occasions with three four-touchdown games. With dangerous weapons surrounding him, Garoppolo shouldnt be ruled out in the biggest game of his career to-date.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. The 49ers Defense held Jones to just 38 rushing yards in their regular-season meeting. However, the star back has been playing some seriously good football in his last five games, with 501 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He's also had 20-plus carries in three straight contests. Expect Green Bay to utilize Jones early and often in screens and runs to combat the 49ers mighty pass rush. Even if Jones doesn't pile up over 100 yards, his propensity to find the end zone and role in the passing game make him a safer play this weekend.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on the San Francisco 49ers this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The 49ers Defense held Rodgers to just 104 passing yards and one touchdown in their regular-season meeting. However, there are a couple things that are different ahead of this matchup. First, tackle Bryan Bulaga will play in this game after being injured in the first quarter against the 49ers previously. Rodgers should have better protection than he had when these teams met. Secondly, Rodgers himself is playing better football than he was during the regular season before this matchup. He has 566 passing yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. There is also the added motivation of denying a Super Bowl berth to the team that could have drafted him. Play Rodgers on Sunday, despite the tough matchup.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is worth a gamble for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Bourne scored the only receiving touchdown for the Niners in the Divisional Round, adding to his 2019 resume as a legitimate red-zone threat. The third-year pro has just 33 catches this year, including the playoffs, but collected six scores. Despite his risks as a zero-floor fantasy option, Bourne has emerged as a trustworthy target in clutch situations.
San Francisco 49ers running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are both bankable DFS options in Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. The two backs combined for 163 rushing yards in the Divisional Round, with Coleman riding a hot hand to two touchdowns. Considered a backup for the latter half of the regular season, Coleman played 46 percent of snaps last Sunday compared to Mosterts 34 percent. While the touch forecast for either back is cloudy, the Niners draw one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing DVOA during the regular season with the second-worst defensive line in the league, yielding 4.96 adjusted yards per carry. With a likely floor of 10 touches for each Coleman and Mostert, both runners have great opportunities to make a splash.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in Thursdays practice and should be fine for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Kittle scared Niner Nation with soreness on the left ankle he chipped earlier this year, but confirms he feels fabulous. Kittle factored more as a blocker in last Sundays Divisional Round blowout but the Niners passed just 19 times. The All-Pro is an integral piece in all facets of the offense so is worth his premium TE1 price in DFS on Sunday.
Detroit Lions WR Danny Amendola is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he's a 'prime candidate' to be re-signed, in the opinion of The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett.
Free-agent WR Antonio Callaway (Browns) signed with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL Thursday, Jan. 16.
Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy (illness) remained out of practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: McCoy played just one offensive snap in last week's Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans. He's clearly behind RB Damien Williams and is no longer worth starting.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Moore (illness) and DT Chris Jones (calf) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. DT Khalen Saunders (knee), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder), CB Kendall Fuller (knee), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (neck), C Austin Reiter (wrist) and G Andrew Wylie (ankle) practiced in full.
Green Bay Packers DL Kenny Clark (back), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (knee) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OL Billy Turner (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited at practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce earned a light practice week while catching 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He's the week's top tight end option once against this week so long as he takes the field.