Thu Oct 17 10:27pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
In this June 11, 2019, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey walks to the field for an NFL football practice in Jacksonville, Fla. Ramsey is expected to return to practice two days after seeing a back specialist. The Jaguars host New Orleans on Sunday, Oct. 13. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Thanks to two injures and a couple of major trades, the Los Angeles Rams will be without three regular starters in their secondary this weekend in Atlanta.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips realizes that's not the ideal way to face Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Matt Ryan and the NFL's second-most prolific passing game.
Not even if one of those new starters turns out to be Jalen Ramsey, who is optimistic he will make his Rams debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
''(The Falcons) have probably the top passing offense in the league, so it would be a challenge whether we had all the same people or different ones,'' Phillips said Thursday. ''It's a challenge for whoever you have out there.''
The Rams' defense is spending the week in frantic preparation for its new lineup against the Falcons. Starting cornerback Marcus Peters was traded on Tuesday, while safety John Johnson and cornerback Aqib Talib went on injured reserve earlier this week.
Ramsey went through his first full practice at the Rams' training complex Thursday, two days after the Rams acquired him from Jacksonville in an even bolder trade. Wearing the No. 20 jersey he got from new teammate Troy Hill, Ramsey looked loose and happy during the workout.
''We're going to do what's smart for myself and the team, but I hope (to play Sunday), Ramsey said. ''I hope I can go contribute to a win, somehow, some way, whether it's limited or whatever, or a couple of plays. It doesn't matter.''
After requesting a trade last month, Ramsey missed the Jaguars' last three games with a back injury. Although he must learn the Rams' defense and get back into full game shape before he'll feel comfortable with his new team, Ramsey thinks he is on his way.
Ramsey said the defensive system ''fits me very well,'' and he called Phillips ''a legend'' in their first meeting.
''I love challenges like that,'' Ramsey said of the Falcons. ''They've got elite receivers, Julio especially, arguably one of the best receivers in the league. Definitely I love that challenge, and if I'm able to perform well, I would like to be out there.''
The only remaining regular starter in the Rams' secondary is safety Eric Weddle, who joined the defending NFC champions in the offseason. The veteran actually sounds eager for the challenge facing the Rams' suddenly inexperienced secondary.
''That's why you have me, quite honestly,'' Weddle said. ''I've been through this many a time. Revolving door, whether it's safeties, corners, it's my job to get everyone on the same page and play at a high level. There's no excuses in this league, and it's my job to get those guys going.''
But there's no denying the fact that the Rams must figure out how to win without two of their three busiest defensive players this season. Only linebacker Cory Littleton has taken more defensive snaps than Peters or Johnson for Los Angeles, while Talib is seventh despite sitting out last week with the rib injury that now threatens his season.
Hill is almost certain to start at cornerback for the Rams. If Ramsey doesn't play extensively, the Rams are expecting to give significant playing time to Darious Williams, a second-year pro who hasn't played a defensive snap this season and has one career tackle.
The coaching staff is high on Williams, who went undrafted in 2018 after playing two seasons at UAB. Those two seasons were in 2014 and 2017, separated by two years of training without games after the school dropped football and before the program was reinstated.
The Rams claimed Williams off waivers last October and kept him on the roster this season, but he played only four snaps on defense last season and none in six games this year.
There weren't many snaps available at cornerback recently with Peters and Talib playing extensively along with Nickell Robey-Coleman, one of the NFL's most effective nickel backs against slot receivers. Snaps are suddenly in abundance, but the Rams aren't shaken by the upheaval.
''We're just going to hold strong,'' Robey-Coleman said. ''We're going to fight and battle with the guys that we've got. Having Jalen on the defense now, we don't have to worry about one half of the field, I know for sure. That made everybody's job a little easier.''
NOTES: Ramsey was listed as a full participant in practice, while RB Todd Gurley's participation was limited. Coach Sean McVay is optimistic Gurley will play after missing last week's game. ... Gurley's backup, Malcolm Brown, missed his second straight practice with an ankle injury. McVay hasn't ruled out Brown for Sunday, noting that ''sometimes these things end up turning the corner pretty quickly, so we'll use our time on this.''
Houston Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills recorded just one catch for six yards during the Thursday night win over the Indianapolis Colts. Stills logged his worst performance of the year and was a victim from a production standpoint by the return of Will Fuller (hamstring), who missed the team's previous three games. He likely has a few more decent performances left in the tank between now and the end of the season, but his potential will continue to be relegated by Fuller's presence in the lineup moving ahead.
Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins played well against the Colts on Thursday night, finishing things up with six catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns. After recording just two scores during the first six games of the year, the 27-year-old has turned it up as of late by visiting the end zone in three of his last five games. Hopkins continues to get his looks from quarterback Deshaun Watson, and besides Michael Thomas, he remains the most efficient fantasy wide receiver in the league. He will look to keep things going against a rough Patriots Defense in Week 13.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller was targeted 11 times during the win over the Colts, finishing with seven catches for 140 yards. After accumulating 217 yards and three touchdowns against the Falcons in Week 5, Fuller fizzled in his previous two contests coming into Thursday night, so this performance was a step in the right direction. Fantasy managers shouldn't expect this type of production consistently moving ahead, especially in Week 13 against a tough Patriots Defense, but the ceiling is always high when the matchup is in his favor, as long as he can stay healthy and on the field.
Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson finished with 22 yards on five carries to go along with one catch for eight yards during the win over the Colts on Thursday night. This was yet another disappointing performance from the 26-year-old, who has now recorded just three receptions over the last two games. While he may have a few more games where he catches four or five passes, his ability to get it done on the ground will continue to be relegated by Carlos Hyde, who is averaging 16 touches per outing on the year. For those who are desperate, Johnson does have the potential to score from a week-to-week basis but don't hold your breath waiting for consistent production.
Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde Ran for 67 yards on 16 carries during the win over the Colts on Thursday night. This was a routine performance from the 29-year-old, who is averaging 76 yards on 16 touches per game this season, and while he has only four touchdowns on the year, he is well on his way to the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career. With this game in the books, Hyde will have a tough matchup in Week 13 against the top-ranked Patriots Defense.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson played better against the Colts on Thursday, finishing the night with nearly 300 yards and two touchdowns (one interception) on 19-for-30 passing. After struggling during the Week 11 blowout loss to the Ravens, it was an acceptable showing from the 24-year-old. He has struggled to some degree over his last six outings, and while he has thrown for nine touchdowns during that span, he has also thrown six picks after tossing just one throughout the first five games of the year. Things aren't looking good moving ahead, nonetheless, as Watson and the Texans will host the Patriots in Week 13.
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Williams was announced as the starter for the team's Week 12 game against the Houston Texans, and he made the most of his opportunity. He finished with 26 carries for 104 yards and a big touchdown in the second half. He also caught all three of his targets for 17 yards. The Colts continued their strategy of establishing the run, and it worked well for the majority of the game. As long as starting running back Marlon Mack (hand) remains out, it looks like Williams is going to have fantasy relevance every week.
Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines was expected to see more work in Week 12 with starting running back Marlon Mack (hand) out, and he showed a little bit of something with those snaps. He finished with nine carries for 51 yards and two catches for 10 yards. That's good enough for 8.1 PPR points, and that's likely more than you were hoping for after the quiet season he has had thus far. Hines still remains nothing more than a deep league flex option in PPR formats, but this was a positive development to see with Mack out.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) had been out for a couple of weeks before his return in Week 12, and it wasn't a triumphant one. He caught three of his six targets for just 18 yards. While some of that lack of production could be contributed to rust, the offense as a whole wasn't able to get anything going through the air and Hilton was also on a pitch count in his return. The matchups don't get particularly easy moving forward for Hilton, but you'll likely be forced to start him because of the connection he has shown with quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron relies on touchdowns for the majority of his value, but in Week 12 he was able to get some solid yardage. He caught four of his five targets for 44 yards, and he'll likely finish among the top 10 in tight ends for scoring this week with just 8.4 PPR points. Ebron has remained a pretty big disappointment after the elite fantasy season that he produced in 2018. When the team has gotten down into the red zone, a number of their scores have come on the ground. Ebron remains the No. 2 receiving target in this offense, but that doesn't turn into much when the offense struggles to move the ball.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle failed to register a target in Week 11, but he showed some life in Week 12. He caught three of his four targets for 28 yards, which fell right in line with his level of production that he's maintained throughout the year. He's now caught three or more passes in seven out of the team's 11 games. Doyle will likely never be the breakout player that he was two seasons ago, but when you need to make sure that you don't have a zero in your tight end spot, he's about as safe as you can get.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett had his second straight game with under 150 passing yards in Week 12. He finished the night 16 of 25 for 129 yards. Thankfully for his fantasy owners, he scampered into the end zone on one of his four carries that went for a total of 20 yards. It was still a quiet night for Brissett, and he hasn't displayed the same level of production that we saw from him earlier in the season. He only has a couple of easy matchups remaining on the schedule, so his days as your starting quarterback may be numbered.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle, knee) and wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) and Deebo Samuel (shoulder) were all limited in practice on Thursday. It's NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco's opinion that all three will play on Sunday night against the Packers. That'll especially ring true if all three get in at least another limited practice on Friday. If that's the case, Kittle will be a must-start TE1, with both Sanders and Samuel being acceptable WR3 cases with upside. The rookie Samuel has back-to-back 100-yard games and is closing the season out hot. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would also be a more appealing QB2 if all of his receivers are active.
The New England Patriots won't be re-signing wide receiver Antonio Brown, according to a source. There were rumors circling that the Pats were looking at Brown again with Mohamed Sanu (ankle) potentially missing multiple games with a high ankle sprain. That's not the case, though, and Brown is highly unlikely to be signed with the NFL still investigating sexual-assault charges tied to Brown. Even after the investigation is up and if Brown avoids a suspension somehow, it's hard to say if an NFL team will take a chance on him in 2020. Julian Edelman and rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers might be in three-receiver sets if both Sanu and Phillip Dorsett (concussion) don't play this weekend.
Concerns have surfaced around Dallas Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck), who has already missed one game this year with a neck injury, and he's not expected to play in Week 12 against the Patriots, according to sources. Vander Esch underwent an MRI exam on Thursday after a flare-up of the injury. It would be a big blow to Dallas' defense on the road against a Patriots offense that is vulnerable right now with their receivers banged up. LVE being out would be good news for mainly running backs Sony Michel and James White and slot wideout Julian Edelman. You'll need to look elsewhere at linebacker in IDPS leagues with Vander Esch expected to sit. Expect Sean Lee to see more playing time on Sunday.
The Houston Texans activated tight end Jordan Thomas (ribs) from the Injured Reserve on Thursday and waived defensive end Joel Heath and wide receiver Steven Mitchell in corresponding moves. As a sixth-round rookie last year, Thomas had 20 receptions for 215 yards and four touchdowns. Thomas has some long-term intrigue, but he'll return to a team that has been using Jordan Akins and Darren Fells at the position. It's possible that Thomas could produce a spark here and there, but don't expect him to see a ton of playing time over the other two to close out the season. You can leave him to the waiver wire in most redraft leagues.
New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (concussion) is 'looking good' to play against the Chicago Bears in Week 12, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: Shepard has been out since early October, and while he has the potential to be a WR3, you will probably want to take a wait-and-see approach whenever he makes his return.
Miami Dolphins CB Eric Rowe is expected to be a full-time starter at safety moving forward after CB Bobby McCain (shoulder) and S Reshad Jones (chest) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list, according to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com.
Detroit Lions running back Bo Scarbrough looked solid in Week 11, posting 55 yards on 14 attempts and one touchdown just one day after being promoted from the practice squad. Week 12 presents an excellent opportunity for Scarbrough to take control of a Lions backfield that has been in disarray since Kerryon Johnson (knee) was lost for the season. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel's tendency to run and the lack of a pass-game role for Scarbrough does limit Scarbrough's ceiling, but he has a real chance to take over as the go-to running back on this squad with no other real threats around. The Lions play the lowly Washington Redskins in Week 12. Fantasy owners can slot Scarbrough in as a RB3 for this matchup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber is trending towards being cemented as the clear cut No.2 option in the Bucs backfield. Barber did not get a touch in Week 11, and while he did find the end zone on one of his two targets on the day, it looks like Ronald Jones II is the back to own on this team. The Bucs travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons in Week 12, and while the Falcons are not the scariest squad, they are not the most giving on the ground. Barber is not a recommended start in Week 12 and can be safely dropped in all formats.