Guest of the League
The Empire Est. 2019
FFL: Playoff Week 1 | NFL: Week 14

Bears-Rams Preview

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Players: Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson, Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Jared Goff, Mitch Trubisky

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff calls signals during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) takes a snap during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throws against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) avoids a tackle byf Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers (90) during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


LOS ANGELES (AP) Even Sean McVay realizes there’s a strong argument to be made that the Chicago Bears ended the Los Angeles Rams’ two seasons of offensive brilliance with their 15-6 victory at Soldier Field last season.

McVay, Jared Goff and the Rams (5-4) get a chance to reply when the Bears (4-5) visit the Coliseum on Sunday night in a game that could wreck the loser’s realistic playoff hopes.

That loss on a chilly, biting night last December still stings for McVay and Goff, who threw a career-high four interceptions while the Rams were held without a touchdown for the first time in McVay’s tenure.

“They were a great defense, period,” McVay said. “They still are a great defense, but they did do some different things schematically that - I don’t run away from the fact that I didn’t handle that night well at all.”

Los Angeles was 11-1 and cruising through a season that would bend with a Super Bowl trip, but Vic Fangio’s defense reduced McVay’s offense to a wan shadow of its usual self. Todd Gurley produced only 28 yards rushing, Goff went 20 of 44 for 180 yards, and the Rams managed only 214 yards - less than half of their season average.

Fangio largely did it with a deceptively simple 6-1 alignment: Six defenders right at the line of scrimmage, with one linebacker just behind them looking to snuff out the run game. When Gurley couldn’t move the ball on the ground against that setup, the Rams’ play-action strategies were largely useless - and then Goff made mistakes.

“All of these teams, at some point, you hit some patches where you have to figure some things out and re-adjust and all that,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said of the Rams’ struggles in Chicago last season. “We’re going through that right now offensively.”

Other teams copied the Bears’ strategy, and New England played its version to perfection while holding the Rams to three points in the Super Bowl. But with Gurley still largely ineffective this season, opponents haven’t even needed the strategy to beat the Rams lately.

“I wouldn’t say what they did has shown up a lot,” Goff said, recalling the Bears’ setup. “It’s something that teams have tried, and we’ve beat it at times, and we haven’t at times. It’s definitely part of a scheme that people have played not only to us, but across the league. Nothing too crazy. Pretty simple. We’ll be ready if they do it again.”

Chuck Pagano runs the Bears’ defense now, and it has scarcely lost a step statistically despite Chicago’s overall struggles.

The Rams’ offense is a shadow of its former self, sitting in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories and coming off an inept performance at Pittsburgh in which it scored only three of Los Angeles’ 12 points.

The Bears’ biggest concern this time around likely should be Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense, which has been on a roll since the week before it acquired shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville.

“Really good defense,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “I think it starts up front for them. They’ve got obviously really talented players in Donald, and they do a lot of stuff up front with twists and getting pressure. Last year, they kind of zoned us out and tried to keep everything in front and take away our big plays.”

Here are more things to know about the prime-time showdown between 2018 division winners:

OLD FRIENDS

Allen Robinson figures he’s in for a physical confrontation and plenty of trash talk from Ramsey.

The Bears’ leading receiver and Rams’ brash star cornerback figure to be matched against each other just like old times, when they would go at it in practice as teammates in Jacksonville for two seasons. Robinson was three years into his career when the Jaguars drafted Ramsey with the No. 5 overall pick in 2016, and the rookie went at him right away.

“It’s gonna be physical, it’s gonna be competitive, it’s gonna be fun,” Robinson said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Robinson signed with Chicago last year, while Ramsey forced a trade to Los Angeles last month. But during their time together, Robinson heard plenty from him.

“I talk, he talks, so it’ll be fun,” Robinson said.

SHAKY LINE

Khalil Mack will be lining up against a Rams offensive line with four of the five starters in unfamiliar positions. Los Angeles lost center Brian Allen and right tackle Rob Havenstein to injuries last week, so guard Austin Blythe moves to center and untested youngsters David Edwards, Austin Corbett and Bobby Evans likely join the starting lineup. The Rams’ line struggled against Pittsburgh even before the injuries, so McVay is scheming to help his profoundly inexperienced unit - but Mack still could be in for a feast.

WORK IN PROGRESS

The Bears got the win they needed last week against Detroit, ending a four-game skid with Trubisky throwing three TD passes to match his season high. But the defending NFC North champions still have plenty of room to improve. Though they scored on three consecutive possessions in the second and third quarters, the offense went long stretches without moving the ball.

The defense held Detroit to 98 yards rushing on 27 attempts, but the Bears lost linebacker Danny Trevathan to a left elbow injury, and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is on injured reserve with an elbow injury, leaving Chicago without two disruptive players inside against Los Angeles.

KUPP COMEBACK

McVay is still disappointed after leading receiver Cooper Kupp was held without a catch last week. The Steelers felt free to double-team Kupp more frequently with Brandin Cooks sidelined by a concussion, and Cooks is out again this week. Goff and McVay both believe their offense needs the ball in Kupp’s hands to reach its potential.

Player Notes
Kelvin Harmon Dec 8 8:50pm ET

Washington Redskins wide receiver Kelvin Harmon couldn't get anything going in a road loss to the Packers on Sunday. After three straight games of emerging as a preferred option for Dwayne Haskins, Harmon caught just one of four targets at Lambeau. He took the lone reception for 30 yards, but this game has to be viewed as a step back for a young receiver who was starting to carve out a role for himself. There isn't enough time left in the season for Harmon to gain much PPR momentum, likely rendering him a deep-league dart throw at the very best for the final three weeks of 2019.

From RotoBaller

Terry McLaurin Dec 8 8:40pm ET

Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin rejoined the ranks of the fantasy-relevant on Sunday, catching four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Packers. It's worth mentioning that the touchdown itself--a 13-yard catch with just over a minute to go in the game--salvaged what otherwise would've been a low-end fantasy day. But his investors will take it, and the fact that McLaurin continues to see a healthy share of opportunity (seven targets) in an admittedly low-octane offense keeps him on the flex bubble. Consider him a matchup-dependent option, but he can clearly still provide value in lineups.

From RotoBaller

Chris Boswell Dec 8 8:40pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell hit all three field goals and both extra-point attempts in Sunday's 23-17 win over the Cardinals. The 28-year-old has missed just twice all season, and while he doesn't always boot 50-plus yard field goals, his consistency has made him a fantasy asset for leagues that use the position. In Week 15's home game against the Bills, Boswell should have much of the same opportunities, thus making him a start-able fantasy option.

From RotoBaller

Tyrell Williams Dec 8 8:40pm ET

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams failed to do much on his four targets as the Titans rolled to a 42-21 Week 14 victory on Sunday. He hauled in three catches for 35 yards as he's now been held to under 50 yards in five of his last six contests. With Derek Carr failing to utilize Williams' deep threat ability, he's been a fantasy non-factor over the past month and a half. Owners can afford to cut bait on the veteran, if they haven't already, as the passing offense just doesn't have enough volume to keep him afloat. Williams will be a TD-dependant WR4 next week when the Jaguars come to town for the final home game ever played in Oakland.

From RotoBaller

Chris Thompson Dec 8 8:30pm ET

Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson hauled in seven of a team-high eight targets on Sunday against the Packers. He only produced 43 yards, but the sudden uptick in opportunity is a welcome change of pace for the pass-catching back. It's worth noting that Thompson's increased role coincides with an injury that knocked Derrius Guice out of this game, so if the latter is unable to go in Week 15, Thompson may emerge as a fringe flex play in PPR leagues. It may be worth grabbing him off the waiver wire if Guice's outlook for Week 15 is grim, just in case this opportunity is set to continue in a matchup with the Eagles.

From RotoBaller

Kirk Cousins Dec 8 8:30pm ET

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 24-of-30 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown in Week 14's win over the Detroit Lions. Cousins rebounded from a tough Week 13 by completing 80% of his passes and finding 11 different receivers in a very efficient outing. He found rookie wideout Olabisi Johnson in the first quarter for his lone touchdown. Fantasy owners were surely expecting a bit more scoring from Cousins in this one, but the Vikings got up early and were in complete control from the get-go. Start Cousins with confidence as a QB1 in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

From RotoBaller

Chris Conley Dec 8 8:30pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley had seen an uptick in usage lately, but that usage was virtually non-existent in Sunday's loss to the Chargers. Conley caught just one pass for seven yards and was targeted three times. Maybe the change in quarterback was bad for Conley's fantasy value, or maybe it was just a bad day, but if you'd been counting on Conley to produce solid, low-ceiling outings in deep leagues, Sunday wasn't a good day for you.

From RotoBaller

Drew Brees Dec 8 8:30pm ET

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 29 of 40 pass attempts for 349 yards and five touchdowns along with a one-yard rushing score in a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It was one of the best performances of Brees' career against an elite pass defense. He threw touchdowns to four different receivers in what was his 11th career game with five or more touchdown passes, most in NFL history. Brees even led a game-winning drive, but the Saints Defense couldn't stop Jimmy Garoppolo from doing the same. The veteran signal-caller will look to stay hot in Week 15 against an Indianapolis Colts Defense that allowed 467 passing yards and four touchdowns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

From RotoBaller

San Francisco 49ers Dec 8 8:20pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers Defense yielded 46 points despite securing a victory in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. The ferocious pass rush couldnt touch veteran quarterback Drew Brees all day, mustering just one fumble recovery on the stat sheet. The Saints racked up 465 total yards but the Niners offense was able to respond to every blow and the team wound up with the win. After the shootout, the Niners will look to return to form hosting the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15. Theyll be a must-start fantasy unit.

From RotoBaller

Kyle Rudolph Dec 8 8:20pm ET

Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was very quiet in Week 14 as he picked up two catches for 11 yards in a win over the Detroit Lions. Rudolph came into the contest on a four-game touchdown streak but was not featured at all in the victory. Rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. had more snaps, catches, and yards and wideout Olabisi Johnson snagged the game's only touchdown reception. Rudolph is still best viewed as a touchdown-dependent TE2 who's touchdown equity will definitely take a hit if Adam Thielen (hamstring) returns in Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Adrian Peterson Dec 8 8:20pm ET

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson was forced back into a featured role on Sunday when Derrius Guice suffered a knee injury. Peterson's output on 20 carries wasn't especially efficient, but 76 yards and a touchdown were welcome sights to any fantasy owner who rolled him out as a hopeful flex option. The longtime workhorse remains a volume-based fantasy back, and volume may once again tilt in his favor if Guice's injury is serious enough to keep him out going forward. As such, you will want to monitor this situation in the coming days, regardless of which Redskins running back you roster.

From RotoBaller

Darren Waller Dec 8 8:20pm ET

Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller picked up a team-high 73 receiving yards as the team fell 42-21 to the Titans in Week 14. He finished tied with Deandre Washington for six receptions, proving to be Derek Carr's most reliable pass-catcher once again. Waller nearly found the end zone in the second quarter but came up two yards short of the goal line. The drive ultimately ended in Foster Moreau catching a one-yard TD pass, but that was the final time the Raiders hit paydirt. The offense struggled to move the ball in the second half, which impacted Waller, but it was good to see him involved regardless. Treat the 26-year-old as a mid-range TE1 versus the Jaguars in Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Pittsburgh Steelers Dec 8 8:20pm ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense held the Arizona Cardinals to just 17 points and 236 yards of offense in their 23-17 victory on Sunday. Joe Haden picked off two passes, while TJ Watt also recorded his second interception of the season. This marks the 11th time in their 13 games that they have recorded multiple turnovers in a game. They'll have a tougher assignment in Week 15 when they host Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, but this defense might be the best in the NFL right now, so you'll start them with ease.

From RotoBaller

Dede Westbrook Dec 8 8:20pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook caught six passes for 25 yards in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. With Gardner Minshew back under center, it was back to being one of those "Westbrook only gets targeted close to the line of scrimmage" days that makes him unplayable in standard scoring leagues. That's likely the norm the rest of the way, with Westbrook's value being mainly in deeper PPR leagues.

From RotoBaller

Nick O'Leary Dec 8 8:10pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Nick O'Leary caught his first touchdown since joining the Jags in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. On the day, O'Leary caught four passes for 30 yards and the score. He was targeted five times. O'Leary's been targeted at least four times in each of his games with his new team, but I still don't think fantasy owners should overreact to Sunday's score. Even at a shallow position like tight end, you aren't trusting O'Leary in the fantasy playoffs.

From RotoBaller

Green Bay Packers Dec 8 8:10pm ET

The Green Bay Packers Defense produced four sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception in a 20-15 win over the Washington Redskins. It was a strong effort by Green Bay- the only blemish was a late garbage-time touchdown allowed to Terry McLaurin. Packers linebacker Preston Smith got in on the fun, posting two tackles and adding a sack, giving him 11.5 for the season.

From RotoBaller

Kenyan Drake Dec 8 8:10pm ET

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake rushed 11 times for 37 yards and caught three balls for 30 yards in Week 14. He's still receiving twice as many touches as running back David Johnson, but he's not doing much with them. Johnson caught a touchdown pass this week, and there's a big enough sample size that he could start taking touches away from Drake. Drake will be a flex option against the Cleveland Browns next week.

From RotoBaller

David Johnson Dec 8 8:10pm ET

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson rushed three times for 19 yards and caught two receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown in Week 14. He did almost as much with his five touches as running back Kenyan Drake did with his 14. With Drake struggling to make an impact, Johnson could see more touches against the Cleveland Browns next week. Keep an eye on this situation in practice this week.

From RotoBaller

Larry Fitzgerald Dec 8 8:10pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught just three passes for 20 yards in Week 14. He was second on the team with seven targets, but he was unable to make his mark. Fitz is a lackluster WR3 option the rest of the way against the Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.

From RotoBaller

Dwayne Haskins Dec 8 8:10pm ET

Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins hadn't thrown a touchdown in either of his team's last two games, but he tossed one on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Haskins completed 16 of 27 passes for 170 yards in a loss to the Packers, complete with his eighth turnover of the season. The rookie's lone touchdown was a 13-yard connection with Terry McLaurin late in the fourth quarter that brought the Redskins within one score of the Pack. Haskins will look to build on a somewhat promising performance next week against the Eagles.

From RotoBaller