Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams have the momentum Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys crave going into a rematch of a divisional playoff game from last season.
Despite their second three-game losing streak of the season, the Cowboys have something the Rams want even more but will need help getting even if the defending NFC champions keep winning: control of their playoff chances.
LA (8-5) visits Dallas on Sunday as the first team out of the conference playoff race with three games remaining, while the Cowboys (6-7) somehow are still tied atop the NFC East with Philadelphia after seven losses in 10 games.
''Momentum is something serious if we can get it on our side,'' Prescott said. ''This has been a streaky team and yes, you got to get that first one to get the second one. That's just the mindset. Let's focus on today. Let's focus on the now.''
Both teams started 3-0 coming off LA's Super Bowl run that included a 30-22 divisional win over the Cowboys. Both teams then lost three straight.
Since sharing a 6-5 record, the teams have gone opposite ways. The Rams have won a pair, including last week's impressive 28-12 victory over Seattle. Dallas lost to Buffalo on Thanksgiving and Chicago a week later in a pair of forgettable showings.
As it stands, the Rams are paying for an uneven start as San Francisco and Seattle kept rolling in the NFC West.
''We do know the urgency is there and the value of each game at this point,'' Goff said. ''You do treat every game the same with the same approach, but we do know we are coming down the stretch here and need to make some things happen.''
ON THE LINE
The Rams defense respects the Cowboys' veteran offensive line, but Aaron Donald is still in line to add to LA's impressive total of 43 sacks this season. After getting 11 sacks in the past two weeks, the Rams' pass rush is in prime form to have success against the veteran Dallas line.
''They've got a group that's been playing together for about six years,'' Donald said. ''They're a good offensive line that plays good together, communicates together. But there's a lot of good players in this league.''
Prescott injured the pinkie finger on his throwing (right) hand and sprained his left hand against the Bears. The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has practiced with taped fingers this week. ''Just a couple of bruises,'' Prescott said. ''Probably wear the same tape in the game, but that's it. Nothing serious.''
Todd Gurley's relatively restful season appears to be over, and that could be bad news for the Dallas defense. After coach Sean McVay used Gurley sparingly with little consistency over the first three months of the season, the $60 million running back's touches and effectiveness are up sharply in the past three games.
He had 79 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving against Seattle, culminating in an impressive stiff-arm TD run for the Rams' clinching score. Although McVay insists it wasn't his intention, Gurley is rested and ready for Los Angeles' playoff push.
AS FOR ELLIOTT
Two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, all but assured to fall short of the rushing title in a full season for the first time, is coming off a couple of solid games. But his career-long streak of outings without reaching 100 yards is up to five.
While he's been used more than Gurley, Elliott says he feels rested, with his touches down by almost four per game over last season. ''I think I definitely feel a lot better than in past years,'' the 2016 All-Pro said. ''It's kind of with less touches and just being fresher.''''
Goff has seven interceptions and four touchdown passes over the Rams' last five games since their bye week. But his production has spiked in their last two games with 717 yards passing and all four TDs. He also made a handful of spectacular throws during LA's one-sided win over Seattle last week.
The fourth-year quarterback's inconsistency has to be concerning, but Goff's coaches praise his steady demeanor no matter the results. He sits fourth in the NFL with 3,712 yards passing, 410 behind Prescott.
The Dallas defense is still in the top 10 statistically but isn't impacting the game in a way that could help end the losing streak. Buffalo's Josh Allen had a season-high passer rating, and Mitch Trubisky's number with Chicago was nearly 30 points higher than his season average.
''I just think the biggest thing across the board on defense is we just have to be more disciplined and more fundamentally sound,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''And that's really been our calling card around here for a long time.''
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had an incredible performance against the Tennessee Titans during their Week 10 matchup. He caught 11 of his 19 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Tennessee. He'll get another chance to run over the same team in the AFC Championship matchup on Sunday. Hill hasn't been able to get over 100 yards receiving in a single game since that matchup. DFS players know that Hill has a chance to be a complete bust, but the fact he destroyed Tennessee the first time is hard to ignore. Hill has given DFS players a lot to think about before Sunday's kickoff.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He hauled in 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round victory. The Tennessee Titans main focus has to be slowing down Kelce. They allowed seven receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown to Kelce earlier in the season. Kelce isn't going to be cheap for DFS contests, but he's proven all season long that he's worth the risk.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been tough to watch all season long. He started off the year with a three touchdown performance, but it was downhill after that. Watkins was only targeted more than five times in a game once over the last five games. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have taken over the passing attack in Kansas City. Watkins was able to haul in five receptions for 39 yards during his regular season matchup against the Titans. DFS players shouldn't expect a better performance out of Watkins this time around.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to battle with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC Championship on Sunday. Mahomes is coming off a five touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He's already faced off against the Titans once this season and Mahomes didn't disappoint. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in that game. DFS players should be able to lean on Mahomes to at least be efficient on Sunday. He has a solid chance of being the best quarterback out of the bunch in the division title games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He rushed 12 times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards through the air. LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson have been absent from the backfield lately. The Chiefs have been leaning on Williams and it's been paying off. He's been able to find the end zone when he's called upon and piled up 109 yards against the Titans earlier in the season. Fantasy owners are aware that Williams has been up and down this season, but he's red-hot right now. He'll be used in both the rushing and passing attack, so DFS players should give Williams a long look for Sunday's slate.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has the confidence of former 49ers QB and Hall of Famer Steve Young. 'When they've asked him to raise up and go win it, he did it,' Young said. 'Those are hard things to do. That just doesn't happen. When you see it in the NFL and someone is able to do it, you go, once you've done it, you can do it again. You can keep doing it.'
Fantasy Spin: Jimmy G wasn't a fantasy factor with his 11-of-19, 131-yards, one-TD, one-interception game in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings, but that's largely due to the Niners' overwhelming success on the ground (47 rushes-186 yards). When Garoppolo has been forced to pass, he's delivered the majority of the time, and his fantasy numbers Sunday likely will depend on how much the opposing Packers are able to get done against the San Fran defense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is the only player since special-teams tackles were first tracked in 2001 to lead his team in rushing yards and special-teams tackles in the same season.
Fantasy Spin: While Mostert is a breakout talent who led the Niners in rushing in each of their last six regular-season games, keep in mind that it was Tevin Coleman who led the squad in rushing attempts (22), yards (105) and touchdown runs (2) in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings as Mostert (12-58-0) battled a calf cramp which he said was an after affect of an illness he dealt with the week leading up to the game. In the meantime, it's a plus matchup Sunday against a Packers defense which allowed the ninth-most rushing yards (120.1) per game during the regular season.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries in two wins this postseason, but Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark says he isn't intimidated heading into the AFC Championship matchup with the Titans on Sunday, Jan. 19. 'He's not hard to hit,' Clark was quoted as saying on NFL Network. 'He's just a big guy -- 240, 245, 250 (pounds). Honestly he should be running harder at his weight and size. I don't see no difficulty in tackling him. ... He's just easy to me up front because I don't look at any running back like they can't be tackled. He's not one of the best guys at breaking tackles to me, honestly.'
Fantasy Spin: Henry is on a truly historic run -- with only Terrell Davis owning more 150-yard postseason games (four) than Henry's three -- and it will be challenge for Clark and the K.C. D, which ranked in the bottom fourth of the league in allowing 128.2 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry, to slow down -- let alone shut down -- Henry and the run-first Titans.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. likely won't face simple-assault charges for slapping a security officer's buttocks Monday, Jan. 13, as the officer has declined to press charges, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: The Browns -- and OBJ's fantasy dynasty-league owners -- are hoping this the final negative offseason headline the wideout generates for a good while and he starts focusing his energies on improving on his disappointing debut season with Cleveland.
Confirming a previous report, the Dallas Cowboys have hired New Orleans Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan to be their new defensive coordinator. Head coach Mike McCarthy said he plans to run a defense with four down linemen.
New England Patriots CB Jason McCourty (groin) recently underwent surgery on the groin injury that hampered him throughout the 2019 season.
Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has agreed to become the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, according to a source.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman is coming off one of his best games of the season last week and should continue to receive most of the carries in the running game. He should be a starting option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle is one of the top options in the passing game for the 49ers and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert will have a solid role in the running game against the Green Bay Packers and could see a few targets in the passing game. He has a chance to be a flex option in fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game. DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) fully participated in practice and is not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers FB Danny Vitale (knee) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Championship game. TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited during practice but are not on the injury report. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), DT Kenny Clark (back), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OT Billy Turner (ankle) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Allison has only been targeted 12 times over the last five games and was held to nine yards in his last game against the San Francisco 49ers. He can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Graham likely will see a handful of targets in the passing game against the San Francisco 49ers and could be a stating option in some fantasy leagues.
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.