San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert (31) celebrates after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. The 49ers won 48-46. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes the ball against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) works in the pocket against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan speaks during a news conference after loosing to the Baltimore Ravens in a NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. Ravens won 20-17. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) When Kyle Shanahan looks back on the two years he spent as offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons, it's the positives he remembers much more than the disappointing ending.
After a couple of tough stops in Washington and Cleveland, Shanahan's coaching career took off after joining the Falcons when he helped Matt Ryan and Atlanta reach record heights on the way to a Super Bowl appearance. That performance helped land him a head coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers even if he fell short of a Super Bowl title when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead before losing in overtime to New England.
''Not at all,'' Shanahan said when asked if the Super Bowl collapse lessened his memories of his tenure with the Falcons.
''I loved my time in Atlanta, loved the people I was there with. I went there at a tough time in my career and just the two previous places I had been. ... It was good to be in a good place like that, and really enjoyed the players, too.''
Shanahan gets a chance to face his old team, including Ryan and head coach Dan Quinn, when the 49ers (11-2) host the Falcons (4-9) on Sunday.
Atlanta set a franchise record by scoring 540 points in 2016 with Shanahan calling plays. Ryan had career bests in yards passing (4,944), TD passes (38) and passer rating (117.1) on the way to winning the league MVP.
''Kyle had a huge impact on my career,'' Ryan said. ''He challenged me to get better, improve in certain areas and taught me a lot about offensive football. Just seeing things from a different perspective, I feel like I made big jumps in the two years we were together and I'm happy for him that he's having great success. ... It's no surprise that he has their offense playing well because he's excellent at knowing what to do.''
While Shanahan is thriving in his third year in San Francisco with the Niners alone atop the NFC standings and in line for home-field advantage in the playoffs, the Falcons have struggled.
Atlanta started the year 1-7 and has little left to play for other than pride heading into a matchup with a coach the Falcons know well and respect greatly.
''Kyle makes it extremely difficult. He's a fantastic play caller,'' Falcons linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said. ''When the season has not gone as well as you'd like it, you covet these opportunities to show people what you could've been, what you should've been.''
The ties between the two franchises run deeper than Shanahan's relationships in Atlanta. Ryan and 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey are first cousins. McGlinchey's mother, Janet, and Ryan's mom, Bernice, who are sisters, are leading a contingent of about 50-60 people coming out from Pennsylvania for the game. For McGlinchey, it's an opportunity to play against someone he looked up to growing up.
''When I was a kid, all I ever did was try to be like Matt in every way I could,'' he said. ''I would watch his interviews. I would watch everything about Matt. Maybe I just adopted the way he did things because he always did them the right way. It's pretty easy to learn from a guy like him, how well he has done.''
The 49ers rank third in the NFL with 45 sacks. The Falcons will have to keep Ryan upright to have any chance of pulling off a major upset.
Atlanta, with two rookies starting on the offensive line, has surrendered 41 sacks. But, after giving up a total of 15 in the two previous games, the unit showed major improvement last week against a Carolina team that ranked second in the league. Ryan was sacked only one time by the Panthers, while the Falcons had five sacks.
RUN RAHEEM, RUN
Raheem Mostert spent most of his first four season in the NFL as a special-teams standout. The past two weeks, he's shown the ability to be a featured back. Mostert has gotten the bulk of the work for San Francisco the past two games and delivered. He ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and also caught two passes for 40 yards and a TD in last week's win at New Orleans. Mostert has 263 yards from scrimmage and three TDs the past two weeks and figures to keep getting a heavy load as he has averaged 6.0 yards per carry for the season.
''What Raheem has done these last few weeks and has continued to do, we need to give him more opportunities,'' Shanahan said. ''He's given us no choice. I'm happy for him and it's been great. He's been extremely impressive.''
Kicker Younghoe Koo has become a big weapon for the Falcons since replacing Matt Bryant.
Koo was selected as NFC special teams player of the week for the second time after making four field goals, four extra points and recovering a fumble on a kickoff in last Sunday's 40-20 victory over Carolina. The 25-year-old Korean has connected on 16 of 18 field goals and 9 of 10 extra points.
''He's gaining confidence as he's going,'' Quinn said. ''We're pleased where he's at.''
CENTER OF ATTENTION
The 49ers suffered a major loss last week when starting center Weston Richburg went down with a season-ending knee injury. Richburg anchored a line that excelled in both run blocking and protection, and will be replaced by untested Ben Garland. Garland has spent most of his career since entering the NFL as a reserve and his only seven starts came at guard for Atlanta in 2017 and '18.
The Falcons will be looking at some new receivers over the final three games after losing Calvin Ridley to a season-ending abdominal injury.
Ridley, a first-round draft pick in 2018, had become a major weapon alongside Julio Jones - especially after the trade of Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots.
Now, some other young receivers will get a chance, most notably Christian Blake (11 catches, 91 yards) and Olamide Zaccheaus, whose first career catch was a 93-yard touchdown against the Panthers.
''We have a number of playmakers,'' Quinn said.
The Jacksonville Jaguars plan to hire former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden as their next offensive coordinator, according to sources. A deal isn't officially done, but the Jaguars are very close to adding Gruden in the role. The biggest question for Jacksonville's offense heading into the 2020 season will be who is the starter under center, Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew. Leonard Fournette can be an effective bell-cow back in the backfield if he can stay healthy, while the Jags have a nice three-receiver mix in place of D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. The Jaguars finished 2019 with 341.8 yards per game, 235 passing yards per game, 106.8 rushing yards per game and only 18.8 points per game. Gruden's addition is good news for this very mediocre offense across the board.
Free-agent TE Evan Baylis (Packers), OT Cody Conway (Packers), RB Damarea Crockett (Packers), CB Kabion Ento (Packers), TE James Looney (Packers), LB Randy Ramsey (Packers), WR Darrius Shepherd (Packers), QB Manny Wilkins (Packers) and LB Tim Williams (Packers) signed Reserve/Future contracts with the Green Bay Packers Tuesday, Jan. 21. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell seems confident that the team will re-sign defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Jacksonville wants Ngakoue back, and Caldwell said something "should be done hopefully relatively easily." He'd become one of the top pass rushers available if he hits the open market after logging 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits and 42 tackles for loss in 63 games since being a third-round pick in 2016. Retaining Ngakoue is the top priority for the Jaguars this offseason as they look to build their defense back up around the ferocious pass rusher.
Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DE Yannick Ngakoue is the top priority for the Jaguars this offseason, and general manager David Caldwell said he hopes the two sides will be able to reach an agreement relatively easily.
Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner (ankle, knee) will not need surgery on his ankle or knee this offseason, according to head coach Pete Carroll.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's (neck) surgery "went well." "I feel really good about it. I feel really good about him making a full recovery and being ready to participate in everything," Jones said. The second-year linebacker should be good to go for the team's offseason workouts after missing the final five games of the 2019 season. He recorded a total of 72 tackles (43 solo), half a sack and one forced fumble in his nine games played. LVE was a beast his rookie season with 140 total tackles, and he could return to being an IDP force again in 2020 if he can just stay on the field.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that quarterback Dak Prescott is the team's "No. 1 priority as we go into the offseason." Despite the Cowboys missing the playoffs in 2019, Prescott wasn't the problem. He had his best season with 4,902 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his fourth year in the NFL. The Cowboys continue to reiterate that Prescott is their QB of the future, so expect a contract extension to come soon. If that doesn't happen, the franchise tag is another option to retain him for 2020. Prescott finished as the No. 3 fantasy signal-caller last season, and he'll head into the 2020 campaign as a strong high-end QB1.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (shoulder) underwent a shoulder procedure last week that is said to involve "not a lengthy rehab," and Edelman is expected to be ready for the team's offseason program, according to a league source. The 33-year-old was noticeably hindered by his shoulder to close out the year, but overall it was a very successful 2019 season. Edelman had 100 receptions for a career-high 1,117 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. It was the second time in his career that he reached the 100-catch mark as quarterback Tom Brady's only real trusted receiving option. Edelman's outlook may change if Brady isn't under center in 2020, but he should at least be a solid WR2 in PPR leagues.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (shoulder) had a minor shoulder surgery last week, but he's expected to be ready for the offseason program.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman's fantasy value will hinge largely on whether Tom Brady returns to the team. Edelman should be a low-end WR2 in PPR formats.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hamstring) will be unable to participate in the Pro Bowl due to a lingering hamstring injury. He'll be replaced by Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) isn't expected to have surgery this offseason and will play in the Pro Bowl.
Fantasy Spin: Landry had a career-high 1,174 receiving yards to go with 83 grabs and six scores. The 27-year-old played in all 16 games for the sixth straight year and will be a low-end WR2 option in drafts next year.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen) underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to fix a core muscle injury. A full recovery is expected. OBJ didn't miss a game in his first season with Cleveland despite fighting through injuries. He caught 74 passes for 1,035 yards and only four touchdowns in what was a very disappointing first year with the Browns. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was extremely inconsistent behind a terrible offensive line, which didn't help matters for Beckham's fantasy owners. Another offseason to gain chemistry with Mayfield should help Beckham rebound in 2020, and he could be a nice value pick as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is not expected to undergo surgery, and he will play in the Pro Bowl. It's great news for a Browns offense that will be looking to shake off the disappointment of the 2019 season heading into 2020. Landry was the team's most consistent wideout last year, catching 83 passes for a career-high 1,174 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. In his six NFL seasons, Landry has had at least 81 receptions and four touchdowns and has never missed a game. He's a very consistent WR2/3 in PPR leagues, and the presence of Odell Beckham Jr. should continue to take attention away from him.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen) underwent surgery to repair his core muscle Tuesday, Jan. 21, in Philadelphia. He dealt with the injury for multiple weeks during the season.
Fantasy Spin: OBJ had a miserable season by his standards after most likely being a top-five pick. It's not a lock that he returns to the Browns after considerable drama that comes along with his immense talent. He's a risky fantasy asset because of that, but he'll be a WR1 in drafts again next year.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel combined for just three catches for 65 yards in the NFC Championship victory against the Green Bay Packers. Samuel added two rushes for 43 yards. The Niners opened up the game with a dominant running attack and a 27-0 lead, resulting in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes. While the stat sheet was underwhelming, both aerial playmakers made the most of their opportunities, picking up chunk gains on each touch. With the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs offense on deck, the Niners will conceivably need to throw the ball more in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders failed to record a catch in the NFC Championship blowout win against the Green Bay Packers. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes, Sanders saw only a single target. The clear third option in a low-volume passing game behind standout rookie wideout Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, Sanders has just two catches in the playoffs. Hell likely be tasked with more work in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert exploded for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. He also caught two passes for six yards. Mostert was unstoppable on Sunday, converting three rushing scores of 36, nine and 18 in the first half. He capped his evening with a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The fifth-year breakout player was the star in the Niners easy 37-20 victory and will again lead the backfield into the Super Bowl in two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed just six of eight passes for 77 yards and no scores in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Garoppolo had little to do but watch running back Raheem Mostert annihilate the Packers rush defense for 220 yards and four scores. With two consecutive easy victories in the playoffs, Jimmy G has attempted just 27 passes this postseason. Sledding will surely get tougher in the Super Bowl against the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) aggravated his injured ribs during the NFC Championship game but should be available for Super Bowl LIV.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers on Sunday. Coleman had his shoulder popped back into place and Shanahan thinks that Coleman has a chance to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks. Only time will tell if the 26-year-old will be able to play against Kansas City. He ran the ball six times for 21 yards before his injury and had a season-high 22 totes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional win over the Vikings. Even if Coleman plays, he'll be second fiddle to Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four scores against Green Bay. Matt Breida would spell Mostert in the backfield if Coleman doesn't gain clearance.