Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill (22) intercepts a pass intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss (18) and returns it for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) gestures during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) runs off the field following an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan (26) intercepts a pass intended for Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) during the second half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Tennessee Titans and Oakland Raiders are moving in opposite directions heading into a stretch run.
The Titans (7-5) have won five of six games since switching to Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, turning a mediocre season into a promising one headed into Sunday's game against the struggling Oakland Raiders (6-6), who are one game behind Tennessee in the race for the final wild-card spot.
''I think guys kind of know what's at stake, know we need to win as many games as we possibly can to put ourselves in position to win the division and make this playoff run,'' Titans safety Kevin Byard said. ''So I think guys are going to be locked in.''
The Raiders are trying to get back to that form after back-to-back lopsided losses to the Jets and Kansas City, marking the first time since 1961 the team lost consecutive games by at least 30 points.
Despite that, Oakland is only one game behind Tennessee and Pittsburgh in the race for the final wild-card spot and still has hope of making the final scheduled season in Oakland a successful one.
''We feel like we've played pretty good football all year,'' coach Jon Gruden said. 'We've had some ups and downs obviously, especially the last couple weeks. You know, we're 6-6. That's nothing to really brag about, but we're excited about progress.''
The Titans still have their sights set higher than the wild-card race. Tennessee trails Houston by one game in the AFC South but plays two of the final three games against the Texans, putting the division title in the Titans control.
''If you look ahead, at the end of the day if we lose this game now what's ahead doesn't really matter,'' four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said. ''So we want to make sure to we take care of this game right now, keep ourselves in a good position.
Both teams rely heavily on the running game led by a pair of backs who played college ball at Alabama. Tennessee's Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 1,725 yards rushing over his past 16 games. He has 11 TD runs this season and leads all running backs with 31 runs of at least 10 yards. His counterpart in Oakland and successor at Alabama, Josh Jacobs, has been almost as effective his rookie season, ranking fourth in the NFL with 1,061 yards rushing so far.
''He's been doing that all these years I've been playing with him at 'Bama,'' said Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans, a teammate of Jacobs' at Alabama in 2016-17. ''It's going to be like another reunion and have a guy I been practicing against for three years and being able to now play against him is going to be definitely fun.''
The Raiders' once efficient offense has stalled of late. Starting with a victory in Indianapolis in Week 4 and continuing through a home win against the Chargers in Week 10, the Raiders led the NFL in yards per play (6.34) and ranked sixth in points per drive (2.35). Over the past three weeks, the Raiders rank 18th in the league in yards per play (5.14) and last in points per drive (0.85).
''We've had a rough two weeks,'' quarterback Derek Carr said. ''I've had a rough two weeks. It's time to get back on track.''
The Titans started the season holding their first seven opponents to 20 points or less. Now they've gotten back on track the past two weeks, making nine games this season that Tennessee has held a team to 20 points or below. The Titans rank seventh in the NFL in scoring defense, giving up 19.5 points a game.
After back-to-back road games in cold weather, the Raiders will be happy to come home for the final scheduled homestand at the Coliseum. The Raiders previously endured a seven-week stretch away from Oakland and will finish the season with road games against the Chargers and Broncos following next week's home finale against Jacksonville. The Raiders are set to move to Las Vegas next season.
''We do like playing at home like everybody else,'' Gruden said. ''We've been on the road more than anybody in the history of the world now. You know 45,000 miles of travel is a joke, and it's taken a toll on our team. I believe that. But it's good to be home, sleep in your own bed, play a home game, especially with the kind of fans that we have.''
Gruden did exaggerate slightly as the Raiders are traveling about 32,000 miles this season, most in the NFL.
The Titans have been leaning more and more on Henry since Tannehill took over as the starting quarterback. Even though the Titans aren't asking Tannehill to throw much, he's been very effective. Tannehill is second in the NFL with a 113.9 passer rating, second to Drew Brees completing 72.7 percent of his passes, and he's leading the NFL averaging 9.1 yards per pass attempt.
Since Tannehill moved into the lineup, the Titans are scoring 29.7 points a game, second in the NFL behind only the Ravens (37) in that span.
''For him to come off the bench, that's a real hard thing to do - and earn the trust and respect of his whole team,'' Gruden said. ''He's been money at crunch time.''
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.
Tennessee Titans LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), LB Rashaan Evans (foot), WR Adam Humphries (ankle), CB Adoree' Jackson (foot), WR Cody Hollister (ankle) and OT Jack Conklin (shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. CB Logan Ryan (illness) and LB David Long Jr. (knee) participated in full.
Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) was limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: It's an upgrade for Allison after he missed Wednesday's practice. He's likely to be limited for much of the week but should ultimately suit up for Sunday, Jan. 19's NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He made just one catch for 11 yards last week against the Seattle Seahawks and isn't worth much more than a desperation flier.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Graham has caught seven of 11 total targets across his last two games, recording 49 receiving yards in each game. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 7 and doesn't possess much touchdown upside, but the Packers have few better options in the passing game outside of WR Davante Adams. He could be a sneaky play at a thin position.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) practiced in full Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: It's Coleman's second straight full practice, and he should be good to go for the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19. He's coming off one of his best games of the season, and he'll be worth starting once again in all formats.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) was a full participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert's on track to play in the NFC Championship Sunday, Jan. 19. He took a back seat to RB Tevin Coleman in the Divisional Round game against the Minnesota Vikings, but he was still able to rack up 58 yards and 12 carries. He's worth starting, but Coleman should be viewed as the better option.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and DL Dee Ford (quadriceps, hamstring) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.