Thu Dec 5 6:28pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Andrew Wylie (77) picks up celebrating running back LeSean McCoy (25) after McCoy scored a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks to throw against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates a touchdown by running back Darwin Thompson (34) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Chiefs coach Andy Reid's expectations are simple heading into Kansas City's latest matchup with the Patriots.
''I think they know us, and we know them. You get in and you battle,'' Reid said.
That was exactly what the teams did in their two meetings last season.
New England got a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski as time expired to escape with a 43-40 victory during the regular season. The Patriots then needed overtime to do it again in the AFC championship game, outlasting Kansas City in another shootout, 37-31 in Arrowhead Stadium.
Another close game is expected for their latest matchup on Sunday, with playoff implications for both teams.
New England (10-2) can extend its NFL record to 11 consecutive playoff berths with a win. Kansas City (8-4) can clinch the AFC West title with a win and Oakland loss.
The two teams that have beaten the Patriots this season - Baltimore and Houston - both have dual-threat quarterbacks in Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he sees similarities in how both of them attacked a New England defense that is allowing an NFL-low 12.1 points per game.
''I think the biggest thing was when they had their opportunities, they hit them,'' Mahomes said. ''They're not going to give us a lot of opportunities, they're a very good defense and very sound with what they do. It's about taking what's there and when you get the big shot or the big play, you hit that and score touchdowns when you do.''
Coming off a week in which New England's defense gave up four passing touchdowns in its loss to the Texans - doubling its total allowed in 2019 - safety Devin McCourty said the challenge against the Chiefs will be keeping track of all their playmakers.
''It's almost like they don't win the same way each week. They just have so much talent. I think you see that all throughout the season,'' McCourty said. ''The threat of Mahomes is always there of running the ball, of rolling one way being able to throw the ball back across his body. ... We got to see it last year twice of just his ability of being able to make plays. So, I think we know it, but with this team, the hardest thing is going out there and executing and playing to it.''
Keeping Kansas City out of the end zone will be even more imperative because of New England's ongoing issues on offense.
The Jets, Dolphins and Broncos rank in bottom five in the NFL in points per game in 2019 but are all averaging more points than New England (18 ppg) since start of November. The Patriots went 2-2 last month.
Brady's 88.2 passer rating is also his worst since 2013.
The 42-year-old quarterback has expressed his frustrations with the offense in recent weeks and acknowledged during his weekly appearance on Boston's WEEI radio that injuries have also affected their expectations. But it hasn't altered their resolve to fix their deficiencies.
''It's not like we haven't dealt with losses before,'' Brady said. ''I think a lot of it is about mental toughness and realizing that when you don't play well, you don't win. You're not supposed to win when you put less than your best out there. Sometimes you get away with it, and sometimes you don't.''
The Patriots could be dealing with another change on the offensive line.
James Ferentz may get the start at center with Ted Karras recovering from a knee injury he suffered in the third quarter of last week's loss to Houston.
Karras has started all 12 games this season in place of David Andrews, who is recovering from blood clots. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn also spent nine games on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Ferentz said he'll be ready if called upon.
''Your job is to step in and that the train doesn't slow down,'' he said. ''We have a bunch of guys on this team that have embraced that role and I just try to keep up with those guys.''
Brady enters the week with 535 regular-season touchdown passes, the second most in NFL history. Peyton Manning holds record with 539. Drew Brees is third with 532.
With 300 or more yards passing Brady will also have his 93rd 300-yard game, tying Manning for second in NFL history. Brees is first with 118. The Patriots are 76-16 in Brady's 300-yard games.
MOVING ON UP
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce leads the AFC with 923 receiving yards in 2019.
He needs just 77 receiving yards to become the fourth tight end to have four seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards in NFL history.
The others are Dallas' Jason Witten, Hall of Famer and former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez and former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
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.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Graham has back-to-back 49-year receiving performances, but those games came against teams that struggle to defend the tight end position. The 49ers are not one of those teams. They allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends all season and were the league's stingiest pass defense. Maybe Graham makes a play in the red zone. Still, he's a cheaper DFS play but by no means a comfortable one.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (illness) is trending in the right direction to play in the NFC Championship game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. Even if available, Allison isn't an option in any fantasy format. The 25-year-old hasn't caught more than four passes in a game this season. It sure doesn't seem like he'll eclipse that mark against the league's best defense with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) is currently questionable for the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. There's certainly a risk for injury, considering he re-aggravated the ankle in last week's playoff game. Still, it's hard to ignore the two-game stretch Lazard had to end the season, where he saw 17 targets. That alone makes him worth a gamble, particularly in a must-win game for a Packers team in desperate need of another threat at receiver. Just beware, the matchup isn't ideal. The 49ers allowed only 172 passing yards to the Vikings last week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Adams produced only 43 receiving yards and a score against San Francisco in the regular season but still had 12 targets. The star receiver has seen double-digit targets in nine of 13 games played this year. There's not many receivers that you can virtually pencil in for double-digit targets- but Adams is one of them. If fellow receivers Geronimo Allison (illness) and Allen Lazard (ankle) suit up, they may be limited. Adams could be looking at more work than usual, even in a matchup this difficult.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense enter Championship weekend as the highest-priced fantasy defense. The Niners face the Green Bay Packers, who they demolished 37-8 in Week 12. In that previous contest, the Niners relentlessly harassed future Hall of Famer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dropping him five times and forcing a fumble. The Packers were a meager one for 15 on third down conversions. The 49ers will need to follow that blueprint again in the critical NFC Championship to emerge victorious. With a higher-intensity contest expected, it could be difficult to splurge on a defense in fantasy compared to other addressable positions.
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.