Sun Nov 10 8:21pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, left, celebrates with Mark Barron (26) after Fitzpatricks touchdown following the recovery of a fumble by Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) celebrates his touchdown catch with Diontae Johnson (18) during the first half of an NFL football game against the LoLos Angeles Rams in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington, right, celebrates his touchdown catch with Diontae Johnson (18) during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) is hit by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97) after getting off a pass during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Los Angeles Rams defensive end Dante Fowler (56) celebrates his touchdown on a fumble recovery during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH (AP) The Steelers defense spoiled Aaron Donald's homecoming and derailed the Los Angeles Rams' momentum in the process.
The Steelers forced four turnovers - including a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick - in an ugly 17-12 victory on Sunday that pushed their winning streak to four games and dealt the Rams' chances of chasing down Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West a serious blow.
Donald, a Pittsburgh native, sacked the Steelers' Mason Rudolph for a safety in his first appearance in his hometown since the Rams took him in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Linebacker Dante Fowler scored Los Angeles' lone touchdown on a 25-yard fumble return on the second snap of the game. But the Rams' offense did little against a Steelers defense that has become the team's identity after losing Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending right elbow injury in Week 2.
Jared Goff completed 22 of 40 passes for 243 yards, none of them to leading receiver Cooper Kupp. The Rams (5-4) converted just 1 of 14 third downs and came up empty on a pair of last-gasp drives in the final two minutes. Goff's fourth-down heave to the end zone intended for Josh Reynolds fell incomplete with 1:25 to go. Los Angeles got the ball back with 59 seconds to play but Goff's pass to Robert Woods was tipped.
Fitzpatrick ran underneath it for the game-sealing interception and seventh takeaway since the Steelers acquired him from Miami in September for a 2020 first-round pick.
At the moment, it looks like draft capital well spent.
Rudolph completed 22 of 38 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown, stats that would have been considerably better if not for a handful of drops that prevented the Steelers (5-4) from gaining any sort of traction for long stretches.
Rudolph became the ninth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw a touchdown in each of his first seven games when he found James Washington for a 3-yard score in the first quarter, but the Steelers once again relied on their defense to move over .500 for the first time this season.
The Steelers managed just 15 turnovers in 2018. They have produced 26 through nine games in 2019, helping them stay afloat following a 1-4 start while Rudolph and the offense searches for solid footing.
WHAT THE HEKKER?
Los Angeles coach Sean McVay is known for his innovative thinking, but his aggressiveness nearly cost the Rams in the third quarter. Los Angeles was facing fourth-and-1 at Rams 29 trailing 14-7.
The Rams lined up to punt before fanning out, with Hekker moving up into the shotgun formation. Hekker, who had a 23-yard completion earlier in the season and came in 12 of 20 for 179 yards with a touchdown in his career, was hit as he threw and the pass was picked off by Pittsburgh's Trey Edmunds, a running back by trade.
The Steelers, however, were unable to take advantage of the great field position. A penalty, a sack and a dropped pass pushed Pittsburgh out of field-goal range.
Rams: Center Brian Allen left in the first quarter with a knee issue and did not return. DB Darious Williams left with an ankle problem.
Steelers: Wide receiver Ryan Switzer left in the fourth quarter with a back injury.
Rams: Host the Chicago Bears (4-5) next Sunday night.
Steelers: Travel to Cleveland to play the Browns (3-6) on Thursday. Pittsburgh is 7-0-1 in its past eight meetings with Cleveland.
Minnesota Vikings running back Mike Boone had a great game in Week 15's blowout win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The undrafted second-year back out of Cincinnati rushed 13 times for 56 yards and two touchdowns in the win, finding the end zone for the first time in his young career. Boone worked as the lead back in the second half with starter Dalvin Cook (shoulder) out, and he looked just as explosive as he did when he dominated in the preseason this year. Cook was ruled out very quickly and Alexander Mattison (ankle) could be looking at an extended absence, as evidenced by the Vikings signing Tony Brooks-James to their practice squad last Wednesday. Boone is a priority pickup with Cook and Mattison ailing as he would be squarely on the RB2 radar in Week 16 if they are both ruled out. Stay tuned for updates on all three Vikings' backs.
The Minnesota Vikings Defense stepped up in a big way in Week 15's 39-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. They tallied a whopping seven takeaways (three interceptions and four fumble recoveries), three sacks, and a touchdown as the Chargers looked flustered all game long. The most notable play was Danielle Hunter's strip-sack and forced fumble that was scooped by Ifeadi Odenigbo and returned 56 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The defense took control of this game from the get-go, but the secondary continued its stretch of subpar play and Xavier Rhodes was replaced by Mike Hughes for a good portion of the game. The Vikings Defense will be a risky option in Week 16's home matchup with the Green Bay Packers.
Minnesota Vikings kicker Dan Bailey had himself a game in Week 15, going 4-for-4 on field goals attempts and knocking in three extra points in a 39-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Bailey hit from 26, 27, 38, and 44 yards and is now sitting at an impressive 92% field goal percentage for the season. Bailey is a recommended start in Week 16's home matchup against the rival Green Bay Packers.
Oakland Raiders WR Tyrell Williams caught two of his three targets for 45 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown, in a 20-16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: After scoring in five consecutive games to open the year, Williams had gone six straight games without a touchdown prior to the Week 15 contests. He's an all-or-nothing, touchdown-dependent flex option.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. caught two of three targets for eight yards and a touchdown in Week 15's convincing win over the Los Angeles Chargers. His score was a one-yarder off of play-action to open up the game's scoring in the first quarter. It was the second touchdown of the promising rookie's career, with the first coming back in Week 11. That being said, Smith Jr. is still working behind Kyle Rudolph and does not receive enough volume to be in consideration for fantasy rosters heading into Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Chris Conley caught four of his eight targets for 49 yards and two touchdowns in a 20-16 win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Conley has been good for a handful of grabs and around 50 yards most weeks, but he entered the game with just two touchdowns. At best, he's a risky flex option.
Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey rushed 19 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks. He also added eight grabs for 88 yards on 10 targets.
Fantasy Spin: McCaffrey continues to put up amazing numbers, win or lose. He will be in the conversation for No. 1 overall fantasy pick heading into the 2020 season. The Panthers travel to meet the Colts in Week 16.
Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Moore finished with eight catches for 113 yards on 12 targets in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Fantasy Spin: That's four 100-yard games in the past seven outings, and at least 75 yards in all seven during the span. He is a legit WR2 in PPR formats, and a nice WR3 or flex option in standard play. The Panthers travel to meet the Colts in Week 16.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 19-of-25 for 207 yards and a touchdown in a dominating Week 15 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. He also added three rushes for 14 yards. He did toss an interception, but the blame for that one lays squarely on backup running back Ameer Abdullah. Cousins was very efficient again this week, but he simply didn't need to put up big fantasy numbers as the Vikings held a two-possession lead and heavily emphasized the ground game for most of the second half. His lone touchdown pass came on a one-yarder to Irv Smith Jr. to open up the game. Cousins will be on the low-end QB1 radar for Week 16's home matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
The Washington Redskins Defense ended a three-game streak of playing admirably in Sunday's loss to the Eagles. Carson Wentz launched three touchdowns through the air, while Miles Sanders racked up 172 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns of his own. The Redskins didn't help their bottom line with turnovers and sacks the way they have been of late, getting to Wentz just twice and recovering one forced fumble. The end result was 31 points surrendered defensively and not enough complementary stats to account for those points in fantasy lineups. Washington's defense will have a chance to bounce back against the Giants at home next week.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph caught all three of his targets for 48 yards in Week 15's 39-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Rudolph finished second in targets and receiving yardage on the team this week as he surprisingly remained relevant despite Adam Thielen's return. Rookie Irv Smith Jr. vultured a one-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but Rudolph's continued involvement in the offense is definitely encouraging. Continue to view him as a touchdown-dependent TE2 heading into Week 16 against the Green Bay Packers.
Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon had one grab for 58 yards on his only target in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers and he also threw a pass and was picked off.
Fantasy Spin: Gordon is a big-play receiver capable of being a fantasy contributor. He just still isn't 100 percent part of the offense yet. Avoid him outside of deeper fantasy leagues in Week 16 against the Cardinals.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette rushed 15 times for 42 yards and caught five of his seven targets for 31 yards in a 20-16 win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: Fournette has been held to 50 rushing yards or less in three straight games, but fortunately for fantasy owners, his increased role in the passing game this year has allowed him to salvage decent point totals more often than not. At worst, he should be a volume-based RB2.
Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner totaled 10 tackles with two passes defensed in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly totaled 17 tackles with two quarterback hits in Week 15 against the Seattle Seahawks.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Kelvin Harmon was largely absent from his team's offensive attack for the second week in a row on Sunday. Harmon caught two passes on three targets and accumulated just 22 total yards in a loss to the Eagles. This is a discouraging trend for Harmon after he appeared to be carving out a spot in the pecking order in late November and early December. In any case, the fantasy season is at the point where owners just have to trust what their eyes are telling them. Harmon has dropped too far off the map to be considered a realistically safe bet in the late stages of the fantasy playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett posted eight receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the Carolina Panthers on a team-high nine targets.
Fantasy Spin: Lockett had been banged up recently, battling a shin contusion, but he is back just in time for fantasy owners. The Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson rushed 24 times for 133 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers.
Fantasy Spin: With Rashaad Penny out of the picture it's the Chris Carson Show, and he more than looked capable of handling the entire workload. He is in line for a huge fantasy performance in Week 16 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson rushed 16 times for 66 yards and a touchdown and caught all three of his targets for 25 yards in a 37-27 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15.
Fantasy Spin: An injury to Derrius Guice has Peterson leading the Washington backfield once again, and he has topped 75 total yards and scored in each of the past three games. He's a legitimate RB2 candidate heading into a favorable Week 16 matchup against the New York Giants.
Cleveland Browns kicker Austin Seibert hit one of his two field goals in a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15. Seibert also tacked on three extra points in the loss. The rookie kicker missed a 45-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, his fourth missed field goal of the season. In all, Seibert has been a reliable kicker for the Browns this season, although their poor offense has limited his scoring chances. Seibert will not be a recommended fantasy option in Week 16 against a tough Baltimore Ravens Defense.