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FFL: Playoff Week 1 | NFL: Week 15

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Players: Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson, Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Jared Goff, Mitch Trubisky

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff calls signals during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) takes a snap during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)


Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throws against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) avoids a tackle byf Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers (90) during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)


LOS ANGELES (AP) Even Sean McVay realizes there’s a strong argument to be made that the Chicago Bears ended the Los Angeles Rams’ two seasons of offensive brilliance with their 15-6 victory at Soldier Field last season.

McVay, Jared Goff and the Rams (5-4) get a chance to reply when the Bears (4-5) visit the Coliseum on Sunday night in a game that could wreck the loser’s realistic playoff hopes.

That loss on a chilly, biting night last December still stings for McVay and Goff, who threw a career-high four interceptions while the Rams were held without a touchdown for the first time in McVay’s tenure.

“They were a great defense, period,” McVay said. “They still are a great defense, but they did do some different things schematically that - I don’t run away from the fact that I didn’t handle that night well at all.”

Los Angeles was 11-1 and cruising through a season that would bend with a Super Bowl trip, but Vic Fangio’s defense reduced McVay’s offense to a wan shadow of its usual self. Todd Gurley produced only 28 yards rushing, Goff went 20 of 44 for 180 yards, and the Rams managed only 214 yards - less than half of their season average.

Fangio largely did it with a deceptively simple 6-1 alignment: Six defenders right at the line of scrimmage, with one linebacker just behind them looking to snuff out the run game. When Gurley couldn’t move the ball on the ground against that setup, the Rams’ play-action strategies were largely useless - and then Goff made mistakes.

“All of these teams, at some point, you hit some patches where you have to figure some things out and re-adjust and all that,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said of the Rams’ struggles in Chicago last season. “We’re going through that right now offensively.”

Other teams copied the Bears’ strategy, and New England played its version to perfection while holding the Rams to three points in the Super Bowl. But with Gurley still largely ineffective this season, opponents haven’t even needed the strategy to beat the Rams lately.

“I wouldn’t say what they did has shown up a lot,” Goff said, recalling the Bears’ setup. “It’s something that teams have tried, and we’ve beat it at times, and we haven’t at times. It’s definitely part of a scheme that people have played not only to us, but across the league. Nothing too crazy. Pretty simple. We’ll be ready if they do it again.”

Chuck Pagano runs the Bears’ defense now, and it has scarcely lost a step statistically despite Chicago’s overall struggles.

The Rams’ offense is a shadow of its former self, sitting in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories and coming off an inept performance at Pittsburgh in which it scored only three of Los Angeles’ 12 points.

The Bears’ biggest concern this time around likely should be Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense, which has been on a roll since the week before it acquired shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville.

“Really good defense,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “I think it starts up front for them. They’ve got obviously really talented players in Donald, and they do a lot of stuff up front with twists and getting pressure. Last year, they kind of zoned us out and tried to keep everything in front and take away our big plays.”

Here are more things to know about the prime-time showdown between 2018 division winners:

OLD FRIENDS

Allen Robinson figures he’s in for a physical confrontation and plenty of trash talk from Ramsey.

The Bears’ leading receiver and Rams’ brash star cornerback figure to be matched against each other just like old times, when they would go at it in practice as teammates in Jacksonville for two seasons. Robinson was three years into his career when the Jaguars drafted Ramsey with the No. 5 overall pick in 2016, and the rookie went at him right away.

“It’s gonna be physical, it’s gonna be competitive, it’s gonna be fun,” Robinson said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Robinson signed with Chicago last year, while Ramsey forced a trade to Los Angeles last month. But during their time together, Robinson heard plenty from him.

“I talk, he talks, so it’ll be fun,” Robinson said.

SHAKY LINE

Khalil Mack will be lining up against a Rams offensive line with four of the five starters in unfamiliar positions. Los Angeles lost center Brian Allen and right tackle Rob Havenstein to injuries last week, so guard Austin Blythe moves to center and untested youngsters David Edwards, Austin Corbett and Bobby Evans likely join the starting lineup. The Rams’ line struggled against Pittsburgh even before the injuries, so McVay is scheming to help his profoundly inexperienced unit - but Mack still could be in for a feast.

WORK IN PROGRESS

The Bears got the win they needed last week against Detroit, ending a four-game skid with Trubisky throwing three TD passes to match his season high. But the defending NFC North champions still have plenty of room to improve. Though they scored on three consecutive possessions in the second and third quarters, the offense went long stretches without moving the ball.

The defense held Detroit to 98 yards rushing on 27 attempts, but the Bears lost linebacker Danny Trevathan to a left elbow injury, and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is on injured reserve with an elbow injury, leaving Chicago without two disruptive players inside against Los Angeles.

KUPP COMEBACK

McVay is still disappointed after leading receiver Cooper Kupp was held without a catch last week. The Steelers felt free to double-team Kupp more frequently with Brandin Cooks sidelined by a concussion, and Cooks is out again this week. Goff and McVay both believe their offense needs the ball in Kupp’s hands to reach its potential.

Player Notes
Alexander Mattison Dec 11 6:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. There's still a chance that Mattison can play in Week 15 against the Chargers, but nothing is guaranteed. With Dalvin Cook (chest) seeing a full workload against the Lions last Sunday, Mattison would be nothing more than a little-used backup against the Bolts this weekend if he's active. Mattison has been impressive when on the field, but he just doesn't see enough volume behind Cook to have standalone value. Ameer Abdullah and Michael Boone are behind Mattison on the running back depth chart in Minnesota.

From RotoBaller

Paul Richardson Dec 11 6:23pm ET

Washington Redskins WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: Richardson has missed the last few games but appears to have a chance to play in Week 15. He would see a handful of targets if he active for the game but can be avoided in most leagues.

From TheHuddle

Adrian Peterson Dec 11 6:23pm ET

Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson (toe) fully participated in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: Peterson will receive a majority of the carries with Derrius Guice out for the season and was productive in the role earlier this season. He can be a No. 2 running back or flex option in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Jordan Howard Dec 11 6:13pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles RB Jordan Howard (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: Howard still has not been cleared for contact, so his status for Week 15 is uncertain. Fantasy players should know more later in the week but will need other options available in case Howard misses another game.

From TheHuddle

Nelson Agholor Dec 11 6:13pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: Agholor was not able to play last week and appears to be questionable for Week 15. He would have a favorable matchup if he plays, but fantasy players may want to consider other options for their lineups.

From TheHuddle

Alshon Jeffery Dec 11 6:13pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles DE Derek Barnett (ankle), WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) and OT Lane Johnson (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. CB Jalen Mills (elbow) was limited during practice, while LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (concussion) fully participated in practice.

From TheHuddle

New Orleans Saints Dec 11 6:10pm ET

The New Orleans Saints officially placed defensive end Marcus Davenport (Achilles) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (ankle) on season-ending Injured Reserve on Wednesday. The combination of losing both defensive linemen is a pretty big blow to this Saints Defense to close out the year. Davenport, a first-round pick in 2018, had 31 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles in his 13 games, while Rankins, a first-rounder in 2016, had 10 tackles and two sacks in his 10 games in 2019. New Orleans' defense will be a low-tier fantasy play on Monday night in Week 15 against the fading and injured Colts offense in the superdome in a bounce-back game.

From RotoBaller

Will Fuller Dec 11 6:10pm ET

Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) was limited in practice on Wednesday after being inactive in the Week 15 loss to the Broncos. Fuller could be a game-time decision this Sunday against the Titans. If he sits out a second straight game, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee would have bigger roles alongside top wideout DeAndre Hopkins. If Fuller returns to action on Sunday, fantasy owners should consider the speedy deep threat as a boom-or-bust WR2 commodity as the Texans look to bounce back from a frustrating loss.

From RotoBaller

Taiwan Jones Dec 11 6:03pm ET

Houston Texans OT Chris Clark (hip), CB Gareon Conley (hip), RB Taiwan Jones (hamstring), LB Brennan Scarlett (Achilles, shoulder) and DE Carlos Watkins (hamstring) were limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

From TheHuddle

David Njoku Dec 11 6:00pm ET

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (knee) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Njoku returned in Week 14 from a wrist injury that landed him on Injured Reserve after Week 2, and he played limited snaps on his way to just one catch for four yards in the win over the Bengals. The 23-year-old should be fine to play this weekend against the Cardinals. Arizona has been atrocious against opposing tight ends, but even so, Njoku is a boom/bust TE1/2 for fantasy owners feeling lucky in the second round of the fantasy playoffs.

From RotoBaller

Geronimo Allison Dec 11 6:00pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (knee) and tight end Jimmy Graham (wrist) were limited participants in Wednesday's practice. Graham was limited last week but was able to play against the Redskins, so he should suit up this week barring a setback. Allison, on the other hand, is a new addition to the report and will have to prove he's healthy in the final two sessions. If healthy, both would be shaky starts in Week 15 against the Chicago Bears.

From RotoBaller

Jaylen Samuels Dec 11 6:00pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (concussion) and running back Jaylen Samuels (groin) both were missing from practice on Wednesday. Not only is McDonald questionable for Week 15 against the Bills on Sunday night, but he hasn't cleared 50 yards the entire season and has only three touchdowns. He has just five catches for 25 yards in the last three games combined. Even if he's active, he can't be trusted in fantasy lineups in a very difficult draw in Buffalo. Nick Vannett would be a desperation TE2 if McDonald is inactive. Samuels is basically useless in fantasy with James Conner (shoulder) expected to return this Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Jameis Winston Dec 11 5:53pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (knee, thumb) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: Winston is expected to play this week despite the thumb injury, but fantasy players should check on his status later in the week. He is a risky option in fantasy leagues because of his interceptions but could still be a low-end No. 1 quarterback in some leagues.

From TheHuddle

Mike Evans Dec 11 5:53pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Demar Dotson (non-injury), WR Mike Evans (hamstring), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) and OT Donovan Smith (ankle, knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. OG Alex Cappa (elbow), WR Scott Miller (hamstring) and LB Anthony Nelson (hamstring) were limited during practice.

From TheHuddle

Will Fuller Dec 11 5:53pm ET

Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.

Fantasy Spin: Fuller was not able to play last week, and his status for Week 15 is uncertain. Fantasy players should monitor his progress this week but may want to look for other options to use in their lineups.

From TheHuddle

Gerald Everett Dec 11 5:50pm ET

Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett (knee) is considered "day-to-day" by head coach Sean McVay. "His knee is making progress, but not ready to get out there and practice with us yet." Everett has essentially been day-to-day since suffering the injury in Week 13. He's missed the last two games as a result and cannot be trusted for fantasy lineups in Week 15 against the Panthers. Starting the week off with another missed practice is a bad sign. Tyler Higbee has gone for 14 catches (19 targets) for 223 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks against the Cardinals and Seahawks with Everett sidelined. Higbee will keep his TE1 status in the fantasy playoffs if Everett remains out.

From RotoBaller

Jordan Howard Dec 11 5:50pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Howard has been close to playing for weeks it seems, but he has yet to be cleared and hasn't seen the field since Nov. 3 against the Bears. If he does return in Week 15 against the Redskins, he could have his workload monitored and limited because of the long layoff, making him more of a risky RB2/3. Rookie Miles Sanders has been the workhorse in Philly's backfield with Howard sidelined, and he'll maintain RB2 upside in a solid matchup this Sunday if Howard misses another game.

From RotoBaller

Mark Andrews Dec 11 5:50pm ET

Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews has been listed as questionable with a minor knee injury, but is expected to play Thursday Night against the Jets. Andrews was only able to record one catch on three targets for 14 yards before exiting the game in Sunday's Week 14 win over the Buffalo Bills. It's a possibility that Baltimore could sit Andrews to preserve his health as the Ravens make a push for first place. He was limited in practice Tuesday and Wednesday, but has been limited in practice for much of the season and has still played in every game. Through Week 14 of the season, Andrews leads the Ravens in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. If Andrews is on the field he should be in your starting lineups against the Jets in Week 15.

From RotoBaller

Andy Isabella Dec 11 5:40pm ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receivers Christian Kirk (ankle) and Andy Isabella (shoulder) were both limited in practice on Wednesday. Both players should be on track to play in Week 15 against the Browns, but we'll keep an eye on their status the rest of the week. Kirk had eight catches on nine targets for 85 yards in the loss to the Steelers last week. He'll be an upside WR2 if he's able to play this weekend against Cleveland alongside Larry Fitzgerald. Other than his 88-yard touchdown catch on Halloween against the 49ers, Isabella has done very little (8-185-1) in his rookie season. He's purely a dynasty stash for his long-term upside.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson Dec 11 5:40pm ET

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was officially listed as questionable with a quadriceps injury for Week 15 but confidently confirmed Tuesday that he would start against the Jets on Thursday night. The Ravens face a Jets Defense that conceded 245 passing yards and 65 rushing yards from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 14, but did not allow the Dolphins to find the end zone. The Jets defense has allowed 21 total touchdowns and an average of 19 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2019. At this point in the season, it's not looking like any team will be able to stop the Lamar Jackson train. Jackson could produce high-ceiling numbers in the best matchup he's had in weeks. It would be wise to throw him in your starting lineups in a game where he will likely break Michael Vick's single-season rushing record for a quarterback.

From RotoBaller