Green Bay Packers' Ibraheim Campbell forces a fumble by Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. McCaffrey recovered his own fumble. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams catches a pass in front of Carolina Panthers' Donte Jackson during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey runs during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill (23) carries on a touchdown reception in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a touchdown pass to running back Brian Hill, not pictured, in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) carries against New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (99) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes under pressure in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) reacts with linebacker Brian Burns (53) and defensive tackle Vernon Butler (92) after recovering a fumble during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Matt Ryan is coming to town, which tends to mean trouble for the Carolina Panthers.
The Falcons quarterback has dominated the rival Panthers of late, going 6-1 in his past seven starts while averaging 318 yards passing with 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
Ryan is 14-8 against Carolina.
So, while much of the attention this week has been on Carolina's porous run defense - they've allowed opponents to run for a combined 516 yards and 10 touchdowns in the past three games - defensive coordinator Eric Washington knows the Panthers can't forget about old No. 2 and his favorite target Julio Jones.
''We know what he's capable of and they have explosive talent at the wide receiver position,'' Washington said of Ryan. ''So we need to make sure we do a good job of getting him in third down situations they don't want to be in. And we have to be really efficient with our pass rush. The ball tends to come out fast on third-and-medium.''
That won't be easy.
Carolina's top cornerback James Bradberry is coming back from a groin injury this week, but the team's second- and third-best cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Ross Cockrell missed the first two days of practice this week with injuries and may not play. That means the Panthers (5-4) could have to lean on young players such as Javien Elliott, Cole Luke and Corn Elder, who was re-signed earlier this week because of injury concerns.
The Falcons (2-7) may not be contending for a playoff spot, but showed last Sunday they still have plenty of life - and firepower - by throttling the Saints 26-9
NEW LOOK AT RUNNING BACK
If Devonta Freeman is held out with a sprained foot, as expected, the Falcons will have a new look at running back. The position was considered to be the team's deepest spot before Ito Smith was placed on injured reserve last week following a concussion and a neck injury.
Brian Hill played well behind Freeman last week and is expected to start. Former Panthers backup Kenjon Barner would be the top backup and Qadree Ollison, who was active for the first time against the Saints, could play a bigger role. Notably, Barner was used in the wildcat formation, filling the role formerly held by Mohamed Sanu before the receiver was traded to New England. There could be more direct snaps for Barner against the Panthers.
NEW KICKER IS A KEEPER
The Falcons may have found their kicker, at least for the remainder of the season, in Younghoe Koo. Koo made four field goals, including a career-long 48-yarder, in last week's win at New Orleans in his Falcons debut. Koo was signed after veteran Matt Bryant's second stint with the team didn't go well and Giorgio Tavecchio couldn't hold the job.
Koo was the NFC special teams player of the week following his successful debut. He made three of six field-goal attempts with the Chargers in 2017 and kicked for the Atlanta Legends of the short-lived Alliance of American Football earlier this year. Koo, from South Korea, played for Georgia Southern.
The Panthers drafted Greg Little in the second round earlier this year to be their left tackle, but two concussions have limited him to two games and one start this season.
However, Little has now been cleared from the concussion protocol and is expected to start Sunday at left tackle with Dennis Daley sitting bothered by a groin injury. The Panthers have won both games that Little has played this season.
Before last week's game, Atlanta ranked last in the league with only seven sacks. Suddenly the Falcons rediscovered their pass rush with six sacks against the Saints, including 2 1/2 by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Vic Beasley Jr., who has been unable to duplicate his 2016 production, when he led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks, added 1 1/2 sacks.
''To me, it was just a good example to show what we're capable of,'' Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. ''If we apply those things time after time, those are the results that we hope to get.''
MORE OF MOORE
The Panthers are getting more production of late out of second-year wide receiver D.J. Moore, who is coming off back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time in his career. Moore had seven catches for 101 yards against the Titans two weeks ago and followed that up with a nine-catch, 120-yard performance last week against the Packers. Moore is leading the Panthers in receptions (54) and yards receiving (684). The next goal for him is getting into the end zone - he only has one TD catch.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is coming off a very disappointing performance in Week 13, but that shouldn't hold fantasy owners back from going right back to him in Week 14 against the Indianapolis Colts. Winston was only able to pass for 268 yards with no scores last week, but he should have no problem moving the ball against a bend-but-don't-break defense that gives up plenty of yards. Prior to last week's flop, the fifth-year signal-caller was averaging 324 passing yards and two scores per game since the Bucs bye and has put up QB1 numbers the entire season. Winston will comfortably slot in as a QB1 heading into the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense struggled mightily in a Week 14 loss to the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys defense seemed unable to stop the Bears on any third down play. Eternally struggling Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw three touchdown passes and ran for 63 yards and another touchdown. The Cowboys defense only intercepted him once and recorded just two sacks. A previously hyped fantasy unit, the Cowboys defense should probably be avoided for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin caught six passes in Week 14, gaining 50 yards. Jarwin was targeted seven times, finishing third on the team. Jarwin's usage this season has been very unpredictable, but he has shown the ability to play a decent game when given the chance. He could have more fantasy relevance next season if Jason Witten were to retire again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber rewarded fantasy owners who were brave enough to start him in Week 13, but a repeat of his two-touchdown performance, or even something close to it, is hard to envision heading into the first week of the fantasy playoffs. The Bucs backfield is a weekly guessing game with head coach Bruce Arians still refusing to commit to Barber or Ronald Jones. That makes it extremely hard to trust Barber, especially in a do-or-die situation for fantasy owners. Barber has a tough task on his hands regardless this week with the Indianapolis Colts coming to town. The Colts have given up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, with only one back going over the century mark on the ground. Barber is not a recommended start this week.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten caught five passes in Week 14, gaining 37 yards. It was a classic late-career Jason Witten game, where he caught most of the balls thrown his way right before falling to the ground. Witten saw seven targets, tied with fellow tight end Blake Jarwin for third on the team. Jarwin was able to come up with one more catch and gain 13 more yards, however. Witten has shown a consistent non-zero floor, which is at least something in the thoroughly empty fantasy position that is 2019 tight end, but he's been unable to establish any sort of ceiling in the meantime.
Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher, already leading the league in missed field goals, missed another one in a Week 14 loss to the Chicago Bears. Maher made all three of his extra points and did make a 31 yarder at the end of the fourth quarter. The Cowboys tried out kickers last week and might do a bit more of that this coming week. Maher may not be long for the Cowboys roster.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup had a strong game in Week 14, catching six passes for 109 yards. He led the team in yardage and with the 10 targets thrown his way, and tied for the team lead with six catches. Gallup did a lot of work after the catch in this one, and was a touchdown away from an enormous game in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. He'll continue as a strong WR2 through Week 17.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper scored a fourth quarter touchdown in a Week 14 loss to the Chicago Bears. Cooper caught six passes for 83 yards on a total of eight targets. Cooper's six catches tied for the team lead, and his was the only receiving touchdown of the night for Dallas. His score came on a nice 19-yard pass from Dak Prescott near the end of the fourth quarter. Cooper showed some signs of still working through the injuries that have limited him of late, but he was still able to get work done against a strong Chicago defense.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Randall Cobb was targeted five times in Week 14, but was only able to come down with two catches. He gained a respectable 43 yards with the two catches, but in a game that he was predicted as a sneaky fantasy option, he ended up disappointing. While Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup were able to do their work on the field, Cobb fell behind and looks to be over his recent hot streak. He'll likely fall back into fantasy irrelevance in most standard leagues.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott performed decently in fantasy terms in Week 14 despite losing to the Chicago Bears. Prescott attempted 49 passes, completing 27 of them for 334 yards and a touchdown. Prescott's only touchdown came on a 19-yard pass to Amari Cooper near the end of the fourth quarter. It wasn't a great performance in general from Prescott, but given a strong Bears Defense on the other side, things could certainly have been worse.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott scored two touchdowns on the ground in a Week 14 to the Chicago Bears. Elliott ran the ball 19 times, gaining 81 yards. He added two catches for 12 yards on five targets. Elliott stayed on the field the whole game with Tony Pollard (ankle) inactive. Elliott's first touchdown was a two-yard run in the first quarter, and his second was another two-yard run at the end of the third.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller broke out of a five-game drought in Week 13, recording his first 100-game since Week 7. He'll have a good opportunity to repeat his seven-catch performance from last week versus a Titans Defense that has allowed the seventh-most points to the TE position this season. They were burned by Jack Doyle (6/73/1) and Travis Kelce (7/75/1) in recent weeks, while Waller has remained the favored target of Derek Carr all season long. With Josh Jacobs questionable for Sunday's game, the offense may need to rely on the air attack to win this game, which would be excellent news for Waller owners. Treat the 26-year-old as a high-volume TE1 for Week 14.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams is coming off his worst game of the season (1/9/0), and his Week 14 matchup doesn't appear that encouraging either. The Titans have allowed the sixth-most passing yards in the league (260.1 YPG), but have kept opposing WRs out of the end zone in five of their last seven contests. Quarterback Derek Carr has also struggled of late, which has limited Williams to five consecutive games without a score and no 100-yard games since Week 1. Treat the veteran as a WR4 as we enter the first week of fantasy playoffs.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is coming off back-to-back underwhelming performances as the Tennessee Titans come to town for a pivotal matchup this weekend. With both teams in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, the Raiders will need Carr to improve on his recent play with Josh Jacobs questionable for this Sunday. The Titans give up the sixth-most passing yards in the league (260.1 YPG), but have only allowed opposing quarterbacks to reach 20+ fantasy points three times through 13 games. Carr has just two of these games to his credit this season, so the stars aren't exactly aligning for a big performance. With a 3:4 TD to INT ratio over his past four games, treat the veteran as a low-end QB2 for Week 14.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett (knee) missed his second straight practice this week on Thursday. Everett is on his way to missing his second straight game unless he can return to practice on Friday. If you've been using Everett at the tight end spot, you need to look elsewhere in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Tyler Higbee filled in admirably in a great matchup against Arizona last weekend and went for over 100 yards and a touchdown. He'd be on the TE1/2 borderline again in Week 14 against the Seahawks on Sunday night if Everett misses another game.
The New Orleans Saints Defense will face off with Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. The Saints are coming off an excellent Thanksgiving night performance where they recorded nine sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. New Orleans may have trouble repeating this effort against the 49ers, considering they've allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses. San Francisco also ranks 12th in adjusted sack rate and have given up the 10th-fewest sacks in the league. There are better options out there than New Orleans this week.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz will face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. Lutz is on fire, having made at least two field goals in four straight games and at least two extra points in three of the last four. San Francisco is a stingy defense that doesn't allow many trips to the red zone. Still, New Orleans should be able to get within Lutz's range several times this game. Stick with the hot hand and start him as a high-end kicking option this week.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard (ankle) has been ruled out for Thursday night against the Bears. Pollard missed two days of practice this week, so he was on the wrong side of questionable to begin with. Ezekiel Elliott has been the bell-cow back all season, so Pollard, 22, has just 58 carries for 264 yards and one touchdown on the season in 11 games. He has no standalone fantasy value unless Zeke gets hurt. Elliott's fantasy outlook as an RB1 against Chicago will not change with Pollard inactive. Fullback Jamize Olawale will serve as Elliott's backup for this one.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook gets a tough Week 14 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. The 32-year-old is on a roll, having surpassed 70 receiving yards in three of his last four games. Now he'll get to face the 49ers' league-best pass defense. It will be a very tough matchup for Cook, as the 49ers allow the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Still, his involvement in the offense lately, 6.5 targets per game in his last four, makes him start-worthy even against this defense. It's risky, but so are a lot of other streaming options at the tight end position.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) missed his second straight practice this week on Thursday. Smith-Schuster is unlikely to play again this weekend against the Cardinals and could be sidelined again in Week 15 if his knee injury does not improve. In an offense now run by quarterback Devlin Hodges, Smith-Schuster won't be anything more than a low-upside WR3 if he's active during the fantasy playoffs. James Washington has become a WR3 in Smith-Schuster's absence, but a projected low target share doesn't bode well for his chances of helping fantasy owners. Diontae Johnson (illness), who returned to a full practice on Thursday, will be the No. 2 behind Washington.