Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor reacts during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley (5) calls a play during the first half of NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after the Raiders defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 26-24 in an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Derek Carr knows full well what the Cincinnati Bengals are enduring this season: nine straight losses to open the year.
Carr began his rookie season as starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders with 10 consecutive defeats before finally breaking through with a win.
''You feel like everything is against you because for the fans, sometimes for older players, they don't see any light at the end of the tunnel,'' he said. ''They just see what's in front of them at the moment and it's hard man. It's tough and one thing I'll say though is, if you can grind through those moments, work really hard, stick to your process, when the good moments come around it makes you thankful for those other moments.''
Carr bounced back from the rough debut campaign to win 12 games and lead the Raiders to the playoffs in 2016. Two more down seasons followed, but Carr has Oakland (5-4) back in contention again this year heading into Sunday's home game against Cincinnati (0-9).
After two straight wins to open a homestand, Carr wants to make sure his team doesn't let up in the third game and squander a chance.
''I don't care about records, man,'' he said. ''I prepare every game as if this is the game and so there is no, 'They haven't won a game.' I don't care how many games they have or haven't won, they got Pro Bowlers all over their football team and they are going to bring it, that's for sure.''
The Bengals are trying to avoid falling to 0-10 for the second time after also doing it in 1993. First-year coach Zac Taylor believes things will get better soon even if it doesn't seem that way right now.
''There'll be a time - I can't wait to look back on it - and say, 'Remember when all that stuff happened?''' Taylor said. ''We'll get there. This is one of the things we have to go through right now, unfortunately. We're going to fight through it, and there are going to be some positive things as this season comes to an end.''
Rookie Ryan Finley made his debut and had two huge turnovers against the Ravens. His sideline pass was picked off and returned 89 yards for a touchdown, and he had a fumble also returned for a score. Finley finished 16 of 30 for 167 yards with a touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 66.9. The Bengals expect him to be better now that he's experienced a game.
''He's getting used to playing NFL-caliber football and not preseason football, real starting football against a good defense,'' offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. ''And so, his timing was a little bit off. I think you'll see a pretty dramatic leap for him in game two, understanding what it's like to play at that speed.''
The Raiders must replace a safety again after Karl Joseph went down with a season-ending foot injury last week while making the game-sealing interception against the Chargers. Oakland already lost rookie Johnathan Abram to a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener and now may need to turn to Curtis Riley, who got benched earlier this year, special teams player Dallin Leavitt and newly acquired D.J. Swearinger, who was cut earlier this year by Arizona.
''These last weeks have been great for me,'' Swearinger said. ''I needed this time off, to get myself together. I couldn't be more ready for this opportunity to get here and work hard.''
OH THAT DEFENSE
The Bengals began looking to next year when they benched Andy Dalton and went with Finley at quarterback. They started overhauling the defense this week by waiving linebacker Preston Brown, who had lost his starting job. The linebackers have been the biggest sore spot in the league's lowest-ranked defense.
The Raiders' much-maligned pass rush delivered in a big way last week with five sacks in a win over the Chargers. No. 4 overall draft pick Clelin Ferrell had by far his best game as a pro with 2 1/2 sacks after recording none since the season opener. Fellow rookie Maxx Crosby provided consistent pressure and a half-sack of his own and Benson Mayowa had 1 1/2 sacks, giving him a career-high seven this season.
Taylor signed with Oakland coach Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay team as an undrafted quarterback out of Nebraska in 2007. He was waived before the start of training camp, a move that surprised him then but makes sense now. Taylor was familiar with Tampa Bay's system because his college coach, Bill Callahan, was a close friend of Gruden's.
''I think they probably just brought me in because I could call the plays in the rookie minicamp,'' Taylor said. ''In hindsight, those are the things you start to figure out as you start coaching. That made a little bit of sense. They could evaluate the other players while I got out there and called the plays correctly. It's all good.''
The Washington Redskins Defense played well enough to hold the Packers to 20 points on Sunday, but the bigger story is that they straight-up could not stop Aaron Jones on the ground. Jones rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and added six receptions for 58 yards. Jones' big day on the ground offset the fact that this Washington defense was largely able to hold Aaron Rodgers in check, as they sacked the Packers quarterback four times, held him to 195 yards and one touchdown through the air, and forced him to lose a fumble. The Redskins remain a risky option for any fantasy owner contending for a league championship, but they're not without upside.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara carried the ball 13 times for 25 yards and caught four of six targets for 18 yards in a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It's fair to wonder if something is wrong health-wise with Kamara, who's been a bust in fantasy this year. It could also be a play-calling issue, as he was seemingly stopped dead in his tracks every time he touched the ball. Whatever it is, he's now gone without a touchdown in eight straight games- an inexplicable streak for someone with his talent. Kamara will look to rebound from this in Week 15 against the Indianapolis Colts, who possess a strong run defense.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Olabisi Johnson caught his only target for a nine-yard score in the first quarter of Week 14's win over the Detroit Lions. The touchdown was Johnson's third of the year in what has been a productive campaign for the seventh-round rookie out of Colorado State. Adam Thielen (hamstring) is expected to be back for Week 15's contest against the Los Angeles Chargers, which would result in Johnson's standalone value completely disappearing. He's off the redraft radar for the fantasy playoff home stretch as he simply doesn't receive enough volume.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught six of nine targets for 92 yards in a Week 14 win over the Detroit Lions. Diggs was able to burn Darius Slay for 44 yards on a great sideline grab to set up a Dalvin Cook touchdown before halftime. He did most of his damage in the first half as the Vikings went run-heavy with a big lead in the final two quarters. Diggs will have borderline WR1 appeal in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers, regardless of the status of Adam Thielen (hamstring).
Washington Redskins wide receiver Kelvin Harmon couldn't get anything going in a road loss to the Packers on Sunday. After three straight games of emerging as a preferred option for Dwayne Haskins, Harmon caught just one of four targets at Lambeau. He took the lone reception for 30 yards, but this game has to be viewed as a step back for a young receiver who was starting to carve out a role for himself. There isn't enough time left in the season for Harmon to gain much PPR momentum, likely rendering him a deep-league dart throw at the very best for the final three weeks of 2019.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin rejoined the ranks of the fantasy-relevant on Sunday, catching four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Packers. It's worth mentioning that the touchdown itself--a 13-yard catch with just over a minute to go in the game--salvaged what otherwise would've been a low-end fantasy day. But his investors will take it, and the fact that McLaurin continues to see a healthy share of opportunity (seven targets) in an admittedly low-octane offense keeps him on the flex bubble. Consider him a matchup-dependent option, but he can clearly still provide value in lineups.
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell hit all three field goals and both extra-point attempts in Sunday's 23-17 win over the Cardinals. The 28-year-old has missed just twice all season, and while he doesn't always boot 50-plus yard field goals, his consistency has made him a fantasy asset for leagues that use the position. In Week 15's home game against the Bills, Boswell should have much of the same opportunities, thus making him a start-able fantasy option.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams failed to do much on his four targets as the Titans rolled to a 42-21 Week 14 victory on Sunday. He hauled in three catches for 35 yards as he's now been held to under 50 yards in five of his last six contests. With Derek Carr failing to utilize Williams' deep threat ability, he's been a fantasy non-factor over the past month and a half. Owners can afford to cut bait on the veteran, if they haven't already, as the passing offense just doesn't have enough volume to keep him afloat. Williams will be a TD-dependant WR4 next week when the Jaguars come to town for the final home game ever played in Oakland.
Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson hauled in seven of a team-high eight targets on Sunday against the Packers. He only produced 43 yards, but the sudden uptick in opportunity is a welcome change of pace for the pass-catching back. It's worth noting that Thompson's increased role coincides with an injury that knocked Derrius Guice out of this game, so if the latter is unable to go in Week 15, Thompson may emerge as a fringe flex play in PPR leagues. It may be worth grabbing him off the waiver wire if Guice's outlook for Week 15 is grim, just in case this opportunity is set to continue in a matchup with the Eagles.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 24-of-30 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown in Week 14's win over the Detroit Lions. Cousins rebounded from a tough Week 13 by completing 80% of his passes and finding 11 different receivers in a very efficient outing. He found rookie wideout Olabisi Johnson in the first quarter for his lone touchdown. Fantasy owners were surely expecting a bit more scoring from Cousins in this one, but the Vikings got up early and were in complete control from the get-go. Start Cousins with confidence as a QB1 in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley had seen an uptick in usage lately, but that usage was virtually non-existent in Sunday's loss to the Chargers. Conley caught just one pass for seven yards and was targeted three times. Maybe the change in quarterback was bad for Conley's fantasy value, or maybe it was just a bad day, but if you'd been counting on Conley to produce solid, low-ceiling outings in deep leagues, Sunday wasn't a good day for you.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 29 of 40 pass attempts for 349 yards and five touchdowns along with a one-yard rushing score in a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It was one of the best performances of Brees' career against an elite pass defense. He threw touchdowns to four different receivers in what was his 11th career game with five or more touchdown passes, most in NFL history. Brees even led a game-winning drive, but the Saints Defense couldn't stop Jimmy Garoppolo from doing the same. The veteran signal-caller will look to stay hot in Week 15 against an Indianapolis Colts Defense that allowed 467 passing yards and four touchdowns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense yielded 46 points despite securing a victory in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. The ferocious pass rush couldnt touch veteran quarterback Drew Brees all day, mustering just one fumble recovery on the stat sheet. The Saints racked up 465 total yards but the Niners offense was able to respond to every blow and the team wound up with the win. After the shootout, the Niners will look to return to form hosting the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15. Theyll be a must-start fantasy unit.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was very quiet in Week 14 as he picked up two catches for 11 yards in a win over the Detroit Lions. Rudolph came into the contest on a four-game touchdown streak but was not featured at all in the victory. Rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. had more snaps, catches, and yards and wideout Olabisi Johnson snagged the game's only touchdown reception. Rudolph is still best viewed as a touchdown-dependent TE2 who's touchdown equity will definitely take a hit if Adam Thielen (hamstring) returns in Week 15.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson was forced back into a featured role on Sunday when Derrius Guice suffered a knee injury. Peterson's output on 20 carries wasn't especially efficient, but 76 yards and a touchdown were welcome sights to any fantasy owner who rolled him out as a hopeful flex option. The longtime workhorse remains a volume-based fantasy back, and volume may once again tilt in his favor if Guice's injury is serious enough to keep him out going forward. As such, you will want to monitor this situation in the coming days, regardless of which Redskins running back you roster.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller picked up a team-high 73 receiving yards as the team fell 42-21 to the Titans in Week 14. He finished tied with Deandre Washington for six receptions, proving to be Derek Carr's most reliable pass-catcher once again. Waller nearly found the end zone in the second quarter but came up two yards short of the goal line. The drive ultimately ended in Foster Moreau catching a one-yard TD pass, but that was the final time the Raiders hit paydirt. The offense struggled to move the ball in the second half, which impacted Waller, but it was good to see him involved regardless. Treat the 26-year-old as a mid-range TE1 versus the Jaguars in Week 15.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense held the Arizona Cardinals to just 17 points and 236 yards of offense in their 23-17 victory on Sunday. Joe Haden picked off two passes, while TJ Watt also recorded his second interception of the season. This marks the 11th time in their 13 games that they have recorded multiple turnovers in a game. They'll have a tougher assignment in Week 15 when they host Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, but this defense might be the best in the NFL right now, so you'll start them with ease.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook caught six passes for 25 yards in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. With Gardner Minshew back under center, it was back to being one of those "Westbrook only gets targeted close to the line of scrimmage" days that makes him unplayable in standard scoring leagues. That's likely the norm the rest of the way, with Westbrook's value being mainly in deeper PPR leagues.
Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Nick O'Leary caught his first touchdown since joining the Jags in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. On the day, O'Leary caught four passes for 30 yards and the score. He was targeted five times. O'Leary's been targeted at least four times in each of his games with his new team, but I still don't think fantasy owners should overreact to Sunday's score. Even at a shallow position like tight end, you aren't trusting O'Leary in the fantasy playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers Defense produced four sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception in a 20-15 win over the Washington Redskins. It was a strong effort by Green Bay- the only blemish was a late garbage-time touchdown allowed to Terry McLaurin. Packers linebacker Preston Smith got in on the fun, posting two tackles and adding a sack, giving him 11.5 for the season.