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.''
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (shoulder) is expected to play against Buffalo on Sunday night. Conner has been dealing with the injury for a while now, but his return is good news for a team that will be without JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) and Vance McDonald (concussion). With the 24-year-old back in the lineup, Jaylen Samuels should remain semi-relevant catching passes out of the backfield, while Benny Snell Jr. will likely be relegated to a few carries as the No. 2. All three backs are risky options, however, against a tough Bills Defense in Week 15 as the Steelers look to remain in the playoff picture.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (hamstring) will play on Sunday in a crucial matchup against the Texans. Henry has been dealing with the injury over the last several weeks but has been able to play, so his status for Week 15 isn't a huge surprise. The 25-year-old has been on a roll as of late, compiling nine touchdowns over the last five games, while also rushing for at least 149 yards in three of his previous four outings. Even with the lingering effects of the ailment, he is a must-start across the board in Week 15.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) won't play against the Bills on Sunday night. Schuster practiced in full on Wednesday, but after aggravating the injury on Thursday, he will now miss another one as the Steelers look to remain playoff relevant. In his absence, Diontae Johnson will likely get the most catches for those in PPR formats, with James Washingtonserving as the biggest threat on deep routes in Week 15.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) will be out again and will not play against the Packers in Week 15. Gabriel has already missed a few games, and after making not practicing during the week, it will be Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller serving as the primary receivers for Mitch Trubisky as the Bears look to remain in the playoff picture.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Adam Humphries (ankle) will not play on Sunday in a critical matchup against the Texans. This will be Humphries second-straight absence, and while he does have the potential to have the occasional effective performance, this isn't a huge fantasy loss as he is likely listed as a free agent in most leagues anyway. Nonetheless, it should be business as usual for the Titans in Week 15, with Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Corey Davis getting the bulk of the opportunities on the offensive side of the ball.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) will not play against New England in Week 15. Green has yet to play this season after sustaining an ankle injury during training camp, and while the veteran hopes to suit up at some point over the final two games, it is also realistic to assume that he may not play at all in 2019. With Auden Tate (knee) recently landing on injured reserve, look for Tyler Boyd and John Ross to serve as the primary wideouts for Andy Dalton on Sunday against a tough Patriots Defense.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (concussion) will not play against the Seahawks. Olsen did practice, albeit in a limited fashion, during the week, but is still not ready to make his return. With Carolina having already been eliminated from playoff contention, it is possible that the 36-year-old may not return this season, making Ian Thomas, who caught five of his 10 targets for 57 yards and a score against the Falcons in Week 14, a suitable streaming option on Sunday.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (foot) will not play against the Dolphins. Engram was able to practice in a limited capacity during the week, but with the team having virtually nothing to play for, it is realistic to assume that he may not return this year. With the team also down No. 2 Rhett Ellison (concussion), rookie Kaden Smith, who had two catches (five targets) for nine yards against the Eagles in Week 14, should draw the start. For fantasy managers in deeper formats, Smith does have streaming potential in Week 15, but only for those willing to take a chance.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (ankle) will not play against Miami in Week 15. Jones was able to practice in a limited fashion during the week, but the team will take it slow as he works his way back from the high ankle sprain that he suffered during the matchup against the Packers a few weeks back. In his place, Eli Manning, who threw two touchdowns, while completing 50 percent of his passes during the overtime loss to the Eagles, will get the start against the Dolphins, with the potential for a solid outing against one of the worst defensive units in the league being a realistic possibility.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) will sit out once again and will not play on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Stafford is progressing, but still doesn't feel well enough to play, with the potential for a return this season unlikely, albeit still possible. Nonetheless, David Blough, who has thrown three touchdowns and three picks this season, will get another start against a weak Buccaneers Defense. For those in need of a quarterback in Week 15, the rookie does have upside, but also an equally low downside.
Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister has been a revelation this season, but he's come back to Earth recently. He'll be facing another uphill battle this weekend when Seattle visits Carolina, one of the stingiest defenses in the game versus opposing tight ends. Hollister has been held without a TD for three straight weeks, and he hasn't cracked 50 yards receiving during the stretch either. Meanwhile, the Panthers have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season, and they haven't allowed a tight end touchdown in nearly a month. Hollister is still a talented receiver, but other teams have caught on to some of his moves and he'll be in for another challenge in Week 15.
Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers has cranked it up recently, and he'll look to continue his stellar ways in the cool, crisp air of Charlotte on Sunday. Myers hasn't missed a field goal in over a month, he's been better on the road than in his wet and windy home stadium, and he'll be facing a Carolina team that does an excellent job of locking down opposing offenses only after they've gotten in field goal range. Carolina has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing kickers this year, and it should be a perfect day for booting the ball on Sunday. If there was ever a day to roll the dice on Myers, this is probably going to be the day.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson is set to face a Carolina Panthers Defense that has been plagued by the run all year. Carolina is the most generous run defense in the game for opposing running backs, and Carson will now shoulder nearly the entire load since Rashaad Penny has been lost for the season with a torn ACL. With Seattle's defense being beat up and their wide receivers still recovering from a flu epidemic that spread through the locker room, it's a perfect situation for Carson. Owners should be confident starting him, and he could be looking at a huge week.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf stepped into the primary role quite well while Tyler Lockett was banged up and ill, and he'll look to continue that growth this weekend as he faces a Carolina squad that has allowed the third-most yards to opposing wide receivers this year. The Panthers have proven quite adept at limiting touchdowns, but their bendy secondary has allowed some big weeks on the outside. Expect Metcalf to push the field and look for the home run ball, and his improved catching should keep him on the scoreboard even if he can't land the big one.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had a rough game last week against the improved Rams Defense as he was held to zero touchdown passes for the first time in a year. Now he'll face off against another strong defense in Carolina. Though Wilson has usually found a way to have success against the Panthers, they always present a solid defense and make the games close. Wilson has won three of their last four matchups, but the games have only been decided by more than four points once. Wilson will have his full complement of receivers, and hopefully Tyler Lockett will finally be fully healthy and ready to resume his role as Wilson's favorite target.
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (flu) was officially ruled out of Sunday's game on Saturday afternoon, and the Seahawks Defense is starting to look a little thin. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) was ruled out for the second week in a row, defensive end Ziggy Ansah is questionable with a neck injury, and cornerback Shaquill Griffin, one of the team's breakout stars, is questionable with a hamstring injury of his own. The good news is that the Seahawks defense will be facing a rookie quarterback that has thrown 12 interceptions this season, but they'll also be facing Christian McCaffrey, an MVP finalist. It's not a great week to bet on the Seahawks defense.
Los Angeles Chargers kicker Michael Badgley is back in sunny southern California for Sunday's game against the Vikings, and he's been on a bit of a hot streak. Badgley isn't known for his power, but his accuracy has returned after a shaky start. Badgley is 10-for-12 from less than 50 yards over the last five weeks, pushing his season stats up closer to his career numbers now that he's healthy. Badgley's groin injury put him behind when he returned to the team, but the further he gets away from the issue, the better he's getting. He should be considered a highly accurate kicker from here on out.
Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James will get his first opportunity to face former teammate and friend Dalvin Cook when LA squares off against the Vikings on Sunday. James has faced Cook plenty of times in practice, but this will be the first game against one of the NFL's leading rushers. To go along with Cook, Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen will be returning to the field, and Kirk Cousins will be working on padding his resume as he's looking like one of the top passers in the league. The Chargers Defense has been better lately, but this matchup looks like a beastly one for the squad. Owners are probably able to make a better choice with a different one this week.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams is carrying quite the streak, and he'll be looking to add to it with another deep pass on Sunday. Williams has a reception of 40 or more yards in six straight games, though amazingly, only one of those bombs has turned into a touchdown. The third-year wideout is at 841 yards receiving, but it wasn't until last week's blowout against Jacksonville that he recorded his first score of the season. Facing off against a stingy Minnesota secondary, Williams will be hard-pressed to find an opening for another big play, but owners can bet he'll be trying and Rivers will give him a chance.
Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry has put up 60 or more receiving yards or a touchdown in seven of his nine games this season, and he'll get another opportunity on Sunday when he faces a Minnesota defense that is surprisingly soft against opposing tight ends. Though the Vikings are above average in just about every defensive category, opposing tight ends have been particularly successful in the fat part of the field. Minnesota has allowed the 10th-most yards to opposing tight ends this season, but they have done a good job of clamping down once they get close to the end zone. Expect Henry to get some opportunities, and he'll probably be able to keep his good games going with some decent numbers.