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.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a difficult matchup on Sunday against a Bears Defense that limited him to just 203 yards and a touchdown during the Thursday night season opener. The veteran hasn't been consistent, especially as of late, and has logged a touchdown or less in four of his last five games. The 36-year-old has played relatively well against Chicago throughout his tenure in the league, however, maintaining a 66.9 completion percentage to go along with 46 scores and only 10 picks in 22 career meetings. The upside is there for the fantasy managers who won't be scared off by his recent string of shoddy performances and is worth a start in Week 15 in all formats.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs had a great game in a tough matchup last week, beating Darius Slay for six catches and 92 yards in the win. He'll have another tough draw against Casey Hayward and the Los Angeles Chargers Defense in Week 15. They have a great secondary and play a lot of zone coverage, which is not Diggs' strong suit. However, Diggs has shown huge upside this season and he put up strong fantasy numbers despite tough matchups in two of the last three weeks. Having Adam Thielen back to draw attention away only helps his cause, and this game projecting to be close means that the Vikings will likely be forced to the air more. Start Diggs as a WR2 who has some sneaky upside in Week 15.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is as volume-based RB1 in Week 15, as he has been for most of the season. He wasn't listed on the injury report at all on Friday and backup Alexander Mattison (ankle) being out definitely increases his projected workload. Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah will split the backup role, but it's unlikely that they'll see the type of volume that Mattison was getting. The Chargers Defense ranks 23rd in rush DVOA but has been stingy as of late as they've had key players return from injury. In fact, they haven't allowed a back to eclipse 63 total yards in their last three games. Start Cook as an RB1 this week as he's a lock for at least 20 touches and a good bet for a few red zone opportunities.
Despite struggling in Week 14 against the Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette should still be considered a solid RB2 in Week 15 against the Oakland Raiders. Fournette dominates the backfield touches on this Jaguars team and has seen his role as a pass-catcher increase over the past three games. The Raiders Defense hasn't offered too much resistance to opposing backs this year and are also allowing the fourth-most receiving yards to running backs. With D.J. Chark out, expect quarterback Gardner Minshew to rely more on Fournette as a receiving option as well, setting him up for what should be a solid outing.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook should be the team's top weapon on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders with fellow receiver D.J. Chark already ruled out. Westbrook entered the year as the team's number one target, but Chark emerged as a key deep threat and Westbrook dealt with injuries. Now, though, the third-year receiver has a great shot to put up strong fantasy numbers against a Raiders team that's allowing the 13th-most PPR points per game to opposing wide receivers. He's still got risk, especially as he deals with a shoulder issue, but he's the best fantasy option among Jags pass-catchers this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew threw for just 162 yards in his return to the starting role last week, but he should be in line to surpass that when Jacksonville faces the Oakland Raiders in Week 15. Oakland allows the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing passers, and the last time Minshew started against a comparable defense in fantasy points allowed was when he threw for 300 yards against Houston in Week 9. D.J. Chark won't play, which puts a little damper on Minshew's upside, but this is still a plus matchup for the rookie, who should be considered as a solid QB2.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker has signed a four-year extension with the team that includes the next two years guaranteed, locking the breakout receiver into a deal with a rebuilding Miami team. This is a good spot for Parker, who's been become a reliable fantasy option for the Dolphins this season, and while there's risk involved based on his track record, he should still be considered a strong fantasy option moving forward in dynasty leagues.
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is eighth in fantasy points at the position over the last five weeks. He isn't posting out-of-this-world numbers, but he gets to the quarterback almost every game. The Dallas Cowboys have one of the best offensive lines in the game, and Donald doesn't do much outside of the sacks category. Sit him this week.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff has started to right the ship a bit after a three-game touchdown drought. He has thrown for 717 yards, four touchdowns and two picks the last two games. He'll have a solid matchup against a struggling Dallas Cowboys Defense. They've allowed 218.8 passing yards a game the last five games, but they've allowed nine touchdowns to one interception total during the span. Roll with Goff as a low-end QB1 with some upside.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has been really sketchy of late, but he has scored a couple of touchdowns to salvage his last two weeks. He has 19 grabs for 198 yards and two touchdowns in the last five games. Quarterback Jared Goff has really grown a rapport with receiver Robert Woods, and Kupp has suffered. The Dallas Cowboys are a midrange matchup, and Kupp is a low-end WR2 this week.
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley has performed like an RB1 in his best stretch of the season the last five weeks. He has rushed 85 times for 366 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Gurley caught a modest 11 balls for 87 yards during the stretch. The Cowboys present a midrange matchup that has allowed 3.9 yards per carry during the same span. Gurley will be a high-end RB2 this week.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods is having the best run of his career the last five weeks. In point-per-reception formats, he ranks seventh in fantasy points. He also missed a game due to personal reasons in the span. He's averaging 8.3 receptions for 115.5 yards during the last four games, but the one downside is he has one touchdown on the season. The Dallas Cowboys are a midrange matchup, and Woods is a high-end WR2 play.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks has caught four passes for 56 yards in the last three games since returning from a concussion. His freefall disqualifies him from consideration for fantasy against the Dallas Cowboys.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is 6-for-9 in field goals the last five games, and he has nailed all 11 extra points in what has been a bit of an outage in fantasy. The offense isn't presenting him enough opportunities, and the Dallas Cowboys limit what kickers do against them as well. Steer clear of "Greg The Leg" again this week.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has been good over the last five weeks as they're seventh in fantasy points. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the better teams against opposing defenses because they don't turn the ball over or allow many sacks. Look elsewhere for a defense this week.
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson came through with a receiving touchdown last week in his first visit to the end zone in nearly two months. Running back Kenyan Drake has really diminished Johnson's role. Johnson has rushed for just 36 yards on 12 carries (3.0 yards per rush) with five catches for 51 yards in his last four games. Maybe the last week's touchdown gave him a bigger piece of the pie, but he can't be played until that's evident. Sit him against the Cleveland Browns.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk balled out with a three-touchdown game a month ago, but he has slowed since. He has averaged 5.7 catches for 49.7 receiving yards and no touchdowns per game the last three games. He catches enough to be used in point-per-reception formats, but his yardage and touchdown output is suspect without that point. The Cleveland Browns are a bend-but-don't-break matchup. They've allowed 162.8 receiving yards and 11.8 catches over the last five games and two touchdowns total to the position. Kirk is worth using as a flex option in PPR leagues, but he's a risky choice in non-PPR formats.
Arizona Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez has lost most of his fantasy appeal in recent weeks. He isn't likely to get it back against the Cleveland Browns. They have allowed opposing kickers to go 7-for-10 in field goals and 9-for-9 in extra points. Gonzalez is lacking the upside to use him in the tough matchup.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is coming off a game in which he completed 80% of his passes for 242 yards and a touchdown against the Lions, continuing a streak of stellar play for the much-maligned passer. Facing a tough Los Angeles Chargers Defense on the road, it's likely that Cousins will need to throw a bit more with the Vikings currently favored by just one point. The Chargers rank in the top-five in fewest fantasy points allowed to the position and haven't given up more than 182 yards passing in three consecutive weeks. Interestingly, they rank 20th in pass DVOA. Star wideout Adam Thielen is finally set to return, giving Cousins a full complement of weapons and (finally) taking some pressure off of Stefon Diggs. This offense is clicking, and Cousins should have the volume to put up some usable fantasy numbers in this matchup. Start him as a high-end QB2 and keep him in your daily fantasy player pool.
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones has been hit or miss lately because his fantasy value is predicated on sacks. He has 18 tackles (13 solo), 4.5 sacks, a pass defense and two forced fumbles the last four games, which sneaks him into the top 20 linebackers. He's too risky to use against the Cleveland Browns this week.