Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams have the momentum Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys crave going into a rematch of a divisional playoff game from last season.
Despite their second three-game losing streak of the season, the Cowboys have something the Rams want even more but will need help getting even if the defending NFC champions keep winning: control of their playoff chances.
LA (8-5) visits Dallas on Sunday as the first team out of the conference playoff race with three games remaining, while the Cowboys (6-7) somehow are still tied atop the NFC East with Philadelphia after seven losses in 10 games.
''Momentum is something serious if we can get it on our side,'' Prescott said. ''This has been a streaky team and yes, you got to get that first one to get the second one. That's just the mindset. Let's focus on today. Let's focus on the now.''
Both teams started 3-0 coming off LA's Super Bowl run that included a 30-22 divisional win over the Cowboys. Both teams then lost three straight.
Since sharing a 6-5 record, the teams have gone opposite ways. The Rams have won a pair, including last week's impressive 28-12 victory over Seattle. Dallas lost to Buffalo on Thanksgiving and Chicago a week later in a pair of forgettable showings.
As it stands, the Rams are paying for an uneven start as San Francisco and Seattle kept rolling in the NFC West.
''We do know the urgency is there and the value of each game at this point,'' Goff said. ''You do treat every game the same with the same approach, but we do know we are coming down the stretch here and need to make some things happen.''
ON THE LINE
The Rams defense respects the Cowboys' veteran offensive line, but Aaron Donald is still in line to add to LA's impressive total of 43 sacks this season. After getting 11 sacks in the past two weeks, the Rams' pass rush is in prime form to have success against the veteran Dallas line.
''They've got a group that's been playing together for about six years,'' Donald said. ''They're a good offensive line that plays good together, communicates together. But there's a lot of good players in this league.''
Prescott injured the pinkie finger on his throwing (right) hand and sprained his left hand against the Bears. The 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has practiced with taped fingers this week. ''Just a couple of bruises,'' Prescott said. ''Probably wear the same tape in the game, but that's it. Nothing serious.''
Todd Gurley's relatively restful season appears to be over, and that could be bad news for the Dallas defense. After coach Sean McVay used Gurley sparingly with little consistency over the first three months of the season, the $60 million running back's touches and effectiveness are up sharply in the past three games.
He had 79 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving against Seattle, culminating in an impressive stiff-arm TD run for the Rams' clinching score. Although McVay insists it wasn't his intention, Gurley is rested and ready for Los Angeles' playoff push.
AS FOR ELLIOTT
Two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, all but assured to fall short of the rushing title in a full season for the first time, is coming off a couple of solid games. But his career-long streak of outings without reaching 100 yards is up to five.
While he's been used more than Gurley, Elliott says he feels rested, with his touches down by almost four per game over last season. ''I think I definitely feel a lot better than in past years,'' the 2016 All-Pro said. ''It's kind of with less touches and just being fresher.''''
Goff has seven interceptions and four touchdown passes over the Rams' last five games since their bye week. But his production has spiked in their last two games with 717 yards passing and all four TDs. He also made a handful of spectacular throws during LA's one-sided win over Seattle last week.
The fourth-year quarterback's inconsistency has to be concerning, but Goff's coaches praise his steady demeanor no matter the results. He sits fourth in the NFL with 3,712 yards passing, 410 behind Prescott.
The Dallas defense is still in the top 10 statistically but isn't impacting the game in a way that could help end the losing streak. Buffalo's Josh Allen had a season-high passer rating, and Mitch Trubisky's number with Chicago was nearly 30 points higher than his season average.
''I just think the biggest thing across the board on defense is we just have to be more disciplined and more fundamentally sound,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ''And that's really been our calling card around here for a long time.''
The Jacksonville Jaguars plan to hire former Redskins head coach Jay Gruden as their next offensive coordinator, according to sources. A deal isn't officially done, but the Jaguars are very close to adding Gruden in the role. The biggest question for Jacksonville's offense heading into the 2020 season will be who is the starter under center, Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew. Leonard Fournette can be an effective bell-cow back in the backfield if he can stay healthy, while the Jags have a nice three-receiver mix in place of D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. The Jaguars finished 2019 with 341.8 yards per game, 235 passing yards per game, 106.8 rushing yards per game and only 18.8 points per game. Gruden's addition is good news for this very mediocre offense across the board.
Free-agent TE Evan Baylis (Packers), OT Cody Conway (Packers), RB Damarea Crockett (Packers), CB Kabion Ento (Packers), TE James Looney (Packers), LB Randy Ramsey (Packers), WR Darrius Shepherd (Packers), QB Manny Wilkins (Packers) and LB Tim Williams (Packers) signed Reserve/Future contracts with the Green Bay Packers Tuesday, Jan. 21. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell seems confident that the team will re-sign defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. Jacksonville wants Ngakoue back, and Caldwell said something "should be done hopefully relatively easily." He'd become one of the top pass rushers available if he hits the open market after logging 37.5 sacks, 85 quarterback hits and 42 tackles for loss in 63 games since being a third-round pick in 2016. Retaining Ngakoue is the top priority for the Jaguars this offseason as they look to build their defense back up around the ferocious pass rusher.
Jacksonville Jaguars impending free-agent DE Yannick Ngakoue is the top priority for the Jaguars this offseason, and general manager David Caldwell said he hopes the two sides will be able to reach an agreement relatively easily.
Seattle Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner (ankle, knee) will not need surgery on his ankle or knee this offseason, according to head coach Pete Carroll.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's (neck) surgery "went well." "I feel really good about it. I feel really good about him making a full recovery and being ready to participate in everything," Jones said. The second-year linebacker should be good to go for the team's offseason workouts after missing the final five games of the 2019 season. He recorded a total of 72 tackles (43 solo), half a sack and one forced fumble in his nine games played. LVE was a beast his rookie season with 140 total tackles, and he could return to being an IDP force again in 2020 if he can just stay on the field.
Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said that quarterback Dak Prescott is the team's "No. 1 priority as we go into the offseason." Despite the Cowboys missing the playoffs in 2019, Prescott wasn't the problem. He had his best season with 4,902 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his fourth year in the NFL. The Cowboys continue to reiterate that Prescott is their QB of the future, so expect a contract extension to come soon. If that doesn't happen, the franchise tag is another option to retain him for 2020. Prescott finished as the No. 3 fantasy signal-caller last season, and he'll head into the 2020 campaign as a strong high-end QB1.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (shoulder) underwent a shoulder procedure last week that is said to involve "not a lengthy rehab," and Edelman is expected to be ready for the team's offseason program, according to a league source. The 33-year-old was noticeably hindered by his shoulder to close out the year, but overall it was a very successful 2019 season. Edelman had 100 receptions for a career-high 1,117 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. It was the second time in his career that he reached the 100-catch mark as quarterback Tom Brady's only real trusted receiving option. Edelman's outlook may change if Brady isn't under center in 2020, but he should at least be a solid WR2 in PPR leagues.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (shoulder) had a minor shoulder surgery last week, but he's expected to be ready for the offseason program.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman's fantasy value will hinge largely on whether Tom Brady returns to the team. Edelman should be a low-end WR2 in PPR formats.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hamstring) will be unable to participate in the Pro Bowl due to a lingering hamstring injury. He'll be replaced by Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) isn't expected to have surgery this offseason and will play in the Pro Bowl.
Fantasy Spin: Landry had a career-high 1,174 receiving yards to go with 83 grabs and six scores. The 27-year-old played in all 16 games for the sixth straight year and will be a low-end WR2 option in drafts next year.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen) underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to fix a core muscle injury. A full recovery is expected. OBJ didn't miss a game in his first season with Cleveland despite fighting through injuries. He caught 74 passes for 1,035 yards and only four touchdowns in what was a very disappointing first year with the Browns. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was extremely inconsistent behind a terrible offensive line, which didn't help matters for Beckham's fantasy owners. Another offseason to gain chemistry with Mayfield should help Beckham rebound in 2020, and he could be a nice value pick as a low-end WR1/high-end WR2.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (hip) is not expected to undergo surgery, and he will play in the Pro Bowl. It's great news for a Browns offense that will be looking to shake off the disappointment of the 2019 season heading into 2020. Landry was the team's most consistent wideout last year, catching 83 passes for a career-high 1,174 yards and six touchdowns over a full season. In his six NFL seasons, Landry has had at least 81 receptions and four touchdowns and has never missed a game. He's a very consistent WR2/3 in PPR leagues, and the presence of Odell Beckham Jr. should continue to take attention away from him.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (abdomen) underwent surgery to repair his core muscle Tuesday, Jan. 21, in Philadelphia. He dealt with the injury for multiple weeks during the season.
Fantasy Spin: OBJ had a miserable season by his standards after most likely being a top-five pick. It's not a lock that he returns to the Browns after considerable drama that comes along with his immense talent. He's a risky fantasy asset because of that, but he'll be a WR1 in drafts again next year.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel combined for just three catches for 65 yards in the NFC Championship victory against the Green Bay Packers. Samuel added two rushes for 43 yards. The Niners opened up the game with a dominant running attack and a 27-0 lead, resulting in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes. While the stat sheet was underwhelming, both aerial playmakers made the most of their opportunities, picking up chunk gains on each touch. With the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs offense on deck, the Niners will conceivably need to throw the ball more in the Super Bowl.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders failed to record a catch in the NFC Championship blowout win against the Green Bay Packers. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo attempting just eight passes, Sanders saw only a single target. The clear third option in a low-volume passing game behind standout rookie wideout Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, Sanders has just two catches in the playoffs. Hell likely be tasked with more work in the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert exploded for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. He also caught two passes for six yards. Mostert was unstoppable on Sunday, converting three rushing scores of 36, nine and 18 in the first half. He capped his evening with a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The fifth-year breakout player was the star in the Niners easy 37-20 victory and will again lead the backfield into the Super Bowl in two weeks against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed just six of eight passes for 77 yards and no scores in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Garoppolo had little to do but watch running back Raheem Mostert annihilate the Packers rush defense for 220 yards and four scores. With two consecutive easy victories in the playoffs, Jimmy G has attempted just 27 passes this postseason. Sledding will surely get tougher in the Super Bowl against the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs) aggravated his injured ribs during the NFC Championship game but should be available for Super Bowl LIV.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that running back Tevin Coleman (shoulder) suffered a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship win over the Packers on Sunday. Coleman had his shoulder popped back into place and Shanahan thinks that Coleman has a chance to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks. Only time will tell if the 26-year-old will be able to play against Kansas City. He ran the ball six times for 21 yards before his injury and had a season-high 22 totes for 105 yards and two touchdowns in the Divisional win over the Vikings. Even if Coleman plays, he'll be second fiddle to Raheem Mostert, who ran for over 200 yards and four scores against Green Bay. Matt Breida would spell Mostert in the backfield if Coleman doesn't gain clearance.