Thu Nov 21 7:31pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is pressured during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady smiles while taking questions from reporters following an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws the ball while warming up during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes questions from reporters before an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) As a young football fan growing up in California, it didn’t take Tom Brady long to dislike the Dallas Cowboys.
“I���ve really not liked the Cowboys since coming out of the womb as a Niner fan,” Brady joked this week. “They’ve got a lot of great players in their history. Guys that I just, as a Niner fan, you’d play the Cowboys and every time they’d hand off to Emmitt Smith would be a 5-yard gain and you would pull you hair out.”
It’s been more than 20 years since Dallas’ trio of Smith, quarterback Troy Aikman and receiver Michael Irvin helped propel the Cowboys to their most recent Super Bowl win.
And since he entered the league in 2000 Brady has taken out his childhood frustrations on them every chance he’s gotten, beating the Cowboys in each of his four meetings against them as the Patriots’ starting quarterback.
Dallas is hoping the team it’s bringing to New England on Sunday can change some of that recent history.
Thanks largely to the play of quarterback Dak Prescott over their past three games the Cowboys (6-4) enter Week 12 as the NFL’s top-ranked offense, a position they haven’t held at the end of a season in more than 40 years.
They’ll face a 9-1 Patriots team being led not by Brady’s arm but by the league’s top-rated defense. It is holding teams to just under 11 points per game to go along with an NFL-best 28 takeaways.
“It’s exciting,” Prescott said. “You talk about wanting to win championships. You’ve got to beat the people that have won.”
The Patriots have given up only nine total touchdowns on defense in 2019, four of which came in their 37-20 loss at Baltimore in Week 9. New England has yet to allow a red-zone touchdown at home this season.
While the Cowboys don’t have a dual-threat quarterback such as Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, Prescott is having a career season. He leads the NFL with 322.1 passing yards per game and has thrown for 1,098 yards over his past three games - the best three-game stretch in franchise history.
“That’s who he is,” Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “That’s the type of player he is, the guy he is, the leader he is and he’s continuing to attack. He hasn’t let up, as we expect from Dak.”
Likewise, the task of trying to contain Prescott is high on the priority list for the Patriots.
“They’re at the top of the league for a reason,” cornerback Stephon Gilmore said. “It’s a big challenge. And I’m looking forward to it.”
Dallas defensive lineman Michael Bennett is set to play at New England exactly a month after the Patriots traded him for a conditional late-round draft pick in 2021. The former Texas A&M player has 3½ sacks in three games with the Cowboys after getting to the quarterback 2½ times in his only six games with New England. Bennett, who also had stints with Tampa Bay, Seattle and Philadelphia, is one of 11 players in NFL history to have multiple sacks with five franchises.
Bennett didn’t have much to say about the prospect of facing New England. When he was traded, he had just returned from a one-game suspension over a “philosophical difference” with defensive line coach Bret Bielema. He also said there wasn’t any extra motivation to get a sack of Brady, and Bennett spoke highly of his former teammate.
“It’s never personal in the NFL,” Bennett said. “It’s always business.”
The Cowboys haven’t gone three straight games without at least 100 yards rushing in the same season since drafting Elliott in 2016. Dallas has two straight sub-100 games going into the meeting with the Patriots, who rank 19th in the NFL allowing an average of 97.3 yards per game.
The Cowboys had 50 yards rushing in a loss to Minnesota and 75 in a win over Detroit.
“I think you do have to be patient,” Elliott said. “You can’t play outside of your game. You can’t play outside of this scheme, trying to force something.”
With a victory, New England would extend its streak to 17 consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins, which would be an NFL record.
The Patriots have won at least 10 games every year since going 9-7 in 2002.
The Patriots’ offensive line could see the return of left tackle Isaiah Wynn to the starting lineup.
Wynn played just two regular-season games before going on injured reserve with a foot injury. It was the second straight year he had spent time on IR after a preseason Achilles injury caused the 2018 first-round pick him to miss his entire rookie season.
If he returns, he’ll rejoin a line that also previously had to adjust to losing starting center David Andrews in the preseason because of blood clots.
The absences have particularly affected the rushing game.
The Patriots ranked fifth in the NFL, averaging 127.3 yards per game last season. It is just 24th in 2019, averaging 91 yards per game.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey had arguably the worst performance of the season, at least as a runner, against the Redskins in Week 13. While he had a favorable matchup against one of the league's worst defenses, the 23-year-old had just 44 yards on 14 attempts to go along with an acceptable seven catches for 58 yards. That game marked only the third time all season that he failed to record a touchdown, but he should get back on track against Atlanta after playing well against them just a few weeks ago.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen has a difficult matchup on Sunday against the Falcons Defense. Atlanta has played well against opposing quarterbacks, especially as of late, and held Drees Brees to just one touchdown toss during the Thanksgiving matchup with New Orleans, while also forcing Allen to throw four picks just a few weeks ago. The 23-year-old is a different player than what we saw after he initially took over for Cam Newton (foot) earlier in the year, and should remain out of starting lineups across the board in Week 14.
The Green Bay Packers Defense gets a juicy Week 14 matchup against rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins and the Washington Redskins. For the season, Washington ranks in the bottom-10 of the league in points scored, sacks allowed, and interceptions thrown. Haskins has been sacked 14 times in the last three games combined. Green Bay ranks in the bottom-10 of the league in QB pressures but should have no trouble against Washington's offensive line.
Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby will face the Washington Redskins in Week 14. The 35-year-old ranks 17th in fantasy points scored by kickers and only 26th in field goal attempts. Crosby has been money on extra points this year, sporting a 33 of 33 mark. He should have a chance to bolster these numbers against a Redskins team that allows 24.2 points per game, 21st in the NFL. Crosby should be able to nail at least a field goal and three extra points against Washington.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a middling QB2 in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. With a 101.2 quarterback rating, Garoppolos season-long body of work looks great but hes surpassed 300 yards just twice and committed 14 total turnovers. Facing a challenging Saints Defense on the road, Garoppolo will likely be tasked to pace with the Saints but will have his healthiest receiving corps in weeks. In a potential shootout, Jimmy G may have upside, but his volatile results dont render him a trustworthy fantasy quarterback in the vital playoff weeks.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a good matchup against the Washington Redskins. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter because the 32-year-old has seen a steady decline in snaps over the last three weeks. Graham even had a touchdown snatched away from him by backup tight end Mercedes Lewis. There's also the fact that he's registered only one catch in back-to-back games. Even the neediest of tight end needy fantasy owners should stay away from Graham this week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard will take on the Washington Redskins in Week 14. The rookie had a career-high 103 receiving yards against the Giants last week. Lazard has out-snapped fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling in three consecutive games. Unfortunately, that role hasn't lent a ton of volume, as his season-high for targets is six. Still, Aaron Rodgers seems to trust him- and he doesn't throw trust around lightly. It's worth noting that each of his three catches from last week went for 20-plus yards, giving him a boom-or-bust outlook. It's best to avoid Lazard this week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a Week 14 matchup with the Washington Redskins. Adams is on a hot streak, with at least seven catches in four straight games and three touchdowns in his last two contests combined. He's been the Packers' undisputed number-one pass catcher this year, with 79 targets in eight games- the next closest is Aaron Jones with 52 in 12 games. That kind of volume makes him a must-start every week and especially against Washington. Like the Giants, the Redskins don't have anyone who can slow Adams down. Start him as a high-end WR1 this week.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) needs no introduction for Week 14s matchup against the New Orleans Saints. Pro Football Focus highest-graded tight end since 2006 will be a premium TE1 against a battered Saints linebacking corps on Sunday. Kittle was muted in Week 13s rainy contest but should reemerge as the focal point in the Niners aerial attack in the dome. Despite missing two games and hobbled by a lingering ankle injury, Kittle leads Niners pass-catchers in all relevant metrics and should be treated accordingly this weekend.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman needs to prove his worth in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. Coleman helplessly watched backup Raheem Mostert notch 154 yards and a score in Week 13 as he managed just six touches for 15 yards. The de facto starter has struggled for six straight games, opening the door for a surging Mostert. With Matt Breida (ankle) also expected back in the mix, Coleman is a volatile RB3 against a tough Saints rush defense. Ideally, Coleman is positioned for double-digit touches this Sunday but with the Niners not shy to leverage the hot hand, fantasy managers will hope he capitalizes on his shrinking opportunities.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams (knee) draws a great matchup against the Washington Redskins in Week 14. Williams was limited in practice this week but will play on Sunday against the Redskins' 27th-ranked run defense. The 24-year-old has been on a roll, with at least 13 touches and 50 scrimmage yards in each of the last three games. Fellow back Aaron Jones is still "the guy" in Green Bay, though Williams' recent production guarantees him a role. The Redskins have allowed two backs to exceed 50 scrimmage yards five times this year. Jones and Williams are a good bet to make this the sixth time. Start Williams in the flex spot this week.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks has caught four passes for 56 yards in two games since returning from a concussion. He's still worth holding onto, but he can't be played against the Seattle Seahawks this week.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein hasn't had a lot of opportunities lately. He's 6-for-8 in field goals and 7-for-7 in extra points the last four games. The Seattle Seahawks are a midrange matchup, and he's a sketchy low-end kicker this week.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has been stout of late with 15 sacks, two fumble recoveries, two picks, a safety and two touchdowns in the last four games. The Seattle Seahawks have allowed opposing defenses the most fantasy points over the last five weeks. They've surrendered two touchdowns, 16 sacks, six fumble recoveries and three picks in the last four games. The Rams Defense is a midrange option to start this week.
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald broke free for 1.5 sacks against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13. He now has sacks in six of the last seven games, and the Seattle Seahawks have allowed 16 in the last four. Donald won't offer much outside of that category, but he is a low-end DL1 option this week.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff ended a three-game touchdown drought with 424 yards and two scores last week against the Arizona Cardinals. He'll have a tougher matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, but it's within reason to start him. He had 395 passing yards, one score and one pick against them earlier in the season. Goff is a feast-or-famine QB1 in Week 14.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will face the Washington Redskins in Week 14. The 24-year-old has been hard to trust lately, as he's failed to score a touchdown or eclipse 50 scrimmage yards in three of his last four games. Jones may have been battling through a sore ankle against the New York Giants last week, which helps explain the poor performance. The good news for Jones is, he's healthy coming into a game against the league's 27th-ranked rushing defense. Add in the fact that last week, he saw the highest number of targets since his Week 8 explosion against Kansas City- and it's easy to see him breaking out this week. Keep the faith in Jones as an RB1 against Washington.
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley has turned a corner the last few weeks since the Rams started using him more. He's averaging 4.2 yards per carry after his average was under four for most of the season. He has a midrange matchup against the Seattle Seahawks this week. Gurley rushed 15 times for 51 yards and two scores against the division rival earlier this year. He's a high-end RB2 in Week 14.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp got back on track against the Arizona Cardinals after two clunker weeks. Kupp's problem is that he has had a few massive games and a few invisible games. Which Kupp you'll get on a weekly basis is unknown. Quarterback Jared Goff has really connected with Robert Woods and targeted him an absurd 18 times last week. Kupp has suffered due to this. He has a midrange matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, and he had nine catches for 117 yards and a score against them earlier this season. Look at him as a high-end WR2.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods had his second 13-catch game of the season last week. In those two games, he has 26 grabs for 336 yards. In the other nine games, he has just 38 catches for 499 yards, and he hasn't scored a touchdown all season. The Seattle Seahawks provide a midrange matchup this week, but don't fall head over heels for Woods because of last week's binge. He had five grabs for 48 yards against the Seahawks earlier this season, and he's a midrange WR3.