Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff calls signals during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) takes a snap during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throws against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) avoids a tackle byf Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers (90) during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
LOS ANGELES (AP) Even Sean McVay realizes there’s a strong argument to be made that the Chicago Bears ended the Los Angeles Rams’ two seasons of offensive brilliance with their 15-6 victory at Soldier Field last season.
McVay, Jared Goff and the Rams (5-4) get a chance to reply when the Bears (4-5) visit the Coliseum on Sunday night in a game that could wreck the loser’s realistic playoff hopes.
That loss on a chilly, biting night last December still stings for McVay and Goff, who threw a career-high four interceptions while the Rams were held without a touchdown for the first time in McVay’s tenure.
“They were a great defense, period,” McVay said. “They still are a great defense, but they did do some different things schematically that - I don’t run away from the fact that I didn’t handle that night well at all.”
Los Angeles was 11-1 and cruising through a season that would bend with a Super Bowl trip, but Vic Fangio’s defense reduced McVay’s offense to a wan shadow of its usual self. Todd Gurley produced only 28 yards rushing, Goff went 20 of 44 for 180 yards, and the Rams managed only 214 yards - less than half of their season average.
Fangio largely did it with a deceptively simple 6-1 alignment: Six defenders right at the line of scrimmage, with one linebacker just behind them looking to snuff out the run game. When Gurley couldn’t move the ball on the ground against that setup, the Rams’ play-action strategies were largely useless - and then Goff made mistakes.
“All of these teams, at some point, you hit some patches where you have to figure some things out and re-adjust and all that,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said of the Rams’ struggles in Chicago last season. “We’re going through that right now offensively.”
Other teams copied the Bears’ strategy, and New England played its version to perfection while holding the Rams to three points in the Super Bowl. But with Gurley still largely ineffective this season, opponents haven’t even needed the strategy to beat the Rams lately.
“I wouldn’t say what they did has shown up a lot,” Goff said, recalling the Bears’ setup. “It’s something that teams have tried, and we’ve beat it at times, and we haven’t at times. It’s definitely part of a scheme that people have played not only to us, but across the league. Nothing too crazy. Pretty simple. We’ll be ready if they do it again.”
Chuck Pagano runs the Bears’ defense now, and it has scarcely lost a step statistically despite Chicago’s overall struggles.
The Rams’ offense is a shadow of its former self, sitting in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories and coming off an inept performance at Pittsburgh in which it scored only three of Los Angeles’ 12 points.
The Bears’ biggest concern this time around likely should be Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense, which has been on a roll since the week before it acquired shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville.
“Really good defense,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “I think it starts up front for them. They’ve got obviously really talented players in Donald, and they do a lot of stuff up front with twists and getting pressure. Last year, they kind of zoned us out and tried to keep everything in front and take away our big plays.”
Here are more things to know about the prime-time showdown between 2018 division winners:
Allen Robinson figures he’s in for a physical confrontation and plenty of trash talk from Ramsey.
The Bears’ leading receiver and Rams’ brash star cornerback figure to be matched against each other just like old times, when they would go at it in practice as teammates in Jacksonville for two seasons. Robinson was three years into his career when the Jaguars drafted Ramsey with the No. 5 overall pick in 2016, and the rookie went at him right away.
“It’s gonna be physical, it’s gonna be competitive, it’s gonna be fun,” Robinson said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Robinson signed with Chicago last year, while Ramsey forced a trade to Los Angeles last month. But during their time together, Robinson heard plenty from him.
“I talk, he talks, so it’ll be fun,” Robinson said.
Khalil Mack will be lining up against a Rams offensive line with four of the five starters in unfamiliar positions. Los Angeles lost center Brian Allen and right tackle Rob Havenstein to injuries last week, so guard Austin Blythe moves to center and untested youngsters David Edwards, Austin Corbett and Bobby Evans likely join the starting lineup. The Rams’ line struggled against Pittsburgh even before the injuries, so McVay is scheming to help his profoundly inexperienced unit - but Mack still could be in for a feast.
WORK IN PROGRESS
The Bears got the win they needed last week against Detroit, ending a four-game skid with Trubisky throwing three TD passes to match his season high. But the defending NFC North champions still have plenty of room to improve. Though they scored on three consecutive possessions in the second and third quarters, the offense went long stretches without moving the ball.
The defense held Detroit to 98 yards rushing on 27 attempts, but the Bears lost linebacker Danny Trevathan to a left elbow injury, and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is on injured reserve with an elbow injury, leaving Chicago without two disruptive players inside against Los Angeles.
McVay is still disappointed after leading receiver Cooper Kupp was held without a catch last week. The Steelers felt free to double-team Kupp more frequently with Brandin Cooks sidelined by a concussion, and Cooks is out again this week. Goff and McVay both believe their offense needs the ball in Kupp’s hands to reach its potential.
Houston Texans CB Gareon Conley (hip) is expected to play in Week 14's game against the Denver Broncos, according to a source. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited practice participant throughout the week.
Houston Texans CB Bradley Roby (hamstring, toe) is expected to play in Week 14's game against the Denver Broncos, according to a source. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited practice participant throughout the week.
The Tennessee Titans are reportedly discussing a contract extension for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Since taking over for Marcus Mariota as the team's starting passer in Week 7, Tannehill has been putting up solid numbers, with 12 touchdown passes and three interceptions while completing 71.9 percent of his passes. He's also rushed for three scores. Tannehill appears to be a solid starting quarterback going forward, and with the Titans not bad enough to draft a top quarterback in the upcoming draft, it makes sense to extend him. He's a solid fantasy QB2 with QB1 upside depending on the matchup.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (groin) has been playing through a painful sports hernia injury this year which will require surgery during the offseason, according to multiple sources.
Fantasy Spin: The 27-year-old Beckham has 57 receptions for 805 yards and just two touchdowns through the first 12 games of the season. As a result of the injury, he has missed a great deal of practice time, which could explain why he and QB Baker Mayfield often appear as though they're not on the same page. Despite the sports hernia issue, Beckham will continue to receive a decent number of targets in the Cleveland passing game and should be viewed as a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2 in fantasy leagues.
The Los Angeles Rams plan to unleash running back Todd Gurley over the last four weeks of the season, giving him a full workload as the team tries to bolster their chances of making the postseason. Gurley's played two games this year with a snap rate of 90 percent or better, though his yardage and yards per carry in those games weren't great. There's still risk with Gurley, but he should be a solid RB1 if the Rams do give him the majority of their running back touches.
Updating a previous report, Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) will probably miss Week 14's game versus the Detroit Lions but has a good chance of returning for Week 15's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Fantasy Spin: Thielen is a must-start option when healthy, although he has not played a full game since Week 6 and hasn't played at all since Week 9. Fantasy owners should keep him on the bench this week and look for safer receiving alternatives.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (shoulder) is expected to play in Week 14's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman was listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited practice participant throughout the week. He is the main target in New England's passing game and is worthy of consideration as at least a No. 2 fantasy receiver this afternoon.
New England Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu (ankle) is expected to play in Week 14's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Sanu was listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited practice participant throughout the week. He could be a decent flex option in most fantasy formats this afternoon because this has the potential to be a high-scoring game and he's likely to be targeted more frequently than normal.
Baltimore Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh) is expected to play in Week 14's game against the Buffalo Bills, according to a source. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report after logging two limited practice sessions and one full session during the week.
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) is not expected to play in Week 14's game against the Detroit Lions, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Thielen had been listed as doubtful on the injury report after not practicing at all during the week and it appears as though he will be sidelined for the fifth time in the last six games. Fantasy owners should keep him stashed on their benches this afternoon and look for alternative options.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) is not expected to play in Week 14's game against the Denver Broncos, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller was listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited practice participant throughout the week. When healthy, he makes a decent flex option but fantasy owners should keep him stashed on their benches this week and proceed with safer alternatives.
Denver Broncos LB Von Miller (knee) is expected to play in Week 14's game against the Houston Texans, according to a source. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report after being a limited practice participant throughout the week.
New York Jets S Jamal Adams (ankle) is not expected to play in Week 14's game against the Miami Dolphins, according to a source. He had been listed as doubtful on the injury report after not practicing at all during the week.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is playing through a painful sports hernia injury, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. The star receiver will need to have offseason surgery to repair the injury. While it hasn't caused Beckham to miss any games, the injury has cut into his practice time and can be one of the reasons why he and Baker Mayfield have struggled with their on-field rapport this season. For now, it appears that Beckham will finish out the season but there is a risk of him getting shut down early if the Browns fall out of playoff contention.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) is expected to be out against the Lions in Week 14. Thielen suffered the injury at the end of October and will likely miss his fourth straight after failing to log a practice this week. In his absence, expect more looks for Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and Alexander Mattison on Sunday.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (shoulder) is expected to be available for the critical matchup with Kansas City on Sunday. Edelman has been dealing with the ailment for quite some time but has been able to play. He has logged at least 11 targets in each of his last seven games and should continue to get plenty of looks from Tom Brady in Week 14 despite Mohamed Sanu (ankle) also expected to see the field. Keep him starting in all fantasy formats.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) is not expected to play against Denver on Sunday. After playing against the Pats in Week 13, Fuller will probably miss his fourth game of the year after suffering another setback. While this isn't a massive blow to fantasy owners, especially considering the matchup against a relatively tough Broncos Defense, it isn't good news for those in deeper fantasy formats. Expect Kenny Stills to serve as the primary beneficiary in Week 14.
Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (shoulder) may not play against Tennessee on Sunday, with his status for Week 14 still up in the air. Jacobs has carried this designation over the last five weeks, and while he has been able to suit up during that span, this may be the first time that Oakland is without him this year. He was able to practice on Friday in a limited capacity after missing the previous two sessions, but if he is out, expect Deandre Washington to carry the load as the No. 1 option out of the backfield against an average Titans Defense. Keep an eye on his availability up until kickoff.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) is expected to play on Sunday in Buffalo. Hollywood has been dealing with this issue for the majority of the year, so his designation throughout the week wasn't a huge surprise. The rookie fizzled in Week 13 against the 49ers after accounting for two touchdowns against the Rams in Week 12, and while the upside is there, he draws a tough matchup against a Bills Defense that is ranked in the top-six against opposing wideouts this season. Proceed with caution.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington has had a reception of 30-plus yards in four of the last five games and has recorded at least 90 receiving yards and a touchdown in three of the last four games.
Fantasy Spin: Despite Pittsburgh's quarterback carousel, Washington has emerged as a dangerous deep threat. He's a big-play dependent but high-upside WR3 against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14.