Thu Dec 5 6:40pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) makes the stop after Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) caught a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrating his touchdown with teammate tight end Mark Andrews (89) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to pass the ball in the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Appreciating how difficult it is to contain Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens' bull-dozing offensive attack, Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips was put at ease watching TV last weekend.
After averaging 405 yards offense and 36 points in winning their previous seven games, the Ravens hit a speed bump in the form of the San Francisco 49ers. Though Baltimore eked out a 20-17 win on a rainy, windy afternoon on Justin Tucker's 49-yard field goal as time expired, Phillips took note how the 49ers limited Baltimore to 283 yards offense, including 125 in the second half.
''When San Fran's defense got going, that's all I needed to see,'' Phillips said. ''That put things in perspective.''
If the NFL's top-ranked defense could put a dent in the run-and-gunning Ravens (10-2), then why not the Bills (9-3) on Sunday, when the two AFC playoff contenders meet at Buffalo.
''We're built for an offense like this,'' Phillips said of a defense that's allowed the third-fewest yards in the NFL this season. ''Now, we just have to go out there and execute. Simple as that.''
Simple might not be the operative word when confronting Jackson's dynamic ability. The second-year starter leads the league with 32 touchdowns (25 passing) and oversees an offense that has scored a league-leading 49 TDs. Baltimore has an opportunity to become the first in NFL history to finish a season averaging both 200 yards rushing and passing.
The Bills defense appears to have cleaned up its issues against the run. Since allowing 492 yards over a three-game stretch, Buffalo has given up 211 - including 103 in a 26-15 victory at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day - in winning its past three.
Promising as that might sound, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier knows he's got his hands full in preparing to face a quarterback he compares to Michael Vick.
''Once he got out in the open field, there was really no catching Michael,'' Frazier said. ''And it's similar when you're watching Lamar.''
Frazier is also familiar with Ravens coach John Harbaugh; the two spent time together on Andy Reid's staff in Philadelphia. Frazier sees the Ravens adopting Harbaugh's aggressive mentality.
''It seems like they have a ton of confidence in their ability to run the ball on anybody,'' Frazier said. ''They play with a bravado about them, and I'm sure that has a lot to with their head coach.''
Harbaugh's confidence in Jackson was apparent when asked whether he believes any defense can stop him.
''Well, I don't know what it means exactly,'' Harbaugh said. ''If it means that they're going to solve him as a player or shut him down, no. I don't think that'll ever happen until he retires, because he's that good.''
The challenge, Harbaugh said, is continuing to adapt his offense to stay a step ahead of opposing defenses.
A number of things to look out for in a game that also features Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who was selected seventh overall in the 2018 draft, 25 spots ahead of Jackson:
The Ravens can clinch the AFC North with a win and a Steelers loss or tie. They can also clinch with a tie and Steelers loss.
The Bills can clinch their second playoff berth in three years with a win and an Oakland loss or tie, an Indianapolis loss or tie, and a Houston loss.
Jackson recalled playing cornerback in youth football when he was burned by Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary.
''He was like a little stocky, cocky running back and I'm like `I'm not about to hit him by myself,' so I tried to brush him off, and he just ran up the sideline and scored,'' Jackson said.
Bills coach Sean McDermott laughed upon hearing the story, and said: ''� think if Lamar's playing corner, we'd be better off.''
Ravens punter Sam Koch hasn't seen much action. With Jackson guiding a relentless offense and Baltimore going for it on fourth down 19 times, Koch has only 24 punts this year.
That doesn't mean he's been taking it easy. One of his two punts last week was downed at the 1 by Chris Moore. Koch also serves as holder for Tucker, who hit two field-goal and two extra-point attempts.
McDermott confirmed a report by NFL.com of the Bills placing a waiver claim for kicker Chase McLaughlin, only to lose out to Indianapolis, which was higher in the claim order.
McDermott denied the team's interest in McLaughlin reflected concerns in kicker Stephen Hauschka, who missed a 50-yard field goal and extra point at Dallas.
''It's just like any position, us continuing to try to add a player to our team that we feel could help us,'' McDermott said.
After winning five straight by a combined 202-62 margin, the Ravens had to squeeze past San Francisco. Baltimore held the ball for the final 6 + minutes before Tucker's field goal. The 3-point margin of victory was the smallest for Baltimore this year.
''These games are needed,'' defensive tackle Michael Pierce said. ''When you're trying to go on a run and get to the playoffs, you never expect a blowout. You need to be in those tight games to see how players respond at some point.''
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had an incredible performance against the Tennessee Titans during their Week 10 matchup. He caught 11 of his 19 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Tennessee. He'll get another chance to run over the same team in the AFC Championship matchup on Sunday. Hill hasn't been able to get over 100 yards receiving in a single game since that matchup. DFS players know that Hill has a chance to be a complete bust, but the fact he destroyed Tennessee the first time is hard to ignore. Hill has given DFS players a lot to think about before Sunday's kickoff.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He hauled in 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round victory. The Tennessee Titans main focus has to be slowing down Kelce. They allowed seven receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown to Kelce earlier in the season. Kelce isn't going to be cheap for DFS contests, but he's proven all season long that he's worth the risk.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been tough to watch all season long. He started off the year with a three touchdown performance, but it was downhill after that. Watkins was only targeted more than five times in a game once over the last five games. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have taken over the passing attack in Kansas City. Watkins was able to haul in five receptions for 39 yards during his regular season matchup against the Titans. DFS players shouldn't expect a better performance out of Watkins this time around.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to battle with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC Championship on Sunday. Mahomes is coming off a five touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He's already faced off against the Titans once this season and Mahomes didn't disappoint. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in that game. DFS players should be able to lean on Mahomes to at least be efficient on Sunday. He has a solid chance of being the best quarterback out of the bunch in the division title games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He rushed 12 times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards through the air. LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson have been absent from the backfield lately. The Chiefs have been leaning on Williams and it's been paying off. He's been able to find the end zone when he's called upon and piled up 109 yards against the Titans earlier in the season. Fantasy owners are aware that Williams has been up and down this season, but he's red-hot right now. He'll be used in both the rushing and passing attack, so DFS players should give Williams a long look for Sunday's slate.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has the confidence of former 49ers QB and Hall of Famer Steve Young. 'When they've asked him to raise up and go win it, he did it,' Young said. 'Those are hard things to do. That just doesn't happen. When you see it in the NFL and someone is able to do it, you go, once you've done it, you can do it again. You can keep doing it.'
Fantasy Spin: Jimmy G wasn't a fantasy factor with his 11-of-19, 131-yards, one-TD, one-interception game in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings, but that's largely due to the Niners' overwhelming success on the ground (47 rushes-186 yards). When Garoppolo has been forced to pass, he's delivered the majority of the time, and his fantasy numbers Sunday likely will depend on how much the opposing Packers are able to get done against the San Fran defense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is the only player since special-teams tackles were first tracked in 2001 to lead his team in rushing yards and special-teams tackles in the same season.
Fantasy Spin: While Mostert is a breakout talent who led the Niners in rushing in each of their last six regular-season games, keep in mind that it was Tevin Coleman who led the squad in rushing attempts (22), yards (105) and touchdown runs (2) in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings as Mostert (12-58-0) battled a calf cramp which he said was an after affect of an illness he dealt with the week leading up to the game. In the meantime, it's a plus matchup Sunday against a Packers defense which allowed the ninth-most rushing yards (120.1) per game during the regular season.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries in two wins this postseason, but Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark says he isn't intimidated heading into the AFC Championship matchup with the Titans on Sunday, Jan. 19. 'He's not hard to hit,' Clark was quoted as saying on NFL Network. 'He's just a big guy -- 240, 245, 250 (pounds). Honestly he should be running harder at his weight and size. I don't see no difficulty in tackling him. ... He's just easy to me up front because I don't look at any running back like they can't be tackled. He's not one of the best guys at breaking tackles to me, honestly.'
Fantasy Spin: Henry is on a truly historic run -- with only Terrell Davis owning more 150-yard postseason games (four) than Henry's three -- and it will be challenge for Clark and the K.C. D, which ranked in the bottom fourth of the league in allowing 128.2 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry, to slow down -- let alone shut down -- Henry and the run-first Titans.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. likely won't face simple-assault charges for slapping a security officer's buttocks Monday, Jan. 13, as the officer has declined to press charges, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: The Browns -- and OBJ's fantasy dynasty-league owners -- are hoping this the final negative offseason headline the wideout generates for a good while and he starts focusing his energies on improving on his disappointing debut season with Cleveland.
Confirming a previous report, the Dallas Cowboys have hired New Orleans Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan to be their new defensive coordinator. Head coach Mike McCarthy said he plans to run a defense with four down linemen.
New England Patriots CB Jason McCourty (groin) recently underwent surgery on the groin injury that hampered him throughout the 2019 season.
Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has agreed to become the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, according to a source.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman is coming off one of his best games of the season last week and should continue to receive most of the carries in the running game. He should be a starting option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle is one of the top options in the passing game for the 49ers and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert will have a solid role in the running game against the Green Bay Packers and could see a few targets in the passing game. He has a chance to be a flex option in fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game. DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) fully participated in practice and is not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers FB Danny Vitale (knee) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Championship game. TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited during practice but are not on the injury report. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), DT Kenny Clark (back), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OT Billy Turner (ankle) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Allison has only been targeted 12 times over the last five games and was held to nine yards in his last game against the San Francisco 49ers. He can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Graham likely will see a handful of targets in the passing game against the San Francisco 49ers and could be a stating option in some fantasy leagues.
The Green Bay Packers Defense faces a tough task this weekend in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. In their regular-season meeting, the Packers gave up 37 points and only dropped Jimmy Garoppolo only three times. They also failed to generate any turnovers. Green Bay's defense may need to lend their offense a helping hand by creating a turnover or two to swing the field position game. If Za-Darius and Preston Smith can ramp up the pressure, the Packers will have a good chance of generating a turnover or two and winning the game. It certainly won't be easy, considering how formidable the 49ers offense has been this season.