Wed Nov 13 4:24pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrates his touchdown during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, center, laughs on the sidelines during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson passes during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs the ball for a touchdown against Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (96) during the second half of NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) There are times when Lamar Jackson displays the style and exuberance of a youngster playing football on the street with friends.
Seemingly unaffected by the responsibility of being an NFL starting quarterback, Jackson relishes the opportunity to run, pass and match wits with opposing defenses. And when he's all done, the Baltimore Ravens star just might flip on a pair of sunglasses and pose on the sideline with his teammates.
Such was the case last Sunday, when the versatile Jackson achieved a perfect quarterback rating and peeled off a can't-top-this 47-yard touchdown run in a 49-13 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals.
For a new generation of NFL quarterbacks, staying in the pocket is merely an option.
''It's pretty cool,'' Jackson said Wednesday. ''We're just doing our thing: playing ball, having fun, doing what all of us did when we were just little kids.''
With Jackson as the driving force, the Ravens (7-2) have won five straight and established themselves as a Super Bowl contender. Now in his second season, the former Louisville standout is 13-3 as a starter and the focal point of a team that leads the league in scoring, rushing and with a 76.9% conversion rate on fourth down.
Jackson is the only player in NFL history to amass 2,000 yards passing and 700 yards rushing through a season's first nine games. In the high-stakes world of pro football, Jackson is keeping it low key.
''Obviously, Lamar is our leader. We follow him,'' tight end Mark Andrews said. ''He's done a great job of staying humble. With all the spotlight and the buzz and people kind of catching on to the type of player he can be, he's done a great job of staying true to himself and playing for his teammates.''
Jackson stepped out of character against the Bengals, grabbing a pair of sunglasses from head athletic trainer Ron Medlin and hamming it up in a hilarious photo with teammates Marlon Humphrey, Ron Stanley, Mark Ingram and Marquise Brown.
''When you're winning and guys are making plays, it's just contagious, the happiness, the joy,'' Ingram said. ''We all love playing football, we love winning and we love watching our teammates making plays. I don't know how we got those glasses on, but this team is a special group.''
And, to be sure, Jackson is a unique quarterback. His second perfect quarterback rating of the season (15 for 17, 223 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) was impressive, but that 47-yard frolic through the Cincinnati defense might be the play that all past and future quarterback runs will be measured against.
Ingram was right there when it happened, and he's watched it so many times on film that he can describe the action from memory.
''It was crazy,'' Ingram said. ''He made the right read, got away from (defensive end) Carlos Dunlap, hit the safety, dead-legged him, three guys pursuing, he spun inside of them and then the acceleration just to get to the end zone. Yeah, you've got to go into the archives to see something better than that. It was wild.''
That was the Lamar Jackson that won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and the one his mom appreciated from an early age.
''She just said I'm finally playing how I used to play,'' Jackson said.
Truth is, Jackson's improvement from his rookie year can be attributed to his prowess at passing. If a team dares to stack the line to make him throw, Jackson will gladly accept the invitation and make the defense pay.
''That's where hard work comes in. That's where dedication is,'' he said.
Jackson is the toast of Baltimore these days. The fans swarm him at shopping malls, fast-food joints, anywhere he might happen to be.
''Baltimore loves the players and we appreciate it. We love them back,'' Jackson said. ''So it's all good.''
Until it isn't.
''Football starts with the quarterback,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ''That's what he signed up for. That team has Lamar's back. But just as quickly as (the fans) pat you on the back, they're going to slice your Achilles just like that.''
Unless, of course, Jackson continues to improve. He is, after all, only 22 years old.
''He's just a special talent. Never complacent,'' Ingram said. ''He's only going to get better.''
Notes: The Ravens signed former Denver DT Domata Peko, who will turn 35 later this month and has not played this season. Peko, along with DT Justin Ellis (signed Tuesday), provide Baltimore with options if Michael Pierce (ankle) can't go Sunday against Houston. ... Baltimore released KR Cyrus Jones and placed rookie DT Daylon Mack (knee) on injured reserve.
Waiver Wire Adds: Week 4
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) returned to practice on Wednesday. Thomas has been out the past two weeks while nursing an ankle sprain. In Wednesday's practice, Thomas was reportedly moving well and showing good signs of progress. He's currently questionable for Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. If he's able to go, Drew Brees will see a boost in his value, while Tre'Quan Smith and Emmanuel Sanders become more risky plays. Make sure to monitor the situation closely over the next few days if you're a Thomas owner.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) is expected to play in the team's Week 4 game on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos. Crowder missed the team's previous two games while dealing with a hamstring injury. It doesn't sound as if Crowder will be 100% for the Thursday's game, but he is still worth starting as a WR3 in all fantasy formats, especially in PPR. In his only game this year, Crowder caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. The Jets have been sorely missing him in their passing game the previous two weeks.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense has played well to start the year, and they finally have fantasy value in Week 4. The New York Giants look like one of the worst teams in football, and they're dealing with injuries to just about every offensive weapon they have. Lineman Aaron Donald remains one of the most dominant weapons in football, and he's going to have a field day against the interior of New York. This Rams' team can take advantage of the mistakes that quarterback Daniel Jones is going to make, and they could keep the points total extremely low.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Samuel Sloman is a top-10 option in Week 4 behind this offense. This Rams' group looks closer to the one we saw in 2018 when they could move the ball at will against most defenses, and that's going to continue against the New York Giants. The Giants just look brutal right now, and that's great for kickers. Additionally, this is a home game for the Rams, which means that weather will not be an issue inside SoFi Stadium. Behind this high-octane offense, you can safely put Sloman into your lineups this week.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee had a rough go of things in Week 3, but Week 4 is his chance to bounce back. The Giants have done well at defending tight ends early in the season, but they haven't played a player of Higbee's caliber. Higbee scored three touchdowns in Week 2, and I think he gets into the end zone again this week. He gives quarterback Jared Goff a safe option across the middle, and the Giants are dealing with issues at the safety position with multiple injuries to start the year. Higbee is a low-end TE1 in 12-team leagues this week.
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green has been targeted in the end zone six times through three games with zero touchdowns.
Fantasy Spin: Green was once one of the premier receivers in the NFL and a fantasy stud, but these days it's uncertain whether he or Tyler Boyd is the No. 1 receiver in the Queen City. He has tumbled into the WR3 or flex fantasy area heading into Week 4.
Cincinnati Bengals DT Geno Atkins (shoulder) practiced Wednesday, Sept. 30 for the first time since injuring his shoulder in training camp. 'We'll take it day-to-day and know more by the end of the week,' head coach Zac Taylor said.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods had a tough matchup in Week 3, but things get a lot easier in Week 4 against the New York Giants. The Giants don't have a cornerback that can stick with Woods with any consistency, and he's going to have a number of opportunities where he's running wide open. It's rare that Woods as the upside to be a WR1, but this is one of those chances. Woods has shown a good knack for finding the end zone this year, and it will only take some receptions and one big play to give him that WR1 week. He's a safe play again this week.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson has a great matchup in Week 4 against the New York Giants. Over the last two weeks, he's averaged over 6.0 yards per carry. His offensive line is opening wide-open lanes for him to hit, and he's blasting through them. In Week 4, he draws the New York Giants who are just getting gashed to start the year. Their strength is defending the run with their front seven, but Henderson is just getting too much work to bench him. As long as he's getting the lead-back duties, he can give you a safe amount of RB2 production every week.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has started the year on a slow pace, but he finally broke through in Week 3 with a 25.7 point performance against the Buffalo Bills. In Week 4, his matchup gets even better against the New York Giants. Their biggest weakness on defense is in the secondary, and they don't have anyone that can keep with Kupp. He has a safe floor as a WR2, but he has a ceiling as a WR1 this week. He gets great volume, and he is a rock-solid option for quarterback Jared Goff. Lock him in this week.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is on a quest for a QB1-level season. He's currently QB9 as things stand, and he has a solid chance to improve that standing in Week 4 against the New York Giants. The Giants were just demolished at home by the San Francisco 49ers with backups starting all over the place. This Rams' offense just scored 28 unanswered points against the Buffalo Bills in one half, and they can do that again this week. Goff is a safe option in Week 4 for leagues with at least 12 teams, and he should give you low-end QB1 production.
Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams (groin), rookie linebacker Jordyn Brooks (knee), cornerback Quinton Dunbar (knee) and defensive end Benson Mayowa (groin) all missed practice on Wednesday. Adams is the top fantasy safety in the game in IDP leagues, but he could be in real danger of missing this Sunday's contest against Miami. The Seahawks Defense has given up a ton of yardage (439.7 passing yards per game) through the first three weeks, but they're on the streaming radar this week with the Dolphins on the docket. However, if Adams and some of their other defenders are forced to sit out, you may want to rethink using Seattle as a one-week play.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson (knee) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Carson is dealing with a minor knee sprain, but he certainly has a chance to face the Dolphins in Week 4 after getting in a limited practice to start the week. However, the oft-injured 26-year-old could be limited this Sunday even if he's active, which will make him a pretty risky fantasy commodity this week. Carlos Hyde is next in line to see more touches if Carson sits out or is limited, with Travis Homer behind Hyde in the pecking order. Fantasy managers should get a better read on how healthy Carson really is after a few more practices.
Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert took all of the reps in practice Wednesday, Sept. 30 with QB Tyrod Taylor (lung) not practicing. However, head coach Anthony Lynn has not yet officially named Herbert the starter for Week 4 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fantasy Spin: If Herbert is tabbed for his third consecutive start, he is only worth a look as a QB2 in fantasy leagues which require two starting signal callers.
The Atlanta Falcons Defense should be well off the starting radar for this week against Green Bay. The ATL defense has been the Achilles heel of this team as they have blown late leads in Weeks 2 and 3. They have allowed 38, 40, and 30 points thus far this season and now face a Green Bay team that has scored close to 40 points each game. There is no reason to trust this defense.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor (chest, ribs) and defensive end Joey Bosa (ankle, triceps) both missed practice on Wednesday. The Chargers aren't ruling Taylor out for the Week 4 matchup against the Buccaneers, but this isn't a good start to the week for the QB. He's recovering from a punctured lung that has caused him to miss the last two games, which has led to rookie Justin Herbert getting his first two starts under center. If healthy, Taylor could reclaim the starting gig, but he's nothing more than a low-end QB2 in an offense that would prefer to run the ball. Bosa is a must-start IDP asset when he's healthy, and the Chargers Defense will surely need him if they want to slow Tom Brady down this Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage is a flex play if he is active this week against the Packers. Gage suffered a head injury in Week 3 which caused him to miss much of the game. It remains unclear whether he will play in Week 4. The 2018 pick put up an impressive first two games before going down in Week 3. He recorded over 100 yards in Week 1 and has seen 12 and nine targets in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively. There is a growing rapport between Gage and Matt Ryan, so he is certainly in the flex conversation in what could be a high-scoring game at Lambeau. If Gage plays and Julio Jones doesn't, Gage's value would increase.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst is a low-end TE1 for Week 4. Hurst has been hard to figure out on this offense, as he saw eight targets and got 72 yards in Week 2, but only had one reception for one yard in Week 3 when Julio Jones was out and Russell Gage was injured for most of the game. At this point, we don't know which version of Hurst we may get this week, so he can be started as a TE1 in bigger leagues, but there is added risk considering his production could be huge or completely small.
New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (quadriceps) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) were both limited in practice on Wednesday. Michel has dealt with plenty of injuries so far in his career, so this one is worth watching, but as of right now, he seems like a good bet to play in Week 4 against the Chiefs. Michel ran all over the Raiders in the victory last week, but KC's defensive front will be a much tougher matchup. Consider him as more of a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex. Edelman is frequently on the injury report with minor injuries but usually plays through them. He was quiet last week in a game in which Rex Burkhead scored three times. The Pats will have to throw the ball to keep up with the Chiefs in this contest, making Edelman a good bet to bounce back as a WR2. The Chiefs are a bit beat up in the secondary as well.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II is an RB2 for the Week 4 clash against the Packers. Though he hasn't been a factor in the receiving game, Gurley has seen no less than 14 carries and 56 rushing yards in a game this season. His role as the lead back is not in peril and as long as he stays healthy, the RB will see decent volume each week. The Packers have allowed the third-most points to fantasy RBs, meaning Gurley has great value for this week.