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.
Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 2
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz connected on his only field-goal attempt and made three extra points in the Week 2 loss to the Raiders. Lutz didn't get to try for many field goals considering the Saints offense capitalized with touchdowns when they were in the red zone. As part of a high-octane offense, Lutz remains a weekly starter considering his large role and reliability.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara had a tremendous performance in the Week 2 loss to the Raiders, getting 13 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns along with leading the team with nine receptions for 95 yards on nine targets. The absence of Michael Thomas thrust Kamara into a huge role and he put on a great display in both the passing and rushing game. He remains a solid RB1 going forward.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith came through in the Week 2 loss to Las Vegas, getting five receptions for 86 yards on seven targets. With Michael Thomas sidelined, it was only natural to see Smith see some more targets and he delivered with a great performance. He should see some targets as long as Thomas is out, keeping him in the flex tier for the foreseeable future.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders only managed one reception for 18 yards on three targets in the Week 2 loss to the Raiders. It was certainly a disappointing performance for the temporary WR1 of the Saints as Drew Brees even eclipsed 300 passing yards. Sanders will look to get back on track in Week 3 against the Packers, but his value should be downgraded to a flex considering his Week 2 struggles.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook only managed two receptions for 13 yards on five targets in the Week 2 loss to the Raiders. After coming off an 80-yard performance in Week 1, the tight end was certainly disappointing. Nevertheless, with Michael Thomas sidelined, he should still see a decent number of targets and can redeem himself in Week 3. Cook can be explosive, thus keeping him in the TE1 tier going forward.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees went 26-for-38 and put up 312 yards, one touchdown, and one pick in the loss to the Raiders on Monday. After a hot start, the Saints cooled down and the offense couldn't get going deeper into the game. It was obvious the absence of Michael Thomas was felt, but this was the type of performance that is now expected of Brees, which is generally not explosive in terms of touchdowns. He should remain a low-end QB1 or high QB2 going forward.
The Denver Broncos Defense was respectable in the Week 2 loss against a powerful Steelers offense with two rookies in the secondary. Safety Justin Simmons had two passes defensed, including an interception of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Fellow safety Kareem Jackson also recovered a fumble that led to a fourth-quarter touchdown that cut Pittsburgh's lead to five. The defense had a total of six tackles for loss, with their lone sack coming courtesy of defensive tackle Mike Purcell. They did, however, allow two passing touchdowns and gave up over 100 yards on the ground to James Conner, the second straight week allowing a back to go for over 100 rushing yards. Against Tampa and Tom Brady with receiver Chris Godwin (concussion) back in the fold, Denver's D will be a risky streaming option.
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (knee) was confirmed to have suffered a torn ACL in the Week 2 win over the Jets. The season got off to a bad start for Thomas when the Niners declined the 25-year-old's fifth-year option, and things just got a lot worse. The Stanford product hasn't lived up to his draft stock as a third-round pick in 2017. The 49ers had the worst luck of any team in the injury department in a Week 2 full of devastating season-ending injuries. All-Pro pass-rusher Nick Bosa also tore his ACL, ending his 2020 campaign. Look for rookie Javon Kinlaw to pick up the slack up the middle, while the Niners will also need DJ Jones and Arik Armstead to step up.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus was 2-for-3 on his field-goal attempts and made his lone extra-point try in the 26-21 Week 2 loss to the Steelers. McManus connected from 49 yards and 28 yards out and missed his lone attempt from 58 yards out. Denver's offense has potential, but they are dealing with injuries to quarterback Drew Lock (shoulder) and running back Phillip Lindsay (toe), while receiver Courtland Sutton (knee) will miss the rest of the season. McManus isn't much of a fantasy option at the kicking position until further notice, despite his big leg.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Tim Patrick secured just two of his five targets for 24 yards in the 26-21 Week 2 loss to the Steelers on the road. It was a slight step down for the 26-year-old, as he caught four of five targets for 29 yards in the season-opening loss to the Titans. There will be more opportunities for Patrick the rest of the year with Courtland Sutton (knee) suffering a torn ACL, but even so, Noah Fant and rookies Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler will likely be ahead of him in the pecking order. Also, quarterback Drew Lock (shoulder) is out for two to six weeks.
Denver Broncos rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy caught four of his seven targets for 62 yards in the Week 2 loss to the Steelers. Even though Jeudy has yet to score a touchdown in his first year in the NFL, he was tied for the team lead in catches and targets in this game. There's a lot to like about his route-running ability, which helps him gain plenty of separation, but he won't be as exciting as a WR4/flex for fantasy managers with quarterback Drew Lock (shoulder) expected to miss anywhere from two to six weeks.
Denver Broncos tight end Noah Fant caught four of his five targets for 57 yards and a touchdown in the 26-21 Week 2 loss to the Steelers. He now has nine catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, just one short of his rookie-season total, through two games in 2020. Quarterback Drew Lock (shoulder) will be out anywhere from two to six weeks, but the drop-off to Jeff Driskel may not affect Fant all that much. In fact, Driskel could lean heavily on Fant moving forward. As one of the top receivers in Denver's offense with Courtland Sutton (knee) out for the year, Fant has become a solid TE1.
Denver Broncos running back Royce Freeman attempted just three rushes for 20 yards in the Week 2 loss to the Steelers with Phillip Lindsay (toe) inactive. Even with Lindsay on the sidelines for this one, Freeman just wasn't a part of the offense as Melvin Gordon III's backup. Lindsay could miss more time, but Freeman just won't see enough touches to be fantasy relevant unless Gordon also suffers an injury that causes him to miss time.
Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III carried the ball 19 times for 70 yards in the Week 2 loss to the Steelers with Phillip Lindsay (toe) inactive, but he salvaged his day for fantasy managers with two catches for 14 yards and his second touchdown of the season. The good news for Gordon is that he should continue to be a big part of this offense with Lindsay potentially out for another game and receiver Courtland Sutton (knee) out for the remainder of the year. He'll be facing a Buccaneers Defense in Week 3 that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to the running back position through the first two weeks. Consider Gordon a usage-based RB2 until Lindsay is back in the fold.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard had a quiet day in Week 2 against the Lions, though he was still sneakily involved in the offense. Lazard saw five targets, which was an improvement on the four looks he saw in Week 1. He hasn't put up amazing numbers yet, though he has been on the field far more often than fellow wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has had better stats so far. Interestingly enough, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a higher passer rating when targeting Lazard than when he throws to Valdes-Scantling or star receiver Davante Adams. These are reasons to keep the 24-year-old stashed on fantasy benches. Lazard has a couple of fantasy-friendly matchups on the way against the Packers in Week 3 and the Falcons in Week 4.
Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson led the Detroit backfield in carries and scored a rushing touchdown in a 42-21 loss to the Packers in Week 2. It should be noted that Detroit had to abandon the run earlier than they would have liked in this one, considering how quickly Green Bay jumped out to a lead. So in reality, leading the backfield in touches sounds much more impressive than it actually was, as Johnson ended up with only eight touches. It wasn't a bad showing, but Johnson's role is just too unpredictable with D'Andre Swift and Adrian Peterson also manning the backfield. He's likely not worth rostering a this point, unless injuries force him into action.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (knee) has suffered a torn ACL and is out for the remainder of the season. The team was fearful that he would miss significant time and the MRI confirmed those fears. The 22-year-old was a big reason why the 49ers fielded arguably the league's best defense last season, as he registered nine sacks as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl. It's a crushing blow for a defense that was looking to prove that 2019 was no fluke. With multiple injuries on defense in addition to Bosa, the 49ers' unit is one that will have to be downgraded for fantasy purpose moving forward.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (knee) is active and will take the field against the New Orleans Saints on Monday night. Ruggs III was expected to play after upgrading to a limited session on Friday and taking the practice field again on Saturday, though it is always nice to get the official word. It's possible that the rookie isn't 100 percent for this one, but his speed and big-play ability will still have to be respected by the New Orleans defense. Look at him as a boom-or-bust WR4 for a contest that has the potential to be high-scoring.
Denver Broncos quarterback Jeff Driskel led an unlikely comeback against the Steelers in Week 2 that ultimately fell short after Drew Lock (shoulder) was injured. Driskel took six sacks and absorbed 17 hits from a ferocious Pittsburgh defense, but the Broncos were 15 yards away from a stunning upset on the road. With Lock out at least several weeks, Driskel will continue to lead Denver's offense, beginning in Week 3 against the Buccaneers. In the end, he completed 18 of 34 passes for 256 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the 26-21 loss, adding two rushes for five yards. Even though Driskel exceeded expectations in a tough situation, he'll be low-end QB2 streamer going forward in superflex leagues.
Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (knee) tore his ACL in the Week 2 win over the Patriots on Sunday night and will miss the rest of the 2020 season, according to a source. It's a tough blow for the 32-year-old veteran, especially since the Seahawks Defense had allowed close to 1,000 total yards of offense combined to the Falcons and Patriots in the first two weeks. Rookie first-rounder Jordyn Brooks will need to step up in the middle of Seattle's defense for the rest of the season. Against a Cowboys team that made a miraculous comeback in Week 2 with over 40 points, you should be looking to avoid the Seahawks defense in fantasy.