Thu Jan 30 12:30pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: Emmanuel Sanders
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch watches practice at the team's NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. The 49ers will face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch speaks during a media availability, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Miami, for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, right, and head coach Kyle Shanahan watch players warm up during practice, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in Coral Gables, Fla., for the NFL Super Bowl 54 football game. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
MIAMI (AP) John Lynch had just finished another season in the relatively cushy job as television analyst when he decided to call Kyle Shanahan three years ago and offer up his services as a general manager if Shanahan got hired as head coach in San Francisco.
Shanahan, who was on a Super Bowl run as Atlanta's offensive coordinator, was seeking a general manager he could work well with and jumped at the opportunity.
''Kyle was real busy, he was coaching a team,'' Lynch said. ''And you know how Kyle talks. So he said 'Hey, I'm going to have this dude, his name's Jed, give you a call. I said, ''Yeah, I know Jed.'''
Niners CEO Jed York then invited Lynch for an interview in the Bay Area, starting the process that led to Shanahan and Lynch getting hired to team up to turn around a franchise mired in losing and dysfunction.
That decision to leave his job at Fox and get back working with an NFL team worked about as well as everything else Lynch seems to do in his life.
Lynch has helped build a roster that has the Niners in the Super Bowl this week against the Kansas City Chiefs, earning him the Pro Football Writers of America award as the league's top executive in 2019.
Lynch is now looking to have an almost perfect weekend. He's a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in voting to be conducted Saturday and could follow that up with a Super Bowl championship as an executive to join the title he won as a player in Tampa Bay 17 years ago.
''I've dreamt about it and here we are,'' Lynch said. ''It would be a real nice weekend.''
Lynch and Shanahan have formed the perfect pair in San Francisco. The two had never worked together before but were familiar with each other's accomplishments. Shanahan studied Lynch's play when he arrived as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay a year after Lynch had left for Denver.
Lynch then played his final four seasons for Kyle's father, Mike, and then spent years calling Kyle's games as an analyst on Fox.
Their team-building philosophies were so similar that when both were given a test by the 49ers on how to allocate 150 ''points'' as a fake salary cap to build a roster, they came up with nearly identical versions.
''Maybe they hired us for that reason,'' Lynch said.
The two complement each other well. Lynch's background is on defense as the former hard-hitting safety who played a key part on successful defenses in Tampa Bay and Denver, while Shanahan is considered an offensive guru who is one of the best play-callers in the game.
Lynch has the warmer personality and often plays the role of ''good cop,'' while Shanahan is far more blunt and serves as the ''bad cop'' when needed.
''Usually people like that just on average, usually, I think, I'm like, all right, the person's got to be somewhat phony,'' Shanahan said. ''What's he really like? No one is really Captain America. So, you're waiting to see how they are really. That's probably the opposite of how I am. But, then you get with John day in and day out, and that's genuinely who he is. ... To have that type of personality that's just exactly who he is and on top of that to be one of the most violent, physical players I've ever seen, I think it's as cool of a combination as there is.''
Both were schooled in the 49ers way established by Bill Walsh back in the 1980s, with Kyle spending plenty of time around the team when his father was an assistant for three years in the 1990s and Lynch was playing for Walsh in college at Stanford.
That similar philosophy was important for York, who had endured a period of conflict between coach and general manager that had led to coach Jim Harbaugh's departure in 2014 after the only successful run the franchise has had this century.
That relationship was put to the test early as the team started 0-9 the first season and then finished 4-12 in year two.
But it was an off-field issue that ended up proving to York he was right when he gave the two matching six-year contracts after shuffling through three coaches the previous three years.
The team had made an investment in linebacker Reuben Foster, trading up to draft him in the first round in 2017 and then sticking by him when he faced legal trouble the following offseason.
But when Foster was arrested again at the team hotel on a trip to Tampa during the 2018 season on domestic violence charges that later were dropped, the two didn't hesitate to cut the talented player immediately.
''I don't know that that would have been the case with every other coach or every other general manager - not just here, but across the league, because it's hard to give up on talent,'' York said. ''That, to me, is one of the defining moments of John and Kyle, being able to say, 'This is a first-round pick, in our first year, and we moved on from it,' and it was hard, and we could have justified not moving on from it.''
The moves since then have paid off in a big way with offseason additions of pass rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, along with speedy linebacker Kwon Alexander that transformed the defense into one of the league's top units.
Then the Niners added the final piece they needed during the season when they acquired receiver Emmanuel Sanders from Denver in a trade that sparked the offense.
And now the Niners are back in the Super Bowl.
''I never thought you could equal the feeling of going to the (Super Bowl) as a player, but this one's just as good,'' Lynch said.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye made one field goal and a pair of extra points in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Slye didn't get many opportunities in this one, as Carolina made just one trip to the red zone against a surprisingly resurgent Falcons' defense. There's not much that a kicker can do when he's simply not seeing the opportunities. With that said, Slye may be needed more in Week 9 against Kansas City, as the Panthers will probably have to put up a lot of points to win.
The Carolina Panthers Defense had an average day in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina registered two sacks and an interception, holding strong on Atlanta's first two trips to the red zone. However, they couldn't stop the Falcons from marching down the field, ultimately surrendering 25 points to their division rival. At this point, there's nothing to suggest that the Panthers' defense is worthy of streaming for fantasy purposes. Don't even think about starting them in Week 9, as they face the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel enjoyed his most productive game of the season in a losing effort against Atlanta. Samuel caught four of five targets for 31 receiving yards and carried the ball three times for 23 rushing yards. The 24-year-old made a nice run in the red zone to start the scoring for the Panthers, then hauled in a deep pass from Teddy Bridgewater on a flea-flicker. It's Samuel's second straight game with a rushing touchdown. This was an encouraging performance from the former Buckeye, though it's worth noting that he was held under 50 receiving yards for the seventh time in eight games. He'll be a low-end flex at best in Week 9 against the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught all three targets for 28 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a juicy matchup for Thomas, but he certainly didn't exploit it, as his modest stat-line will support. His three targets were the most he's seen in weeks, though he seemed to surrender some playing time to fellow tight end Chris Manhertz. It's best to avoid Thomas completely until he picks up his production.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet game in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Moore caught two of six targets for 55 receiving yards, including a huge 42-yard reception on a 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter. In a strange turn of events, Moore went without a catch until the final drive of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the 23-year-old still saw six targets, second on the team to only fellow wideout Robby Anderson. There should be better days ahead for Moore, as he had compiled at least 93 receiving yards in three straight contests coming into this one. He'll get a Week 9 matchup against Kansas City in what could turn out to be a high-scoring affair.
Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis carried the ball 13 times for 66 rushing yards and caught one of two targets for 11 receiving yards in a loss to the Falcons. The 27-year-old disappointed in likely his last ride as the Panthers' lead back, as Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected to return in Week 9 against Kansas City. Davis was a PPR machine in McCaffrey's absence, with at least six targets in four games as the starter. He was so impressive at times that it's possible he earned himself a bigger role, though it likely won't amount to much with McCaffrey around to gobble up the majority of the touches. Keep Davis rostered until we find out McCaffrey is back for sure.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage finished Thursday's win with two receptions for 25 yards on three targets. Gage continued to show his inconsistency on Thursday after coming into the game having gotten at least 54 yards in the past two contests. The WR is definitely streaky, which makes him a risky play most weeks. An ankle injury suffered by fellow wideout Calvin Ridley is worth monitoring. If Ridley cannot play next Sunday, Gage's value will surely go up, but it would still be hard to trust him for good production given his lackluster numbers this season.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hauled in five of eight targets for 48 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons. It could have been a bigger day for the former Jet, as he nearly made a one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup P.J. Walker, who came in relief of Teddy Bridgewater for one series. It certainly didn't help Anderson that Bridgewater was under constant pressure the whole night. However, his fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he's now seen at least eight targets in six of eight contests this season. That sort of volume should keep him in the WR2 mix next week, even in a tough matchup against Kansas City.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had seven receptions for 137 yards on 10 targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. For the past three weeks, the WR has been playing at a tremendous level and has gotten at least seven receptions, nine targets, and 97 yards the past three games. His volume keeps him in the WR1 tier each week.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 30 yards rushing on five attempts in a 25-17 loss to Atlanta. Bridgewater left the game after taking a nasty hit in the third quarter, but he was able to return after making it through the league's concussion protocol. The 27-year-old made some nice throws when he was given time, including a beautiful deep ball to Curtis Samuel on a flea-flicker. Unfortunately, he was constantly under pressure, as he was sacked twice and hit six times by the Falcons Defense. A bounce-back could be in the cards next week- Carolina may need to rely on Bridgewater's arm in Week 9 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished with three receptions for 42 yards on four targets in Week 8. The WR went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the game and didn't return. Managers will now have to monitor the status of the WR heading into the Week 9 clash against the Broncos.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst finished with five receptions for 54 yards on seven targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. Hurst has now seen seven targets in the past two games and has gotten at least 50 yards in four of the past five games. The TE has a decent role in this offense and the latest numbers are backing that up. Hurst should be considered a low-end TE1 each week given his consistency.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill finished with 11 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for nine yards on Thursday. It was the RB2 of the team who surprisingly led in rush yards, but this was a rare occurrence. Hill doesn't see enough weekly touches to merit good fantasy value going forward.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II finished Thursday night's win with 18 carries for 46 yards and a score. The back still had a decent night despite Brian Hill getting more rushing yards total. Gurley has now had at least 18 carries in the past three games and has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. With a steady number of carries each week, the RB should remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 tier every week.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-for-30 and gained 281 yards and one interception in the Thursday night win over the Panthers. It was a rainy game and many players were clearly affected by the conditions. Ryan finished with an average night, which he has sometimes had this season. With a high-powered offense, the QB should remain in the starting tier most weeks, but is most effective in favorable matchups.
Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.
Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.
New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.