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FFL: Playoff Week 2 | NFL: Week 15

Bears-Rams Preview

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Players: Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson, Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Jared Goff, Mitch Trubisky

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:

OLD FRIENDS

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.

SHAKY LINE

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.

KUPP COMEBACK

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.

Player Notes
Diontae Johnson Dec 16 12:00am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson tied for the team lead in catches in Week 15, coming down with five catches for 62 yards. He was targeted seven times, good for second on the team. Johnson made some big plays in this one and should be primed for another good game next week against the Jets secondary.

From RotoBaller

Nick Vannett Dec 16 12:00am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Nick Vannett played well in Week 15, catching five passes for 40 yards. He was targeted six times. With Vance McDonald (concussion) forced to miss the game, Vannett was the main tight end for the Steelers offense. His five catches tied for the team lead in catches. He'll be a solid TE2 with a decent floor for as long as McDonald is out.

From RotoBaller

Pittsburgh Steelers Dec 16 12:00am ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense was okay against the Buffalo Bills in a Week 15 loss. They allowed 17 points, but recorded a sack and an interception. The Steelers defensive unit will have a better matchup in Week 16 against a scuffling New York Jets team. They'll be a solid fantasy option for fantasy championship week.

From RotoBaller

Devlin Hodges Dec 15 11:50pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges did not play well in a Week 15 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Hodges completed 23 of his 38 pass attempts for 202 yards and one touchdown. He threw four interceptions, some at critical times in the game. The Steelers take on the Jets next week and should fare slightly better through the air, but Hodges still won't be much of a fantasy option for the fantasy championships.

From RotoBaller

Buffalo Bills Dec 15 11:50pm ET

The Buffalo Bills Defense was excellent in a Week 15 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. They recovered a fumble, collected four interceptions, allowed just 10 points, and got four sacks. It was an all-around impressive performance by Buffalo, who will have a tougher contest next week against the New England Patriots.

From RotoBaller

James Conner Dec 15 11:50pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner ran the ball just eight times in Week 15, gaining 42 yards. He added four catches for nine yards and a touchdown. Conner's touchdown came on an 11-yard pass from Devlin Hodges. Despite his success on the ground (5.3 ypc), the Steelers kept the ball in the air far too often in this game. Conner will face the Jets next week and should at least get more than eight rushing attempts.

From RotoBaller

James Washington Dec 15 11:50pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington caught five passes in Week 15, gaining 83 scoreless yards. Washington was targeted 11 times, which led the Steelers. His five catches tied for the lead on the team with two other players, and his 83 yards were tops on the team as well. It was an overall strong game by Washington against a tough Buffalo Bills Defense. He'll have the Jets Defense to deal with next week.

From RotoBaller

John Brown Dec 15 11:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown caught seven passes in a Week 15 win, gaining 99 yards. Brown led the team in both catches, targets, and yards, all by a huge margin. Brown had an excellent start to the season but had faded a bit in previous weeks. Given the tough matchup against the Steelers Defense this week, he was not a widely recommended fantasy option. He played very well however, and could surprise again next week despite an incredibly tough matchup against the New England Patriots.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Kroft Dec 15 11:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft caught his only target in a Week 15 win over the Steelers, coming down with a 14-yard touchdown. The Bills did very little in the passing game outside of John Brown, but Kroft's touchdown was a critical one, helping to send the Bills to the playoffs for the first time in a while. Kroft won't be a fantasy option next week against the New England Patriots.

From RotoBaller

Cole Beasley Dec 15 11:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley was targeted six times in a Week 15 win, but caught only one pass for just six yards. Beasley was somewhat hyped coming into this one, but did next to nothing. The Bills passing game in general didn't really do anything outside of John Brown, however. Beasley gets an even tougher matchup next week against the New England Patriots.

From RotoBaller

Kenyan Drake Dec 15 11:33pm ET

Arizona Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake rushed 22 times for 137 yards and four touchdowns and caught one pass for nine yards in a 38-24 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 15.

Fantasy Spin: After a couple of lackluster outings, Drake erupted for the best game of his career. He has become a workhorse since being acquired by Arizona, logging at least 14 touches in all six games. He'll be a fringe RB2 option with upside against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 16.

From TheHuddle

Devin Singletary Dec 15 11:30pm ET

Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary ran the ball 21 times in a Week 15 win, piling up 87 yards. He also caught two passes, but gained just two yards total. Singletary was solid in this one but didn't make any huge plays against a tough Steelers Defense. He was certainly the featured back though, out-touching Frank Gore 23-10. He'll have a tough matchup against the stout Patriots run defense next week on Saturday.

From RotoBaller

Josh Allen Dec 15 11:30pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was responsible for two touchdowns in Week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He completed 13 of his 25 pass attempts for 139 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also ran the ball seven times for 28 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His passing score came on a 14-yard pass to Tyler Kroft and his rushing score came on a one-yard scamper. Allen led his team to a win against a tough Steelers Defense, but it certainly wasn't his best fantasy performance of the season.

From RotoBaller

Frank Gore Dec 15 11:30pm ET

Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore ran the ball 10 times in a Week 15 win, gaining just 15 yards total. Gore was thoroughly out-touched and out-played by Devin Singletary, who gained 89 total yards on 23 touches. It'll be an even tougher matchup next week against the New England Patriots, where Gore shouldn't be much of a fantasy consideration.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Dec 15 11:23pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry caught five of his eight targets for 23 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15.

Fantasy Spin: It was Landry's lowest yardage total of the year, and it couldn't have come at a worst time with the fantasy playoffs in full swing. He could be in a for another rough outing in Week 16 when he faces the Baltimore Ravens.

From TheHuddle

Odell Beckham Jr. Dec 15 10:53pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. caught eight of his 13 targets for 66 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15.

Fantasy Spin: Beckham delivered one of his better games of the year, and while it was encouraging to see him targeted 13 times, he is going to have a hard time backing up this performance in Week 16 when he faces a Baltimore defense that held him to 20 yards earlier in the year.

From TheHuddle

Nick Chubb Dec 15 10:43pm ET

Cleveland Browns RB Nick Chubb rushed 17 times for 127 yards and a touchdown and caught all three of his targets for 21 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15.

Fantasy Spin: Chubb continues to be one of the steadiest backs in the league, and he is up to seven 100-yard rushing efforts on the year, including three in his last four games. He's a plug-and-play RB1.

From TheHuddle

Kareem Hunt Dec 15 10:43pm ET

Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt rushed four times for 14 yards and caught eight of his nine targets for 62 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15.

Fantasy Spin: Nick Chubb is the top dog in Cleveland's backfield, but Hunt typically sees about 10-15 touches and has been able to stay in the flex conversation in PPR formats thanks to his involvement in the passing game.

From TheHuddle

Mike Boone Dec 15 10:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings running back Mike Boone had a great game in Week 15's blowout win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The undrafted second-year back out of Cincinnati rushed 13 times for 56 yards and two touchdowns in the win, finding the end zone for the first time in his young career. Boone worked as the lead back in the second half with starter Dalvin Cook (shoulder) out, and he looked just as explosive as he did when he dominated in the preseason this year. Cook was ruled out very quickly and Alexander Mattison (ankle) could be looking at an extended absence, as evidenced by the Vikings signing Tony Brooks-James to their practice squad last Wednesday. Boone is a priority pickup with Cook and Mattison ailing as he would be squarely on the RB2 radar in Week 16 if they are both ruled out. Stay tuned for updates on all three Vikings' backs.

From RotoBaller

Minnesota Vikings Dec 15 10:30pm ET

The Minnesota Vikings Defense stepped up in a big way in Week 15's 39-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. They tallied a whopping seven takeaways (three interceptions and four fumble recoveries), three sacks, and a touchdown as the Chargers looked flustered all game long. The most notable play was Danielle Hunter's strip-sack and forced fumble that was scooped by Ifeadi Odenigbo and returned 56 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The defense took control of this game from the get-go, but the secondary continued its stretch of subpar play and Xavier Rhodes was replaced by Mike Hughes for a good portion of the game. The Vikings Defense will be a risky option in Week 16's home matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

From RotoBaller