Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor reacts during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores)
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley (5) calls a play during the first half of NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates after the Raiders defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 26-24 in an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive end Clelin Ferrell during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Derek Carr knows full well what the Cincinnati Bengals are enduring this season: nine straight losses to open the year.
Carr began his rookie season as starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders with 10 consecutive defeats before finally breaking through with a win.
''You feel like everything is against you because for the fans, sometimes for older players, they don't see any light at the end of the tunnel,'' he said. ''They just see what's in front of them at the moment and it's hard man. It's tough and one thing I'll say though is, if you can grind through those moments, work really hard, stick to your process, when the good moments come around it makes you thankful for those other moments.''
Carr bounced back from the rough debut campaign to win 12 games and lead the Raiders to the playoffs in 2016. Two more down seasons followed, but Carr has Oakland (5-4) back in contention again this year heading into Sunday's home game against Cincinnati (0-9).
After two straight wins to open a homestand, Carr wants to make sure his team doesn't let up in the third game and squander a chance.
''I don't care about records, man,'' he said. ''I prepare every game as if this is the game and so there is no, 'They haven't won a game.' I don't care how many games they have or haven't won, they got Pro Bowlers all over their football team and they are going to bring it, that's for sure.''
The Bengals are trying to avoid falling to 0-10 for the second time after also doing it in 1993. First-year coach Zac Taylor believes things will get better soon even if it doesn't seem that way right now.
''There'll be a time - I can't wait to look back on it - and say, 'Remember when all that stuff happened?''' Taylor said. ''We'll get there. This is one of the things we have to go through right now, unfortunately. We're going to fight through it, and there are going to be some positive things as this season comes to an end.''
Rookie Ryan Finley made his debut and had two huge turnovers against the Ravens. His sideline pass was picked off and returned 89 yards for a touchdown, and he had a fumble also returned for a score. Finley finished 16 of 30 for 167 yards with a touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 66.9. The Bengals expect him to be better now that he's experienced a game.
''He's getting used to playing NFL-caliber football and not preseason football, real starting football against a good defense,'' offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. ''And so, his timing was a little bit off. I think you'll see a pretty dramatic leap for him in game two, understanding what it's like to play at that speed.''
The Raiders must replace a safety again after Karl Joseph went down with a season-ending foot injury last week while making the game-sealing interception against the Chargers. Oakland already lost rookie Johnathan Abram to a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener and now may need to turn to Curtis Riley, who got benched earlier this year, special teams player Dallin Leavitt and newly acquired D.J. Swearinger, who was cut earlier this year by Arizona.
''These last weeks have been great for me,'' Swearinger said. ''I needed this time off, to get myself together. I couldn't be more ready for this opportunity to get here and work hard.''
OH THAT DEFENSE
The Bengals began looking to next year when they benched Andy Dalton and went with Finley at quarterback. They started overhauling the defense this week by waiving linebacker Preston Brown, who had lost his starting job. The linebackers have been the biggest sore spot in the league's lowest-ranked defense.
The Raiders' much-maligned pass rush delivered in a big way last week with five sacks in a win over the Chargers. No. 4 overall draft pick Clelin Ferrell had by far his best game as a pro with 2 1/2 sacks after recording none since the season opener. Fellow rookie Maxx Crosby provided consistent pressure and a half-sack of his own and Benson Mayowa had 1 1/2 sacks, giving him a career-high seven this season.
Taylor signed with Oakland coach Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay team as an undrafted quarterback out of Nebraska in 2007. He was waived before the start of training camp, a move that surprised him then but makes sense now. Taylor was familiar with Tampa Bay's system because his college coach, Bill Callahan, was a close friend of Gruden's.
''I think they probably just brought me in because I could call the plays in the rookie minicamp,'' Taylor said. ''In hindsight, those are the things you start to figure out as you start coaching. That made a little bit of sense. They could evaluate the other players while I got out there and called the plays correctly. It's all good.''
The New Orleans Saints Defense will face off with Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. The Saints are coming off an excellent Thanksgiving night performance where they recorded nine sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. New Orleans may have trouble repeating this effort against the 49ers, considering they've allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses. San Francisco also ranks 12th in adjusted sack rate and have given up the 10th-fewest sacks in the league. There are better options out there than New Orleans this week.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz will face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. Lutz is on fire, having made at least two field goals in four straight games and at least two extra points in three of the last four. San Francisco is a stingy defense that doesn't allow many trips to the red zone. Still, New Orleans should be able to get within Lutz's range several times this game. Stick with the hot hand and start him as a high-end kicking option this week.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard (ankle) has been ruled out for Thursday night against the Bears. Pollard missed two days of practice this week, so he was on the wrong side of questionable to begin with. Ezekiel Elliott has been the bell-cow back all season, so Pollard, 22, has just 58 carries for 264 yards and one touchdown on the season in 11 games. He has no standalone fantasy value unless Zeke gets hurt. Elliott's fantasy outlook as an RB1 against Chicago will not change with Pollard inactive. Fullback Jamize Olawale will serve as Elliott's backup for this one.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook gets a tough Week 14 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. The 32-year-old is on a roll, having surpassed 70 receiving yards in three of his last four games. Now he'll get to face the 49ers' league-best pass defense. It will be a very tough matchup for Cook, as the 49ers allow the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Still, his involvement in the offense lately, 6.5 targets per game in his last four, makes him start-worthy even against this defense. It's risky, but so are a lot of other streaming options at the tight end position.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) missed his second straight practice this week on Thursday. Smith-Schuster is unlikely to play again this weekend against the Cardinals and could be sidelined again in Week 15 if his knee injury does not improve. In an offense now run by quarterback Devlin Hodges, Smith-Schuster won't be anything more than a low-upside WR3 if he's active during the fantasy playoffs. James Washington has become a WR3 in Smith-Schuster's absence, but a projected low target share doesn't bode well for his chances of helping fantasy owners. Diontae Johnson (illness), who returned to a full practice on Thursday, will be the No. 2 behind Washington.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams (knee) and tight end Jimmy Graham (calf, wrist) were both limited in practice on Thursday. Williams is a new addition to the injury report for Week 14 against the Redskins, so we'll have to keep an eye on his status on Friday. Williams has maintained RB3 value for fantasy owners alongside Aaron Jones, but his status may be in doubt this weekend. Jones would have RB1 upside if he has this backfield all to himself in a great matchup. Graham should be able to play, but he's become an unattractive touchdown-dependent TE2 with a low target floor. He hasn't scored since Oct. 20 and has a combined four catches the last three games.
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida (ankle) and wide receivers Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) are practicing in full on Thursday. Breida is the big one, as he hasn't played since Nov. 11 against the Seahawks. His return will make it hard to trust anyone in San Fran's backfield, which includes Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert. Jeffery Wilson could be a healthy scratch with Breida back in Week 14 to face the Bills in a tough matchup. Samuel and Sanders are good to go as well. Samuel has become the better fantasy wideout over Sanders, but the rookie is still a boom/bust WR3 for fantasy owners in this run-first offense.
Updating a previous report, Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown (calf) was limited in practice on Thursday. Brown is a new addition to the injury report for Week 14 against the Raiders, so his status on Friday will be worth watching. The 22-year-old rookie has been solid in his first season, catching 34 passes for 626 yards and four touchdowns, but he just doesn't see consistent targets in this run-first offense. He'll be on the WR3/4 borderline as a boom-or-bust play if he's active. If he sits out, Corey Davis will be more attractive as a WR4/flex in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. Smith has posted nine catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns for the whole season and hasn't seen more than three targets in a game yet. He's not even close to fantasy relevance at this point and will now face the league's best pass defense. Leave Smith on the waiver wire.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) and kicker Adam Vinatieri (knee) did not practice on Thursday. Hilton is holding out hope to play again this year, but at this point there's probably a greater chance that he's put on Injured Reserve. Zach Pascal is the team's top wideout with Hilton sidelined, and he has streaming appeal this weekend against a weak Tampa secondary. Marcus Johnson and Parris Campbell (hand) could fill out three-receiver sets. Don't count on Hilton the rest of the way. Vinatieri might find a similar fate as Hilton after the team claimed Chase McLaughlin on Wednesday. He's unlikely to play this weekend and has been a disaster in 2019 with 14 missed kicks. McLaughlin might be worth a flier the rest of the way in deeper leagues.
Baltimore Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) was added to the Week 14 injury report against the Bills. He got in a limited practice on Thursday. It's not the first time Brown has been added the injury report midweek as the Ravens try to play it safe with their speedy deep threat. The 22-year-old rookie has the skills to get behind any defense for a long touchdown play, but his snaps have been heavily limited in his first year and he doesn't draw enough targets to be a realistic weekly fantasy commodity. Brown hasn't gone over 100 yards since the season opener and had only two targets last week. He'll be a boom/bust WR4 if he plays. Willie Snead, Miles Boykin and Mark Andrews would see more targets if Brown is forced to sit out.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that the team isn't ruling out wide receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring) for Week 14 against the Lions. "Hes frustrated. I think hes got a good opportunity this week (to play), so well see. Hes working really hard. He obviously wants to get out there with his guys. Hes a great competitor. ... When he's ready, he's ready," Zimmer said. Thielen has yet to practice this week, however, so fantasy owners shouldn't be banking on him playing against Detroit. If he does suit up, though, he'll have WR2 upside in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. Stefon Diggs also has high-end WR2 upside regardless of whether Thielen plays. Kyle Rudolph and Olabisi Johnson won't have as much appeal if Thielen returns.
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said that he expects running back Dalvin Cook (chest) to play in Week 14 against the Lions and be close to 100 percent. Cook left the Monday night game against the Seahawks and didn't return, but he said shortly after that he planned on playing this Sunday, and he's been limited in practices so far this week. Barring a late setback, Cook will be active and will be a high-end RB1 in a great matchup against Detroit. Cook ranks fifth in the NFL with 1.046 yards on the ground. Backup Alexander Mattison could see more change-of-pace work behind Cook this week, but he's still tough to trust for standalone value.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack (hand) returned to a full practice on Thursday. Mack has been sidelined since Nov. 17, but he's well on his way to returning to action in Week 14 against the Buccaneers. In a tough matchup against Tampa's defensive front and possibly at risk of sharing touches with Jonathan Williams, Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, Mack will be more of a low-end RB2 this weekend if he makes his way back. Rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell (hand) has practiced in full the last two days as well, making it likely he makes his return this weekend. He should be in three-wide sets with Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson, but Campbell is a fantasy dart throw the rest of the way in this run-first offense.
Carolina Panthers interim head coach Perry Fewell said the tight end position will be a committee approach this week with Greg Olsen (concussion) unlikely to play. The committee will include Chris Manhertz, Ian Thomas and Alex Armah. Thomas is the best bet of the bunch after he posted 36 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games as a rookie last year with Olsen missing time due to injury. He has only five receptions (nine targets) for 28 yards in 2019, though, with Olsen staying healthy up until now. Thomas is the best bet of this group as a TE2 streamer, but he won't be a strong fantasy option if he sees limited snaps. If you own Olsen, you need to look for other options.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn will face the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. Ginn has been a feast-or-famine deep-threat this year. He owns the highest yards per reception mark on the Saints but will play a 49ers Defense that allows the fewest pass plays of 20 yards or more. The 34-year-old is coming off a catch-less game and hasn't caught more than three passes since Week 1. Ginn should be benched, or left on the waiver wire, for the fantasy playoffs.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (hamstring) returned to practice on Thursday after being held out on Wednesday. The Titans are just resting Henry early in the week. He's been the best running back in the NFL in the last three games, running for well over 100 yards in each contest and totaling five touchdowns in that span on the ground. He'll get another great matchup in the Raiders in Week 14. Henry is a must-start fantasy commodity in the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Tennessee Titans rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown (undisclosed) left practice early after stretching with an undisclosed ailment. Wideout Adam Humphries (ankle) also missed practice for the second straight day. Brown's situation is worth monitoring the rest of the week. He would be a likely candidate to sit out in Week 14 against the Raiders if he can't get back to practice on Friday. With Humphries also on the wrong side of questionable for this weekend, it could be Tajae Sharpe, Cody Hollister and Kalif Raymond behind Corey Davis in the receiving game. Only Davis would be worth fantasy consideration as a WR4/flex against Oakland.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (shoulder) and tight end Austin Hooper (knee) are both practicing again on Thursday, which is a good sign for their availability in Week 14 against the Panthers. Jones missed the Thanksgiving game and Hooper has missed the last three contests, so getting them both back would be excellent news for quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite not scoring since Sept. 22, Jones will return to being a high-end WR1 if he's active. He had six catches for 91 yards against Carolina in the first meeting on Nov. 17. Hooper has been a breakout star this year with 56 receptions for 608 yards and six touchdowns, so he'll be a must-start TE1 if he's back this Sunday.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will face the stingy San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. The 49ers have allowed only 134.2 passing yards per game this year, best in the NFL. Despite this, one receiver has posted at least 50 yards or scored a touchdown in eight games against the 49ers this year. Considering how involved Thomas is, he should be able to eclipse 50 yards. He has the lowest upside of virtually any WR1 this week and has some risk, given that Drew Brees may struggle to put up good numbers. Still, Thomas has been the best fantasy asset at wide receiver this year. It's realistic to expect him to at least reach 15 fantasy points, even against this defense.