San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan speaks at the team's NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. The 49ers are scheduled to host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa talks to reporters before their NFL football practice in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. The 49ers will host the Green Bay Packers for the NFC Championship on Sunday. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers celebrates as he walks off the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 28-23 to advance to the NFC Championship. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams runs to the endzone for his touchdown catch during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur celebrates a touchdown with Aaron Rodgers during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur calls a play during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) celebrates after the 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (26) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) catches a touchdown pass in front of San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (23) during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers are one win away from accomplishing a turnaround that's been done only once before in the Super Bowl era.
With a victory in the NFC championship game at home on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the Niners will become the second team in NFL history to make the Super Bowl a year after losing at least 12 games.
Only the St. Louis Rams have done it, going from 4-12 in 1998 to Super Bowl champs one year later thanks in part of an injury to Trent Green that cleared the way for Kurt Warner to take over at quarterback.
The 49ers (14-3) also can credit an injury to their quarterback for part of their turnaround; the team went only 4-12 last season after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week 3.
The silver lining to that injury was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, which led to the addition of defensive end Nick Bosa, who helped transform the defense into one of the league's best.
''Things have a way of working out,'' Garoppolo said. ''I always told myself it was a blessing in disguise, the ACL and everything, and yeah, we got Bosa out of it. That's a pretty good trade-off, I guess. Things have a way of working out, I guess. This ride is crazy. You've just got to roll with the punches.''
The Packers (14-3) have also had an impressive turnaround after slumping to a 6-9-1 record last season that led to the firing of longtime coach Mike McCarthy.
Matt LaFleur came in and tinkered with the offense, and general manager Brian Gutekunst brought in key additions such as pass-rushing duo Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith, who combined for 25 1/2 sacks on the season.
There have also been some lower-profile pickups such as Tyler Ervin, Jared Veldheer and Marcedes Lewis that have helped.
''I think he's done a great job. I think he deserves a lot of credit, him and his staff,'' quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Gutekunst. ''There's been a lot of great pickups, but I think I said this at my locker a few weeks ago, the big-name ones have been fantastic, but it's kind of the other ones that have been the glue pieces, I feel like.''
These teams played earlier this season in Week 12 in what turned out to be a lopsided game. Rodgers lost a fumble on Green Bay's first possession, setting up a 2-yard TD drive that gave San Francisco the lead. The Niners then broke it open with long TD passes to Deebo Samuel late in the second quarter and George Kittle in the third quarter for a 37-8 win. Rodgers had the worst day of his career, averaging 3.2 yards per attempt and getting sacked five times.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has a message for anyone on his team feeling overconfident.
''Don't be that stupid because that's not real,'' he said. ''This is about Sunday's game. I can give a thousand stories of things like that, playing games in my history I've been a part of.''
There have been 23 times in the Super Bowl era, excluding one replacement player game in 1987, that a team lost a regular-season game by at least 28 points to a team it met again in the playoffs. In nine of those cases, the team that got blown out earlier in the season came back to win in the playoffs.
Rodgers and star receiver Davante Adams both hail from Northern California, with Rodgers growing up in Chico and Adams in Palo Alto, which is near Santa Clara. Both played college ball in the state, Rodgers going to Cal and Adams to Fresno State. But neither ended up with the 49ers, who famously passed on Rodgers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft for Alex Smith.
''I usually dreamed about playing for the 49ers as a kid, but obviously that thing passed a long time ago,'' Rodgers said when asked if he envisioned playing the Niners in the playoffs.
These two franchises that have combined for nine Super Bowl titles have a rich history when it comes to the playoffs. This will be their eighth meeting in the past 25 postseasons, three more than any other rivalry. In fact, the only other matchup to occur more often is Cowboys-Rams, which happened nine times. Green Bay has a 4-3 edge but the 49ers won the last two meetings following the 2012 and '13 seasons.
''We've had a lot of games and had some big games in the playoffs,'' 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. ''Seem to find each other all the time during the regular season, as well. A team that we are familiar with and we've had a lot of great battles with throughout the years.''
CARRY THE ROCK
Tevin Coleman got the starting nod at halfback for the 49ers the last nine weeks of the regular season even though he averaged only 3.2 yards per carry and 23.6 yards per game. But Coleman justified that confidence in last week's playoff opener against Minnesota when he ran 22 times for 105 yards in a 27-10 win.
''Tevin's ran hard for us all year,'' Shanahan said. ''I know he had much better results yesterday, or Saturday. I think a lot of it had to do with the opportunities he got. He got more opportunities. He was running real hard.''
ON THE CORNER
The one weakness on the 49ers defense of late has been cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, who has been picked on repeatedly as teams avoid Richard Sherman. Witherspoon has allowed all five TD passes given up by San Francisco the past three games and was benched for Emmanuel Moseley in the first quarter last week after getting beaten for a 41-yard TD by Stefon Diggs. Shanahan hasn't said what his plan is for this week, but it seems likely Moseley will get the nod after faring well in nine games as a starter earlier this season when Witherspoon was hurt.
There are plenty of close ties between the coaching staffs based on past history together. But none is as strong as the one between Matt LaFleur and his younger brother Mike, who is passing game coordinator in San Francisco. When the teams played in the regular season, Matt's family came out early and spent the weekend with Mike's family. That won't be the case this time.
''I think there's a little different vibe, so I'll just leave it at that,'' Matt LaFleur said. ''I haven't really talked to him much at all and it will probably be that way for the remainder of the week.''
The Arizona Cardinals agreed with left tackle D.J. Humphries on a three-year, $45 million deal on Monday, according to sources. Humphries will make $30 million over the first two years, and the deal includes $29 million guaranteed. The 26-year-old played in a full season in 2019 for the first time since going 24th overall in the first round in 2015. Humphries isn't the most talented left tackle in the league, but he'll bring stability at the position and help protect quarterback Kyler Murray's blind side moving forward.
Multiple teams expect New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to have a strong free-agent market as a starting or bridge quarterback for a team in transition this offseason. Bridgewater is expected to sign with another team unless Drew Brees retires. The 27-year-old Louisville alumni played in nine games in 2019 and held his own with Brees missing time due to an injury, but he wasn't asked to be much more than a game manager. He hasn't been a starter in the NFL since 2015 with the Vikings, but Bridgewater could certainly become fantasy relevant at least as a high-end QB2 if he's starting elsewhere in 2020. How much upside he'll have will depend on where he lands.
The Carolina Panthers think that quarterback Cam Newton (foot) is likely to pass a physical and be cleared for some football activities in March, according to a source. However, they will still likely use caution with him in spring workouts if he remains on the team. Newton continues to rehab a surgically repaired Lisfranc injury to his left foot, one that kept him out for most of the 2019 season. But if Newton proves he's not past his injury, the Panthers could decide to move on from the 30-year-old. The former first overall pick in 2011 is a high-end QB1 for his ability to use his legs, but he may not run as much as he ages and is now an injury risk as more of a high-end QB2 leading up to the 2020 season. He might be even more unattractive to fantasy owners if he's playing somewhere other than Carolina next season, too.
The Detroit Lions have talked with multiple teams about a potential trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, according to sources. However, any team that trades for Slay must compensate the Lions and Slay with a new deal, and Detroit is determined to get fair value for Slay. The 29-year-old former second-round pick in 2013 has been to three straight Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro in 2017 when he had a career-high eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed. He had 46 total tackles in 2019 (36 solo), two interceptions and one fumble recovery in his 14 games played. If the Lions trade Slay, they will certainly need to address the position in free agency or the draft.
The Miami Dolphins don't view Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as a slam-dunk pick with the fifth overall selection in this year's draft. On the flip side, the team has an increasingly positive view of Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert after he impressed at the Senior Bowl, according to sources familiar with the team's thinking. One source said the Dolphins are concerned about Tagovailoa's return from a fractured and dislocated hip he suffered last November, and his durability in the long-term. Ive been down there to see him. Tua is a great player. I just worry about his health, owner Stephen Ross said. The Dolphins like Herbert's size (6-foot-6, 237 pounds), his arm talent and his mobility. Miami could change their mind on Tagovailoa once they meet with him at the Combine, but he certainly shouldn't be considered a lock to be taken by the Dolphins at fifth overall.
The Cleveland Browns released tight end Demetrius Harris, cornerback T.J. Carrie, offensive guard Eric Kush and linebacker Adarius Taylor on Monday. Harris played in 15 games (six starts) in 2019 and caught 15 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Mostly known for his blocking prowess, Harris couldn't even take advantage when David Njoku was lost for most of the year due to an injury. The 28-year-old should land on his feet, but we wouldn't expect him to enter the 2020 season with much fantasy appeal, even as a backup tight end.
Tennessee Titans running back Dion Lewis could be a salary cap casualty this year. Lewis carries a $5.1 million salary for 2020, and the Titans can save $4 million if they cut him, with $1.1 million in dead money. He basically served in a change-of-pace role behind bell-cow Derrick Henry in 2019, carrying the ball only 54 times for 209 yards while adding 25 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown. The 29-year-old was important on third downs and can help pass protect, but the Titans may decide to move to a younger and less expensive option in the draft. Other potential cap casualties include kicker Ryan Succop, veteran tight end Delanie Walker and outside linebacker/defensive end Cameron Wake.
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) remains in the concussion protocol six months after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit in the preseason. It was the seventh documented concussion of his career, and it caused him to miss all of the 2019 season. His future in the league and with Washington is up in the air. At this point, it seems likely that the Redskins will cut him to save $8.5 million in 2020. The 29-year-old has never played an entire season in the NFL because of injuries and has played in 19 games combined from 2017 to 2018. Even if Reed is playing somewhere this season, he'll be a high-risk, low-reward TE2.
The New York Jets won't cut running back Le'Veon Bell because of the $19 million in dead salary cap money if they do so, and because of his massive salary, a trade is remote as well. If they really wanted to trade Bell, they'd have to be willing to pay a portion of his 2020 salary, which is $13.5 million in total guarantees. And the Jets would probably only be able to get a Day 3 draft pick in return. After taking a year off in 2018, The 27-year-old (28 on Tuesday) looked slow and heavy in his first year in New York. Bell ran 245 times for only 789 yards (a career-low 3.2 yards per carry) and only three touchdowns. His receiving contributions help, but Bell's fantasy stock will obviously be down entering 2020 fall drafts. Consider him more of an RB2 with some upside if he comes into camp motivated to bounce back.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he has "no hesitation" that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow) will be ready for Week 1. "This guy is the ultimate competitor. He dropped the gauntlet down. He made the statement he's coming back," Tomlin said. Roethlisberger played in just two games last year before needing season-ending right elbow surgery. He should be ready to go this summer, barring any setbacks, but he'll be entering his age-38 season and will be an injury risk as a low-end QB1/high-end QB2. But don't sleep on Big Ben, as he threw for a career-high 5,129 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2018.
Tennessee Titans PK Ryan Succop is likely to be released in the offseason, in the opinion of ESPN's Turron Davenport. The move would save the team $2 million against the salary cap.
Tennessee Titans RB Dion Lewis is expected to be released in the offseason, in the opinion of ESPN's Turron Davenport. The move would save the team $4 million against the salary cap.
Fantasy Spin: Lewis can still be worthwhile in PPR, but he's not going to receive the touches in Tennessee to do it. He's someone to watch this offseason to see if he can land a bigger split to be an RB4 or RB5.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton needs more depth behind him at the receiver position, according to general manager Chris Ballard. 'Do we need to add more explosive elements to our offense? Yeah, we do,' Ballard said. 'Just want somebody who can catch the ball and go score.'
Dallas Cowboys impending free-agent WR Tavon Austin is unlikely to be re-signed, according to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com.
Chicago Bears TE Adam Shaheen will be on the roster for the start of training camp, according to general manager Ryan Pace, but expectations for Shaheen are 'low' for 2020, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
Atlanta Falcons impending free-agent TE Austin Hooper could be a target for the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to John Reid of The Florida Times-Union.
Fantasy Spin: The Jaguars tight ends combined for just three touchdowns in 2019. Meanwhile, Hooper has emerged as one of the steadier options at the position, topping 70 catches in each of the past two seasons and recording a career-high 787 receiving yards last year. Moving from Atlanta's offense to Jacksonville's offense would be a downgrade, but Hooper will likely be a low-end TE1 regardless of where he plays in 2020.
San Francisco 49ers DT Solomon Thomas may join the starting lineup next season if the team is not able to bring back impending free-agent DE Arik Armstead, in the opinion of NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco.
Cleveland Browns impending free-agent LB Joe Schobert said he has talked with general manager Andrew Berry and has been told that the Browns will talk to his agent about his contract situation in the near future. Schobert is more optimistic about his chances to re-sign since he has a better relationship with Berry than he did with former general manager John Dorsey.
Carolina Panthers impending free-agent CB James Bradberry and Kansas City Chiefs impending free-agent CB Bashaud Breeland are expected to be targets for the Washington Redskins during free agency.
New York Giants impending free-agent DT Leonard Williams recently met with former NFL DT Richard Seymour in order to improve his play. They watched game film and also worked out together. Seymour said he believes Williams has all the tools to be a great player.