Fri Nov 15 12:58am ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, A.J. Green, Dak Prescott, Mike Evans, Brandon Allen, Jacoby Brissett, Carson Wentz, Michael Thomas, Mitch Trubisky, Ezekiel Elliott, Ryan Finley, Mason Rudolph, Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson, Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Jacobs
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson walks the sidelines during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in London. The Houston Texans won 26-3. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)
Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson starred three years ago in one of the more meaningful and memorable games of that college football season.
This weekend, the NFL gets to stage the show.
Watson and the Houston Texans will travel to Baltimore for a matchup with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens featuring two of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league, both of whom are under 25, no less. The pass-run threat posed by each player already makes for good theater, but what's more, the Texans (6-3) and Ravens (7-2) have emerged as two of the strongest challengers to defending champion New England in the AFC. The Ravens beat the Patriots two weeks ago, after all.
When Watson was at Clemson and Jackson was with Louisville in 2016, the ACC foes met in a midseason classic of two top-five teams in the Associated Press poll. Behind five touchdown passes and 397 yards of offense from Watson, Clemson won 42-36 despite a total of 457 yards and three touchdowns by Jackson.
Jackson won the Heisman Trophy that year, beating out Watson, who took the ultimate prize when the Tigers won the national championship. Watson was the 12th overall pick in the 2017 draft, and Jackson went with the 32nd overall selection in 2018. After overcoming some early-career obstacles, Watson with a torn ACL in his rookie year and Jackson with the doubts that his slithery style would translate from college to pro, they're both well on their way to becoming two of the best in the game at their much-scrutinized position.
Watson has totaled 2,711 yards and 23 touchdowns. Jackson has accounted for 2,738 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Though they're mutual admirers, this matchup on Sunday doesn't mean they'll be trying to outdo the other. There's an opposing defense to maneuver against. What the other one does on the field has no relevance to what they do when it's their turn.
''I can't control what they're doing on their side or what Lamar's got going on,'' Watson said this week.
Jackson has captured plenty of attention since becoming the full-fledged face of the franchise this fall. His spin move during a 47-yard touchdown run last week in a win over Cincinnati was an instant pick for the NFL's highlight film for 2019.
''I'm a proud quarterback, proud friend,'' Watson said. ''All the criticism he was getting when he was coming out, he's definitely a guy I've always encouraged. He's doing everything all the naysayers said he couldn't do and even more so. His career is very, very bright.''
Week 11 began with a bang, when Cleveland beat rival Pittsburgh 21-7 on Thursday night. The game unraveled in the final seconds with a fight triggered by a takedown of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett ripped Rudolph's helmet off and hit him in the head with it, a sure bet for a multi-game suspension of a key player for the Browns (4-6). The Steelers (5-5) had a four-game winning streak stopped, as Rudolph threw four interceptions.
Green Bay (8-2), Seattle (8-2), Tennessee (5-5) and the New York Giants (2-8) have their bye this week.
ATLANTA (2-7) AT CAROLINA (5-4)
Christian McCaffrey has carried Carolina all season, not only on the ground but through the air. With four catches against Atlanta on Sunday, he would pass LaDainian Tomlinson for the most by a running back in his first three years in the NFL. The Panthers must face their nemesis Matt Ryan, who is 6-1 in his last seven starts against the NFC South rival.
Ryan and the Falcons showed some fight with one of the most surprising outcomes in the league this season, a 26-9 victory over New Orleans that snapped a six-game losing streak for the Falcons.
BUFFALO (6-3) AT MIAMI (2-7)
So much for that assumption the Dolphins were tanking this season to get the top draft pick. They've suddenly won two straight games.
''We've got two more wins than the rest of the world thought we were going to have this year, so that's pretty cool,'' defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said.
Miami totaled 381 yards against Buffalo in the previous meeting, the most allowed by the Bills this year. Despite losses in two of their last three games, with a win they would post their best 10-game mark since 1999. The combined record of the opponents in Buffalo's six victories is 12-44.
DALLAS (5-4) AT DETROIT (3-5-1)
Since he entered the NFL in 2016, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott has 4,836 rushing yards to lead the league. If he can reach 164 rushing yards against Detroit, he'll be the fifth player with at least 5,000 rushing yards in 50 career games, joining Eric Dickerson, Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Terrell Davis, all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Elliott and the Cowboys, however, had their ground attack humbled last week in a loss to Minnesota. He had only 47 rushing yards, the fewest of his career with 20 or more carries. The success of quarterback Dak Prescott against the Vikings helped the Cowboys stay in the league lead in total yards.
The Lions squandered last-minute leads on Kansas City and Green Bay, dropping both games to begin a tailspin accelerated last week by the surprise absence of quarterback Matthew Stafford to a back injury. With five losses in their last six games and the likelihood of Stafford sitting out again on Sunday, the Lions are in a tough spot. Their defense has forced only one turnover over the last four games.
DENVER (3-6) AT MINNESOTA (7-3)
The Vikings, coming off a critical victory at Dallas fueled again by the dual productivity of running back Dalvin Cook, have a prime opportunity to match their win total from last year against the struggling Broncos before taking their bye week. They're 4-0 at home this year and 22-7 at U.S. Bank Stadium in the regular season and the playoffs, and their pass rush and the crowd noise has proven time and again to be a daunting combination for opponents, particularly with inexperienced quarterbacks like Denver fill-in Brandon Allen.
Allen performed admirably in his first start for Joe Flacco, when the Broncos last played before their bye and beat Cleveland, passing for two touchdowns without a turnover. Though Denver has dropped from 10th in the league last season in sacks per pass attempt to 22nd place this year, with Bradley Chubb on injured reserve like Flacco, the Broncos still have a capable defense that could create challenges for quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings. Denver has allowed an average of 18.9 points per game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.
JACKSONVILLE (4-5) AT INDIANAPOLIS (5-4)
After breaking his collarbone in the season opener, Nick Foles will finally take over again at quarterback for a Jaguars team that could use a spark after a 23-point loss in London to Houston prior to the bye week. Not only does Foles conveniently return in a division game that's a must to win if Jacksonville is to have a chance to remain in contention, but he will do so with his former offensive coordinator on the other side.
Colts coach Frank Reich was one of his mentors in Philadelphia, when Foles took over two seasons ago and helped lead the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. Reich's current team has lost two straight games since quarterback Jacoby Brissett hurt his knee. He's expected to reclaim his starting spot on Sunday.
NEW ORLEANS (7-2) AT TAMPA BAY (3-6)
Despite their humbling defeat at home against Atlanta last week, the Saints still have a comfortable lead in the NFC South. Wide receiver Michael Thomas leads the NFL with 86 receptions and 1,027 yards, joining Randy Moss, A.J. Green and Mike Evans as the only players in history to begin a career with four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Thomas had 13 catches for 152 yards against the Falcons.
The Buccaneers could be just as vulnerable, with a league-worst defense that's allowing an average 31 points per game. No team has allowed more passing yards, either, and Tampa Bay just cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
NEW YORK JETS (2-7) AT WASHINGTON (1-8)
Here's a sign of progress for the Jets: Quarterback Sam Darnold, in last week's win over the Giants, was not picked off for the first time since the season opener. Darnold threw nine interceptions over his other four starts this year.
Washington has lost three straight games, after the only win came against another struggling team in Miami. The Redskins haven't scored a touchdown during the losing streak, either. They have just 45 points over their last six games.
ARIZONA (3-6-1) AT SAN FRANCISCO (8-1)
There are no undefeated teams left in the standings after the 49ers squandered several opportunities last week against Seattle and lost in overtime amid a growing list of injuries on their offense. Fortunately for them, they'll host a Cardinals team on a three-game losing streak.
Arizona is second-to-last in the league in scoring and total defense, with at least 21 points allowed in all 10 games.
CINCINNATI (0-9) AT OAKLAND (5-4)
There is one winless team remaining, with a reeling Bengals squad under rookie coach Zac Taylor having turned to rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback. One more loss would match the franchise record for the worst start to a season, established in 1993.
The Raiders have rather quietly worked their way into contention in the AFC, seeking to move two games above the .500 mark since they started 2-0 in 2017. The Raiders have a league-leading 13 touchdowns by rookies this year, led by running back Josh Jacobs.
NEW ENGLAND (8-1) AT PHILADELPHIA (5-4)
Two of the last five times these teams faced each other came in the Super Bowl, with the memory of Feb. 4, 2018, in Minneapolis still fresh for both sides. That's when the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:21 left, recovered a fumble by Tom Brady with a sack on the next possession for the Patriots, and posted a 41-33 victory that ended with a disconsolate Brady sitting down on the U.S. Bank Stadium turf following a desperation incompletion on the final play.
Brady said he's still carrying ''a lot of mental scar tissue'' from that game, even though the Patriots rebounded to become the most recent NFL champions a year ago. They had their bye week to recuperate from their only loss this season, to the Ravens, and they'll send a smothering defense with several all-time records in range out to try to make the afternoon rough for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. The Patriots have allowed only 10.9 points and 249.3 yards per game. Wentz, who was injured prior to the 2017 playoffs and watched Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise's first Super Bowl win, has helped the Eagles tie the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East with two consecutive victories.
CHICAGO (4-5) AT LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-4)
The Bears broke a four-game losing streak last week by beating Detroit behind three touchdown passes thrown by Mitch Trubisky that gave an ailing offense some life. There are still many issues to be ironed out for a team facing as daunting of a second-half schedule as any in the league, but the defense that fueled a 15-6 victory over the Rams near the end of last season by holding them without a touchdown for the first time in 30 games under coach Sean McVay remains a strength.
The Rams, fortunately, can stop other teams, too, because their once-potent attack has been stymied often this year. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, the Bears and Rams have seven defensive touchdowns apiece, tied for second in the NFL behind Baltimore. The Rams have limited their last four opponents to a total of 57 points, as the defense produced nine points all by itself last week in a loss to Pittsburgh.
KANSAS CITY (6-4) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-6)
This AFC West matchup moves to Mexico City for an international Monday night affair at Azteca Stadium, where heavy rain and heavy use last year left the grass unfit for NFL competition and forced a Chiefs-Rams game to be relocated to Los Angeles. The Chargers still have hope of climbing back into the chase for the division title, sitting two games behind the first-place Chiefs with the Raiders in between.
The Chiefs had quarterback Patrick Mahomes back from a knee injury last week, though they didn't welcome him back with a win despite holding a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter at Tennessee. Mahomes has 8,007 career passing yards, the most through 25 starts in NFL history.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught six of nine targets for 92 yards in a Week 14 win over the Detroit Lions. Diggs was able to burn Darius Slay for 44 yards on a great sideline grab to set up a Dalvin Cook touchdown before halftime. He did most of his damage in the first half as the Vikings went run-heavy with a big lead in the final two quarters. Diggs will have borderline WR1 appeal in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers, regardless of the status of Adam Thielen (hamstring).
Washington Redskins wide receiver Kelvin Harmon couldn't get anything going in a road loss to the Packers on Sunday. After three straight games of emerging as a preferred option for Dwayne Haskins, Harmon caught just one of four targets at Lambeau. He took the lone reception for 30 yards, but this game has to be viewed as a step back for a young receiver who was starting to carve out a role for himself. There isn't enough time left in the season for Harmon to gain much PPR momentum, likely rendering him a deep-league dart throw at the very best for the final three weeks of 2019.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin rejoined the ranks of the fantasy-relevant on Sunday, catching four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Packers. It's worth mentioning that the touchdown itself--a 13-yard catch with just over a minute to go in the game--salvaged what otherwise would've been a low-end fantasy day. But his investors will take it, and the fact that McLaurin continues to see a healthy share of opportunity (seven targets) in an admittedly low-octane offense keeps him on the flex bubble. Consider him a matchup-dependent option, but he can clearly still provide value in lineups.
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell hit all three field goals and both extra-point attempts in Sunday's 23-17 win over the Cardinals. The 28-year-old has missed just twice all season, and while he doesn't always boot 50-plus yard field goals, his consistency has made him a fantasy asset for leagues that use the position. In Week 15's home game against the Bills, Boswell should have much of the same opportunities, thus making him a start-able fantasy option.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams failed to do much on his four targets as the Titans rolled to a 42-21 Week 14 victory on Sunday. He hauled in three catches for 35 yards as he's now been held to under 50 yards in five of his last six contests. With Derek Carr failing to utilize Williams' deep threat ability, he's been a fantasy non-factor over the past month and a half. Owners can afford to cut bait on the veteran, if they haven't already, as the passing offense just doesn't have enough volume to keep him afloat. Williams will be a TD-dependant WR4 next week when the Jaguars come to town for the final home game ever played in Oakland.
Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson hauled in seven of a team-high eight targets on Sunday against the Packers. He only produced 43 yards, but the sudden uptick in opportunity is a welcome change of pace for the pass-catching back. It's worth noting that Thompson's increased role coincides with an injury that knocked Derrius Guice out of this game, so if the latter is unable to go in Week 15, Thompson may emerge as a fringe flex play in PPR leagues. It may be worth grabbing him off the waiver wire if Guice's outlook for Week 15 is grim, just in case this opportunity is set to continue in a matchup with the Eagles.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 24-of-30 passes for 242 yards and one touchdown in Week 14's win over the Detroit Lions. Cousins rebounded from a tough Week 13 by completing 80% of his passes and finding 11 different receivers in a very efficient outing. He found rookie wideout Olabisi Johnson in the first quarter for his lone touchdown. Fantasy owners were surely expecting a bit more scoring from Cousins in this one, but the Vikings got up early and were in complete control from the get-go. Start Cousins with confidence as a QB1 in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley had seen an uptick in usage lately, but that usage was virtually non-existent in Sunday's loss to the Chargers. Conley caught just one pass for seven yards and was targeted three times. Maybe the change in quarterback was bad for Conley's fantasy value, or maybe it was just a bad day, but if you'd been counting on Conley to produce solid, low-ceiling outings in deep leagues, Sunday wasn't a good day for you.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 29 of 40 pass attempts for 349 yards and five touchdowns along with a one-yard rushing score in a 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It was one of the best performances of Brees' career against an elite pass defense. He threw touchdowns to four different receivers in what was his 11th career game with five or more touchdown passes, most in NFL history. Brees even led a game-winning drive, but the Saints Defense couldn't stop Jimmy Garoppolo from doing the same. The veteran signal-caller will look to stay hot in Week 15 against an Indianapolis Colts Defense that allowed 467 passing yards and four touchdowns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense yielded 46 points despite securing a victory in Week 14 against the New Orleans Saints. The ferocious pass rush couldnt touch veteran quarterback Drew Brees all day, mustering just one fumble recovery on the stat sheet. The Saints racked up 465 total yards but the Niners offense was able to respond to every blow and the team wound up with the win. After the shootout, the Niners will look to return to form hosting the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15. Theyll be a must-start fantasy unit.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was very quiet in Week 14 as he picked up two catches for 11 yards in a win over the Detroit Lions. Rudolph came into the contest on a four-game touchdown streak but was not featured at all in the victory. Rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. had more snaps, catches, and yards and wideout Olabisi Johnson snagged the game's only touchdown reception. Rudolph is still best viewed as a touchdown-dependent TE2 who's touchdown equity will definitely take a hit if Adam Thielen (hamstring) returns in Week 15.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson was forced back into a featured role on Sunday when Derrius Guice suffered a knee injury. Peterson's output on 20 carries wasn't especially efficient, but 76 yards and a touchdown were welcome sights to any fantasy owner who rolled him out as a hopeful flex option. The longtime workhorse remains a volume-based fantasy back, and volume may once again tilt in his favor if Guice's injury is serious enough to keep him out going forward. As such, you will want to monitor this situation in the coming days, regardless of which Redskins running back you roster.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller picked up a team-high 73 receiving yards as the team fell 42-21 to the Titans in Week 14. He finished tied with Deandre Washington for six receptions, proving to be Derek Carr's most reliable pass-catcher once again. Waller nearly found the end zone in the second quarter but came up two yards short of the goal line. The drive ultimately ended in Foster Moreau catching a one-yard TD pass, but that was the final time the Raiders hit paydirt. The offense struggled to move the ball in the second half, which impacted Waller, but it was good to see him involved regardless. Treat the 26-year-old as a mid-range TE1 versus the Jaguars in Week 15.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense held the Arizona Cardinals to just 17 points and 236 yards of offense in their 23-17 victory on Sunday. Joe Haden picked off two passes, while TJ Watt also recorded his second interception of the season. This marks the 11th time in their 13 games that they have recorded multiple turnovers in a game. They'll have a tougher assignment in Week 15 when they host Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, but this defense might be the best in the NFL right now, so you'll start them with ease.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook caught six passes for 25 yards in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. With Gardner Minshew back under center, it was back to being one of those "Westbrook only gets targeted close to the line of scrimmage" days that makes him unplayable in standard scoring leagues. That's likely the norm the rest of the way, with Westbrook's value being mainly in deeper PPR leagues.
Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Nick O'Leary caught his first touchdown since joining the Jags in Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. On the day, O'Leary caught four passes for 30 yards and the score. He was targeted five times. O'Leary's been targeted at least four times in each of his games with his new team, but I still don't think fantasy owners should overreact to Sunday's score. Even at a shallow position like tight end, you aren't trusting O'Leary in the fantasy playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers Defense produced four sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception in a 20-15 win over the Washington Redskins. It was a strong effort by Green Bay- the only blemish was a late garbage-time touchdown allowed to Terry McLaurin. Packers linebacker Preston Smith got in on the fun, posting two tackles and adding a sack, giving him 11.5 for the season.
Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake rushed 11 times for 37 yards and caught three balls for 30 yards in Week 14. He's still receiving twice as many touches as running back David Johnson, but he's not doing much with them. Johnson caught a touchdown pass this week, and there's a big enough sample size that he could start taking touches away from Drake. Drake will be a flex option against the Cleveland Browns next week.
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson rushed three times for 19 yards and caught two receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown in Week 14. He did almost as much with his five touches as running back Kenyan Drake did with his 14. With Drake struggling to make an impact, Johnson could see more touches against the Cleveland Browns next week. Keep an eye on this situation in practice this week.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught just three passes for 20 yards in Week 14. He was second on the team with seven targets, but he was unable to make his mark. Fitz is a lackluster WR3 option the rest of the way against the Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.