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.''
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay was able to haul in 158 yards and a touchdown with rookie quarterback David Blough under center in Week 13, but a closer look into the game tells a different story. Most of Golladay's production, including his touchdown catch, came on one play in the first quarter. It was a very quiet afternoon for Golladay and the entire Lions offense from then on. Golladay doesn't have the toughest Week 14 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings on deck, but it should be noted that the Vikings did hold him to just one catch for 21 yards when these two teams met back in Week 7. With so much uncertainty surrounding Golladay this week, he will slot in as a fringe WR2 against the Vikings.
The Washington Redskins Defense has performed well both in real life and in fantasy football the last two weeks, greatly contributing to the fact that their team has won its last two games. With fantasy championships at stake in Week 14, now is not the time to buy into this trend so much that you believe they are up to the task of handling Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers may not be launching MVP-level numbers around, but he also doesn't turn the ball over or otherwise make mistakes that make things easy on opposing defenses. If Washington is able to post its third straight impressive defensive effort in a row this week, so be it. Let it happen on the waiver wire.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack is expected to be back on the field for a Week 14 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mack hasn't played since Week 11 due to a broken hand, but according to Colts coach Frank Reich, Mack won't be limited or on any kind of a pitch count. While fantasy owners are likely thrilled that Mack is back, he has a rough matchup to welcome him. Tampa Bay features the league's best run defense and one of the league's worst pass defenses, so the Colts are more likely to take to the air than to rely on their running game. Mack is a low-floor RB2 for this one.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Kelvin Harmon can hang his hat on an increased role in an otherwise terrible pass offense over the last few weeks, but that's where the positives begin and end regarding his Week 14 outlook. The Packers are in a three-way tie for the second-fewest receptions allowed to wide receivers on the season, and the Redskins much prefer to run the ball anyway. Harmon is worth monitoring in deep PPR leagues as the fantasy playoffs progress, but he can't be confidently relied upon this Sunday.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri is out for Week 14 due to a knee injury. The Colts signed Chase McLaughlin earlier in the week and he will assume kicking duties for Indianapolis against the Tampa Bay Bucs. Vinatieri says that IR has not been discussed, so he can be seen as week-to-week for now. McLaughlin makes for a solid fill-in kicker for any fantasy teams looking to tweak their kicking game.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin's outlook has been and will continue to be hurt by having Dwayne Haskins as his quarterback, but there is big-play potential in his spectrum of outcomes for Week 14 if this pass offense can display some level of competence. The Packers are allowing nearly 16.5 yards per catch to opposing WRs, setting McLaurin up well if his inaccurate rookie QB can actually connect with him a few times. Adding to the risk in this matchup is that while Green Bay is susceptible to big plays from wideouts, the Pack is tied for the second-fewest receptions allowed to the position. As such, McLaurin doesn't carry a high PPR floor, and cannot be considered a safe play.
Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson was a non-factor in his return from injury last week, and there is little evidence to suggest he'll see much of an uptick in Week 14 against the Packers. Dwayne Haskins is given minimal opportunities to throw the ball for obvious reasons, and it helps that Washington has been able to establish an effective rushing attack of late. Thompson doesn't factor into that rushing attack, so his opportunities to produce fantasy numbers are almost entirely limited to whatever work he sees on passing downs. The Packers could theoretically jump out to an early lead and force the Redskins to throw, in turn boosting Thompson's outlook. That's not worth banking on this late in the season with fantasy championships at stake.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) won't be suiting up for a Week 14 matchup against the Tampa Bay. Hilton had another setback in practice a few weeks ago and wasn't able to practice at all this week. He has already stated that he's not sure if he'll be able to play again this season. At this point, fantasy owners should not be expecting anything from the speedy wide receiver. Zach Pascal will benefit the most from Hilton's absence, especially against a soft Tampa Bay secondary.
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) did not practice Friday, Dec. 6, and is listed as doubtful for the team's Week 14 game against the Detroit Lions.
Fantasy Spin: Unless there's a semi-miraculous change in fortune over the next 48 hours, it appears as if Thielen will miss his fifth start in the last six games. His fantasy owners should be well-versed in the Plan B drill.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson continues to split backfield work with Derrius Guice, but the two of them proved together last week that they can both enjoy success in the right matchup. They'll get their second consecutive "right matchup" this week at Lambeau Field against a Packers Defense giving up the sixth-most rushing yards per game and the second-most total rushing touchdowns to opposing backs. Guice is the better boom-play here, with more potential for big-time production on middling volume. Peterson should still be in line for enough of his own share, however, and should be regarded as a flex possibility unless you are fortunate enough to be super-deep at running back.
Updating a previous report, Atlanta Falcons TE Austin Hooper (knee) practiced again Friday, Dec. 6, and will play Sunday, Dec. 8, in Week 14, head coach Dan Quinn announced.
Fantasy Spin: Check back pre-game Sunday to be certain, but it appears as if it's an early Christmas for Hooper owners, who have been without fantasy's top tight end (10.8 points per game) since Week 10.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (wrist) told reporters on Friday that he expects to be activated from the injured reserve for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Njoku has been sidelined since he fractured his wrist during Week 2's win over the New York Jets. He told reporters that he felt ready to play two weeks ago, but it is apparent that the team did not want to rush him back into action. It remains to be seen whether he will see a full complement of snaps in his first game back against Cincy. That being said, Njoku's Week 15 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals makes him a priority waiver add for any forward-thinking fantasy GM hurting at the tight end position. Arizona has been one of the worst defenses in the league when it comes to defending enemy tight ends.
Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins will go for his third straight victory in Green Bay on Sunday. Whether the Redskins pull off the upset or not, their two-game winning streak is in spite of their quarterback--not because of him. Haskins has just two touchdowns in six appearances this year, and hasn't eclipsed 215 passing yards in any of his starts. This is arguably the least interesting pass offense in the NFL, with both Haskins and his pass-catchers shouldering the blame for that distinction. The rookie's only upside for Week 14 comes in the form of potential garbage-time chances at production, as the Packers could reasonably be expected to win this one going away.
Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice couldn't have many better matchups in which to follow up on his excellent Week 13 outing. The Packers are allowing the sixth-most yards per game to running backs, and their 13 rushing touchdowns surrendered to RBs is the second-most. We know the Redskins would run the ball on every single play if they could, so look for Guice to once again be a focal point of his team's offensive game plan. Continuing to cap his upside is the presence of Adrian Peterson, but Guice proved last week that a backfield split isn't enough to totally neutralize him when the matchup is right. Guice should be viewed as a fantasy starter in all formats for Week 14.
Updating a previous report, Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (shoulder) practiced again Friday, Dec. 6, and will play in Week 14 against the Carolina Panthers, head coach Dan Quinn announced.
Fantasy Spin: Good news for Jones owners as the wideout will return to the WR1 ranks, and now all that's needed is for Jones to deliver a WR1-quality stat line and snap his frustrating eight-game streak without a TD.
New York Jets RB Le'Veon Bell (non-injury) on Friday, Dec. 6, sat out a second consecutive day of practice with an illness, and head coach Adam Gase said he's unsure if Bell will be able to play Sunday, Dec. 8, in Week 14.
Fantasy Spin: Bad timing for Bell owners who will need to be extra vigilant up until kickoff. If Bell can't go, it will likely be a combo of Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery filling in, but neither would be much more than a dart-throw flex option.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert erupted for 154 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in Week 12, rendering starter Tevin Coleman obsolete. The fifth-year back has been explosive in limited opportunities this season, averaging 5.9 yards per tote, but it may not translate into increased usage in Week 13 against the New Orleans Saints. With Matt Breida (ankle) returning and Coleman inevitably in the mix, Mostert will likely revert to his standard change-of-pace role. Against a tough Saints rush defense, the Niners may play the hot hand, giving Mostert an upside of double-digit touches. But due to the high backfield uncertainty, fantasy managers should prudently view him as a flex option.
Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen (concussion) on Friday, Dec. 6, was ruled out of Week 14 with a concussion.
Fantasy Spin: As expected, Olsen is a no-go for the first time this season. Backup Ian Thomas is a decent fantasy fill-in if the tight end options are as thin as they are in most leagues.
New York Giants TE Evan Engram (foot) is expected to play in Week 14 after missing the previous three games with a foot injury. 'All indications are he'll be ready to go,' Giants head coach Pat Shurmur said before practice Friday, Dec. 6.
Fantasy Spin: A return for Engram, who ranks sixth among tight ends with an average of 13.7 PPR points per game, would be a welcome sight for his fantasy teams who have had to make do without him for the last month. We'll, of course, check the practice and injury reports leading up to Monday night's game in Philly, but the light appears green at the moment.
New York Giants WR Golden Tate (concussion) is expected to play in Week 14, head coach Pat Shurmur said prior to practice Friday, Dec. 6.
Fantasy Spin: Tate has been the Giants' most productive pass-catcher, averaging 15.2 PPR points per game since making his season debut in Week 5, and would be a high-end flex, low-end WR2 play in a great matchup Monday if he indeed returns after sitting out Week 12. Stay tuned ...