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.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin could very likely wind up as the highest scoring wide receiver in Week 15 when the Bucs take on the Detroit Lions. Mike Evans (hamstring) is out of the picture for the rest of the reason, and while that might mean that Godwin ends up seeing more of Darius Slay in this matchup, he will still slot in as a must-start WR1 for the fantasy semi-finals. There is one potential hiccup though. Jamies Winston (thumb) may miss Sunday's game, which would slightly diminish Godwin's value, but he will be a must-start regardless. Fantasy owners can worry about other things in the lead up to Sunday.
Detroit Lions running back Bo Scarbrough has a tough Week 15 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town. While the Bucs pass defense sits last in the league, their run defense sits near the top, and with rookie quarterback David Blough unable to consistently get scoring opportunities, Scarbrough's value gets seriously capped. Scarbrough has taken full control of the Lions backfield over the last three weeks, but he will be hard to trust this week, especially in PPR leagues. Fantasy owners can slot Scarbrough in as an RB3 for this matchup.
Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough came crashing back down to earth in Week 14 after an impressive debut in Week 13 against a tough Chicago squad. Week 15 will offer up the easiest test for Blough yet in the form of the Tampa Buccaneers swiss-cheese secondary, but it's extremely hard to trust a rookie making only his third career start with fantasy owners heading into the fantasy semi-finals. Those who do need a quarterback this week can do better. Blough will slot in as a mid-range QB2 for this matchup.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Danny Amendola will have a chance to make some noise this week with Marvin Jones (ankle) placed on the injured reserve. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their swiss-cheese secondary are coming to town in Week 15. The Bucs secondary has given up the most points to wide receivers so far this season, meaning Amendola will likely get his chances in this one. Amendola has seen 16 targets over the last two weeks with Jones in the lineup and third-string quarterback David Blough under center, so volume shouldn't be the problem. Relying on a third-string quarterback in the fantasy semi-finals might give fantasy owners nightmares until game day though. Amendola will slot in as a boom-or-bust WR3 for this matchup.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay is in a prime spot heading into the fantasy semi-finals with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town in Week 15. The Bucs defense has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers so far this season, and with Marvin Jones (ankle) no longer around to poach targets, Golladay should be in for a monster day. The third-year wide receiver will slot in as WR1 for this matchup.
The Carolina Panthers designated wide receiver Chris Hogan (knee) to return from Injured Reserve. Hogan practiced on Wednesday for the first time since Sept. 27. The former Patriot injured his knee in Week 4 against the Texans on a special teams play and underwent arthroscopic surgery. Hogan has just three catches for 24 yards this year. If he is able to make it back in the final three games, his role will mostly be on special teams, so he won't have any relevance for fantasy owners playing for a championship.
Seattle Seahawks TE Luke Willson (hamstring) might return for the Week 15 game against the Carolina Panthers after missing the past three games. 'He's champing at the bit to play this week,' head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday, Dec. 11. 'He's politicking. Like those guys in Washington D.C., he's working it. Give him credit, he wants to play in the worst way. He ran well (Wednesday). He was really pumped up about it. He told me at least four times how well he looked in his workouts.'
Fantasy Spin: Willson would be a big addition to the offense, which can be tight-end friendly. Still, there is just too much risk for fantasy owners to invest a roster spot on Willson at this late and critical juncture.
Seattle Seahawks DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) was listed as 'questionable' in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11 by head coach Pete Carroll, who indicated the defensive end is likely a game-time decision for Week 15 against the Carolina Panthers.
Seattle Seahawk WR Tyler Lockett (shin) is back to full health after dealing a shin contusion. 'Yeah, I think he's really back,' head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday, Dec. 11. 'He felt really good last week and he's going into this week raring to go. He's fine.'
Fantasy Spin: Fantasy owners have gotten just five grabs for 81 yards and no scores in three games since he suffered an injury in Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers. He is a risky fantasy play based on his recent production, but a solid option when 100 percent.
Seattle Seahawks LB Jadeveon Clowney (flu) is battling the flu and head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday, Dec. 11 that the linebacker is 'hurting. He's going to have to work his way through the week to make it for game day.'
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead led all wide receivers with 13 yards on three receptions and a touchdown in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Snead hasn't had a game in which he's caught over 20 receiving yards since Week 5. Baltimore faces a Jets Defense on Thursday Night that has been generous to opposing wideouts in 2019, but it's hard to trust Snead in the matchup with his lack of volume. Snead shouldn't see your lineups in Week 15, but could be viable as a streamer if you're desperate in deeper leagues.
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards rushed for 20 yards on four attempts in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Baltimore matches up against a Jets Defense on Thursday Night that's been stiff against opposing running backs in 2019. Edwards remains as nothing more than a quality handcuff to Mark Ingram in Week 15.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown caught all three of his targets for a loss of two yards in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Brown's performance was disappointing and it was his second ineffective game in a row, as he caught only one ball for two yards against the 49ers in Week 13. Hollywood has a good opportunity to bounce back on Thursday Night in Baltimore's matchup with the New York Jets. The Jets Defense is allowing an average of 167 receiving yards in 2019, which is more than quarterback Lamar Jackson has thrown for in the last two weeks. Even with the good matchup, Brown should be seen as nothing more than a high-end WR3 in an offense that targets its tight ends more than its receivers.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Nick Boyle caught 2-of-3 targets for 10 yards and a three-yard touchdown in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Boyle was able to capitalize on his opportunity to score shortly after Mark Andrews exited the game with a knee injury. If Andrews is unable to go, it's hard to tell whether Boyle or Hayden Hurst will see an expanded role at the tight end position. Boyle and Hurst have put up similar numbers up to this point in the season as they are both close to 300 yards in receiving and have two touchdowns each. Boyle could be a viable streaming option in deeper leagues if Andrews is unable to go, but it's probably best to keep him on the bench Thursday Night against a Jets Defense that has allowed only two touchdowns to opposing tight ends in 2019.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst caught all three of his targets for a season-high 73 yards and his second touchdown of the season in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Hurst was able to step up for quarterback Lamar Jackson after Mark Andrews exited the game with a knee injury. If Andrews is unable to go on Thursday Night, Hurst is a viable play in an offense that relies heavily on its tight ends. Baltimore hosts a Jets Defense in Week 15 that has only allowed two touchdowns and an average of 40 receiving yards to opposing tight ends in 2019.
Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker (hamstring), C Mason Cole (knee), DT Corey Peters (non-injury), OG Justin Pugh (back), LB Terrell Suggs (back, illness) and OG J.R. Sweezy (illness) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. WR Andy Isabella (shoulder), CB Byron Murphy (calf), CB Kevin Peterson (shoulder) and LB Joseph Walker (ribs) was limited during practice.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed to 50 yards on 15 attempts and caught all three of his targets in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Baltimore matches up against a Jets Defense that has only allowed multiple touchdowns to opposing running backs twice this season. The Bills Defense has also held opposing running backs to under 100 rushing yards in all games but one in 2019. Ingram has failed to get in the end zone for the last two games and is a touchdown-dependent RB2/RB3 play in Week 15.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzgerald has been targeted at least seven times in three of the last four games but has been held to 40 yards or less in two of the last three games. He could be a possible flex option in some deeper leagues but could be avoided in a majority of leagues.
Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (ankle) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Kirk is coming off one of his better games of the season and has been targeted at least seven times in five of the last six games. He can be considered a No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues if he plays.
Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark (illness, shoulder), CB Rashad Fenton (hamstring), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder) and LB Darron Lee (non-injury) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. OG Andrew Wylie (shoulder) was limited during practice. OT Eric Fisher (groin), CB Kendall Fuller (thumb), DT Derrick Nnadi (elbow) and DE Alex Okafor (ankle) fully participated in practice.