Thu Dec 5 6:14pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson (27) greets fans after an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. The Rams won 34-7. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, right, reacts with cornerback Akeem King (36) after the Minnesota Vikings failed to convert on a fourth-down play during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 37-30. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, left, talks with quarterback Russell Wilson during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
LOS ANGELES (AP) Greg Zuerlein has made plenty of tougher field goals than the 44-yarder he pushed barely wide right through the Seattle night air two months ago.
The Rams' normally reliable kicker could have sent Los Angeles to a narrow win over the Seahawks. Instead, his miss with 11 seconds left in Seattle's 30-29 win might have changed the trajectories of two seasons that intersect again Sunday night at the Coliseum.
The Seahawks (10-2) have won eight of nine during a roll that began one week before that surprising reprieve from Zuerlein, and they've surged into first place in the NFC West with five straight victories. Seattle can already clinch a postseason berth with a win in LA.
That loss by the Rams (7-5) extended to the first three-game losing streak of Sean McVay's coaching career. After going 4-5 in their last nine, the defending NFC champions are one game out of the second wild card playoff spot, needing a big December surge to get in.
The stakes are huge when the Seahawks and Rams get together again in what's likely the final NFL night game in the history of the 96-year-old Coliseum. McVay knows there's only one likelihood in the latest chapter of this entertaining divisional rivalry.
''There's always been a good competitive balance between these two teams,'' McVay said. ''This will be the sixth time we've played them (with the Rams' current coaching staff), and the first five have been tough challenges every single time. The ones last year came down to one possession. The last three have been closely contested. That's a great football team.''
The Seahawks got a bit lucky in their last meeting with the Rams, but their tenacity has shown throughout the season. Seattle is an incredible 8-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer, and Carroll anticipates another test in his return to the Coliseum.
''As we go against them, we're just going to try to hold it together and play good football and take care of the ball,'' Carroll said. ''See if we can come out on top somehow at the end.''
Here are more things to know about the NFC West showdown:
In all likelihood, this will be Carroll's last trip to the Coliseum as a head coach with the Rams set to move into their new palace in Inglewood next season.
There were a lot of memories for Carroll from his time at USC when the Seahawks made their first visit back to the Coliseum in 2016 - a forgettable 9-3 loss for Seattle. Since then, the nostalgia has worn off. Carroll said it was different anyway being the visiting team in that venue.
''It's really fun to go to the Coliseum. For me, honestly, it is, but it's not the same thing. You're not coaching the Trojans. That's a whole different experience. I can't even relate it to you,'' Carroll said.
McVay's inexplicable season-long reluctance to use Todd Gurley could be ending, which could be bad news for opponents. The Rams' $60 million running back got 19 carries last week at Arizona, and he had 25 two weeks earlier against Chicago. McVay attributes the uptick in Gurley's workload to ''me not being an idiot.'' The coach continues to insist he wasn't resting Gurley for the stretch run, yet the star running back is rested and ready for a big finish.
No surprise, the Seahawks are really good at running the football. The difference the past two weeks is it's not being done by just one player. The duo of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny has run through two of the better run defenses in the league in the past two weeks. They combined for 155 yards in the win over Philadelphia with Penny rushing for a career-best 129 yards. Last week against Minnesota, the Seahawks rushed for a season-high 218 yards as a team, which included 102 from Carson and 74 from Penny. It was the third time in Carroll's tenure the Seahawks had two running backs rush for at least 74 yards in the same game.
Seattle had 167 yards rushing in the first meeting with the Rams.
The Rams will present Wilson with a thoroughly revamped secondary. Starting cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib played nearly every snap of the early-season game in Seattle, but both veterans are gone and starting safety John Johnson is on injured reserve. Star cornerback Jalen Ramsey gets his first look at Tyler Lockett and Wilson since 2017, when he made an interception in a win for the Jaguars. Wilson might be more focused on the other side of the defense, where Troy Hill likely will try to hang in against rookie D.K. Metcalf.
Johnson has been replaced by a familiar face in Seattle: rookie Taylor Rapp, who grew up in Bellingham and starred at the University of Washington.
Seattle's secondary also has gone through a facelift since the last time it played the Rams. Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers are still the starting cornerbacks, but the addition of Quandre Diggs at safety has changed some of the defenses Seattle has played. The addition of Diggs playing in concert with Bradley McDougald has allowed Griffin and Flowers to be more aggressive on the outside. It's part of the reason Seattle has forced 11 turnovers in the past three games, including four interceptions.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had an incredible performance against the Tennessee Titans during their Week 10 matchup. He caught 11 of his 19 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Tennessee. He'll get another chance to run over the same team in the AFC Championship matchup on Sunday. Hill hasn't been able to get over 100 yards receiving in a single game since that matchup. DFS players know that Hill has a chance to be a complete bust, but the fact he destroyed Tennessee the first time is hard to ignore. Hill has given DFS players a lot to think about before Sunday's kickoff.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He hauled in 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns in the Divisional Round victory. The Tennessee Titans main focus has to be slowing down Kelce. They allowed seven receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown to Kelce earlier in the season. Kelce isn't going to be cheap for DFS contests, but he's proven all season long that he's worth the risk.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins has been tough to watch all season long. He started off the year with a three touchdown performance, but it was downhill after that. Watkins was only targeted more than five times in a game once over the last five games. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have taken over the passing attack in Kansas City. Watkins was able to haul in five receptions for 39 yards during his regular season matchup against the Titans. DFS players shouldn't expect a better performance out of Watkins this time around.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is set to battle with the Tennessee Titans for the AFC Championship on Sunday. Mahomes is coming off a five touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He's already faced off against the Titans once this season and Mahomes didn't disappoint. He threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in that game. DFS players should be able to lean on Mahomes to at least be efficient on Sunday. He has a solid chance of being the best quarterback out of the bunch in the division title games.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams is coming off a three touchdown performance against the Houston Texans last week. He rushed 12 times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 21 yards through the air. LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson have been absent from the backfield lately. The Chiefs have been leaning on Williams and it's been paying off. He's been able to find the end zone when he's called upon and piled up 109 yards against the Titans earlier in the season. Fantasy owners are aware that Williams has been up and down this season, but he's red-hot right now. He'll be used in both the rushing and passing attack, so DFS players should give Williams a long look for Sunday's slate.
San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has the confidence of former 49ers QB and Hall of Famer Steve Young. 'When they've asked him to raise up and go win it, he did it,' Young said. 'Those are hard things to do. That just doesn't happen. When you see it in the NFL and someone is able to do it, you go, once you've done it, you can do it again. You can keep doing it.'
Fantasy Spin: Jimmy G wasn't a fantasy factor with his 11-of-19, 131-yards, one-TD, one-interception game in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings, but that's largely due to the Niners' overwhelming success on the ground (47 rushes-186 yards). When Garoppolo has been forced to pass, he's delivered the majority of the time, and his fantasy numbers Sunday likely will depend on how much the opposing Packers are able to get done against the San Fran defense.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert is the only player since special-teams tackles were first tracked in 2001 to lead his team in rushing yards and special-teams tackles in the same season.
Fantasy Spin: While Mostert is a breakout talent who led the Niners in rushing in each of their last six regular-season games, keep in mind that it was Tevin Coleman who led the squad in rushing attempts (22), yards (105) and touchdown runs (2) in the divisional-round playoff win over the Vikings as Mostert (12-58-0) battled a calf cramp which he said was an after affect of an illness he dealt with the week leading up to the game. In the meantime, it's a plus matchup Sunday against a Packers defense which allowed the ninth-most rushing yards (120.1) per game during the regular season.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries in two wins this postseason, but Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark says he isn't intimidated heading into the AFC Championship matchup with the Titans on Sunday, Jan. 19. 'He's not hard to hit,' Clark was quoted as saying on NFL Network. 'He's just a big guy -- 240, 245, 250 (pounds). Honestly he should be running harder at his weight and size. I don't see no difficulty in tackling him. ... He's just easy to me up front because I don't look at any running back like they can't be tackled. He's not one of the best guys at breaking tackles to me, honestly.'
Fantasy Spin: Henry is on a truly historic run -- with only Terrell Davis owning more 150-yard postseason games (four) than Henry's three -- and it will be challenge for Clark and the K.C. D, which ranked in the bottom fourth of the league in allowing 128.2 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry, to slow down -- let alone shut down -- Henry and the run-first Titans.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. likely won't face simple-assault charges for slapping a security officer's buttocks Monday, Jan. 13, as the officer has declined to press charges, according to a source.
Fantasy Spin: The Browns -- and OBJ's fantasy dynasty-league owners -- are hoping this the final negative offseason headline the wideout generates for a good while and he starts focusing his energies on improving on his disappointing debut season with Cleveland.
Confirming a previous report, the Dallas Cowboys have hired New Orleans Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan to be their new defensive coordinator. Head coach Mike McCarthy said he plans to run a defense with four down linemen.
New England Patriots CB Jason McCourty (groin) recently underwent surgery on the groin injury that hampered him throughout the 2019 season.
Former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has agreed to become the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants, according to a source.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Coleman is coming off one of his best games of the season last week and should continue to receive most of the carries in the running game. He should be a starting option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle is one of the top options in the passing game for the 49ers and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert will have a solid role in the running game against the Green Bay Packers and could see a few targets in the passing game. He has a chance to be a flex option in fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game. DE Dee Ford (hamstring, quadriceps) fully participated in practice and is not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers FB Danny Vitale (knee) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Championship game. TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited during practice but are not on the injury report. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), DT Kenny Clark (back), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OT Billy Turner (ankle) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) fully participated in practice Friday, Jan. 17, and is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Allison has only been targeted 12 times over the last five games and was held to nine yards in his last game against the San Francisco 49ers. He can be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 17, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Graham likely will see a handful of targets in the passing game against the San Francisco 49ers and could be a stating option in some fantasy leagues.
The Green Bay Packers Defense faces a tough task this weekend in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. In their regular-season meeting, the Packers gave up 37 points and only dropped Jimmy Garoppolo only three times. They also failed to generate any turnovers. Green Bay's defense may need to lend their offense a helping hand by creating a turnover or two to swing the field position game. If Za-Darius and Preston Smith can ramp up the pressure, the Packers will have a good chance of generating a turnover or two and winning the game. It certainly won't be easy, considering how formidable the 49ers offense has been this season.