Thu Oct 17 10:27pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
In this June 11, 2019, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey walks to the field for an NFL football practice in Jacksonville, Fla. Ramsey is expected to return to practice two days after seeing a back specialist. The Jaguars host New Orleans on Sunday, Oct. 13. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Thanks to two injures and a couple of major trades, the Los Angeles Rams will be without three regular starters in their secondary this weekend in Atlanta.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips realizes that's not the ideal way to face Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Matt Ryan and the NFL's second-most prolific passing game.
Not even if one of those new starters turns out to be Jalen Ramsey, who is optimistic he will make his Rams debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
''(The Falcons) have probably the top passing offense in the league, so it would be a challenge whether we had all the same people or different ones,'' Phillips said Thursday. ''It's a challenge for whoever you have out there.''
The Rams' defense is spending the week in frantic preparation for its new lineup against the Falcons. Starting cornerback Marcus Peters was traded on Tuesday, while safety John Johnson and cornerback Aqib Talib went on injured reserve earlier this week.
Ramsey went through his first full practice at the Rams' training complex Thursday, two days after the Rams acquired him from Jacksonville in an even bolder trade. Wearing the No. 20 jersey he got from new teammate Troy Hill, Ramsey looked loose and happy during the workout.
''We're going to do what's smart for myself and the team, but I hope (to play Sunday), Ramsey said. ''I hope I can go contribute to a win, somehow, some way, whether it's limited or whatever, or a couple of plays. It doesn't matter.''
After requesting a trade last month, Ramsey missed the Jaguars' last three games with a back injury. Although he must learn the Rams' defense and get back into full game shape before he'll feel comfortable with his new team, Ramsey thinks he is on his way.
Ramsey said the defensive system ''fits me very well,'' and he called Phillips ''a legend'' in their first meeting.
''I love challenges like that,'' Ramsey said of the Falcons. ''They've got elite receivers, Julio especially, arguably one of the best receivers in the league. Definitely I love that challenge, and if I'm able to perform well, I would like to be out there.''
The only remaining regular starter in the Rams' secondary is safety Eric Weddle, who joined the defending NFC champions in the offseason. The veteran actually sounds eager for the challenge facing the Rams' suddenly inexperienced secondary.
''That's why you have me, quite honestly,'' Weddle said. ''I've been through this many a time. Revolving door, whether it's safeties, corners, it's my job to get everyone on the same page and play at a high level. There's no excuses in this league, and it's my job to get those guys going.''
But there's no denying the fact that the Rams must figure out how to win without two of their three busiest defensive players this season. Only linebacker Cory Littleton has taken more defensive snaps than Peters or Johnson for Los Angeles, while Talib is seventh despite sitting out last week with the rib injury that now threatens his season.
Hill is almost certain to start at cornerback for the Rams. If Ramsey doesn't play extensively, the Rams are expecting to give significant playing time to Darious Williams, a second-year pro who hasn't played a defensive snap this season and has one career tackle.
The coaching staff is high on Williams, who went undrafted in 2018 after playing two seasons at UAB. Those two seasons were in 2014 and 2017, separated by two years of training without games after the school dropped football and before the program was reinstated.
The Rams claimed Williams off waivers last October and kept him on the roster this season, but he played only four snaps on defense last season and none in six games this year.
There weren't many snaps available at cornerback recently with Peters and Talib playing extensively along with Nickell Robey-Coleman, one of the NFL's most effective nickel backs against slot receivers. Snaps are suddenly in abundance, but the Rams aren't shaken by the upheaval.
''We're just going to hold strong,'' Robey-Coleman said. ''We're going to fight and battle with the guys that we've got. Having Jalen on the defense now, we don't have to worry about one half of the field, I know for sure. That made everybody's job a little easier.''
NOTES: Ramsey was listed as a full participant in practice, while RB Todd Gurley's participation was limited. Coach Sean McVay is optimistic Gurley will play after missing last week's game. ... Gurley's backup, Malcolm Brown, missed his second straight practice with an ankle injury. McVay hasn't ruled out Brown for Sunday, noting that ''sometimes these things end up turning the corner pretty quickly, so we'll use our time on this.''
The moment could be now for San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel. With tight end George Kittle (knee, ankle) and wideout Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) banged up in Week 10, Samuel drew a season-high 11 targets, converting them into eight grabs and 112 yards. With both Kittle and Sanders likely to miss Week 11s tilt against the Arizona Cardinals, Samuel is a plug-and-play WR3. Samuel possesses an intriguing speed and burst combination in the 80th percentile and ranks ninth in the NFL with an 86 percent catchable target rate. Although hes battled consistency this season, Samuel has a golden opportunity to embrace the lead dog role against a Cardinals pass defense ranked 26th in DVOA.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle (shoulder) is back at practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. Doyle should be able to play this weekend in Week 11 against the Jaguars. He has scored in back-to-back weeks but has only 66 yards receiving in that timeframe and has his upside limited while sharing snaps with teammate Eric Ebron. However, Doyle will have more TE2 streaming appeal if T.Y. Hilton (calf) misses another game this weekend with quarterback Jacoby Brissett (knee) expected to return.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) wasn't spotted at practice on Thursday for the second straight day this week. Hilton has a chance to return in Week 11 against the Jaguars, but he'll likely need to get in at least a limited practice on Friday since he hasn't played since getting injured in Week 8. As of right now, you should be planning to be without him for another week. Zach Pascal has been the best bet at wideout for the Colts with Hilton out, with Chester Rogers and Marcus Johnson filling out three-receiver sets. Indy should continue to lean on their ground game with running back Marlon Mack if Hilton remains sidelined. The good news for Pascal owners is that quarterback Jacoby Brissett (knee) is expected back after missing Week 10.
Buffalo Bills rookie tight end Dawson Knox (knee) was held out of practice on Thursday due to a sore knee, but head coach Sean McDermott expects Knox to return to practice on Friday and be fine for Week 11 against the Dolphins. Knox has shown some potential in his first year in the NFL and he has an excellent matchup in Miami this Sunday, but the youngster is still a low-end, touchdown-dependent TE2 in a Bills offense led by inconsistent quarterback Josh Allen.
Baltimore Ravens rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) was absent from practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Brown could be truly questionable for Week 11 against the Texans, so his status on Friday is one to watch. He had a good game in Week 10 against the winless Bengals despite playing limited snaps, so the downfield speedster is truly a boom-or-bust WR3 in his rookie season on limited chances this year. He does have a good matchup against Houston's secondary if he plays, but he could come down to a game-time decision. Tight end Mark Andrews would have a higher ceiling as an elite TE1 if Brown misses this weekend. Baltimore's other receivers haven't proven fantasy relevant when Brown has missed time this year.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (toe) is not practicing on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. It's a downgrade for AD, but the Redskins could just be resting the veteran with the season entering the second half. After all, interim head coach Bill Callahan has been riding Peterson hard since he took over. Even if Peterson plays, he'll have a lower ceiling as an RB3/flex with Derrius Guice (knee) expected to have a big role for the first time since suffering a knee injury in the season opener. The two running backs could easily cannibalize each other on a low-scoring Redskins offense led by shaky rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Stay away if you can. Guice would obviously have more RB3 appeal if Peterson is out or limited.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (ankle) missed practice for the second straight day this week on Thursday, putting him on the wrong side of questionable for Week 11's showdown with the Patriots. The Eagles really can't afford to be without Jeffery now that DeSean Jackson (abdomen) is out for the year. That would mean three-wide sets that would likely consist of Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. If Jeffery sits, tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert will be targeted more often, while Agholor might be worth a look as a flex in deeper leagues and in DFS. Jeffery would have greater bust potential if he plays, as he's expected to be shadowed by shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore.
The Falcons Defense surprisingly came off their bye week and thwarted the Saints in Week 10, sacking Drew Brees six times and holding the Saints to just nine points. However, it was a rare gem in a season that's seen the team get lit up time and time again. In Week 11, the Falcons face the Panthers in Carolina. While the Falcons may be able to force one or two turnovers from Kyle Allen and company, they could very well get torched by Christian McCaffrey and see themselves allowing over 30 points in the game. Keep the Falcons defense on the waiver wire this week.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (hamstring) missed practice for the second straight day this week on Thursday and is on track to miss another game in Week 11 against the 49ers. Edmonds had some fleeting RB2 appeal when David Johnson (ankle, back) was sidelined, but that opportunity has dried up after the team traded for Kenyan Drake. Drake could be the leader in the backfield going forward as long as Johnson struggles with multiple injuries. The Cardinals have their bye coming up in Week 12, so Edmonds is droppable in almost all leagues if you're still holding onto him.
Detroit Lions running back Ty Johnson (concussion) returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. It's unclear if Johnson has passed the league's concussion protocol, but it's progress nonetheless and gives him a shot to play in Week 11 against the Cowboys. If he's active, expect the Lions to go with a three-headed monster in the backfield that will also include J.D. McKissic and Paul Perkins. Johnson has rushed 14 times for only 55 yards in the last two games, and he'd be a low-upside RB3/flex in deeper leagues if he's playing. McKissic would be on the streaming radar if Johnson is inactive, but this is a situation to avoid if you can, especially since it looks like quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) will miss another game.
Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Qadree Ollison should have an opportunity to receive his first NFL carry this week. The team will likely be without No. 1 running back Devonta Freeman (foot) for the game, making Brian Hill the next-man-up and Ollison his potential No. 2. Ollison is the biggest back amongst the Falcons' core rushers, standing 6'1" and weighing around 230 pounds. He could carve out a role as the team's short-yardage back. He should be on radars in all formats and is worthy of an add in leagues of 14 or more teams if you're thin at running back. He's too risky to consider starting this week as his workload is unknown and Hill is likely to shoulder a heavy load.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Jaeden Graham has an opportunity to carve out a short-term role in the offense this week with Austin Hooper (MCL) sidelined. The team may also be without Luke Stocker (knee), who is dealing with a knee injury. Graham has just two targets on the year and has caught both of them for a total of 32 yards. The Falcons have a prolific passing offense and Hooper established himself as one of the most consistent and reliable fantasy tight ends out there this year. Hooper could miss about a month, which opens up an opportunity for Graham to be a sneaky tight end option in the coming weeks. This week, however, he's too risky to trust as a starter.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy said that rookie running back David Montgomery (ankle) "lightly rolled" his ankle in practice on Wednesday. The Bears will keep an eye on him before the Week 11 matchup on Sunday night against the Rams. It's a situation to watch, and it could be troubling for fantasy owners with the game on Sunday night if Montgomery winds up being a game-time decision. The good news is that the rookie was limited in practice on Wednesday, so he should be able to play, barring a late-week setback. Montgomery hasn't been all that efficient in his first year, but his workload is building as the season goes on, making him a low-end RB2 despite the tough matchup. Tarik Cohen would be a must-start if Montgomery can't play.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) remained out of practice for the second straight day this week on Thursday. Stafford is headed towards his second straight missed game after not sitting out since 2010. His absence would be a downgrade for all of Detroit's skill players in a tough matchup against the Cowboys. Jeff Driskel didn't embarrass himself against a strong Bears Defense in Week 10, but he'd be a low-end QB2 if he's forced to make a second straight start. Stafford must at least get in a limited practice on Friday to have a chance at playing this weekend.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo had a flawless debut for the team in Week 10, converting all four of his field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder, and both of his extra-point attempts. The Falcons face the Panthers in a Week 11 game that should be high-scoring. Even though the Falcons will be without a few of their offensive weapons, they should still be able to put Koo in position for at least a few field goals in the game. He's a low-end starting option at kicker this week.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (foot) has been held out of practice this week and figures to be sidelined for Week 11 and potentially Week 12 as well. He is dealing with a foot injury that he suffered in Week 10 against the Saints. He is currently listed as doubtful for Week 11 against the Panthers. Freeman has had a bit of a rough year overall, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry. Most of the damage he's done has been in the passing game. The team also recently placed Ito Smith (neck) on IR, which leaves Brian Hill and Qadree Ollison as the Falcons' primary backs going into Week 11. Hill is a must-add in all fantasy formats while Ollison is worth watching and is even a potential add in deep leagues.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage has earned 14 targets over his last two games. While he hasn't done too much with them from a yardage standpoint, gaining only 81 total yards the past two games, his 11 catches over the past two games certainly inspire hope in PPR formats. To add to the attraction for Gage, the Falcons will be without Austin Hooper (MCL) in Week 11 and likely won't have running back Devonta Freeman (foot) as well. That opens up a lot of potential targets for Gage. Expect him to see six or seven targets in Week 11 against the Panthers, giving him a good chance to catch five passes, warranting a WR3 or flex start in PPR formats.
It's been a roller-coaster type of year for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley. He was rolling early in the season, but has gone without a touchdown in three straight games, and has failed to top 30 receiving yards in two of those three games. This week, Ridley and the Falcons face the Panthers. The team is going to be short-handed offensively with Austin Hooper (MCL) and Devonta Freeman (foot) sidelined. There's also a chance that quarterback Matt Ryan (ankle) misses the game. Ridley should have an opportunity to step up in the absence of Hooper and Freeman. Expect him to see at least six or seven targets from whoever is quarterback, giving him a good chance to come down with four or more catches and around 70 or 80 yards. He's a solid WR2 option this week.
Indianapolis Colts WR Devin Funchess (clavicle) has returned this week to put in limited work in practice, but isn't likely to play Sunday, Nov. 17. '(The) bone has gotta heal,' Funchess said Thursday, Nov. 14, of his broken collarbone suffered in the season opener.
Fantasy Spin: The Colts, with their banged-up WR corps, and some deeper-league fantasy owners could use Funchess right now, but don't expect him back for a couple of weeks by most indications.
Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) remained out of practice Thursday, Nov. 14, and it appears unlikely he will play Week 11 against the Denver Broncos.
Fantasy Spin: Thielen's chances of returning before the Vikings' Week 12 bye were essentially nixed when he tried to play but quickly re-aggravated things in Week 9, so don't expect to see Thielen until Week 13 at the earliest.