Sun Nov 10 8:21pm ET
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, left, celebrates with Mark Barron (26) after Fitzpatricks touchdown following the recovery of a fumble by Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) celebrates his touchdown catch with Diontae Johnson (18) during the first half of an NFL football game against the LoLos Angeles Rams in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington, right, celebrates his touchdown catch with Diontae Johnson (18) during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) is hit by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward (97) after getting off a pass during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Los Angeles Rams defensive end Dante Fowler (56) celebrates his touchdown on a fumble recovery during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH (AP) The Steelers defense spoiled Aaron Donald's homecoming and derailed the Los Angeles Rams' momentum in the process.
The Steelers forced four turnovers - including a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick - in an ugly 17-12 victory on Sunday that pushed their winning streak to four games and dealt the Rams' chances of chasing down Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West a serious blow.
Donald, a Pittsburgh native, sacked the Steelers' Mason Rudolph for a safety in his first appearance in his hometown since the Rams took him in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Linebacker Dante Fowler scored Los Angeles' lone touchdown on a 25-yard fumble return on the second snap of the game. But the Rams' offense did little against a Steelers defense that has become the team's identity after losing Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending right elbow injury in Week 2.
Jared Goff completed 22 of 40 passes for 243 yards, none of them to leading receiver Cooper Kupp. The Rams (5-4) converted just 1 of 14 third downs and came up empty on a pair of last-gasp drives in the final two minutes. Goff's fourth-down heave to the end zone intended for Josh Reynolds fell incomplete with 1:25 to go. Los Angeles got the ball back with 59 seconds to play but Goff's pass to Robert Woods was tipped.
Fitzpatrick ran underneath it for the game-sealing interception and seventh takeaway since the Steelers acquired him from Miami in September for a 2020 first-round pick.
At the moment, it looks like draft capital well spent.
Rudolph completed 22 of 38 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown, stats that would have been considerably better if not for a handful of drops that prevented the Steelers (5-4) from gaining any sort of traction for long stretches.
Rudolph became the ninth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw a touchdown in each of his first seven games when he found James Washington for a 3-yard score in the first quarter, but the Steelers once again relied on their defense to move over .500 for the first time this season.
The Steelers managed just 15 turnovers in 2018. They have produced 26 through nine games in 2019, helping them stay afloat following a 1-4 start while Rudolph and the offense searches for solid footing.
WHAT THE HEKKER?
Los Angeles coach Sean McVay is known for his innovative thinking, but his aggressiveness nearly cost the Rams in the third quarter. Los Angeles was facing fourth-and-1 at Rams 29 trailing 14-7.
The Rams lined up to punt before fanning out, with Hekker moving up into the shotgun formation. Hekker, who had a 23-yard completion earlier in the season and came in 12 of 20 for 179 yards with a touchdown in his career, was hit as he threw and the pass was picked off by Pittsburgh's Trey Edmunds, a running back by trade.
The Steelers, however, were unable to take advantage of the great field position. A penalty, a sack and a dropped pass pushed Pittsburgh out of field-goal range.
Rams: Center Brian Allen left in the first quarter with a knee issue and did not return. DB Darious Williams left with an ankle problem.
Steelers: Wide receiver Ryan Switzer left in the fourth quarter with a back injury.
Rams: Host the Chicago Bears (4-5) next Sunday night.
Steelers: Travel to Cleveland to play the Browns (3-6) on Thursday. Pittsburgh is 7-0-1 in its past eight meetings with Cleveland.
Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. There's still a chance that Mattison can play in Week 15 against the Chargers, but nothing is guaranteed. With Dalvin Cook (chest) seeing a full workload against the Lions last Sunday, Mattison would be nothing more than a little-used backup against the Bolts this weekend if he's active. Mattison has been impressive when on the field, but he just doesn't see enough volume behind Cook to have standalone value. Ameer Abdullah and Michael Boone are behind Mattison on the running back depth chart in Minnesota.
Washington Redskins WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Richardson has missed the last few games but appears to have a chance to play in Week 15. He would see a handful of targets if he active for the game but can be avoided in most leagues.
Washington Redskins RB Adrian Peterson (toe) fully participated in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Peterson will receive a majority of the carries with Derrius Guice out for the season and was productive in the role earlier this season. He can be a No. 2 running back or flex option in fantasy leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Jordan Howard (shoulder) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Howard still has not been cleared for contact, so his status for Week 15 is uncertain. Fantasy players should know more later in the week but will need other options available in case Howard misses another game.
Philadelphia Eagles WR Nelson Agholor (knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Agholor was not able to play last week and appears to be questionable for Week 15. He would have a favorable matchup if he plays, but fantasy players may want to consider other options for their lineups.
Philadelphia Eagles DE Derek Barnett (ankle), WR Alshon Jeffery (foot) and OT Lane Johnson (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. CB Jalen Mills (elbow) was limited during practice, while LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (concussion) fully participated in practice.
The New Orleans Saints officially placed defensive end Marcus Davenport (Achilles) and defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (ankle) on season-ending Injured Reserve on Wednesday. The combination of losing both defensive linemen is a pretty big blow to this Saints Defense to close out the year. Davenport, a first-round pick in 2018, had 31 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles in his 13 games, while Rankins, a first-rounder in 2016, had 10 tackles and two sacks in his 10 games in 2019. New Orleans' defense will be a low-tier fantasy play on Monday night in Week 15 against the fading and injured Colts offense in the superdome in a bounce-back game.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller (hamstring) was limited in practice on Wednesday after being inactive in the Week 15 loss to the Broncos. Fuller could be a game-time decision this Sunday against the Titans. If he sits out a second straight game, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee would have bigger roles alongside top wideout DeAndre Hopkins. If Fuller returns to action on Sunday, fantasy owners should consider the speedy deep threat as a boom-or-bust WR2 commodity as the Texans look to bounce back from a frustrating loss.
Houston Texans OT Chris Clark (hip), CB Gareon Conley (hip), RB Taiwan Jones (hamstring), LB Brennan Scarlett (Achilles, shoulder) and DE Carlos Watkins (hamstring) were limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (knee) was limited in practice on Wednesday. Njoku returned in Week 14 from a wrist injury that landed him on Injured Reserve after Week 2, and he played limited snaps on his way to just one catch for four yards in the win over the Bengals. The 23-year-old should be fine to play this weekend against the Cardinals. Arizona has been atrocious against opposing tight ends, but even so, Njoku is a boom/bust TE1/2 for fantasy owners feeling lucky in the second round of the fantasy playoffs.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (knee) and tight end Jimmy Graham (wrist) were limited participants in Wednesday's practice. Graham was limited last week but was able to play against the Redskins, so he should suit up this week barring a setback. Allison, on the other hand, is a new addition to the report and will have to prove he's healthy in the final two sessions. If healthy, both would be shaky starts in Week 15 against the Chicago Bears.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald (concussion) and running back Jaylen Samuels (groin) both were missing from practice on Wednesday. Not only is McDonald questionable for Week 15 against the Bills on Sunday night, but he hasn't cleared 50 yards the entire season and has only three touchdowns. He has just five catches for 25 yards in the last three games combined. Even if he's active, he can't be trusted in fantasy lineups in a very difficult draw in Buffalo. Nick Vannett would be a desperation TE2 if McDonald is inactive. Samuels is basically useless in fantasy with James Conner (shoulder) expected to return this Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (knee, thumb) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Winston is expected to play this week despite the thumb injury, but fantasy players should check on his status later in the week. He is a risky option in fantasy leagues because of his interceptions but could still be a low-end No. 1 quarterback in some leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Demar Dotson (non-injury), WR Mike Evans (hamstring), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) and OT Donovan Smith (ankle, knee) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11. OG Alex Cappa (elbow), WR Scott Miller (hamstring) and LB Anthony Nelson (hamstring) were limited during practice.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) was limited during practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller was not able to play last week, and his status for Week 15 is uncertain. Fantasy players should monitor his progress this week but may want to look for other options to use in their lineups.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett (knee) is considered "day-to-day" by head coach Sean McVay. "His knee is making progress, but not ready to get out there and practice with us yet." Everett has essentially been day-to-day since suffering the injury in Week 13. He's missed the last two games as a result and cannot be trusted for fantasy lineups in Week 15 against the Panthers. Starting the week off with another missed practice is a bad sign. Tyler Higbee has gone for 14 catches (19 targets) for 223 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks against the Cardinals and Seahawks with Everett sidelined. Higbee will keep his TE1 status in the fantasy playoffs if Everett remains out.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday. Howard has been close to playing for weeks it seems, but he has yet to be cleared and hasn't seen the field since Nov. 3 against the Bears. If he does return in Week 15 against the Redskins, he could have his workload monitored and limited because of the long layoff, making him more of a risky RB2/3. Rookie Miles Sanders has been the workhorse in Philly's backfield with Howard sidelined, and he'll maintain RB2 upside in a solid matchup this Sunday if Howard misses another game.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews has been listed as questionable with a minor knee injury, but is expected to play Thursday Night against the Jets. Andrews was only able to record one catch on three targets for 14 yards before exiting the game in Sunday's Week 14 win over the Buffalo Bills. It's a possibility that Baltimore could sit Andrews to preserve his health as the Ravens make a push for first place. He was limited in practice Tuesday and Wednesday, but has been limited in practice for much of the season and has still played in every game. Through Week 14 of the season, Andrews leads the Ravens in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. If Andrews is on the field he should be in your starting lineups against the Jets in Week 15.
Arizona Cardinals wide receivers Christian Kirk (ankle) and Andy Isabella (shoulder) were both limited in practice on Wednesday. Both players should be on track to play in Week 15 against the Browns, but we'll keep an eye on their status the rest of the week. Kirk had eight catches on nine targets for 85 yards in the loss to the Steelers last week. He'll be an upside WR2 if he's able to play this weekend against Cleveland alongside Larry Fitzgerald. Other than his 88-yard touchdown catch on Halloween against the 49ers, Isabella has done very little (8-185-1) in his rookie season. He's purely a dynasty stash for his long-term upside.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was officially listed as questionable with a quadriceps injury for Week 15 but confidently confirmed Tuesday that he would start against the Jets on Thursday night. The Ravens face a Jets Defense that conceded 245 passing yards and 65 rushing yards from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 14, but did not allow the Dolphins to find the end zone. The Jets defense has allowed 21 total touchdowns and an average of 19 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2019. At this point in the season, it's not looking like any team will be able to stop the Lamar Jackson train. Jackson could produce high-ceiling numbers in the best matchup he's had in weeks. It would be wise to throw him in your starting lineups in a game where he will likely break Michael Vick's single-season rushing record for a quarterback.