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.''
Carolina Panthers TE Greg Olsen (concussion) took part in individual drills Wednesday, Dec. 11, which was a moderate surprise to beat writer Joe Person.
Fantasy Spin: Olsen has a great matchup against the Seattle Seahawks this week if he's able to go. Olsen will be a low-end TE1 option in PPR leagues.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) said the team's playoff eligibility won't be a factor on if he returns this season. 'I would never quit on my team,' Hilton said. 'I signed up for 16 games. Some guys may shut it down and call it quits. I don't do that.'
Fantasy Spin: We still view him on the wrong side of questionable to return this season. If he's able to, he'd be a WR2 option. Zach Pascal should be a WR3 in the interim.
New York Giants TE Golden Tate (foot) was limited in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Tate had just one catch for 11 yards with Eli Manning last week, but he has a great matchup against the Miami Dolphins if he can go this week. He'd be a high-end WR3.
New York Giants TE Evan Engram (foot) was limited in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: He was limited in practice last week as well, and he didn't play. Rhett Ellison (concussion) was also limited, and this situation remains in flux. If Engram goes, he's a midrange TE1. If he doesn't, Kaden Smith could be worth streaming again.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is a floor-play only for a Week 15 contest against the Los Angeles Rams. Witten has seen plenty of targets lately, with seven in Week 14 and right in Week 13, but he's only come up with 11 catches for 79 yards total in both games. He's one of the least likely players in fantasy football to put up a goose egg in your lineup, but he's also very unlikely to put up a game-changing score, even in PPR. He's a tight end to play when you only need to reach a floor in your matchup, otherwise, even in a position as shallow as tight end, there are likely higher upside options on the waiver wire.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin is not a strong fantasy option for Week 15 despite a strong performance in Week 14. Jarwin caught six passes for 50 yards against the Bears last week, but it was the first time this season he'd even been targeted more than four times. He's likely to sink back into the two-or-three targets per game life this week against the Los Angeles Rams and makes for nothing more than a dart-throw tight end option.
Dallas Cowboys brand new kicker Kai Forbath is a decent option at kicker for Week 15 fantasy lineups. Forbath was signed to replace Brett Maher, who was released by the Cowboys earlier this week. Forbath has made just under 86 percent of his field goal tries in his career and made his only attempt this year as a member of the Patriots. He did miss one of his two extra points, though. Most leagues will have higher-upside guys available on the waiver wire, but Forbath is fine as a fill-in kicker if needed.
The Dallas Cowboys Defense is a middling option at best in a Week 15 game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys defense has been generally disappointing this season, and this week they take on a Rams offense that looked like it finally figured things out in Week 14. There are likely better options on the waiver wire in most leagues, especially given this week's matchups.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper is a solid choice in any Week 15 fantasy lineup. Cooper looked a bit slow in Week 14 due to his previous injuries, but he'll have had 10 days to heal up even more before the Cowboys take on the Rams on Sunday afternoon. With the Cowboys offense struggling somewhat of late and Jalen Ramsey likely attached to Cooper all day, Cooper's usual upside is a bit limited, making him more of a high-end WR2 this week.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup is a strong WR2 option for a Week 15 game against the Los Angeles Rams. With Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey likely shadowing Amari Cooper in this one, Gallup could be more of the first look for quarterback Dak Prescott than usual. Coming off a game in which he led the Cowboys in receiving with 109 yards, Gallup is a strong WR2 option with upside for Week 15.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Randall Cobb had a nice flash in the pan moment a few weeks ago, but it looks like he's settled back into fantasy irrelevance in most formats. Cobb saw at least seven targets for four games in a row from Week 9 to Week 12, but saw just eight balls thrown his way in Weeks 13 and 14 combined. That much smaller target share will likely continue in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Rams. Cobb is nothing more than a desperation dart-throw type wide receiver and is not a recommended starter in most formats.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is expected to play in Week 15 and has a decent matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Prescott suffered a sprained left hand and an injured index finger on his throwing hand in Week 14's Thursday night loss to the Chicago Bears. With 10 days to rest, Prescott should be good to go against the Rams. Still, he's been struggling along with the whole Dallas offense of late and a possible flare up of the injuries won't help. Prescott hasn't been great on the field lately, but he's still been producing solid fantasy numbers. He's a low-end QB1 for Week 15.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott should be a solid fantasy contributor in a Week 15 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Elliott scored twice in Week 14 despite the Cowboys inexplicably going away from the running game for long stretches. Hopefully, coach Jason Garrett feeds his star running back in this one. Elliott comes in as a top-half RB1 for this matchup.
Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Tony Pollard should return from an ankle injury that kept him out of Week 14, but shouldn't be in any fantasy lineups. Pollard will be strictly a backup to Ezekiel Elliott in what is expected to be a close game. Elliott should be on the field for almost every snap, leaving Pollard to only reach relevance if the starter were to get injured. Most leagues will have someone with a clearer path to touches on the waiver wire. Pollard remains no more than a handcuff for Elliott owners.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott is a decent kicking option in a Week 15 game against Washington. The Eagles shouldn't have too much difficulty scoring on a weak Washington defense, but Elliott does seem to be in a bit of a slump lately. After starting the season off with 12 perfect weeks without a missed field goal, Elliott has missed two of his last six tries. He's still a K1, and should be fine in a fantasy lineup this week.
The Philadelphia Eagles Defense have an excellent matchup in Week 15 against Washington. While the Eagles looked rough against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13 and came out slumping in the first half of Week 14 against the New York Giants, they were able to put it together and play well for the second half of Monday's win. The Eagles defense is a little risky because they have shown the capacity to fall apart against lesser competition, but the Washington offense is last in the NFL in scoring and allows the fifth most points to opposing fantasy defenses. The risk should be worth the reward this week.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert is a strong option for Week 15 fantasy lineups. Going up against an easy Washington defense, Goedert has the added benefit of working as one of the top receiving options for Carson Wentz. Dealing with a decimated wide receiver corps, the Eagles will almost certainly rely on their running backs and tight ends to move the ball in this matchup. Goedert could end up behind only Zach Ertz in passing game pecking order. He's a mid-range TE1 with touchdown upside.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. (groin) was limited in practice Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Fantasy Spin: OBJ has really struggled the last few weeks, but he's the kind of talent you need in there as at least a WR2 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward will play a significant role in Week 15's game against Washington. At the end of Monday night's overtime win against the New York Giants, Ward was literally the only healthy wide receiver left wearing an Eagles uniform. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (hamstring) is expected to be ready to go on Sunday, but he and Ward make up the entire Eagles wide receiving corps for now. Ward saw nine targets in Week 14 after seeing 10 total in the 13 weeks before. The Eagles will likely focus their passing game on their running backs and tight ends, but Ward could be a sneaky-good play this week, especially in DFS leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside should play a significant role in Week 15's game against Washington. With the Eagles wide receiver corps decimated, Arcega-Whiteside is one of only two healthy receivers left on the roster. He showed flashes of dominance in the preseason but has turned that into just eight catches for 130 yards and one touchdown this season. He came up limping with a hamstring injury at the end of Monday night's game, but he is reportedly "fine" and will be ready to go on Sunday. Arcega-Whiteside comes with some nice upside this week, but he has a very low floor, as the Eagles could just focus on running backs and tight ends in their passing game.