Wed Dec 11 4:50pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Chris Board, center, is helped after being injured during the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) walks off the field after the Jets beat the Miami Dolphins 22-21 in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) carries the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
New York Jets cornerback Nate Hairston (21) reacts with teammates after intercepting a pass intended for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns (17) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
BALTIMORE (AP) The Ravens have defeated several of the best teams in the NFL during their nine-game winning streak, so it would appear as if the New York Jets shouldn't pose much of a challenge Thursday night when Baltimore seeks to clinch its second straight AFC North title.
That's how the oddsmakers see it, anyway. The Ravens (11-2) are a two-touchdown favorite because, after all, they own the best record in the AFC and the Jets (5-8) haven't beat a team that currently owns a winning record.
Yet, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh isn't quite ready to distribute shirts and caps that read ''2019 AFC NORTH CHAMPIONS.'' As far as he's concerned, New York is every bit as dangerous as New England, Seattle, San Francisco and Buffalo - teams the Ravens defeated during their team-record nine-game run.
''They're playing great. They won four of the last five, that's the bottom line,'' Harbaugh said of the Jets. ''That's what we talked to the guys about. That's all you need to know. Watch the tape. They're playing winning football. We understand that. We know this league. Our guys don't take anybody for granted. You never can, you never should.''
The Ravens come in with the most prolific running attack in the NFL. Led by Lamar Jackson, who's only 23 yards short of setting the single-season record for yards rushing by a quarterback (1,039 by Michael Vick in 2006), Baltimore is grounding out an average of 200.9 yards per game.
The Jets are allowing only 75.6 yards rushing per outing, which might make things interesting.
''All helmets to the ball,'' Jackson said. ''It's going to be a physical game.''
Jackson is nursing a sore quadriceps, but New York's defense will nevertheless be pressed to keep up with the league's highest-scoring team.
''They're playing fast. They're playing aggressive,'' Jets coach Adam Gase said. ''They're full throttle, pedal to the medal the whole game.''
New York dropped from No. 1 to No. 2 in rushing defense after giving up 122 yards to Miami last Sunday, but the Jets have allowed a league-low 3.03 yards per carry. Their 98 tackles for no gain or negative yards - excluding kneeldowns - lead the NFL, according to Radar360.
The Jets have allowed only one individual 100-yard rusher all season: Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott in Week 6. But they'll have a tough task against Jackson, who's topped the 100-yard mark four times.
''He can make you miss in a phone booth,'' Gase said.
Ravens running back Mark Ingram also has four 100-yard games.
Former Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley probably had this game circled on his calendar during training camp. Mosley signed with the Jets as a free agent in March after spending five seasons with Baltimore, earning four Pro Bowl bids in the process.
Mosley won't be participating on Thursday night because he's on injured reserve with a groin injury. The 2014 first-round draft pick will not be missed by his former teammates.
''He's not playing, and that's good for us,'' cornerback Jimmy Smith said. ''He was a good player -- a great player -- for us, but stay on the sideline.''
Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and wide receiver Robby Anderson are establishing a solid connection late in the season for a second straight year.
Anderson has 18 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns in his past three games. That includes a seven-reception performance against Miami, during which he had 116 yards and a score.
Anderson finished last season with a flourish, too. He had 23 catches for 336 yards and three touchdowns in his last four games.
''Robby's always been a really good asset for us on offense,'' Darnold said. ''He's obviously super, super fast and sometimes teams struggle to guard him. He affects the game even when he's not having as many yards as he has been the last few weeks.''
Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley was listed as doubtful on Wednesday because of a concussion and could miss his first game of the season. James Hurst will take his place.
Baltimore will also be without special teams standout Chris Board (concussion), and leading receiver Mark Andrews (knee) is questionable.
The Jets will be without offensive lineman Chuma Edoga (knee), tight end Ryan Griffin (ankle), cornerback Brian Poole (concussion) and running back Bilal Powell (ankle/illness).
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee), cornerback Arthur Maulet (calf) and safety Jamal Adams (ankle) are doubtful.
The Jets have used five different starting combinations at cornerback and safety this season because of injuries and ineffectiveness by some players.
Adams sat out for the first time in his three-year NFL career last week, forcing the Jets to place cornerback Darryl Roberts at safety along with Marcus Maye.
Roberts might be needed at cornerback against Baltimore because of Kyron Brown - last Sunday's starter - is out for the year with a quadriceps injury and Maulet could be sidelined for a second straight game.
''The way we prepare throughout the week, we do a good job of cross-training at different spots,'' said Maye, the only member of the secondary to start every game. ''We come prepared.''
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.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Graham has back-to-back 49-year receiving performances, but those games came against teams that struggle to defend the tight end position. The 49ers are not one of those teams. They allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends all season and were the league's stingiest pass defense. Maybe Graham makes a play in the red zone. Still, he's a cheaper DFS play but by no means a comfortable one.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Geronimo Allison (illness) is trending in the right direction to play in the NFC Championship game this weekend against the San Francisco 49ers. Even if available, Allison isn't an option in any fantasy format. The 25-year-old hasn't caught more than four passes in a game this season. It sure doesn't seem like he'll eclipse that mark against the league's best defense with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (ankle) is currently questionable for the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. There's certainly a risk for injury, considering he re-aggravated the ankle in last week's playoff game. Still, it's hard to ignore the two-game stretch Lazard had to end the season, where he saw 17 targets. That alone makes him worth a gamble, particularly in a must-win game for a Packers team in desperate need of another threat at receiver. Just beware, the matchup isn't ideal. The 49ers allowed only 172 passing yards to the Vikings last week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams gets a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Adams produced only 43 receiving yards and a score against San Francisco in the regular season but still had 12 targets. The star receiver has seen double-digit targets in nine of 13 games played this year. There's not many receivers that you can virtually pencil in for double-digit targets- but Adams is one of them. If fellow receivers Geronimo Allison (illness) and Allen Lazard (ankle) suit up, they may be limited. Adams could be looking at more work than usual, even in a matchup this difficult.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense enter Championship weekend as the highest-priced fantasy defense. The Niners face the Green Bay Packers, who they demolished 37-8 in Week 12. In that previous contest, the Niners relentlessly harassed future Hall of Famer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, dropping him five times and forcing a fumble. The Packers were a meager one for 15 on third down conversions. The 49ers will need to follow that blueprint again in the critical NFC Championship to emerge victorious. With a higher-intensity contest expected, it could be difficult to splurge on a defense in fantasy compared to other addressable positions.
San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders both offer solid fantasy value in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Both players were limited to under 45 yards apiece in last weekends Divisional Round blowout but were featured early on when the game was still in question. The rookie Samuel has emerged as a consistent dual threat in the latter half of 2019 and is likelier the safer floor. Sanders, the savvy vet has proven himself as a reliable chain-mover with big-play potential. Against the Packers 10th-best pass defense by DVOA, either option seem primed to pop in Sundays winner-take-all battle.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams will face off with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. Williams has been playing second fiddle to Aaron Jones quite a lot recently, as he hasn't seen double-digit carries since Week 13 against the Giants. It's worth noting that Williams played a large role in the regular-season game against the 49ers, which saw him rack up 18 touches. Green Bay very well could utilize Williams in spurts to keep San Francisco guessing, though his recent downtrend in usage makes him hard to trust.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is a reasonable DFS bet for Sundays NFC Championship matchup against the Green Bay Packers. Priced as the third-best quarterback, Jimmy G squares off against a strong Packers defensive line that ranked 12th-best in adjusted sack rate during the regular season. Garoppolo was not pressed into service in the Divisional Round blowout win, but will likely be tasked with a tougher test on Sunday. While the Niners have mostly ridden its dominant running game throughout the year, Garoppolo has answered the bell in multiple occasions with three four-touchdown games. With dangerous weapons surrounding him, Garoppolo shouldnt be ruled out in the biggest game of his career to-date.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game this weekend. The 49ers Defense held Jones to just 38 rushing yards in their regular-season meeting. However, the star back has been playing some seriously good football in his last five games, with 501 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns. He's also had 20-plus carries in three straight contests. Expect Green Bay to utilize Jones early and often in screens and runs to combat the 49ers mighty pass rush. Even if Jones doesn't pile up over 100 yards, his propensity to find the end zone and role in the passing game make him a safer play this weekend.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take on the San Francisco 49ers this weekend with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. The 49ers Defense held Rodgers to just 104 passing yards and one touchdown in their regular-season meeting. However, there are a couple things that are different ahead of this matchup. First, tackle Bryan Bulaga will play in this game after being injured in the first quarter against the 49ers previously. Rodgers should have better protection than he had when these teams met. Secondly, Rodgers himself is playing better football than he was during the regular season before this matchup. He has 566 passing yards and four touchdowns in his last two contests. There is also the added motivation of denying a Super Bowl berth to the team that could have drafted him. Play Rodgers on Sunday, despite the tough matchup.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is worth a gamble for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Bourne scored the only receiving touchdown for the Niners in the Divisional Round, adding to his 2019 resume as a legitimate red-zone threat. The third-year pro has just 33 catches this year, including the playoffs, but collected six scores. Despite his risks as a zero-floor fantasy option, Bourne has emerged as a trustworthy target in clutch situations.
San Francisco 49ers running backs Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert are both bankable DFS options in Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. The two backs combined for 163 rushing yards in the Divisional Round, with Coleman riding a hot hand to two touchdowns. Considered a backup for the latter half of the regular season, Coleman played 46 percent of snaps last Sunday compared to Mosterts 34 percent. While the touch forecast for either back is cloudy, the Niners draw one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. The Packers ranked 23rd in rushing DVOA during the regular season with the second-worst defensive line in the league, yielding 4.96 adjusted yards per carry. With a likely floor of 10 touches for each Coleman and Mostert, both runners have great opportunities to make a splash.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in Thursdays practice and should be fine for Sundays NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. Kittle scared Niner Nation with soreness on the left ankle he chipped earlier this year, but confirms he feels fabulous. Kittle factored more as a blocker in last Sundays Divisional Round blowout but the Niners passed just 19 times. The All-Pro is an integral piece in all facets of the offense so is worth his premium TE1 price in DFS on Sunday.
Detroit Lions WR Danny Amendola is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but he's a 'prime candidate' to be re-signed, in the opinion of The Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett.
Free-agent WR Antonio Callaway (Browns) signed with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL Thursday, Jan. 16.
Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy (illness) remained out of practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: McCoy played just one offensive snap in last week's Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans. He's clearly behind RB Damien Williams and is no longer worth starting.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Moore (illness) and DT Chris Jones (calf) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. DT Khalen Saunders (knee), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder), CB Kendall Fuller (knee), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (neck), C Austin Reiter (wrist) and G Andrew Wylie (ankle) practiced in full.
Green Bay Packers DL Kenny Clark (back), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (knee) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OL Billy Turner (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited at practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce earned a light practice week while catching 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He's the week's top tight end option once against this week so long as he takes the field.