Green Bay Packers' Ibraheim Campbell forces a fumble by Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. McCaffrey recovered his own fumble. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams catches a pass in front of Carolina Panthers' Donte Jackson during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey runs during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill (23) carries on a touchdown reception in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a touchdown pass to running back Brian Hill, not pictured, in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) carries against New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (99) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes under pressure in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) reacts with linebacker Brian Burns (53) and defensive tackle Vernon Butler (92) after recovering a fumble during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Matt Ryan is coming to town, which tends to mean trouble for the Carolina Panthers.
The Falcons quarterback has dominated the rival Panthers of late, going 6-1 in his past seven starts while averaging 318 yards passing with 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
Ryan is 14-8 against Carolina.
So, while much of the attention this week has been on Carolina's porous run defense - they've allowed opponents to run for a combined 516 yards and 10 touchdowns in the past three games - defensive coordinator Eric Washington knows the Panthers can't forget about old No. 2 and his favorite target Julio Jones.
''We know what he's capable of and they have explosive talent at the wide receiver position,'' Washington said of Ryan. ''So we need to make sure we do a good job of getting him in third down situations they don't want to be in. And we have to be really efficient with our pass rush. The ball tends to come out fast on third-and-medium.''
That won't be easy.
Carolina's top cornerback James Bradberry is coming back from a groin injury this week, but the team's second- and third-best cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Ross Cockrell missed the first two days of practice this week with injuries and may not play. That means the Panthers (5-4) could have to lean on young players such as Javien Elliott, Cole Luke and Corn Elder, who was re-signed earlier this week because of injury concerns.
The Falcons (2-7) may not be contending for a playoff spot, but showed last Sunday they still have plenty of life - and firepower - by throttling the Saints 26-9
NEW LOOK AT RUNNING BACK
If Devonta Freeman is held out with a sprained foot, as expected, the Falcons will have a new look at running back. The position was considered to be the team's deepest spot before Ito Smith was placed on injured reserve last week following a concussion and a neck injury.
Brian Hill played well behind Freeman last week and is expected to start. Former Panthers backup Kenjon Barner would be the top backup and Qadree Ollison, who was active for the first time against the Saints, could play a bigger role. Notably, Barner was used in the wildcat formation, filling the role formerly held by Mohamed Sanu before the receiver was traded to New England. There could be more direct snaps for Barner against the Panthers.
NEW KICKER IS A KEEPER
The Falcons may have found their kicker, at least for the remainder of the season, in Younghoe Koo. Koo made four field goals, including a career-long 48-yarder, in last week's win at New Orleans in his Falcons debut. Koo was signed after veteran Matt Bryant's second stint with the team didn't go well and Giorgio Tavecchio couldn't hold the job.
Koo was the NFC special teams player of the week following his successful debut. He made three of six field-goal attempts with the Chargers in 2017 and kicked for the Atlanta Legends of the short-lived Alliance of American Football earlier this year. Koo, from South Korea, played for Georgia Southern.
The Panthers drafted Greg Little in the second round earlier this year to be their left tackle, but two concussions have limited him to two games and one start this season.
However, Little has now been cleared from the concussion protocol and is expected to start Sunday at left tackle with Dennis Daley sitting bothered by a groin injury. The Panthers have won both games that Little has played this season.
Before last week's game, Atlanta ranked last in the league with only seven sacks. Suddenly the Falcons rediscovered their pass rush with six sacks against the Saints, including 2 1/2 by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Vic Beasley Jr., who has been unable to duplicate his 2016 production, when he led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks, added 1 1/2 sacks.
''To me, it was just a good example to show what we're capable of,'' Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. ''If we apply those things time after time, those are the results that we hope to get.''
MORE OF MOORE
The Panthers are getting more production of late out of second-year wide receiver D.J. Moore, who is coming off back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time in his career. Moore had seven catches for 101 yards against the Titans two weeks ago and followed that up with a nine-catch, 120-yard performance last week against the Packers. Moore is leading the Panthers in receptions (54) and yards receiving (684). The next goal for him is getting into the end zone - he only has one TD catch.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams has disappointed fantasy owners so far in the second half of the season. He's been held to under 50 receiving yards in five of his last six games, and hasn't eclipsed triple-digits since Week 1. Williams has also gone six straight games without a touchdown, making him hard to trust versus the Jaguars this week. The Jacksonville defense has allowed the 13th fewest points to the position this season and has notably been burned on the ground in recent weeks. The Raiders will undoubtedly keep their run-first mentality, creating even less volume for the team's pass-catchers. Williams is a TD-dependant WR4 for Week 15, and shouldn't be trusted for the fantasy playoffs.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller has put together back-to-back productive games after a disappointing month and a half. He's caught 13 of 15 targets for 172 yards in the two-game sample, proving to be the only fantasy relevant pass-catcher on the offense. The Jaguars are a middle of the pack defense versus the position, but did give up two touchdowns to the Chargers last week. The Raiders, however, are expected to attack on the ground and play with a comfortable lead for the final home game ever in Oakland. This could affect Waller's volume, but his high-target share keeps him in the TE1 discussion.
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will take the field for the final time in front of the hometown Oakland fans this Sunday versus the Jaguars. Emotions will be running high with an electric stadium expected, but Carr shouldn't be trusted for your fantasy playoffs. His matchup is on the favorable side, but the offense funnels through the run game, which makes it difficult for the 28-year-old to receive enough opportunities to be trusted. The Raiders are also 6.5 favorites against the worst-run defense over the last four weeks, so expect the Raiders could run away with this one. The stars are aligning for a low-volume game for Carr, making him a desperation QB2 for Week 15.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (quadriceps) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Jackson has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL all season and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
San Francisco 49ers DT D.J. Jones (ankle) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Thursday, Dec. 12.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews (knee) is officially active for the team's Week 15 game.
Fantasy Spin: Andrews suffered the injury last week but likely will receive his normal workload in Week 15. He should be a starting option in all leagues this week.
The New York Jets have declared DL Quinnen Williams, OL Chuma Edoga, RB Bilal Powell, CB Brian Poole, WR Demaryius Thomas, S Jamal Adams and CB Arthur Maulet inactive for Week 15.
New York Jets WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring, knee) was declared inactive against the Baltimore Ravens Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Thomas scored his first touchdown of the season last week, but he isn't a safe enough option to be a consideration during the fantasy playoffs, even if he's able to return for Week 16.
The Baltimore Ravens have declared WR Jaleel Scott, CB Anthony Averett, OT Ronnie Stanley, OG Ben Powers, DL Justin Ellis, QB Trace McSorley and DB Chris Board inactive for Week 15.
Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (pectoral, thigh) and LB Leighton Vander Esch (neck) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 12. DT Antwaun Woods (knee), G Zack Martin (elbow, ankle), P Chris Jones (abdomen), CB Byron Jones (hip), OT La'el Collins (knee) and DL Michael Bennett (foot) were limited. S Jeff Heath (shoulder), RB Tony Pollard (ankle), OT Tyron Smith (Achilles) and S Darian Thompson (biceps) participated in full.
San Francisco 49ers TE Garrett Celek (back), DL Dee Ford (quad, hamstring), DL D.J. Jones (ankle), CB Richard Sherman (hamstring), S Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), DT Jullian Taylor (elbow) and CB K'Waun Williams (concussion) didn't practice Thursday, Dec. 12. WR Dante Pettis (knee) was a full participant.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury) fully participated in practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzgerald has been a solid option in the passing game over the last month and should see a handful of targets this week. He could be a possible flex option in deeper leagues.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (hand) remained a full participant in practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Prescott should be good to go for the game Sunday, Dec. 15, against the Los Angeles Rams. He's a mid-tier QB1 against the Rams.
Dallas Cowboys WR Amari Cooper (knee) participated in full at practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Cooper will likely face the defensive coverage of Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey, and we've already seen him completely shut down by a top corner in New England Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore earlier this season. Fantasy managers should expect a below-average performance.
Buffalo Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury), RB Frank Gore (illness), DE Jerry Hughes (non-injury) and OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 12. DT Corey Liuget (knee) and DT Jordan Phillips (knee) were limited during practice.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) was limited during practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Landry has been a consistent option for fantasy players this season and will continue to receive plenty of targets in the passing game. He should be at least a No. 3 receiver this week.
Los Angeles Chargers LB Thomas Davis Sr. (non-injury) didn't practice Thursday, Dec. 12. LB Uchenna Nwosu (ankle) was limited. LB Drue Tranquill (elbow) practiced in full.
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku (knee) fully participated in practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Njoku will have a favorable matchup this week against the Arizona Cardinals and can be a low-end No. 1 tight end in fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (ankle) was limited during practice Thursday, Dec. 12.
Fantasy Spin: Kirk should have a decent chance to play in the Week 15 game, but fantasy players should keep an eye on the situation over the next few days. He can be a No. 3 receiver or flex option in leagues if he plays.
San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Deebo Samuel has lived up to his second-round billing in recent weeks and remains a steady WR3 in Week 15 against the Atlanta Falcons. Over his last five contests, Samuel has either surpassed 100 scrimmage yards or scored a touchdown, becoming an instrumental piece of the offense. Even with veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders reassuming No. 1 receiver status, Samuel has continued finding ways to make an impact. Against an Atlanta Falcons Defense ranked 26th in DVOA, there should be ample opportunities for all Niners playmakers.