Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff calls signals during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) takes a snap during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throws against the Detroit Lions during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) avoids a tackle byf Detroit Lions defensive end Trey Flowers (90) during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
LOS ANGELES (AP) Even Sean McVay realizes there’s a strong argument to be made that the Chicago Bears ended the Los Angeles Rams’ two seasons of offensive brilliance with their 15-6 victory at Soldier Field last season.
McVay, Jared Goff and the Rams (5-4) get a chance to reply when the Bears (4-5) visit the Coliseum on Sunday night in a game that could wreck the loser’s realistic playoff hopes.
That loss on a chilly, biting night last December still stings for McVay and Goff, who threw a career-high four interceptions while the Rams were held without a touchdown for the first time in McVay’s tenure.
“They were a great defense, period,” McVay said. “They still are a great defense, but they did do some different things schematically that - I don’t run away from the fact that I didn’t handle that night well at all.”
Los Angeles was 11-1 and cruising through a season that would bend with a Super Bowl trip, but Vic Fangio’s defense reduced McVay’s offense to a wan shadow of its usual self. Todd Gurley produced only 28 yards rushing, Goff went 20 of 44 for 180 yards, and the Rams managed only 214 yards - less than half of their season average.
Fangio largely did it with a deceptively simple 6-1 alignment: Six defenders right at the line of scrimmage, with one linebacker just behind them looking to snuff out the run game. When Gurley couldn’t move the ball on the ground against that setup, the Rams’ play-action strategies were largely useless - and then Goff made mistakes.
“All of these teams, at some point, you hit some patches where you have to figure some things out and re-adjust and all that,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said of the Rams’ struggles in Chicago last season. “We’re going through that right now offensively.”
Other teams copied the Bears’ strategy, and New England played its version to perfection while holding the Rams to three points in the Super Bowl. But with Gurley still largely ineffective this season, opponents haven’t even needed the strategy to beat the Rams lately.
“I wouldn’t say what they did has shown up a lot,” Goff said, recalling the Bears’ setup. “It’s something that teams have tried, and we’ve beat it at times, and we haven’t at times. It’s definitely part of a scheme that people have played not only to us, but across the league. Nothing too crazy. Pretty simple. We’ll be ready if they do it again.”
Chuck Pagano runs the Bears’ defense now, and it has scarcely lost a step statistically despite Chicago’s overall struggles.
The Rams’ offense is a shadow of its former self, sitting in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories and coming off an inept performance at Pittsburgh in which it scored only three of Los Angeles’ 12 points.
The Bears’ biggest concern this time around likely should be Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense, which has been on a roll since the week before it acquired shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey from Jacksonville.
“Really good defense,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “I think it starts up front for them. They’ve got obviously really talented players in Donald, and they do a lot of stuff up front with twists and getting pressure. Last year, they kind of zoned us out and tried to keep everything in front and take away our big plays.”
Here are more things to know about the prime-time showdown between 2018 division winners:
Allen Robinson figures he’s in for a physical confrontation and plenty of trash talk from Ramsey.
The Bears’ leading receiver and Rams’ brash star cornerback figure to be matched against each other just like old times, when they would go at it in practice as teammates in Jacksonville for two seasons. Robinson was three years into his career when the Jaguars drafted Ramsey with the No. 5 overall pick in 2016, and the rookie went at him right away.
“It’s gonna be physical, it’s gonna be competitive, it’s gonna be fun,” Robinson said. “I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Robinson signed with Chicago last year, while Ramsey forced a trade to Los Angeles last month. But during their time together, Robinson heard plenty from him.
“I talk, he talks, so it’ll be fun,” Robinson said.
Khalil Mack will be lining up against a Rams offensive line with four of the five starters in unfamiliar positions. Los Angeles lost center Brian Allen and right tackle Rob Havenstein to injuries last week, so guard Austin Blythe moves to center and untested youngsters David Edwards, Austin Corbett and Bobby Evans likely join the starting lineup. The Rams’ line struggled against Pittsburgh even before the injuries, so McVay is scheming to help his profoundly inexperienced unit - but Mack still could be in for a feast.
WORK IN PROGRESS
The Bears got the win they needed last week against Detroit, ending a four-game skid with Trubisky throwing three TD passes to match his season high. But the defending NFC North champions still have plenty of room to improve. Though they scored on three consecutive possessions in the second and third quarters, the offense went long stretches without moving the ball.
The defense held Detroit to 98 yards rushing on 27 attempts, but the Bears lost linebacker Danny Trevathan to a left elbow injury, and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is on injured reserve with an elbow injury, leaving Chicago without two disruptive players inside against Los Angeles.
McVay is still disappointed after leading receiver Cooper Kupp was held without a catch last week. The Steelers felt free to double-team Kupp more frequently with Brandin Cooks sidelined by a concussion, and Cooks is out again this week. Goff and McVay both believe their offense needs the ball in Kupp’s hands to reach its potential.
Washington Redskins quarterback Dwayne Haskins completed 19 of 28 throws for 261 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's loss to the Eagles. For the first time in more than a month, Haskins completed over 60% of his passes. Sunday also marked a career-high for passing yards and was the second time the rookie threw multiple touchdowns. An otherwise mistake-free outing was upended on the last play of the game, when Haskins fumbled to give the Eagles a defensive touchdown. By and large, Haskins took a major step in the right direction with his Week 15 effort in a divisional game. We're looking for building blocks that may translate into a prominent fantasy status in 2020, and games like these help set the table for that possibility.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel earned three targets against the Falcons in Week 15 and managed just one catch for 29 yards. He also had an eight-yard rush in the game. Samuel had been on a hot streak coming into this game with either five-or-more catches or a touchdown in five straight games. Despite a favorable matchup against the Falcons, the 49ers offense struggled as a whole in this game. Samuel and the 49ers will look to get back on track against the Rams in Week 16.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was held to just two catches for nine yards on four targets in Week 15 against the Falcons. Sanders was coming off of a remarkable 157-yard performance against the Saints in Week 14, so it was surprising to see him struggle to make his mark against a very generous Falcons pass defense. Fellow wide receiver Deebo Samuel only had one catch in this game and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo only threw for 200 yards, so it was a rough day for the 49ers offense as a whole. Sanders will look to bounce back against the Rams in Week 16.
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida had a rough game against the Falcons in Week 15. He fumbled twice, though only one was recovered by the Falcons. He had four carries in the game and managed just 11 yards and he caught both of his targets in the passing game for six yards. Raheem Mostert was the focal point of the 49ers' run game again this week. Mostert had 14 carries in the game. Breida was equalled in carries by Tevin Coleman, though Coleman outperformed him, gaining 40 yards on his four carries thanks to a 37-yard rush.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman rushed the ball four times for 40 yards in Week 15 against the Falcons. He had a 37-yard rush that was the team's biggest play from scrimmage on the day. This was the third straight game in which Coleman was held to five-or-fewer carries. Raheem Mostert has taken over as the No. 1 running back in San Francisco and he had 14 carries in this game. Coleman, meanwhile, is sharing No. 2 back duties with Matt Breida, though Coleman outperformed Breida in this game. Coleman is a drop candidate in any season-long league that ends in Week 16.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle had a monstrous game in Week 15 against the Falcons. He caught 13 of his 17 targets for a season-high 134 yards, his third 100-yard game of the year. This was the first time all year that Kittle had earned over 10 targets and also the first time that he'd had double-digit receptions. Kittle is a stud and an absolute must-start tight end. He'll look to stay hot as the team takes on the Rams in Week 16.
Chicago Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky completed 29-of-53 passes for 334 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in Week 15 against the Green Bay Packers. He also ran for 29 yards.
Fantasy Spin: The Bears managed to do a little better offensively than Week 1 against the Packers, but they were still lacking. Trubisky remains more of a QB2 in most fantasy leagues heading into Week 16 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't able to take advantage of a favorable home matchup against the Falcons in Week 15. He completed 22-of-34 passes for 200 yards and just one touchdown in the game. He didn't have any turnovers in the game, which makes his fantasy line passable, but the potential was there for a big, big game and Garoppolo wasn't able to deliver. He'll look to bounce back and get the team back in the win column against the Rams in Week 16.
San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert was the focus of the team's running game once again in Week 15 against the 49ers. He had a team-high 14 carries and rushed for 54 yards and a touchdown. He also added a five-yard reception and he lost a fumble. Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida had four carries each, so it's rather clear that Mostert is the guy to own in San Francisco right now. He figures to be an RB2 going forward. His next matchup is against the Rams in Week 16.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller caught eight of 10 targets for 122 yards in the team's 20-16 home loss to the Jaguars on Sunday. The 26-year-old dominated looks from Derek Carr once again, with five players finishing with three targets for the next most volume on the team. Waller now has 1,001 yards on 80 receptions during his breakout campaign, but has only found the end zone three times. His high-volume usage keeps him planted as a TE1, and should be treated as much versus the Chargers in Week 16.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper had a disappointing showing in Week 15 against the 49ers. He was targeted six times in the game, but wound up with just three catches for 20 yards. The Falcons leaned heavily on Julio Jones in this game. Jones was targeted 20 times and accounted for 134 of the team's 210 air yards. With Calvin Ridley (abdominal) out for the rest of the year, Hooper should have at least around six targets per game going forward and more often than not, he'll deliver solid starting tight end numbers with that target share. He'll look to bounce back against the Jaguars in Week 16.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo only had one field goal attempt against the 49ers in Week 15, but he was able to connect on it. He hit a 43-yard field goal and he was also 2-for-2 on extra-point attempts. Koo is now 17-of-19 on field goals with the Falcons this year. He's a solid starting kicker option. He'd earned at least three field goal attempts in all of his previous five games this year.
The Green Bay Packers Defense posted three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears. It was a strong performance in which they only allowed 13 points. The highlight of the day for Green Bay was an interception by 6-foot-6, 296-pound defensive lineman Dean Lowry. Green Bay will look to put up another solid stat line against the Minnesota Vikings next week.
The Falcons Defense was able to come through with a solid performance despite being in a tough spot on the road against the 49ers in Week 15. They recovered two fumbles in the game and held the 49ers to 22 points. The 49ers had scored over 35 points in three of their previous four games coming into this week. On the whole, the Falcons defense has had a rough year, but they've shown a few glimpses of hope here and there. They'll look to build off this solid performance against the Jaguars in Week 16.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill rushed the ball just one time for 16 yards against the 49ers in Week 15. It was a surprisingly low workload for Hill after he'd earned nine carries the previous week. The team didn't run the ball a ton in Week 15. Devonta Freeman led the way with 12 carries for 39 yards and Qadree Ollison had a one-yard touchdown run on his only carry. Hill isn't worth starting or even owning in most leagues as Freeman is the clear No. 1 back in this offense.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams broke his six-game scoreless drought by hitting a 40-yard score on the first drive of the game in the team's 20-16 loss to the Jaguars. He broke a sure-tackle about ten yards down the field and ran for the rest untouched for the touchdown. Williams failed to do much the rest of the way, adding just one catch for five yards the rest of the way as the offense as a whole sputtered in the second half. The veteran hasn't shown any consistency this season and is a risky play for the fantasy championship next week. Williams will be a TD-dependant WR4 in a road date with the Chargers who held him to 25 yards back in Week 10.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones dominated the 49ers in Week 15, delivering one of his biggest games of the year and ending his nine-game touchdown drought. Jones was targeted a whopping 20 times by Matt Ryan in the game and reeled in 13 receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan only had a total of 210 passing yards in a game, so Jones accounted for well over half of the team's air yardage. Jones is an absolute stud, even though the season as a whole has been slightly underwhelming by his lofty standards. He'll look to stay hot against the Jaguars in Week 16.
Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby made all three extra-point attempts in a 21-13 win over the Chicago Bears. The 35-year-old has relied on extra-points for the majority of his fantasy points, as he's only attempted 17 field goals this year. For that reason, he's more dependent on his offense being successful than other kickers. Crosby could be a better play next week in a potentially high scoring game next week against the Minnesota Vikings.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage caught five of his six targets for 27 yards in Week 15 against the 49ers. He also added a six-yard rush. The Falcons came away with an impressive victory in the game and they leaned heavily on Julio Jones to get the win. Jones caught 13 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the contest. Gage has five-or-more receptions in three of his past four games now and is a viable WR3 or flex play in deep leagues, but his upside is limited as he's only topped 60 receiving yards once this year.
New York Giants WR Golden Tate had just one grab on four targets in Week 15 against the Miami Dolphins, but it was good for a 51-yard touchdown.
Fantasy Spin: Despite the long touchdown, Tate is only worth a look as a WR5 in most fantasy leagues heading into Week 16 against the Washington Redskins.