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.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed for 50 yards on 15 carries in Week 14's win over the Buffalo Bills. Ingram added 29 yards on three receptions as a pass-catcher. The veteran struggled to break free, averaging 3.3 yards per carry with his longest gain being just nine yards. With Lamar Jackson clogging up the run game for Baltimore, it will be hard to view Ingram as anything more than a low-end RB2 against the New York Jets in Week 15. Ingram will look to bounce back next week against a Jets Defense that's allowing just 63 yards per game to opposing running backs in 2019.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams picked up 24 rushing yards on seven carries and failed to register a reception on one target. Williams played second fiddle to Aaron Jones, who exploded for 192 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. It's entirely possible that Williams, who was a late addition to the injury report on Thursday, was battling through a sore knee in this one. Perhaps that would explain why he was out-touched 22-seven by Jones. Still, Williams was in for 42 percent of the snaps, indicating that he'll maintain his role in the offense going forward. Williams and the Pack will take on the stingy Chicago Bears in Week 15.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross had two catches for 28 yards during the loss to the Browns on Sunday. Ross made his return to the lineup for the first time since Week 4 after missing some time with a chest injury. The upside is there, but his outlook for the remainder of the season is less than favorable, especially in Week 15, against a problematic Patriots Defense. Nonetheless, he still has value in deeper formats for those who are looking for the 24-year-old to duplicate the success that he had through the first two weeks of the year.
The New York Jets Defense allowed plenty of yards to the Dolphins Sunday, but never let Miami in the end zone. The Dolphins scored all 21 of their points via the field goal and the Jets defense added an interception and two sacks for a mediocre fantasy day. Anyone using the Jets defense as a streamer may want to stop now ahead of a matchup vs MVP candidate Lamar Jackson and the high-flying Ravens in Baltimore on a short week.
Buffalo Bills running back T.J. Yeldon was inactive for the seventh straight game in Week 14 against the Ravens. The Bills are rolling along with Devin Singletary and Frank Gore as their lone rushers. Singletary had a big game in Week 14, gaining 89 yards on the ground and another 29 yards through the air. Gore has been a decent No. 2 behind Singletary, despite struggling in Week 14. Yeldon has no business on fantasy radars at this point.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst had his best performance of the season after Mark Andrews exited the game with a knee injury. Hurst caught all three of his targets for a season-high 73 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown in Baltimore's Week 14 win over the Buffalo Bills. If Andrews is unable to play Thursday Night, quarterback Lamar Jackson will likely heavily target tight ends Hurst and Nick Boyle. The Ravens face a Jets Defense in Week 15 that has held opposing tight ends to two touchdowns in 2019.
New York Jets kicker Sam Ficken made three field goals on three attempts including a game-winning 44-yarder as time expired. Ficken also hit from 42 and 37 yards out. It wasn't all good for Ficken who only went 1-for-2 on extra points but he made the big kick when it counts. Ficken has been good for the Jets but there are better kicking options on better offenses to use in fantasy, especially with the Jets brutal remaining schedule.
New York Jets running back Ty Montgomery rushed nine times for 31 yards and made three catches for 30 yards in a win over the Dolphins Sunday. As expected, Montgomery took a backseat to Bilal Powell in the absence of starter Le'Veon Bell (illness). Powell (ankle) left the game late, however, and the status of both running backs is up in the air for a Thursday night game in Baltimore. The Jets will provide an update on Bell and Powell Monday but if either is out Montgomery should have a role Thursday, albeit in a tough matchup at Baltimore.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews exited the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. Andrews caught 1-of-3 targets for 14 yards before heading to the locker room in the Ravens Week 14 win over the Bills. According to ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley, Andrews' injury isn't considered serious and head coach John Harbaugh explained it could just be a bruise. Baltimore faces the Jets on Thursday Night in Week 15 and Andrews will likely be questionable going into the matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught five of his six targets for 75 yards during the loss to Cleveland on Sunday. While he was still semi-productive from a fantasy standpoint, he was relegated to a lesser role by Joe Mixon, who had 23 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown. The 25-year-old had a touchdown in each of his last two games coming into Week 14 but failed to find the end zone in this one, and though he always has a shot to score, his outlook is less favorable than usual against a tough Patriots Defense in Week 15.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones posted a season-high 134 rushing yards on 16 totes with a touchdown and caught six of seven targets for 58 receiving yards in a 20-15 win over the Washington Redskins. With game script on his side, Jones was fed the most touches since Week 8- and he responded by gashing the Redskins' run defense for 8.4 yards per carry. The 24-year-old was Green Bay's leading rusher and receiver. Jones also found his way back into the end zone for the first time since Week 10. Up next for the star running back is a Week 15 matchup with the stout Chicago Bears Defense.
The Bills Defense did a decent job of containing a potent Ravens offense in Week 14. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for just 145 yards in the game, his third-lowest output on the season, and his 40 rushing yards in the game were the fewest he's managed since Week 1. Unfortunately for the Bills defense, the Ravens were able to put three touchdowns and a field goal on the board in their 24-17 victory. The Ravens' 24 points were the second-most any team has scored on the Bills this year. The Bills were able to come up with an interception in the game, but they had only one sack. The Bills defense should be able to bounce back strong against the Steelers in Week 15.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback recorded his second-worst fantasy performance of the season against the Buffalo Bills, but was able to squeak out just under 20 points in most formats. Jackson completed 16-of-25 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns. He added 40 yards on the ground, was sacked once and threw an interception in Baltimore's Week 14 win. After tight end Mark Andrews exited the game in the first quarter with a knee injury, Jackson found Nick Boyle for a three-yard shuffle-pass touchdown to start the second quarter. Jackson's top receiver in the game was tight end Hayden Hurst who finished with three receptions for 73 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown to start the second half. The Ravens face a Jets Defense in Week 15 that has conceded 21 total touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in 2019.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley scored the team's only touchdown in Week 14 against the Ravens. It came in the fourth quarter while the team was attempting a comeback before eventually falling short. Beasley had seven targets in the game and wound up with four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. Beasley now has touchdowns in three straight games. With six touchdowns on the year, Beasley has found a way to contribute for fantasy owners in ways other than just heavy usage. He's a viable WR3 or flex play in PPR leagues of 12 or more teams.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard had two catches (three targets) for 31 yards during the Week 14 loss to the Browns. He also had four carries for 15 yards. Performances such as this have been the norm for the 28-year-old this season, and with just 121 rushing yards and an equally unimpressive 181 receiving yards, Bernard is on the way to his most disappointing year as a professional. Joe Mixon, who had 23 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown, continues to get the bulk of the carries, leaving Bernard with virtually no fantasy value, with that trend likely to continue throughout the remainder of 2019.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown had three catches for 26 yards in Week 14 against the Ravens, the same stat line he provided in Week 13 against the Cowboys. This time out, though, he had eight targets compared with four, and the team ended up in the losing column. So the team was trying to feed him the ball, but the connection just wasn't there. Brown has had a fantastic debut season in Buffalo, but he's hit a bit of a wall lately as he's come upon some tough defenses. Josh Allen threw for a season-low 146 yards in Week 14, making it hard for any Bill to find production. Brown will look to bounce back as the Bills face the Steelers in Week 15.
New York Jets running back Bilal Powell rushed 19 times for 74 yards but injured his ankle late and didn't finish the game. Powell added two catches for 14 yards filling in for starter Le'Veon Bell (illness) who missed the game with the flu. The Jets should provide an update on Powell's injury Monday, but it doesn't look good with a short week ahead of a road game Thursday night. Whoever starts for the Jets will face a brutal matchup against the vaunted Ravens Defense.
The Cleveland Browns Defense played well in a 27-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. Cleveland picked up two sacks and had one interception. Cleveland's interception was a big play as Denzel Ward picked off Andy Dalton and returned it 61 yards for the Browns' first defensive touchdown of the season. The Browns will head to Arizona for a road game against the Cardinals in Week 15.
Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku caught one of his three targets for four yards in a 27-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14. Njoku had a quiet outing in his first game action since fracturing his wrist back in Week 2. Despite the quiet outing, Njoku will remain on the TE1 borderline in Week 15 as he gets set to take on an Arizona Cardinals Defense that has been one of the worst in the league at covering the tight end position.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon ran for 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries during the loss to the Browns on Sunday. He also had three receptions for 40 yards. This was Mixon's most productive game of the year, eclipsing the 114 yards that he produced against Baltimore back in Week 10, and did so while collocating a stately 6.3 yards per carry. With three touchdowns on the ground in three of his last four outings, things will tougher in Week 15 against a challenging Patriots Defense.