Thu Jan 2 3:08pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Players: DeSean Jackson, Russell Wilson, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery, Jason Myers, Joshua Perkins, Carson Wentz, Nelson Agholor, Greg Ward, Robert Davis, Jake Elliott, Boston Scott, Deontay Burnett, Miles Sanders
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson address a news conference after an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. The 49ers won 26-21. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Seattle Seahawks' John Ursua, left, makes a catch at the one-yard line to give the team a first down with less than a minute left as San Francisco 49ers' K'Waun Williams tackles during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Seattle. The 49ers won 26-21. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Eagles have been playing must-win games for a month to get to this point.
Now, it's win or go home.
The Eagles (9-7) will host the Seattle Seahawks (11-5) in an NFC wild-card playoff game Sunday after winning four straight games to secure their second division title in three years.
Pressure won't be new. Many players on Philadelphia's roster faced it during the 2017 Super Bowl run. For the new guys, they got to experience it throughout December when one loss in any of the last four games would've cost the team a playoff berth.
''The last month, they have been playoff-type games for us,'' coach Doug Pederson said. ''This team is battle-tested that way and we prepare that way.''
While the Eagles claw their way into the playoffs, the Seahawks enter on a three-game losing streak. Seattle would've clinched the NFC West and secured a home game this weekend with a win in Week 17 but lost 26-21 at home to the 49ers.
On the bright side, the Seahawks were better on the road this season, going 7-1. They beat the Eagles in Philly, 17-9, on Nov. 24.
''They finished great,'' Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of the Eagles. ''They know us. We know them. We game plan all over again and they do, too.''
Russell Wilson is 4-0 against the Eagles, including a win in Seattle over the eventual Super Bowl champions in December 2017 when Philadelphia came in at 10-1.
Carson Wentz will make his first career playoff start after missing the Super Bowl run because of knee surgery and last year's wild-card win due to a back injury.
''We know what's on the line and to some extent we've kind of felt that way the last few weeks,'' Wentz said. ''We've kind of had our backs against the wall. It's a one-game season, we're excited for it. It's going to be a fun one.''
The return of playmaking safety Quandre Diggs is a big boost after the Seahawks lost several players to injuries the past few weeks. Diggs suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 15 but expects to play. The arrival of Diggs in a midseason trade from Detroit bolstered the secondary and seemed to solidify the defense. With Diggs on the field, Seattle was able to play more aggressive in coverages and when it brought pressures. In five games, Diggs has three interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown.
''The moment he got here he picked up the defense really, really quick,'' linebacker Bobby Wagner said. ''Started making checks really fast, understanding what checks we were making really, really fast. He's a really smart, intelligent dude who knows how to play the game of football at a really high level.''
The Eagles finished Week 17 missing seven starters on offense. Wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks won't be back. Running back Miles Sanders (ankle) is expected to return. Tight end Zach Ertz (ribs, back) and right tackle Lane Johnson (ankle) are uncertain. In their absence, the Eagles relied on five players off the practice squad who've been cut 18 times in their careers. Running back Boston Scott, tight end Josh Perkins and wide receivers Greg Ward, Deontay Burnett and Robert Davis combined for 16 catches for 255 yards, 54 yards rushing and four TDs against the Giants.
Wilson has been sacked 26 times in the past seven games, including a season-high six times by the Eagles in the first matchup. Not surprisingly, his passer rating in those games is just 90.7 and his yards per attempt is just 7.2. Protection has been an issue for Seattle and is likely to remain that way. Center Joey Hunt has played well since starter Justin Britt was lost for the season to a torn ACL, but Hunt is undersized and has been bullied at times. He'll go against five-time Pro Bowl tackle Fletcher Cox. Left tackle Duane Brown is expected to miss the game after minor knee surgery a couple of weeks ago. George Fant played well in Week 17 but starting Fant prevents Seattle from using him as an extra tight end in a formation that's been productive this season.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins has played 2,420 consecutive snaps since the start of the 2017 playoffs and also plays on special teams. Jenkins led the Eagles with 80 tackles, forced four fumbles and had 2 1/2 sacks. He plays everywhere on defense, in the secondary at linebacker in some formations.
Seahawks kicker Jason Myers was 23 of 28 on field goals, including 17 of 17 from inside 40 yards. He made 40 of 44 extra points. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott was 22 of 26 on field goals, missing four in the final five games. He was 35 of 37 on extra points.
Interview with a Champ
Washington Football Team impending free-agent DE Ryan Kerrigan said there has not been any contract talks between him and Washington at this point.
New Orleans Saints running back Latavius Murray (quadriceps) and quarterback Taysom Hill (knee) were both listed as questionable for the Divisional Round matchup against the Buccaneers on Sunday after getting in limited practices on Friday. The fact that they both practiced on Friday is good news for their chances of suiting up for the third meeting this year against the Bucs. If Murray, 31, cannot play, Alvin Kamara would have even more fantasy upside and would likely see more red-zone work against a stingy Buccaneers defensive front. Dwayne Washington and Ty Montgomery would help back up Kamara. Hill would likely only see a handful of snaps as a Swiss Army Knife on Sunday if he plays, making him avoidable in most fantasy lineups if he's active.
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters (back) and offensive guard D.J. Fluker (knee) were both listed as questionable for the Divisional Round game against the Bills on Saturday night. Peters and Fluker were both limited in practice on Thursday, so they have a chance to be active against Buffalo. Peters also missed several games near the end of the regular season with a calf injury. We expect him to play through the pain in a very tough matchup with a Bills offense that can put up points with the best of them. Most DFS gamers will be avoiding Baltimore's stout defense this weekend, but they could surprise folks on Saturday night, especially if there is snow on the field.
New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring) has been ruled out against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Sunday's Divisional Round matchup, the third between the two clubs this season. Robinson missed practice all week. New Orleans still has a solid defense overall on the edges of the secondary with Janoris Jenkins and Marshon Lattimore locking things down, but Robinson's absence will be felt at nickelback. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson will be tasked with slowing down Tampa wideout Chris Godwin this weekend. The Saints Defense will still be a strong fantasy unit on Sunday, but only if they can get some pressure on future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. In two games against the Saints in the regular season, Godwin had nine catches (13 targets) for 120 yards.
The NFL rescinded Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Josh Gordon's conditional reinstatement on Friday and left him banned from the league indefinitely. Gordon was added to the team's active roster three weeks ago and was set to return to the field when he had a setback in his battle with substance abuse that broke the terms of his conditional reinstatement. He missed the entire 2020 campaign after being suspended in December of 2019. This year was the third time he's missed an entire season since entering the league in 2012. The 29-year-old has been suspended by the NFL six times and has 247 career catches while making the All-Pro team in 2013 with Cleveland. What a shame. Gordon has so much talent and is still on the right side of 30 years old, but he may never get another chance in the NFL due to his latest setback.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) is listed as questionable for the Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday. Kupp missed practice all week, so fantasy managers should certainly be way of quarterback Jared Goff's top target if he's active this weekend. Kupp's injury wasn't deemed serious last weekend when he left late in the wild-card win over the Seahawks, but it could very well limit him if he suits up against Green Bay. Wide receivers Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson could see more targets if Kupp has his snaps limited, but all of LA's pass-catchers should be knocked down a peg with Goff fighting through a surgically repaired right thumb.
The Atlanta Falcons hired Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as their new head coach on Friday, according to sources. Smith was the team's top choice all along, so they get their man. The 38-year-old was one of seven coaching candidates for Atlanta after the team fired Dan Quinn on Oct. 11. Smith is expected to pair with New Orleans Saints assistant general manager/vice president of player personnel, who is expect to be Atlanta's next GM. Smith spent the last 10 seasons with the Titans but stood out the last two years as the team's offensive coordinator, helping the Titans reach the playoffs the last two seasons. Tennessee was the only team in the NFL that ranked in the top five in rushing yards per game (153.5) and passer rating (107) since 2019. He'll try to help an Atlanta team that went 4-12 in 2020 and that hasn't made the playoffs the last three years. Smith should be a good fit if quarterback Matt Ryan and veteran receiver Julio Jones stick around.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense is a solid option ahead of a huge playoff matchup with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. At one point, Tampa Bay looked like the best defense in the league, but they've since fallen on hard times. Despite this, the Buccaneers still possess talent at all three levels of the defense. Tampa Bay can stop the run and rush the passer, a combination that could lead to turnovers committed by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The Bucs will need to find their defensive mojo if they want to advance- it's worth betting on for DFS purposes.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (hip, quad) did not participate in practice Friday, Jan. 15, but no longer appears on the injury report for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the New Orleans Saints.
Fantasy Spin: Godwin has a favorable matchup in Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, but the former did not do anything of significance in the first two meetings of the season against the Saints. To his credit, however, he has scored in four straight games and is in the midst of his best three-game stretch of the season.
Cleveland Browns DB Tedric Thompson was waived Friday, Jan. 15.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski had a catch-less game last week against Washington but could bounce back in Sunday's matchup with the Saints. Gronkowski wasn't a big part of the gameplan last week- at least as a receiver- though that could change against the Saints. The veteran tight end has risen to the occasion in big games this year- 6-106-0 against the Chiefs and 5-78-1 against the Packers- and this would be the biggest stage yet this season. The Tom Brady-Gronkowski connection failed fantasy managers last week, but it's worth going back to be more time.
New Orleans Saints TE Jared Cook (back) was upgraded to a full practice Friday, Jan. 15, and no longer appears on the injury report for the NFC Divisional Round game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fantasy Spin: Cook has established a solid floor over the last three games with Drew Brees getting more comfortable following his return from injury, finishing with either three or four catches and at least 40 yards each time. The 33-year-old posted 5-80-0 (Week 1) and 2-30-0 (Week 9) against the Buccaneers earlier this season, inspiring some confidence as a mid-priced DFS play at tight end this weekend.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (knee) was limited in practice all week but removed from the injury report for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the New Orleans Saints.
Fantasy Spin: Evans enters this contest after erupting for 119 yards against the Washington Football Team last weekend, but his history with Marshon Lattimore seems to bring out the best in the Saints' top corner. No Tampa Bay receiver should be fully faded from this week's DFS slate given how well the offense is playing of late, but Evans should be considered the most likely to disappoint.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown possesses upside for fantasy purposes in a playoff matchup with the Saints. Brown had only just signed with the team when he took part in his team's blowout loss to the Saints. Since then, he has rounded into form, with five touchdowns in his last four contests, including two games with at least 90 yards receiving. Brown is looking more and more like the dynamic playmaker who made a name for himself in Pittsburgh- and he could be a real x-factor in this game. He's probably a bit riskier than his two fellow wideouts, though he has the most upside against New Orleans' tough defense.
New Orleans Saints QB Taysom Hill (knee) was upgraded to a limited practice Friday, Jan. 15, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fantasy Spin: Hill hasn't missed a game over the last three seasons, so the odds are that he'll be able to play this weekend. The versatile 30-year-old typically plays about 20 offensive snaps per game when Drew Brees is healthy and has scored 13 total touchdowns this season as a passer, rusher or receiver. Hill doesn't possess a lot of fantasy value in playoff leagues, but he could be considered a low-end QB1 in 2021 should Brees opt to retire at the end of this season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (hip, quad) has no injury designation and will be out there for the divisional round battle against the Saints. Godwin is rolling right now, as he has averaged 9.3 targets per game over his last three contests, having produced at least 79 yards and a touchdown in each of them. Fellow wideout Mike Evans will have to deal with Saints' corner Marshon Lattimore, who could potentially take him out of the game. Godwin would likely see more targets if that happens, though he makes for a good DFS play- despite the Saints' fifth-ranked pass defense.
New Orleans Saints RB Latavius Murray (quad) was upgraded to a limited practice Friday, Jan. 15, and is listed as questionable for the NFC Divisional Round game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Fantasy Spin: It's encouraging for his prospects to play that he was able to get in a limited session Friday after missing the first two practices of the week, but he was unlikely to play much of a role in this game anyway with the Buccaneers being so stout against the run. His potential absence would likely lock Alvin Kamara in for 20 touches and could make Ty Montgomery worthy of a punt play in DFS.
Seattle Seahawks WR Josh Gordon had his conditional reinstatement rescinded yet again and was given an indefinite suspension by the league Friday, Jan. 15.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans takes on the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs. Evans comes into the contest having exceeded 100 receiving yards in three of his last four games, with two touchdowns scored. However, he'll be in for a tough test against New Orleans' cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has yet to allow a catch to Evans in coverage this year. The big-bodied wideout is talented enough to beat any corner, but this seems to be a tough matchup for him in his career. If you turn to Evans in DFS this week, you're probably just hoping he finds the end zone a couple of times.
Cleveland Browns WR Jarvis Landry (hip) practiced in full all week and was left off the injury report for the AFC Divisional Round game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fantasy Spin: Landry should be expected to get a full complement of snaps in what should be a high-scoring game. As a player who should be considered a lock for seven or eight targets, he's a solid mid-priced receiver option in DFS with significant upside.