Sun Jan 12 4:36pm ET
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers free safety Jimmie Ward (20) celebrates during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (26) celebrates after the 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) celebrates after the 49ers beat the Minnesota Vikings 27-10 in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) smiles as he rests on the bench with defensive end Nick Bosa (97) and defensive end Dee Ford (55) during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The formula that fueled a perfect first half of the season for San Francisco was more than enough to carry the 49ers into the NFC championship game.
The Niners ran for 186 yards and completely shut down Minnesota's offense in a 27-10 victory in the divisional round Saturday in San Francisco's first playoff game in six years.
Being able to win convincingly despite a less than spectacular game from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo bodes well for the future.
''We have shown that we can win in a variety of different ways,'' left tackle Joe Staley said. ''We have had to really air out and make all of the plays in the passing game, when the run game wasn't working. We have also had games like this when we run the ball well and control the clock. It really helps getting back everybody on defense. Our defense playing as terrific as they did today gives us the opportunity to really control the clock.''
After allowing only 11 points a game the first seven games, San Francisco (14-3) gave up 25.9 points per game the rest of the season as injuries to edge rusher Dee Ford, linebacker Kwon Alexander and safety Jaquiski Tartt took a toll.
But with the bye week giving those three extra time to heal up, the Niners looked like the version from the first half of the season when they limited Minnesota to 21 yards rushing, a franchise playoff-record 147 yards and only seven first downs in a dominant performance.
''That is what we wanted to get back to,'' Ford said. ''Unfortunately, we had a little stretch of facing some tough offenses. Whether I was out there or not, we played some tough offenses. We had to fight through it, and we got through it.''
Pass rush. Ford's return opened things up for the entire defensive line leading to a six-sack performance. Ford got one to force a field-goal attempt late in the first half following an interception by Garoppolo. Rookie Nick Bosa got two of his own, while Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas each got one. Ford's speed off the edge opened up opportunities for everyone else on the defensive line.
''Just having his presence and his pass-rush ability, his knowledge and communication, he's a true vet,'' Bosa said. ''It's nice to have him out there.''
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Passing game. Garoppolo started fast in his first career playoff start, completing 5 of 6 passes for 57 yards and a 3-yard TD to Kendrick Bourne on the opening drive. Garoppolo then went 6 for 13 for 74 yards, an interception and a 32.2 rating the rest of the game. Garoppolo didn't complete a single pass thrown beyond the line of scrimmage after the first drive of the second half with his only two completions coming on passes behind the line. That didn't matter this game, but the Niners will likely need more from Garoppolo to keep this playoff run going.
RB Tevin Coleman. Coleman started the last nine games of the season even though he averaged only 3.2 yards per carry and 23.6 yards rushing per game. He rewarded coach Kyle Shanahan's confidence by rushing for 105 yards on 22 carries with two TDs. He was the first 49ers running back to rush for at least 100 yards and two TDs in a playoff game since Terry Kirby did it Jan. 3, 1998, against Minnesota. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick also did it in the 2012 playoffs against Green Bay.
CB Ahkello Witherspoon. Witherspoon committed a penalty and gave up two catches on the second drive of the game, including a 41-yard TD to Stefon Diggs. That was the fifth TD allowed by Witherspoon the past three games with San Francisco allowing no other TD passes in that span. Witherspoon was replaced by Emmanuel Moseley after and didn't return until the fourth quarter, when he allowed another catch in place of Richard Sherman.
Coleman (elbow) and fellow running back Raheem Mostert (calf) both left the game late with injuries that were not believed to be serious.
47. The Niners set a franchise record for most runs in a playoff game and lost yardage on only two of those plays: a pair of kneel downs by Garoppolo. San Francisco ran on all eight plays on a key TD drive in the third quarter, the longest playoff drive for a TD without a pass since Chicago ran on all eight plays in the NFC title game against New Orleans following the 2006 season.
The Niners will host the NFC championship game Sunday against either Seattle or Green Bay. San Francisco is 6-9 during the Super Bowl era in conference title games, including 4-5 at home.
Interview with a Champ
The Detroit Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford will reportedly part ways this offseason, with Detroit exploring trade options for the former No. 1 overall pick. The Lions will likely look to take a rookie quarterback early in April's draft, something that will likely limit the overall effectiveness of their passing attack. As for Stafford, teams like the 49ers and Colts could be interesting landing spots that would see Stafford's fantasy arrow trending up.
Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster on Saturday, and he's now on track to become the first player in NFL history to play for two different teams in the same postseason. Williams started the playoffs with the Ravens before signing with the Packers. More importantly, Williams' elevation to the active roster could be a sign that cornerback Kevin King (back), who is questionable for the NFC Championship game against the Buccaneers, won't be available on Sunday. King landed on the injury report on Friday and didn't practice, so he could be on the wrong side of questionable. Losing King would be a downgrade for Green Bay's defense against a Tampa offense that has plenty of aerial weapons, even with Antonio Brown (knee) not playing.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kenny Stills has been promoted from the practice squad to the active roster for the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The Bills signed Stills to their practice squad after he was cut by the Houston Texans late in November, and he was initially brought on for wide receiver depth when Cole Beasley injured his knee in Week 16. The 28-year-old has not played in a game since Week 11 with Houston, but he could have a small role if rookie Gabriel Davis (ankle), who is questionable for Sunday, is unable to play. Stills' elevation from the practice squad could be a sign that Buffalo doesn't expect Davis to play. Isaiah McKenzie could also have a slightly larger role behind Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley if Davis is inactive.
Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland (concussion) has cleared the league's concussion protocol and has no game status for Sunday. He will play in the AFC Championship against the Buffalo Bills. It's good news for a Chiefs secondary that will be trying to slow down All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs and breakout quarterback Josh Allen as they try to secure back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl. The 29-year-old Breeland was hit with a four-game suspension during the regular season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, but he still managed to record 38 combined tackles, two interceptions, nine passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 11 games in 2020. KC's defense allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this year, so they'll need Breeland in order to contain Buffalo's passing game.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday's playoff matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. He was able to get in some limited work late this week, but it sounds like the team is still unsure if he'll suit up. His absence could mean more targets for Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley (knee), and possibly Isaiah McKenzie gets more involved. DFS players might want to stay away from Davis even if he does suit up for this game. It doesn't sound like he'll be 100 percent healthy, so it's unlikely he puts up productive numbers.
Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox has shown some signs of life in the second half of the season. However, the Bills still don't have a significant role for him in the offense. Last week, Knox hauled in two receptions for 18 yards in the win over the Baltimore Ravens. He has been playing better lately, but is still the fourth or fifth option in this offense. It's unlikely that he gets enough targets to make a significant impact versus the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver John Brown surprisingly had a solid game against the Baltimore Ravens last week. He hauled in eight receptions for 62 yards in the win. Brown has battled injuries all season long, but plays well when he's actually on the field. The Kansas City Chiefs are likely going to do everything in their power to slow down Stefon Diggs. That means, Brown could be against some below average defenders, which could mean he has a solid game. DFS players should highly consider using Brown for this matchup since he has plenty of upside.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (knee) was removed from the injury report ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. This is great news considering Beasley has been dealing with lingering knee issues for a few weeks. It's unclear if Beasley will be limited at all for this matchup. He finished with a goose egg last week versus the Baltimore Ravens. Beasley does have plenty of upside, but might be too risky for DFS players this weekend.
Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary remains the workhorse lead back for this offense while Zack Moss (shoulder) is sidelined. However, Singletary didn't see many carries during the victory over the Baltimore Ravens last week. He rushed seven times for 25 yards and hauled in three receptions for 12 yards through the air. It's unlikely that his production increases by much against the Kansas City Chiefs. Maybe there's some low-end appeal here, but it's tough to imagine Singletary finding much room to run on Sunday.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs continues to put up video game numbers and it seems like no defense has an answer for him. Last week, Diggs hauled in eight receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Baltimore Ravens. Honestly, it seems like Diggs goes over 100 receiving yards in just about every game. He'll continue to see plenty of targets versus the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend. He should be considered a must-have DFS option.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is one win away from a ticket to the Super Bowl. Last week, he threw for 206 yards with one passing touchdown in the win over the Baltimore Ravens. Allen is a dual threat quarterback that has been lighting up opposing defenses all season long. The Kansas City Chiefs are not exactly a bad defense, but Allen hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. He'll remain a top tier DFS option for the playoff games this weekend.
Green Bay Packers cornerback Kevin King (back) is listed as questionable for the NFC Championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. Defensive lineman Kingsley Keke (concussion) was ruled out. King popped up on the injury report on Friday and did not practice. Mid-week additions to the injury report are usually never a good sign, especially this late in the week. Jaire Alexander will likely be matched up against Mike Evans on one side of the field this weekend, but a King absence could benefit Scotty Miller or rookie Tyler Johnson the most in Tampa's passing attack with veteran Antonio Brown (knee) already ruled out. Chris Godwin could also have a big game for the Bucs out of the slot.
Los Angeles Rams impending free-agent LB Leonard Floyd is a player head coach Sean McVay hopes to re-sign this offseason.
Las Vegas Raiders impending free-agent WR Nelson Agholor may be too expensive for the Raiders to re-sign this offseason, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez.
Fantasy Spin: Agholor is coming off a career season and probably will receive interest from multiple teams. He should have fantasy value no matter where he signs but probably will not be a weekly starting option in fantasy leagues.
Baltimore Ravens impending free-agent LB Matt Judon has been looking for $20 million per season in a new contract, according to a source.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense prepares to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Tampa Bay had a strong showing against the Saints last week, creating four takeaways, though they didn't register a sack. They will need to put more pressure on Rodgers than they did Brees, or they'll have a long day. If the Buccaneers follow their Week 6 formula- they sacked Rodgers four times and intercepted him twice- they'll be in a great position to win, as well as delivering for fantasy managers who turn to them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate is playing well heading into a playoff matchup with Green Bay. Brate has at least 50 receiving yards in each of his last two games and has seen 11 targets in that span. However, he's been out-snapped by Rob Gronkowski in both playoff wins, which makes it hard to trust him fully. Both tight ends could have good games, with Gronkowski being more of a touchdown favorite- and Brate more of a between-the-20s guy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski takes on the Packers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. Gronkowski has been out-produced by his teammate Cameron Brate lately, but the former has been on the field far more than the latter. The former Patriot also saw the same amount of targets as Brate last week and even had a touchdown catch fall just out of his reach. Both players could have good games, but Gronkowski is due for a strong performance- and he's no stranger to big games. Bet on Gronkowski seeing more looks with Antonio Brown (knee) sidelined against Green Bay, a team who allowed a 5-78-1 line to the big tight end in Week 6.
Green Bay Packers RB Jamaal Williams (ankle) was limited during practice Friday, Jan. 22, but is not on the injury report for the NFC Championship game.
Fantasy Spin: Williams should see a decent amount of carries in the championship game but will be facing one of the better run defenses in the NFL. He can be a possible flex option in some leagues but can be benched if better options are available.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (quad) was limited in practice all week but was removed from the injury report for the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers.
Fantasy Spin: Godwin's availability takes on a little bit more importance with Antonio Brown getting ruled out Friday. While Tampa Bay has plenty of depth at receiver, Godwin will likely be asked to do a bit more now. Although his expected matchup in the slot with Chandon Sullivan is not an easy one, Godwin could end up being a great contrarian play in DFS if the market is off of him after a bit of a disappointing effort last week when his 4-34-0 dud - which included a drop in the end zone - ended a four-game scoring streak.