Sun Dec 8 5:03pm ET
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Writer
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott walks the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) carries the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) rolls out looking to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) is upend by Buffalo Bills cornerback Kevin Johnson (29) during the second half of an NFL football game in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass under pressure by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon (99) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/John Munson)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Lamar Jackson threw three touchdown passes and the Baltimore Ravens became the AFC's first team to clinch a playoff berth following a 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Baltimore extended its franchise-best winning streak to nine straight and improved to 11-2, its best record through 13 games in team history. With the win, the Ravens can also clinch the AFC North title should the Pittsburgh Steelers lose or tie in their game at Arizona later in the day.
What began as a defensive struggle eventually lived up to its billing in a matchup of two of the NFL's up-and-coming quarterbacks.
Jackson finished 16 of 25 for 145 yards and appeared to blow open the game by putting the Ravens up 24-9 following a 4-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead with 9:49 left.
Buffalo's Josh Allen responded with a seven-play, 78-yard touchdown drive capped by his 3-yard pass to Cole Beasley, who dived inside the left pylon. The same two then hooked up on a 2-point conversion to make it a one-score game.
The outing wasn't decided until there were 63 seconds remaining. Facing fourth-and-8 at the Baltimore 16, Allen's pass over the middle intended for John Brown was broken up by Marcus Peters at the goal line.
Jackson upped his record to 17-3 since being selected with the final pick of the first round in the 2018 draft. Allen, drafted with the seventh pick overall, dropped to 14-10.
Buffalo (9-4) had a three-game winning streak snapped, and fell short 10 days since garnering national attention following a 26-15 win at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
Jackson bounced back from a first half in which the Ravens led 10-6 after being limited to 95 yards, and overcame the loss of starting tight end Mark Andrews who did not return after hurting his knee in the second quarter.
Jackson struck quickly by finding tight end Hayden Hurst for a 61-yard touchdown catch and run three plays into Baltimore's opening drive of the third quarter. Tight end Nick Boyle also scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jackson.
The Ravens' defense dominated in limiting the Bills to just 209 yards while sacking Allen six times.
Lack of discipline, however, was an issue, particularly on Buffalo's final drive.
Buffalo gained 30 yards on personal foul flags called against the Ravens for late hits. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce was flagged first after wrapping up running back Devin Singletary before slamming him to the turf. Two plays later, Linebacker Jaylon Ferguson was flagged to an unnecessary hit on Singletary.
The Ravens also provided Buffalo an extra set of downs when Marlon Humphrey slipped in coverage and fell into the back of Beasley and knocking the receiver down on fourth-and-16.
The game was played in balmy conditions for the second week of December in Buffalo, with temperatures in the mid-40s with winds gusting above 20 mph off nearby Lake Erie. It was much better conditions for the Ravens than last week, when Baltimore overcame rain and winds to eke out a 20-17 victory over San Francisco on Justin Tucker's 49-yard field goal as time expired.
The Bills' defense stymied one of the NFL's most dynamic offenses by limiting the Ravens to 257 yards and forcing a season-high seven punts. Punter Sam Koch entered the day with just 24 punts in Baltimore's first 12 games.
Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka responded by hitting all three of his field-goal attempts, including a 48-yarder, during a week his job security was placed into question. Coach Sean McDermott said the Bills put in a waiver claim for Chase McLaughlin on Wednesday only to have him land in Indianapolis, which was higher in the claim order.
Hauschka was coming off a 26-15 win at Dallas in which he missed a field goal and extra-point attempt.
Former Bills quarterback Doug Flutie, wearing his familiar No. 7 jersey, led a rousing chant of ''Let's go Buffalo,'' just before kickoff. Flutie was on hand as Buffalo's honorary ''Legend of the Game.'' His appearance also coincided with the re-launch of ''Flutie Flakes,'' a breakfast cereal that debuted in 1998, during the quarterback's first season in Buffalo. Proceeds from each sale will go toward the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
Ravens: Host New York Jets on Thursday night.
Bills: Play at Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 15 in Buffalo's first Sunday night appearance in 12 years.
Interview with a Champ
Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams led the NFL with 23 red zone receptions and 14 red zone touchdowns in 2020, and his 46 red zone touchdowns since 2016 are 17 more than any other player.
Fantasy Spin: Adams led the NFL with 18 receiving touchdowns, tied for second with 115 receptions and finished in a tie for fifth in receiving yards. His status as the unquestioned go-to target for Aaron Rodgers should continue to make him one of the safest fantasy options at any position for the foreseeable future.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry led all running backs with 75 forced missed tackles this season, and his 1,490 rushing yards after contact were the most in the league.
Fantasy Spin: Henry has been a fantasy monster since Ryan Tannehill took over as the Tennessee quarterback. His massive workload will likely take a toll at some point, but there is no reason he shouldn't deliver another RB1 campaign in 2021.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers led the NFL with 1,242 yards on passes thrown more than 20 yards downfield during the 2020 season.
Fantasy Spin: Rodgers also led the league in touchdown passes in a season that could net him MVP honors for the third time and a second Super Bowl ring. After seeing his numbers dip a bit the last couple of years, he is back in the mix of top-five fantasy options at the quarterback position heading into next season.
Things are trending in the right direction for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (concussion) to play in the AFC Championship against the Bills on Sunday. Mahomes was limited in practice for the second straight day on Thursday and took the majority of the snaps on offense, a good sign that he didn't suffer a setback after practicing on Wednesday. The hope is that he's a full participant in practice on Friday, which means he'd likely be on his way toward being cleared from the league's protocol before Sunday. The 25-year-old former MVP will be a tad more risky at his elevated DFS price against Buffalo coming off a head injury that knocked him out of the Divisional Round game against the Browns, but Mahomes should put up numbers in what could be a high-scoring affair this weekend as long as he doesn't suffer another head injury.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to hire Darrell Bevell as their new offensive coordinator, according to sources. Several teams were trying to hire Bevell after he finished the 2020 season as the Detroit Lions interim head coach. The 51-year-old was the offensive coordinator in Detroit the last two years, with the team averaging 22.5 points per game and 348.5 total yards per game in his two seasons at the helm. Bevell became the Seahawks offensive coordinator in 2011, 11 seasons after breaking into the NFL as an assistant quarterbacks coach with Green Bay. He made back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl with Seattle in 2013-14 and won one championship. His biggest task will be working with a likely rookie quarterback -- expected to be Clemson's Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall selection in the draft -- to mold Jacksonville's offense to the young signal-caller's strengths.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (quadriceps) was limited during practice Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Godwin should be ready for the NFC Championship game as long as he does not suffer a setback. He will see plenty of targets against the Green Bay Packers and can be a starting option in all fantasy leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (knee) was limited during practice Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Evans continues to be one of the main options in the passing game when healthy and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues if active.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones (finger, quadriceps) was limited during practice Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Jones shared playing time with Leonard Fournette in the last game but may see a few more touches this week. He can be a starting option in most fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers RB Jamaal Williams (ankle) was limited during practice Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Williams received 12 carries in the Divisional Round playoff game and probably will receive a similar workload against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He can be a possible flex option in some leagues but is not a must-start option.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea (ankle) participated in practice Thursday, Jan. 21, and 'looked fit and didn't appear to be having any challenges getting in and out of stance.' according to ESPN's Jenna Laine. 'Vita moved around pretty good today when it was full speed,' head coach Bruce Arians said.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee) did not practice for a second consecutive day Thursday, Jan. 21, and is expected to be a game-time decision for the NFC Championship game versus the Green Bay Packers, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Fantasy Spin: As Arians told reporters, Brown is "veteran enough" to handle his business Sunday without getting in any practice this week if it comes to that. Either way, a limited Brown is enough of a reason to back off of him in all fantasy formats, especially because the Buccaneers are deep at receiver. Scott Miller and Tyler Johnson would likely split snaps if he is unable to go.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin is poised for a great showing against the Packers in the NFC Championship game. Godwin has 19 targets in the Buccaneers' two playoff games, a mark that leads the team. He could be in line to receive more work than usual, as Mike Evans will likely have to deal with star corner Jaire Alexander and Antonio Brown (knee) is a game-time decision. The drops have been an issue for Godwin in the postseason, but Tom Brady's trust in him hasn't wavered. He won't be as pricey as Stefon Diggs or Davante Adams, but he could provide similar production, making him a great DFS value play this week.
Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley (knee) was added to the injury report and limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: There has been no indication as of yet from Buffalo's beat writers that Beasley had a setback Thursday, but his name was a curious omission from the injury report on Wednesday considering he is far from 100 percent. Friday's practice report will be telling in terms of what fantasy owners and DFS players should expect, but the likely absence of rookie Gabriel Davis may help Beasley bounce back from his bagel against the Baltimore Ravens in a big way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans will likely face off with Packers' star corner Jaire Alexander in the NFC title game. This is fresh off of being held to one catch by Marshon Lattimore- though his lone reception was a touchdown. Evans and Alexander went toe-to-toe in Week 6, with Alexander following him on 76 percent of the routes, holding him to zero catches, per Pro Football Focus. Evans is talented enough to beat any corner, but this is legitimately a matchup to fear. He should be faded in DFS tournaments this weekend.
Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs (oblique) was limited in practice for a second consecutive day Thursday, Jan. 21.
Fantasy Spin: Diggs began last week the same way before practicing in full Friday and posting an 8-106-1 line on the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round. There's been no indication the stud receiver has had a setback since he first landed on the injury report days before the first playoff game, so he should be expected to perform at his usual elite level against the Kansas City Chiefs even though they were among the best during the regular season in limiting wide receiver production.
Seattle Seahawks DE Jonathan Bullard was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Jan. 21.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (quadriceps) said he's "good" after returning last week from a quadriceps injury in a win over New Orleans. Jones has since gotten in two limited practice sessions and seems poised to be out there again on Sunday against Green Bay. While he's likely looking at a timeshare with Leonard Fournette, Jones has the upside to be the better valued running back this weekend in DFS. He only had 13 carries last week but ran hard against the Saints' stingy run defense- it's also worth noting that he had 20+ carries in a game three times this season, one of which was against the Packers. Jones is riskier than Fournette but could provide more bang for your buck, especially if he runs like he did last week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown (knee) and LB Jason Pierre-Paul (knee, non-injury) did not participate in practice for a second straight day Thursday, Jan. 21. WR Mike Evans (knee), WR Chris Godwin (quad), RB Ronald Jones (quad, finger), CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) and S Jordan Whitehead (knee) were limited. S Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) was added to the injury report but practiced in full. DL Jeremiah Ledbetter (calf) and OG Ali Marpet (pectoral) practiced in full for a second consecutive day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette has been on a roll in the playoffs. With fellow back Ronald Jones II (quadriceps) battling injury, Fournette has taken the reins of the backfield with 45 total touches in his last two games, the most for him in any two-game stretch this season. Jones seems to be getting healthier, but expect Fournette to have the slight carry edge if it turns into a timeshare. Green Bay's run defense has tightened up in the second half of the season, though it's still not a matchup to fear. Don't expect 20+ touches again, but Fournette could have himself a solid day against the Packers.