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
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson wants out of Houston, according to an explosive Sports Illustrated story from Greg Bishop and Jenny Vrentas that highlights some of the issues Houston has faced over the past year. It sounds like the team's decision to give Jack Easterby an increasingly large voice in the direction of the franchise as well as the team ignoring Watson's preference for the team's GM position has led to issues. There's still a long time to go before we know what's going to happen with this situation.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle) is reportedly progressing well in rehab, with Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network saying the team thinks Prescott is "going to come back better than ever." While he doesn't have a long term deal with the Cowboys and could be a free agent in 2021, it makes sense for both sides to get a deal done. Prescott is a top-five fantasy quarterback when healthy and has arguably the top three-man receiving corps in the NFL.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) is officially inactive for Saturday's playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. A huge loss for a team whose quarterback is already dealing with a thumb injury, we'll likely see Josh Reynolds step into Kupp's role. Reynolds now has some nice appeal as a DFS value play, but this is likely to be a very run-heavy game for the Rams, with Cam Akers being the real winner here.
Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews will look to make a big impact on Saturday night when the Ravens face the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round. While Andrews has been on a downwards swing over the past few games, he gets a matchup against a Bills Defense that allows the eighth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. If you're playing a Saturday-only DFS slate, Andrews is the top tight end play, while DFS managers playing in the Saturday/Sunday slate could find value by using Andrews over the more obvious choice, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram II will be a healthy scratch once again on Saturday when the Ravens face the Bills. No surprise here, as the Ravens seem intent on moving on from Ingram when the season ends and don't want a potential injury to complicate that. Barring a J.K. Dobbins injury, we won't see Ingram in a Ravens uniform again.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is averaging 94.3 rushing yards per game over his past six appearances. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills allowed seven rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks this season, tied for the third-most in the NFL. Saturday's Divisional Round contest between the two teams is shaping up to be a strong opportunity for Jackson to post big numbers on the ground. Buffalo has been good at forcing turnovers, so Baltimore's best game plan might be to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. Consider Jackson a top DFS play.
Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins saw his carries drop into single digits last week for the first time since Week 10, but the rookie rusher should be considered a top RB play in DFS contests for Saturday's game against the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo's run defense has proven to have some holes in it, as they allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to the position during the regular season. Gus Edwards could siphon off some work, but Dobbins is clearly the running back to play in this backfield this week because of his upside.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Marquise Brown opened the postseason with seven catches for 109 yards against the Titans, his first 100-yard game since Week 1. And while expecting him to hit that mark again against Buffalo on Saturday might be a stretch, Brown has been playing strong football in the second half of the season. Since Week 12, he has six receiving touchdowns and should see six or more targets on Saturday. The Bills Defense has been better against the pass than against the run, but Brown should find himself well-positioned for success due to his role as Lamar Jackson's top receiver, with the threat of the run game helping to open up passing lanes.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods made the best of an iffy passing situation last week, catching four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown in the Wild Card win over Seattle. But with quarterback Jared Goff (thumb) at less than 100 percent for Saturday's Divisional game against the Packers, it will hard to trust Woods in DFS due to the potential downside, as Goff really struggled to complete passes last week. He has touchdown upside, but isn't the safest choice in this Rams receiving corps.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee) might be impacted by quarterback Jared Goff's thumb injury on Saturday in the Divisional Round game against the Packers, but his role as a short-yardage receiver should still give Kupp a solid fantasy floor. Of course, this is dependent on Kupp suiting up, as he's been dealing with a knee injury all week. If for some reason he's unable to go, Josh Reynolds would become an intriguing DFS punt play.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (thumb) will start against the Packers on Saturday, but the injured passer is an easy choice when looking for a quarterback to avoid on this slate. Working in relief last week, Goff was just 9-for-19 against the Seahawks for 155 yards. Expect the Rams to focus heavily on the run game in this one, leaving their passing game to pick up the scraps.
Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers should see plenty of work on Saturday against the Green Bay Packers, making him a strong DFS option. With quarterback Jared Goff (thumb) banged up, expect to see a heavy dose of the run game. Akers had 30 total touches last week, piling up 176 yards and a touchdown. Expect to see upwards of 20 touches again in the Divisional Round. The Packers are a bottom-half run defense in the NFL, so Akers will have plenty of chances to turn his opportunities into fantasy points.
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.