Sat Dec 5 11:09am ET
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Cincinnati Bengals safety Brandon Wilson (40) rushes for a 103-yard touchdown during the first half of NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) runs toward the end zone for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders after his interception during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, left, reacts with down judge Danny Short during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) catches a touchdown pass against Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus )
Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams catches a touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
New York Giants quarterback Colt McCoy (12) looks to throw during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
In this strangest of NFL seasons in this weirdest of years, here's a matchup of division leaders you wouldn't expect: Seattle hosting the New York Giants.
Certainly the Seahawks on top of the tough NFC West is no stretch. They are 8-3, have a dynamic offense and improving defense, and plenty of pedigree under coach Pete Carroll. It's their opponent that makes little sense - except in 2020.
New York is 4-7, has yet to beat a team with a winning record, and enters the most difficult portion of its schedule. Yet the Giants are tied atop the awful NFC East with Washington, which it has beaten twice.
''If you win your division, you win your division,'' Carroll says, and he knows: Seattle went 7-9 in 2010 and won the NFC West, then beat New Orleans in a playoff game. ''That's the way it was then, that's the way it is now, and I don't think there's any problem with it. Whoever comes out of that division, the division champ, whoever plays them better look out. There's a lot going on that side of it in what you want to prove and how you want to go about it.''
The Giants' defense has played well during a three-game win streak, but starting quarterback Daniel Jones has a hamstring issue and might sit in favor of Colt McCoy.
''Just being prepared, that's the name of the game,'' McCoy says. ''That's why the Giants brought me here. I think that's the expectation. If your number is called, whether it's quarterback, receiver, on the other side of the ball on defense, when you have to step up, you have to step up. I just have to be mentally prepared for whatever happens.''
Off this week with the final byes for the season, are Tampa Bay (7-5) and Carolina (4-8).
Cleveland (8-3) at Tennessee (8-3)
While Cleveland is chasing a wild-card playoff berth thanks to Pittsburgh's dominance - and it is odd to be mentioning the Browns and the postseason together - the Titans are atop the AFC South. They come off impressive away victories against Baltimore and Indianapolis and can establish themselves as true contenders with another strong showing.
The Browns have benefited like no one else from a weak schedule. Teams they have beaten are a combined 17-47-2 right now. They should get back star defensive end Myles Garrett after missing the past two games with COVID-19. Garrett is tied for second in the NFL with 9+ sacks. He certainly will be tested by the league's leading rusher, Derrick Henry.
Los Angeles Rams (7-4) at Arizona (6-5)
Think the Rams like playing the Cardinals? LA has won six straight in the series and five straight in Arizona. Rams coach Sean McVay is 6-0 against the Cards; LA has outscored Arizona 195-56 in McVay's tenure.
''What's occurred in the past has nothing to do with this game,'' McVay predictably says. ''There is continuity at the coordinator spots, but these guys are playing really well. They have great playmakers in all three phases.''
The Rams top the league with 17 points allowed per game, and second with 297 yards allowed a game, with an NFL-low 11 touchdown passes allowed.
Arizona has lost three of its past four games, the only win coming on the desperation heave from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins with 2 seconds left against Buffalo.
Cincinnati (2-8-1) at Miami (7-4)
As bad as things have been for the Bengals, Brandon Wilson returned a first-quarter kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, the longest scoring play in team history, against the Giants. Wilson is tied for first in the NFL with five kickoff returns of at least 40 yards.
Miami knocked off the Jets with Ryan Fitzpatrick subbing for Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) and now FitzMagic gets a shot at another of his many former teams. He got top wideout DeVante Parker going again: Parker had a season-high 119 yards receiving against the Jets, more than in Tagovailoa's four starts combined.
Washington (4-7) at Pittsburgh (11-0), Monday
The Steelers stand on the verge of a playoff spot. They can wrap up the AFC North with a win and a Browns loss. And they get a playoff spot with a win or losses by the Raiders, Dolphins or Colts. But they probably need to keep winning with Kansas City right behind in the conference standings and only one bye available this postseason.
Washington has won two straight to remain in the muddled mix of the NFC East.
Dallas (3-8) at Baltimore (6-5), Tuesday
After playing the Steelers tough if not artistically in a loss on Wednesday, the Ravens hope to be far less undermanned because of COVID-19 issues when they host the Cowboys. Baltimore should have starting quarterback Lamar Jackson and several other regulars back, but remains almost as injury-ravaged as Dallas, which has dropped five of six.
Las Vegas (6-5) at New York Jets (0-11)
The Raiders need a rebound after that fiasco in Atlanta, and the Jets might be just the tonic. Sure, the Raiders tend to struggle in the East, but the Jets, as their record indicates, struggle everywhere.
Still, Las Vegas has lost six straight road games against the Jets since a 34-13 win in 1996. The Jets' 11-game losing streak is their longest in a single season. Another loss would tie the team mark for longest overall skid, which spanned the 1995 and '96 seasons under Rich Kotite.
Indianapolis (7-4) at Houston (4-7)
Indy has not lost consecutive games this season, but was routed at home by Tennessee last week. The Texans have won two straight for the first time this season, but had receiver Will Fuller and cornerback Bradley Roby suspended for six games each this week for violating the league's policy on performance enhancers drugs.
The Colts have won five of the past seven in this series. Philip Rivers is expected to make his 236th consecutive start, breaking a tie with Charles Woodson for ninth overall starts in league history.
Denver (4-7) at Kansas City (10-1)
Denver is expected to have all its quarterbacks after COVID-19 issues forced the Broncos to use rookie wideout Kendall Hinton at QB last week against New Orleans. Hinton was 1 of 9 for 13 yards with two interceptions, and the Broncos gained 112 yards in the loss.
Kansas City clinches the AFC West with a win and a Las Vegas defeat. The Chiefs are trying to go 11-1 for the second time in franchise history (2003). Patrick Mahomes has thrown for at least 300 yards seven times this season and has 22 straight games with at least one TD passing.
New Orleans (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7)
Simply put, a win for the Saints and a loss by the Bears clinches a playoff berth for New Orleans. There are other scenarios involving ties.
New Orleans has won five of the past six in this heated rivalry, getting to Matt Ryan often. The Saints have sacked Ryan a total of 17 times in their past two meetings, and Cameron Jordan has 21 career sacks of Ryan, an NFL record by one defender against a single QB.
Though Atlanta's defense is susceptible to the pass, there is danger lurking. Linebacker Deion Jones has returned five interceptions for touchdowns, the most by any player since Jones entered the league in 2016, and the most by any linebacker since 2006. His latest was a 67-yard pick-6 against the Raiders.
Philadelphia (3-7-1) at Green Bay (8-3)
While Philadelphia's offense has become dysfunctional with slumping quarterback Carson Wentz, a sievelike line and mediocre receivers, the defense has kept the Eagles competitive in three straight losses.
Things are much brighter in Titletown. Aaron Rodgers is playing at the highest level and, despite no top-line wideout to join him, Davante Adams has 11 TD receptions, behind only Kansas City's Tyreek Hill (13). Adams has the most touchdown catches by a Packer through 11 games since Billy Howton had 12 in 1956.
''Aaron obviously has a great command of the offense and everything runs through him and how he controls things,'' says Eagles coach Doug Pederson, ''and that's kind of what you see in games and on tape - just how smooth things are operating and Aaron really kind of thinking the same way the play caller's thinking.''
Buffalo (8-3) at San Francisco (5-6), Monday
The game is being played at the Cardinals' stadium in Arizona after COVID-19 rules prohibited games at San Francisco's home stadium. The Niners also practiced this week in Arizona and will spend about three weeks there.
Buffalo is on track for its first AFC East crown since 1995. The defense is coming on: the Bills have 19 sacks and 10 takeaways in the past five games after 11 sacks and seven takeaways in the first six outings.
New England (5-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)
Strangely, this is the Patriots' first trip to Los Angeles in 28 years, and it's a doubleheader. They are at SoFi Stadium again on Thursday night to play the Rams.
New England has won the past five meetings, including a 2018 divisional playoff game. The Patriots are getting a boost from placekicker Nick Folk. With his 50-yard, game-winning kick as time expired last week against Arizona, Folk became the first kicker in one NFL season to convert multiple such field goals of 50-plus yards as time expired.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen leads the NFL with 85 receptions and has a TD catch in five straight games.
Jacksonville (1-10) at Minnesota (5-6)
Over the past five games, four of them wins, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins leads the NFL with a 124.3 passer rating and is third with 12 passing touchdowns.
The Jaguars have lost 10 straight, the longest single-season streak in team history, and fired general manager Dave Caldwell. They lost 13 consecutive games from Dec. 2, 2012, through Oct. 27, 2013, for the longest overall slide.
Detroit (4-7) at Chicago (5-6)
Could the Bears go from 5-1 and in playoff contention to last place in the NFC North? With the way the offense is sputtering and the defense no longer so fearsome, why not?
Darrell Bevell makes his interim head coach debut after Matt Patricia (and general manager Bob Quinn) were fired following an ugly home loss to Houston on Thanksgiving.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense was shredded by Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the first quarter of their Week 12 matchup, as Hill went off for 203 yards on seven catches and two touchdowns. Cornerback Carlton Davis was left on an island with Hill, and it didn't yield pretty results. "We'll help a little bit more than we did in that ballgame," Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said. Tampa's D allowed 462 yards passing to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and three touchdowns. Hill finished with 269 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches (only 59 yards in the second half). Tight end Travis Kelce had eight catches for 82 yards. With offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz out, Bucs pass-rushers Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul must get pressure on Mahomes to have a chance at getting last year's Super Bowl MVP out of his rhythm.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (leg) suffered a broken fibula in the Week 16 game against the New England Patriots. Beasley sat out the regular season finale in Week 17 before catching 14 passes for 145 yards in three postseason games against the Colts, Ravens and Chiefs. "It was bad the first game I played but after that, you take a few meds and suck it up," Beasley said with a chuckle. The injury wasn't a full break, but Beasley said it was painful in the wild-card win over the Colts. The 31-year-old veteran hauled in seven of his nine targets for 88 yards in the AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. Beasley set career-highs in catches (82), targets (107), receiving yards (967) and yards per catch (11.8) while visiting the end zone four times in 15 regular season games in 2020. He'll be back as Josh Allen's most trusted third-down weapon in 2021 and will be more expensive in PPR leagues as a result of his career-best season.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said that the team could reach a long-term contract extension with quarterback Lamar Jackson this offseason, and the GM plans to speak to the reigning NFL MVP in the next 10 days. Jackson just finished his third season and will command at least $40 million per season on an extension. He's scheduled to make $1.77 million in 2021 on the final year of his rookie deal, which currently ranks 25th among QBs in base salary. "[He] certainly deserves a contract," DeCosta said. Jackson has won more games (30) than any other QB since he took over as the team's starter in 2018 and became the fastest QB in history to reach 30 regular season wins (37 games). Jackson is also the first in NFL history to produce 5,000 yards passing and 2,500 yards rushing in his first three seasons. The young signal-caller has been more effective with his legs than his arm and has won just one playoff game, but Jackson should be locked up long term in Baltimore and will be a top-five fantasy QB yet again in 2021.
The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to terms with former Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Shane Steichen on Monday as their new offensive coordinator, according to a source. Steichen was key in the development of rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in 2020. New head coach Nick Sirianni and Steichen worked together with the Chargers for four years until Sirianni left for the Colts in 2018. Steichen started coaching in the NFL in Cleveland in 2013 as a quality control coach. He left for San Diego the following season and was their quality control coach for 2014-15. The 35-year-old took over the Chargers offense last season and helped nurture Herbert to a record-setting rookie season. Steichen will try and help Carson Wentz rebuild after the worst season of his career.
New Orleans Saints quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi is expected to become the new offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Chargers, according to sources. New head coach Brandon Staley played under Lombardi for one year at Mercyhurst University in 2005 when Lombardi was the offensive coordinator. Lombardi is the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi and was the offensive coordinator for the Lions in 2014-15, but he was fired after a 1-6 start in his second year. He started his NFL career as a defensive assistant with the Falcons in 2006 before being hired by the Saints as an offensive assistant in 2007. Lombardi spent 12 seasons working with head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans and has also tutored QBs Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston in recent seasons. He'll be tasked with working with Justin Herbert, who became the youngest QB in history to throw 30 touchdowns in his rookie season.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was uncertain about his future after the team's 31-26 loss to the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship on Sunday. The 37-year-old is expected to win the MVP this year and is under contract through the 2023 season via the $134 million extension he signed in 2018. But the Packers also drafted Jordan Love, Rodgers' possible replacement, in the first round last year. Rodgers threw 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions in the regular season in 2020, but he also became the first QB in NFL history to lose four straight appearances in a conference championship. If Green Bay were to move on from Rodgers this offseason, they'd save just $4.76 million on the salary cap and would have $31.556 million in dead money. Rodgers may be contemplating retirement, but the Packers want him back and he'd be a high-end QB1 if he does return after going 33-for-48 for 346 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the loss to Tampa to end the season.
The Los Angeles Chargers are hiring Denver Broncos defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill as their new defensive coordinator on Monday, according to sources. Hill worked with head coach Brandon Staley in Denver in 2019 and played in the league for a decade. Staley said last week that he will be making the defensive play calls in his first season as head coach in LA. Hill will be replacing Gus Bradley, who left to become the defensive coordinator for the Las Vegas Raiders. Hill will help oversee a defense that ranked 10th in the NFL last year and features three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa, rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. and standout safety Derwin James, who missed all of 2020 with a knee injury.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson could sign an extension this offseason, according to general manager Eric DeCosta, who will begin talks with Jackson in 10 days.
Fantasy Spin: Jackson ended up the QB10 in traditional leagues as he missed a game due to COVID-19. With the emergence of Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and others, the position has become pretty loaded. Dak Prescott (leg) is expected back to join the flux of QB1s. A midrange QB1 is probably where Jackson is supposed to be considering the plights he faces through the air. Don't overdraft him for the rushing numbers next season because the gap has narrowed.
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen completed 28 of his 48 passes for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and rushed seven times for 88 yards in a 38-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 24. RB Devin Singletary was bottled up, rushing for 17 yards and six carries and gaining nine yards on two catches. WR Cole Beasley had seven grabs for 88 yards, WR Stefon Diggs had six receptions on 11 targets for 77 yards, and TE Dawson Knox caught six balls for 42 yards and a touchdown. WR Isaiah McKenzie caught a six-yard touchdown pass on his only reception, and RB T.J. Yeldon had seven touches for 56 total yards. S Jordan Poyer led the defense with eight tackles, including six solo stops.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill put together another strong performance on Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill caught nine of his 11 targets for a team high 172 yards against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hill wasn't able to get a touchdown in this contest, but he was dominant nonetheless. Hill has had a phenomenal season and he will look to keep that going versus a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in Super Bowl 55. He remains one of the best at his position and will be a top option for those participating in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes completed 29 of his 38 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, Jan. 24. WR Tyreek Hill had nine catches for 172 yards, and TE Travis Kelce had 13 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns. WR Mecole Hardman had two catches for four yards and a score to go along with a 50-yard run and a lost fumble on special teams. RB Darrel Williams rushed 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown and added one catch for nine yards. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had six carries for seven yards and a score. LB Frank Clark recorded a pair of sacks, and S Juan Thornhill broke up four passes.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire scored a touchdown in his return to action versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. The rookie player a minor role on Sunday with Darrel Williams being the featured back and Le'Veon Bell (knee) inactive. CEH picked up just seven yards on six carries and caught one of his two targets for zero yards, but it was good to see him return to action for the first time since injuring his ankle and hip in Week 15. Edwards-Helaire will now have two weeks to rest up before facing a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense in the Super Bowl and he should be avoided in DFS for that contest.
Kansas City Chiefs running Darrel Williams rushed the ball 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Williams has performed well with Clyde Edwards-Helaire sidelined, but the rookie returned on Sunday and figures to play a bigger role in the future. Williams will also have to compete with Le'Veon Bell (knee) who was inactive on Sunday and could return for the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are a pass heavy team and will face a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense Super Bowl 55. That will make Williams a risky option in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes helped lead his two to their second consecutive Super Bowl with a victory against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes was his usual self and completed 29 of his 38 pass attempts for 325 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed the ball five times for five yards. Mahomes is now the only player in NFL history to reach three straight championship games before the age of 26 and will now go to his second straight Super Bowl. Mahomes is putting up legendary numbers in his young career and he will square off against Tom Brady and a tough Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense for the chance to win his second Super Bowl ring in two weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end had a monster night versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Kelce has been setting all kinds of records this season and he has now jumped Rob Gronkowski for the most receiving yards in a season that includes the postseason for a tight end. Kelce had 13 catches on 15 targets for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kelce remains the top option with wide receiver Tyreek Hill for the Chiefs and he should be expected to play a big role in the Super Bowl versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kelce remains the top tight end option in the league and he will be one of the safer options in DFS.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman had himself a day versus the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game. Hardman had a rough start to the contest by dropping a punt that would lead to a Bills touchdown, but salvaged his day by catching two of his three targets for a 3-Yard touchdown and four total yards on the evening. He also picked up 50 yards on his lone carry. Hardman is an exciting player, but remains a shaky play for managers with the Chiefs having so many options on offense. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) also sat out this contest and his return would factor into Hardman's snap count. Hardman is always capable of breaking a big play and he will look to do that versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce went over 100 receiving yards in the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills. He became the first tight end in NFL history with five postseason games of 100 or more receiving yards.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defense played another strong game in a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. Tampa Bay sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, forcing one interception and a fumble in the huge win. The Buccaneers' pass rush was fueled by two players- linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who had three sacks and four quarterback hits, and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks. Rising star Devin White led the team in tackles with 15, as he was a thorn in the side of the Packers' offensive plans all game long. Tampa Bay's defense will have its hands full in the Super Bowl against either Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen, though this unit is playing some excellent football at the right time.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski caught just one pass for 29 yards in his team's 31-26 win over the Packers. Gronkowski went catch-less through three quarters before picking up 29 yards on a screen pass in the fourth quarter, setting up Tampa Bay for a field goal. The former Patriot has nearly been an every-down player for the Buccaneers in the playoffs but has done little as a pass-catcher, as he's taken a backseat to fellow tight end Cameron Brate. No stranger to the big game, Gronkowski will get a chance to redeem himself in the Super Bowl.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate played a key role in another playoff victory for his team. Brate produced just 19 total yards, though he caught a third-quarter touchdown that helped extend the Buccaneers' lead to 28-10. The Harvard product exceeded 50 yards just once in the regular season but has accomplished the feat twice in Tampa Bay's three playoff wins. Tom Brady clearly has a trust for Brate as a pass-catcher, something that appears likely to continue as Tampa Bay prepares to be the first team to host and play in the Super Bowl.