Sun Dec 5 8:35pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, right, celebrates his touchdown catch with quarterback Matthew Stafford during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Carlos Hyde, left, scores a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars were the cure for just about everything that ailed the Los Angeles Rams throughout November.
Matthew Stafford and the Rams hope they can stay up at this level when their stretch run gets a whole lot tougher.
Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. caught touchdown passes from Stafford, and the Rams snapped their three-game losing streak with a 37-7 victory over Jacksonville on Sunday.
Stafford passed for 295 yards while Sony Michel rushed for 121 yards and a score for the Rams (8-4), who rebounded from a winless month with a solid all-around effort against a struggling opponent. Kupp had his 100th reception of a remarkable season among his eight catches for 129 yards.
''It's nice to get a win after three subpar performances,'' Stafford said.
Stafford snapped back into his early-season form, playing turnover-free football after giving the ball away six times during the three-game skid that threatened to derail the Rams' playoff plans. Los Angeles still has never lost four straight in coach Sean McVay's half-decade in charge.
''We really need to find a way to start playing our best ball in December,'' McVay said. ''Our guys did a great job just staying steady and trusting the process. ... You don't take any wins for granted in this league. This is good for our team, and now we've just got to start stacking blocks.''
Jalen Ramsey made three tackles against his former team and recovered a fumble forced by Aaron Donald on the opening drive for the Rams, who comfortably won what appeared to be the least daunting game remaining on a tough schedule. Los Angeles still must make trips to Arizona, Baltimore and Minnesota along with two NFC West games at home.
''When you get turnovers, you tend to win games,'' Donald said. ''We need to build off this type of win we had today. ... We can't be satisfied. Got to stay hungry.''
Rookie Trevor Lawrence passed for 145 yards for the Jaguars (2-10), who have lost four straight. With their 16th consecutive loss to NFC teams since September 2018, the Jaguars have lost 10 games for the 10th time in the last 11 years.
''There are some times when you're at a loss for words, especially in a game like this where we were moving the ball earlier and then can't get anything going,'' said Lawrence, who went 16 for 28. ''The turnovers hurt, and when you're not moving the ball consistently it is pretty much impossible to come back.''
Jacksonville turned the ball over twice and struggled to get anything going offensively against LA's star-studded defense, managing just 197 total yards. This defeat means Urban Meyer will lose at least twice as many games in his rookie NFL season as he ever did in any of his 17 seasons as a head coach at the college level.
''I don't mean to be redundant and go into coachspeak, but there's nothing else I can tell you,'' Meyer said. ''Is it frustrating for everybody involved? Absolutely. Are we better than that? Absolutely. We have better players and coaches than that. So now it's time to go produce.''
Michel was the Rams' featured back with Darrell Henderson in uniform but limited by a thigh injury. Michel capped the Rams' only TD drive of the first half with a 5-yard run before finishing with the Rams' first 100-yard rushing performance all season.
Jacksonville's defense hung in throughout the first half, preventing the Rams from converting any of their six third downs and forcing LA's Matt Gay to kick three field goals.
''We're playing excellent pass defense, field position and complementary football there,'' Meyer said. ''That's kind of where you want to be on the road against a good team, and then we couldn't move the ball.''
The Rams' defense dominated Lawrence's offense in the first half except for one 73-yard scoring drive culminating in Carlos Hyde's 1-yard TD run.
The Rams took control after halftime with two long touchdown drives capped by Kupp's 29-yard TD grab and Jefferson's 2-yard, toe-tap scoring catch.
The Rams' two prized midseason acquisitions finally got to play at SoFi Stadium for the first time, and both made contributions to the victory.
Beckham made an early 27-yard reception before his 1-yard TD grab early in the fourth quarter, outfighting Nevin Lawson for a jump ball.
Linebacker Von Miller had just one tackle for loss, but he was active in drawing blockers while the Rams' pass rush kept Lawrence uncomfortable for most of the day.
Stafford left for one play after a hard tackle, but returned quickly. ''Just a chest shot,'' Stafford said. ''I feel good now.'' ... Rams center Brian Allen injured his knee on their first snap from scrimmage and didn't return. Coleman Shelton took over and played well in the Los Angeles native's first significant NFL action in two years. ... Rams left guard David Edwards injured his foot later in their opening drive, but eventually returned. ... Jaguars C Brandon Linder injured his back. ... Jags rookie CB Tyson Campbell incurred an abdominal injury in the third quarter.
Jaguars: at Tennessee next Sunday.
Rams: at Arizona for Monday night game on Dec. 13.
On Thursday, the Chicago Bears hired former Colts Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus to be their head coach. Eberflus took a Colts defense that was ranked 26th and 27th in total defense before he arrived and made them a top-10 unit. The Colts never featured tremendous pass rush rates and blitzed at one of the lowest rates in the league, but the Bears defensive scheme only blitzed 2.4% more and both teams ran a variation of a 4-3 base defense, so it's possible there won't be much change in philosophy. However, the biggest question will be who Eberflus hires as offensive coordinator and what that means for Justin Fields. Since Eberflus spent four years coaching under former NFL quarterback Frank Reich, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that he soaked up some knowledge in that relationship and will use it to make a hire that's in the best interest of his quarterback's development.
After earlier reports that Byron Leftwich was set to be the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, reports surfaced early on Wednesday that the negotiations were held up because Leftwich wanted Jacksonville to get rid of General Manager Trent Baalke to hire Adrian Wilson, who is Vice President of Pro Scouting for the Arizona Cardinals. Not long after that, Adam Schefter reported that the Jaguars interviewed former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio for their head coaching position. While we don't know where this will end up, Fangio has been a far more run-heavy coach in his career than we'd expect Leftwich to be since Leftwich has learned under Bruce Arians. It's possible that if Fangio were to be hired in Jacksonville, we could see a running back committee of Travis Etienne and James Robinson in the same way Denver deployed Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon this year. It would also potentially sap the upside of Trevor Lawrence, Laviska Shenault Jr., and D.J. Chark, so let's hope Jacksonville does the right thing here.
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn has told teams that he will remain with the Cowboys next year and not pursue any more head coaching positions. Six teams had requested interviews with Quinn, but he decided to return in pursuit of a Super Bowl. The Dallas defense under Quinn this year finished as the number one fantasy defense thanks to their propensity for turnovers., so Quinn's return should be good news for the Cowboys DST next year as well. Also, fantasy managers in IDP leagues don't have to worry about new schemes for studs like Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger announced his retirement Thursday, Jan. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Big Ben will be remembered for this size, athletic ability and big arm. He was different and will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The Steelers will pivot to Mason Rudolph, for now, but there will be a number of options in free agency. Rudolph will be a QB2 in fantasy if he's the starter.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (knee) popped up on the injury report with a knee issue. Despite showing up on the latest injury report, the 25-year-old was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The former No.1 overall pick completed 28-of-37 passes for 348 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception in Saturday's 19-16 Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans. He's been on absolute fire recently, throwing for 1,563 yards, 10 touchdowns, and one pick over his last four games. Burrow is an excellent QB option with a $7,500 price on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (thumb) popped up on the injury report with a thumb issue. He was a full participant in Wednesday's practice despite showing up on the latest injury report. In last week's Divisional-Round win over the Tennessee Titans, the 23-year-old hauled in seven receptions on nine targets for 96 yards. He is expected to be all systems go for the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Higgins caught three passes for 62 yards in the Week 17 win over the Chiefs and is an excellent mid-tier option at his $6,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
Kansas City Chiefs running back Darrel Williams (toe) participated fully in Wednesday's practice. Last week, the 26-year-old was limited with a toe injury and was inactive for the Divisional -Round game against the Buffalo Bills. He is expected to be available for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Williams will split touches out of Kansas City's backfield with Clyde-Edwards Helaire and Jerick McKinnon. Due to the uncertainty of his role, Williams is more of a GPP option in Sunday's main DFS slate.
Green Bay Packers PK Mason Crosby is likely to be released during the offseason as a cap casualty, according to The Green Bay Press-Gazette's Pete Dougherty.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers indicated he should have made a decision about his future by late February during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, which coincides with when the Packers would potentially utilize the franchise tag on WR Davante Adams, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Fantasy Spin: If Rodgers and Adams return to Green Bay in 2022, or reunite elsewhere, both would be No. 1 options at their respective positions. Rodgers' decision as to whether he'll play in 2022 figures to be the first domino to fall.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) practiced fully on Wednesday. The 49ers have removed his sprained shoulder from the injury report, but his sprained right thumb remains. The 30-year-old has somehow led the 49ers to the NFC Championship despite throwing for 303 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions over both playoff games. He threw for 316 yards, one touchdown, and two picks in the Week 18 win over the Rams. Garoppolo should be all systems go against the Los Angeles Rams and is the only value option at quarterback for Sunday's main DFS slate with a $6,200 price tag on FanDuel.
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr. (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Teammate Elijah Mitchell also missed Wednesday's session with an ongoing knee issue. Wilson suffered a low-ankle sprain during the first quarter of Saturday's Divisional-Round game over the Green Packers and did not return. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, he could play in the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old has two more chances to practice in some capacity and will most likely be questionable for Sunday's game. If active, Wilson could have an expanded role if Mitchell (knee) cannot suit up. Stay tuned.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson (knee) did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury. The 25-year-old did not participate in the Rams walkthrough session and was listed as a non-participant. He's considered day-to-day, and it's unclear if Van Jefferson will miss the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He caught two passes for 31 yards in the Week 18 loss to the 49ers. Fantasy managers should continue to monitor his status throughout the week. If active, Van Jefferson provides salary relief with his $5,200 price tag and is a solid option against the 49ers in Sunday's main DFS slate. Stay tuned.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle isn't listed on the injury report ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. He was seen limping at the end of the Divisional-Round win over the Green Bay Packers but is expected to be all systems go for Sunday. The 28-year-old logged a full practice Wednesday and was removed from the injury report. He caught five of seven targets for 10 yards in his previous contest against the Rams. Despite the dud against Los Angeles in Week 18, Kittle provides excellent value at his $5,800 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's main DFS slate.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (knee) isn't listed on Wednesday's injury report ahead of the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. The 26-year-old said he was sore after taking a helmet to the knee in last Saturday's Divisional Round win over the Green Bay Packers. On Wednesday, he logged a full practice and was removed from the injury report. Samuel caught four passes for 95 yards and rushed for 45 yards on eight carries and a score in his previous game against the Rams. Deebo will have a vital role in the NFC Championship Game and is a strong option with his $8,400 price tag on FanDuel for Sunday's DFS slate.
San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa (non-injury), C Alex Mack (non-injury), RB Elijah Mitchell (knee), OT Trent Williams (ankle) and RB Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. CB Ambry Thomas (knee) was limited during practice, while QB Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) fully participated in practice.
Atlanta Falcons TE Lee Smith announced his retirement from professional football Tuesday, Jan. 25.
Free-agent WR Josh Gordon was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad Wednesday, Jan. 26.
Kansas City Chiefs S Tyrann Mathieu (concussion) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Jan. 26. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder), CB Rashad Fenton (back), WR Mecole Hardman (hip), WR Tyreek Hill (heel), LB Anthony Hitchens (back), DT Chris D. Jones (groin), CB L'Jarius Sneed (knee), CB Charvarius Ward (neck), RB Darrel Williams (toe) and OG Andrew Wylie (elbow) fully participated in practice.
Buffalo Bills OG Ike Boettger (Achilles) and CB Tre'Davious White (knee) are on schedule in their recoveries, according to head coach Sean McDermott.