Thu Jan 27 2:22pm ET
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
San Francisco 49ers' Deebo Samuel runs during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
San Francisco 49ers' Robbie Gould celebrates after making the game-winning field goal during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 13-10 to advance to the NFC Chasmpionship game. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) pulls in a pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford during the second half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the first half of an NFL divisional round playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) celebrates as he leaves the field after the team defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL divisional round playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
San Francisco 49ers' George Kittle and Fred Warner celebrate after an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 13-10 to advance to the NFC Chasmpionship game. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
They have gone at each other 145 times. The 49ers have owned the Rams in the past six meetings, and have a 75-67-3 mark against their California rivals.
Until Sunday, only one of all those confrontations was in the postseason - the Niners won that one, too, 30-3 in 1989 on the way to the most lopsided Super Bowl victory.
Now, San Francisco goes for a three-game sweep of Los Angeles, though the Rams will be at home and favored.
Each team comes off last-second victories on field goals, the Niners on the Lambeau Field tundra, the Rams in balmy Tampa against Tom Brady and the Bucs. They know one another so well their coaches probably could swap sides and be comfortable.
Here's how the 49ers and Rams match up:
WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL:
Just give it to Deebo Samuel (19) in some manner.
A true flex player, for all your fantasy gurus, the All-Pro receiver turned running back on occasion has become as dynamic as any NFL player. Samuel will test everyone on LA's defense, from fellow All-Pro Jalen Ramsey (5) at cornerback, yet another All-Pro - unanimous, no less - DT Aaron Donald (99) - or some of the other studs on that unit. Samuel could be the wild card the Rams can't match.
He also can't be a one-man gang. QB Jimmy Garoppolo (10) needs to avoid forcing passes; he tends to be good, make that bad, for one turnover a game. He also must feed the ball often to RB Elijah Mitchell (25), a real find, and keep versatile FB Kyle Juszczyk involved.
Niners TE George Kittle (85) hasn't been his usual brilliant self, but LA is weak at safety and the LBs don't do much in coverage. But the Rams have another potential offense wrecker in LB Leonard Floyd (54), plus the revitalized Von Miller (40).
How well the 49ers hold up on the offensive line might be critical. All-Pro Trent Williams (71), dealing with ankle issues, is the best left tackle in the game, though the keys could be center Alex Mack (50) and guards Laken Tomlinson (75) and Daniel Brunskill (60), who get the pleasure of dealing with Donald all day. But the Niners have minimized him this season: Donald has only three pressures and zero sacks in the two games during the regular season.
WHEN THE RAMS HAVE THE BALL:
As Samuel should be the focal point for San Francisco, so too must WR Cooper Kupp (10) for LA. Kupp, another unanimous All-Pro, pulled off the hat trick of leading the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdown catches; made the biggest play last week after Tampa Bay stormed back to nearly steal the game; and has a unique connection with QB Matthew Stafford (9).
Kupp is far from the only playmakers 49ers DBs must account for. Odell Beckham Jr. (3), Van Jefferson (12) and TE Tyler Higbee (89) can't be given minimal attention by safeties Jaquiski Tartt (3) and Jimmie Ward (1), CBs K'Waun Williams (24) and, if healthy, Ambry Thomas (20).
LA has a two-pronged running game with Sony Michel (25) and Cam Akers (23). They must avoid turnovers; the Rams fumbled four times at Tampa. And they must avoid the likes of DEs Nick Bosa (97) and Samson Ebukam (56), DT Arik Armstead (91), plus standout linebacker Fred Warner (54), who has been battling a balky ankle.
The Rams could have a difficult time protecting the revitalized Stafford if LT Andrew Whitworth (77) remains sidelined by knee issues. His sub, Joseph Noteboom (70) is a level down. Center Brian Allen (55) could have his hands full with defenders in the middle.
Robbie Gould (9) has been spectacular in his, uh, Goulden years. The 40-year-old placekicker made two field goals, including a 45-yarder in the snow as time expired to beat Green Bay, making him 20 for 20 in his career on field-goal attempts in the playoffs. His range doesn't match that of the Rams' Matt Gay (8), but Gould is extremely reliable.
Gay is no slouch, though, and the way three of last weekend's four games came down to last-season field goals, his role could be vital.
P Johnny Hekker (6) has been one of the league's best punters for a decade, also is a threat on fake punts. His counterpart, Mitch Wishnowsky (18), has had a mediocre season.
Neither team is particularly dangerous on kick returns.
Kyle Shanahan simply doesn't lose to the Rams, who have dropped the past six games to the Niners. The first four, though, came without Stafford, an immeasurable upgrade from Jared Goff.
Shanahan and Sean McVay are leaders of the youth wave among offense-minded coaches. They're aggressive to a fault, highly popular with their players, and have a deep trust in their schemes.
Where both have struggled is late in games - see Rams at Bucs last weekend, 49ers at Cowboys in the wild-card round.
LA's Raheem Morris is a respected defensive coordinator in the mix for a second head coaching job. DeMeco Ryans is much more a newbie to the position in San Francisco, but his unit has been stellar for all but one period against Dallas in these playoffs.
San Francisco's mastery of its longtime rival has to raise the confidence level of the 49ers, while ticking off the Rams. Not to be overlooked is how the 49ers rallied to beat the Rams in the season finale, which SF needed to qualify for the playoffs.
That said, the Rams are playing at home - SoFi Stadium will stage the Super Bowl, and the five-plus decade run of teams not hosting the big game ended in Tampa last year.
Los Angeles added stars in Stafford, Miller and Beckham with one thing in mind: returning to the Super Bowl the Rams lost three years back. And the Niners, with many of the same players still on hand, lost their chance for the NFL title two years ago to Kansas City.
So both teams have a nasty taste to remove.
The New York Jets reached an agreement with first-round wide receiver Garrett Wilson on a four-year, fully guaranteed $20.55 million deal on Wednesday, according to a source. The Jets now have all three of their first-round picks under contract. Wilson went 10th overall to the Jets in this year's draft after recording 143 catches for 2,213 yards and 23 touchdowns in his time in Ohio State on 207 targets. The 21-year-old could struggle against more physical cornerbacks at the next level, but his athleticism and elite speed cannot be ignored. The Jets are hoping that Wilson can be a big-play threat immediately for second-year quarterback Zach Wilson. The rookie wideout has plenty of upside, but he could be inconsistent in his first NFL season while fighting for targets alongside Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios.
The Cincinnati Bengals agreed to terms with first-round Michigan defensive back Daxton Hill on a four-year, fully guaranteed rookie deal on Wednesday, according to a source. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Hill was the 31st overall pick of the first round and mostly played safety in college, but he has the athleticism to play cornerback in the NFL. The 21-year-old could be an immediate upgrade over Eli Apple in the Bengals secondary in 2022 and beyond.
Former New York Giants Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Eagles on a one-year deal for $10 million on Wednesday, according to sources. It's a big-time post-draft addition for the Eagles secondary, and Bradberry will stay in the NFC East in 2022. The New York Giants released the 28-year-old just over a week ago, and it predictably didn't take the Pro Bowler long to find a new home. The Eagles didn't address cornerback in the draft, so Bradberry is a much-needed addition to the position. In his two seasons with New York, Bradberry had 81 solo tackles, seven interceptions, 35 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in 32 games (31 starts).
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook could be more involved in the passing game this year, as he lined up in bunch wide receiver sets during organized team activities. "I don't want to just sit up here and tell y'all everything," Cook said. "We've got Green Bay Week 1, so we're gonna wait and see." It could just be something the new coaching staff is tinkering with, or it could be something the Vikings plan on unveiling in a bigger fashion come the regular season. The 26-year-old could be facing a suspension this year, but when he's available, he should be a no-doubt RB1 with even more appeal for fantasy managers in an offense that should be trending more towards the pass under new head coach Kevin O'Connell.
The San Francisco 49ers signed free-agent tight end Troy Fumagalli to an undisclosed one-year deal on Tuesday and released rookie tight end Garrett Walston in a corresponding move. Fumagalli was the longest-tenured NFL veteran at the team's rookie minicamp last weekend on a tryout basis. The 27-year-old was a fifth-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2018 out of Wisconsin, and he last played for Denver in 2020, when he had eight receptions on 15 targets for 80 yards and a touchdown in eight games (no starts). He missed all of last season with an undisclosed injury and has just 14 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns in two NFL seasons. Fumagalli will provide depth behind tight ends George Kittle, Charlie Woerner and Ross Dwelley.
An MRI confirmed that free-agent running back Tarik Cohen (Achilles), who hasn't played in the NFL since he tore his ACL in Week 3 of the 2020 season, ruptured his Achilles while live streaming a training session, according to a source. It's a tough break for the 26-year-old, who will most likely miss most, if not all, of the 2022 season. Cohen was a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in 2018 with the Chicago Bears in his second NFL season, and he caught a career-high 79 passes for 456 yards and three touchdowns on 104 targets in 2019, but his career has been derailed by injuries since 2020.
Updating a previous report, free-agent RB Tarik Cohen (Achilles) suffered a torn Achilles' tendon during his workout Tuesday, May 17.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Jalen Tolbert has agreed to a four-year contract. The third-round rookie could be a legitimate threat early in the season. Michael Gallup (knee) is still recovering from an ACL injury, so Tolbert should see a decent amount of snaps. He finished with 82 receptions, 1,474 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns in 12 games during his final year at South Alabama. Tolbert sounds like someone who is worth snagging as a second or third round dynasty stash.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Trey McBride has agreed to a four-year contract. It sounds like the second-round is making roughly $6.3 million. McBride finished with 90 receptions, 1,1,21 receiving yards, and one touchdown during his final year at Colorado State. He was expected to have a minor role to start the season, but that has likely change. Superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is suspended to start the upcoming season, so McBride could have a bigger role in the offense. There's a chance that McBride ends up as a decent streaming option.
Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert (knee) is expected to be able to suit up to begin the season. Although, head coach Mike McDaniel mentioned that the organization isn't going to rush it. Mostert suffered a knee injury in September and is still recovering from it. Chase Edmonds figures to be the primary back, but that might not last too long. Myles Gaskin, Sony Michel, and Mostert should be in the mix as well. This sounds like a headache for fantasy managers heading into the season.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. has agreed to a four-year contract. The third round rookie figures to get plenty of attention this upcoming season. The Bears lack legitimate talent at wide receiver, so Jones could have a decent role. In 2021, Jones finished with 62 receptions, 807 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns during his senior year at Tennessee. The speedy wideout could be used in multiple roles, but we'll see how his game translates to the professional level.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (knee) started on-field work a couple of weeks ago after undergoing offseason surgery on the knee injury he suffered in the NFC Championship Game, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin (knee) is 'better than where he was (in March) but not where he needs to be ... we don't put a timetable on it,' according to head coach Todd Bowles.
Fantasy Spin: Godwin tore his ACL in Week 15 of last season and is a candidate to be placed on the PUP list in training camp, but the odds are very good he'll be ready to play at some point in September - if not Week 1. The Penn State product may need a few weeks to find his old form, but he should return WR2 value if rediscovers it at some point during the second half of the season. Russell Gage could flirt with WR2 value until that happens.
Free-agent RB Tarik Cohen (Bears) appeared to suffer a significant lower leg injury while training Tuesday, May 17. There has been some speculation from training video posted on social media that he may have torn his right Achilles.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said that there remains no timetable for wide receiver Chris Godwin's (knee) return. "Better than where he was but not where he needs to be we don't put a timetable on it," Bowles said. As expected, Godwin isn't available for offseason team activities on Tuesday after tearing his ACL in Week 15 last year. As long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks in his rehab or at training camp this summer, Godwin is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. When healthy, Godwin is one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite targets and should return to being a WR2, but he could get off to a slow start. If he's not ready for the start of the season, Russell Gage will be a popular fantasy play in Tampa's pass-first offense.
Free-agent TE Troy Fumagalli (Patriots) signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday, May 17, after participating in the team's rookie minicamp last weekend. Financial terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed. The 49ers also released TE Garrett Walston.
Free-agent running back Phillip Lindsay agreed to an undisclosed one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts on Tuesday, according to his agent, Mike McCartney. Lindsay spent last season with the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins, finishing with 88 carries for 249 yards (career-low 2.8 yards per carry) and one touchdown, also adding four receptions for 45 yards and another score. The 27-year-old opened with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his first two years in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, but he's fallen off considerably since then and will be competing for touches in Indianapolis behind bell-cow Jonathan Taylor and pass-catching back Nyheim Hines. Taylor or Hines would likely have to miss time due to injury for Lindsay to even be worth a fantasy pickup.
Former Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen (leg) appeared to suffer a significant lower leg injury while training on Tuesday. It's a tough blow for Cohen, who was finally recovered from a torn ACL in 2020. His latest injury is speculated to be a torn Achilles. The 26-year-old running back was released by the Bears with an injury designation back in March. If it's indeed a torn Achilles, he's unlikely to sign with a team or play at all in 2022. In his last full season in 2019, Cohen carried the ball 64 times for 213 yards while also catching a career-high 79 passes for 456 yards and three touchdowns on 104 targets in 16 games (11 starts) for the Bears.
Miami Dolphins RB Raheem Mostert (knee) expects to play in Week 1, but head coach Mike McDaniel told reporters Tuesday, May 17, that '(the Dolphins) are not going to rush it.' 'He's come too far to have a setback. He's diligently working day in, day out. When he's ready he'll be on the field,' McDaniel added.
Fantasy Spin: McDaniel and Mostert are quite familiar with each other, as the two began working with each other in 2017 with the San Francisco 49ers. Mostert should be considered the odds-on favorite to work in tandem with Chase Edmonds if he is ready for the opener, although Sony Michel could easily make a strong case to be the primary early-down back with a strong camp. Myles Gaskin also has a chance, but the odds are stacked against him considering Miami added three veterans at his position this offseason.
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie pass-rusher Travon Walker, the first overall pick in the draft, worked full time at outside linebacker during the team's rookie minicamp. "Just strictly working on outside linebacker things in practice I feel like I'm truly getting more comfortable with the position," Walker said. The first overall selection worked on pass-rush techniques and on dropping into coverage, which he will be asked to do at the position. The plan is for the rookie to focus on outside linebacker before working other positions. The 21-year-old could be a game-changing defensive player when it's all said and done, but it'll be interesting to see how he transitions to more of a traditional outside linebacker role in the NFL.