Today’s Ultimate NFL Fantasy Picks from QB to Flex and Defense
QB – Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers / $8,100
RB – Aaron Jones – Green Bay Packers / $7,800
RB – Clyde Edward-Helaire – Kansas City Chiefs / $5,400
WR – Calvin Ridley – Atlanta Falcons / $7,000
WR – Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Green Bay Packers / $3,900
WR – Mecole Hardman – Kansas City Royals / $3,500
TE – Hayden Hurst – Atlanta Falcons / $3,900
FLEX – Robert Tonyan – Green Bay Packers / $3,600
DEF – Kansas City Chiefs / $2,000
Salary Cap remaining ($50,000): $4,800
Raiders host the Broncos on Christmas Eve for what could be their final game in Oakland Coliseum
Monday night’s game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders won’t be unique just because it is on Christmas Eve. It will be special because it could be the Raiders’ final game played at the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum.
Raiders owner Mark Davis is moving the Raiders to Las Vegas in 2020. Since the city of Oakland recently sued the Raiders and the rest of the NFL over the move to Las Vegas, Davis is looking for another venue for the team in 2019.
Oakland and Denver do have one thing in common — both teams are putting the final touches on disappointing seasons. For the Raiders (3-11) and Broncos (6-8), most of the focus has shifted towards next season and the 2019 NFL Draft. But there’s still pride on the line (and maybe a head coach’s job), especially considering the first meeting between these two teams came down to a last-second field goal.
Back in Week 2, Denver overcame a 12-0 halftime deficit to beat Oakland 20-19. The Broncos scored the final 13 points of the game with Brandon McManus kicking a 36-yard field with six seconds left to complete the comeback. It also should be pointed out that several of the key participants in that game won’t be a part of the return matchup whether it be due to injury (Marshawn Lynch, Emmanuel Sanders, Chris Harris Jr.) or trade (Amari Cooper, Demaryius Thomas).
Denver at Oakland
Kickoff: Monday, Dec. 24 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Denver -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Derek Carr
Despite the Raiders’ record, Carr has played some of the best football of his career the last two months. He has not thrown an interception in his last nine games, a span of 292 pass attempts. That’s already a franchise record and the current longest active streak in the NFL since Aaron Rodgers’ record run came to an end at 402 following an interception in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Chicago.
For the season, Carr has 3,697 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Those numbers may not seem all that impressive, but Carr hasn’t gotten a lot of help from either his pass catchers or his offensive line this season. He’s been sacked 47 times through 14 games, that’s the third-highest total in the league, yet he’s seventh in the league with a completion rate of 68.4 percent, which is a career-best mark for him.
Denver can still get after the quarterback (42 sacks), but the Broncos have been susceptible through the air. They rank 25th in the league at 257.9 passing yards per game allowed and just put top cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on injured reserve. If Oakland’s line can give Carr enough time to throw, he should be able to have some success on Monday night.
2. Phillip Lindsay
Lindsay has not only been among the best rookies in the NFL this season but one of the biggest surprises in the entire league. After going undrafted in April, Lindsay has rushed for 991 yards and nine touchdowns, becoming the first undrafted offensive rookie to be named to the Pro Bowl.
“To be able to have 100 yards in a game was great,” Lindsay said earlier this week. “To get a touchdown, to be able to play [at Broncos Stadium at Mile High], that’s the stuff right there that I dreamt about. The Pro Bowl is something that you think like five years down the line, three years down the line. It’s an honor to get it.”
Oakland’s rushing defense is dead last in the league at 146.4 yards per game. The Raiders already know what to expect when facing Lindsay. He posted his first career 100-yard game against them back in Week 2, going for 107 on just 14 carries (7.6 ypc) with a long of 53 yards.
Just like the fans watching and attending Monday night’s game, it figures to be emotional for Oakland’s players as well as the coaches given the uncertain status about where they will be playing in 2019.
Head coach Jon Gruden is in his second stint with the Raiders after first coming to the franchise back in 1998. So Gruden has been through the ups and downs with the Raiders.
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere Monday night, on Christmas Eve, the Denver Broncos coming to town,” Gruden said. “I get excited thinking about it. Just raging in the Black Hole. Rocking and raging down there after the Steelers game, after a lot of wins over the years. Seeing a lot of the old highlights of the great Raiders teams. I get excited, and I get emotional about it. Hopefully, we get it all resolved where we can continue to play here.”
Although this game doesn’t have any playoff implications, the Raiders would love nothing more than to go out with a victory in possibly their last game in Oakland. If the Raiders can contain Phillip Lindsay and the Broncos’ running game, they will have a chance for the upset.
Denver quarterback Case Keenum, like the Broncos as a team, has been inconsistent this season. He’s on pace to set a new career high for passing yards (3,396 entering Monday night), but he has just 15 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions.
While this game will likely be close as it reaches the fourth quarter, look for the Raiders, with a rejuvenated Carr leading the way, give the fans an early Christmas present with one last victory in the Black Hole.
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NFC Wild Card Contenders face off on Monday night to conclude Week 14
The Seattle Seahawks saw any hopes of winning the NFC West evaporate when the division-rival Los Angeles Rams opened the season 8-0. The Seahawks’ playoff chances also appeared to take a major hit after back-to-back losses to both Los Angeles teams, but they have bounced back and carry a three-game winning streak into Monday night’s contest against the visiting Minnesota Vikings.
Seattle posted three-point victories over Green Bay and Carolina before routing San Francisco last week to vault into the fifth playoff spot in the NFC – one-half game ahead of Minnesota. “We need tough matchups with teams that really challenge us in many ways, and this is one of them, for sure,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters of facing the Vikings. “So we’ve got to get it cranked up, have a good week and get ready to go for a big opportunity on Monday night.” Minnesota owns a one-half game lead over three teams for the last postseason berth after losing at New England 24-10 last weekend and now must fly to the opposite coast to face resurgent Seattle. “It comes down to other teams are in the hunt, other teams are fighting for their division title and whoever has the best four-game stretch,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins told reporters. “It doesn’t really matter what happened before.”
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Seahawks -3. O/U: 45.5
ABOUT THE VIKINGS (6-5-1): Minnesota has alternated losses and wins over its last five games, a stretch during which Cousins has thrown nine touchdown passes against six interceptions. Running back Dalvin Cook was effective against the Patriots, picking up 84 yards on nine carries, but he has not had more than 10 rushing attempts since the season opener as the Vikings continue to struggle to find balance in their offense. Wide receiver Adam Thielen has registered nine 100-yard performances and just as many touchdowns, but he was held under 30 yards for the second time in the last four games by New England. Defensive pressure is critical for Minnesota, which is 6-1-1 when it notches at least three sacks and 0-4 when it fails to record three.
ABOUT THE SEAHAWKS (7-5): Unlike Minnesota, the running game is a point of emphasis for Seattle, which features the top-ranked attack with an average of 148.8 yards and at least 32 rushes in eight of its last 10 games. “Because it’s the best way to not screw it up,” Carroll said. “That’s why the turnover issue is of paramount importance to us. It’s the most important thing that we taught.” Quarterback Russell Wilson is averaging only 226.4 yards passing but usually dials it up late in the season, and this year is no exception – he has 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over his last four contests. Linemen Frank Clark and Jarran Reed have combined for 16.5 sacks to lead a unit ranked ninth in scoring defense (21.6 points).
1. Seattle has won each of the last four matchups, including a 10-9 playoff victory in January 2016.
2. Thielen, who has made a league-high 98 catches, has recorded 48 receptions and five TDs in six road games.
3. Wilson has a 142.0 passer rating with eight TDs and zero interceptions in three career matchups versus Minnesota.
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Preview: Redskins at Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off what may have been a season-saving victory while the Washington Redskins are trying to shake off back-to-back losses that cost them the lead in the NFC East. As the division rivals prepare to clash on Monday night in Philadelphia, the Redskins will hold a one-game edge on the Eagles for the conference’s sixth and final playoff slot.
Reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia appeared on the verge of absorbing a knockout blow last weekend before erasing an early 16-point deficit and rallying for a 25-22 victory over the New York Giants. “This was a big game for us,” Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said. “Obviously in terms of the division standings and all that fun stuff, but really mentally to show the resilience that we did. To get down early like we did, then to battle back, just really builds a lot of confidence.” Washington is trying to maintain its confidence and a victory over Philadelphia could provide a huge boost in that department, particularly with the teams squaring off in the regular-season finale. “I think there should be a sense of urgency without a doubt,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Anytime you can go on the road and get a key victory is very, very critical. It is also important for our confidence and our psyche down the stretch.”
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Eagles -6.5. O/U: 45
ABOUT THE REDSKINS (6-5): Washington is hoping the additional time off will pay dividends for Colt McCoy, who had only three days to get ready for his first career start in four years after Alex Smith suffered a season-ending leg injury. McCoy, who was picked off three times in a 31-23 loss to division-leading Dallas on Thanksgiving, and the offense could receive a boost with the return of running back Chris Thompson, who practiced fully for the first time Friday since suffering broken ribs on Oct. 28. Thompson also would alleviate the workload on Adrian Peterson, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury. The Redskins were burned for a pair of long touchdown passes against the Cowboys.
ABOUT THE EAGLES (5-6): Wentz bounced back from a three-interception performance in a debacle at New Orleans by throwing for 238 yards and a touchdown in the comeback win over New York. Once again his favorite target was tight end Zach Ertz, who had seven catches for 91 yards and a score to boost his season totals to a career-best 84 receptions and 895 yards. Running back Josh Adams provided much needed balance to the offense and lifted a running game in dire need of a spark with 84 yards rushing on 22 carries — both season highs — while scoring for the second week in a row. Philadelphia held New York to three second-half points last week but ranks 28th against the pass (276.5 yards).
1. Wentz has six TD passes and two interceptions in a sweep of the Redskins last season.
2. Peterson needs two rushing touchdowns to move past Jim Brown (106) for fifth place on the all-time list.
3. Ertz has 59 receptions for 620 yards in 10 games against Washington.
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Preview: Chiefs at Rams
The Los Angeles Rams saw their perfect record come to an end two weeks ago in New Orleans in a marquee showdown between the two highest-scoring teams in the NFC. Another high-octane matchup is on desk for the Rams, who will face a test against the best team in the AFC when quarterback Pat Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs pay them a visit on Monday night.
The teams enter Monday’s game – initially scheduled to be played in Mexico City – with identical 9-1 records, marking only the fifth time since the 1970 merger that two clubs squared off in Week 11 with fewer than two losses each. “It’s fun if you’re watching as a football fan; it’s not fun when you’re watching it getting ready to play them,” Los Angeles coach Sean McVay told reporters of facing Kansas City, which is averaging 35.3 points and features the league’s passing yards leader in Mahomes. Chiefs coach Andy Reid understands the challenge of trying to match up with the Rams, who have league-leading rusher Todd Gurley and quarterback Jared Goff – who is second to Mahomes in passing yards. “You have to be disciplined,” Reid told reporters. “They’re a disciplined offense, so you have to be disciplined from a defensive standpoint. Then practice that way and then you go play.”
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Rams -3.5. O/U: 63
ABOUT THE CHIEFS (9-1): Mahomes had his streak of eight straight 300-yard performances halted in last week’s 26-14 win over Arizona, but he threw a pair of scoring passes to give him the franchise’s single-season record of 31 with only seven interceptions. Mahomes has a bevy of weapons at his disposal that includes game-breaking wide receiver Tyreek Hill (nine touchdowns) and tight end Travis Kelce, who leads the team with 57 catches to go along with six scores. Running back Kareem Hunt also is a dangerous two-way threat with 13 total TDs on 754 yards rushing and 23 receptions. Kansas City ranks 29th overall in defense with an average of 410.7 yards allowed but is tied for second in the league in sacks with 31.
ABOUT THE RAMS (9-1): Gurley, the NFL’s runaway leader in both rushing and touchdowns, needs only 12 yards to reach 1,000 and has scored 17 times – two shy of his total from last year. Goff has 22 scoring passes versus six interceptions and has recorded four straight games with a passer rating of at least 111.0. Cooper Kupp had a team-high six touchdown receptions before he was lost for the season with a torn ACL, but Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks have 55 and 51 catches, respectively, and three scores apiece. Los Angeles features the league’s sacks leader in star defensive tackle Aaron Donald (12.5) and yields only 233.1 passing yards per game, although the Saints put up 346 on them.
1. Mahomes has thrown 18 TD passes and three interceptions for a passer rating of 125.9 in five road games this season.
2. Goff has amassed 1,015 passing yards with seven scores and one interception in his last three home contests.
3. Gurley and Hunt are the only two running backs with more than 2,000 rushing yards since the start of the 2017 campaign.
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Preview: Titans at Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans each have the luxury of playing in mediocre divisions, but both teams are in danger of falling too far back in their respective conference playoff pictures with another loss. The Titans and Cowboys also share the similarities of owning identical 3-4 records while coming off a loss and a bye heading into Monday night’s clash in Dallas.
The game will mark the Cowboys debut of wide receiver Amari Cooper, who was acquired from Oakland for a first-round draft pick to put some juice in Dallas’ struggling offense. “He’s electrifying. He’s one of those guys you hold your breath every time he catches the ball,” running back Ezekiel Elliott told reporters regarding Cooper. “He’s a great addition to this offense and I’m excited.” The bye week couldn’t come soon enough for Tennessee, which followed a three-game winning streak by scoring a total of 31 points during a three-game slide that includes a pair of one-point defeats. “It’s our fault, you know what I’m saying?” Titans Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard told reporters. “We’re not doing the right things to win these games, and we have to find ways to turn that around.”
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Cowboys -5.5. O/U: 40.5
ABOUT THE TITANS (3-4): Marcus Mariota injured his elbow in the season opener and has been dealing with numbness in his throwing hand, but he finally was able to discard the glove he’s been wearing since getting hurt. That, and the loss the of tight end Delanie Walker to a season-ending injury in Week 1, has contributed to Mariota’s woes – he has thrown three touchdown passes and five interceptions while being held to 129 yards or fewer in four of his six games. The running back tandem of Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry also has struggled, although Lewis gained 155 yards from scrimmage in Tennessee’s last contest. The Titans rank 19th in the league against the run, permitting 112.3 yards per game.
ABOUT THE COWBOYS (3-4): The offseason departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten has grounded Dallas’ aerial attack, prompting the move to bring in Cooper to jump-start a passing offense ranked 29th in the NFL (183.1 yards). Whether Cooper is the answer for Dak Prescott remains to be seen – the former No. 4 overall pick had 48 receptions and seven touchdowns last season while recording 22 catches and one score for the Raiders this year before the trade. The Cowboys have the league’s fourth-ranked ground game thanks to Elliott, who is second in the NFL in rushing with 619 yards and has three 100-yard performances. Dallas ranks third overall in total defense (313.7) and against the pass (217.4).
1. Dallas (17.6) and Tennessee (18.1) rank second and third, respectively, in the NFL in points allowed.
2. Mariota has thrown 24 TD passes and seven interceptions in his last 12 games versus NFC opponents.
3. Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence has registered seven sacks in his last five home contests.
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Monday Night Football Preview
New England Patriots vs Baltimore Ravens
The New England Patriots did not even have to take the field to seize control of their postseason destiny and they can solidify the front-running status when they host the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night (Enter Contest). Oakland’s loss to Kansas City on Thursday night put the Patriots one-half game up for the No. 1 seed in the AFC entering the final quarter of the season.
New England has won three in a row and are inching closer to an NFL record eight consecutive division title in the AFC East. The Patriots own a deceptive 7-1 regular-season record in the series against the Ravens, who have been a major nemesis for New England and quarterback Tom Brady. Four of the last six meetings (playoffs included) have been decided by four points or fewer and Baltimore owns a pair of postseason victories over the Patriots in Foxborough. The stakes are equally high for the Ravens, who are in a battle with Pittsburgh for the top AFC North spot. Steelers won their game on monday to take the temporary lead. Pressure is now on the Ravens to tie-it back up, especially with the fact that they hold the tiebreaker over the Black-and-Yellows.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (7-5)
Baltimore improved to 4-1 in its last five games following its most impressive victory of the season, a 38-6 demolition of Miami last week that snapped the Dolphins’ six-game winning streak. Muddling through a season of mediocrity to that point, quarterback Joe Flacco established season highs with 381 yards passing and four touchdowns while setting a franchise record with 36 completions. Tight end Dennis Pitta had nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, part of a unit that features veteran Steve Smith, speedster Mike Wallace and promising Breshad Perriman at wide receiver. The Ravens have the league’s top-ranked defense (296.1 yards per game) and rank No. 1 against the run (73.8 yards).
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (10-2)
New England has won three in a row, although the combined record of those opponents entering Week 13 is 8-28. Brady has 19 touchdown passes versus only one interception since returning from his four-game suspension, but he is without his No. 1 receiving target in tight end Rob Gronkowski and has 12 scoring passes versus 11 picks in 10 career games (playoffs included) versus Baltimore. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell continues to emerge as a bigger threat in the passing game with a season-high eight receptions in last week’s 26-10 win over Los Angeles while LeGarrette Blount is 43 yards shy of his second 1,000-yard season. The Patriots’ defense is tied with Baltimore with 17.3 points allowed, which is ranked second in the NFL. With Danny Amendola (ankle) out, the Patriots signed fellow WR/PR Griff Whalen.
Green Bay Packers vs Philadephia Eagles Preview
The early-season hype surrounding rookie Carson Wentz has quieted down, but the whispers are growing louder around two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers’ inability to stop his team’s maddening slump. Both quarterbacks will be trying to keep their teams in the playoff chase when Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles host Rodgers and the sliding Green Bay Packers on Monday night (Enter Contest).
The Eagles have dropped five of seven since No. 2 overall draft pick Wentz led them to a 3-0 start, slipping into last place in the NFC East. Still, the Eagles are right on the heels of division rival Washington (6-4-1) for the final playoff spot in the conference and also own a 4-0 record at home, including victories over Atlanta and Minnesota in their last two at Lincoln Financial Field. The Packers are in the midst of a spectacular four-game slide during which they have allowed a staggering 153 points.
ABOUT THE PACKERS (4-6):
Following narrow losses to Atlanta and Indianapolis by a combined six points, Green Bay’s defense has been carved up for 89 points by Tennessee and Washington in the first two stops of its three-game road trip. The Packers have failed to force a turnover in three of the last four defeats. Green Bay is hopeful that Christine Michael, claimed off waivers from Seattle, will be ready to bolster a sagging running game with a full week of practice. Rodgers continues to put up solid numbers with 15 TD passes and three interceptions in his last five games. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who sat out last season with a knee injury, leads the NFL with nine TD catches. The Packers have won four of the last five meetings, including a 53-20 rout at Philadelphia two years ago.
ABOUT THE EAGLES (5-5):
It’s hardly a surprise that Wentz has been unable to sustain his hot start, given the dearth of playmakers at wide receiver and a spotty running game. Wentz threw seven touchdown passes against one interception in his first four games, but those numbers have changed with four scoring tosses and six picks in the last six contests. Wentz has thrown for more than 238 yards just once in his last seven games, with wideout Jordan Matthews his favorite target with 53 receptions and three touchdowns. Matthews has four TD receptions in his last six home games and recorded 107 yards and a score versus Green Bay in 2014. Ryan Mathews rushed for a season-high 109 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Atlanta on November 13, but he injured his knee in last week’s loss at Seattle and is not expected to play. Philadelphia has surrendered only 38 points in its four home games.
Monday Night Football
EAGLES (1-0) vs BEARS (0-1)
Carson Wentz showed he could handle the big stage in his much-ballyhooed NFL start, but the lights will be even brighter when he leads the Philadelphia Eagles on the road to face the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football (Enter Contests). Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick overall pick out of North Dakota State, earned raved reviews nationally after leading Philadelphia to a 29-10 win over Cleveland in its season opener. His 101.0 passer rating was the highest by a Philadelphia rookie since John Reaves in 1972.
Wentz was supposed to open the season on the bench but was thrust into the starter’s role following the abrupt trade of Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings. He responded with 278 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns against those lowly Browns. While Wentz looks to be the towns hero in Philadelphia after his starry debut, there are major injury concerns on both sides of the ball for the Eagles.
Tight end Zach Ertz, who collected six catches for 58 yards, suffered a rib displacement under his collarbone and did not practice again Friday. This is likely robbing Wentz of a safety valve that hauled in 75 receptions in 2015. Cornerback Leodis McKelvin also did not participate in practice. He strained his hamstring, putting further stress on a position where Philadelphia lacked depth after trading Eric Rowe to New England. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews had a big first game with the Eagles acquiring seven catches for 114 yards and a TD.
Chicago was not impressive in its season opener, failing to get on the board in the second half of a 23-14 loss at Houston. Playing at home is not necessarily an advantage for the Bears. They’ve came out victorious only once at Soldier Field last season. Chicago’s offensive line struggled to protect quarterback Jay Cutler, who was sacked five times and pressured repeatedly. Cutler passed for 216 yards with one touchdown and a costly interception in Houston.
Speedy wide receiver Kevin White, the No. 7 overall pick in 2015, had three receptions for 34 yards in his NFL debut, but accepted the blame for running the incorrect route on Cutler’s pick. After missing his entire rookie campaign with a shin injury, it’s likely that the jitters got to him for his first official NFL game. The Bears’ defense, which ranked in the bottom third of the league against the rush (120.9 yards per game) last season, gave the Texans control of the ball for more than 36 minutes. Alshon Jeffery was the best offensive player with four catches for 105 yards. He has at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in his last three games.