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Bears, 49ers coming off comebacks that fell short SINCE 1967

THURSDAY | DECEMBER 1, 2016

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Our PFW experts discuss backup QB Matt Barkley’s first start with the Bears and his future in Chicago

The #2 pick in the NFL Draft could be on the line Sunday when the Bears host the 49ers PLUS WAY WE HEAR IT NFC NORTH REPORT FANTASY FOOTBALL

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PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

1 DALLAS COWBOYS 2 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 3 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 4 OAKLAND RAIDERS 5 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 6 ATLANTA FALCONS 7 DENVER BRONCOS 8 NEW YORK GIANTS 9 MIAMI DOLPHINS 10 PITTSBURGH STEELERS 11 BALTIMORE RAVENS 12 DETROIT LIONS 13 WASHINGTON 14 MINNESOTA VIKINGS 15 GREEN BAY PACKERS 16 BUFFALO BILLS 17 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 18 HOUSTON TEXANS 19 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 20 TENNESSEE TITANS 21 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 22 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 23 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 24 CAROLINA PANTHERS 25 ARIZONA CARDINALS 26 CINCINNATI BENGALS 27 LOS ANGELES RAMS 28 NEW YORK JETS 29 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 30 CHICAGO BEARS 31 SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 32 CLEVELAND BROWNS Only 10-1 club has passed every test Even on one leg, Brady can’t be beat

Wins at Oakland and Denver earn this spot They keep on winning but need to play better Offensive line’s a problem; rest of unit out of sync Hammering of Cardinals a statement game Von Miller can’t get this done by himself

They don’t impress but they do keep on winning If O-line gets healthy, Fish steal a wild-card spot Huge test for defense this Sunday with Giants Handle Miami Sunday and earn our respect Come-from-behind stuff great, but club has holes Will swap points with anyone but ‘D’ not enough Quarterback only spot that’s not part of problem Eagles win keeps playoff hopes on life support

Power Rankings Welcome to our ProFootballWeekly.com NFL Week 13 Power Rankings

A very solid middle-of-the-pack team

Win over Seattle impressive, but is ‘D’ that good Osweiler looks like a huge, expensive mistake Lack of weapons make Wentz an unloaded gun Struggling to beat Bears doesn’t move needle Without Luck, Colts without hope

Have to wonder what they’d be if ever healthy They’re explosive, but no ‘D’ spells no playoffs Now they’re just finding ways to lose

No idea how they’re this bad, but they are

The Dallas Cowboys move to the top of our Week 13 Power Rankings after their impressive, Thanksgiving Day win over division rival Washington. The ’boys bump Seattle from the top spot after the Seahawks’ shocking performance against upstart Tampa Bay drops them to No. 5. AP PHOTO

Clearly seems like time for a change at the top Another team ready for a change

Can’t blame Fitzpatrick this week; how about age? Obviously Greg Olson wasn’t the problem

Tyreek Hill scored touchdowns on a pass, a run and a kickoff return Sunday night as the Chiefs beat the Broncos 30-27 in overtime. Kansas City moves up to No. 3 in our power rankings this week.

Pro Football Weekly is produced by Shaw Media, the Daily Herald Media Group and the Chicago Sun-Times in partnership with other Illinois daily newspapers.

Well, they may have found a backup quarterback Kaepernick playing really well, but rest is a mess Can you blame Hue for shedding a tear or two?


S

ome will watch the Bears’ remaining five games because they’re Bears fans. They love their team and they are there through thick or thin. Others of us will watch closely because it’s our job. And there are those of us who will watch because we know that an NFL game between even the worst of teams in the league is still better entertainment than any other sport out there. I find myself wondering now, what should I be watching for? Should John Fox be retained as head coach? Obviously, this is never an easy decision to make and clearly Fox has failed badly in his second season running the Bears. But how much of it is Fox’s fault? You can argue that the defense has been what was expected and possibly even better when you weigh injuries and suspensions. Fox’s failure has been on offense, where his club also has been riddled with injuries and a key suspension to Alshon Jeffery, but where nothing

ups, so the next most has gone right from important thing to Day 1. watch is the play of The biggest problem has been offenBobby Massie and sive coordinator Charles Leno Jr. Dowell Loggains’ Unless these two insistence on ignormake significant ing the run even strides over the next though it is clearly five weeks, they both the strength of the need to be replaced. unit, and what has What’s working in appeared to be no the NFL right now is feel at all for calling star-studded O-lines plays. in front of stud running backs. If Fox is to be axed HUB ARKUSH harkush@ProFootballWeekly.com The biggest imfor missing on the @Hub_Arkush provement in that hiring of Loggains to Titans team you just replace Adam Gase, saw – 3-13 last year, 6-6 right now – is then you can argue Ryan Pace should as much or more the two first-round go for hiring Fox. tackles, Taylor Lewan and Jack That would be a huge mistake, as I Conklin, as it is Marcus Mariota. believe Pace has shown some promise through all the bad luck and bad The Bears need at least one from health, so it seems the obvious anamong the group of wideouts we swer is Fox deserves another year to saw dropping as many balls as they get this right, with the understandcaught in the second half Sunday, ing he will replace Loggains and get and now they need Daniel Braverman to prove he can be a dependable that spot right. No. 3 who will never drop a throw on There is nothing to watch at quarterback right now, as the best Matt third down. Barkley or David Fales has to offer Even if Alshon Jeffery and Kevin is the potential to develop as backWhite are back next year and are

who you want them to be, another wideout is needed. On defense, we assume Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan will be back and will be good, and Tracy Porter already has a ring and can anchor one corner for the Bears for another couple of years. Akiem Hicks, Willie Young and Pernell McPhee are nice pieces going forward as well. But McPhee isn’t going to be the 60-minute game changer the Bears hoped for with that knee, so Leonard Floyd has to get back on the field and prove he can be. You also really want to see Eddie Goldman healthy enough to play 60 minutes and regularly being disruptive when he does. Another huge plus will be if any of Deiondre’ Hall, Deon Bush or Cre’Von LeBlanc can become regular playmakers. If all of that happens, the Bears can go into the offseason knowing that a needs list of quarterback, safety, offensive tackle, tight end and pass rusher will allow them to take a serious step forward next year, if they can hit in the draft and free agency in each of those areas.

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PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

Bears we should watch closely in final five games


PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

Bears rushing offense vs 49ers run defense Jordan Howard has more than 18 carries only twice this season – the Bears’ two wins. If there was a game for Howard to get 20, 25 carries, well, this is one. Frankly, that should be the plan every week, but the Bears’ propensity to fall behind – and/or Dowell Loggains’ propensity to go away from the run – have prevented that. Howard is rushing at a very impressive 5.1 yards-per-carry clip. With suspensions and injuries riddling the Bears’ skill positions, Howard has emerged as the team’s best weapon, and the Bears are sixth in the league in yards per carry. The 49ers, on the

Bellore and Gerald Hodges at inside linebacker. Loggains should have opportunities to run Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey, too, in this one.

EDGE u BEARS

other hand, are the worst run defense in the NFL, giving up 5.1 yards per carry. The Niners have allowed more than 170 rushing yards seven times this season – though their defense is coming off a strong performance against Jay Ajayi (18 carries for 45 yards). NaVorro Bowman being on injured reserve hasn’t helped, leaving journeymen Nick

Bears passing offense vs 49ers pass defense Matt Barkley lit up the Titans in the fourth quarter last week, and imagine what his numbers would have been if his receivers caught the ball. Still, that was against an incredibly soft prevent defense. Barkley’s throws were pinpoint, though, and Marquess Wilson finished with 125 receiving

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7:25 p.m. Thursday, NBC

Dallas takes its rookie roadshow to Minnesota, where the Vikings, despite losing five of six, remain in NFC North striking distance.

CHIEFS AT FALCONS 12:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Justin Houston and Tyreek Hill elevate Chiefs’ pass rush and special teams; can Alex Smith pick up lagging offense in time for Hot ‘Lanta?

DOLPHINS AT RAVENS 12:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Adam Gase has Dolphins believing after Ryan Tannehill does heavy lifting in sixth straight win; Dumervil and Suggs reunited and it feels so good for Ravens.

49ERS AT BEARS 12:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX

The game should be a punting fest; antennae raised to see if either team shows signs of punting on 2016.

EAGLES AT BENGALS 12:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX

On short rest, Carson Wentz and Co. head to Cincinnati, where Marvin Lewis seemingly in denial that Bengals’ title window has slammed shut.

TEXANS AT PACKERS Colin Kaepernick yards. The O-line did its job, too, allowing zero sacks on a ridiculous 54 dropbacks. This week’s opponent isn’t going to stress Barkley in the pocket too much. The 49ers are 27th in the league in sacks per pass attempt, with Ahmad Brooks and DeForest Buckner the top passrush threats. San Francisco does have a veteran secondary with Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid and Tramaine Brock (12 passes defensed) to compete with an undermanned group of Bears pass catchers. Quarterbacks have thrown 26 touchdowns against San Francisco this year and have a 99.9 rating. Barkley showed enough last week to inspire some confidence in the unit, and the receivers can’t be worse catching passes, right?

EDGE u BEARS

49ers rushing offense vs Bears run defense Despite often playing from behind, the 49ers are actually fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (126.5) and ninth in yards per carry (4.39). Carlos Hyde is a physical runner with good speed in the open field. He had 65 yards on 12 carries vs. the Dolphins last week. The Bears’ run defense will be without its two best run stoppers, with Danny Trevathan on injured reserve and Jerrell Freeman suspended. John Timu and Nick Kwiatkoski have proven to show good instincts and physicality against the run game in their early NFL careers, but those two are still quite the downgrade from Ryan Pace’s big free-agent acquisitions. Eddie Goldman being back in the lineup is big — literally and figuratively — for the front seven, which did a nice job containing DeMarco Murray last week. The challenge here will be Colin Kaepernick, who is averaging 8.1 yards per carry and has the wheels to move outside the pocket and then break off a big gain. He had 113 yards last week against Miami. Without their starting inside ‘backers, the run defense is no longer the Bears’ strength, and

AP PHOTOS

Matt Barkley

it’s something the 49ers can do well, giving Chip Kelly’s group a slight advantage.

EDGE u 49ERS

49ers passing offense vs Bears pass defense Kaepernick may be a weapon with his legs, which is important because he has struggled to hit his targets with his arm. His completion percentage sits at 55.3, the worst of his NFL career. He does have only three interceptions to go along with 10 passing touchdowns and an 87.0 rating. Jeremy Kerley leads the team with 448 receiving yards. Bears fans might have nightmares of speedster Torrey Smith streaking down the field for the game-winning touchdown last season. Safeties Adrian Amos and Deon Bush need to be aware of tight end Vance McDonald, who has 382 receiving yards. The Niners’ offense is allowing sacks on 7.8 percent of pass attempts, which is 26th in the NFL, but they face a Bears defense that didn’t notch a sack in either of its last two games. Opposing QBs have a 96.4 rating against a Bears team that has only eight takeaways this season. This is not going to be a pretty matchup, but we’ll side with Vic Fangio against a QB he knows well.

EDGE u BEARS

Sunday’s overall edge This game features the most combined losses between opponents in a Week 13 matchup in nine years. It won’t be game film to show folks down the line. The Bears are hurting, but this is a bad 49ers team that gives up 31.3 points per game, the most in the NFL. San Francisco’s defense is 31st on third down and 26th in the red zone, and its offense is 21st on third down. It should be another lackluster home crowd to see the Bears actually favored in a game, one they shouldn’t let slip away.

EDGE u BEARS

12:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Houston’s offense the latest cautionary tale on winning the offseason; Mike McCarthy could be cautionary tale on coaches paying for one non-winning season.

BRONCOS AT JAGUARS 12:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Nearly a week later and Gary Kubiak’s 62-yard decision still stinging Broncos; almost four years later and Shad Khan’s indecision confounds the NFL world.

RAMS AT PATRIOTS 12:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX

After looking over Jeff Fisher for two-plus decades, football Gods send Rams to New Orleans and New England in consecutive weeks with Rams brass feeling the heat.

LIONS AT SAINTS 12:00 p.m. Sunday, FOX

What would you say if we told you these two clubs are starting to play some semblance of defense?

BILLS AT RAIDERS 3:05 p.m. Sunday, CBS

LeSean McCoy and Derek Carr apparently didn’t need those appendages anyway.

WASHINGTON AT CARDINALS 3:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX

Even in a losing effort on Thanksgiving, Kirk Cousins keeps winning. Cards’ NFC title game berth seems like an eternity ago.

GIANTS AT STEELERS 3:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX

Big Blue and Big Ben, well, at least his supporting cast, survived last week despite playing down to competition, but postseason outlook looking up?

BUCCANEERS AT CHARGERS 3:25 p.m. Sunday, FOX

A cross-country win over plucky Bolts would validate Tampa’s recent run. Joey Bosa may have locked up his Defensive Rookie of the Year award in Houston.

PANTHERS AT SEAHAWKS 7:30 p.m. Sunday, CBS

Once circled on the calendar, clash between past two NFC champs lacks luster, but Seattle gets no break with O-line issues and Carolina’s defensive front.

COLTS AT JETS

7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN

Andrew Luck should return from his concussion; Ryan Fitzpatrick shouldn’t return to the starting lineup, ever, but QB situation the latest Jets’ circus.

PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

COWBOYS AT VIKINGS


PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

(-2.5) Hub

Kevin

Arthur

Bob

Adam

Pro Football Weekly

Pro Football Weekly

Pro Football Weekly

Daily Herald

Chicago Sun-Times

ARKUSH

FISHBAIN

ARKUSH

LEGERE

JAHNS

BEARS 24 49ERS 27

BEARS 29 49ERS 27

BEARS 22 49ERS 20

BEARS 24 49ERS 21

BEARS 24 49ERS 20

I just don’t see how the Bears without Freeman and Trevathan are going to handle Kaepernick, who has gotten hot.

The least these two really bad teams could do for fans is score a ton of points and make it exciting, right?

Fangio and Barkley revenge game? Believe it or not, Bears just have better talent, coaching than Niners.

Despite a combined record of 3-19, both teams continue to play hard – if that matters.

Why not? The 49ers aren’t a good team whatsoever. I mean, the Bears are favored in this one.

SEASON RECORD: 7-4 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 6-5

SEASON RECORD: 7-4 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 5-6

SEASON RECORD: 7-4 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 6-4-1

SEASON RECORD: 6-5 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 5-6

SEASON RECORD: 6-5 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 2-7-2

Jon

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Eric

Dan

Kyle

The Herald-News

Kendall County Record

Daily Chronicle

Northwest Herald

Kankakee Daily Journal

STYF

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NABORS

BEARS 21 49ERS 14

BEARS 24 49ERS 21

BEARS 27 49ERS 17

BEARS 19 49ERS 20

BEARS 20 49ERS 24

Finally, a team that the Bears look better than. With nothing to play for but pride, they’ll win this one.

I’m pinning this win on Jordan Howard’s back, but I’m skeptical if there’s really a team out there worse than the Bears.

Worst single-game performance by Bears WRs I’ve ever seen last week. Still, how could they lose this one?

This one’s about the No. 2 overall pick in next year’s draft. The Bears finally win ... for draft position, that is.

There’s no reason Jordan Howard doesn’t get 30 touches against this awful rush defense.

SEASON RECORD: 9-2 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 7-4

SEASON RECORD: 5-6 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 4-7

SEASON RECORD: 4-7 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 3-8

SEASON RECORD: 7-4 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 6-5

SEASON RECORD: 9-2 SEASON VS. SPREAD: 6-5

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Jordan Howard has to get over his case of the drops

T

he Bears’ receivers weren’t the only ones taking part in the drop party in the loss to the Titans. Rookie running back Jordan Howard had a big one, too. And his is more important to consider. For all the scrutiny that Josh Bellamy and Deonte Thompson have gotten over their drops of would-be game-tying touchdowns, they still are the Bears’ fifth and sixth receivers. If the Bears are at full strength, Bellamy and Thompson don’t Jordan Howard matter as much. Their value would be on special teams, where Bellamy excels as a gunner and Thompson handles kickoff returns. The Bears only are counting on them to make plays right now because Alshon Jeffery is suspended, Kevin White is on injured reserve and Eddie Royal is limited by a nag-

ging toe injury. me on the drops is just Howard means more not looking the ball all to the Bears this year the way in,” Howard and beyond. He’s part said. “[It’s] just trying of their young core of to turn and run before I players. Neither Bellahave it fully.” my nor Thompson is a It’s easy to forgive lock for next year’s rosthe rookie. Howard ter. Howard is expected has been better than to be the Bears’ No. 1 good this season after back. the Bears drafted him In the first quarter in the fifth round. He against the Titans, is on pace to surpass Howard dropped a 1,000 rushing yards. ADAM JAHNS pass at the seven-yard His coaches also said ajahns@suntimes.com line in the right flat on earlier this season that @ajahns a play-action play. If his pass-catching skills he makes the catch, he have been a pleasant strolls into the end zone untouched. surprise. Howard has 22 catches for The Bears were able to make up for 242 yards and a touchdown. Howard’s gaffe on the next play when But Howard needs to prove over quarterback Matt Barkley threw a the final five games that he can get seven-yard score to tight end Daniel over his case of the drops. He has to Brown. respond. But Howard’s drop shouldn’t be Running back Jeremy Langford overlooked because of that touchdown had his problems with drops last or what happened later with Bellamy, year during his rookie season, too. Thompson and other receivers. He said then that he was thinking too The drop was part of a trend that much about them. started a week earlier in the Bears’ If Howard is a true No. 1 back, he loss to the Giants. Howard was tarwon’t let the same happen. geted eight times that game, but only “You might catch a thousand made one catch for 22 yards. passes at practice but in a game, if “The common denominator for you just take your eye off the ball,

you might drop it or something like that,” Howard said. “You’ve got to lock in more.”

•••

Veteran backup guards Ted Larsen and Eric Kush aren’t getting enough credit for what they’ve done in their two starts together in place of Kyle Long and Josh Sitton. In Week 9, the Bears ran for 158 yards against the top-rated Vikings defense. Against the Titans, Barkley wasn’t sacked on 54 pass attempts. That’s quality depth. The Bears might not have it in many areas because of their youth movement, but general manager Ryan Pace found it for the offensive line.

•••

It’s time to see what rookie Deiondre’ Hall can do. Again. The Bears are in desperate need of a playmaker or two in the secondary, and that could be Hall, who hasn’t played since Week 4. One of the Bears’ three fourthround picks, Hall had an interception and three pass breakups in the first four games before severely spraining his right ankle in practice.

Barkley should be in Bears’ QB conversation in 2017

S

ure it was just one start, but considering it was the first NFL start for Matt Barkley and that he very nearly orchestrated a comeback for the ages, the 26-year-old deserves an opportunity to compete for the Bears’ No. 1 job in 2017. In the final minute of the Bears’ 27-21 loss to the Titans, Josh Bellamy didn’t catch a Barkley pass that hit him in the hands, and a sliding Deonte Thompson didn’t hold a ball that hit him in the arm. Both drops came in the end zone. Had either ball been caught, it would have been the first-ever, fourth-quarter comeback victory of 20 points or more in the 97-year history of the Chicago Bears’ franchise. Considering Barkley didn’t sign with the Bears until September, had played briefly in just one other game this season, and had just one week of practice with the first team, it was a nice effort. At 2-9, the Bears have to be looking ahead to 2017, and the quarter-

back position will be and will be an unrestricted free agent. the focal point of the Barkley is an easy offseason. choice over Hoyer, who GM Ryan Pace and put up big numbers coach John Fox cannot as a by-the-numbers shore up all their weaknesses in the offseason backup, but was 1-4 as if they have the albaa starter and did not tross of Jay Cutler’s display much big-play $16 million cap number capability. Barkley, around their necks in a fourth-round pick 2017. It’s time to move in 2013, is five years on from the competent younger than Hoyer starter who has been with a better pedigree BOB LeGERE paid like a Hall of Famand skill set. rlegere@dailyherald.com er and will be 34 in the Barkley’s 72.8 passer @BobLeGere spring. rating on Sunday apPace is expected pears pedestrian on paper. But it’s mind-boggling to considto use a high draft pick, maybe his er what he could have accomplished first-rounder, on a quarterback of the had it not been for 10 drops, most future or to trade for a young backup of them by a crew of wide receivers with upside like the Patriots’ Jimmy who were on the field only because Garoppolo. of injuries to wide receivers Kevin Neither of those two options should White and Eddie Royal and tight end prevent the Bears from re-signing Zach Miller, and the performance-enBarkley, who will be a restricted free hancing-drug suspension of Alshon agent after this season. Jeffery. The Bears also will have to make a Barkley still wound up throwing decision on Brian Hoyer, who made for 316 yards. He threw three touch$2 million in 2016 on a one-year deal

down passes and should have had five were it not for the end zone drops, including an earlier one by Marquess Wilson. Barkley completed 8 passes of 15 yards or longer against the Titans on Sunday, and his aggressive throws downfield resulted in pass-interference penalties of 33 and 45 yards. “He was better late than early,” said coach John Fox, who isn’t prone to ladling Matt Barkley out praise. “But all-in-all, I think for the guy’s first start with us, it was pretty good.” Teammates were more expansive in their praise of Barkley. “He did a heck of a job,” said tight end Daniel Brown, whose first career TD catch was Barkley’s first TD pass. “Stepping in like that and leading a team – we dug ourselves a hole, but he rallied us and kept us going. It’s a testament to him and all of the work he’s put in.”


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PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY |

Difficult to find fantasy locks in Week 13 By J.C.

TALON

T

Fantasy writer | ProFootballWeekly.com

he 49ers, Browns, Colts and Raiders give up the most yards in the NFL, respectively. The Browns are on bye this week and the other three teams face subpar offenses. The 49ers are at Chicago; Indy plays at the Jets and the Raiders get the Bills in Oakland. With no-brainer matchups harder to find, we’ll have to dig a little deeper this week if we want to strike fantasy gold. On to Week 13 …

MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT Chicago Bears

OPPONENT: VS SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS, SUNDAY, NOON The 49ers are just bad enough that there might be some fantasy value to be found on the lakefront this weekend. True, the Bears score fewer points than any NFL team not coached by Jeff Fisher, but they do produce a reasonable 350 yards per game. Defensively, San Fran is dead last in the league in points (31.3 per game) and yards (424.5) allowed. They are absolutely horrific against the run. Their 171.8 rushing yards allowed per game is 30 more than the rushing yards yielded by the 31stranked Browns. For perspective sake, the 49ers give up 230 percent more rushing yards per game than do the Ravens. The big question for Jordan Howard owners is whether OC Dowell Loggains can let go of his fascination (obsession?) with the passing game and give his emerging RB a steady stream of carries. If you are in absolute dire need of a QB, Matt Barkley has a chance to produce in this game. For the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick and Carlos Hyde are solid plays. MUST START: Howard SOLID PLAY: None WORTH A LOOK: Barkley, Marquess Wilson, Connor Barth LAST RESORT: Cameron Meredith, Daniel Brown, Bears D/ST STAY AWAY: Deonte Thompson, Josh Bellamy

Atlanta Falcons

OPPONENT: VS KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, SUNDAY, NOON Kansas City is known for its tough defense, but the Chiefs are giving up 382 yards per game. Only four teams (Raiders, Colts, Browns 49ers) have surrendered more yards this season. The Chiefs, however, are much stingier on the scoreboard. They are ranked eighth in scoring defense at 19.5 points per game. Atlanta and its high-powered offense should give KC all it can handle in this game. The Falcons are the highest scoring team in the NFL, averaging 32.5 points per game. They are fourth in total yards behind only New Orleans, Washington and Tennessee. Atlanta will have to figure a way to contain Justin Houston, who had three sacks last week in Denver, just his second game of the season. Tevin Coleman was a little rusty (eight carries for nine yards and a TD) in his return last week. He’s a solid sleeper candidate this week. MUST START: Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones SOLID PLAY: Mohamed Sanu, Matt Bryant

WORTH A LOOK: Coleman, Taylor Gabriel, Falcons D/ST LAST RESORT: Austin Hooper STAY AWAY: Levine Toilolo

New Orleans Saints

OPPONENT: VS DETROIT LIONS, SUNDAY, NOON You don’t need to read a fantasy football column to know you’ll be starting Drew Brees. More interesting is the evaluation of the other Saints likely to produce against a so-so Lions defense. Brandin Cooks had caught a minimum of two passes in every game of his professional career (and at least three in all but two games) until last Sunday. Against the Rams, Cooks went without so much as a target. Outside of Brees, every New Orleans player carries some risk. Michael Thomas has emerged as the top target in the offense, but he could be out-produced in a given week by Cooks or even Willie Snead. Mark Ingram has returned from his brief stay in Sean Payton’s doghouse and clearly has more to offer – in both fantasy and reality – than does Tim Hightower. MUST START: Brees, Ingram, Thomas SOLID PLAY: Hightower, Cooks, Wil Lutz WORTH A LOOK: Snead, Coby Fleener LAST RESORT: Brandon Coleman STAY AWAY: Saints D/ST

San Diego Chargers

OPPONENT: VS TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, SUNDAY, 3:25 It would be feasible to list San Diego as an “avoid” this week. After all, Tampa is on a three-game tear in which the Bucs have given up fewer than 11 points per game. They kept the Seahawks out of the end zone in a 14-5 win last week. But we’re going against the grain a bit. We’ll sign off on Tampa having an improving defense, but it’s impossible to believe it’s gone from a bottom-five unit to a shut-down ‘D’ in the matter of a few weeks. Philip Rivers has faced some tough defenses this season, including two games against Denver. Playing at home, and on a bit of a roll of his own, he should be able to produce above-average results this week. MUST START: Melvin Gordon SOLID PLAY: Rivers, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Josh Lambo WORTH A LOOK: Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates*, Chargers D/ST

ALSO CONSIDER Detroit Lions

OPPONENT: AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, SUNDAY, NOON The Saints are five-point favorites in a game featuring the week’s highest over/under (53). That leaves Detroit with an expected point total of about 24, which is over their average of 22.5. Matthew Stafford is an excellent play against a suspect passing defense.

Pittsburgh Steelers

OPPONENT: VS NEW YORK GIANTS, SUNDAY, 3:25 The Giants defense is giving up just 19.4 points per game, but they’ll be hard-pressed this week to keep Pittsburgh under 27. New York is much better against the run (fifth) than the pass (23rd). It

stacks up as a big day for Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

MATCHUPS TO AVOID Cincinnati Bengals

OPPONENT: VS PHILADELPHIA EAGLES, SUNDAY, NOON Cincinnati tends to play better at home, but its arrow is definitely pointing downward of late. The Bengals were completely shut down last week in Baltimore and have not crested 20 points during their current three-game losing streak. The last time they won was Week 7 against Cleveland. For the season, the once formidable Bengals offense is 27th in points scored. Philly’s seventh-ranked defense has been inconsistent, but should have enough to slow down the struggling Bengals. MUST START: None SOLID PLAY: Tyler Eifert WORTH A LOOK: Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill, Tyler Boyd, Bengals D/ST LAST RESORT: Rex Burkhead, Brandon LaFell STAY AWAY: Mike Nugent

Los Angeles Rams

OPPONENT: AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, SUNDAY, NOON The good news: First overall pick Jared Goff threw three TDs last week in New Orleans. The bad news: Goff had just 214 yards and turned the ball over twice. The Rams managed just 247 yards in a 49-21 loss against one of the league’s worst defenses. Todd Gurley has been held to 50 or fewer yards in four games and has not had more than 85 yards rushing in any game this season. The Rams are a bad team and they are headed for a beat-down in Foxborough. MUST START: None SOLID PLAY: None WORTH A LOOK: Gurley, Lance Kendricks LAST RESORT: Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, Rams D/ ST STAY AWAY: Goff, Greg Zuerlein

Miami Dolphins

OPPONENT: AT BALTIMORE RAVENS, SUNDAY, NOON The surging Dolphins have won six in a row, but they bring the 25th-ranked offense to face a defense ranked second in yards and fourth in points allowed. This is a tough matchup for Jay Ajayi – the Ravens are tops against the run and allow just 3.4 yards per carry. MUST START: None SOLID PLAY: Ajayi, DeVante Parker* WORTH A LOOK: Ryan Tannehill, Jarvis Landry, Dolphins D/ST LAST RESORT: Kenny Stills, Dion Sims STAY AWAY: Andrew Franks

ALSO BEWARE Carolina Panthers

OPPONENT: AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS, SUNDAY, 7:30 These teams are no longer the class of the NFC and both squads have been wildly inconsistent. This game could go a number of directions, but the most likely scenario has Carolina’s offense struggling in the unfriendly confines in Seattle.

* — Check injury status


By JOHN

SAHLY

W jsahly@shawmedia.com

hen putting together a daily fantasy football roster, let’s face facts – almost nobody wants to click that little plus sign next to Colin Kaepernick’s name. There are at least a few reasons for this. The perception that the 49ers starting quarterback isn’t good. (More on this later). Kaepernick lost his starting job in Week 8 of last season on a terrible 49ers team, then got hurt and missed the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Reports from early this season were that Kaepernick just did not have the arm strength to regain that job from Blaine Gabbert. I’ll repeat that: Blaine Gabbert. Before he lost his job to Gabbert, Kaepernick was trending downward from his breakout 2013 season. The loss of coach Jim Harbaugh and the downward spiral that is the 49ers franchise didn’t help things. Maybe your politics gets in the way of wanting to put Kaepernick on your roster. Kaepernick has protested police brutality with his kneeldown during the national anthem, which has drawn plenty of public backlash. Kaepernick has since revealed he did not exercise his right to vote. He then had a few positive things to say

Colin Kaepernick

AP PHOTO

about Fidel Castro’s investment in Cuba’s education system compared to its prison system, comparing that to mass incarceration issues in the United States. Does politics drive down Kaepernick’s ownership percentages in DFS? There’s no evidence to support that. I think the reason people don’t want to put Kaepernick on their roster is because the 49ers are bad, and Kaepernick had a string of games in 2014/15 that came in under expectations. People want to root for the guys they put on their fantasy

rosters, and it’s hard to cheer for losing football. Regardless of the reason for his low ownership numbers – just 2.3 percent in last week’s DraftKings Millionaire Maker tournament – it’s time to talk about his on-field performance. Over the past four games, Kaepernick has averaged two touchdown passes against just 0.5 interceptions, 277 yards passing and 55 yards rushing. On DraftKings, that’s an average of 26.9 points. Since becoming the starter six weeks ago, he’s done no worse than 16.12 points. Kaepernick has shown a large enough sample size to indicate he’s a high-floor quarterback again with a tournament-winning ceiling each week. The 49ers continue to play at the fastest pace in the league, which means Kaepernick gets more volume and more chances to score fantasy points than any quarterback. This week, he is the 13th most expensive quarterback on DraftKings and the 12th most expensive on FanDuel. He’s playing a Bears team racing the 49ers for second-worst record in the league, and who just lost yet another defensive player this past week in stud linebacker Danny Trevathan. After that, it’s the listless Jets at home, at Atlanta and at home against the Rams. Those are all exploitable defenses for Kaepernick. The 49ers are a bad team, but Colin Kaepernick can win you money, and he still isn’t finding himself on many rosters.

PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

DFS: It’s time to talk about Colin Kaepernick


ARTHUR ARKUSH OVERVIEW

They don’t get the “mini bye” – yet – but following another crushing loss, 16-13 to the Lions, the Vikings get the hottest team in the NFL. And Dallas visits Minnesota with the Vikings having virtually no remaining margin for error after falling to 1-3 in the division, including being swept by Detroit. Minnesota’s 32nd-ranked offense manages just 4.8 yards per play. Sam Bradford completes more than 71 percent of his throws, with a career-high 98.3 rating, but the Vikings scare no one downfield. And the return of Stefon Diggs, inactive on Thanksgiving with a groin injury, won’t change that. Top pick and Crete’s own Laquon Treadwell did little in place of Diggs in his first NFL start, but he should continue to earn chances as the offense desperately seeks a spark. Perhaps Adrian Peterson provides it – and Peterson has resumed running as he tries to return from a torn meniscus, maybe Week 14 – but the Vikings can’t count on that, or their overtaxed defense, alone.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Minnesota’s run ‘D’ is tied for 17th, permitting 4.2 yards per carry, while Dallas comes in No. 2 at 157.3 yards per game – one-tenth off Buffalo for the NFL lead. The Cowboys’ diverse scheme relies heavily on Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott threatening sideline to sideline; this is the game Minnesota’s young LB tandem, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, must shine.

OVERVIEW

Just when we thought they were out, Aaron Rodgers pulls us back in. Contrary to popular belief, Rodgers was still better than about 95 percent of his peers during the Packers’ four-game slide – their longest since 2008. But the cold-blooded killer that would instill fear even in Tony Montana showed up at the Linc on Monday night, vanquishing any lingering myths with a ruthless assault on the Eagles en route to Green Bay’s dominant 27-13 victory. Rodgers’ deft 20-yard touchdown to Davante Adams, the first of two for each of Green Bay’s best offensive players Monday night, was as pretty a throw as you’ll see in the NFL this season. Mike McCarthy expanded his playbook, even empowering Rodgers as an option ball-carrier – a big part of the Packers’ sniper precision on third downs (71 percent). Perhaps more importantly, Dom Capers’ hemorrhaging ‘D’ finally flipped the script by bloodying its foe and holding the Eagles to 211 yards and two field goals in the final three-and-a-half quarters.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Two games off Detroit’s division-leading pace, the Packers return home to host an offense sputtering like few others, Brock Osweiler’s Texans, the only club outside Chicago yet to eclipse 27 points. The embattled Osweiler remains the starter, but Capers’ primary concern will be Lamar Miller, closing in on his second 1,000-yard season and not one of Houston’s 99 problems.

OVERVIEW

Seven wins, seven game-winning drives, hohum. The Lions’ offense should hum in New Orleans – who doesn’t? – but is their defense ready to slow Drew Brees and the Saints’ No. 2 scoring offense, coming off a cool 49-21 drubbing of the Rams? Detroit needed another big play in crunch time from Darius “Big Play” Slay, and it’ll need tighter coverage across the board against the NFL’s yardage, passing touchdowns and completion percentage leader. To wit: Detroit, despite holding each of its past five opponents below 21 points, still ranks last in opposing passer rating and completion percentage. But Teryl Austin’s group has tightened immensely on third down in the past two games. Can it sustain the recent success against the NFL’s best third-down offense, converting an absurd 50 percent? Detroit in Week 14 hosts Chicago, then visits the Giants and Cowboys – a combined 18-4 – prior to a Week 17 clash with Green Bay at Ford Field.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Whether Aurora’s Graham Glasgow or Lane Tech’s Laken Tomlinson gets the nod at left guard, a pair of explosive DTs, former Lion Nick Fairley and rookie Sheldon Rankins, awaits. With Cameron Jordan and Dannell Ellerbee heating up New Orleans’ edge rush lately, keeping Matthew Stafford clean in a likely shootout will be huge.

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PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

By


D

ak Prescott, the stranglehold he’s put on the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback job and what it means for the future of former Cowboys starting QB Tony Romo, is one of the biggest stories in the NFL this season. There is no question Prescott is the starter and Romo his backup for the foreseeable future, and assuming good health, he’ll remain the starter through the end of the season, which most likely will come some time during the playoffs or at the Super Bowl. That has led to a new favorite pastime among NFL Insiders and analysts: trying to predict where Romo will play in 2017. Romo is playing the good soldier now, understanding the situation and doing everything he can to support Prescott while his insides are churning and burning up with the competitive fire to be back on the field. In his uber-classy statement acknowledging the present reality, Romo said as much, that he definitely wanted to start again somewhere before he’s through. The Way We Hear It, that is most likely to happen for him next season right where he is – in Dallas – either due to an injury to Prescott or a dropoff in his play. While others conject about theories that send him to Denver, Houston, Chicago, the Jets or elsewhere based on the belief that Dallas owner Jerry Jones has such respect and fondness for him he will make whatever outcome Romo wants possible,

AP PHOTO

Tony Romo (right) is so respected by Jerry Jones that he figures to remain in Dallas despite losing the starting QB position to Dak Prescott this season

we’re hearing that when Jones talks about Romo playing five more years in Dallas – which he has – and leading the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, it’s because that’s exactly what he wants and expects to happen. Even though Romo’s base salary drops to $14.5 million in 2017 to be supplemented by a couple of million dollars in roster bonuses, Romo will count almost $25 million against the

cap next year as a Cowboy, and just over $20 million against the Cowboys’ cap even if he’s no longer with the team. We’re hearing Jones will be loathe to take a $20 million cap hit for a player he doesn’t have, particularly when it would leave him in need of a backup quarterback with third-stringer Mark Sanchez a free agent after this season. Who is he go-

ing to get that will be close to Romo? What makes things even more interesting is Prescott, in the second year of a fourth-round draft choice contract, will have a base salary of just $540,000. When you combine the salaries due Romo and Prescott for 2017, the $15.04 million base is less than any starting quarterback in the league not playing on a rookie contract except for Ryan Fitzpatrick. The next question becomes, even if Jones doesn’t want to deal Romo, what kind of haul would he be giving up by keeping Romo? Yes, the Eagles got first- and thirdround picks for 29-year-old Sam Bradford. The Packers got a third-round draft choice for a then-39-year-old Brett Favre when they traded him to the Jets in 2008, but Favre had never missed a game. Romo will turn 37 the week before the 2017 draft having not played a game this season, at least eight of them lost to injury, and he played just four games in 2015 due to injury. While guesses about his trade value are all over the board according to NFL people we’ve talked to, the consensus seems to be a conditional pick that lands somewhere between the third and sixth round. Finally, there is the issue of whether Romo wants to play for various teams that might be willing to deal for him. Everything we’re hearing is that Romo is most likely to remain a Cowboy next year, and with everything we know about life at quarterback in the NFL, it is also most likely he has yet to take his final snap for Jones.

Is The NFL Giving Thursday Night Back To The Sitcoms?

P

ro Football Talk reported over the weekend that the NFL is seriously considering scaling back or possibly even eliminating Thursday night football games altogether after the 2017 season. The PFT report cites a source indicating Roger Goodell and the league might be ready to acknowledge the damage the Thursday night games are doing to TV ratings and the NFL brand aren’t worth the extra dollars the league was chasing when it committed to Thursday nights in the first place. We’re hearing there are a number of voices at both the team level and in the league office calling for a rethinking of the Thursday Night Football package, but

that they have little to do with admitting mistakes or putting the brand and players’ welfare ahead of the 32 owners never-ending money grab. NFL owners know that the next big pay raise for them is most likely to come from extending the regular season from 16 to 18 games and possibly adding one or two more playoff teams. But the owners have a problem. The league cannot add additional regular-season games without negotiating a change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The current agreement doesn’t expire until 2021 and the players have made it eminently clear that they’re not about to give the owners anything until something is done about what they believe is the hubris and abuse of power by Goodell in his

treatment of the players. The league does not need the approval of the players to reschedule Thursday night games to Sunday, and the only thing stopping the owners from doing that are the network TV deals that expire after the 2017 season. The other huge roadblock stalling the owners getting an extension of the regular season is the prevailing wisdom among leaders of the players association and many of the players that 16 games may already be too much for their health and welfare, and that two more games might not be worth the roughly 12 percent increases in pay the players could receive in exchange for playing a couple more games. Goodell and the owners know the play-

ers hate Thursday night games as much or more than their fans, and The Way We Hear It, any move to get rid of Thursday nights is nothing more than a bargaining ploy to begin to move the players closer to an 18-game regular season as soon as possible – the owners hope as soon as the 2018 season. We actually think it’s a good plan for the fans, but we’re also hearing the players are dug in deeply at the moment and the NFLPA leaders want a lot more than Thursday nights at home for everybody in exchange for more regular season games. Any willingness to sacrifice Thursday night paydays is nothing more than the opening ploy by the owners to convince the players a long NFL regular season is in everybody’s best interests.

PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

Tony Romo’s Next Stop, Still Dallas


PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

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What should we take away from Matt Barkley’s first start? NATE KEVINATKINS FISHBAIN if Barkley can string together starts that are more similar to his fourth quarter Sunday than his first three, they absolutely must give him a look. Remember his pedigree: he was America’s best high schooler and the first true freshman quarterback to start the season at USC. Had he gone pro after his junior year, he would have been a top 5 pick. Both Hoyer and Shaw, by contrast, went undrafted. You’re right, Kevin, that Barkley was more comfortable in the Bears’ hurry-up. Should Dowell Loggains consider doing that more often, or should they stick with something that they might actually use next

PATRICK FINLEY FINLEY PATRICK

year, when the games matter? Fishbain: As much as Barkley is auditioning for the Bears and 31 other teams, is this also an audition for Dowell Loggains? Does he need to keep producing good game plans by putting a completely undermanned offense in position to win? No member of the organization should feel “safe” when the team is 2-9. One thing about this coaching staff is they won’t tank, and they won’t look at 2017. Fans may not care about the results, but coaches do. However, does it behoove the Bears to keep Barkley on a short leash, use the last month to maybe see what they have in David Fales? Or should they

already have a good idea? Finley: I was screaming this at a nameless colleague (not Kevin, dear readers) when he lobbied for Fales in the third quarter Sunday: the Bears decided, after seeing him every day from July 28 to Sept. 3, that he was, at best, their fourth-string quarterback. Two months away certainly didn’t change their minds. Rather, Fales was signed last week because he was one of the few ambulatory quarterbacks in the world who knew the Bears’ playbook. As for the Bears’ coaching staff, it’s encouraging that players, without being asked, have praised their preparation and game plans. Were I

Bears management, though, I’d want one person next year – be it a head coach, coordinator or position coach – with some experience developing a young quarterback into a success. The Bears currently don’t have someone who fits that bill, do they? And won’t that be the key to the whole organization? Fishbain: When things weren’t going well for the offense early on, I thought maybe the Bears should just audition a different QB each game the rest of the way! But Barkley finished strong. As you said, though, he isn’t the future for this team at the position, and I would love to know what Ryan Pace was thinking watching Marcus Mariota. This team could use a coach who is familiar and comfortable with developing a quarterback. One would think (or, hope), though, that a good enough rookie quarterback won’t need any kind of “guru” to coach him up, or maybe that’s too idealistic, especially considering the questionable upcoming draft class.

PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

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n this week’s edition of ‘Take 2’, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times and Kevin Fishbain of Pro Football Weekly try to deduce what we can take from Matt Barkley’s first start and what it means for the Bears’ quarterback position moving forward. Fishbain: Patrick, I’m not one to overreact, especially considering that Matt Barkley did his best work against an incredibly conservative Titans defense that he admitted had backed off late in last Sunday’s game, but I also can’t ignore that he made some fantastic throws while getting no help from his receivers. Earlier this season, we figured Brian Hoyer could be re-signed as a “bridge” veteran quarterback, if we are to assume the Bears draft a rookie. Some think Connor Shaw will be in the conversation. Can Barkley assert himself as an option to return to the Bears? Finley: They’re in no position to rule anybody out. And


PRO FOOTBALL WEEKLY | ProFootballWeekly.com | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2016

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