Ravens

Fantasy Football: NFC North

Fantasy Football: NFC North

Green Bay Packers (15-1, 560 Points For, lost in Divisional Playoffs): The Packers looked so sluggish in their playoff loss to the Giants, it's easy to forget just how dominant this offense was in the regular season. Aaron Rodgers has established himself as the best quarterback in the league, and fantasy owners appreciate that he'll run for a handful of yards and touchdowns every year, too. Perhaps a few of those cheapies at the goal will fade away with Cedric Benson in the fold, but make no mistake, Rodgers can pass his way to another MVP award either way. Although Greg Jennings is the de-facto No. 1 receiver here, he didn't even see 100 targets in 2011 - that's how much the Packers spread things around. No one thinks Jordy Nelson can score 15 times again, but his crisp routes and breakaway speed should give him a strong chance at 9-11 spikes. James Jones and Randall Cobb will struggle to get significant looks; Cobb has a big upside but didn't do much this summer. Jermichael Finley would be a star at tight end if he found a way to fix his ongoing drop problem. Look for another division title in Wisconsin, and at least 450 points. Bang the drum all day.

Detroit Lions (10-6, 474 PF, lost in Wild Card Round): Everything broke right for Matthew Stafford as a fantasy play last year: he stayed healthy and the Lions couldn't run the ball or stop anyone else from the scoring. Detroit wound up throwing the ball 66 percent of the time, the highest clip in the league. Head coach Jim Schwartz would like more balance in the offense (as anyone would), but the Lions don't have any special backs between Kevin Smith (ordinary vet), Mikel Leshoure (injury issues, drug suspension) and Jahvid Best (concussion problems, may not play again). Okay then, let Stafford line up in the shotgun and let it rip. Calvin Johnson is an uncoverable freak at receiver and a justifiable fantasy pick in the overall Top 5, and he'll get more help from Titus Young this year (try to snag Young as your fourth or fifth receiver). Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is a solid volume play, but he's not a dominator in the red zone.

Chicago Bears (8-8, 353 PF): The Bears were on the short list of Super Bowl contenders before Jay Cutler busted his thumb in November. A 1-5 crash landing followed, as a nation grimaced at the sight of backup QB Caleb Hanie. The front office did all it could to help Cutler for 2012, adding his old running mate Brandon Marshall in addition to RB Michael Bush and rookie WR Alshon Jeffery. Marshall should be a force between the 20s, but he never had big touchdown counts back in the Denver days with Cutler. He's a strong fantasy play but not a Top 10 wideout. Bush probably can poach 6-8 rushing touchdowns from tailback Matt Forte, but Forte will get his 1500-1800 total yards anyway, even behind a pedestrian offensive line. If you're looking for a safe back in the late-first or early-second round, Forte is a smart play. TE Kellen Davis has a some sleeper value in deeper leagues.

Minnesota Vikings (3-13, 340 PF): It's notable to see 340 points tied to a team that just won three games; the Vikings outscored 13 clubs last year. There's offensive talent here, and second-year starter Christian Ponder might be the most improved quarterback in the league. Percy Harvin is a Top 10 wideout if the migraines leave him alone, and TE Kyle Rudolph has breakout written all over him. No. 2 wideout Jerome Simpson can jump out of the dome, but he's on a drug suspension to open the year. No one knows what to expect from RB Adrian Peterson after his holiday knee blowout last year. He didn't take contact or play in any preseason games. You need a lot of nerve to select AP in the Top 25 - we'll pass on that option, thanks. Backup Toby Gerhart will be underrated in many leagues; he went for 4.9 YPC last year and caught 23 passes (three for touchdowns). Even if Peterson is able to start most of the season, Gerhart might be good enough to see 8-12 touches a week.

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Lamar Jackson earns first NFL start for Ravens as Joe Flacco's sidelined with injury

Lamar Jackson earns first NFL start for Ravens as Joe Flacco's sidelined with injury

It's the moment Lamar Jackson has been waiting for since the Baltimore Ravens drafted him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft; his first NFL start.

The team announced that Jackson will be starting under center against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Week 11 after Joe Flacco sustained a hip injury in the Ravens' Week 9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Jackson is 7-of-12 for 87 passing yards and one touchdown adding 139 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown in the Ravens' first nine games.

But how and when the team utilized him has lacked consistency, which has people concerned with the possibility of the rookie starting. On top of that, the Sunday matchup against Cincinnati is the Ravens' biggest game of the season and puts even more pressure on Jackson.

Sitting at 4-5 and third in the AFC North, a fourth-straight loss would all but eliminate Baltimore from playoff contention.

Jackson's teammates and coaches, however, have nothing but confidence in their quarterback.

“The young man certainly has progressed," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said about Jackson Thursday. "Smart, talented, tough – he has some great, great qualities, and [quarterbacks coach] James Urban and he have really worked hard in his progression. And, he’s done a lot of things for us up to this date.”

"He certainly has inner confidence, Mornhinweg added. "There’s no question about that, yet, very humble. So, it’s a good mix there."

Jackson missed Thursday's practice with an illness, but told the media Wednesday he has been preparing for his possible Week 11 start as if it was any other week.

When asked how he would feel if he did get the nod Sunday, Jackson said he would have butterflies at first but that once the ball was snapped, "it's on."

The faster style of NFL play compared to that of college football was something the quarterback admittedly struggled with in the preseason. But with nine games behind him, Jackson feels he's made progress.

"Calling the plays," Jackson said on the area he's made the biggest strides in. "Before I'd have to ask coach a hundred times, 'say it again, say it again,' but now he says it one time to me. Don't get me wrong, sometimes if [the call] is long or whatever I have to ask [coach to] say it again, but other than that I'm getting better with that."

Robert Griffin III, who was also in talks of starting vs. the Bengals, has taken pride in mentoring his fellow Heisman Trophy winner.

“Lamar is like a sponge." Griffin III said Wednesday. "He’s soaking up everything he possibly can, information-wise, from myself, Joe [Flacco], the offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach – coach [James] Urban. He’s been doing a great job."

The 21-year-old is the only first-round quarterback out of the 2018 NFL Draft that has yet to start this season. A strong showing and this could be the start of the Jackson era in Baltimore. 

Prior to Sunday, Flacco had missed just six games in 11 years, starting the last 41.

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Redskins vs. Texans Inactives: Quartet of stars out for Week 11

Redskins vs. Texans Inactives: Quartet of stars out for Week 11

The Redskins enter another pivotal game without the services of some of the team's top playmakers.

When the Redskins take on the Texans in Week 11 at FedEx Field, Washington will be without All-Pro left tackle, Trent Williams, starting wide receiver Jamison Crowder,  dynamic backfield star Chris Thompson, and starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar.

Also joining the quartet of top stars on the inactives are RB Samaje Perine, LB Pernell McPhee and DL Caleb Brantley.

Byron Marshall will fill in for Thompson and Ty Nsekhe will start in Williams' spot. Trey Quinn also makes his return to the lineup, and will fill in for Crowder.

The Texans' inactives are as follows:

- CB DeAnte Burton
- CB Aaron Colvin
- ILB Zach Cunningham
- OLB Duke Ejiofor|
- DE Joel Heath
- WR Vyncint Smith
- DE Carlos Watkins

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