Team Notes Week 2 2017

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<

NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF

Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, the biggest surprise from the Cardinals' 35-23 season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions was the poor performance from Arizona's offense.

It had everyone healthy heading into the game, so injuries weren't going to be an issue, but the Cardinals, starting with Carson Palmer, just couldn't move the ball like they've been able to in the past and couldn't score in the red zone, scoring touchdowns in two of four trips inside the 20.

The Cardinals had 309 total yards of offense including just 46 yards rushing.

Remember: David Johnson was a year wiser and a year better; John Brown had his health mostly figured out; Jaron Brown was back from ACL surgery; Palmer's arm was well-rested; and Larry Fitzgerald was back.

The Arizona Cardinals' offense this year was supposed to look more like the 2015 version, when Arizona led the NFL in total yards, than the 2016 edition. All the pieces were there.

Clearly, with the personnel on Arizona's offense, the performance they produced was not expected.

But the bigger news comes in the form of a wrist injury that could mean an extended absence for Johnson.

Head coach Bruce Arians told reporters that Johnson dislocated his wrist in the loss.

Arians said Johnson was seeking a second opinion and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday that the star halfback will have surgery. He is expected to miss two or three months and the team plans to put him on IR designated to return. If Johnson misses two months, he'll be out seven games. Three months and he'll miss 11 games.

Appearing on SirisXM NFL Radio Tuesday night, Arians suggested the Cardinals are "hoping we can get him back by Christmas."

That's daunting. For the Cardinals and fantasy owners.

"There's some big shoes for somebody to step into," right tackle Jared Veldheer said. "We need good running backs in our system, so we need somebody to step up."

In Johnson's absence, Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington are next up for snaps ahead of D.J. Foster, who was signed off New England's practice squad on Monday. In addition the team re-signed Chris Johnson (as expected).

Turning 32 years old on September 23, Johnson didn't impress during the preseason, carrying 13 times for 41 yards (3.2 yards per attempt) with a fumble.

Another name worth watching?

Sitting in with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, ESPN's Mike Clay pointed out that Elijhaa Penny, at 6-1 and 233-pounds -- brings a bit more heft and substance than Williams and Ellington. So while Foster comes in cold, Penny is already on the roster and would bring a more physical dimension than the other backs.

The good news?

Arians told reporters after Wednesday's practice that Williams will start. Ellington will play behind him and Chris Johnson will get some carries.

I will, of course, have more on this when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday. ...

Meanwhile, the injury news was a little better on starting left tackle D.J. Humphries, out one to two weeks with a strained knee.

John Wetzel will replace Humphries at left tackle. If Humphries' injury was more long term, the team might consider moving Veldheer back to left tackle from the right side. But Wetzel is better at left tackle than at right, Arians said.

As far the game goes, Arians blamed the loss on his best players.

"The way I told the players, our five-star players didn't play well enough to beat a team on the road," the coach said. "Our young players, on the positive side, played very, very well. ... I really expect our five-star players to bounce back pretty quick."

Chief among the disappointments was quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw three interceptions and took responsibility for the loss after the game.

Arians said Palmer placed "super pressure on himself to be perfect instead of just play."

"He didn't play very well. He knows he didn't play very well," Arians said. "I'm sure he'll bounce back."

Palmer's struggles, however, weren't all his fault. He was hit six times on Sunday, most coming after Humphries left the game.

Everything the Cardinals' offense was supposed to be Sunday, it wasn't.

"I thought the offense was OK," Palmer said. "But just disappointed in my play. Just disappointed in myself. Didn't make enough plays. Made some bad plays. Just disappointed. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, despite a mere four catches for 32-yard stat line, Sunday's game was an incredibly encouraging outing for John Brown. Not only did he tie David Johnson for second on the team in targets with nine, but he also went out for 85 percent of the team's offensive plays. Only Fitzgerald played more among the wide receivers. Harmon reminded readers that Brown's health and therefore his ability to take a full snap share was a persistent issue last year and in the preseason. But he appeared to play without hesitation Sunday and Harmon believes we can at least be cautiously optimistic after this game.

According to the Sports Xchange, Jermaine Gresham was scheduled to have X-rays taken of his ribs after getting body slammed by a Lions' defender on Sunday. Arians on Monday said everything checked out with Gresham and that he expects the veteran to be available in Week 2 at Indianapolis.

"He's just got some sore ribs," Arians said.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Chris Johnson, Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington, Elijhaa Penny, David Johnson
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Jaron Brown, John Brown, J.J. Nelson, Brittan Golden, Chad Williams
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure framed it: "The Atlanta Falcons' offense was stagnant, stuck back somewhere on I-85 in Atlanta in rush-hour traffic with nowhere to go."

It's hard to argue the point. Like most of the offenses around the league, the Falcons were not clicking on all cylinders to open the 2017 season.

After leading the league in scoring at 34 points a game, they scored only 23 in a victory over the Chicago Bears.

According to the Sports Xchange, it appeared that new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is still trying to figure out how to use his main offensive weapon, wide receiver Julio Jones, who caught four of five targets for 66 yards and only one pass in the second half.

Jones, who was recovering from foot surgery, played only eight snaps in the exhibition season.

"We got a lot of things to clean up," Jones said. "We got what we set out for, and that was 'W.'"

Jones drew one-one-one coverage against the Bears and didn't seem to get enough opportunities. The timing appeared to be off at times in the passing attack.

"We just have to continue to keep working in-game," Jones said. "Just getting better. They did a great job on defense, early on limiting us early in the game not giving up explosive plays. We got to continue to work on us, and when those plays present themselves, we got to hit those plays."

Jones doesn't believe that timing is a long-term issue for the offense.

"It's not that hard," Jones said.

Jones helped to power the Falcons to the Super Bowl last season with Kyle Shanahan as the offensive coordinator. Shanahan left to become San Francisco's head coach.

"Last year was last year," Jones said. "We just have to go back in there and get to work. We need to put our heads down and continue to keep working. Last year was last year. This is the 2017 Falcons football team. We got to build our own legacy this year."

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is confident that Sarkisian will figure out how to unleash Jones.

"There's always unique stuff that goes to him," Quinn said. "I'm sure there will be plenty of other games where he is going to get a lot of targets."

Quarterback Matt Ryan, the league's reigning most valuable player, is not overly concerned.

"Like always, there's going to be help over the top of Julio, they account for where's he's at," Ryan said. "I thought they did a nice job. But still, I'm not sure how many catches he had but had a couple nice explosives for us which is huge, critical.

Still, Ryan's final numbers certainly looked impressive as he completed 21 of 30 passes for 321 yards, with an 88-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper and a passer rating of 116.1.

The running back combo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman managed just 53 yards on 20 carries, although Freeman scored on a 5-yard touchdown. Sarkisian tried to feature Coleman early, but he was bottled up.

Naturally, the Falcons will have to fine-tune elements of the offense as they head into next Sunday's NFC Championship Game rematch with the Green Bay Packers.

The play-action game wasn't so effective, although it seemed to work occasionally as it did so many times last season. Folks will question if Sarkisian was aggressive enough in certain situations. And the offensive line, particularly new starting right guard Wes Schweitzer, got beat up physically up front in too many instances.

At the same time, this offense didn't have much time together during the offseason and preseason as Jones recovered from his surgery, receiver Taylor Gabriel rehabbed a lower leg injury, and Freeman suffered a concussion during the preseason.

If the Falcons hope to avoid a Super Bowl hangover and win the NFC South over potentially potent offenses in Carolina, Tampa Bay and New Orleans, the offense has to click much better than it did Sunday. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Ryan extended his streak to 56 games with at least 200 yards passing, an NFL record. Ryan threw to eight receivers and six of them caught passes.

Hooper recorded his first 100-yard receiving game of his career. He caught two passes for 128 yards, including the above-mentioned 88-yard touchdown reception, the longest of his career and the longest touchdown catch by a tight end in a season opener in NFL history. Assuming he's available on your waiver wire, don't be shy when it comes to adding Hooper. As NFL.com's Alex Gelhar put it: "Tight end is a pretty touchdown-dependent position anyway, and at 6-3, Hooper has the size and speed to score from distance, or in the red zone. He's a great target, especially if his role begins to expand. ..."

Freeman recorded his 30th career touchdown and his 24th rushing. ...

Jones, on his third catch of the game, recorded his 500th career reception. Jones tied Anquan Boldin for the fastest player to reach 500 career receptions in NFL history 80 games.

According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, with the Falcons only running 55 total plays, it's not worth sweating Jones' low target total. However, Harmon added this game did feel like the same sort of script that helped the Falcons offense thrive last season; having Jones as a top piece but not a funnel receiver. Jones had just two games with five or fewer targets in 2016.

Mohamed Sanu led the team in targets and he also went out for the exact same amount of plays as Jones, 44 of a possible 55. As Harmon notes, Sanu is the clear No. 2 receiver, as Gabriel was only on the field for 53 percent of the plays.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward, Brian Hill
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy, Andre Roberts, Nick Williams
TEs: Austin Hooper, Eric Saubert, Levine Toilolo

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, the biggest surprise for the Ravens in this year's regular season opener was their commitment to the run. A year after setting the franchise record for fewest rushing attempts, Baltimore kept it on the ground 42 times for 157 yards.

"This was a game that running the ball turned out to be a key," head coach John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens reigned in the offense so much that Joe Flacco didn't even complete a pass in the second half. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, it was the first time in six years that a team won without completing a pass after halftime, a distinction that didn't go over well for a former Super Bowl MVP.

"It wasn't that fun to play on offense [Sunday] -- just to be honest," Flacco said. "I was 9-for-17, and I threw for a hundred and a couple [121] yards . I mean, it's not that fun. I'd rather throw for 350 and win 42-0, not 20-0. But it's fun to win, and that's the most important thing."

While Flacco didn't enjoy all the play calling, this was probably the optimal game for a quarterback who only returned to practice from a back injury eight days before the opener.

Flacco told reporters on Wednesday that he came out of Week 1 feeling good. "I have no limitations when it comes down to throwing the football and running around," Flacco said, via the Baltimore Sun. "I'm not going to say I'm 100 percent but there's no limitations come Sunday."

Still, as the Sports Xchange noted, there's a saying around Baltimore about needing to "Dilferize" the offense. This alludes to former quarterback Trent Dilfer, who did a solid job managing the game without putting his defense under unneeded pressure. The Ravens used that strategy to win Super Bowl XXXV.

This year, Baltimore has another top-echelon defense and quarterback that missed all of training camp with a sore back.

The strategy worked perfectly.

However, the Ravens will not play that way all season. Flacco has a much bigger arm than Dilfer and more weapons at his disposal to make big plays downfield. This type of balance between the offense and defense will make Baltimore a much more dangerous team.

"We're fully capable of throwing the ball all over the place if we had to do that to win the game," Harbaugh said.

We saw flashes of that. Jeremy Maclin, who had a total of seven practices this year, took the short pass and ran 48 yards for a touchdown. But Flacco didn't complete another pass for the final 32 minutes.

But the Ravens spent much of the offseason finding ways to improve the running game and it showed in this game.

Last year, Baltimore ranked 28th in the NFL, averaging 91.4 yards per game. However, Baltimore never fully committed to running the ball and were 30th in the league and set a franchise record with just 367 rushing attempts.

To help fix the problem, the Ravens hired Greg Roman as the senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach to help boost the running game. In four of his five full seasons as an offensive coordinator with Buffalo and San Francisco, Roman's rushing attack ranked in the top five of the NFL.

So far, the results have been positive.

Baltimore used a two-tiered running attack with Terrance West (19 carries 80 yards, one touchdown) and Javorius Allen (21 carries, 71 yards) splitting carries against the Bengals.

"The backs ran north and south, they got their pads down and ran upfield, protected the football," Harbaugh said. "The line was physical. It was a very important drive because it took the time off the clock and really put them behind the eight ball in terms of their chances to come back."

However, fellow running back Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter and did not return. He had caught three passes for 33 yards.

"You can see what he's capable of doing," Flacco said about Woodhead. "Hopefully, we have some guys that can step up and make some plays. We've got a good receiving corps. Mike (Wallace) is one of those. Mike's one of those quick little guys that can do stuff on the side. Danny's been struggling with that hammy. I don't know what this one is, but it will definitely hurt us."

Woodhead missed the last two preseason games with a hamstring injury. His season ended last year with a torn ACL.

"I'm going to wait and see what we got," Woodhead said when asked if this was the same hamstring that kept him out the two preseason games.

As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Woodhead was easily on his way to leading this team in receiving before he went down with a hamstring injury at the end of their first drive. The veteran back caught all three of his targets for 33 yards on that series. If Woodhead can get back on the field in the next couple of games, he will reassume a dominant role in the Baltimore pecking order.

I'll be following up on the veteran receiving back's status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progress; but those invested might want to plan for some missed time. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is reporting a four-to-six week absence is likely while ESPN's Adam Schefter says six-to-eight. Harbaugh confirmed on Wednesday that Woodhead will miss at least four weeks.

While Woodhead will return this season, a roster move could be coming.

Alex Collins and Jeremy Langford are currently on the team's practice squad.

One potential replacement for Woodhead's role as the catalyst out of the backfield might surprise you.

"Hopefully, we have some guys that can step up and hit some plays," Flacco told Hensley. "Mike Campanaro is one of those quick little guys that can do stuff on the side."

Campanaro is a somewhat out-of-the-box suggestion because he is a wide receiver who has lined up in the slot for a majority of his four-year NFL career. But this makes sense when you consider Campanaro has a similar build to Woodhead, possesses excellent lateral agility and shows awareness of how to find holes in the defense. He would just have to move to the backfield, where he has some familiarity as a running back during his high school days.

The other factor is the Ravens are set with their top three wide receivers in Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. In Sunday's opener, Campanaro had trouble getting on the field as a receiver, playing a total of 13 snaps (20 percent).

By moving Campanaro into Woodhead's position, the Ravens can utilize a player who's extremely shifty and can make defenders miss with his sharp cuts. Baltimore likes to get the ball in Campanaro's hands because it uses him as a punt returner and runs the occasional jet sweep with him.

It's worth watching.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan
RBs: Terrance West, Javorius Allen, Danny Woodhead
WRs: Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Kenny Bell
TEs: Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak noted, LeSean McCoy might not have played every snap in Sunday's win over the New York Jets, but the star running back touched the ball 27 times and gained 159 of his team's 408 net offensive yards.

Based on his usage in Sunday's game, McCoy projects to receive 432 touches over a 16-game season. Since 2001, only five players -- Larry Johnson (457 touches in 2006), LaDainian Tomlinson (451 in 2002), DeMarco Murray (449 in 2014), Ricky Williams (442 in 2003) and Steven Jackson (436 in 2006) -- have totaled more carries and catches in a single season.

Is McCoy's pace sustainable or will the 29-year-old rusher's body eventually break down as he attempts to shoulder much of the load of the Bills' offense?

McCoy was adamant after Sunday's win 21-12 win over the New York Jets that his shifty running style will help him stay healthy.

"I'm used to that [workload]," McCoy said. "I don't take a lot of real shots. You're not going to see too many 'Oooh' hits with me.

"My tackles are more [being] wrapped up. I'm not going to take that all myself. I've been playing this way for so long. I've always been undersized, but I've always been one of the better guys on the field, whoever is on the field with me. I'm used to it. I embrace it, and that's just something I'm used to doing."

Despite McCoy's confidence, he put a scare into the crowd early in the fourth quarter. After a 3-yard run at the goal line, he jogged off the field and doubled over on the sideline as he was surrounded by trainers.

"I jumped in there [near the end zone], and I guess with the placement of the ball and my wrist, [it] just kind of went numb," McCoy said. "I didn't want to be selfish and try to get a touchdown with a numb right hand."

In place of McCoy, the Bills inserted 250-pound bruiser Mike Tolbert into the backfield. Tolbert promptly scored a 1-yard touchdown, the highlight of an afternoon in which Tolbert gained 42 yards on 12 carries while adding a 12-yard catch.

Tolbert should give McCoy some relief this season, especially near the goal line. But the 31-year-old part-fullback, part-tailback is cut from a different mold than Mike Gillislee, a more traditional No. 2 running back who spelled McCoy for 101 carries and 577 yards last season.

Rodak went on to note that if Sunday is any indication -- and there was nothing unexpected about the Bills' run-heavy game plan -- McCoy's workload projects to be higher than last season. He surpassed 27 touches only once in 2016, when he had 29 in a Week 16 overtime win over the Dolphins. In six seasons (2009-14) with the Eagles, McCoy tallied more than 27 touches in only eight games.

Without Sammy Watkins or any top-tier threat in the passing game, the Bills are leaning heavily on McCoy -- and defenses know it.

"A lot of times, [the Jets' defense] had a lot of eight-man box[es]," McCoy said Sunday. "That's expected to kind of stop the running game."

With defenses keying on McCoy and the risk of injury increased as his number of touches ticks up, this season might present one of the biggest physical challenges of the running back's career.

"Little nicks and bruises here, that's football," he said Sunday. "But overall, I want [to be] challenged. I want the ball."

And fantasy owners should feel confident he's going to get it, because offensive coordinator Rick Dennison has no plans to back off.

"If I give him the ball 50 times, he'll make 50 plays," said Dennison, who also admitted he "wasn't counting" as McCoy racked up those 27 touches Sunday. ...

Meanwhile, Rodak notes it was a mixed bag for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the passing offense.

Taylor's first half was worse than his second. He completed 11-of-19 passes in the first two quarters for 132 yards, one touchdown and a goal-line interception that helped keep the game close. Overall, Taylor seemed more comfortable throwing to tight end Charles Clay than to receivers Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones or Andre Holmes -- all newcomers this season.

Clay had nine targets while Buffalo's wide receivers totaled eight targets. The results on those eight targets were four catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. One was a short pass over the middle to Matthews, which he turned up field for a gain of 47 yards. Another was a 1-yard touchdown pass to Holmes.

As the Sports Xchange notes, Taylor threw deep only once, and it fell incomplete.

Despite being with the team barely a month, Matthews is the leader of the unit based on his three productive years with the Eagles, and he is not worried about the low production in Week 1.

"We won, and that's the main thing," he said. "As receivers, we've got to take it upon ourselves. That's my biggest focus. We're going to go back to figure out what we can do to get better."

Taylor's chemistry with receivers might take time to develop, although he said Sunday that the game plan was to target McCoy and Clay against the Jets' linebackers.

Summing up the game in general, Rodak pointed out that too often under former head coach Rex Ryan, the Bills folded under the pressure of close games. Despite playing down to the level of their opponent at times Sunday, the Bills showed improved mental toughness in first-year head coach Sean McDermott's debut by closing out the win with a strong second-half performance.

Buffalo scored back-to-back touchdowns and then intercepted QB Josh McCown twice to seal the win.

Next up, the Bills (1-0) hit the road to play the Carolina Panthers. The game will be a homecoming for McDermott, who spent the past six seasons as Carolina's defensive coordinator, and for first-year general manager Brandon Beane, who spent the past 19 seasons in various front-office roles for the Panthers.

And finally. ... The Bills had pretty good fortune in terms of injuries. They made it through training camp and the preseason fairly unscathed. The only injury reported after the game was a shoulder ailment suffered by cornerback E.J. Gaines, who was unable to return to action.

One player the Bills were concerned about was left tackle Cordy Glenn, who missed a huge amount of time with a lingering foot problem. However, Glenn was able to start and he played 73 percent of the offensive snaps with rookie Dion Dawkins spotting him.

As for Wednesday's practice, Clay (shoulder) and Glenn were limited. McCoy (wrist) and Tolbert (knee) worked fully.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, T.J. Yates, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Jordan Matthews, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, Brandon Tate
TEs: Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to Panthers.com's Bill Voth, it was precisely how the Panthers believe Christian McCaffrey can help Cam Newton.

With 32 seconds left in the first half of Sunday's season opener against San Francisco, Carolina faced a third-and-15 from its 40-yard line. In similar situations during previous seasons, Newton would often drop back and toss a pass past the first-down markers. But this time he quickly dropped off a screen pass to McCaffrey, who weaved his way 16 yards before stepping out of bounds.

On the Panthers' next two plays, Newton made his first connections of the half with tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, putting the Panthers in range for a short field goal that sent them into the break with a 13-0 lead.

That 3-for-3 first-half finish, and Newton's second-half performance -- 6-for-6 for 66 yards, a touchdown and a 152.1 passer rating -- were seemingly sparked by that simple screen to McCaffrey. It a safe, smart play Newton needed after he began his first extended action since New Year's Day with 11 misfires on his first 16 throws.

"The quarterback is obviously getting used to the timing. He missed some throws and he knows it," Rivera said. "I had to talk him off the ledge, but he's focusing in on what he needs to get done. The nice thing is all the other guys are rallying around him. They understand he's a little rusty.

"He did some things very well, made a couple really good audibles. He's making good reads. It's just about getting comfortable and getting his rhythm."

Newton didn't take too many shots downfield. As Voth noted, that's part "newish offense," part protecting him from pushing his surgically repaired shoulder too hard. But his 25-yard completion late in the first half to Benjamin was right on the money. The result sure was better than Newton's lone deep pass to Benjamin earlier in the quarter that safety Jaquiski Tartt intercepted with one hand.

"If he puts that ball out a little sooner with a little less air," Rivera said, "I think Kelvin might catch that. That was a heck of a play by them."

Because he hadn't completed a pass for more than 20 yards against live competition since last year's season finale in Tampa Bay, no one knew what to expect from Newton. As Voth suggested, the first part -- that 5-for-16 start with 40 of his 63 passing yards coming on a touchdown to Russell Shepard -- was ugly. But the Panthers hope the 9-for-9 finish was a preview of what their offense can do when Newton makes sound decisions and gets in a groove.

"I think we all took turns being just a little off," Olsen said.

"I just don't think we really found our stride. We had our moments, but collectively I think we'll be better as the year goes on."

Getting back to McCaffrey, Rivera told reporters after the game he felt like a kid on Christmas morning with the rookie running back being compared to a new toy.

"You open up the box and there is what you hoped for," Rivera said at a press conference Monday. "You also have to be wise and smart about when you play with it, and when you don't, because you don't want to wear the batteries out and you don't want to break it. You want to utilize it and have fun with it."

Still, as Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed noted, it's clear the Panthers plan to lean heavily on McCaffrey this season.

He started alongside veteran running back Jonathan Stewart and played 70 percent (47 of 67) of the offensive snaps. McCaffrey carried 13 times for 47 yards, caught five passes for 38 yards and returned three punts for 2 yards in Carolina's 23-3 win. Those numbers aren't gaudy by any means, but it doesn't completely tell the story.

"He's an explosive type player and he has great quicks and football savvy," Rivera said. "You also see sometimes where even when you don't give him the ball you see the benefits of having him on the field. ... Those are the things he helps creates for his teammates and I think as (opponents) recognize it and see there are things they have to do to handle him I think it will open up more things for his teammates."

Along with the backfield, McCaffrey also lined up in the slot and out wide as offensive coordinator Mike Shula gave teams plenty to prepare for in the coming weeks.

"He's just so much fun to watch," Shula said. "You can do different things with him. He's so smart and so instinctive. He's just scratching the surface."

McCaffrey saw more action than Stewart in the pivotal first half in which the Panthers opened a 13-0 lead.

"We talked in the offseason a lot about teams trying to take away [Olsen] or [Benjamin]," Shula said. "So if they do that then we feel like he can be a guy who gets some matchups underneath in shorter areas or if teams are playing soft zones then you can give him the ball in space. I think with him being a factor like that it will be helpful for Cam but also those other guys."

McCaffrey wasn't perfect by any means.

He was stripped of the ball after reversing directions and fumbled.

"It happens, but it can't happen," McCaffrey said after the game. "I tried to cover it up but the guy made a good play. Coming back, you've got to respond."

He did just that.

He and Stewart helped the Panthers run nearly nine minutes off the clock to close out the game with a lengthy fourth quarter drive. In fact, Stewart ended up with the most carries and the most yards, so his role certainly hasn't diminished with the arrival of McCaffrey.

Rivera said moving forward he hopes to get both backs about 14 to 18 touches per game on offense.

"There were a lot of good things we did with Christian," Rivera said. "We know he can be a big part of what we do offensively. There are a lot of things we can do with him."

We'll see where that goes when the Bills visit the Panthers this week. ...

One last note here. ... Graham Gano emerged from training camp barely keeping his first-string role, but he showed he might have deserved it by going 3 for 3 on field goals and booting his kickoffs through the end zone.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
RBs: Jonathan Stewart, Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, Russell Shepard, Damiere Byrd, Brenton Bersin
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

Stop me if this sounds vaguely familiar: Kevin White's season is over.

The wideout suffered a fractured scapula against the Atlanta Falcons and will go on injured reserve for the third straight season.

The seventh pick of the 2015 draft, White was injured in the fourth quarter of Sunday's season-opening loss and came off the field immediately, favoring the shoulder slightly.

The team confirmed the severity of the injury Monday.

White went on injured reserve last year after suffering a spiral fracture to his left fibula in the fourth game. White missed all of 2015 with a stress fracture to his left tibia.

In three seasons, White has played five games and has 21 receptions for 193 yards without a touchdown.

The Bears are now without both of the starting receivers they started with at camp. Cameron Meredith suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in the third preseason game against Tennessee.

So it's safe to say that Mike Glennon needs someone competent to play wide receiver.

As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson pointed out, almost half of Glennon's 40 pass attempts (18) were spread out between running back Tarik Cohen (12 targets) and Zach Miller (six targets) in Sunday's 23-17 loss.

Asking Cohen, Miller and tight ends Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen to play a larger role in the passing game is a good idea, but eventually, teams are going to force the Bears to throw to their wide receivers by taking away or limiting those alternative options.

Dickerson went on to suggest the best hope now is for veteran Markus Wheaton to return from his finger surgery and resemble the player who averaged 17 yards per catch for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015, bump up Kendall Wright's targets in the slot, and they promoted undrafted rookie Tanner Gentry off the practice squad. Gentry caught four passes for 77 yards in the preseason, including a 45-yard touchdown from Mitch Trubisky in a game against the Titans.

Wheaton just began catching a real football at practice last week after missing almost a month due to a broken pinkie, and could join the team this week in preparation for Sunday's game in Tampa. Fox said Wheaton was practicing "with a fairly major club on his hand" last week.

Those aren't exactly surefire ways to improve the position.

According to Dickerson, the shame of it all is that Glennon was respectable on Sunday.

That said, he had only 50 yards passing heading into the fourth quarter. The offense averaged 4.0 yards per pass play attempted, a statistic that should win zero NFL games. When the wideouts couldn't get open on deep to intermediate routes, the Falcons defense started cheating up.

But Glennon showed up in crunch time and if Josh Bellamy and Jordan Howard not dropped potential touchdown passes on the final drive, Glennon might've led the Bears to an improbable win over the defending NFC champions.

"He showed a lot of resiliency at the end," Cohen said. "People were going to count him out. The crowd was booing a little bit. He just fought that adversity and showed up. He's a playmaker. He's a baller. That's what we expected him to do, and he led his team."

No one -- except maybe those who work for the Bears -- envisioned that happening.

"I think we're already confident as a group," Glennon said. "When you look at the positives and the negatives, there is a positive that we were close to beating a team of that caliber."

As long as Glennon protects the football (zero turnovers on Sunday) and the offense establishes the run with Cohen and Howard, the Bears will be competitive in 2017.

In order to beat a playoff-caliber team, however, the Bears have to locate at least one threat at wide receiver.

Sadly, that might not happen until next year's draft. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains got creative with Cohen. In the preseason, the Bears made sure their opponents got plenty of tape of Cohen running between the tackles, but his true value is operating in space. Chicago called a variety of plays for Cohen, and even used him in the Wildcat to assist on a touchdown run by Howard.

With key players going out, Fox was glad to see the success of Cohen, who is 5-foot-6 and 181 pounds. Cohen ran five times for 66 yards, caught eight passes for 47 yards and returned three punts for a 15-yard average.

"He's a man. He's a man," tight end Zach Miller said. "I don't care about his stature, he's a man. He took a ton of shots, hopped back up. Can't say enough about him."

Cohen wasn't on the field on three downs when the Bears failed to score on four tries from the 5-yard line in the final 30 seconds against Atlanta.

"I know we have a lot of playmakers all around this team," Cohen said. "Just because I'm not on the field doesn't mean a play can't be made."

Overall, the team's 125-yard rushing total was solid. But as the Sports Xchange noted, the consistency wasn't what they'd hoped for, with 46 yards coming on one Cohen cutback run across the field. Howard runs more effectively with more carries, and only 13 attempts doesn't cut it. It's more difficult to run-block effectively when the passing game fails to get the ball down the field.

Still, as NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, "It looks like it might be a two-way committee in Chicago's backfield, which you can't say we didn't warn you about. The Bears won't be able to keep Cohen off the field if he keeps producing in all aspects like he did Sunday. ..."

For the record, Howard suffered a slight shoulder injury in the game but Fox said Monday it was not serious.

Fellow running back Benny Cunningham suffered an ankle injury against Atlanta and is day-to-day. Losing Cunningham deprives the Bears of their most effective pass blocker in the backfield, as well as a valued special teams player. The Bears cut running back Jeremy Langford at the end of the preseason and Cunningham was the third back behind Howard and Cohen.

The Bears acquired Taquan Mizzell on waivers from the Ravens at the end of the preseason, and he still needs to become better acquainted with the offense.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Mike Glennon, Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Kevin White
TEs: Zach Miller, Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell framed it, "The Cincinnati Bengals had plenty of things to worry about going into the season opener, but quarterback Andy Dalton wasn't supposed to be one of them. ..."

A 20-0 loss to the Ravens in Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday fell largely on Dalton's shoulders. Dalton completed 16 of 31 passes for 170 yards, four interceptions, a fumble and no touchdowns. He was sacked five times and finished with a quarterback rating of 28.4, the second-lowest of his career. It was the worst-case scenario for the Bengals as they fielded an offensive line with three first-year starters.

"I didn't give us a chance to win this game," Dalton said. "I didn't give us a chance to score the points we needed to win. It starts with me."

Terrell went on to suggest that Dalton's performance brought back memories of another bad game. In that game, a 24-3 loss to the Browns in 2014, Dalton threw three picks and had a quarterback rating of 2.0.

That day was supposed to be something to joke about, a performance so far in the past it seemed like a distant memory. Games like that were the reason Dalton was tagged with the "Bad Andy" nickname.

Dalton almost put "Bad Andy" to rest by stepping up with a solid second half in 2014 and a great 2015 season. His teammates still say he could've been a candidate for the MVP that year if his season had not ended early because of a broken thumb.

In 2015 and 2016, Dalton threw only 15 interceptions to 43 touchdowns. He is now halfway to last year's total of eight.

Sunday was as bad as "Bad Andy" gets.

To put it in perspective, Dalton is the first player with five turnovers in a season opener since Ben Roethlisberger had five against the Ravens in 2011.

Remember, as bad as things got last season, Dalton rarely was the problem.

He passed for more than 4,200 yards and 18 touchdowns with only eight interceptions despite being sacked 41 times. After one game, Dalton is halfway to last season's interception total.

"We're all competitors out there," said receiver A.J. Green, when asked about being visibly frustrated during Sunday's game. "I hate to lose. I hate the ball to be intercepted. It's the first game, so we've got a long season ahead of us."

Last season, Dalton completed 70 percent of his passes to Green, throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions. On Sunday, Dalton went 5-of-10 with two picks when targeting Green.

Tight end Tyler Eifert, one of Dalton's primary weapons, had one catch, the only time he was targeted. Two seasons removed from a team-leading 13 touchdowns, Eifert went from one of the best red zone threats to invisible on Sunday.

The good news?

Dalton has been adept at coming back strong after bad performances and he'll get a chance this week.

"You have to learn the type of player you are," Dalton said. "You have to put your head down and go to work. You have to do everything possible to put yourself in the best position. It's a short week, so we have a quicker time to put this behind us."

Indeed, the Bengals will face the Texans on Thursday night. The Texans are coming off a disastrous performance against the Jaguars in their home opener. Both teams are going to be desperate to avoid starting 0-2.

Other notes of interest. ... Running back Joe Mixon looked good while rotating with fellow backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Bernard led this three-headed committee with a 45 percent share of snaps compared to Mixon's 38 and Hill's 17.

Mixon rushed for 10 yards on three carries and caught one pass for nine yards, providing a glimpse of the elusive open-field moves he showed in the preseason.

Mixon had two great back-to-back plays, catching a pass for 9 yards and rushing for an 8-yard gain, then was barely used again. Mixon was in the final two plays of the game, both of which resulted in significant yardage losses.

According to Terrell, the Bengals appear to be rotating their running backs by series, which means Mixon might be little-used for a while. Franciscovich added: "If all three of these guys are healthy all year, it's going to be a headache for fantasy managers. ..."

Rookie wide receiver John Ross was held out of Sunday's game with a knee injury he suffered last month. He did work on a limited basis late last week and could ramp it up this week. The Bengals are characterizing him as questionable for the second game in a row.

Nobody should be in a hurry, however, to force the speedster into their lineups.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Jeremy Hill, Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard
WRs: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Cody Core
TEs: Tyler Eifert, Ryan Hewitt, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

DeShone Kizer didn't deliver a victory in his NFL debut. However, the rookie did bring something to the Browns.

"This young man gives us hope," head coach Hue Jackson said Monday.

How much hope?

According to Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers: "Cleveland, a quarterback wasteland for nearly two decades, may have finally found its man."

Shaking off a rough start — a three-and-out followed by a blocked punt for touchdown on his opening series — against a Pittsburgh defense eager to baptize him with blitzes and bruises, Kizer showed presence and poise. He kept the Browns close enough to have a chance to win before falling 21-18 to the Steelers.

The predicted blowout never materialized and much of that had to do with Kizer. He completed 20 of 30 passes for 222 yards, threw a touchdown pass and pushed his way through a goal-line pile for another TD.

In some ways, Kizer's more-than-satisfactory performance validated Jackson's decision to roll with the second-round pick out of the gate. When the Browns drafted Kizer in the second round, there was a sense the team would bring him along slowly, avoiding a mistake the franchise made with other notable rookies by rushing them onto the field.

Jackson, though, was impressed with Kizer's development from rookie minicamp through two exhibitions and chose him as starter following a summer competition with several veterans.

There were risks. Now there is reward.

Of course, as ESPN.com's Dan Graziano pointed out, Sunday was a mixed bag, as you'd expect.

Kizer took seven sacks, for example. After the game, he praised the offensive line and took full responsibility for all seven.

"I'm holding onto the ball a little too long at times," Kizer said. "I have to make sure that, when the check-down is possible, I hit the check-down. When you have the ability as a quarterback to move with your legs and extend plays, you can become a little complacent. One of the biggest things I learned today is that when there's an opportunity to get the ball to the running back in the check-down, you do it."

"Veteran-sounding stuff," Graziano wrote. "Quarterback-sounding stuff."

Graziano went on to note that Kizer is tied with Jameis Winston as the third-youngest quarterback to start a season opener since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, according to ESPN Stats and Information research, and as a result things are going to look messy at times. He'll miss throws. His timing will be off. His decisions will need improvement. But what his teammates and coaches are looking at is the way he handles things.

And he's off to a great start in that regard. But it's just that: A start. Nobody should get too carried away here.

As Graziano summed up: "Kizer appears to have the size, the athleticism and the arm talent to develop -- potentially -- into a good starting NFL quarterback. In the meantime, he's going to be a rookie, with all of the messy uncertainty that brings. And that's OK. Because these are the Browns, where things can only get better from here, and all the fans are looking for is a reason to believe those are more than words. ..."

And we all get to see how Kizer builds on all the hope when he goes up against a tough Baltimore defense this week. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Cleveland Plain Dealer staffer Mary Kay Cabot, Kenny Britt may have dropped himself out of the Browns' starting lineup.

Britt dropped a clutch 18-yard pass from Kizer in the fourth quarter when he was wide open over the middle. The drop came at a crucial point in the game.

Britt turned to run upfield before he secured the ball and let it slip through his hands.

"You can't do that to a young quarterback," said Jackson. "You've got to make that play."

Jackson was asked why Britt is still starting.

"Let's see where we go this week," he said. "Let's see what we're doing this week. Let's find out. You're saying he's starting this week. We don't know that. So let's see where we are this week and go from there."

He reiterated that Britt will have to step it up to maintain his status, meaning this is a big week of practice for him.

Backing him up is Ricardo Louis, who caught two passes for 32 yards, including a 29-yarder down the seam that led to Corey Coleman's 3-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. Louis was hit hard by safety Mike Mitchell after the catch, and earlier was blasted helmet-to-helmet by cornerback William Gay.

He was checked for a concussion, but cleared in time to make the big catch on the TD drive.

The performance could earn Louis the start Sunday in Baltimore in place of Britt. I'll be watching for more on that in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for possible changes. ...

In a related note, Duke Johnson remains a running back and has not moved to receiver, Jackson said Monday.

Still, as ESPN.com noted, fantasy players may wish to pay attention, though, because Johnson did not line up in the backfield once during Sunday's loss.

Instead, Johnson was in the slot on 42 snaps, at left receiver once, right receiver twice and (tecnhically) at tight end twice. He did not once line up in the backfield the way a running back traditionally would, per the fantasy game review.

"That was that plan for that game, and it will change as we go," Jackson said.

In the loss, Johnson tied for the second-most targets on the team with five passes thrown his way. He had two receptions for 20 yards. However, two of the three times passes not completed to him were big-play opportunities that were missed. On both, Johnson had beaten the coverage, but Kizer overthrew him.

"Duke is a very valuable member of our offensive football team in both phases -- in the pass game and the run game," Jackson said.

Coleman, meanwhile, showed in preseason he can be reliable and he carried that over to the opener with five catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. He and Kizer have been developing chemistry since the week before the third preseason game, when Kizer became the starter.

Tight end Seth DeValve, with 10 catches all of 2017, had four catches for 21 yards in the season opener. Rookie David Njoku caught both his targets for 20 yards. ...

One last note here. ... Top overall pick Myles Garrett is still wearing a walking boot to protect his sprained ankle. Garrett said missing the opener was tough and it's possible he'll miss several more weeks. Garrett has vowed to be patient after rushing back from an ankle sprain last year at Texas A&M.

"Me knowing myself, I want to get out there as soon as possible," he said. "I want to test my limits. I want to go out there and play right away. But I know I'll be hurting the team and myself if I go out there too soon."


DEPTH CHART
QBs: DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Matthew Dayes
WRs: Kenny Britt, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Sammie Coates, Corey Coleman
TEs: Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer, David Njoku

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

And the drama continues. ... As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon reported, the NFL moved quickly Monday in hopes of reversing a federal judge's decision that has blocked the league's six-game suspension of star Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott over a domestic violence case in Ohio.

The league asked the judge who ruled in Elliott's favor to stop the preliminary injunction that cleared last year's NFL rushing leader to play while the case is in court. A notice of appeal was also filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The NFL's latest filings came about 12 hours after Elliott rushed for 104 yards in the Cowboys' 19-3 season-opening win over the New York Giants at home Sunday night.

"Just relieved from the fact that I finally get a fair trial," Elliott said after the game in his first public comments since before the Cowboys reported for training camp in July. "I finally get a chance to prove my innocence. And I'm just happy I'm able to be with these guys for as long as it's permitted and just not having to miss time and not being away from them."

And it will be permitted this week.

On a conference call with media members, NFL spokesperson Joe Lockhart said he "would assume" that Elliott will play this Sunday.

But things could get a little murky as the season moves along. According to Lockhart, he does not believe it is "likely" that Elliott will play the rest of the season.

"It is possible," Lockhart said. "But I don't know that I would go so far as to say likely."

According to CBSSports.com's Will Brinson, this could be one of two things: It could be the NFL throwing a public barb out there to try and take a shot at Elliott's legal team and the Cowboys and Elliott's fantasy owners. Or it could be the NFL trying to push the narrative that it is attempting to speed up the legal process in the Elliott battle.

Based on what NFL Media's Mike Garafolo said on Good Morning Football this week, it could easily be the latter.

"They're going to try, they're going to try, to hit the guess on that one and speed things up," Garafolo said. "Likelihood. ... Not a guarantee that Ezekiel Elliott's 2017 season is not affected."

Essentially the league wants to crank up the legal process -- and is asking the judges involved in the cases and appeals -- to expedite things because the league could suffer irreparable harm if it cannot enforce suspensions in a timely fashion. The case involving Tom Brady would be the precedent here.

This gets a little scary for all the parties involved here -- if the league were to win in court and get the expedited ruling on a hearing and a potential punishment, it is possible that the NFL could enforce Elliott's six-game suspension at a point in time that would be less than ideal for everyone involved (outside of the NFL).

The Cowboys losing Zeke for the first six games of the season would be bad, but the Cowboys losing Zeke for the last six games of the season (or part of the playoffs) would be worse.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, there is no way to know what is going to happen.

Only the judges involved here have real access to the future of Elliott on the field, and even they probably don't know exactly how this is going to play out. Elliott is likely to end up playing the whole season, but the NFL is not known for not getting its way. Anything and everything is on the table still.

Including playing all season.

As for last Sunday night, Elliott and the offensive line did solid work against a good Giants defense. As the Sports Xchange notes, it wasn't always pretty but it was physical and punishing, fitting perfectly with what the offensive line was doing up front.

In addition to his 104 yards rushing on 24 carries, he had another 36 yards receiving while catching all five of his targets.

But Elliott should have had a shot when the Cowboys had first-and-goal at the 3 and it didn't come. ...

Meanwhile, there was a lot of talk about the job Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins usually does against receiver Dez Bryant, who had just two catches for 43 yards after recording just two catches in two games against him last year.

What's also true is that quarterback Dak Prescott missed a wide-open Bryant with a high throw on a slant and Bryant drew a huge pass interference penalty against Jenkins that led to a Jason Witten touchdown reception.

Don't ignore Witten's team-high seven catches for 59 yards, Terrance Williams's six catches for 68 yards or three for 32 for Cole Beasley, including a miraculous one-handed, behind-his-head catch for a first down.

Prescott wasn't as sharp as he would have liked, admittedly missing some throws, while completing 24 of 39 passes for 268 yards. But he played mistake-free with no interceptions and no bad decisions.

In a related note. ... Witten had a second-quarter catch for 11 yards, giving him 11,906 for his career. The 15-year veteran entered the game needing 17 yards to pass the Hall of Famer.

Witten now owns several team records, including most receptions. On Sunday night, he tied Ed Jones for most games played (224) in Cowboys history.

On the injury front. ... Williams returned from a sprained ankle on the first play of the game to record six catches, including five for first downs against the Giants. He wore a walking boot after the game and hopes to play against the Broncos Sunday. He did not, however, practice on Wednesday.

And finally. ... Cornerback Orlando Scandrick broke a bone in his hand and underwent surgery Monday night to have a plate inserted. He might play Sunday against the Denver, but more likely the following Monday against the Arizona Cardinals.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris, Rod Smith, Ezekiel Elliott
WRs: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer, Brice Butler, Noah Brown
TEs: Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As DenverBroncos.com's Ben Swanson noted, after helping build a commanding 24-7 lead over the Chargers in the first three quarters Monday night, Trevor Siemian almost watched it slip out of his hands.

Almost.

The Broncos held on for the 24-21 win, and Siemian walked away happy being 1-0 and happy he and the offense can learn from the nearly disastrous fourth quarter.

"I've learned pretty quickly nothing's certain, especially when you're playing a guy like Philip Rivers on the other sideline," Siemian said. "Down the stretch there, offensively we wish we would have made a few more plays to help our defense out, but, shoot, a win's a win. We'll take it however we can get it."

The strongest moments of Siemian's night were on the long drives, which included six third-down conversions by his arm, two touchdown passes, a rushing touchdown and a few other impressive scrambles.

Though Siemian's runs through traffic were a little harrowing for his coaches, the second-year quarterback said his decisions to take off were with one goal in mind.

"You want to win. That's the bottom line," Siemian said. "I think obviously with [Chargers DE Joey Bosa] and [Chargers OLB Melvin Ingram] on the other side, even if you're not moving around, they're moving you off your spot and trying to make you uncomfortable. They're as good as it gets. Just decided to do it a couple times here and there, but up front those guys did a heck of a job. I mean, you're talking about one of the best fronts in football, I think. Our guys up front did a heck of a job."

The touchdown run was perhaps the most stunning because he shook Bosa at the goal line, but Siemian was quick to shy away from compliments.

"I think Joey got me one other time, so I think we'll call it even," Siemian said. "But we'll see him again, so I'm sure I don't want to see myself in that situation where it's me and him too often, but glad to get there, for sure."

But as fun as the scrambles were, the third-down conversions were just as important.

"Obviously when you're talking about third downs, you're talking about protection and blitz packages, different looks like that, and I thought our offensive line did a really good job handling those," Siemian said. "Then our tight ends and [Bennie Fowler] stepped up. Those guys did a good job trying to take away [Demaryius Thomas] and Emmanuel [Sanders], so that was kind of an adjustment we had to make on the fly. But I credit the guys up front, for sure."

Ultimately Siemian came away with a nearly complete game. There were a few miscues, but he finished with 219 passing yards and two touchdowns. In addition to the stats, Siemian simply looked more comfortable.

"I think it's an 11-man operation, plus [Offensive Coordinator] Coach [Mike] McCoy and the whole staff," Siemian said. "I think we feel really good about where we're at. We did some good things. Obviously, the red zone we want to clean up and finishing the game, I think we can do a better job there. But like I said, it feels good to win and beat a divisional opponent at home, and then go back and say, 'Hey, shoot, we can fix some of these things, too.'"

Fowler doubled his career touchdown total with a pair of TD grabs, hauling in Siemian's passes from 5 and 6 yards out.

"It was amazing. It felt great to go out there and get two touchdowns. I had two touchdowns in my career coming into the game so it feels good. I'll continue to build on that," Fowler said.

Fowler was put on notice when the Broncos drafted wide receivers Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie, but he earned the job as Denver's No. 3 pass catcher behind Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

"I've been on the same page with Trev now for three years. He's part of the reason I made the team as an undrafted rookie so I appreciate him," Fowler said.

The Broncos got the most out of their tight ends, who combined for 98 yards receiving.

A.J. Derby had three catches for 34 yards, Virgil Green one for 44 and Jeff Heuerman two for 20.

"Awesome," head coach Vance Joseph said. "All three guys caught balls for (nearly) 100 yards. That's Mike McCoy's offense. Everyone gets an opportunity."

"That (Chargers) defense is kind of similar to the defense that San Francisco runs, so we kind of got a little precursor to how things are going to happen when we played them," Green said. "We paid attention to a lot of things in the practices that week. A lot of things were open. So we just wanted to take advantage of the open holes on defense."

Those holes might be there in future games, too.

"Having (Thomas) and (Sanders) outside, you're going to see a bunch of shell coverage where they are doubling those guys with two high-safeties and two low-corners," Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said. "Obviously, the one-on-one matchups are going to be inside against the linebackers. Having Virgil, Heuerman and Derby all catch balls last night inside in the seams, that is going to be huge for us."

Also of interest. ... C.J. Anderson led the Broncos with 81 yards on 20 carries Monday night. Anderson and Jamaal Charles, who combined for 121 yards on 30 carries behind Denver's revamped offensive line. The only negative was Charles' fourth-quarter fumble.

Joseph said he wants Anderson to continue to be the "bell cow" among their running backs. ...

Worth noting. ... 9News.com's Mike Klis reports that running back Devontae Booker, coming off wrist surgery performed last month, was practicing Wednesday. Charles was an observer.

Joseph told reporters after the session was over that Booker won't be ready this week. ...

And finally. ... Prior to Monday night's game, general manager John Elway announced that the team had signed kicker Brandon McManus to a new four-year deal. According to Profootballtalk.com, it's a three-year extension worth $11.254 million with $6 million in guaranteed money.

Elway called McManus "an important weapon" for the Broncos and he's made 68-of-82 field goals over his previous three seasons with the team. He's also made 108-of-110 extra points over that span.

In fact, McManus is the most accurate kicker in Broncos history and has also ranked in the league's top 10 in kickoff touchback percentage for three consecutive years.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, Chad Kelly
RBs: C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson, Devontae Booker
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor
TEs: Virgil Green, A.J. Derby, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reported it, Matthew Stafford had time in the pocket. His new receiver started sprinting down the field. And by the time Stafford's pass came close to Kenny Golladay, the Lions rookie had already beaten two Cardinals defensive backs and leapt in the air.

Golladay not only caught the ball -- with a high degree of difficulty -- but he did it while falling into the end zone, too. And if there was any question about whether the hype surrounding him would carry into the regular season, Sunday's performance answered that. After a rough start, Golladay had two touchdowns in Detroit's 35-23 win over Arizona -- both of which showed why the Lions might have gotten a third-round steal.

His first touchdown, a 10-yarder, displayed the 6-4, 213-pound receiver's catch radius and leaping ability. He jumped over an Arizona defensive back on a fade route that was reminiscent of what the Lions used to do with Calvin Johnson.

"At that point, I felt like I needed it," Golladay said. "I feel like I needed to make a play and I was just happy that Matt threw a great ball and I just had to go get it, and the rest is history."

Golladay, the team's third-round pick, played ahead of TJ Jones as the Lions' No. 3 receiver, is nowhere near Johnson's level yet -- remember, he's just a rookie, only caught four of seven targets for 69 yards and will surely have growing pains in the future -- but this was an impressive start.

His second touchdown was much harder and more impressive. It showed he might be an effective full-field weapon sooner than anyone imagined. At the very least, for the first time since Johnson retired, the Lions might have a tall, deep threat once again.

"He's developing. He's a rookie. Did he do everything right today? No. But did he make some big-time catches? Absolutely," Stafford said. "On the first touchdown, it was a check at the line of scrimmage and sometimes that's a rookie out there and you don't know if he's going to get it, and he got it and made the great catch. And the second one, man, what a great catch.

"Some other things that we can clean up? Absolutely. But it's nice to have a guy that's willing to put in the work and really grind."

"That's a great way to come into this league," wide receiver Golden Tate told the Detroit Free Press. "Big time catches. And a pair of touchdowns that we needed. He set a standard. He better bring that every week."

Golladay spent time talking about his "rough first half" and there are obviously areas to improve after one NFL game (he had a handful of the team's drops), but as Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, the fact that Golladay remained on the field and Stafford continued looking his way was a clear sign of the place he's earned in the offense already.

According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, "Golladay was only on the field for 62 percent of the Lions' plays against the Cardinals, so we should expect volatility in his production unless he takes the No. 2 job from Marvin Jones, but he absolutely should be on all redraft rosters."

Meanwhile, Tate (10 catches on 12 targets) was the only receiver targeted more by Stafford on Sunday.

Detroit's most consistent receiver was the picture of reliability Sunday. He didn't score, but he had the most targets for Detroit, most receptions and most yards (107).

More impressive was how he did it, doing a lot of his work after injuring his left hand early in the second half. He missed a play here and there after the injury, but gutted through a game when he was clearly in pain. His ability to turn small receptions into big gains opens up Detroit's offense.

After the game, Tate said his finger "feels great" but declined to say if he had X-rays. He was wearing a splint and said the finger "hurt a little bit."

I'll have more on the Tate's injury when Late-Breaking Updates crank up early Thursday. ...

For what it's worth, the Lions defense was also very impressive. While the sack numbers weren't there, there were four quarterback hits and a decent amount of pressure (but a lot of missed sack opportunities). The Lions secondary also played well, contributing three interceptions and keeping Arizona's receivers from hurting them.

With a tough schedule to start the year (facing playoff teams in the Giants and Falcons the next two weeks), picking up a win in Week 1 was critical.

As Rothstein suggests, how the Lions did it, with an offense that struggled to get going until the second half and relying on a strong performance from the defense, was key as well since Detroit's defense was a unit in question all preseason. If the offense can find rhythm and the defense continues its strong play, the Lions might have a chance to be pretty good this year.

Other note of interest. ... It's been years since the Lions have had a competent running game, and nothing that happened Sunday hints at that changing.

The Lions got just 51 yards rushing on 22 carries by their running backs, and Ameer Abdullah (15 carries, 30 yards) was especially disappointing in his return from Lisfranc surgery. About the only bright spot to come from the running game was Dwayne Washington's short-yardage conversion, when they used defensive end Alex Barrett as a fullback.

Washington didn't fare as well on kick returns. As Rothstein pointed out, the second-year man's poor vision and questionable decision-making showed up on two bad choices to take the ball out of the end zone and an unnecessary roughness penalty on a punt return that cost Detroit yards. By the start of the second half, Jamal Agnew was Detroit's kick returner.

As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, despite just eight total touches, Theo Riddick was the only Lions running back to find the end zone Sunday. He totaled just one rush attempt for a one-yard loss, but was second on the team in receptions with six. One of them was a seven-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

Franciscovich added: "This Detroit backfield may be unpredictable going forward and worse, they face an unfavorable prime-time matchup in New Jersey for a road game against the Giants next Monday night."

Stafford had a strong fantasy day (29-of-41, 292 yards, four touchdowns) and the beneficiaries were Tate and Golladay. Eric Ebron was a non-factor in his first game back from a training camp hamstring injury.

And finally. ... Punter Kasey Redfern suffered a severe knee injury in his first NFL game Sunday, tearing both his ACL and MCL as he tried to pick up a first down after dropping a snap in his own end zone. Redfern's injury caused a ripple effect on the Lions' special teams. Kicker Matt Prater handled punting duties for the final three quarters - the first time he's ever punted in the NFL - and backup quarterback Jake Rudock took over as holder.

So it's no surprise the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week was Prater. Not only did he boot a 58-yard field goal, but he was also 2 for 2 in extra-point attempts in addition to averaging 35 yards on four punts.

In a related note. ... The Lions worked out five punters on Monday before signing former Minnesota Vikings punter Jeff Locke as Redfern's replacement.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock
RBs: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner
WRs: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Jared Abbrederis, TJ Jones
TEs: Eric Ebron, Darren Fells, Michael Roberts

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, the biggest surprise in the Packers' season-opening win over the Seahawks was that Aaron Rodgers' career-long interception free streak ended at 251 regular-season attempts when Seahawks DT Nazair Jones picked him off.

That was the second-longest streak in franchise history, behind Bart Starr's 294 in 1964-65.

"I was just glad it wasn't a pick-6," said Rodgers, who has only one of those in his career. "I think I've got a pretty good streak going right now. And it would have been rough to give up a pick-6 to a lineman who outran me over a 60-yard path, especially since I feel like I've been working on my conditioning and my running."

Although the interception stood, it turned out not to be a pick-six (which would have been only the second of his NFL career) because of a penalty, and then the Packers' defense came up with a stop that forced a punt.

"I was just glad it wasn't a pick-six," Rodgers said. "I think I've got a pretty good streak going right now. And it would have been rough to give up a pick-six to a lineman who outran me over a 60-yard path, especially since I feel like I've been working on my conditioning and my running. Thankfully, there was, I guess, a punch thrown. I don't know if they called a block in the back on me."

There were indeed two penalties on the Seahawks during Jones' return. The officials got cornerback Jeremy Lane for allegedly throwing a punch that got him ejected and defensive end Cliff Avril for an illegal block in the back against Rodgers.

So even though Rodgers couldn't chase down Jones, his effort to do so led to Avril's infraction.

It wasn't the first time Rodgers has tried to prevent one of his interceptions from being returned for a touchdown. The most memorable instance came in the 2010 NFC Championship Game, when Rodgers threw a red zone interception right to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. Rodgers chased him down and tripped him up near midfield, and it saved the Packers points.

Rodgers' only career interception that's been returned for a touchdown came in 2009 at Tampa Bay on a pass that ricocheted off Donald Driver's hands.

"It's kind of rare," Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. "It's just one of those situations where, I think he's just being a competitor and he's just reacting. I think he's a football player first and I think he's reacting to what he sees. That's kind of how I look at it. Obviously you've got to be smart about the situation. We don't want to put ourselves in a position where they get a pick-six and then we all know the implications of that. So I think that's really what it boils down to, he's being a competitor reacting to what's taking place."

In a related note, as Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith pointed out, Rodgers is the master of the free play.

"No quarterback has ever been as good as Rodgers at taking shots deep downfield when the defense commits a penalty," Smith wrote. "He's a wizard at it. As soon as a Seahawk jumped offside in the third quarter on Sunday, Rodgers launched the ball toward the end zone, where Jordy Nelson ran under it for a 32-yard touchdown. When the opponents make a mistake like that against Rodgers, he makes them pay."

True story. ...

Meanwhile, Rodgers threw for 311 yards and a touchdown against arguably the best passing defense in the NFL. Rodgers was also just 1-for-8 with a 40.6 passer rating when under duress.

As for the receiving corps. ... As NFL.com's Matt Harmon reminded readers, Rodgers was quite explicit in his praise for Randall Cobb after their playoff win over the New York Giants back in January, saying they were "a better offense with No. 18."

It appears Cobb is locked into a high-value role as the safety valve for Rodgers and he looked healthy after two seasons with a series of injuries. At the very least, Harmon believes Cobb is going to eat into Davante Adams' target total, although the latter will find himself in better spots than his all-day duel with Richard Sherman on the outside.

In addition, Harmon noted that Martellus Bennett played on 81 percent of the team's plays and drew six targets. Nevertheless, we saw that won't always turn into reliable production.

Other notes of interest. ... According to the Sports Xchange, Ty Montgomery's 2.8 yards per carry certainly won't wow anybody. But Montgomery ran extremely hard against the Seahawks' sensational defensive front. And Montgomery's 6-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter gave Green Bay a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

And with that, Montgomery ensured that, unlike last season, the Packers wouldn't have to wait until Week 12 to put their first running back in the end zone on a rushing play.

Last year, that didn't happen until Nov. 28 at Philadelphia, when fullback Aaron Ripkowski scored on a 1-yard plunge. Two weeks later, Montgomery became the first Packers player not named Aaron (Ripkowski or Rodgers) to rush for a score in the 2016 season.

As Demovsky noted, Montgomery's stat line in Sunday's opener against the Seahawks might not have pleased the fantasy football folks, but his 54 yards on 19 carries combined with four catches for 39 yards represented his largest workload since he made the full-time switch from receiver last October.

It showed the Falcons, this week's opponent, and future foes that head coach Mike McCarthy plans to treat Montgomery like a No. 1 running back.

"I thought he ran it well," McCarthy said. "I think like a lot of things, it's that second, third reaction. They do a good job of filling with the pursuit and so forth. You obviously would like to get Ty a few more opportunities, but I think the way they played us, on first down particularly, the run game was challenged."

Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said Monday's review of the game film showed Montgomery with a team-high six broken tackles.

"He ran the ball hard, broke tackles ... did a really nice job being violent on the boundary, used the stiff arm. He accelerates his feet on contact," Bennett said. "He did some really positive things."

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Montgomery gained 34 of his 54 yards after first contact.

Rookie Jamaal Williams spelled Montgomery on occasion, including when a left ankle injury sidelined him for part of a series in the fourth quarter. Of the injury, Montgomery said he will "be all right," and the fact that he returned to finish the game was a good sign.

Montgomery was on the field for 74 of the Packers' 82 offensive plays, only 21 on which were called runs. The other seven runs were scrambles by Rodgers.

And finally. ... The Packers activated receiver Geronimo Allison from exempt status, the team announced Tuesday. They released cornerback Ladarius Gunter to make room for Allison's return.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley
RBs: Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, Geronimo Allison
TEs: Martellus Bennett, Richard Rodgers, Lance Kendricks

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

While head coach Bill O'Brien refused to name his starting quarterback for Thursday night's bout with the Bengals, the decision has already been made.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's James Palmer, citing sources, reported Tuesday that rookie Deshaun Watson has earned the nod over veteran Tom Savage.

The first-rounder becomes the ninth quarterback to start under O'Brien since 2014, the most by any NFL team during that span.

The decision comes as little surprise after Palmer reported that Watson took every snap with the first-string offensive line during the walkthrough portion of Tuesday's practice.

Savage was yanked at halftime of Sunday's loss to the Jaguars after absorbing six sacks and losing a pair of fumbles. Watson suffered four takedowns of his own -- and threw a pick -- but the former Clemson star guided the Texans to their only touchdown of the day.

The rookie also came out of the loss with an ankle injury, but Watson was upgraded to a "full" participant in Tuesday's practice.

With Houston's offensive line looking ultra-shaky in the opener, Watson's quick feet and ability to extend plays give the Texans more of a shot, in theory, to keep the offense moving.

It's on O'Brien now to give his young passer adequate time to grow before making another quick switch under center.

So what's to like about Watson? O'Brien addressed that earlier in the week -- before the news about Watson starting broke.

"Deshaun went in there and made some plays," he said. "Deshaun's a playmaker. He can make plays with his feet. He knows what to do. He checked us in and out of plays. He has good instincts out on the field."

O'Brien was asked if he wished he would have given Watson more snaps with the first team in camp and this week in practice so he could have built a better rapport with DeAndre Hopkins.

Hopkins finished with seven catches for 55 yards and a touchdown. All but his first catch for 7 yards came from Watson.

O'Brien said that Watson got plenty of work with the first team and that it wouldn't have mattered if he got more work since Hopkins was out with a thumb injury for most of camp.

"We make decisions in the best interest of the team," O'Brien said. "Sometimes those decisions don't work. That's why you have to go back, see what you did wrong, analyze it, figure it out pretty quickly."

Regardless of who starts Thursday, the Texans will have to find a way to protect the quarterback better.

The line was terrible on Saturday, giving up 10 sacks, without veteran left tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out. It was also the first career game for center Nick Martin, who missed all of his rookie season in 2016 with an injury. "There's a lot of different things that we can do from a scheme point," O'Brien said. "There's a lot of different things that the players need to do from a playing standpoint. Everybody in that room in there needs to improve."

Meanwhile, the Texans are extremely banged up following the hard-hitting loss to the Jaguars. Five players will miss this game because they're in the NFL concussion protocol.

That includes all three tight ends, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson along with middle linebacker Brian Cushing and wide receiver Bruce Ellington.

Under NFL rules governing concussions, players must pass a mandatory baseline neurological exam with an independent neurologist before they can be cleared to play.

All of the concussed players -- Fiedorowicz, Griffin, Anderson, Ellington and Cushing -- were ruled out on Wednesday.

Fiedorowicz was placed on I.R. on Tuesday. The Texans activated reciever Jaelen Strong, who was suspended for the first week of the season. They also promoted tight Evan Baylis from the Texans practice squad. Expect him to see significant action this week.

Meanwhile, several players were listed as not practicing in the team's early walk-throughs.

That includes guard Jeff Allen (sprained right ankle), running back Alfred Blue (high ankle sprain), wide receiver Will Fuller (broken collarbone) and cornerback Kevin Johnson (knee).

Watson and outside linebacker/defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (foot) were limited along with safety Andre Hal (hip), center Nick Martin (ankle), inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney (knee) and defensive end J.J. Watt (dislocated finger).

Savage (finger), Hopkins (wrist), nose tackle Brandon Dunn (abdomen), running back Tyler Ervin (knee), tackle Breno Giacomini (thigh) and defensive end Joel Heath (knee) were listed as full participation.

I'll be following up on all the pertinent walking wounded when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday; watch the main page of the site for all the latest right up through kickoff. ...

Any positives to take from the loss?

As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich explained, Houston's offense was pretty much non-existent for the majority of this game, and Lamar Miller's first-half production suffered because of it. Miller had just six rush attempts for 15 yards at halftime, but Franciscovich notes they got rolling a bit after the intermission. Miller ended up finishing with 96 scrimmage yards, which isn't bad considering he didn't score.

Considering the volume, Franciscovich believes Miller remains a low-end RB1 going forward, but he'll need to start scoring at some point.

Beyond that? Tyler Ervin and rookie D'Onta Foreman got a few looks out of the backfield, but neither are worth any attention from a fantasy perspective at this time.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Tom Savage
RBs: Lamar Miller, D'Onta Foreman, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Bruce Ellington, Braxton Miller, Will Fuller
TEs: Evan Baylis, Ryan Griffin, Stephen Anderson, C.J. Fiedorowicz

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

With Andrew Luck already ruled out this week, Indianapolis Star beat writer Zak Keefer reports the winless Colts are considering sliding new arrival Jacoby Brissett into the starting quarterback spot for Sunday's home opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

After the way Scott Tolzien played Sunday in Los Angeles, it's hard to imagine the Colts not giving Brissett a shot. What does this team have to lose?

They just got pasted by the Rams.

By 37 points.

But that's where this football team sits, one week into what figures to be a bumpy season. The Colts are thin on options, picking between a QB who's coming off a ghastly Week 1 performance -- Tolzien's passer rating was 33.8 in that disastrous loss in L.A. -- and one who arrived in town eight days ago. If Brissett gets the nod for Sunday, he'll have all of six practices under his belt with the Colts. That's tough for any quarterback, let alone one with two career starts to his name and a playbook he's still absorbing.

Luck, nine months into rehabilitation for that surgically-repaired throwing shoulder, has been ruled out and head coach Chuck Pagano said he didn't know if Luck would practice this week. Luck remains in the training phase of his recovery, general manager Chris Ballard said last week, and would likely need multiple weeks of practice before the team feels comfortable throwing him into game action.

Tolzien tossed a pair of pick-sixes Sunday before being pulled early in the fourth quarter for Brissett, who led the team's only touchdown drive.

"It's something that we'll discuss (in coming days) as we game plan," Pagano said of the potential switch at quarterback.

What will be the deciding factor?

"You gotta do what's best for the football team and give us the best chance to move the ball and put points on the board."

The Colts totaled just 179 passing yards Sunday. They went 0-for-10 on third downs. They turned the ball over three times. They buried themselves, and no position was more culpable than the starting quarterback spot. Tolzien knew it.

"Two pick-sixes; you're not going to win many games in the NFL doing that," he said. "It's a team effort, but I certainly want to own this one and put it on me. You always feel guilty when you let your team down, and we've got a lot to improve on. Starting with me."

Tolzien is the first quarterback to throw two pick-sixes in a game since Tony Romo did against Carolina in Week 12 of the 2015 season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. His passer rating was the lowest by a Colts quarterback since Luck's 23.0 in the 2014 AFC Championship Game in New England.

As for Brissett, how feasible is it to throw the former New England Patriot into the mix just two weeks after arriving? There are challenges, certainly. He's playing catch-up, having spent six weeks of training camp and the preseason in Foxboro. Colts offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski can simplify his scheme, but it's still a hefty load to ask of a newly-arrived signal-caller.

"That's a lot, obviously," Pagano said. "There's nobody that can come in and digest and learn a playbook in that period of time. There's challenges with any quarterback in any system in any NFL building."

But as Keefer reminded readers, the Colts have experience in this area; this isn't the first time Luck's been out. In Week 17 of the 2015 season, the Colts played a pair of quarterbacks -- Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley -- whom they signed that very week. A condensed playbook, and some timely throws that day from Freeman and Lindley, was enough to beat a three-win Titans team 30-24.

However much or little of the playbook Brissett knows, Keefer points out this fact is inarguable: He gave the Colts a spark Sunday. His first throw was a 50-yard bomb that Donte Moncrief snared out of the sky; two plays later, the Colts found the end zone. Brissett finished 2-for-3 for 51 yards, mostly handing off after that. The game was already well in hand.

For an offense that, with Luck involved, relies heavily on the deep ball, Brissett fits the mold far more than Tolzien.

After acknowledging he's still cramming, still learning, Brissett on Sunday evening wasn't ready to declare where he fits with this team. Short-term solution? Long-term backup?

"I played not even a quarter," he said. "That's not my job to tell who the starter is or not. That's the coach's job. It's my job to go out there and just compete and continue to learn. I've been here a week, but it's a work in progress."

So are the Colts. And it's only Week 2.

For the record, Tolzien and Brisset were reportedly splitting first-team snaps evenly in Wednesday's practice. And that's the plan going forward this week as the team tries to figure out their starter. I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

(Also, Luck did not practice. Again. ...)

In a related note. ... NFL.com's Matt Harmon probably summed up the fantasy prospects of the team's wideouts -- at least in the short term - aptly when he wrote on Monday, "Owning the leading spot on the Colts target totem pole doesn't mean much right now. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... Rookie running back Marlon Mack continues to get attention as the third back in the Colts' offensive backfield rotation. Mack has been playing behind starter Frank Gore and veteran Robert Turbin. In this one, Gore and Mack split snaps evenly as the Colts ostensibly took Gore out of the game after a few early third-quarter runs, probably to save him for a more competitive game.

Mack very nearly scored his first NFL touchdown against Los Angeles in the first quarter before being officially pushed out at the 1-yard line.

Replays later showed that Mack had scored, but the Colts failed to challenge the play. His 24-yard run against the Rams was the longest run from scrimmage for an Indianapolis running back since December, 2015. Mack later got his first professional TD with a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter. ...

It was sufficient for Mack to work his way into the waiver-wire conversation this week. But fantasy owners shouldn't get too far in front of this in terms of expectations. ...

Pagano said center Ryan Kelly (foot) and cornerback Vontae Davis (groin) will continue to be listed as week to week. The Colts are hoping receiver Chester Rogers returns this week from a hamstring injury. And finally. ... The Colts waived running back Matt Jones a week after he joined the team, but his stay in Indianapolis isn't over yet. The Colts announced on Tuesday that Jones is returning to the fold as a member of their practice squad.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien, Andrew Luck
RBs: Frank Gore, Robert Turbin, Marlon Mack, Matt Jones
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken
TEs: Jack Doyle, Erik Swoope

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

The Jaguars have placed receiver Allen Robinson on injured reserve and signed receiver Max McCaffrey off New Orleans' practice squad.

Robinson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while making a 17-yard catch during Sunday's 29-7 win over Houston and will have season-ending surgery.

McCaffrey is the son of retired NFL receiver Ed McCaffrey and the brother of Carolina Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey.

Max McCaffrey signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted rookie free agent last year. He also spent time with Green Bay and New Orleans. The Packers waived McCaffrey during final roster cuts earlier this month, and the Saints signed him to their practice squad the following day.

McCaffrey started 38 games during his four-year career at Duke, where he caught 117 passes for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars must now find a way to replace their most established offensive play-maker.

"To watch a player who has done everything you ask him to do and was set up for a great year [and] to sustain an injury, it's obviously a blow," head coach Doug Marrone said during a conference call.

A blow because Robinson was arguably the Jaguars' best player during training camp, confident he could return to his 2015 which saw him catch 14 touchdown passes.

And it's a blow to the offense because the Jaguars are running out of receivers -- only four are healthy.

In addition, Robinson was in the final year of his contract. But just like that, his season is over.

"Sickening," receiver Marqise Lee said. "He had worked so hard to get where he is."

Said receiver Arrelious Benn: "It's crazy because he was just talking about going through OTAs, mini-camp and training camp healthy and he was getting ready for a healthy season."

As Florida Times-Union staffer Ryan O'Halloran notes, it will be up to Lee and Allen Hurns plus Benn and rookie Keelan Cole to fill the huge void Robinson will leave. His 18 red zone touchdowns since the start of 2015 are most in the NFL.

In order, an educated guess on the depth chart entering Sunday's game against Tennessee will be Lee, Hurns, Cole and Benn. When they put Robinson on injured reserve (Marrone said surgery has not been scheduled yet), the Jaguars could sign a street free agent receiver.

The receiving corps was depleted in the preseason when Rashad Greene and Shane Wynn were put on injured reserve. And last Friday, rookie Dede Westbrook (core muscle) was put on injured reserve although he could return at mid-season.

Minus Robinson, the Jaguars did not need much from their receivers against Houston. The Jaguars rushed 39 times and Blake Bortles attempted only 21 passes.

Hurns caught three passes for 42 yards and Benn one for 12 yards.

What the receivers need to clean up are the drops. Hurns, Lee and Cole had one apiece.

A free agent after the season, Lee will get a chance to prove he is worth a new contract. He has only five touchdowns in 40 games, but as a rookie in 2014, he caught 24 passes in the final six games when Robinson was shut down (foot injury).

"I know he's ready for it and I know Hurns is ready for it," Benn said.

Said Lee: "I'm preparing the same way I've been preparing; nothing in my mind has [changed]. I'll probably get a little bit more attention on my side [from defenses], but I'm not worried. We always prepare for this in the sense of, if somebody goes down, somebody has to step up. Good thing we have the right people to do it."

Lee was a starter opposite Robinson, but now the Jaguars have to figure out if Hurns will move outside for two-receiver personnel or Cole can handle the larger role. Hurns can also play the slot.

Against the Texans, the play-time breakdown was 53 snaps for Lee(out of 64), followed by Hurns (51), Cole (19) and Benn (seven). The Jaguars used a steady diet of two-tight end and two-back personnel.

Lee did not play in the final three preseason games because of an ankle injury but made it through the Texans game in good order.

"Slowly but surely, it's coming around," Lee said. "I have no worries, really. I'm not feeling any pain. ... I'm ready for the challenge. This is what we play football for. Me and Hurns have a lot of work to do along with getting the young one [Cole] up to par with everything and getting his mind right."

Also ready for the challenge?

Leonard Fournette.

The rookie ran 26 times for 100 yards and a touchdown and also caught three passes for 24 yards in his NFL debut. His longest run was 17 yards, but his ability to get positive yards even when there didn't appear to be much of an opening was even more important.

He becomes just the seventh player in franchise history to hit the century mark, and the first to do it in his NFL debut. He also became the eighth player in NFL history to register at least 100 rushing yards, one-plus rushing TDs and three-plus receptions in their NFL debut.

Fournette scored his only touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line when everyone in the stadium knew he was getting the ball. He finished the run by planting his helmet into the chest of Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.

What Fournette's success on the ground did was open up the play-action passing for Bortles, who completed 11-of-21 for 125 yards and one touchdown. He was efficient (he had two passes dropped) but still took some shots down the field. Those 21 attempts were the fewest he's ever thrown in a game (previous low was 24 in his first game, when he played second half of Week 3 in 2014). He's only had seven games in his career in which he's thrown fewer than 30 passes. He's 3-4 in those games.

Most importantly, he wasn't sacked. The Texans' dominant defensive front of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus got handled by the Jaguars' offensive line, which had really struggled in the preseason.

In addition to not being sacked, Bortles didn't turn the ball over. That's just the second time that has happened in his career. The first was the Jaguars' victory over Miami in Week 2 in 2015.

Helping Fournette and the rushing attack immensely was a Jaguars' defense that smothered the Texans in the first half, sacking quarterback Tom Savage six times and limiting the Texans to just 52 total yards (23 rushing). Defensive end Calais Campbell had 3.5 of those sacks in the first half (he finished with four which is a career high and the most by a Jaguars player in one game).

The Jaguars also forced a pair of fumbles, including one that defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. returned 53 yards for a touchdown.

The final defensive tally on Sunday: a franchise-record 10 sacks, 203 total yards allowed, four takeaways (they forced only 13 turnovers last season), and the Fowler touchdown.

As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco reminded readers, the Jaguars committed to the Fournette/smothering defense formula when they hired executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone in January. It was their best chance to be competitive in the AFC South and it's even more critical now with Robinson's season over. ...

Also on the injury front. ... Jalen Ramsey was not expected to practice on Wednesday with an ankle injury, the Jaguars announced. It's not yet clear when or how the injury occurred. Ramsey was limited last Wednesday with a hip ailment. The Jaguars cornerback had three passes defensed against the Texans in Week 1, alongside his new partner in press coverage A.J. Bouye.

Bortles was also listed on Jacksonville's injury report with a right wrist injury. He played through the same issue last week. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Tight end Marcedes Lewis appeared in his 155th career game, making his 140th start for the Jaguars since he was a first-round pick in the 2006 draft. Lewis is just the second player in Jaguars history to appear in at least 12 seasons for the club, joining former OL Brad Meester who appeared in a franchise-record 14 seasons for Jacksonville.

Tight end James O'Shaughnessy caught one pass for 18 yards and played on several special teams in the Houston game. O'Shaughnessy was claimed off waivers from New England the day after teams made their cuts to 53-man rosters.

Jason Myers made two of three field-goal attempts and improved to 56-of-68 for career attempts (82.4 percent). Myers has registered 231 career points, moving past James Stewart into sixth place on the Jaguars' all-time scoring list. Myers has now scored in 33 consecutive games dating back to Sept. 13, 2015 and has made at least one field goal in six consecutive games.

And finally. ... The Jaguars returned to Jacksonville on Tuesday, but there was some uncertainty about whether Everbank Field would be ready to host Sunday's game against the Titans after Hurricane Irma thrashed the city. But the team announced on Tuesday afternoon that the show will go on, however. Jaguars owner Shad Khan also announced that the team will make a $1 million donation to the First Coast Relief Fund to help the recovery effort in the city.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Brandon Allen
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant
WRs: Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, Arrelious Benn, Keelan Cole, Max McCaffrey, Jaelen Strong
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Ben Koyack

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to Associated Press sports writer Matt Derrick, Kareem Hunt's teammates started boarding the bus for a triumphant homecoming following Kansas City's surprising 42-27 win at New England to open the season. The rookie running back was still answering questions, still wearing his uniform, after his record-setting debut.

"We wanted to start off on the right foot," Hunt explained.

Hunt certainly did his part, setting an NFL record with 246 total yards from scrimmage in his regular-season debut, bettering the mark set by Detroit's Billy Sims in 1980 (217 yards) and equaled by Arizona's Anquan Boldin in 2003. His three scores also tied the league record for most touchdowns in an NFL debut.

Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said Hunt provided the spark the offense needed.

"He was really a big chunk of the offense," Smith said. "For a young guy we put a lot on him in all facets of the game plan tonight and he was able to handle it."

Hunt saved his most impressive accomplishments for last. He caught two passes for 82 yards in the fourth quarter and his 78-yard touchdown catch put the Chiefs ahead for good. He added 76 rushing yards on six carries down the stretch, helping salt away the win. The ability to finish strong impressed Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

"For him to be able to do that, the pass probably takes more out of him than the run game the way it looks," Reid said. "For him to feel that way was good."

The opening carry of Hunt's professional career was about the only forgettable one for him: On the team's first offensive play of the game, Hunt fumbled the ball away to the Patriots. Hunt finished his college career at Toledo with 855 offensive touches and just one fumble — and he recovered it.

The next time the Chiefs regained possession, Reid immediately turned to his rookie on first down.

"He was upset, he was really upset," Reid said. "He came to the sideline angry but we told him to calm down and to carry the ball the next play, and he carried it the next play and did a nice job."

Hunt reeled off a 9-yard gain. Reid's faith in him restored Hunt's own faith in himself.

"He stuck with me," Hunt said. "He was just like, 'Don't get down on yourself, you're going to be all right.' High and tight, just make sure you hold on to it."

Reid also said Hunt performed well in pass protection.

"That will be his challenge as he goes through here," Reid said. "Just to be able to pick up all these blitzes that people throw at him, and they had a few the other night that they came after us with.

The whirlwind following Hunt's dramatic debut led to a flurry of media interviews and other distractions unlike anything Hunt experienced in college. An emotional win over the defending Super Bowl champions could cause a letdown for a young rookie. Smith said he thinks Smith has mental strength to go along with his physical skills.

"You've got have that 'it' about you," Smith said. "The stage isn't too big, that you're ready for it, that you're confident."

Reid believes reality sets back in once Hunt and other young teammates watch tape of the Philadelphia Eagles, who visit the Chiefs on Sunday.

"Our (young) guys have got to make sure that they're ready," Reid said, "and I've got some good veteran players that will help with that and the coaches will help remind them of that."

Worth noting, Reid loves taking on challenges and creating a game plans against great coaches, so the matchup against New England head coach Bill Belichick was a task he relished.

"It comes down to the chess match of the plays that coaches call and how you execute them and situation football," Reid said.

In New England, Reid's game plan proved more than up to the task. The 537 yards of total offense and 42 points tallied by the Chiefs are the most surrendered by the Patriots under Belichick.

For the most part, our guys handled the situational football well and when you have two good teams playing each other," Reid said, "it's going to come down to those little things like that - field position, red zone, two minutes, four-minute situations, short-yardage situations, goal-line situations."

The Chiefs' offense beat the Patriots defense' in nearly every facet.

Smith also used the long ball extensively, connecting with Tyreek Hill on a 75-yard touchdown pass and Hunt on the above-mentioned 78-yard score. The Chiefs posted three touchdown drives of 90 yards or more.

Smith's play earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

"Bad defense, bad coaching, bad playing, bad football," Belichick said of his own team. Reid could obviously say the opposite. ...

Other notes of interest. ... It's certainly hard to find fault with Smith's 368 passing yards, four touchdowns and 148.6 passer rating while completing 28 of 35 passes. Arguably the best game of Smith's career. In fact, according to the NFL, Minnesota's Sam Bradford and Smith becamethe only quarterbacks in league history to complete 80 percent or more of their passes and to gain at least 325 passing yards, to throw three touchdown passes, and to produce no interceptions in a season-opening game.

Most important for the Chiefs, Smith found the touch and timing in the deep passing game missing much of last season.

The usage for Hill in this game was extremely encouraging. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Hill still got some work out of the backfield (eight plays) but he also took 41 percent of his lineups from the slot and ran traditional routes. We saw on Thursday that he would primarily run high-percentage short patterns but also get looks deep.

Hill, who appears to be entrenched as one of the top-two weapons on this offense with Travis Kelce, briefly left the game with leg cramps, but later returned to the sideline. He led the team in receiving with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.

Albert Wilson caught five passes for 37 yards, but four of his catches picked up first downs. Reid praised his No. 3 wideout for his versatility and toughness.

C.J. Spiller received his release from the Chiefs hours before Thursday night's game. The team avoided guaranteeing Spiller's contract for the 2017 season. The Chiefs then re-signed Spiller two days after the game.

Cairo Santos appears fully recovered from the groin injury that limited him much of the preseason. He converted all six extra-point tries and put four of his seven kicks through the end zone for touchbacks.

And finally, in case you missed it. ... All-Pro safety Eric Berry is lost for the season with an Achilles tendon rupture. Safety appeared one of the deepest position groups on the team before Berry's injury. The loss of the five-time Pro Bowl strong safety tests that strength. Ron Parker remains the starter at free safety, but the team must find a way to distribute Berry's playing time among Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, Akeem Hunt
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Albert Wilson, De'Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris, Ross Travis

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

He hadn't caught a touchdown pass in nearly two years, so it's a bit understandable that Keenan Allen was excited when he reeled in a 5-yard in route from Philip Rivers for a score late in the game in a 24-21 loss to the Denver Broncos on Monday night.

Allen missed all but one half of football last year after suffering an ACL injury in the first half of his team's season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The year before that, Allen suffered a lacerated kidney against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8, coming down hard on a 13-yard touchdown catch on Nov. 1, 2015 -- his last touchdown reception before Monday.

At that time, Allen was on pace for a historic year, statistically. Through eight games, he had 67 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns.

On Monday against the Broncos, Allen received a penalty for taunting after he threw the ball toward cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who was covering him.

"I got in the end zone, and it was a great play, a great ball by [Rivers]," Allen said. "I thought it was a ticky-tack flag. He called some crazy stuff. But yeah, it was fun to get back into the end zone, and hopefully I can keep doing it."

Allen finished the game with five catches for 35 yards on 10 targets. He played in 53 of the Chargers' 59 snaps on offense.

However, as ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams notes, the Cal product had an uncharacteristic two drops. According to ESPN Stats and Information, this was first time in his five-year career that Allen had multiple drops in one game.

Most important, Allen appeared to finish the game healthy and ready to play in his team's first home contest at the StubHub Center against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

"We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, making one or two bad plays every drive," Allen said about his team's struggles on offense against Denver. "Going backwards, or whatever the case may be, I've got to go back and watch, see what really happened on film so we can correct it."

Meanwhile, it's easy to say the Chargers experienced Groundhog Day all over again this season, after losing six games in the fourth quarter last season during a dismal, 5-11 campaign.

But Rivers would beg to differ.

"Some of the close losses last year, we were terrible," Rivers said. "It was just kind of bad football, some of those close losses."

The Chargers are certainly disappointed in the result on Monday night, a 24-21 setback in the season opener against the AFC West rival Denver Broncos.

However, players took solace in the fact that their team battled back from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter in a tough environment, and had a chance in the end to send the game into overtime.

Rivers said the fact the Chargers didn't fold up and let the Broncos roll over them is a testament to their new head coach Anthony Lynn.

"I thought you saw how nobody panicked, and that usually filters down from the head coach," Rivers said. "It was 24-7 and nobody panicked. And then you look up and it's 24-21 and we're getting ready to kick a 44-yard field goal to tie it up.

"I think probably including all of you and the rest of the building was surprised, but that sideline wasn't. And that starts with Coach Lynn."

Still, the Chargers have to figure out a way to get into a better rhythm on offense. Rivers had just 60 passing yards after three quarters and the Chargers were 3-of-8 on third down, running 32 plays compared to 55 plays for the Broncos.

The Chargers' talented tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry were targeted a grand total of three times. Gates is still tied with Tony Gonzalez for most touchdowns (111) in NFL history by a tight end. The Broncos limited him to two catches for 17 yards and held him out of the end zone. They also held Henry without a catch.

Denver did a nice job of playing keep away from the Chargers' explosive offense. Rivers said the Chargers have to find a way to get into a rhythm sooner on offense.

"We came up short and that stung a little bit," Lynn said. "Every man in that locker room is hurting. They never stopped fighting and I am proud of those guys. They played all the way to the end."

Lynn said he wished his offense ran the football more against Denver's defense with the hopes of eventually wearing them down. However, the Chargers managed just 64 rushing yards on 22 carries for a 2.9-per carry average and they finished a disappointing 3 of 12 (25 percent) on third down offensively.

The Chargers managed just four plays of 12 yards or more.

The Bolts did a decent job protecting Rivers, giving up just one sack. ...

One issue?

It looked like Melvin Gordon was in for a big game when he was fed the ball with regularity in the first half. Then the Chargers fell behind and Lynn, in his own words, said he bailed from the running attack too early. Those 64 rushing yards weren't much and this area of the offense has to get better.

However, the numbers are a bit askew with the Chargers having to play from so far behind.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Philip Rivers, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver
WRs: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Mike Williams, Geremy Davis
TEs: Hunter Henry, Antonio Gates, Sean McGrath

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham, Rams owner Stan Kroenke presented the game ball to Sean McVay during the postgame celebration of Los Angeles' season-opening blowout win over Indianapolis.

As season openers for a struggling franchise, a second-year quarterback and a first-year, 31-year old head coach go, the Los Angeles Rams could not have gotten off on a better foot than they did in their blowout win over the Colts Sunday.

Jared Goff was poised, efficient and accurate while completing 21 of 29 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown.

The offense amassed 373 yards and scored 32 points.

The defense added 14 points on two pick-six interceptions.

It was exactly what the Rams needed after finishing 4-12 last year.

In particular, the performance of Goff was enlightening considering his struggles over seven dreadful starts as a rookie.

"I thought he did a great job making good decisions, getting the ball out in the timing and rhythm of the play," said McVay. "We were able to avoid sacks for the most part. We took the one on third down where they ended up bringing a zone pressure on us and did a good job getting home. I thought he took good care of the football, made good decisions and he did seem to have good command of it. Offensively as a whole though, we have to avoid those penalties. We can't beat ourselves with the pre-snap false starts, different things like that. That will get you beat and we've got to get that cleaned up. But, just from Jared as a whole, I'm very proud of him, thought he did a great job and it was awesome for him to get his first win."

Goff threw to nine different receivers, taking advantage of the handful of personnel changes the Rams made from last year to this year.

"Yeah, I think where I've played and my whole career a lot of the times it's been if we don't score however many, it's not going to work," he said. "I think that's something I've learned in the NFL is you don't need to do everything yourself. Those guys get paid to and there's a reason those guys are on your team and there's a reason that they are who they are and are drafted and all that. So, continuing to get the ball to guys like Sammy Watkins, guys like Robert Woods, guys like Tavon Austin, guys like Cooper Kupp, guys like Todd Gurley. I mean stuff like that is huge and I know I'm not going to be the one picking up the yards. It's going to be those guys."

It was the exact start the Rams needed after last year. But one they have to build on.

"I think it's a step in the right direction, but it's all about those players and I can't say enough about the way that these guys have bought into what we're trying to do," McVay said. "We know it's one win and now, the true measure of performance, is consistency. Let's see if we can have a great week of preparation and see if we can give ourselves a chance to have a good performance against a tough Washington team next week.

The Rams' defense under new coordinator Wade Phillips not only allowed just nine points, but it scored 16 on a safety and two interception returns for touchdowns, becoming the first team in NFL history to do all three of those things in a season opener. The defense also didn't allow the Colts to convert on any of their 10 third downs or one fourth down.

The defense even did it without its best player: All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald stayed away from the Coliseum after ending his holdout Saturday. Donald didn't want to be a distraction to his teammates, but he's right back in the mix this week during practice and film study for this weekend's visit from Washington.

Los Angeles still left a 37-point victory with plenty of areas for improvement. The Rams committed seven penalties, and McVay lamented the ineffectiveness of their running game, which got just 40 yards from Todd Gurley while averaging just under two yards per carry.

According to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, the Gurley skeptics might start showing themselves after this one because it was an easy matchup. At least for his fantasy owners, he hauled in an additional five receptions for 56 yards and scored a short-yardage touchdown too. That was enough for him to finish as fantasy's RB6 in standard scoring before the Sunday night game.

Whatever the case, for at least one week in September, the Rams are in first place in the NFC West. For a franchise that hasn't had a winning season since McVay was a high school senior, that's something to celebrate -- modestly.

"We know it's not a perfect game," McVay said. "But there's a lot of things that the players did a great job with. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... Kupp was impressive in the first start of his career against the Colts with four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. Watkins, Woods and Kupp, all three new wide receivers on the roster, combined for 12 catches. But Kupp out-target and outproduced Watkins. But as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, this was an ideal spot for all the Rams offense to exceed expectations and the Colts defense certainly provided plenty of room in the middle of the field for the Goff to Kupp connection.

Harmon advised readers to wait to see them play a fully equipped team before making a major investment in this duo.

And finally. ... The Rams accented their upbeat mood by signing defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks and punter Johnny Hekker to contract extensions. Westbrooks, who got a one-year extension through 2018, has been valuable during the prolonged holdout of Donald, while Hekker is among the NFL's best at his position, with a contract now running through 2022. ... Starting CB Kayvon Webster is day to day after injuring his shoulder in the opener, McVay said. The Rams don't know whether he'll have to miss a game.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar
WRs: Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to ESPN.com's James Walker, the Dolphins are eager to finally take the field Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Due to Hurricane Irma, Miami and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their Week 1 game postponed and remain the only two teams yet to play a regular-season game.

But as Walker added, the unexpected layoff brings plenty of unknowns.

For starters, will the Dolphins be a sharp and well-rested team coming off the layoff? Or will rust be an issue for Miami?

Many Dolphins starters have not played in a game since Week 3 of the preseason on Aug. 24, and the entire team has not practiced since last Tuesday. They will take the practice field for the first time after the storm on Wednesday at the Dallas Cowboys' training camp facility in Oxnard, California. The Dolphins traveled to the West Coast nine days before kickoff to avoid the storm.

The Dolphins' biggest challenge this week will be staying focused. Can the Dolphins truly stay locked in on preparation for the Chargers with so much going on at home in south Florida?

The Houston Texans (0-1) dealt with a similar experience in Week 1 and could not get a win. Houston was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey and the Texans, like the Dolphins, were displaced and had their preparation schedule significantly disrupted.

Houston did not look well prepared during Sunday's 29-7 upset loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although not everything can be blamed on the hurricane, it was clear Houston was a distracted team, which is understandable. The Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross are attempting to alleviate some of the anxiety by allowing family members of players, coaches and administration to travel with the team to Los Angeles.

There are some advantages for Miami in this matchup. San Diego played the Denver Broncos on Monday night and will be coming off a short week. The Chargers also do not have game tape of the Dolphins from this regular season to study. San Diego must rely on preseason tape and last year's game for preparation.

Next week the Dolphins have bigger, real life issues to worry about when they return home to survey damage from Hurricane Irma. But this week they must focus, prepare and play before they return to south Florida.

Positives heading into this one?

Jay Ajayi appears ready to pick up where he left off last season, when he racked up 1,272 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

If Ajayi maintains his bruising running style, the one in which he gets stronger in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins are OK. Backups Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are also capable.

Jay Cutler is coming off a good preseason, but must keep his turnovers under control. He lost a fumble on a strip-sack during preseason. Other than that, the strong-armed Cutler appears ready. His knack for finding DeVante Parker on deep routes should be something to watch.

Jarvis Landry, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Kenny Stills had good training camp and preseason showings.

Could Parker get more targets than Landry?

According to Walker, it's difficult to imagine Landry, a proven Pro Bowler, not getting the most targets. It has been that way for three years, so I'm going to expect the same until proved otherwise. However, Parker's targets will increase and close the gap. He will be the player Cutler looks to for big plays. That should equal quality fantasy numbers. But Landry is still the receiver who will move the chains.

Tight end Julius Thomas is a bit of a concern. He's been low key.

Also of some concern, the pass protection might not be as good as last year (30 sacks allowed, tied for 10th fewest in NFL).

Landry remains in a holding pattern regarding possible disciplinary action from the league in relation to his domestic violence allegation. The Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) State's Attorney office is deciding whether to file charges against Landry for an incident earlier this year. But the NFL is also looking into the matter.

Cody Parkey, who was 20 of 25 on field goals last season for Cleveland, was 0 of 3 against Miami in an early-season game at Hard Rock Stadium. That could be good or bad. Parkey was 20 of 22 for the rest of the season, but he struggled at Hard Rock Stadium, his new home. Fortunately, the Dolphins won't play there until Oct. 8.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Brandon Doughty
RBs: Jay Ajayi, Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake
WRs: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Julius Thomas, Anthony Fasano, MarQueis Gray

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell noted, Adrian Peterson spent more time watching from the sideline in his return to Minnesota than romping around the field, an introductory performance for New Orleans that became an afterthought once the Saints fell behind.

With Dalvin Cook patiently waiting for space and bursting around the edge, the Vikings formally turned the page in the backfield with promising results.

Sam Bradford started his second year with Minnesota in style, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a 29-19 victory on Monday night by the Vikings that spoiled Peterson's first game with the Saints.

The Vikings drafted Cook in the second round to fit their new zone-blocking scheme with a diverse skill set that could serve them well on passing downs, a snapshot of the evolution of the ideal NFL running back that Peterson was when he entered the league 10 years ago with his unique blend of power and speed. Though Cook bobbled a couple of the five passes thrown his way, he turned 25 touches into 137 total yard.

The first Vikings rookie to start at running back since Michael Bennett in 2001, Cook carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards. He had 14 attempts for 105 yards in the second half to help the Vikings salt away the clock. His 33-yard scamper around right end on the first play of the fourth quarter would've been the team's second-longest rush last season, and his total for the game bested the 2016 individual high for the Vikings by 36 yards.

"They took a chance on me, bringing me into this organization, so it's important for me to come out here and compete for those guys," Cook said. "You know A.P. was phenomenal for this organization, so you can't put nothing past him, but you know I'm here now and I'm just trying to help this team win."

Along the way, Cook broke Peterson's team mark for rushing yards by a rookie in a season opener. He spoke to Peterson afterward on the field, their first meeting.

"He just told me, 'Keep ballin' man,' and I told him, 'I'm just following the G.O.A.T. footsteps," Cook said, using acronym slang for the "greatest of all time."

Meanwhile, Bradford set the NFL record for completion percentage last season, his accuracy aided by the volume of short passes under frequently heavy pressure, but with protection from the rush he showed again he can throw the ball down the field with the best of them.

According to the NFL, Bradford and Kansas City's Alex Smith became the only quarterbacks in league history to complete 80 percent or more of their passes and to gain at least 325 passing yards, to throw three touchdown passes, and to produce no interceptions in a season-opening game.

Bradford completed 27 of 32 throws (84.4 percent) for the above-mentioned 346 yards and three scores. That completion percentage was the highest by a Vikings quarterback in a season opener. The previous record was 80.0 by Joe Kapp in 1968.

Braford was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

The Vikings don't have a prototypical No. 1 receiver. But Monday night, they had two that took turns acting like one. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for 16 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Bradford went 4 for 4 on throws of at least 20 yards downfield to those two players. Each caught two of those throws.

Diggs had seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first Viking to catch two first-half touchdowns in a season opener since Randy Moss in 2004. Thielen caught nine balls for 157 yards.

"I've got a lot of confidence in those guys," Bradford said. "If they're singled, there's a good chance I'm probably going to throw it their way.

Kyle Rudolph had a touchdown reception, too.

With sharp play calling by offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and some fruitful checks at the line of scrimmage by Bradford, an offense that often lacked a punch last year behind a leaky offensive line was in prime form against a renovated Saints defense.

The best news from Monday night's win, however, wasn't the play of the skill players. It's the fact that the offense line past the first test.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said his remade O-line "played outstanding" against the Saints.

The Vikings started five new offensive linemen (from left to right) to open the season: Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger and Mike Remmers. The crew kept Bradford mostly clean (one sack) while clearing the way for Cook's big night.

"Well they played together in the Seattle game a little bit and they've been practicing this way for quite a while," Zimmer said of his line, via the team's official website. "I thought, a lot of the things that we did it was easy for them to communicate those things. I'm hopeful that they'll continue to get better."

The Vikings entered the season with plenty of skepticism in their most recent attempt to rebuild the offensive line. Reiff and Remmers were both veterans without phenomenal game tape, whose previous teams did little to retain. Elflein, a third-round pick, was the first rookie to start at center since Mick Tingelhoff, back in the Year of Our Lord, 1962.

As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, Reiff, in particular, was a rock on Bradford's blind side Monday, allowing zero hurries. Elflein displayed athleticism from the pivot that will bode well for Cook on outside runs this season.

The caveat you've been waiting for: It was against the Saints defense.

In a related note, on the few times the Saints pressured Bradford, he was money. As Profootballfocus.com's Pat Thorman noted, Bradford was 4-for-5 for 65 yards, 1 TD and a perfect 158.3 passer rating when facing pressure. ...

One last item here. ... Kai Forbath missed a PAT for the fourth time in eight games as a Viking. But he also made all three field-goal attempts, including a 45-yarder that made it a three-score game with four minutes left.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Sam Bradford, Case Keenum
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley, Michael Floyd
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Blake Bell

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt notes, the only real silver lining for the Patriots after their opening week thrashing was that they had a couple of extra days to rest after losing to Kansas City last Thursday.

But for quarterback Tom Brady, that made it worse.

During his weekly appearance on WEEI, Brady said having to stew over the 42-27 loss to the Chiefs for a weekend was tough.

"It's probably easier when you're getting right back to work," Brady said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. "It actually kind of sucked having three extra days to think about it and re-watch the game.

"The good thing about football season when it's Sunday to Sunday, is Monday you kind of watch it and then by Tuesday you're already moving on to the next team. I've kind of moved on to the next team, but we haven't really done that formally as a team. We're doing that today."

Making it tougher for Brady was the fact that by every empirical measure, he was outplayed by Alex Smith, which will make watching the film harder. He was 16-of-36 passes for 267 yards, and he talked after the game about not being pleased with their lack of resilience.

"It kind of sits with us a little bit longer, but maybe it's good to sit with us longer and continue for us to evaluate and nitpick and so forth. So it's probably a couple of extra days in weeks like this as opposed to a normal seven-day week," he said. "I wish we were 1-0, but we're not. We have to do something about it. It's part of the challenge of the football season, mental toughness is a real thing.

"It's understanding how competitive all these games are. There's no easy game. Every team is going to bring it, certainly against us."

Of course, no one doubts their ability to bounce back from a bad game, since they have a pretty good track record of doing just that.

Meanwhile, after reviewing the loss to Kansas City, ESPN.com's Mike Reiss offered the following views on some key players for the Patriots:

On Brady, Reiss wrote: "From the first pass of the game, on which he was high on a throw to open tight end Dwayne Allen along the left sideline, he never seemed to truly find his rhythm. The Chiefs played more coverage, and Brady's uneasiness was reflected in a rare illegal forward pass penalty when he lost awareness of where he was on the field."

Reiss added that NBC's Al Michaels was right on the ball in noting it was Brady's first such penalty since 2006.

On a more positive note, Brandin Cooks finished with three catches for 88 yards, but his impact on the game was further highlighted by how he drew four penalties that accounted for significant yardage. While there were a couple of plays on which the connection between him and Brady was slightly off, this was an encouraging debut on which for him to build.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski was targeted six times in the season opener, though he ended up with just two catches for 33 yards. He also had a 20-yard touchdown catch overturned on video replay.

It was a quiet opener for the big tight end, who has been healthy all offseason despite finishing last season on injured reserve due to the third back surgery of his career.

The Chiefs blanketed Gronkowski with tight, physical coverage all night that included Eric Berry, prior to the safety departing late with a torn Achilles.

"Just weren't clicking," Gronkowski said of his quiet night. "It starts with me. Gotta get open more. You've gotta get better separation. Make some plays. Get the offense rolling. Just wasn't going to happen.

"Just shows you've got to be ready every week, week-in and week-out. It just shows that Week 1, you've got to be prepared, no matter what. It's the NFL - they've got good players, a good team. You gotta be ready at all times, no matter who you're facing, so it's just a wakeup call, especially for myself. ..."

On the ground, the Patriots tried to spread the ball throughout the depth of their backfield options and did so to very much mixed results. Mike Gillislee had an up-and-down performance. The good included three short touchdown runs and a nice 16-yard scamper early. The bad included getting stuffed on two fourth-and-1 attempts and a mere 3-yard average on 15 attempts.

James White had a career-high 10 rushes for 38 yards with a 10-yard long. Rex Burkhead was similarly inconsistent, notching 15 yards on three attempts, though 14 came on a single carry.

The plan of attack also curiously saw Chris Hogan carry the ball three times on jet sweeps for 17 yards.

It all led to 35 attempts and three rushing scores, but just a 3.5-yard average and inconsistent ability to win first down and maintain drives in the second half.

Danny Amendola left in the third quarter of the opener with a head injury and did not return. The veteran was shaken up on a punt return. He's the latest blow to a thin wide receiver corps that lost Julian Edelman (ACL) and Malcolm Mitchell (knee) to injured reserve.

Right now, the only healthy receivers are Cooks, Hogan and recent trade addition Phillip Dorsett.

Given all that, in an article published Monday, NFL.com's Alex Gelhar reminded readers that Hogan is pretty widely owned but it's worth checking your waiver-wire to make sure. Hogan could see an uptick in volume in the Patriots' suddenly thin receiving corps. Gelhar added: "We know he's a big-play threat for Brady, and he'll certainly have usable weeks moving forward."

And finally. ... LB Dont'a Hightower limped off with a right knee injury in the third quarter of Thursday night's loss to the Chiefs and did not return. NFL Media reported that the Pro Bowler suffered a minor MCL sprain and might even be available for New England's Week-2 trip to New Orleans. Hightower opened training camp on PUP and did not play in the preseason due to an unknown ailment.

Amendola and Hightower were not present at the start of Wednesday's practice, per multiple reports.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo
RBs: Mike Gillislee, James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Slater
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

spent more time watching from the sideline in his return to Minnesota than romping around the field, an introductory performance for New Orleans that became an afterthought once the Saints fell behind.

With Dalvin Cook patiently waiting for space and bursting around the edge, the Vikings formally turned the page in the backfield with promising results.

Sam Bradford started his second year with Minnesota in style, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a 29-19 victory on Monday night by the Vikings that spoiled Peterson's first game with the Saints.

The Vikings drafted Cook in the second round to fit their new zone-blocking scheme with a diverse skill set that could serve them well on passing downs, a snapshot of the evolution of the ideal NFL running back that Peterson was when he entered the league 10 years ago with his unique blend of power and speed. Though Cook bobbled a couple of the five passes thrown his way, he turned 25 touches into 137 total yard.

The first Vikings rookie to start at running back since Michael Bennett in 2001, Cook carried the ball 22 times for 127 yards. He had 14 attempts for 105 yards in the second half to help the Vikings salt away the clock. His 33-yard scamper around right end on the first play of the fourth quarter would've been the team's second-longest rush last season, and his total for the game bested the 2016 individual high for the Vikings by 36 yards.

"They took a chance on me, bringing me into this organization, so it's important for me to come out here and compete for those guys," Cook said. "You know A.P. was phenomenal for this organization, so you can't put nothing past him, but you know I'm here now and I'm just trying to help this team win."

Along the way, Cook broke Peterson's team mark for rushing yards by a rookie in a season opener. He spoke to Peterson afterward on the field, their first meeting.

"He just told me, 'Keep ballin' man,' and I told him, 'I'm just following the G.O.A.T. footsteps," Cook said, using acronym slang for the "greatest of all time."

Meanwhile, Bradford set the NFL record for completion percentage last season, his accuracy aided by the volume of short passes under frequently heavy pressure, but with protection from the rush he showed again he can throw the ball down the field with the best of them.

According to the NFL, Bradford and Kansas City's Alex Smith became the only quarterbacks in league history to complete 80 percent or more of their passes and to gain at least 325 passing yards, to throw three touchdown passes, and to produce no interceptions in a season-opening game.

Bradford completed 27 of 32 throws (84.4 percent) for the above-mentioned 346 yards and three scores. That completion percentage was the highest by a Vikings quarterback in a season opener. The previous record was 80.0 by Joe Kapp in 1968.

Braford was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

The Vikings don't have a prototypical No. 1 receiver. But Monday night, they had two that took turns acting like one. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined for 16 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Bradford went 4 for 4 on throws of at least 20 yards downfield to those two players. Each caught two of those throws.

Diggs had seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. He became the first Viking to catch two first-half touchdowns in a season opener since Randy Moss in 2004. Thielen caught nine balls for 157 yards.

"I've got a lot of confidence in those guys," Bradford said. "If they're singled, there's a good chance I'm probably going to throw it their way.

Kyle Rudolph had a touchdown reception, too.

With sharp play calling by offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and some fruitful checks at the line of scrimmage by Bradford, an offense that often lacked a punch last year behind a leaky offensive line was in prime form against a renovated Saints defense.

The best news from Monday night's win, however, wasn't the play of the skill players. It's the fact that the offense line past the first test.

Head coach Mike Zimmer said his remade O-line "played outstanding" against the Saints.

The Vikings started five new offensive linemen (from left to right) to open the season: Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger and Mike Remmers. The crew kept Bradford mostly clean (one sack) while clearing the way for Cook's big night.

"Well they played together in the Seattle game a little bit and they've been practicing this way for quite a while," Zimmer said of his line, via the team's official website. "I thought, a lot of the things that we did it was easy for them to communicate those things. I'm hopeful that they'll continue to get better."

The Vikings entered the season with plenty of skepticism in their most recent attempt to rebuild the offensive line. Reiff and Remmers were both veterans without phenomenal game tape, whose previous teams did little to retain. Elflein, a third-round pick, was the first rookie to start at center since Mick Tingelhoff, back in the Year of Our Lord, 1962.

As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, Reiff, in particular, was a rock on Bradford's blind side Monday, allowing zero hurries. Elflein displayed athleticism from the pivot that will bode well for Cook on outside runs this season.

The caveat you've been waiting for: It was against the Saints defense.

In a related note, on the few times the Saints pressured Bradford, he was money. As Profootballfocus.com's Pat Thorman noted, Bradford was 4-for-5 for 65 yards, 1 TD and a perfect 158.3 passer rating when facing pressure. ...

One last item here. ... Kai Forbath missed a PAT for the fourth time in eight games as a Viking. But he also made all three field-goal attempts, including a 45-yarder that made it a three-score game with four minutes left.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
RBs: Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Brandon Coleman, TommyLee Lewis, Willie Snead
TEs: Coby Fleener, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As NFL.com's Conor Orr suggested, when a coach is as synonymous with his offense as Ben McAdoo, losses like the 19-3 one the Giants suffered on Sunday night to the Dallas Cowboys have the tendency to be taken personally.

That's why it's no surprise the typically monotone McAdoo went out of his way to throw a dart at a unit that put up just 233 total yards, 25:46 time of possession and, ultimately, three points in a prime-time loss to the division-rival Cowboys.

"The offense was very disappointing. We're going to go back and look at the film, and see how we can get better," McAdoo said. "We need to go back and take a look at the film. I know no part of the offense was functional tonight."

How much of that was due to the absence of Odell Beckham is unclear. What is clear is that Beckham is going to work with trainers over the next few days to get his sprained left ankle healed and get on the field to jump-start the stagnant offense.

McAdoo was not sure Monday whether the continued rehabilitation would get his three-time Pro Bowl receiver on the field in time for Monday night's home opener against the Detroit Lions (1-0).

Day to day is all the coach will say about his status.

It's clear though, the offense desperately needs him.

"A lot goes into every game in this league," McAdoo said. "This just happened to be the first one. It didn't go the way we wanted it to or the way we planned. We need to understand, it's one of 16 and we are blessed with a long week this week, and we have to find a way to get better going into Week 2."

Beckham has not practiced since being hurt in a preseason game against Cleveland three weeks ago. He started stretching with teammates at practice last week and warmed up before Sunday's game under the watchful eyes of McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese before being declared out.

His absence was obvious, and a bonus for his agent whenever he starts negotiations on a new contract with the Giants.

Eli Manning completed 29 passes for 198 yards, with only two passes going for more than 20 yards with the Cowboys playing a soft zone to keep New York from going deep. With Beckham and his game-breaking ability missing, it was the perfect plan.

Free agent wideout Brandon Marshall, signed to give Manning a second option on the outside other than Beckham, didn't catch a pass until the Giants' final play of the game.

"What we need to work on as a team, quite simply, play more offense and less defense," McAdoo said.

The Giants ran 50 plays on offense. The defense was on the field for 70.

McAdoo said he wanted to get Marshall involved earlier, but it didn't work out. He added the coaching staff saw what Dallas was doing on defense and New York just had too many mistakes to take advantage.

On the other hand, NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes that Sterling Shepard was on the field for 100 percent of the team's plays in Week 1. Harmon added the Giants played three wide receivers on 69.8 percent of their plays -- even without Beckham in the fold. It's clear he will be a big part of their game plan this year.

Harmon further noted that Shepard only averaged 4.1 air yards per target against Dallas, and with the Giants' issues in protection, "there's a non-zero percent chance he turns into a discount version of Jarvis Landry."

Rookie tight end Evan Engram, who was mostly kept in-line to block, caught four out for five pass targets for 44 yards, with none of those completions occurring in the seam, a route Engram showed he could exploit this summer and in college at Ole Miss. According to the Sports Xchange it was curious was that the Giants didn't deploy Engram to break up the Cover-2 coverage deployed by the Cowboys at times Sunday night.

It was widely thought that when Engram was drafted in the first round, he would help discourage teams from doubling down on the receivers, so his absence in fulfilling that role led some to question whether the rookie was ready to take on that aspect of the game.

"It wasn't that simple," McAdoo said. "It wasn't just Cover 2. There were a variety of coverages being played. There was a form of quarters, there was some sky weak being played, there was two being played as well, but yeah, it's novice to say that it was just a bunch of Cover 2 (Sunday).

"(Dallas was) playing soft and they were playing to keep the ball in front and to make you take completions and move the ball slow and methodically down the field."

In the bigger picture, Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan believes one of the main problems was the offensive line, which came into the season as the team's biggest concern. It was worth worrying about. Manning was sacked three times, under pressure a lot more, and hit four times.

It seemed a lot more.

McAdoo refused to point a finger, saying the line wasn't the only group on offense missing assignments.

"We're confident with the guys we have, and we are confident in our depth," McAdoo said when asked about possible changes on the line. "If we feel we need to make a change, we'll make a change."

Right tackle Bobby Hart sustained an ankle injury, but McAdoo did not have any details about the extent of the injury.

"We had some technical breakdowns and, again, it's not one guy," McAdoo said. "There's enough to spread around, and the tight ends are in there as well. The running backs fit in. Again, it's not just the offensive line."

The Giants only ran the ball 12 times, gaining 35 yards, but the biggest issue was and continues to be the inability of the backs to make defenders miss. Starter Paul Perkins averaged 2.3 yards per carry running behind the same offensive line as Orleans Darkwa (4.7 yards per carry).

McAdoo might want to revisit his decision to name Perkins the starter back in March as from preseason onward, Perkins has done little to show he's a better fit for the role than former starter Rashad Jennings.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb
RBs: Paul Perkins, Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, Dwayne Harris
TEs: Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini framed it: "One team, one goal, one touchdown.

"Get used to it. ..."

Cimini went on to explain the revamped New York Jets might be a more together team than last season, when their locker room was fractured by head cases, but the sad reality is this team has no chance in 2017 because its offense is terrible. With no running game and Josh McCown dinking and dunking and throwing interceptions (two), the Jets reached the end zone only once in a 21-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at New Era Field.

The Jets played down to expectations, as their many offensive blemishes came to the surface -- and Buffalo isn't even a strong defensive team. When they had the ball, the Jets looked like they were on a treadmill with the incline at the highest setting.

Cimini summed up: "Head coach Todd Bowles set the tone for the season with his 'One team, one goal' mantra. It's a nice slogan, but it can't buy points."

And that's something fantasy owners need to keep in mind this week as the Jets step up in competition, facing the Oakland Raiders on the road. This isn't a good matchup for the Jets, who likely will get blown out by a very talented Oakland team. It'll be the Raiders' home opener, so the Black Hole will be in rare form. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Curiously, running back Bilal Powell wasn't a big part of the game plan. As Cimini suggested, Powell might be their best player on offense, yet he didn't touch the ball until there was 3:43 left in the second quarter.

Instead, the Jets relied on Matt Forte, who had two drops and ran like a 31-year-old running back. McCown scored the only touchdown, a fourth-down sneak. Don't expect to see too many of those this season. The most-targeted receiver was newcomer Jermain Kearse (eight targets), who arrived last week.

What does that tell you about the Jets' receiving corps? Robby Anderson couldn't get open and had a costly drop.

According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, rookie ArDarius Stewart (two catches, 10 yards) looks like the third receiver. He went out for 67 percent of the Jets' offensive plays. Forte and Powell combined for 11 targets in the passing game. ...

Also worth noting: Repeating a strategic mistake he made last season in Pittsburgh, Bowles decided to punt with 4:00 left in the game with the ball at his 44, down by two possessions. It was fourth-and-8, a low-percentage situation, but he punted away a chance to get back in the game.

Bowles said the controversial decision to punt was a no-brainer. He said he might have gone for it had they been closer, but "fourth-and-8 is a tough pill to swallow ... There wasn't much to talk about."

In 2016, teams converted five of 12 on fourth-and-8 (42 percent), per ESPN Stats & Info. Asked if he needs to be more aggressive in the future, Bowles said, "I feel like I was fine yesterday."

On the injury front, Eric Tomlinson suffered a sprained elbow. If Tomlinson can't play Sunday, they'd be down to two healthy tight ends -- Will Tye and Neal Sterling, both of whom are recent additions.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
RBs: Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire
WRs: Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, Charone Peake, Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart
TEs: Eric Tomlinson, Will Tye, Jordan Leggett, Neal Sterling, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Oakland Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow, the situation couldn't have been much more similar in Oakland's return to Tennessee. For the second straight year, the Raiders took possession with less than five minutes left and a seven-point lead looking to add another score or run out the clock.

The difference this year is they had Beast Mode.

Instead of punting the ball back to the Titans and needing to narrowly survive at the end, the Raiders powered the ball down the field behind Marshawn Lynch and added a field goal that made it a two-possession game and sealed a season-opening 26-16 victory Sunday.

"He brings a certain mentality, he brings a certain toughness," head coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. "We saw glimpses of that. We're not looking for Marshawn to carry us or carry our team. We're looking for us to be a team and he's a piece of it. ... It's nice to see he brings that hammer at the end of the ballgame, the ability to close out."

The situation the Raiders faced on Sunday was one of the main reasons they lured Lynch out of retirement with a trade from Seattle this offseason.

With Latavius Murray as the main back a year ago, Oakland sometimes struggled to put games away in the fourth quarter and had to rely far too often on some late-game heroics from quarterback Derek Carr and Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack or some well-timed luck to seal games.

That's what happened last year in Tennessee when the Raiders needed two key penalties and an incomplete pass in the end zone to finish off a 17-10 win over the Titans after they were forced to punt the ball away at the two-minute warning.

This year they handed the ball to Lynch five times out of seven plays and gained two key first downs to set up Giorgio Tavecchio's fourth field goal of the game to make it 26-13 with 1:09 to play and deny Marcus Mariota a comeback attempt.

"He came in and put on a show," Raiders cornerback David Amerson said. "I think at the end of the game in the fourth quarter when you need to get down the field, give it to Beast Mode. That's what he did — got us down the field. He did exactly what we thought he would do today, put points on the board and now our defense can go into prevent defense."

The Raiders weren't quite sure what they would get out of Lynch in his first NFL game after a 602-day absence. He retired in Seattle following an injury-plagued 2015 season but wanted to make a comeback to give something back to his hometown of Oakland before the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Lynch carried only four times in the preseason so no one knew whether he would be close to the level he was in 2011-14 when he was the game's premier power running back for the Seahawks. Lynch led the NFL in rushes, yards rushing and total touchdowns over those four years but took a step back in 2015 because of poor health.

Now 31, Lynch showed the time off may have done him some good. He carried 18 times for 76 yards against the Titans and added a 16-yard reception. That was more yards on the ground for Lynch than he had in all but one game in 2015 and his average of 4.2 yards per carry was a significant increase from the 3.8 he had in his final year with the Seahawks.

He showed off his moves when he slipped a tackle in the backfield by Johnathan Cyprien and powered through Wesley Woodyard to convert a fourth down in the first quarter. Then he capped the day by bowling over 305-pound Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey on the final drive. In all, he forced five missed tackles and averaged an impressive 3.22 yards after contact, according to Pro Football Focus.

"He's such a beast," teammate Amari Cooper said. "You saw that play where he ran a guy over that was like five times bigger than he was, so it gets everybody hyped."

Jalen Richard had 22 yards on five carries in including two nice runs in a late clock-killing drive, but Lynch is the clear-cut leader of this rushing attack. ...

Worth noting, Carr and first-year offensive coordinator Todd Downing seemed in synch throughout and there were no issues getting plays in on time.

"I thought he handled himself beautifully," head coach Jack Del Rio said. "I thought Todd did a great job. He matched up against (Tennessee defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau in his first game. Dick LeBeau's got a few skins on the wall."

Carr was 22 of 32 for 262 yards, an 8-yard touchdown pass to Cooper and a 19-yarder to Seth Roberts. Carr missed some throws, never came close to a turnover, involved eight different receivers and managed the game and the clock to near perfection. Tight end Jared Cook had five catches for 56 yards in his Raiders debut and Michael Crabtree had six for 83 yards.

But Cooper was the guy Carr was locked in on.

Not only did Cooper nearly double up Michael Crabtree's target total, he also earned multiple targets inside the 10-yard line. But as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Cooper's work in the red zone was a bit of a mixed bag. He secured a score on his first shot but then suffered three straight miscues, including a failed contested catch attempt the next time the Raiders were in scoring position.

Overall, Harmon believes we should be encouraged that the Raiders deployed their talented young star in such a featured manner.

Oakland draws a date with the New York Jets next, putting Cooper in a spot to truly break the box score. ...

One last note here. ... According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, the biggest surprise from the Raiders' win at the Titans was the coronation of Tavecchio to Silver and Black folk hero. Signed off the practice squad a day earlier to replace Sebastian Janikowski after the franchise's all-time scoring leader was placed on Injured Reserve, Tavecchio drilled field goals of 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards, plus a PAT.

He spent the previous four years in camp with Oakland so he has built relationships. No wonder the locker room exploded when Del Rio awarded Tavecchio a game ball.

The league followed up by naming him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook
RBs: Marshawn Lynch, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton
TEs: Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Tim McManus reported it, Carson Wentz spent a good portion of his day playing backyard-style football, on the run and in improv mode after the initial plan broke down. Sometimes he created art. Sometimes he created opportunities for the Washington Redskins.

Whatever the outcome, just about every dropback was packed with drama.

McManus went on to note the question that emerges, after the Eagles topped Washington in the opener 30-17 on Sunday, is whether this helter-skelter offensive style is sustainable. Wentz took a lot of shots -- Washington was credited with nine quarterback hits and two sacks -- partly because the offensive line leaked at times and partly because Wentz held on to the ball to extend a play.

The degree of difficulty went up when standout left tackle Jason Peters left late in the first half with a groin injury. Peters said he will play this week at the Kansas City Chiefs (and he was practicing Wednesday).

Wentz finished 26-of-39 for 307 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

"The turnovers, some different things here and there -- we have to get those fixed," said Wentz. "But we made enough plays to win, so we're going to enjoy that."

The second-year QB showed how effective he can be in that type of environment on the game's initial drive, as he shook loose some would-be tacklers in the backfield, kept his eyes downfield and launched the ball deep to receiver Nelson Agholor, who raced for a 58-yard touchdown. Wentz added some magic on a key field goal drive late in the game, escaping the grasp of linebacker Junior Galette while rolling left and lofting a pass to tight end Zach Ertz down the sideline for a series-defining first down.

"There were a couple plays today where you're blocking, you're blocking, you're blocking, and you look back there and he's making guys miss and you're trying to find somebody to hit just to keep the play going," said Eagles center Jason Kelce. "The last guy that I played with that was able to avoid people like that was Michael Vick."

Wentz also yielded a pick-six on a tipped pass intended for Ryan Kerrigan, was whistled for an intentional grounding, and got away with a Brett Favre-like left-handed pass.

Much of the approach was out of necessity.

As the Sports Xchange noted, the Eagles didn't run the ball very well against the Redskins. They were held to 58 yards on 24 carries. Running back LeGarrette Blount looked like a shot fighter. He carried the ball 14 times for just 46 yards. His longest run was seven yards.

It's not good enough. The running game's not good enough," head coach Doug Pederson said. "We pride ourselves on running the football here. And we've got backs and linemen and tight ends that should be able to help us do that."

With that element shut down, the Redskins were able to pin their ears back and attack Wentz.

Wentz did his part to make the most of the situation, helping his squad win its opener. In order to make it through 15 more of these, though, a little more offensive balance and a bit less of the high-wire act probably is in order -- starting with this week's game against the Chiefs. ...

In a related note. ... Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich have repeatedly said one of the keys for the Eagles' offense this season is cutting down on third-and-longs. Last year, 46 percent of their third-down situations - 103 of 224 were eight yards or more. That was the third most in the NFL. Only the 1-15 Browns (113) and the 2-14 49ers (104) had more.

On Sunday, the Eagles still found themselves in way too many third-and-longs. Eight of their 14 third-down situations were eight yards or more. The difference this time was they were able to convert a bunch of them. Four to be exact, including Wentz's touchdown pass to Agholor on third-and-12 on the Eagles' opening drive, a 30-yard Wentz completion to Torrey Smith on a third-and-10 early in the third quarter that kept alive a drive that resulted in the second of kicker Caleb Sturgis's three field goals, and a 23-yard fourth-quarter catch by tight end Zach Ertz on a third-and-10 that helped swing field position at a critical time.

Wentz was 5-for-7 for 122 yards, four first downs and a touchdown on third-and-8 or more against the Redskins. Last season, he had one touchdown pass and 19 first-down throws the entire season on third-and-8-plus.

Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery's debut with the Eagles was unremarkable. He was targeted seven times and had three catches for 38 yards, including a 24-yarder.

"I was trying to be real conscious of trying to - I don't want to say forcing balls - but trying to get 17 (Jeffery's number) involved, getting 82 (Smith) involved, getting 86 (Ertz) involved, along with the runners," Pederson said. "Once we got 17 a couple of touches, then he made another big catch late in the game. And the two-point conversion (after the Eagles' final score) was huge. He did exactly what we asked him to do and will continue to grow

Kicker Caleb Sturgis suffered a hip flexor on the opening kickoff of the game Sunday. He played with it, kicking three field goals, including a 50-yarder. But by the end of the game, it clearly was bothering him. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the Eagles are going to sign Jake Elliott off of the Bengals practice squad while Sturgis will be placed on injured reserve.

Also. ... The Eagles lost starting cornerback Ronald Darby, who suffered a gruesome right ankle injury and was carted off the field. However, it appears the injury won't end his season. Reports say an MRI on Monday revealed no ligament damage, meaning Darby could return within six weeks. Jalen Mills moved into the No. 1 cornerback spot in his absence and veteran Patrick Robinson moved into the other spot. Rookie Rasul Douglas, who was inactive, is expected to step into the lineup.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, Ben Roethlisberger was asked Wednesday about the identity of the high-powered Pittsburgh Steelers attack. He said there are "a lot of different weapons" in place, but the Steelers will have to wait and see what happens.

Regarding expectations for the big four -- Roethlisberger, running back Le'Veon Bell, and wide receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, who have been reunited after not working together much the past two years -- Roethlisberger again said, "Wait and see. I don't know. We'll see."

Turns out, those comments foreshadowed an uneven 21-18 win over the Cleveland Browns that showcased a few bright spots but signaled plenty of work ahead to regain peak form.

Those four players logged 21 minutes of game action together over the last two seasons. Couple that with Bell's absence for all of August, and the chemistry needs more than one week to develop.

"We knew we'd come out a little rusty," Brown said. "We have a lot of room to grow and improve."

Brown (11 catches, 182 yards) wasn't speaking about himself after making numerous plays to help seal the game, including a ridiculous jump ball over two Browns defenders at midfield in the final minutes. Referring to the 38-yard, high-arcing pass to Brown, Roethlisberger said, "This isn't our first rodeo together." The trust between QB and receiver is still intact.

Sure, Bell's apparent rust loomed large in a very un-Steeler-like performance of 32 yards on 10 carries, though head coach Mike Tomlin isn't entertaining that convenient storyline.

"Bottom line is, we got highly penalized, that put us behind the chains and minimized the running game," said Tomlin, whose team racked up 144 penalty yards on 13 flags. "Write that."

The Steelers tried to get Bell involved after he looked good in practices, but they capped his workload just in case. Bell didn't get much playmaking help outside of Brown and tight end Jesse James. The formula: Brown single-handedly got the Steelers into the red zone, and James got the scores.

That will work in Cleveland, maybe even most weeks. But not against the best.

Bell's timing in the passing game looked off early on, to the point that Roethlisberger appeared to be communicating route depths after plays. Bell's 8 rushing yards in the first half matched the second-fewest for his career in the first 30 minutes of a game, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

"I don't think I was on the field as much as usual, so obviously it's not going to be the same numbers," said Bell, who added he'd like to be more involved in the offense. "But we won the game and that's the biggest thing about it."

With the Steelers gaining 290 net yards, Brown accounted for 62.75 percent of it. In contrast, Bell had only 47 yards on 14 touches.

Tomlin went on to confirm Bell's performance must improve: "And it will."

Meanwhile, Bryant's day was reduced to mostly screen work and the occasional intermediate route.

The best sign for Pittsburgh was converting 2-of-2 red zone trips into touchdowns, courtesy of James' two TD receptions: a 4-yard muscle catch in the back of the end zone and a 2-yard variation of a shovel-pass play. The Steelers were average in this area the past three years and need a major spike to have a chance at the 30-points-per-game clip the offense so covets. (Side note: The Steelers must have run seven or eight screens in the first 20 or so minutes. Not sure if NFL record books count screen stats, but this has to be in contention for most in a half.)

The Steelers tried a little bit of everything, to varied success. They went no-huddle. They went five wide. They went power run on third-and-1, which Bell and the offensive line couldn't pick up during the first half.

Meanwhile, the team was penalized for a gaudy 144 yards on 13 penalty flags.

But at least James answered questions about a tight end position that Tomlin last week called junior varsity. James took exception to that, and then answered with six catches for 41 yards and two scores. "We'll be productive," James said during the week.

Not everyone was productive, but the Steelers aren't above taking a sloppy win.

"First game [in the division], we'll take a win any way we can get it," Roethlisberger said. ...

Worth noting. ... Brown recorded his 30th career 100-yard receiving game, passing Hines Ward, who had 29 such games in his career. He also had 14 games with 10 catches or more, which is twice as many than any other player in franchise history. Ward has seven such games.

Roethlisberger moved past Fran Tarkenton for ninth place on the NFL's all-time passing list Sunday. He now has 47,077 yards. ...

The Steelers got good news on Stephon Tuitt's biceps injury. Tuitt exited the game early in the first quarter and did not return. ESPN reported the Steelers feared the injury was season-ending, but his teammates said Monday that Tuitt will play again this season. Exactly when that will be is not known at this point.

"I'm just glad it didn't wind up being season ending," said fellow defensive end Cam Heyward. "I'm not getting into the specifics of it, but we're definitely breathing a sigh of relief that he'll be able to play down the road."

Tuitt, who signed a six-year, $60 million contract on Saturday, played just two snaps against the Browns. He left after making a tackle on Browns running back Isaiah Crowell.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, James Conner, Terrell Watson
WRs: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter
TEs: Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, Vance McDonald

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

The San Francisco 49ers' season opener went exactly as many of their fans had expected.

The 23-3 drubbing at the hands of the Carolina Panthers was so predictable.

About one quarter of the ticket-holders stayed home.

And at least another quarter left at halftime.

There were so few people around to witness the Panthers' victory formation, you could hardly hear the boos.

And that was the biggest positive of the dreadful start to the John Lynch/Kyle Shanahan era.

If you have to hit rock bottom before bouncing back in a positive direction, then this was it. After all, the last two seasons were almost unbearable, sure. But they started out a whole lot better than this.

"It was disappointing," Shanahan assured shortly after the final gun. "Anytime you lose and lose that way, it's frustrating and disappointing. I'll feel that all day today and all night, and I'm sure our players will, too. We've got to watch the tape and figure out a way to get better."

The Niners went through an extreme makeover in the offseason, turning over the vast majority of the roster coming off a 2-14 season. They added new starters at key positions, including quarterback, receiver and linebacker, as well as at various other spots. But no matter how much cap space they had or how many draft picks were available to them, logic dictated they wouldn't be able to fix everything in one offseason.

Indeed, many of the warts that were obvious -- and a few that weren't so easily seen in the preseason -- showed themselves against the Panthers on Sunday.

Among the issues that carried over were penalties. The Niners repeatedly found ways to commit them at the most inopportune times. They finished with 10 infractions for 74 yards, including a handful of the avoidable types of penalties, such as illegal formation, that drive Shanahan crazy.

And the interior of the offensive line, where the 49ers tried to patch holes with experienced veterans, was mostly a sieve against a talented Carolina defensive line. Left guard Zane Beadles was beaten repeatedly, including one time that led to quarterback Brian Hoyer moving off his spot and coughing up a fumble that led to the Panthers' first touchdown.

All told, the Niners gave up four sacks and allowed eight quarterback hits.

"It's always a constant work in progress, but this is the NFL," Brian Hoyer said. "You have to give the other team credit too. They have Kawann Short. The two linebackers they have in the middle, they blitzed them a few times. I know the one, I had to get rid of the ball early, Julius Peppers wrapped in there. They've got a tough front seven. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge for us. We'll go back, watch it and get as much corrected as we can and get ready to go towards Seattle."

The 49ers traded for guard Laken Tomlinson in the last week of the preseason with an eye toward having him compete and potentially replace Beadles in the starting lineup. There wasn't enough time to make that happen this week, but it's safe to say that process will be expedited before next week's matchup against the Seattle Seahawks' fearsome front.

Those struggles on the line were only part of the problem for an offense that was out of sync for most of the Sunday's contest. After being on the mark throughout the summer, Hoyer and receiver Marquise Goodwin narrowly missed on a pair of deep balls, including one that went through Goodwin's hands. And though the run game had some moments of success, it wasn't able to get into a rhythm and, after falling behind, was nowhere to be found for most of the second half.

"Nobody likes to lose," Goodwin said. "I'm humbled by this. I needed this to get this out of the way early. I know how to work coming in [Monday] to prepare for Seattle. Like I said, you don't want to lose in this situation, but you win some and you lose some. I have to come back stronger. I will come back stronger. The team will come back stronger."

The Niners didn't even score until kicker Robbie Gould's 44-yard field goal with eight seconds left in the third quarter. They finished with just 217 yards, averaging 4 yards per play.

To add injury to insult, linebacker Reuben Foster's ankle injury suffered in the first quarter of the opener provides one more reason to hang around the house and check out the new fall television schedule next week.

The report Monday, a day after Foster was carted to the locker room 11 defensive snaps into the season: High ankle sprain. Out indefinitely.

"We are going to put him in a boot," Shanahan reported Monday. "Those tend to be a month, a little more, but I can't put exactly a date on it. That's my experience with high-ankle sprains."

On Wednesday, the 49ers signed Elijah Lee off the Vikings practice squad. ...

A few final notes here. ... Carlos Hyde averaged a healthy 5.0 yards per carry against the Panthers. However, because of the come-from-behind nature of the game, Hyde got only nine carries, good for 45 yards. He also recorded a career-best-tying six catches for 32 yards.

Pierre Garcon led the team in targets with 10. He turned those opportunities into six catches and 81 yards. Expect that to be somewhere near his floor this season.

Tight end George Kittle recorded his first NFL catch on the 49ers' fourth offensive play of the season Sunday against Carolina. The 13-yard reception was the first of five for the rookie, totaling 27 yards. He was targeted six times.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Logan Paulsen

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

As the Sports Xchange understated, if Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers was any indication, the offensive line will continue to be a major problem for the Seattle Seahawks.

Quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked three times and pressured frequently as he was given little time to work the passing game. Wilson faced pressure on 44 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That pressure kept Seattle's passing game from ever finding its rhythm.

Additionally, running lanes were few and far between for Chris Carson, Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise.

Of Seattle's 90 rushing yards, 59 of them came on a 29-yard scramble by Wilson and a 30-yard run from Carson. They averaged just 1.9 yards per carry on their remaining 16 attempts of the game.

"Disappointed that after all the time we've been working to go to our first game, we didn't play as clean as we wanted to," head coach Pete Carroll said on Monday.

"I don't think this is a statement of anything other than we didn't play well enough in the first game."

Given that Seattle had been pretty encouraged with their unit throughout the preseason, Sunday's showing was an unwelcome step backward.

"I'm disappointed in that," Carroll said. "I'm disappointed that we're talking about that today. I thought we were moving in the right direction. I've seen us move in the right direction, but this game we weren't as sharp."

The offensive line wasn't the only unit struggling on that side of the ball.

Wilson missed a few open throws and tight end Jimmy Graham had an underwhelming performance. Graham was targeted seven times but made just three catches for 8 yards and had a critical third-down drop early in the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't his best game. He'll do better. He was really disappointed on the ball that got away from him on the sideline," Carroll said.

While Carroll spent part of Monday trying to figure out ways to help the underperforming offense, he was also having conversations with the league about what led to the ejection of Jeremy Lane in the first quarter after he was deemed to have thrown a punch. No television replays showed a punch being thrown but rather Lane putting his arm on Davante Adams' facemask after the pair tussled.

Carroll said he agreed with the analysis from the TV broadcast that the punishment was harsh.

"We have talked with the league and ... I agree with the way the guys on television saw it," he said.

The opener also proved that Seattle's defense should be every bit as good as expected.

As for the fantasy prospects. ... According to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, with Thomas Rawls inactive, the Seattle backfield was interesting but unimpressive. Lacy had more rush attempts (five) than he had yards (three). It was the rookie Carson who was most impressive, albeit on just seven touches. He flashed on a 30-yard pickup up the middle in the third quarter and played on over half the team's offensive snaps.

Prosise was barely involved with just four rush attempts for 11 yards and zero targets. Franciscovich summed up, "This is Chris Carson's backfield to lose, at least until Rawls gets back."

Of course, that might be this very week.

Carroll said Monday that Rawls should return Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers

"Yes, we do expect Thomas back," Carroll said, via the team's official website. "He should be raring to go."

Behind an offensive line that refused to block a soul on Sunday, Seattle needs Rawls' tackle-breaking ability to move the ball on the ground.

Unless Carson can do the job, right?

"We haven't seen the top end from Chris," Carroll said on Wednesday. "He's got a lot to offer. He's a very well rounded football player. I'm anxious to see how he grows with us and if his role can expand as we find out more stuff.

That should inject additional fuel into the fire and further confirms Franciscovich's stance. ...

Also, NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes that Paul Richardson appears to have the inside track for the No. 2 wide receiver spot over Tyler Lockett. Lockett was only on the field for 52 percent of the team's offensive plays, whereas Richardson handled a more full-time 83 percent role -- although Carroll said Lockett would see more time at wideout this week.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis
RBs: Chris Carson, Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Eddie Lacy, J.D. McKissic, Tre Madden
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Tanner McEvoy, Amara Darboh
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson, Nick Vannett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

Sunday's tilt between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium will go on as planned.

The NFL and Buccaneers had waited to determine the extent of destruction Hurricane Irma caused to the Tampa area before determining whether the game at 1 p.m. on Sunday would be adjusted. The team announced the decision Tuesday.

"We have been working tirelessly with the Tampa Sports Authority, as well as the NFL league office, to ensure that Raymond James Stadium would be available to host our season opener against the Chicago Bears this Sunday." Buccaneers Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford said in a statement. "Hosting the game is important to us, as Tampa Bay has been through a lot over the past few days. We look forward to providing our fans and the entire region an opportunity to come together this Sunday to kick off our 2017 season."

It's good news for a Buccaneers team that had its opening week game versus Miami postponed.

But many players are scattered throughout the country. Quarterback Jameis Winston is at his family home in Alabama. Gerald McCoy returned to Oklahoma. Some players returned to the west coast.

Getting 53 players and 10 practice-squad members to reassemble in Tampa by Wednesday is no easy task. Some will have to rely on commercial airline carriers, others may need charters. Still others could have to navigate highways strewn with debris from the storm.

That doesn't include the support staff the Bucs rely on to operate One Buc Place and host a game at Raymond James Stadium. In some cases, homes may not be accessible or could be damaged, meaning the team will need to secure hotel space in Tampa.

The Bucs' regular-season opener against the Dolphins in Miami was postponed until Nov. 19. As a result, players were excused for their bye week. The Bucs planned all along to begin practice Wednesday.

It will be good to see the team in action.

Winston was the star of "Hard Knocks" and is a revered figure in the Buccaneers' building at age 23. He was a big-time winner as a college player, and Tampa Bay's 9-7 record in his sophomore season was one of the league's bigger surprises.

Winston is another "arrow up" guy, and the team has complete confidence that he's their guy for the long term. But he has also thrown 33 interceptions in just two NFL seasons, and he has to get his turnover issues under control if the Bucs' confidence in their quarterback situation is to elevate. Indeed, Winston has improved each season and now seems poised to take the final step of protecting the football to get the Bucs to the postseason.

He has much better weapons with receiver DeSean Jackson, tight end O.J. Howard and rookie receiver Chris Godwin to go with Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries.

The Bucs will be without RB Doug Martin for the first three games while he serves a suspension for PEDs. That means they will go with a committee approach with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber. The line is better at run blocking with J.R. Sweezy healthy.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Peyton Barber, Doug Martin
WRs: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Bernard Reedy
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Luke Stocker

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

According to ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe, from the first play -- a failed onside kick -- the Titans didn't have enough to keep up with the Oakland Raiders in Sunday's battle of AFC division favorites.

The Titans' performance Sunday didn't scream lack of preparation or talent. It felt like a talented team still searching for its identity. They spent the entire offseason upgrading receiving weapons, and the smash-mouth running attack felt forgotten. Red zone struggles, including settling for two field goals inside the Raiders' 10-yard line, made the difference. The Raiders outlasted them 26-16.

Marcus Mariota had a decent yet unspectacular return to regular-season action, finishing 25-of-41 with 256 passing yards. He showed his dangerous legs (three rushes for 25 yards and a touchdown) and ability to make improvised plays on the move. But the third-year quarterback also reminded us of his bouts of inaccuracy when his footwork is off and how he won't consistently carry a team when the running game struggles. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for 18 carries and 69 yards.

Tennessee's defense struggled with tackling, and coverage lapses showed the secondary is still a question mark. The Titans' pass rush didn't get much consistent pressure on Derek Carr, making just two sacks, which came on back-to-back plays. This unit played OK, but it failed to notch a turnover or stop when its team needed it the most, particularly late in the fourth quarter.

It's just one loss, and with the uncertainty of the AFC South there's no reason for concern just yet. But finding an identity won't come overnight.

Given all that, Wolfe believes the Titans need to figure out how to re-establish their running game as the center of their offense. Murray, Henry and the Titans' offensive line are too talented to be used as a secondary piece in an evolving offense.

The Titans lost their third straight matchup to the Raiders in Nashville in as many years. The Titans can't truly be considered a contender until they beat them. This was a missed opportunity.

The good news? Corey Davis is going to be a special weapon in the offense. He was limited in his NFL debut Sunday coming off a hamstring injury that cost him the entire preseason, but he still impressed.

The first-round draft pick played 42 of 64 snaps against the Raiders and caught six of the 10 passes that came his way for 69 yards.

"For his first game, I was pretty pleased with what he did," head coach Mike Mularkey told Paul Kuharsky of paulkuharsky.com. "It's pretty amazing, some of the catches he made. We haven't had a lot of those –line up and run a fade route, catch it over the top of a corner — in a long time. So, that was pleasant to see."

Davis looked every bit the part of the team's No. 1 receiver, which is what they expected when they used the fifth overall choice on him. Marcus Mariota targeted Davis more than any other receiver.

"Decent, obviously, but not near enough as we came out with an L," Davis said. "I went into the game not knowing how much I was going to get in, but I was pretty much preparing myself for anything."

Mariota also showed he was back from injury and isn't afraid to get hit or run.

From a fantasy perspective, Mariota's running touchdown and decent yards total salvaged his day, but no passing touchdowns hurt his overall upside. Murray owners may be a little concerned with his 44 yards and it may be smart to temper his expectations until we see what identity the Titans want to form.

Davis is the big winner. If he's available, pick him up in your league. Now.

Still, Rishard Matthews continues to be a go-to guy for Mariota. He had five catches for 71 yards in the game. Eric Decker had a lackluster debut for the Titans. He was thrown to 10 times, but had just three catches for 10 yards.

Next up, the Titans are scheduled to play at Jacksonville, which could be a prime chance to fix many of their woes. The Jaguars are coming off a strong victory over Houston, but this is a team Tennessee should sweep if it is to be a true AFC contender.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel
RBs: DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry, David Fluellen
WRs: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Eric Weems, Corey Davis
TEs: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Phillip Supernaw

Washington Redskins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 September 2017

Looking around at all the problems in their Week 1 loss, the Washington Redskins know they're not in the preseason anymore.

As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno put it, "Exhibition sluggishness could be excused, but not now."

The Redskins have good reason to be a little uneasy after three turnovers by quarterback Kirk Cousins, porous offensive-line play, an almost nonexistent running game combined with missed tackles and familiarly bad third-down defense on Sunday against Philadelphia. Even usually optimistic coach Jay Gruden was critical of several aspects of his team Monday before turning his attention to facing former offensive coordinator Sean McVay's Los Angeles Rams.

"I am not up here to bash any individual," Gruden said. "We know that as an offense that we have to play better. Line has to play better, tight ends have to play better, backs have to play better, our receivers have to play a lot better, our quarterback has to play better."

Taking over the play-calling from McVay, Gruden must establish Robert Kelley and the run game more than he did against the Eagles, when Washington attempted to pass on 72 percent of its offensive snaps.

Of course, as the Sports Xchange suggested, the same issues were present during an 8-7-1 season in 2016.

Running back Chris Thompson did take a short pass from Cousins 29 yards for a touchdown as he bounced off Eagles defenders. But otherwise, Thompson and Kelley carried the ball just 13 times between them for 34 yards. Cousins was actually Washington's top rusher with 30 yards on four carries. None of that was near good enough to ease the pressure on a ragged passing game.

"It's not even play-calling," Kelley said. "It's just us, as a team, we have to execute, especially in the run game. Ten guys do something right and one does something wrong, it messes up the play."

The major concern for the Redskins is if the talent just isn't there to produce on the ground. Kelley's play dropped off at the end of last season after he took over for Matt Jones in Week 9. Thompson is a versatile third-down back, but the coaching staff is wary of using him too much given his dicey injury history. Jones was cut at the end of training camp.

Rookie running back Samaje Perine played only on special teams and Mack Brown was not even active for the game.

It would certainly help if tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are 100 percent after ankle injuries, but even Gruden was surprised at how much the offensive line struggled.

When Cousins is tied as the leading rusher with 30 yards on four carries, it's not a good sign. Kelley averaged 3 yards on his 10 tries.

The necessary next step is to make L.A. defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' defense respect the run, which should help Cousins, who acknowledged he needs to be more accurate.

"Our offense is always going to hum along at a much more efficient rate when we're running the ball well and we can keep the defenses unaware if it's going to be a run, pass, or a play action," Cousins said after he was 23 of 40 with an interception, two fumbles and four sacks. "If you can honor the run, then you can hopefully open up some windows in the pass game."

As ESPN.com's John Keim suggested, Cousins' performance was a big reason the Redskins dropped yet another season opener under Gruden. Three Cousins turnovers led to missed opportunities for Washington and a touchdown for the Eagles.

Pryor didn't have to wait long for his first chance to make a play for his new team.

Cousins looked for Terrelle Pryor on a deep shot on Washington's first offensive play of the game, but Pryor wasn't able to locate the ball in time to make the catch. Pryor wound up with six catches for 66 yards, but had a drop and failed to reel in another ball sent his way. That led him to focus on what went wrong after the game.

"I put this game on myself," Pryor said, via ESPN.com. "I definitely let my teammates down. I'll hold my chin up high and work harder. But I don't like that. Right now, I'm shooting myself in the foot from dropping that ball. I'm real pissed at myself now. ... You guys can beat me up on that."

There were shaky performances in several offensive spots for the Redskins on Sunday, so Pryor wasn't the sole reason why the season started with a loss. It didn't help, though, and everyone will be looking for better performances the next time they hit the field.

McVay knows all about the Redskins' strengths on offense, which makes Gruden's job even more difficult as he tries to integrate Terrelle Pryor and second-year receiver Josh Doctson into the offense better. Doctson wasn't targeted once during his 20 snaps in the opener, and Gruden said the 2016 first-round pick has to earn his playing time.

He also needs to get healthy. Doctson was limited in Wednesday's practice with what Gruden called "tightness" in his hamstring.

Gruden said limiting Doctson's work in practice was "precautionary." But as Profootballtalk.com suggests, he won't get more playing time without showing he deserves it. And that's hard to do when you can't practice -- precautionary or not. I'll follow up on this one via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

While the Redskins need Doctson to produce, he's not among their most glaring problems. Allowing Philadelphia to convert on 8 of its 14 third-down attempts is a continuation from last season, when Washington was worst in the NFL in that category, but at least Gruden has singled out specific concerns already this year.

"We have to get better with our four-man rushes ... (And) we have to get better with our blitzes," Gruden said. "We have to tackle the quarterback when we have him in the grasp. We had four sacks, and we let him go."

Cornerback Josh Norman said after the loss that the Redskins are "not hitting the panic button." Of course after seeing McVay's Rams beat up on the Indianapolis Colts 46-9, Gruden expects Sunday to be a significant challenge.

"They've got enough weapons they can hurt you," Gruden said. "We have a good idea of what (McVay) likes to do, but you just don't know when he's going to do it."

A few final notes here. ... Receiver Jamison Crowder muffed a punt in Sunday's loss to Philadelphia, but is in no danger of losing his job, according to Gruden. Crowder fumbled two punts as a rookie, but none last season.

Jordan Reed had a quiet game Sunday with five catches for 39 yards and a long play of nine yards, but said afterward the sore big toe that limited him during training camp wasn't a factor.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy
RBs: Robert Kelley, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown
WRs: Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, Brian Quick
TEs: Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle