Team Notes week 8 2023

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<


Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ...  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 24 October 2023

Josh Dobbs doesn't need to be told that his entire season with the Cardinals is essentially an audition and that sometime in the next few weeks he'll relinquish his starting role.

Eventually Kyler Murray will return to be the starting quarterback for Arizona. And, as Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth suggests, if the Cardinals are going to snap their losing streak before Murray returns, they'll need better from Dobbs than what he showed on Sunday in a 20-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

"There is opportunities for me to improve, and it starts with me," Dobbs said. "Especially on offense with how I start and how I find those completions and get the ball out of my hand, and then that will resonate throughout the entire offense."

Dobbs made his seventh start for Arizona and the result was another game with missed opportunities and a frustrating conclusion. Dobbs was 19 of 33 passing for 146 yards. He was sacked four times, didn't have a pass play for longer than 21 yards and failed to take advantage of three Seattle turnovers, two of which happened in the Seahawks' half of the field.

The Cardinals scored just three points off those three takeaways and had only 88 yards in the second half.

"That's probably the most frustrating thing about today," Dobbs said. "Our defense, I thought they did a great job of forcing turnovers, keeping a really good offense behind the sticks, giving us some opportunities with field position. We weren't able to capitalize."

Dobbs was able to be a threat with the run and finished with 43 yards rushing on seven carries.

Arizona's only touchdown came on Dobbs' 25-yard run in the second quarter, the longest run play allowed this season by Seattle's defense.

But that also came on the only drive for Arizona that gained more than 26 net yards. Head coach Jonathan Gannon was complimentary of Seattle's defense and how it was able to limit the pass game.

"They do a good job covering up windows. They got some length out there; they can rush. It's a good defense," Gannon said. "Thought we probably left a couple plays out there, and when we watch the tape we'll see that."

There's always been a timeline to when Dobbs' run as the starter would come to an end. It seemed to be kicked into overdrive this week when Murray was activated off the physically unable to perform list and returned to practice.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Cardinals want Murray to play again this season -- so badly, in fact, that they are willing to take the financial risk that comes along with the quarterback's return.

Murray, who returned to practice last week for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in December, has $29.9 million in 2025 salary compensation that becomes fully guaranteed in March if he can't pass a physical by then.

The only way to ensure that Murray would be healthy by March would be to not play him, which the Cardinals don't want to do.

The Cardinals have not circled a specific date for his return.

That seems unlikely to be this upcoming week against Baltimore, but it could be the following week at Cleveland or the week after that at home against Atlanta.

Murray would face some of the NFL's stoutest defenses upon his return, as the Cardinals' remaining schedule includes games against the Browns, Ravens, 49ers, Steelers, Rams and Eagles -- all teams with talented defensive lines.

Whatever the case, Arizona has until Nov. 8 to activate Murray to the 53-man roster, meaning the Cardinals' Week 10 home game against the Atlanta Falcons would be the latest he could return this season.

Meanwhile, Dobbs said his attention is on next week and trying to jump start an offense that has scored just 25 points in the past 10 quarters.

"When I watch the film, (I) see how I can be better," Dobbs said. "Ultimately if I start fast, this offense is difficult to stop. We've seen it throughout the season and so starts with me and ends with me."

Other notes of interest. ... According to's Nathan Jahnke, Emari Demercado took control of Keaontay Ingram's role in the offense in Week 7.

Damien Williams remained the primary backup in rushing situations this week, but Demercado kept his role and took over as the primary running back on rushing plays. Ingram was restricted to special teams.

Demercado ran 13 times for 58 yards and caught four passes for 17 yards.

The matchups aren't much better over the next two weeks, but Demercado should still be good for 15-plus touches in each game until James Conner is ready to play again. ...

The Cardinals continued their rotation at tight end, with Trey McBride and Zach Ertz getting similar opportunities.

That's about to change.

The Cardinals put the Ertz on injured reserve on Tuesday with a quadriceps injury, although he is expected to return this season. He must miss at least four games -- which would put his return at the earliest the Nov. 26 home game against the Rams.

Gannon said on Arizona Sports the hope was that Ertz would only miss the four games.

In an equally surprising move, the Cardinals released safety K'Von Wallace. Wallace did not play a snap Sunday after playing 100 percent of the snaps in the five games previous.

The Cardinals also promoted rookie tight end Blake Whiteheart from the practice squad to replace Ertz, and released cornerback Quavian White from the practice squad.

Ertz has 27 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown this season on 43 targets. His absence will open the door for McBride to get more usage.

McBride has 15 catches for 170 yards this season.

The Cardinals also have Geoff Swaim and rookie Elijah Higgins at the position on the 53-man roster.

"Trey has done a nice job," offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said. "We talked about that room as a whole, and Trey is a big part of that. Really encouraged by Trey, Geoff, Elijah, I trust all three of those guys to come in and not miss a beat. Trey's play, his production, what he's done, what he brings to the offense, I think has shown up in a major way."

QBs: Kyler Murray, Desmond Ridder, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Michael Carter, Emari Demercado
WRs: Zay Jones, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Paul Newberry framed it: "First place.

"A strange place to be for the Atlanta Falcons. ..."

But it's true. Seven games into an up-and-down season, the Falcons hold the top spot in the NFC South.

Never mind that it's probably the weakest division in the NFL.

Considering this team hasn't had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2017, there were plenty of smiles after an ugly 16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We'll take it," head coach Arthur Smith said after his team improved to 4-3. "We know we've got work to do, but happy to get a win."

The Falcons pulled out the victory despite three fumbles by quarterback Desmond Ridder, which cost them at least one touchdown and probably another.

"We certainly like to make it hard on ourselves," Smith said. "But our guys make plays in big moments. We always feel like we got a shot, no matter what happens. It's a resilient group."

An offseason spending spree directed largely toward the defense had paid big dividends.

The Falcons are surrendering an average of 19 points a game, which ranks in the top 10 of the league and would be their lowest figure over a full season since 2012.

They've turned up the pressure on the quarterback the last two weeks, though it helped to be facing a pair of shaky offensive lines. Atlanta had five sacks against Washington and three more against Tampa Bay, pushing their total to 13 for the season. Not a huge number, perhaps, but an encouraging sign for a team that hasn't had even 30 sacks in a season since 2018.

The guys on the defensive side are the biggest reason the Falcons have a winning record despite being held under 20 points in four of their seven games.

Ridder's play is going to continue being the key factor here.

Against the Buccaneers, he completed 19 of 25 passes for 250 yards, no passing touchdowns (one rushing) and no interceptions.

He finished with a 107.1 passer rating -- his second straight week with a passer rating over 100.

But he has six turnovers over the past two weeks.

"The guy played phenomenal in the pocket, throwing the ball," Smith said. "Last week he threw a couple picks, fixed those. I understand it's like a game of Whack-A-Mole, but he's in his 11th start, just got a good, road win against what, the third-ranked win in the league.

"So let's give him some credit. Let's give this team some credit for winning. I'm not going to run away with some negative narrative. Found a way to win. I know this about Desmond Ridder. He's tough and he's a winner."

The Falcons were largely without running back Bijan Robinson on Sunday.

Ridder's most effective offensive option said he was not feeling well Sunday morning and Smith told him they didn't want to risk anything so they limited him to 11 snaps and one touch -- a 3-yard run.

Robinson said he was "feeling weird" Saturday night, found it hard to sleep and woke up "feeling completely out of it." He tried to take medicine to help feel better but his head was "hurting bad." Robinson said he felt cold and had a "pounding" headache. After the game, Robinson said he was not administered a concussion test at any point and did not take a COVID test.

As the game went on, he realized he wouldn't be able to play.

"As we got through warmups, he just wasn't feeling like himself," Smith said. "He played but we weren't going to overdo it. Just being cautious. When you have other guys who can go, we're a team."

Tyler Allgeier rushed 21 times for 59 yards and Cordarrelle Patterson had 10 carries for 56 yards as the Falcons gained over 400 yards of offense for the third straight week.

Generally speaking, the Falcons are having an amazing run of good fortune in the health department. For three straight weeks, they haven't had anyone on their injury report.

According to local reports (after the fact), Robinson started feeling poorly Saturday night, but no reports came out about any problems until after the game started.

This left several fantasy managers relying on Robinson this week.

Those fantasy managers might take some satisfaction in the fact the NFL is now asking injury-report compliance questions to the Falcons about when they knew Robinson wasn't physically well and why it wasn't reported per league policy, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Monday.

It is standard practice for the league to question teams about a player if he is not included on the weekly injury report and then is either unavailable for the game or plays far less than what typically occurs. Violations have been met with fines.

He said he took medicine to try and feel better, but his head continued to hurt.

Robinson said his head still was bothering him after Sunday's game, adding that he was neither tested for a concussion nor administered a COVID test. He was not spotted in the locker room during the open media session Monday.

The Falcons believed Robinson always was going to play the game and therefore did not need to be added to the injury report, a source told Schefter.

Smith on Monday said Robinson will "be fine."

I'll have an eye on Robinson and will report back on any developments via Late-Breaking Update in coming days; but all indications are he'll return to handle his usual primary role this week as the Falcons prepare to travel to Tennessee (2-4) on Sunday for their second straight road game.

Looking further down the road, the schedule looks incredibly favorable to Atlanta. The remaining 10 games are against opponents with a cumulative record of 22-43. None of them is above .500 at the moment. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Falcons netted 401 yards of offense. It was the third consecutive game in which Atlanta had at least 400 net offensive yards, which hasn't happened since 2018. Back then, the Falcons pulled it off three times: Weeks 2-4, Weeks 6-9 (bye was Week 8) and Weeks 15-17. ...

Wide receiver Drake London became the second-fastest player in Falcons history to reach 100 career receptions. He did so in 24 games, as his six receptions last Sunday put him at 104 overall. Only wide receiver Julio Jones hit the centennial mark quicker, in 23 games.

In addition, as Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason pointed out, London's seen no worse than a 23.3 percent target share over his last four games. That's resulted in 11-plus PPR points in each contest. ...

Finally. ... Younghoe Koo is one of the NFL's most reliable kickers, which showed again when he booted a 51-yard field goal on the final play to win the game.

It was his second game-winning kick this season and seventh of his career. That tally ties Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson for most game-winning field goals as time expires since start of 2021 season.

Koo has made 13 of 14 field goals this season and 135 of 151 (89.4 percent) over his six seasons in the NFL.

"He's clutch," Smith said.

QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Darnell Mooney, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As's Jamison Hensley wrote, "Lamar Jackson looked like a most valuable player again on Sunday, dismantling one of the best teams in the NFL with near-perfect passing. ..."

But Hensley went on to note Jackson and the Ravens (5-2) were surprisingly understated in a 38-6 win over the Detroit Lions (5-As's Jamison Hensley wrote, "Lamar Jackson looked like a most valuable player again on Sunday, dismantling one of the best teams in the NFL with near-perfect passing. ..."

But Hensley went on to note Jackson and the Ravens (5-2) were surprisingly understated in a 38-6 win over the Detroit Lions (5-2). Jackson barely cracked a smile in his postgame media session, and head coach John Harbaugh pointed out how stone-faced his star quarterback was after the biggest win of the season.

"I don't even think he's that happy with the game," Harbaugh said. "When I see him in the locker room right now, it's not like he's all giddy in there. He's thinking about the plays that he could have had. He's thinking about the plays he wants to get better at. That's how all our guys are thinking right now. That's how they should be thinking."

Jackson finished with 357 yards passing -- the second-most of his career -- and threw for three touchdowns. He completed 21-of-27 passes (77.8 percent) and produced a 155.8 passer rating (perfect is 158.3).

This also marked Jackson's 50th career victory. He's the fifth-fastest quarterback to do so (68 games) when debuting in the Super Bowl era.

Yet, no one could tell if Jackson won or lost a game by his demeanor afterward.

"I believe, when you're playing regular-season games, you should be OK," Jackson said. "We're winning. I'm alright with winning, but still it's [the] regular season. We made strides for improvement last week [in a 24-16 win over the Titans] and earlier in the season. I believe we did, but it's just one regular-season game."

The Ravens had heard all week how this game was going to be their measuring stick. Detroit entered the game tied with the NFL's best record and had won four straight games by double-digit margins.

But the Ravens answered with their most complete game of the season.

The Lions couldn't slow Jackson with pressure. He was 5-of-6 outside the pocket for 116 yards. On his first touchdown pass, Jackson's scrambling bought him 9.24 seconds before he hit Nelson Agholor for a 12-yard touchdown. That's the third-longest time to throw on a touchdown pass since 2016, according to Next Gen Stats.

A week ago, Baltimore struggled mightily in the red zone, settling for five field goals inside the 20-yard line. On Sunday, Jackson was 5-of-6 for 38 yards and three touchdowns in the red zone.

This was Jackson's fourth career game with 300 yards passing, three touchdown passes and no interceptions -- which passes Joe Flacco for the most in Ravens history.

Worth noting: Baltimore reached the end zone four times before Detroit even managed a first down.

"Lamar beat us," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "He hammered us with his arm."

The most emotion Jackson showed on Sunday came after a mistake. He had a botched exchange on a handoff with running back Justice Hill, leading to Baltimore's eighth lost fumble of the season. That's the second-most in the league this year.

After the turnover -- which ended a string of four straight touchdown drives to open the game -- Jackson had words with Hill before throwing his helmet into the bench on the sideline.

"He's not satisfied," Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "He's been playing great and he won't be satisfied until we get a Super Bowl, so I know what I'm getting in my quarterback."

Next up, the Ravens travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals Sunday afternoon. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Ravens had eight passing plays of at least 20 yards. Only one team -- the Los Angeles Chargers with nine against Minnesota -- has had more in a game this season.

"Todd [Monken] got a game ball with the offensive coaches in there," Harbaugh said. "Those plays are great plays, but they were executed well. It starts with the quarterback."

Running backs Gus Edwards and Hill had an even snap share with each playing 30. Edwards had 14 carries for Hill's four, however. Edwards piled up 64 rushing yards and a touchdown while Hill was highly efficient with 46 yards on just four totes.

Edwards also turned a short pass into an 80-yard catch and run, showing his speed at 20.23 mph (the fastest of his career as a ball carrier).

Hill was part of a botched exchange with Jackson that led to Baltimore's eighth lost fumble, which is tied for second most in the NFL. Jackson had words with Hill after the play and threw his helmet at the bench on the sideline.

Rookie running back Keaton Mitchell got his first NFL offensive snaps and flashed his potential on a 9-yard run, but unfortunately suffered a hamstring injury after just two snaps and didn't return. He could've seen more action in the blowout.

Harbaugh told reporters that Mitchell is "week-to-week" with a chance to play against the Cardinals. ...

According to's Nathan Jahnke, the Ravens' wide receiver rotation was altered slightly.

Agholor and Devin Duvernay had been sharing snaps in 11 personnel while Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman shared one of the outside receiver roles. There were four plays in this game where Zay Flowers, Beckham and Bateman were the three receivers in 11 personnel without Agholor or Duvernay on the field.

This and the game script meant fewer snaps for Agholor.

Bateman had his best game yet in PFF's eyes, logging two catches for 36 yards, and was one of the Ravens' highest-graded players. Bateman had 30 snaps compared to 22 for Agholor.

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that Beckham had a season high 25 percent target share against the Lions. His previous season high was just 14.3 percent.
2). Jackson barely cracked a smile in his postgame media session, and head coach John Harbaugh pointed out how stone-faced his star quarterback was after the biggest win of the season.

"I don't even think he's that happy with the game," Harbaugh said. "When I see him in the locker room right now, it's not like he's all giddy in there. He's thinking about the plays that he could have had. He's thinking about the plays he wants to get better at. That's how all our guys are thinking right now. That's how they should be thinking."

Jackson finished with 357 yards passing -- the second-most of his career -- and threw for three touchdowns. He completed 21-of-27 passes (77.8 percent) and produced a 155.8 passer rating (perfect is 158.3).

This also marked Jackson's 50th career victory. He's the fifth-fastest quarterback to do so (68 games) when debuting in the Super Bowl era.

Yet, no one could tell if Jackson won or lost a game by his demeanor afterward.

"I believe, when you're playing regular-season games, you should be OK," Jackson said. "We're winning. I'm alright with winning, but still it's [the] regular season. We made strides for improvement last week [in a 24-16 win over the Titans] and earlier in the season. I believe we did, but it's just one regular-season game."

The Ravens had heard all week how this game was going to be their measuring stick. Detroit entered the game tied with the NFL's best record and had won four straight games by double-digit margins.

But the Ravens answered with their most complete game of the season.

The Lions couldn't slow Jackson with pressure. He was 5-of-6 outside the pocket for 116 yards. On his first touchdown pass, Jackson's scrambling bought him 9.24 seconds before he hit Nelson Agholor for a 12-yard touchdown. That's the third-longest time to throw on a touchdown pass since 2016, according to Next Gen Stats.

A week ago, Baltimore struggled mightily in the red zone, settling for five field goals inside the 20-yard line. On Sunday, Jackson was 5-of-6 for 38 yards and three touchdowns in the red zone.

This was Jackson's fourth career game with 300 yards passing, three touchdown passes and no interceptions -- which passes Joe Flacco for the most in Ravens history.

Worth noting: Baltimore reached the end zone four times before Detroit even managed a first down.

"Lamar beat us," Lions coach Dan Campbell said. "He hammered us with his arm."

The most emotion Jackson showed on Sunday came after a mistake. He had a botched exchange on a handoff with running back Justice Hill, leading to Baltimore's eighth lost fumble of the season. That's the second-most in the league this year.

After the turnover -- which ended a string of four straight touchdown drives to open the game -- Jackson had words with Hill before throwing his helmet into the bench on the sideline.

"He's not satisfied," Ravens offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "He's been playing great and he won't be satisfied until we get a Super Bowl, so I know what I'm getting in my quarterback."

Next up, the Ravens travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals Sunday afternoon. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Ravens had eight passing plays of at least 20 yards. Only one team -- the Los Angeles Chargers with nine against Minnesota -- has had more in a game this season.

"Todd [Monken] got a game ball with the offensive coaches in there," Harbaugh said. "Those plays are great plays, but they were executed well. It starts with the quarterback."

Running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill had an even snap share with each playing 30. Edwards had 14 carries for Hill's four, however. Edwards piled up 64 rushing yards and a touchdown while Hill was highly efficient with 46 yards on just four totes.

Edwards also turned a short pass into an 80-yard catch and run, showing his speed at 20.23 mph (the fastest of his career as a ball carrier).

Hill was part of a botched exchange with Jackson that led to Baltimore's eighth lost fumble, which is tied for second most in the NFL. Jackson had words with Hill after the play and threw his helmet at the bench on the sideline.

Rookie running back Keaton Mitchell got his first NFL offensive snaps and flashed his potential on a 9-yard run, but unfortunately suffered a hamstring injury after just two snaps and didn't return. He could've seen more action in the blowout.

Harbaugh told reporters that Mitchell is "week-to-week" with a chance to play against the Cardinals. ...

According to's Nathan Jahnke, the Ravens' wide receiver rotation was altered slightly.

Nelson Agholor and Devin Duvernay had been sharing snaps in 11 personnel while Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman shared one of the outside receiver roles. There were four plays in this game where Zay Flowers, Beckham and Bateman were the three receivers in 11 personnel without Agholor or Duvernay on the field.

This and the game script meant fewer snaps for Agholor.

Bateman had his best game yet in PFF's eyes, logging two catches for 36 yards, and was one of the Ravens' highest-graded players. Bateman had 30 snaps compared to 22 for Agholor.

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that Beckham had a season high 25 percent target share against the Lions. His previous season high was just 14.3 percent.

QBs: Lamar Jackson, Josh Johnson
RBs: Derrick Henry, Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon, Keaton Mitchell
WRs: Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

The Buffalo Bills' offense took the field at Gillette Stadium on Sunday expecting a big day.

While the Bills were coming off scoring just seven points in the first three quarters of the last two games combined, the New England Patriots defense came into Week 7 allowing 25.3 points per game (ranked 24th coming into Week 7). Quarterback Josh Allen had thrived against the Patriots in recent years, with 18 touchdowns, two interceptions and a total QBR of 81.6 in the past seven meetings.

But on Buffalo's first offensive play, Allen threw a pass intended for tight end Dawson Knox that was picked off with relative ease by safety Jabrill Peppers.

As's Alaina Getzenberg reported, the play was a sign of the offensive struggles to come, with the Bills scoring only three points in the first half and 10 in the first three quarters in what became a 29-25 loss. The offense showed life in the fourth quarter with 15 points scored in just under four minutes, but it was too late to change the outcome.

Sunday's loss leaves the Bills with more questions than answers ahead of a short week with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming to town Thursday.

What's the answer to fixing the offensive woes of a team with Super Bowl aspirations?

According to Getzenberg, these four issues need to be addressed.

1. Striking early: The Bills have been outscored 24-0 in the first quarter of the last three games and lost the points differential in the first half of those games by 20 points, a sharp change from the league best +54 in first halves from the first four games of the year.

"I wish I could tell you. I really do," head coach Sean McDermott said on the early offensive issues. "... We talk about being more detailed, getting into a rhythm early, playing complementary football and all three phases working together. We haven't been able to get into a good rhythm, obviously, in the first quarter."

For McDermott, getting into a rhythm means staying "on schedule" and being productive on first down to help avoid third-and-long situations. Against the Patriots, the Bills were mostly productive on first down, averaging 6.3 yards per play. It wasn't a big issue in Weeks 5-6 either, with the Bills averaging 8.1 yards per play on first down in those games.

Instead, second down was the problem. Buffalo averaged just 3 yards per play on second down against the Patriots, the lowest average on the down by any team in Week 7. In the prior two games, the Bills were averaging 4.5 yards per play on second down.

Being productive on third-and-long is an issue. In third-and-7 or longer situations over the last three games, the Bills have gained 45 yards on 18 plays with Allen completing 31.3 percent of passes -- the worst team completion percentage in the league in those situations.

"That's when it gets to be hard to call a game against two-dimensional offense," McDermott said. "When you're on schedule, winning first downs or skipping third downs or even putting us into a third down-and-short to medium at most. Too many off-schedule situations."

Worth noting: The Buccaneers have allowed 55 first-half points, tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL.

2. Playing complementary: The Bills got away from running the ball early in the game after falling behind, but also didn't try to reignite it in the second half. Eight of running back James Cook's 13 carries and two of Latavius Murray's four carries were in the first half.

"We aren't playing consistent enough or starting fast enough," Murray said. "We turned it around toward the end, but you can't just turn it on, it's a little too late."

3. Big plays: Allen has put together mixed performances when throwing deep, and the negative side has hurt the offense. He now has seven interceptions on passes of 15-plus air yards this season. The only time in his career he has thrown more was in his rookie year (9).

No one has attempted more throws of 15 or more air yards than Allen this season (59), but those throws didn't work out against New England as he finished with the worst completion percentage of the last two season on such throws (2-of-10) and dropped his season percentage to 46 percent. He has, however, thrown six touchdowns on passes of 15 or more air yards.

4. Adjusting before halftime: The slow starts also fall on playcaller/offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey as well as Allen for not better adjusting the offense to what the defense is doing.

Against the Patriots, Allen was blitzed (42 percent) and pressured (40 percent) at season-high rates. Eventually, in the second half, the offense adapted as he completed 7-of-11 of those throws with two touchdowns when blitzed in the second half.

Defenses have found ways to neutralize the offense. The Bills can't wait until halftime to find better solutions.

"I wish I knew the exact answer because we'd have it fixed by now," Allen said when asked about the slow starts. "We're going to watch this film and find a way to get there, whatever it is. Our season is not over. It's a long season. Feels pretty bleak right now, but we're going to figure it out."

No surprisingly, Dorsey is on the hot seat because the current issues the Bills are facing are similar to ones the offense endured in the second half of last season.

For what it's worth, Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow reports that Allen insisted the shoulder issue that landed him on the injury report wasn't a contributing factor in his performance. He finished 21 of 41 for 265 yards while throwing two touchdowns and rushing for one.

Buffalo's rushing attack offered little in the way of relief, averaging 3.4 yards on 24 attempts.

Now, it's back to the drawing board in an attempt to fix an offense that's looked far too predictable and unimaginative in recent weeks.

"We've got a standard that we want to uphold. It's a week-by-week league. We've just got to focus on our execution," Knox said.

Added Allen: "Our season is not over. It's a long season. Feels pretty bleak right now, but we're going to figure it out."

For the record. ... McDermott reiterated his confidence in Dorsey following the loss to New England.

With four other coaches on Buffalo's offensive staff with experience as NFL coordinators, the question becomes how many more votes of support does Dorsey get?

Other notes of interest. ... Cook had a big day for the Bills, leading their skill position players in total scrimmage yards with 102. Cook had racked up 334 total yards through the first three weeks but had managed 169 in Weeks 4-6.

The second-year pro rushed 13 times for 56 yards against the Patriots and caught three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. His 8-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was Buffalo's first TD of the game and Cook's first receiving score of the year.

This became a two-man backfield when Damien Harris went on IR last week, with Murray working alongside Cook.

The veteran ended up taking the two-minute drill snaps that typically went to Cook, so the two remained relatively similar in terms of playing time.

But Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason points out that prior to Week 7, Cook hadn't seen higher than a 60 percent running back rush share since Week 1. His share was 76.5 percent on Sunday.

So Cook was the only one to shine this week from a fantasy football perspective, but's Nathan Jahnke contends if the Bills can get back to being the team they were in recent years, there is a chance both running backs could be viable for fantasy football purposes. ...

After missing last week's game with a concussion, tight end Dalton Kincaid returned to the lineup on Sunday and had his best day as a pro.

In his fifth NFL game, Kincaid hauled in all eight of his targets for a career-high 75 yards.

"Definitely a bright part of the game," his Knox said.

Kincaid was Allen's go-to target particularly in the first half when the rookie led the team in both targets (4) and receiving yards (44). The Allen-Kincaid connection came up huge during the Bills' initial go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter.

Facing a 4th and 2 from the New England 8-yard line with under three minutes to play, Allen found an open Kincaid along the sideline for a first down. Three plays later, the Bills got their first lead of the game.

Kincaid is up to 27 catches for 193 yards this season.

"Very impressed and it was great to see, honestly," McDermott said of Kincaid. "It's good for our offense. The question was asked earlier about some of the things I saw yesterday and I was happy with that to say the least.

"That's something that we've needed to get going for some time now. And obviously, he was out the week prior with a concussion so it's good to see him getting going, building a rapport with Josh [Allen]. I think that can help us moving forward here."

The No. 25 overall pick of this year's draft, Kincaid has recorded 25 receptions for 193 yards in six games so far this year.

In a related note. ... McDermott told reporters on Monday that Knox will undergo wrist surgery to deal with a lingering injury first suffered against the Jaguars.

But McDermott noted there isn't currently a timeline for Knox's return.

"I wish I could tell you. It's too early right now," McDermott said. "The decision was just made to go ahead and get that done."

Knox played 63 percent of Buffalo's offensive snaps on Sunday. He had one catch on three targets for 10 yards.

In seven games, Knox has recorded 15 catches for 102 yards with one TD this season.

With Knox out, the Bills will likely rely even more on Kincaid. ...

Beyond Knox, defensive tackle Ed Oliver did not play in their loss to the Patriots because of a toe injury, but Monday brought some hope about his outlook for Thursday night's game against the Buccaneers.

Oliver was listed as a limited practice participant on the team's estimated injury report and McDermott said the same listing will be in place for Tuesday's session. He also suggested Tuesday would bring more clarity on Oliver's chances of being in the lineup.

"We'll know a little bit more today on his situation," McDermott said, via Ryan O'Halloran of the Buffalo News. "It's going to be close."

Edge rusher Von Miller appeared on the injury report as limited by rest and a knee issue after playing just six snaps against New England. The combination doesn't seem great for a player who tore his ACL last season, but McDermott said that the veteran is in "a good spot" heading into Thursday.

QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson
WRs: Khalil Shakir, Curtis Samuel, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Dawson Knox, Quintin Morris

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, Adam Thielen is proving he has plenty of gas left in the tank.

Through six games for the Carolina Panthers, the 33-year-old wide receiver has 49 catches for 509 yards and four touchdowns. If he maintains that pace, he'd finish with a career-best 139 receptions.

That type of success hasn't surprised coach Frank Reich, who pushed for the Panthers to sign Thielen after he was cut by the Minnesota Vikings this past offseason after 10 productive seasons and two Pro Bowls.

"I've tried to say that from the start, this guy is special," Reich said. "He's a special route runner and he has special football smarts and savvy. He's a unique and elite competitor. He's an elite leader."

What bothers Thielen, though, is that his production hasn't translated into wins.

The Panthers (0-6) head into their bye week as the NFL's only winless team.

"We need some kind of reset, need something to change what's going on," Thielen said after Carolina's 42-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week. "Figure out each of us, look ourselves in the mirror and find a way to get better. But also just mentally and physically just get a little break and move on to the next part of the season."

Thielen's name has been the subject of trade rumors given that Carolina's chances of snapping a five-season playoff drought are miniscule. No NFL team has rebounded from an 0-6 start to make the postseason in the Super Bowl era.

But the Panthers appear content to keep the highly productive Thielen around to aid in the development of rookie quarterback Bryce Young. The No. 1 pick has struggled, although he hasn't gotten great protection and some of the team's other wide receivers haven't gotten consistent separation from defenders.

Thielen has been a reliable target for Young through it all.

"You can tell Bryce has a ton of confidence in him," Reich said.

There were questions about Thielen's ability to get open last season, even though he caught 70 passes for 716 yards and six touchdowns for the Vikings. And some critics questioned whether the Panthers, who've been desperate for a No. 1 receiver since Steve Smith Sr.'s departure in 2014, overpaid for Thielen by giving him a three-year contract worth $25 million, including $11 million guaranteed.

Those questions carried over to the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, when Thielen caught two passes for 12 yards and was a non-factor while playing through an ankle injury.

But since then, Thielen has been on a tear.

Over the past five games, he has averaged more than nine receptions and nearly 100 yards per game. He's had 11 catches in three of his past four games for an offense that ranks near the bottom of the league.

Thielen has been Mr. Reliable.

He's been targeted 59 times and his 49 catches put him one behind Puka Nacua and Ja'Marr Chase for the league lead entering this weekend's games.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins remembers talking with then-Minnesota assistant coach Kevin Stefanski about Thielen's scouting report when he came out of Division II Minnesota State Mankato as an undrafted rookie.

"Undrafted, try hard," Cousins said. "You know, we always roll our eyes at those kind of reports on guys. So I probably wouldn't have given him the credit that he deserved, because I would have been like everybody else who judged a book by its cover, looking at his bio. And Kevin Stefanski is the one who said, 'This guy's 4.4, this guy's the No. 1, this guy can do it.'

"So, from day one, I went along with Kevin's breakdown saying, 'All right, I've gotta treat this guy like he was a first-round pick and block out the fact that he played D-II ball and he's kind of had to fight his way up here,'" Cousins said.

Thielen clearly benefited from playing alongside Stefon Diggs and later Justin Jefferson in Minnesota, and was viewed as the No. 2 receiver.

But Cousins said he felt like the Vikings actually had two No. 1 receivers.

"Obviously Stefon Diggs has become a clear No. 1 in this league, and a Pro Bowler, and that was Adam -- you could see that. They could go toe-to-toe with each other," Cousins said. "We had two of those guys, and it obviously made it a lot of fun as a quarterback. And Adam's been doing it for so long. ..."

Also of interest. ... According to Charlotte Observer staffer Mike Kay, Reich is keeping his running back situation open-ended following the Week 7 bye.

Monday, the coach tiptoed around a definitive answer on his running back room when asked about the future of the depth chart.

With starting running back Miles Sanders dealing with a shoulder injury, and Chuba Hubbard playing well in his absence in the Week 6 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Reich has some wiggle room when it comes to gamesmanship ahead of Sunday's home matchup against the Houston Texans.

"Chuba's looked good," Reich said. "Obviously, we love Miles. And Miles has continued to make good progress. We'll continue to get into this week a little bit. It's always going to be a little bit by committee. That's typically our approach. So the actual mix, that could vary week to week, so we'll see how things play out this week."

Hubbard, who started against Miami, is averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season. That average dwarfs Sanders' output at 3.1 yards per tote through five games.

With just 54 carries, Hubbard leads the Panthers with 242 rushing yards. He's also caught 13 passes for 59 yards. The third-year running back has excelled with rushing between the tackles, an area where Sanders has come up short.

The Panthers gave Sanders, a 2022 Pro Bowl selection, a four-year, $25.4 million contract in free agency in March. But so far, Sanders has been outplayed by Hubbard, as the starter has picked up 190 rushing yards and a touchdown on 61 carries.

Carolina will monitor Sanders' injury as the team begins the week of preparation on Wednesday. Perhaps the two-week layoff can help Sanders bounce back from the sluggish start to the season. The fifth-year running back was sidelined throughout a good portion of training camp with a groin injury, so distancing himself even further from that ailment could also seemingly help him re-emerge.

If Sanders were to miss another matchup, Hubbard would most likely get the call to start in his place again. Hubbard picked up 88 rushing yards and a touchdown against Miami in Week 6, establishing himself as a viable lead option out of the backfield.

Raheem Blackshear, who had been a healthy scratch for four games, supplemented Hubbard's performance with five carries for 18 yards. Along with Sanders' injury, the Panthers are also monitoring an ankle injury for wideout/running back Laviska Shenault.

The 2020 second-round pick has effectively been used as a depth receiver and the third running back on offense to this point. If Sanders and Shenault were both to sit out of the matchup against the Texans, the Panthers would probably have to turn to the practice squad where Tarik Cohen is counted on as depth. Cohen hasn't appeared in a regular-season game since 2020 when he suffered a catastrophic knee injury. ...

Finally. ... Word as the Panthers were heading into their bye week was that safety Jeremy Chinn will miss an extended period of time with a quad injury and the team confirmed it on Tuesday.

Chinn was placed on injured reserve, which means he will be out for at least the next four games. He had company in making the move to that list. Edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos and tight end Giovanni Ricci have also been placed on I.R.

While those three were headed to the list, guard Austin Corbett was moving in the opposite direction. Corbett has been activated from the physically unable to perform list after making enough progress in his recovery from a torn ACL to make the jump to game action.

The Panther filled the other two open roster spots by signing offensive lineman Brett Toth off of the Eagles' practice squad and linebacker Luiji Vilain from the Vikings' practice squad.

QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Diontae Johnson, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Tommy Tremble, Stephen Sullivan, Ian Thomas, Hayden Hurst

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

A rookie quarterback and backup running back led the Chicago Bears to their first win at Soldier Field in 13 months.

Tyson Bagent, the 23-year-old undrafted free agent playing in place of an injured Justin Fields, led a 30-12 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders to become the first Bears quarterback to win his first career start since Craig Krenzel in 2004.

It was Chicago's first win at home since Sept. 25, 2022.

Bagent, the Division II product from Shepherd University who holds the NCAA record for career touchdown passes (159), prepared all week as the starter after Fields suffered a dislocated thumb against the Minnesota Vikings.

The rookie completed 21 of 29 pass attempts for 162 yards and a touchdown (97.2 passer rating) and rushed three times for 24 yards, including a 12-yard scramble on a second-and-11 in the third quarter to keep a drive alive that led to a touchdown and a 21-3 lead. Bagent did not turn the ball over in a clean, efficient performance -- the Bears were 8-of-13 on third down -- to cement Chicago's second win of the season.

"He took what they were giving him," wide receiver D.J. Moore said of Bagent. "He stayed within himself, he didn't go out and do nothing extraordinary and he stayed calm, collected. Did what he had to do."

As's Courtney Cronin notes, the game plan didn't require Bagent to put the weight of the team on his shoulders.

Seven different players caught passes, with Moore leading with a team-high eight for 54 yards. Chicago generated its second-highest rushing output of the season (173 yards), led by D'Onta Foreman's season-best 89 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns.

"That was really the whole thing," head coach Matt Eberflus said. "We wanted [Bagent] to have good rhythm, timing, good protection; don't let 98 [Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby] wreck the game. Those were all our keys to victory. And distribute the ball to skill players, and when you're able to run the ball the way we were, they have to come up the line of scrimmage and in some good advantageous pass situations for us offensively.

"Overall it was really great effort by the whole group."

Foreman became the fifth Bears player in the past 60 seasons with two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in a single game as he racked up 19 touches on Sunday, his most with Chicago.

"I thought D'Onta played out of his mind today," Bagent said. "... I know he was itching to get out there and have a good game."

Injuries in Chicago's backfield to Khalil Herbert (ankle) and Roschon Johnson (concussion) have allowed Foreman, who was inactive Weeks 2 through 5, to carve out a bigger role over the past two games.

"When he was down, and then we activated him up, he was the same guy all the time, and that was pretty cool," Eberflus said. "... He knew his opportunity was going to come. Last week, you know, he wanted to perform better, and today he did. So I think he's just got to start stacking performances and keeping that positive, can-do attitude like he did."

As for this coming week?

Fields is classified as doubtful for the team's Week 8 matchup against the Chargers, Eberflus said Monday.

Eberflus said there was "no change" with Fields' recovery from a dislocated right thumb, adding "he's not there yet."

It should go without saying, but Bagent will be the Bears' starting quarterback until Fields is cleared to return.

Bagent praised Fields for his help in preparing for the Raiders throughout the week.

The rookie admitted he felt nervous until he took the field pregame and marveled at a home crowd he dubbed "off the chain."

When asked how many friends and family he had in attendance for the win, Bagent joked that his paycheck would likely look different this week. The magnitude of what he accomplished Sunday earned a game ball from Eberflus and puts him in rarified air as the eighth quarterback to record a win in his first Bears start since 1970.

"I've got a bunch of friends, a bunch of family that understand how big this was, just really in life," Bagent said. "Not a lot of people get to say they started an NFL game, let alone win an NFL game."

Worth noting: Bagent relied on short passes in his first NFL start, averaging 2.1 air yards per attempt without throwing a single pass over 15 air yards. Bagent threw it 10-plus air yards on just 14 percent of his pass attempts. His 2.1 air yards per attempt is the shortest average depth by a qualified QB in a game this season.

Cronin pointed out elements of this offense that had struggled in recent weeks seemed to find solutions with Bagent at QB, like the screen game (5-for-5 for 30 yards) and third-down conversions (8-of-13).

It all gives the offense something to build on entering Week 8. ...

I'll have more on Fields' progress and on Johnson -- Eberflus said the rookie running back has "another hurdle" to clear, but is on course to practice Wednesday -- via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

In a related noted. ... Yes, Fields remains Chicago's No. 1 quarterback. But as Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman points out, the Bears have some big decisions looming. One is whether to exercise his fifth-year option for 2025.

The Bears could be in a position to draft one of the top quarterbacks, with their own first-round pick or the one they got from Carolina in the trade for Moore.

The Panthers (0-6) are the lone winless team. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Herbert will miss at least another two games and, as's Nathan Jahnke notes, we all assumed Johnson would be the clear starter when he clears the concussion protocol. But Forman's performance Sunday will likely open the door to Johnson being eased in after missing time while Foreman remains a starter.

Regardless, we could see close to a 50-50 split with Johnson and Foreman. ...

This was the second time in his career Foreman found the end zone three times. He also scored three touchdowns in a game as a member of the Panthers when Carolina played Atlanta last Oct. 30.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Foreman is also the first Bears running back to score three TDs in a game since Jordan Howard, who did so on Dec. 4, 2016, against San Francisco.

The other Bears players in the past 60 seasons to have two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in a game were Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Matt Forte and Neal Anderson.

Sunday marked the fourth consecutive game where the Bears have rushed for 160-plus yards.

Fellow running back Darrynton Evans also posted a strong performance, rushing for 48 yards on 14 carries. ...

With eight catches Sunday, Moore now sits at 404 career receptions.

While the majority of Moore's career production came from his five seasons in Carolina, the veteran has caught 40 passes in seven games with the Bears this season. ...

A week after hitting a 53-yard field goal, Santos set a new season-high by connecting on a 54-yarder in the fourth quarter. Santos has made one other 54-yard FG in his career, doing so on Sept, 18, 2016, when he played for the Chiefs.

The veteran kicker is now 11-of-11 on FG attempts this season, including 3-of-3 from 50-plus yards.

QBs: Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Andre Swift, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen, Tyler Scott, Trent Taylor, Velus Jones Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Gerald Everett, Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

After winning the AFC North in consecutive seasons and returning most of their starters, the Bengals were expected to make a deep run into the playoffs.

But as Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacy noted, a team that is fortunate to be 3-3 at its bye week hasn't dazzled anyone. Joe Burrow has battled a calf injury that limited his mobility, but the blame can't all be heaped on the NFL's highest-paid player who didn't get to practice until the week before the season started.

There is an under-performing offensive line and lack of production in both the pass and run games.

The Bengals are among the worst in the league in most offensive categories, including total yards per game, rushing yards per game and passing yards per play.

"We haven't scored enough to really take the pressure off our team," head coach Zac Taylor said. "We know we're capable of that. Fortunately, we're in a decent spot here with our record 3-3. We can control our own destiny going forward. That's the benefit of our defense having played really well, the chance to take a breath here in the bye week and come out and get the ball in the end zone."

The bright spot has been receiver Ja'Marr Chase, whose best games this season have coincided with the return of Burrow's mobility.

"I just think that there needs to be more production and offense in general for everybody not named Ja'Marr Chase," offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said.

Tee Higgins, the No. 2 receiver who has shown he is capable of big plays, caught two short TD passes from Burrow in the Week 2 loss to the Ravens but hasn't done much else. He suffered a cracked rib in the loss to Tennessee and missed the next game. He was back last week and had only two catches for 20 yards.

Irv Smith Jr. was acquired to replace pass-catching tight end Hayden Hurst, but Smith has been slowed by a hamstring injury and hasn't been a major contributor. No. 1 running back Joe Mixon is averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has a single touchdown.

The Bengals dropped their first two games and have now won two in a row, the last one a 17-13 squeaker over Seattle that was preserved by two red zone stops by the Cincinnati defense in the final minutes.

"Good enough to be 3-3, but not good enough to be where we want to be at the end of the year, for a lot of reasons," Callahan said this week. "But at this point, performance needs to be better all the way around -- coaching, playing, the whole thing. So, yeah, happy we're 3-3, but disappointed with the end results.

"Some of it is, we missed some throws. We've dropped some balls. We've given up some sacks. It's kind of, you know, everyone's had a moment in the barrel, if you will," he said.

Burrow strained a calf muscle on July 27 and was sidelined for the entirely of training camp. He aggravated the injury in the Week 2 loss to the Ravens. He looked as close to normal last week as he has all season.

"It sure feels like he's, if he's not normal, he's pretty close," Callahan said. "Thankfully, that's a good thing. And then, and obviously a handful of days off to rest too, should put him in a pretty good place coming out of the bye."

Knowing it's going to be harder to get to the playoffs for a third straight season, let alone win the division, the Bengals will try to reset. They still have to play division games against Cleveland and Baltimore again, and Pittsburgh twice.

They resume Oct. 29 at San Francisco to play the first-place 49ers, who are tied for the best record in the NFL.

"Bye week's coming at a good time," Burrow said. "Get some guys healthy, come back, and we've got a grind ahead of us, so we've got to get better."

QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Zack Moss, Chase Brown, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Mike Gesicki, Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Deshaun Watson said he's "not sure" if he reinjured his throwing shoulder after leaving Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

He also said he doesn't know if he'll be able to start this weekend against the Seattle Seahawks.

"It's very disappointing," Watson said. "Just right back to the drawing board. It's part of the game, I guess. You just have to deal with the adversity. But I'm going to keep my head held high, keep grinding and training and be there for my teammates."

Watson had missed Cleveland's previous two games with a rotator cuff strain in his right, throwing shoulder. In his first start back, Watson exited Sunday's game in the first quarter after taking a hit from Colts defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo.

Watson cleared concussion protocol, but coach Kevin Stefanski elected to go with backup quarterback P.J. Walker the rest of the way.

For the second straight week, Walker led the Browns on a game-winning scoring drive, as Cleveland (4-2) came back to defeat the Colts 39-38.

"I just did not want to put [Watson] back out there," Stefanski said. "I wanted to protect our franchise quarterback. That was my decision."

Watson had completed only 1 of 5 passes for five yards with an interception when he left.

Walker completed 15-of-32 passes for 178 yards and an interception, yet led the Browns on the 12-play, 80-yard drive, which was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Kareem Hunt with 15 seconds remaining.

"They felt like the decision was best to let P.J. go in and finish the game," Watson said. "P.J. did a great job."

Stefanski said that Watson is "our starter moving forward," including in Seattle if "he's ready to roll."

Watson, however, said he didn't know if he would be able to practice this upcoming week.

Until Thursday of last week, Watson had not had a full practice since Sept. 22. Watson had said that he had trouble driving the ball downfield due to the shoulder injury. But Stefanski said after Friday's practice that Watson looked like himself again.

After Watson exited Sunday's game, the Browns didn't give him an injury designation and only announced that he had cleared the concussion protocol.

Stefanski also said that Watson would've gone back into the game had Walker been injured; the Browns didn't have another quarterback dressed.

"Whenever I step on the field, I don't want to have any pain holding me back and be handicapped," Watson said. "We had a great week of preparation and we felt that it was the best opportunity for me to come back this week. I just wasn't able to finish the game."

Stefanski spoke with reporters again on Monday. The coach did not address a specific question about whether Watson underwent more medical tests, saying the team was awaiting results "on a bunch of guys."

Stefanski was also vague on whether the team would consider putting Watson on injured reserve, giving him four weeks to heal.

"Listen, he's getting better," Stefanski said. "He's a competitive kid. He is working hard."

Stefanski reiterated Watson's injury is being treated "day to day," the team's standard line after some mixed messages over the past few weeks.

Worth noting: Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported Tuesday that Watson had a new MRI on Monday that showed no additional damage to his throwing shoulder. But he's still working to regain his strength and velocity. Pelissero confirmed Watson is "day to day" and that his status for Sunday's game is uncertain.

Watson has made only nine starts for Cleveland in two seasons since signing a $230 million contract with the Browns. He was suspended 11 games last season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The Browns dealt with a couple of other injuries as well.

DE Alex Wright was placed in concussion protocol and running back Jerome Ford left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

Ford, who rushed for 74 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown, will miss a week or two with a "low grade, high ankle" sprain according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. That would mean Ford will miss Sunday at Seattle and possibly the following Sunday against the Cardinals.

Ford became the Browns' starting running back when Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury. Ford has 78 carries for 344 yards and two touchdowns this season, plus 14 catches for 104 yards and two more receiving touchdowns.

He ran for a 69-yard touchdown in the first minute of the game. After that point, he ran 10 times for 5 yards and caught two passes for 20 yards.

He played in 30 of a possible 44 snaps in the first three quarters before leaving the game.

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, Hunt was questionable coming into this game with a thigh injury that kept him limited in practice all week. His role was larger last week, but he seemed to be limited in this game.

Pierre Strong Jr. played only three snaps over the first three quarters, but he was the primary running back in the fourth quarter, playing 17 of 28 snaps.

Hunt should be a waiver wire target in case Ford misses time, assuming he is healthier by their next game. If both backs are hurting, Strong could have a big game.

I'll obviously be watching the Browns closely in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on Watson and Ford as the week progresses. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Amari Cooper caught just 2 passes for 22 yards, but Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes he did have a 22.9 percent target share.

David Njoku led the Browns with 9 targets -- he had a season high 25.7 percent target share.

Njoku posted a season-high 54 receiving yards but still hasn't scored a touchdown, continuing his disappointing fantasy football season. He's generally put up bigger numbers the last two seasons when Watson is out.

Also according to Jahnke, the Browns begin easing out Donovan Peoples-Jones, who was consistently playing over 85 percent of Cleveland's offensive snaps the last two seasons.

His role this season has declined.

This was only the second game this season where he caught more than one pass. He brought in two for 22 yards.

Veteran speedster Marquise Goodwin is taking playing time from Peoples-Jones.

Third-round rookie Cedric Tillman seemed to be a healthy inactive after missing last week due to a hip injury. He was a full participant in practice all week and wasn't given an injury designation. ...

Finally. ... Cleveland's errant kicking game has straightened out. Dustin Hopkins gets all the credit.

Hopkins made four more field goals Sunday, becoming the first kicker in league history to convert an attempt of at least 50 yards in five consecutive games. He's 7 of 7 on kicks beyond midfield.

The Browns couldn't have imagined Hopkins being this good when they acquired him just before the season in a trade.

"We don't want to be kicking too often from 50-plus yards," Stefanski said. "But the guy just continues to come through for his football team."

QBs: Jameis Winston, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Tyler Huntley, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, D'Onta Foreman, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Jerry Jeudy, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Head coach Mike McCarthy likes roller coasters, but he hopes after the bye week his Dallas Cowboys can have a smoother ride after an up-and-down first six games.

"Just in this short range of games, the peaks and valleys have been different than I've been part of as a head coach," McCarthy said.

For the Cowboys, the anticipation brought on by the click-clack of the roller coaster as it lurches toward the top has been equaled by the fear of steep falls.

As's Todd Archer notes, the Cowboys opened with dominating wins against the New York Giants (40-0) and New York Jets (30-10), which was followed by a lackluster 28-16 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The following week, they handed coach Bill Belichick the worst loss of his coaching career, beating the New England Patriots 38-3.

Then came the debilitating 42-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers that exposed every flaw, followed by a 20-17 win against the Los Angeles Chargers that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told the other coaches was "gritty; it just wasn't pretty."

"It's really part of your journey, part of your path. To think you control that, that's not realistic," McCarthy said. "Every team has a goal to get through this journey and win the Super Bowl. Clearly, that's how your year starts, but everybody has a different path. It's important for us to keep our eyes forward and to keep moving forward."

At 4-2 for the second straight season, the Cowboys are in decent position to qualify for the playoffs for a third straight year, something they have not done since the Super Bowl days of the 1990s.

It's a position that could have been better had the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Miami Dolphins.

However, the Cowboys can have a large say in the NFC East race with two games remaining against their division rival.

According to Archer, McCarthy has broken the season up into trimesters because of how the schedule breaks. The Cowboys just completed the first trimester with four of their first six games on the road, including three prime-time games.

The second trimester starts Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams and ends Nov. 30 against the Seattle Seahawks on "Thursday Night Football" before a 10-day break leading into a hellacious December.

Four of the Cowboys' next six games are at home where they have won 10 straight games, the longest active home winning streak. The last time the Cowboys had such a streak at home was 11 straight, spanning the 1991 and 1992 seasons when they called Texas Stadium home.

The Rams game will mark their first home contest in 41 days.

"No place like home, right?" McCarthy said. "It's important for us to maintain the home-field advantage that you can establish. I'm looking forward to playing at home."

The Cardinals' loss is something they might regret more than the 49ers' loss. Arizona has not won another game this season, so the Cowboys almost have to be perfect at home.

They can ill afford more hiccups, but there is much to improve upon.

McCarthy specifically mentioned pre-snap penalties, but penalties in general are an issue. They have 46 for 357 yards, which led the NFL after six weeks.

The running game is averaging 3.9 yards per carry despite having the preferred offensive line of Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin and Terence Steele playing together for the past two games. The red zone remains an issue for the offense with the Cowboys converting on just 9 of 23 opportunities.

Defensively, they have allowed 16 pass plays of 20 yards or more despite playing offensively challenged teams like the Giants, Jets, Cardinals and Patriots. Through six games last season, they allowed just 10 pass plays of 20 yards or more.

On Monday, McCarthy held his "across the hall" sessions, where the offensive coaches meet with the defensive players and vice versa to help with the self-scout process.

"We've got to improve," McCarthy said.

The next six games hold the key to the season. Win at least five, and the Cowboys will be in good shape coming into a December and January that features games against the Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Dolphins, Detroit Lions and Washington Commanders.

When the players reconvene Monday, McCarthy isn't going to take a global view of where the Cowboys are at the moment. He wants their focus on the present. He wants to get off the roller coaster.

"I don't pay much attention to the records. There are two things that I've always really focused on, your self-scout and your division," McCarthy said. "I don't think you ever have to look outside of your division for a barometer of where you are, especially in October.

"I go by the old adage, when you get to 10 wins, then look around. It's probably 11 wins now because it's a 17-game season. It's part of our business, and there's a lot of conversation, but I've never used that with the team. I don't see the benefit of it, frankly. ..."

From a fantasy perspective, after a pair of down (both under 10 fantasy points) efforts, Tony Pollard cracked the top-12 fantasy players at the position in Week 6.

A relatively normal game script helped stabilize the offense and increase Pollard's touches. His 110 scrimmage yards certainly appear solid on paper.

But ESPN's Liz Loza is not convinced.

The 26-year-old struggled on the ground, managing 0.40 yards before contact per rush. His 30 rushing yards ranked 34th at the position (behind Ezekiel Elliott and Darrynton Evans) while his 15 carries ranked 15th among RBs (ahead of Bijan Robinson and Joe Mixon).

Loza went on to advise readers there was very little creativity to Dallas' run game, as Pollard regularly efforted up the middle and into congestion. It's been an issue for Zeke's heir apparent, as he's managed 2.7 yards per carry when facing a competent run defense (Jets, 49ers, Chargers).

Pollard's receiving ability are the hallmark of his game.

Converting 6 of 7 looks for 80 yards against the Chargers, Pollard materialized as the Cowboys second-most productive pass-catcher.

Loza believes it's entirely possible that Dallas takes the bye to sort out the team's efficiency issues. And Pollard will likely return to the top-15 FF RB ranks in Week 8.

But it's something to be mindful of as we move forward, particularly facing another L.A. team that's solid at halting the rush post-bye.

QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Staring down another fourth-quarter deficit, the Broncos played some of their best football in the biggest moments of their Week 7 home matchup with the Green Bay Packers.

After parlaying a 9-0 halftime lead into a 16-3 advantage, the Broncos allowed a pair of second-half touchdowns that gave the Packers a 17-16 lead with 8:31 to play. Denver responded, though, with a 41-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 52-yard Wil Lutz field goal to retake the lead for good.

The 19-17 victory meant the end of Denver's dubious streak of blown halftime leads and the Broncos' first home victory under coach Sean Payton.

How did the defense go from a 70-20 loss to the Dolphins to allowing two touchdowns to the Packers?

The Broncos' defense gave up two touchdowns Sunday and has shown more progress in many ways than the team's offense.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has tweaked the lineup with Fabian Moreau starting at corner opposite of Pat Surtain II to go with rookie linebacker Drew Sanders being added into the nickel package. They've also done better with their run fits and have played with far more passion and far more assignment sound football.

On offense?

Three plays into Sunday's game, wide receiver Courtland Sutton made the invigorating brand of play that has seemingly become habitual for him this season.

Sutton lined up along the right sideline for Denver's third-and-7 attempt, created a slight window of separation from the Green Bay defender in coverage and extended for a diving catch. The highlight-reel reception kept the Broncos' offense on the field for an opening drive that culminated in a field goal and kick-started the Denver passing game.

After the game, Sutton said the play was emblematic of his role for the offense and within the locker room.

"It was huge to be able to get a touch early in the game [and] get some juice, not only for myself but for the team," Sutton said. "I know the guys look for me to be a guy to go make plays, and it's nice to be able to get the juice going on the offensive side of the ball. We all are looking for that spark, and to be able to make a play [and] stay on the field especially on third down, it was huge."

Sutton continued to make his imprint on the matchup, finishing the afternoon with six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown reception in the Broncos' 19-17 victory.

Payton highlighted Sutton as a game-changer in Denver's first home win of the season.

"Obviously, real big," Payton said of Sutton's performance. "He's a big target. The touchdown he has is on third down, I believe. There's a lot of confidence in his catch radius, and there are some matchups that get created when he's on the field. [I'm] proud of him and he played extremely well."

Just over a week after corralling a touchdown catch with one arm against Kansas City, Sutton found the end zone once again in the third quarter. With pristine blocking from the Broncos' offensive line and effective routes from Denver's receivers that cleared out space, Sutton pulled in an 18-yard pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to put the Broncos ahead by two scores.

The touchdown reception was Sutton's fifth in just seven games this season and put him within one touchdown of tying his career-best for a single season. Wilson said after the game that the play was designed to get Sutton in isolation and take advantage of his unique size and skill set, and Sutton made the most of the opportunity.

Like the opening-drive catch, Sutton contextualized his touchdown reception in terms of his responsibility to his team.

"It's nice to be able to get in the box, but it's not really just for myself," Sutton said. "I love to be able to contribute and help the team be successful. I know that myself, being able to get into the box is what's going to help us be successful."

Wilson praised Sutton's performance throughout the game -- Sutton recorded a first down on three of his six receptions -- but pointed to the veteran receiver's consistency to explain how he's become as a leader in the Broncos' locker room and a catalyst for their offensive success.

"Courtland, he's been clutch," Wilson said. "He made a huge down-the-field catch early in the game. He did a good job of winning a couple times early, and then late too as well as the game went on.

"He's a consummate pro. You're talking about a professional, a guy that comes in every day with a smile on his face, confident, a guy that leads -- that's why he's one of our captains. I think [he's] a guy that no matter what the circumstances are, he's always going to believe. He's one of my favorite teammates that I've played with because he goes up and down the sideline, bringing energy, talking to guys, letting them know what we're going to do. He's like that every day. He's a great leader [and] a great competitor, he made some clutch plays and that was exciting."

Sutton deflected credit for the win after the game, instead underscoring Broncos' unity and resilience as reasons for the victory.

With their first home win now secured, the Broncos will face off against Kansas City in the back half of their home stand before heading into the bye week, and the above traits will be critical for Denver to pull off a win against its division rival.

"Similar to the Bears win, I think that it speaks. ... To this locker room and to the guys that we have in this locker room," Sutton said. "I know we all have guys that really believe heavily in what we're capable of doing on the offensive side of the ball [and] the defensive side of the ball. ... It's all about the character and the heart that's in this locker room."

With an upset of the Chiefs, the Broncos could hit their bye on a two-game winning streak, something they haven't had since beating Houston and San Francisco in Weeks 2-3 last season. Lose and they stumble into their bye -- and the Oct. 31 trade deadline -- at 2-6, facing daunting odds of ending their six-year streak of losing records and seven-year run without a playoff berth. ...

Meanwhile, further recovered from last season's knee injury, Javonte Williams is running with decisiveness and power, averaging 5.5 yards on 15 rushes Sunday, showing a little more what he could mean to an offense that desperately needs some reliable options on early downs.

In Week 6, Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin split early-down work as Williams was eased back from injury. This Sunday, Williams received three times the carries and played more than three times as many snaps.

Williams looked good, averaging over 5.0 yards per carry, but McLaughlin gained 45 yards on five carries, continuing his impressive stretch.

Williams' 82 yards Sunday represented his best outing at home in his three-year career and his best production since carrying 23 times for 102 yards at Kansas City on Dec. 5, 2021.

This isn't great news for McLaughlin fantasy managers, but he is playing too well to give up on.

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, Samaje Perine was largely restricted to two-minute drill snaps last week. He regained some of the third-down snaps and a few snaps in other situations. He can remain on the waiver wire despite having a larger role. ...

Safety Kareem Jackson was suspended Monday without pay for four games for his continued violations of the league's unnecessary roughness rules. The suspension was reduced to two games on appeal.

Appeals officer Derrick Brooks, jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA, made the decision after hearing the appeal Tuesday.

Hunt drew his second disqualification of the season Sunday for an illegal hit on Packers tight end Luke Musgrave in the second half.

The 14th-year pro is hurting his team more than he is helping it with his over-the-top hits. His suspension will cost him about $589,000 in salary and he's facing yet another fine. Just Saturday, the league announced Jackson had been dinged more than $43,000 for an illegal hit last week at Kansas City. He's been fined four times over the season's first six games for nearly $89,670, ejected twice and now suspended. ...

One last note here. ... The NFL trade deadline (Oct. 31) is approaching, and many pundits believe the Broncos could be sellers ahead of the deadline.

Payton has insisted the team is not actively looking to trade players, but coaches often say that even when the opposite is true. As USA Today's Jon Heath reports, Payton's public comments haven't stopped teams from reaching out to the Broncos about potential trades and Denver has already dealt outside linebacker Randy Gregory to the San Francisco 49ers.

One of the biggest names to watch is wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported last Friday that teams are "torn" on Jeudy's worth in a trade. "[M]ultiple execs [said] they couldn't justify a Day 2 pick for him at this stage, though two others said a late-third-rounder might suffice based on Jeudy's ability," Fowler wrote.

Fowler also reported that "the feeling league-wide is Jeudy is more likely to be dealt than Sutton, though the Broncos would at least listen on either."

We'll be watching for more as the deadline draws nearer.

QBs: Zach Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

There were no excuses made as head coach Dan Campbell described his team's 38-6 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

"They kicked our ass," Campbell stated bluntly in defeat.

As's Eric Woodyard notes, the Lions' hiccup at Baltimore was their first road loss of the season, as the defense allowed the most points in a game this season, with MVP candidate Lamar Jackson helping the Ravens put up 503 total yards of offense.

Winners of four straight games, the Lions entered Baltimore tied for the NFL's best record through Week 6, but Campbell said "we probably needed" the loss as a reality check to stay on track.

"You don't want these to happen, but when it does, it recenters you, it refocuses you. And that's all I know. I don't want it to happen. Nobody wants it to happen," Campbell said. "Nobody likes to look over there and watch them having a great time because they kicked our ass. Nobody thinks that's fun, but I know that motivates me for next week, it motivates our team. You'll do any and everything you can not to have that feeling again. That's all I mean by that."

Detroit had a rare opportunity to start the season 6-1 or better for the first time since 1956 but allowed the Ravens to score a touchdown on each of their first four drives to dig itself a 28-0 hole at halftime that the Lions never recovered from.

One of the few bright spots for Detroit was rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs returning from a two-game absence because of a hamstring injury to score his first NFL touchdown off a 21-yard gain at 13:59 in the fourth. With veteran running back David Montgomery (ribs) out, he carried the bulk of the workload with 126 yards from scrimmage -- catching nine passes for 58 yards while rushing 11 times for 68 yards.

"I was pleased with Gibbs," Campbell said after the game. "It was good to have him back out there. I thought he took a step forward today. I think he was one of the guys that there was some really positive things in there. I thought he had really good vision and set some runs up really well. I just feel like the more he plays the better he's going to get."

Gibbs joins James Jones (1983) as the only rookies in franchise history to produce 50-or-more scrimmage yards in each of their first five career games.

"It felt great playing with my brothers, playing with my teammates," Gibbs said after the game. "It's kind of a big deal. I couldn't do it without them, and I appreciate them. I've worked very hard to get here and the touchdown showed the commitment I've made to this game."

However, Gibbs says the loss to Baltimore shows the Lions that "we're not invincible."

"I think it raises the intensity in the locker room, knowing that we're not invincible," Gibbs said. "We're not invincible so everybody's going to be more tuned in on their details and what they've got to do to be more disciplined."

It's also worth noting that tight end Sam LaPorta had six catches on seven targets for 52 yards.

The Lions (5-2) will look to bounce back in their "Monday Night Football" game at Ford Field against the Las Vegas Raiders on Oct. 30.

Offensive tackle Taylor Decker described the Baltimore loss as "embarrassing," while quarterback Jared Goff, who failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season, called it "no fun" as the Lions failed to execute the way they know they're capable of against the Ravens. Goff shouldered the blame for the loss as he wants to lead his team the right way going forward based off past experiences.

"We've been through a whole lot worse than this," Goff said. "This was a tough game, we got our butts kicked, but this group has had a lot of adversity, and this is kind of our first taste of getting kicked in the teeth this year and we need to respond the right way."

Worth noting, the Ravens' defense has given Goff fits throughout his career as they're one of two teams he never has thrown a touchdown against, including the Pittsburgh Steelers. Goff struggled again while under constant pressure, completing just 33 of 53 passes for 284 yards.

Detroit had 337 total net yards. Goff is now 0-3 versus Baltimore in his career.

The Lions can only hope to learn from this defeat and come out with a better performance -- and different result -- in their next outing, a Monday night game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

"We've been through a whole lot worse than this," Goff said. "We got our butts kicked, but this group has had a lot of adversity. This is kind of our first taste of getting kicked in the teeth this year, and we have to respond the right way."

Campbell said: "You don't want these to happen, but when it does, it re-centers you, it re-focuses you. Nobody likes to look over there and watch them having a good time because they kicked our (butt). Nobody thinks that's fun.

"But I know that motivates me for next week, and it motivates our team. The shame would be if we don't use this to get better for next week and it bleeds over to the Raiders. That would be the ultimate shame. ..."

Expect the Lions to use extra day between games to work on the fundamentals and erase another Ravens fiasco from the memory banks. As Associated Press sports writer Dave Hogg suggests, Las Vegas should be the ideal bounce-back opponent, especially in front of a raucous Monday night crowd at Ford Field. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Gibbs said the players on offense will be fired up this week, clean some stuff up and come back ready for the Raiders.

With Montgomery expected to miss another game, the Lions will likely need Gibbs to carry the load for the run game and continue to be a threat in the passing game if the offense is going to have a bounce-back performance against the Raiders next week. ...

Veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones missed this game due to personal reasons. This should have been a chance for Jameson Williams to play many more snaps.

Williams had six passes thrown his way and came down with none of them. He and Goff didn't appear to be on the same page on a deep ball that led to Goff's lone interception of the game. Williams had another deep ball bounce off his facemask -- though the defender on the play pinned one of his arms down before ball got there.

He dropped another deep ball after having to spin 180 degrees to find the ball, and also had a swing pass sail off his fingertips. ...

Back to Jones. ... The veteran receiver is stepping away from the Lions.

Jones made the announcement on social media on Tuesday afternoon and the Lions released him.

"I just want to say that I have so much love and respect for the Ford family, the city of Detroit, my teammates, and coaches," Jones said in his statement. "To be brief, I am stepping away from the team to take care of personal family matters. Although this was no easy decision, I cannot be the person/player that I need to be for this team as well as tend to my family from afar.

"This organization has been amazing showing love and support for myself and my family over the years and this time is no different. For that, I am appreciative. To my brothers and coaches, I will be rooting for you every step of the way! This is the year! Go get it!!!"

Jones, 33, re-signed with Detroit in April after spending the last two seasons with the Jaguars. He caught five passes for 35 yards in six games, playing 178 offensive snaps. ...

Finally. ... Rookie running back Mohamed Ibrahim stayed back in Baltimore Sunday to have surgery on a dislocated hip suffered midway through the third quarter following a 21-yard kickoff return. He was carted off the field and immediately ruled out for the rest of the game.

Ibrahim was making his NFL debut after being called up from the practice squad this week.

QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Jordan Love had a receiver open in the flat late in the fourth quarter, trailing by two. Instead, he tried to go deep.

His pass was intercepted.


As Associated Press sports writer Pat Graham notes, it was another loss and more growing pains for Love and the young Packers offense, which scuffled once again while falling 19-17 to the equally scuffling Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Love is frustrated by the offensive inefficiency. So is head coach Matt LaFleur. Same with the defense, which held Russell Wilson and the Broncos (2-5) largely in check and rallied to take a 17-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

"We just lost to Denver. Not saying they're terrible, but come on," defensive back Rasul Douglas said after Green Bay's fourth loss in five games. "We've got to win -- and it's just hard for us to win. Whatever we've got to do to change that, I think that's what we've got to do."

The Packers (2-4) can't find any rhythm on offense, especially early. They've been outscored 63-6 in the first half of their last four games and trailed Denver 9-0 at halftime.

"Obviously, extremely disappointed," LaFleur said. "We just keeping digging ourselves in a hole. Give credit to Denver. They did enough to win, but it's just disappointing to have no points at the half. ... It's just way too fragmented and just not consistent execution."

Love took over as Green Bay's starter when the Packers traded Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets last spring, and it's been a rocky transition.

Case in point: Love had running back A.J. Dillion open in the left flat for what would have been a big gain on third-and-20 from the Green Bay 46 in the waning minutes. But Love looked deep and his heave to Samori Toure was picked off by backup safety P.J. Locke.

Any thoughts of checking down to the running back?

"Yeah, I mean you can look on it and say that you could have done so many different things," said Love, who threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns along with the interception. "That's part of the process of learning and growing. But yeah, check it down and you go for it on fourth-and-12, who knows what happens? It's one of those things -- what if?"

Worth noting: Love was blitzed on 46.9 percent of his dropbacks against the Broncos, the third-highest rate Love has faced in a game in his career (min. 14 pass attempts).

LaFleur shouldered the blame, too.

"Probably should've called a safer play where you get half of it and try to set yourself up for a manageable situation on the next down," LaFleur said. "We took a shot. Obviously, we didn't come through."

Running back Aaron Jones put a more positive spin on things. Next time, he reasoned, Love will have another dose of experience in this type of situation.

"Expectation level is the same as it is for (Rodgers)," Jones said. "We know (Love) is just as capable. He can take us down that field. He's done it many times. Just didn't go our way.

"Jordan will be better and we'll be better from this game."

Indeed, LaFleur says he still believes in Love.

"Our confidence in him is not wavering one bit," LaFleur said Monday. "Certainly as the play caller, you put a lot of onus on yourself when things aren't going well, and we'll continue to do that. But we've got to find a way to generate more points because when you're generating points, it's just a totally different narrative."

Still, it's fair to ask if the Packers can't beat this team, who can they beat?

Before Sunday, the Broncos were allowing 33.3 points and 440.3 yards per game -- both most in the NFL. Yet the Packers couldn't muster any offense (100 meaningless yards in the first half) until the third quarter, and they needed some trickery (see below) to finally do it.

The Packers return to Lambeau Field for their next two games as they host Minnesota on Sunday and the Los Angeles Rams on Nov. 5. The Packers haven't played a home game since a 34-20 loss to Detroit on Sept. 28. ...

On the injury front. ... With defensive starters Jaire Alexander and De'Vondre Campbell both missing the first game after the bye, more players went down Sunday.

Safety Darnell Savage (calf), defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt (knee), cornerback Eric Stokes (hamstring), tight end Luke Musgrave (ankle, hit to head) and receivers Christian Watson and Dontayvion Wicks (both unspecified) all left the game at some point Sunday.

LaFleur had no updates on the injuries. Musgrave left the game after taking an illegal hit from hard-hitting safety Kareem Jackson on an 18-yard reception along the Packers sideline. Jackson was ejected for the second time this season.

Wicks got involved -- and not just catching the ball. Shortly after he caught a 17-yard pass from Love, he threw one for 14 to Jones that helped set up the Packers' first points of the game, a field goal with 10:24 left in the third quarter.

Jones, who has missed three of the last four games with a hamstring injury, spent the first three quarters a little more limited than usual, playing 19 of a possible 47 snaps.

He and Dillon were very close in carries and routes run during that time, with Dillon staying on the field for a few more plays to block.

In the fourth quarter, Dillon played 12 snaps to Jones' four. As's Nathan Jahnke notes, it's unclear whether Jones suffered a setback or whether he had reached a snap count.

Dillon led the team in rushing, taking 15 carries for 61 yards. Jones averaged slightly more yards per carry, recording 35 yards on eight carries.

Dillon isn't known as a receiving back, but he led the Packers in receiving yards with 34.

In case you haven't been following along, Dillon has come on after a slow start. He has rushed for 137 yards over his last two games after totaling 118 in Green Bay's first four.

QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Josh Jacobs, A.J. Dillon, Patrick Taylor
WRs: Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Tucker Kraft, Ben Sims, Josiah Deguara, Luke Musgrave

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken noted, a rookie coach and quarterback have the Texans on the road to respectability after three awful seasons.

Head coach DeMeco Ryans, a former linebacker on the team, and quarterback C.J. Stroud are leading the way as the Texans have made a huge improvement from last season. They enter their bye this week at 3-3, already matching their win total from last season when they had the NFL's second-worst record at 3-13-1.

"I'm feeling good about our team and where we are," Ryans said. "As we continue to grow and work together, we're learning who we are -- our strengths, our weaknesses, what we do well, and things we need to lean into more."

General manager Nick Caserio, who has helped to hire three head coaches in the last three offseasons, raved about Ryans.

"DeMeco and the coaching staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit for what we've done and where we are," he said. "I'd say just specifically DeMeco; he's everything that I think we hoped and thought he would be. As good of a coach as he is, he's a better person and human being. Players love playing for him. Players want to be here."

Stroud, the second overall pick in the draft, took over after Houston had two ineffective seasons with Davis Mills at quarterback. The former Ohio State standout has completely transformed Houston's passing game, making it one of the strengths of the team.

Stroud ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,660 yards passing and has nine touchdown passes with just one interception. He's thoroughly outplayed Bryce Young, who was chosen ahead of him in the draft.

Young has thrown for just 967 yards and has six touchdown passes with four interceptions for the Panthers (0-6), who will host Houston after the Texans' bye.

Stroud, who didn't turn 22 until Oct. 3, has shown poise on the field and has already developed into a leader for this young team. He and a fellow rookie, defensive end Will Anderson, were named team captains at the beginning of the season.

"The big thing with (Stroud) is just his confidence, his belief in himself, his competitiveness, his pride, and the respect that he's earned with his performance from his teammates," Caserio said. "Being a captain is not a popularity contest, but when you're a captain as a rookie, which both he and Will are, it's really more about what you do and how you handle your job necessarily than what you say."

"But he cares a lot," Caserio continued. "He has a lot of pride, and he wants to go out there and perform well and do the best thing and the right thing for the team, and he's shown the propensity to do that."

Stroud, an admitted perfectionist, said his progress has been helped by the steady guidance Ryans has provided.

"His thing is next play, next drive ... and that means a lot, especially being a young quarterback," Stroud said. "When I do make mistakes, (I) always come back to the sideline, and he's got a smile on his face. He always tells me how good I'm doing, always gives me advice and tips. I appreciate him for just his demeanor, his attitude and his positivity that he brings to this culture and this brand of football. And I think as we're winning, we're buying in more and more."

While Stroud has been the star of Houston's rookie class, Anderson has also shined. The Texans traded up to select the former Alabama star with the third pick in the draft.

He has started each game this season and has 24 tackles, including two for losses, a sack and eight quarterback hits.

"Will has been doing good throughout the season," Ryans said. "He continues to grow as a young player, continues to improve his game each and every week as well. It's great to see the growth of Will and what he's able to do for us defensively."

The Texans have also gotten big contributions from another rookie, third-round pick Tank Dell. Some questioned if the former University of Houston star, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound receiver, could play at this level.

So far, he's shown that he can. Dell played in the first five games before missing Sunday's game with a concussion. He ranks second on the team with 324 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He's shown a knack for extending plays and has 97 yards after catches.

Caserio is encouraged by the work of his team thus far, but he was quick to point out the being .500 in won't get you that far and the Texans need to do much more to return to contention.

"Half the league is 3-3 or 3-2, right? Like nobody has done anything to this point," he said. "We'll see how it goes. We haven't done anything. We've earned what we've earned. A lot of work in front of us. Players have done a good job to this point, but 11 games left, so it's a week-to-week endeavor in this league, and that's how we're approaching it. Nothing more, nothing less."

QBs: C.J. Stroud, Case Keenum, Davis Mills
RBs: Joe Mixon, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Stefon Diggs, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson, Tank Dell
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot, head coach Shane Steichen pointed the finger at himself.

He accepted the blame for the play-calling when Indy was backed up, his gamble on a 60-yard field goal in the first half, even the sudden litany of turnovers that have derailed the Colts each of the last two weeks. And yet, he believes a 39-38 loss to Cleveland on Sunday can still help this team.

"I think, honestly, stuff like this makes you stronger," Steichen said. "It stings, there's no doubt about it. Everyone's frustrated when games happen like that, but I think this is what builds character in your football team. We've got a lot of football left. We're not even at the halfway point."

Still, Gardner Minshew had the Indianapolis Colts' offense humming at times on Sunday.

He threw touchdown passes of 59 and 75 yards and relied on the powerful one-two punch of Jonathan Taylor and Zack Moss on the ground.

The combination helped Indy produce more total yards, more yards rushing, more yards passing and more points than Cleveland's defense had allowed to any of its first five opponents. But for the second straight week, the Colts turned the ball over four times.

So heading into Week 8, the big question for the Colts is which offense will show up for the final 10 weeks of this season?

"I think that (game) should give us a lot of confidence -- that and understanding we have everything we need and everything we're messing up right now is in our control," Minshew said. "So, I think, just go back, learn from it, and continue to get better."

Which direction Indy goes will depend largely on Minshew.

In his first four appearances this season, he helped the Colts (3-4) win three times with only one turnover. In his two starts, both after rookie Anthony Richardson went down with a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery, Minshew has thrown four interceptions, lost four fumbles and been sacked seven times.

Minshew and Steichen know that won't cut it -- even if everything else runs smoothly.

"You keep hammering it home," Steichen said about reducing the turnovers. "You address it in the meeting room, you go through it in practice, ball security. You keep addressing it and keep working through it. That's the bottom line. That's it."

And if the Colts can find a fix, they just might deliver on the promising signs on display against Cleveland. Their next chance to get it right comes Sunday against New Orleans (3-4).

"I think we played a pretty good game on offense, but I think we had too many penalties as a team and we turned the ball over," three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly said. "We can do better up front. We can be better. This one stings. It's about as bad as I can remember, because they're a good team."

"It all comes down to winning the turnover battle," Steichen said. "We're 3-0 when we win the turnover battle. When we don't, obviously, we've lost four. We've got to be better taking care of the football."

Taylor, who had 120 all-purpose yards for his best performance of the season, took a similar view.

"[The penalties were] a dagger because you've seen how the defense has played and you've seen the fight and all that they've given," he said. "The best thing you can do is to not let the refs get involved in the game."

"We're already having conversations in the locker room just about trying to drill that and work that more," Minshew said when asked about reducing the turnovers. "That's not something I want to be a part of us and something that can't be a part of our game."

So how far can the Colts go with Minshew at the helm?

The uneven performance they go against the Browns clearly won't do.

Normally, scoring 38 points and allowing 316 yards is a winning combination. But four turnovers, three 50-plus yard field goals, a blocked field goal and defensive touchdown changed the equation Sunday. Until the Colts start limiting the giveaways, they're not going to win very often.

Their next shot will be against the Saints on Sunday. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Speedy rookie receiver Josh Down has flourished over the last three weeks, catching 16 of the 20 passes thrown his direction for 243 yards and the first two TDs of his career. On Sunday, he hauled in a 59-yard TD catch, posted the first 100-yard game and drew postgame raves in the locker room.

Conversely, it appears that Indy's top wide receiver, Michael Pittman Jr., wasn't the happiest with his usage in the losing effort at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Indianapolis star staffer Nate Atkins posted on X, "Pittman turned in a 75-yard TD for the longest play of his career, but he told me that he thought he could put the offense on his back before that.

"'They just didn't target me today, for whatever reason. Maybe I'm not a big part of the offense.'"

This is not what the Colts want to hear from Pittman. However, he could justifiably feel that he might have given the offense an edge with more involvement. Pittman would later say to Atkins, "When I do get the ball, I feel like I always do something with it. Just know that I'm viable to break off a big one in any situation vs. any team. I'm just trying to show the coaches that I'm out there, too."

"It was frustrating. I was frustrated," Pittman said. "I was just trying to keep my composure to myself and not try to project that onto anybody else."

During the game against Cleveland, Pittman would catch only 2 passes, but for a fantastic 83 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. He would also be the second-most targeted receiver in the game (5) behind Downs (6). ...

For the record, Moss played one more snap than Taylor (34 to 33), per Next Gen Stats. Taylor ended up running 5 more routes, playing more as a pass-catcher for Indy. ...

In case you somehow missed it last week, Richardson will miss the remainder of the 2023 season, but there's a chance we see him back on the field for spring work.

Though Steichen declined to put a timeline on Richardson's return to action, he did mention there is some optimism about the electric quarterback's chances to be on the field for the offseason workouts, Kevin Hickey of USA Today's Colts Wire reports.

"I'm not going to put a timetable on it, but I think he's got a good chance, yes," Steichen told reporters.

Richardson and the Colts elected to undergo surgery on his throwing shoulder to repair a Grade 3 AC joint sprain, an injury he suffered during the Week 5 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Owner Jim Irsay, in a post on X Tuesday night, wrote: "Richardson's surgery today in LA was a success! It was a long procedure and his shoulder injury has been repaired. No new surprises were found during surgery -- they just repaired what was expected. Anthony is doing well and thanks everyone for the support."

The No. 4 overall pick missed time due to injury in all but one game this season, though he would have returned to the game in Week 1 had the score been closer. Still, between the concussion and shoulder injury, Richardson's electric play will get overshadowed a bit by the injuries he sustained.

Whether the Colts will need to alter his style of play when it comes to designed runs, Steichen said that's a discussion for a later date.

"We'll cross that bridge next year when we get there. But again, one of the things that makes him really good is a runner," Steichen said. "A lot of those guys around the league that run and make plays -- that's what helps your offense. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there. ..."

Finally. ... The Colts held a workout for five players. This according to the league's transaction wire Monday.

Among those five players included quarterback Jeff Driskel, wide receiver John Brown, tight end Antony Auclair, defensive back Keidron Smith and wide receiver Makai Polk.

The Colts have Kellen Mond on the practice squad while Minshew and Sam Ehlinger are on the active roster so it's interesting to see them work out Driskel, who was released from the Cardinals practice squad last week.

QBs: Joe Flacco, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Trey Sermon, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie, D.J. Montgomery
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As's Kevin Patra reported, Trevor Lawrence not only played through a knee injury that caused him to be questionable entering Thursday night's contest against the New Orleans Saints -- he thrived.

Lawrence posted a career-best 59 yards rushing on eight carries, including a few chunk gains, in the 31-24 victory at the Caesars Superdome.

"I mean, golly, it is crazy how you have something like that going on and you do not plan on moving a lot and you end up running the ball more than I usually do," Lawrence said. "So, it's just funny how that works. But it felt pretty good. I was happy with it and (it) didn't bother me too much. Definitely did not set it back. So, I am really happy with that and that was the goal, to play, find a way to win the game and not set it back and we've got 10 days now to recover and get ready for Pittsburgh. So it went perfect, honestly."

If not for three end-of-game kneel-downs that cost him four yards, Lawrence's final rushing stat line would have read five carries for 63 yards, with many of them coming in key spots with the offense stymied after a hot start.

"Like I said, that wasn't the plan," he said. "It wasn't the plan, but you know, instincts kind of take over and I'm glad that it was able to hold up and I was able to feel good enough to make those plays. I think those were needed at times. You have to give credit to that Saints defense. They are a good defense. They gave us some tough looks. The guys up front did a heck of a job blocking and giving me opportunities down the field. Then when I needed to scramble, I had clean lanes. And you know, I don't know if that was part of the Saints' plan to bring those pressures with me maybe not being able to be as mobile, but the lanes opened up and presented itself and I took advantage."

Lawrence finished 20-of-29 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown -- 44 of those yards came on a 3-yard toss that Christian Kirk took for the game-winning TD.

With a questionable knee, the Jags QB got the ball out quickly to avoid the rush. Lawrence averaged a 2.20-second time to throw, which led to just three total pressures. The QB wasn't pressured on any of his 11 dropbacks in the second half, per Next Gen Stats.

And when he couldn't get the ball out quickly, he used his legs, which seemed to surprise a Saints defense that likely didn't plan for a mobile quarterback, given the knee injury.

Lawrence ran for a career-high 59 yards. The Jaguars improved to 4-0 when Lawrence runs for 40 or more yards.

Head coach Doug Pederson glowed about his QB's ability to play through ailment.

"It just again shows the type of person he is and the unselfishness he has," Pederson said. "I saw it last year when he got injured. He got injured in the Detroit game, and he battled injury throughout the rest of the year and gutted that out. This is different. This is a short week. On Monday, I would have told you he was not playing in this football game, but that's not who Trevor is. Again, I'm proud of his effort -- the ability to escape the pocket and run. Fortunately, they were straight-ahead runs. He didn't have to cut too much. A lot of gutsy performances out there, and his is probably the No. 1."

Winners of four consecutive games, the 5-2 Jaguars will have had a full 10 days off for Lawrence to rest his knee before they face the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8, followed by a Week 9 bye.

In fact, after crossing several times zones (Jacksonville to London to Jacksonville to New Orleans) to win four in a row, the Jaguars now play just once in a 23-day span. ...

For what it's worth. ... The Jaguars are building double-digit leads and closing out games regularly this season, a combination that's led to that four-game winning streak and their best start since 2007.

Impressive, no doubt. But what's happening in between has Pederson a little concerned.

Pederson would like to see his Jaguars (5-2) avoid second-half hiccups that have allowed the last three opponents -- Buffalo, Indianapolis and New Orleans -- to make games interesting, maybe even uncomfortable, down the stretch. The Saints rallied from a 24-9 deficit Thursday night to tie the game in the final minutes.

"I don't know if it's frustration, but it's something that we've got to continue to work through," Pederson said. "It goes back to learning how to win. You just can't have those letdowns and those lulls in football games. ... We've got to continue to work on that. We've got to continue as coaches to look at those lulls and see if there's something we can do different schematically. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... With 10 days to rest, the Jaguars expect to have CB Tyson Campbell (hamstring), WR Zay Jones (knee) and LG Walker Little (knee) close to full speed when they play at Pittsburgh on Oct. 29. DT DaVon Hamilton, who continues to work his way back from a back infection, is more likely going to make his season debut after Jacksonville's Week 9 bye.

One last note here, Calvin Ridley was targeted only four times -- and the first didn't come until the third quarter -- and had just one catch for 5 yards. That was mainly because the Saints put CB Marshon Lattimore on him.

Still, as Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, on the season, Kirk has seen 55 targets to Ridley's 48. Since Week 1, that difference is 52 to 37.

QBs: Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Gabe Davis, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Jamal Agnew, Christian Kirk
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Travis Kelce turned 34 on Oct. 5 and since then had the best three-game stretch of his career, the biggest being his 12-catch, 179-yard, one-touchdown game in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Andy Reid said it's because Kelce is getting better with age. He allowed that it could also be the Taylor Swift effect. She was in attendance at a Kansas City Chiefs game for the fourth time this season and Kelce has averaged more than twice as many yards with her present as without.

"Taylor can stay around all she wants," Reid said after the Chiefs' 31-17 win.

Reid jokes, but tracking how Kelce and the Chiefs do in games with and without Swift is becoming funny.

2023 Chiefs with Swift in attendance: 4-0 record, 28.5 points per game, 432.3 total yards per game; Kelce: 108.0 receiving yards per game.

Over the past three weeks, the Kelce-Patrick Mahomes combination has been otherworldly.

Targeting Kelce over the last three games, Mahomes has gone 31 of 33 for 377 yards, two TDs and a 134.5 passer rating. Mahomes had 29 consecutive completions when targeting Kelce during that span, tied for the sixth-longest streak by a QB targeting a single pass catcher and the longest streak by a QB targeting a single TE since at least 1991, per NFL Research.

The mind meld between the QB and TE makes them nearly unstoppable.

"I think the main thing is the way he's able to recognize coverage and adjust on the fly," Mahomes said of Kelce. "We always talk about it, but it's something that you can't take for granted. It's almost like he's playing Madden like he can read the coverage and stop in the windows and be open and be on the same page as me at all times. He did a great job, it seems like he does it week in and week out, and that's why he's the player he is and why he'll be a Hall of Famer one day."

Sunday marked Kelce's second consecutive 120-plus-yard game, the only TE to hit the mark in 2023. Sunday's 179 yards were the second-most in a game in his career (191 in Week 15, 2021 at the Chargers).

Kelce dominated the first half, generating nine catches for 143 yards (the most receiving yards in a half in his career) and a TD. In Week 6 against Denver, the star had 109 receiving yards in the first half, making him the only player among all positions to have 100-plus receiving yards in a first half in back-to-back games over the last five seasons. Kelce (2) and Tyreek Hill (3) are the only players to have 100-plus receiving yards in a first half in multiple games this season.

Kelce sat out the Chiefs' season-opener last month against the Detroit Lions.

He has 48 catches in the six games since, which is tied for the most in NFL history for a tight end over the player's first six games.

Mahomes wasn't disputing that in some ways, at least, Kelce has improved with age.

"The way he's able to recognize coverages is probably even better," Mahomes said. "He's played against every single team and every coverage and every way to try to take him away and so he's able to recognize that and then dissect it on the fly."

Mahomes couldn't resist a friendly dig at Kelce. The two connected on a 53-yard pass in the second quarter with Kelce catching a short pass and taking it to the Chargers' 6, where he was tackled.

The Chiefs scored on the next play, anyway.

"Younger Trav would have scored on that one touchdown," Mahomes said. "I'll say that. But other than that I think he's doing a great job of finding a ways to get himself open and having these monster games."

Next up, the Chiefs can do more damage in the AFC West race when they visit the Broncos on Sunday. The two will be playing for the second time in three weeks after Kansas City scraped its way to a 19-8 win on Oct. 12 at Arrowhead Stadium.

The two will be playing for the second time in three weeks after Kansas City scraped its way to a 19-8 win on Oct. 12 at Arrowhead Stadium. ...

Second-round draft pick Rashee Rice is quickly developing into an impact wide receiver. He had five catches for 60 yards and a score against Los Angeles, and he's had at least four catches in each of his last three games.

"He's doing a really good job of just doing what he's supposed to do and making the plays that he's supposed to make, not trying to be anything that he's not," wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling said. "You see a lot of rookies come in and try to do too much and can't figure out the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do. He's just been doing his job and it's been paying off for him. He's a quiet kid who listens to what he's told to do. He always wants to learn. He's always taking notes, and it shows. ..."

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, Justin Watson was inactive with an elbow injury, which opened the door to more playing time for multiple players. Kadarius Toney has also been dealing with a toe injury. He was a full participant in practice all week, but his playing time dropped dramatically in Week 7.

This allowed big increases in playing time for Rice and Justyn Ross and slight increases for Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Skyy Moore.

Watson and Valdes-Scantling have been the two deep threats for Kansas City. Without Watson, Valdes-Scantling had his best game of the season.

Kansas City also traded for Mecole Hardman, who played on special teams and a limited role on offense. Hardman may get more playing time going forward, which could decrease the playing time of Rice or others. ...

The rushing game took no pressure off Mahomes and the passing game. Not counting Mahomes' scrambles, the Chiefs rushed for 39 yards and an average of fewer than three yards.

In particular, former first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire's time in Kansas City is coming to a lackluster end. He had just two carries for five yards against the Chargers and has 32 for 105 yards through seven games in the final season of his rookie contract.

On the injury front. ... Linebacker Nick Bolton will be out for roughly two months after suffering a dislocated wrist during Sunday's win over the Chargers, according to NFL Media's Tom Pelissero. Bolton will need surgery on his wrist.

Bolton was injured during the second half of the contest when he tackled receiver Keenan Allen.

Bolton also missed time earlier this year with an ankle injury.

In his third season, Bolton has recorded 28 total tackles with one interception so far in 2023.

The Chiefs were penalized six times for 43 yards, but a few of them were particularly painful. One was a questionable block in the back on left guard Joe Thuney well downfield that took away Jerick McKinnon's 48-yard touchdown reception; the Chiefs wound up getting a field goal on the drive instead. ...

Finally. ... Ross faces charges of domestic battery and criminal property damage of less than $1,000, Teicher reports. Ross pleaded not guilty to both misdemeanor charges during an arraignment hearing Tuesday.

He was released on $2,500 bond, with conditions that include no contact with the accuser or any witnesses.

Ross is due back in court Dec. 4.

Police in Shawnee, Kansas, arrested Ross on Monday, and he initially was booked on a felony charge of criminal damage in excess of $25,000, but it since was amended to a misdemeanor.

The Chiefs had no comment, according to Teicher.

Ross, 23, has appeared in all seven games for the Chiefs this season, making three catches for 34 yards.

He faces possible punishment from the NFL under the Personal Conduct Policy.

QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert, Carson Wentz
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Marquise Brown, Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Skyy Moore, Mecole Hardman
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As's Paul Gutierrez noted, "Davante Adams' message was received. ..."

Gutierrez went on to point out that after voicing his frustrations this past week with not having a bigger role in the Las Vegas Raiders' offense despite the team riding a two-game winning streak, the All-Pro receiver was fed early and often by backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, who was starting in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo.

And Adams had a decidedly kinder, gentler tone after the Raiders were blown out by the Bears 30-12 and he was targeted 12 times and caught seven passes for 57 yards.

"I'm always, as long as I'm here, I'm going to have confidence and do what I've got to do, do my part to make sure that I'm helping the guys around me and we're going to work together and try to figure it out," he said.

Adams, who will likely not be traded by the Oct. 31 deadline, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter, was targeted a combined nine times and caught six passes the previous two games.

Sunday at Soldier Field, Adams had three catches on the Raiders' first drive. On the team's first three possessions, Hoyer was 5-for-7 for 48 yards targeting Adams but just 0-3 targeting anyone else.

"We had a few plays scripted to get him the ball and it was working and then you just adjust as the game goes on, and try to get him the ball different ways," said Hoyer, who suffered through a 17-for-32 passing day for 132 yards with two interceptions, including a pick-six, before being benched late in the fourth quarter. Hoyer has now lost 13 straight NFL starts, dating to 2016.

Asked if the Bears did anything specific to take Adams away after the hot start, Hoyer said the blame lay at the Raiders' feet.

"It's not really anything other than coming down to lack of execution on certain plays that can keep you out there longer," he said. "And then you have more opportunities."

Adams agreed.

"I mean, not to discredit anything [the Bears] did -- I feel like they played a pretty solid game all around -- but it definitely had nothing to do with any crazy things that they did," Adams said. "It's more [about] us hurting ourselves."

Asked what he saw out of Hoyer, Adams said, "I mean, we've just got to mix it up a little better.

"I think it's about just keeping the defense honest and making it a little easier on the quarterback. We've got to do it as wideouts, we've got to get the run game going and all these things that we've been struggling with all year, it's making it tougher on the quarterback. So, I mean if we can run it a little better, then I think that that would help."

The Raiders rushed for just 39 yards against the Bears.

Garoppolo, who left last week's game at halftime with a back injury, is expected to return for the Raiders (3-4) at next Monday night's game at the Detroit Lions (5-2).

Through it all, Adams is still on pace to catch 112 passes for 1,282 yards and 7 TDs. As he suggested, though, it's not about the volume of targets he receives; it's about the consistency.

Consider: After being targeted seven times in the first quarter, Adams did not see another pass come his way until 3:22 remained in the third quarter and the Raiders were trailing 21-3.

"To put this all to bed," said head coach Josh McDaniels, "we always try to get the ball to our best guys. And sometimes the defense plays things and takes those opportunities away. Other times, they don't. We've always been looking to try to do that and will continue to try to do that.

"Just so happened there was a handful of things early in the game that we had opportunities to go ahead and get to them and they played defenses and didn't double-team him, taking him away. And we moved around some, but give those two credit -- the quarterback and Tae, they got off to a decent start and then they started to do some things with the coverage."

Worth noting:'s John Paulsen points out that with a seven-catch, 50-yard, one-TD performance against the Bears, Jakobi Meyers is now the fantasy WR15 on the season despite missing a game.

He has a higher per-game average (14.5) than Adams (13.4) in half-PPR formats. ...

Meanwhile, Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson believes the Raiders' visit to Detroit could be coming at a bad time. The NFC North-leading Lions were embarrassed in a 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens to fall to 5-2. They figure to be extra motivated. ...

Also according to Anderson, McDaniels 2.0 is exhibiting the same troubling signs as the original version.

In just short of a season and a half, the Raiders have endured three memorably embarrassing losses under his watch.

The Raiders lost to interim coach Jeff Saturday and the Indianapolis Colts last season a week after Saturday left ESPN. That would be the only game that Saturday, now back with the network, would win.

Las Vegas also last season at the Rams two days after quarterback Baker Mayfield arrived in Los Angeles with barely any knowledge of the playbook.

And then on Sunday, the Raiders lost to a quarterback, Tyson Bagent, who at this point last year was starring at Division II Shepherd University.

"I don't think we played representative to what we feel like we can be," McDaniels said Monday. "We've been competitive in most every game we've been in this year and that one got away from us. I feel like you are what you do. We didn't play competitive enough, we didn't coach well enough, and the game got away from us."

McDaniels didn't win with Denver in his first go-round as a head coach, and his record in Las Vegas is 9-15. The Raiders are 8 1/2-point underdogs heading into Detroit.

Beyond the losses, McDaniels has made a series of decisions that have backfired. That included going with Hoyer, a quarterback who hasn't won a game as a starter in seven years, over rookie Aidan O'Connell. Hoyer racked up a dismal 37.1 quarterback rating, and the Raiders still don't know more about O'Connell and whether he has a real future than they did a week ago.

This isn't to say McDaniels can't turn it around, and by all indications owner Mark Davis is giving him the time to do it.

Maybe he will turn the Raiders into winners, but the evidence it will happen is lacking. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Due to the blowout, several players didn't play as many snaps as usual, particularly on the Raiders. According to's Nathan Jahnke, Josh Jacobs, Adams and Michael Mayer were among the Raiders skill players who didn't play over the last 10 minutes of the game.

Mayer caught five passes for 75 yards in an increased role last week, and his role expanded further this week.

According to Jahnke, Mayer played 81 percent of Las Vegas' offensive snaps a week ago. He's consistently played in 12, 21 and 22 personnel all season, but he replaced Austin Hooper as the primary tight end in 11 personnel in Week 6.

Mayer only missed four of the first 50 plays before the Raiders put in backups to end the game. This didn't necessarily lead to a lot of targets. He caught two of his four targets for 13 yards. The vast majority of Las Vegas' targets went to outside wide receivers.

Jahnke went on to suggest it's too soon to put Mayer in fantasy starting lineups, but he has the playing time and the talent to be a fantasy starter. Now, he just needs the quality targets. This makes him arguably the best tight end to stash on your roster for the second half of the season due to the potential that he breaks out. ...

Hunter Renfrow played more snaps than the last two weeks but remained fourth on the depth chart behind Tre Tucker. He is likely to be traded either this week or early next week at the trade deadline. ...

The Raiders' run game is nearly nonexistent. They're last in the NFL with 68.6 yards per game.

Jacobs, who led the league in rushing last season, gained 35 yards on 11 carries at Chicago, and he has just 347 yards for the season on a 2.9-per-carry average. Jacobs' production began to decline toward the end of last season, and he now has gone 12 games without a 100-yard performance.

In addition, Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason points out, Jacobs failed to hit a double-digit percentage target share today for the first time this season. He caught just one pass for six yards (8.9 percent target share). ...

Again, McDaniels sounded hopeful Garoppolo (back) will be back soon -- and as noted above, recent reporting suggests he will, but the coach didn't offer a specific update. The Raiders have been without CB Nate Hobbs (ankle) the past four weeks. K Daniel Carlson suffered an undisclosed injury before the game, but McDaniels said it wasn't serous. LB Divine Deablo (ankle) was injured at Chicago, and there was no update on his status.

I'll have more on Garoppolo via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Gardner Minshew, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Brandon Staley is looking for a reset for his Los Angeles Chargers after two straight losses and a 2-4 start to the season.

As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy suggests, it's a good idea in theory -- and when playing Madden -- except the Chargers have already had their bye week and many of their problems have persisted throughout Staley's three-year tenure as coach.

Sunday's 31-17 loss to Kansas City showed the Chargers are nowhere close to contending for a division title, and their odds of returning to the playoffs are getting longer.

In an AFC that has 10 teams at .500 or better, Los Angeles is tied with Tennessee for the second-worst record in the conference. Only Denver and New England are worse at 2-5.

On Monday, Staley was more focused on the immediate issues than the big picture.

"The fundamentals focus needs to be on the identity of your football team. Just put one foot in front of the other and not be thinking too much about the telescope and make sure you're focusing on the microscope and things we can control," he said.

This year's Chargers have a lot in common with the teams from Staley's first two years.

Staley was hired after coordinating the Los Angeles Rams' top-ranked defense in 2020, but the Chargers have had one of the league's worst defenses since he took over. Over the past three years, they are 30th in points allowed per game (25.0), 28th in yards allowed per game (361.2), 30th in stopping the run (135.5 yards per game) and 29th in third-down conversions (teams are converting 43.4 percent).

Even worse is the defense's propensity to allow big plays. The Chargers have allowed 37 plays of at least 40 yards during Staley's tenure (only Washington is worse with 39), and opposing teams are converting 29 percent of the time on third-and-long (7 yards or more). The Chargers allowed two plays of at least 40 yards by the Chiefs, including a 46-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the second quarter.

The Chargers utilized zone coverage on 65.2 percent of dropbacks in the first half, even though they have allowed the fourth-highest passer rating in zone under Staley and Kansas City has the league's second-best passing attack against the zone in the same period.

Mahomes was 19 of 23 for 252 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers' zone. He was excellent while facing man coverage, too: 13 of 19 for 172 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Staley and the Chargers played zone on nearly 60 percent of the second-half plays and were more effective.

Staley said he is not considering relinquishing play-calling duties on defense.

Meanwhile, under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, the Chargers are still struggling to move the ball in the second half. They have been shut out after halftime in two of the last three games due to inconsistency from the running game and Justin Herbert facing pressure.

Staley does not think the broken middle finger on Herbert's left, non-throwing hand is a factor.

"He's just like a lot of the other players that are dealing with (injuries), but he's been able to perform," Staley said. "I think you've been able to see him throw the football at a high level. I don't think it's impacted the way that we call or play the game."

There are some immediate fixes that would help.

Herbert was sacked five times by the Chiefs to tie a career high. In the past three games, Herbert has been under pressure on 46 of his 109 dropbacks. The 42.2 percent rate is fifth-highest among starting quarterbacks, which is a concerning trend for an offensive line that is missing center Corey Linsley and has struggled for most of the season.

Herbert was 17 of 30 for 259 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Better protection should be a priority. ...

All in all,'s Kris Rhim believes it's fair to ask if Staley finishes the season as Chargers head coach.

Rhim went on to note the Chargers have several players who are considered among the best at their position, from Herbert to Khalil Mack. But the team has underperformed under Staley, and Sunday was the latest instance. Now at 2-4, this team's chance at the postseason is slipping away.

The Chargers make their second prime-time appearance in three games when they host the Chicago Bears on Sunday night. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Much like the offense as a whole, the Chargers ground game had a hot start against the Chiefs before fizzling out in the second half.

The Bolts finished the first half with 15 carries for 99 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown run from Joshua Kelley. The run game had just 11 carried for 40 yards after halftime.

Staley said Kelley's long touchdown run reminded him of the 75-yard score the running back had against the 49ers in the preseason.

"I thought JK was a bright spot for us yesterday. I really felt like he gave us energy in the game, thought he was decisive," Staley said. "It kind of reminded me of when he hit that run against San Francisco in the preseason on that cut back run, it really reminded me of that. I really liked the way we ran the football yesterday and he was a big part of it."

Kelley, now in his fourth season, has a team-high 284 rushing yards this season.

Beyond that,'s Nathan Jahnke notes that Austin Ekeler hasn't been effective as a rusher since returning from injury. He averaged 1.9 yards per carry last week and 3.2 this week, with no plays of more than 6 yards in this game. ...

It's been a familiar storyline for Palmer in 2023. A year ago, the Chargers wide receiver stepped up to catch 72 passes for 769 yards to go along with three scores with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams battling injuries.

Williams is out for the season with a torn ACL, and it's Palmer who is once again rising to the occasion.

"You know the quality you're seeing on the practice field and the game field for three years," Staley said. "He's improved every year as a player and he's got full confidence out there right now, you're seeing it. We have full confidence in him to separate, to win."

Palmer had five catches for a career-best 133 yards on Sunday, with all five receptions going for first downs. Even more, three of his catches came in the clutch on either third or fourth down.

Palmer had the game's longest play with a 60-yard reception in Week 7, and also added catches of 25, 22 and 19 yards against the Chiefs.

"You're seeing a lot of the explosions come his way, too," Staley said. "Where you're seeing him get to the deep part of the field, seeing good run after catch. He's just a complete player.

"You can put him anywhere in the formation," Staley added. "He can beat press coverage outside the red line, in the slot. He's one of the top young guys that I think is emerging in the league."

Palmer has 20 catches for 353 yards and a touchdown this season. ...

First-round pick Quentin Johnston was expected to help pick up the slack and become a more appealing target for Herbert after Williams' injury, but the opposite has happened. Johnston has been targeted seven times the last three games and has only two receptions for 38 yards.

Jalen Guyton has spent the start of the season on injured reserve. His 21-day practice window was opened, but he wasn't active for this game. He could push Johnston for playing time once he's back. ...

Cameron Dicker made a career-long 55-yard field goal during the first quarter, which is tied for the third-longest in franchise history. Dicker is 27 of 29 on field goals since joining the Chargers last season. His 93.1 percent accuracy rate his fourth-best in the league during that span.

On the injury front. ... Everett suffered a quadriceps injury in the third quarter and did not return.

It had seemed like Donald Parham Jr. was gaining a larger role in the offense, but Jahnke notes that Stone Smartt ended up being the primary replacement for Everett.

Both Parham and Smartt had one catch each in this game.

It seems unlikely that either of these tight ends will be fantasy-viable if Everett misses time. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

QBs: Easton Stick, Justin Herbert
RBs: Gus Edwards, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis
TEs: Donald Parham, Stone Smartt

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham, the Rams' most disappointing loss of the season came with some painful reminders of this team's self-inflicted shortcomings.

Los Angeles (3-4) was beaten in crunch time again Sunday, getting outscored 21-8 in the second half of a 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh. The Rams had a strong second quarter and built a lead heading to the fourth, but the Steelers outplayed Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald and their supporting cast when it counted.

"We didn't help ourselves," head coach Sean McVay said. "There were a lot of plays that we could have been able to make. There's always things. Any time that we don't get it done, it's a collective effort as a team, but there were a lot of things that we didn't do to be able to finish this game."

As Beacham suggested, it's increasingly clear the Rams don't have the talent to do many of those things.

When the Rams gutted their roster in the offseason, they removed several difference-making veterans and elected to play this year with youngsters, late-round picks and spare parts. LA's lack of elite players is particularly glaring in games like this loss, when nobody in a horned helmet steps up to turn the tide of a game that could go either way.

Even the Rams' few remaining stars couldn't do it against the Steelers.

"Just didn't do enough in the second half to get it done, obviously," said Stafford, an unimpressive 14 of 29 for 231 yards. "Left some plays out there that we wish we had back. We're in the game the whole game, felt like we had control of it for a decent amount of it, (and) just didn't finish it."

Stafford was sharp at times, particularly when throwing to rookie Puka Nacua, but he also struggled to make plays at key moments in the second half -- particularly while he failed to complete a pass in the fourth quarter. Super Bowl 56 MVP Cooper Kupp had a down game, catching only two of the seven balls thrown his way.

Stafford also made the Rams' single most costly mistake, throwing an interception to T.J. Watt that led directly to Pittsburgh's first touchdown. Los Angeles' defense had been outstanding up to that point, and it forced another punt after the TD -- but the Steelers finished their victory with three long, effective drives.

Pittsburgh has a solid defense, but Stafford and Kupp often took charge of games between two evenly matched teams in the Rams' previous two seasons. They couldn't do it, resulting in a pathetic offensive fourth quarter and a blown lead for LA's fourth loss in six games.

The Rams' special teams philosophy bit them again when Brett Maher missed two long field goals and an extra point -- seven points wasted in a seven-point loss. Los Angeles could have kept ex-Pro Bowl kicker Matt Gay with the franchise tag or transition tag last spring, but the team's long-standing philosophy of not investing in kickers led them to scrape the well-traveled Maher off the release pile Aug. 30 instead.

The Rams released Maher on Tuesday and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported shortly after that news was released that the team is planning to sign former Colts kicker Lucas Havrisik off the Browns' practice squad.

Havrisik has not appeared in a regular season game. But he spent most of last season on Indianapolis' practice squad. He then hit both of his field goal attempts in this year's preseason and 3-of-4 extra points with the Colts.

He was waived and subsequently signed with Cleveland's practice squad.

Havrisik played his college ball at Arizona, hitting 73-of-78 extra points and 34-of-53 field goal attempts. He twice hit from 57 yards in college. ...

Looking beyond the immediate issues, the Rams have been a strong road team in McVay's tenure, and two of their three wins this season are away from Inglewood. They'll need that road poise when they visit Dallas and Green Bay on the next two Sundays before their bye. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Nacua bounced back from a quiet game against Arizona with another spectacular outing, making eight receptions for 154 yards. The fifth-round pick was more reliable than Kupp, who dropped two passes on Los Angeles' opening drive. Nacua's bond with Stafford is getting stronger, and it has become the backbone of the Rams' offense.

In addition, Nacua saw a 44.4 percent target share. As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason noted, the rookie has fallen below a 32 percent target share in just two games this season, and he's been below a 21.9 percent target share zero times. ...

In addition, Tutu Atwell continues to make plays whenever he gets the chance. He alertly caught a 31-yard touchdown pass that was probably intended for Kupp, scoring for the second time in the Rams' last three games -- despite making only four catches in that stretch.

The undersized-but-effective Atwell's underuse has become an obvious area to address for Stafford and for McVay, who was infamously slow to give Atwell a true opportunity on offense until late last season. ...

On the biggest issue heading into last week. ... The number was zero.

As in the total carries this season before Sunday for Darrell Henderson and Royce Freeman, who stepped into the backfield and combined to rush for 127 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. With Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers going on IR, Zach Evans was the only other running back on the roster last week, so many assumed he would be the starter for Week 7.

Instead, Henderson who was out of the NFL and Freeman, who was the Rams' fourth-stringer before last weekend, found instant success -- underlining the league-wide perception that investment in running backs is foolhardy.

Fortunately, reports emerged before the game that Henderson and Freeman would lead the way, allowing fantasy managers to pivot away from Evans.

Henderson ran 18 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, while Freeman ran 12 times for 66 yards.

That near-even split in rushing attempts is what Henderson said he expected coming into Sunday's game.

"I didn't know I was going to start the game, but when we got here today, 50-50, every series we was going to be rotating," Henderson said. "I was just prepared and ready for my ops."

To get ready during the week, Henderson got as much work in as possible during practice, even going as far as getting additional snaps with the scout team. He said postgame that he felt fine physically.

"I think last week was a toll, but I started to turn over pretty quick," Henderson said.

Remember, the team also added Myles Gaskin last week. He was a healthy scratch, but could work his way into the mix at some point. So could Evans. But the fact he didn't get a single carry Sunday suggests a significant role isn't coming any time soon. ...

The Rams are relatively healthy. Even oft-injured lineman Joe Noteboom dressed for Sunday's game, though he played only on special teams because he has lost his prior starting jobs at left tackle to Alaric Jackson and at right guard to Kevin Dotson.

QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Colby Parkinson, Hunter Long, Davis Allen

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

After Buffalo beat Miami nearly a month ago, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said it was a valuable learning experience that his young team could use against tough competition later in the season.

McDaniel repeated those words after Sunday's road loss to the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.

"I kind of knew that going into the game that it was going to be that type of atmosphere," McDaniel said, "and I think that's very important for our team, being on the younger side, to experience. Those are critical. You have to feel what it's like to play such a good team on the road."

Miami will need to find a way to win such games at some point this season if it wants to be a title contender.

The AFC East-leading Dolphins have played two teams with winning records this season -- the Eagles and the Bills -- and have lost both games by double digits.

They scored 20 and 17 points against Buffalo and Philadelphia, respectively, which is well below their average of 34.3 points per game. On Sunday, Miami recorded a season-low 244 total yards after entering the game averaging nearly 500.

Penalties negated first-down conversions. Tyreek Hill also had a pair of uncharacteristic drops, one of which could have been a touchdown if he'd held on.

"It's tough when you come on the road against a really good team and you're not able to execute the way you expected to execute," quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. "But you have to give props to those guys and their coaching staff. They did a real good job in preparing for us. Some things went well for us, some things we're just trying to figure out there. But overall we just have to get better."

Tagovailoa was 23 of 32 for 216 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted by Eagles cornerback Darius Slay on an underthrown pass to Raheem Mostert in the end zone.

McDaniel said it was the type of loss that should hurt.

"The collection of coaches and players in the locker room right now are hurting because they feel like they left some plays on the field for sure," he said. "You know, losses, if approached the right way, if you're not pointing fingers and you're looking internally, can be a good thing too. So that's what we'll be determined to make this moving forward, starting with tomorrow."

Hill's ability to get open downfield remains Miami's most potent offensive threat. Hill sprinted through a double team for a 27-yard touchdown catch before halftime that cut the deficit to seven points.

Hill caught 11 passes for 88 yards -- a quiet day by his standards. He still led Miami's receivers Sunday and leads the NFL in receiving yards (902), touchdown catches (seven) and catches of 40-plus yards (six).

Penalties and miscommunication have stalled momentum too often, especially in both of Miami's road games. Tagovailoa said there were communication issues Sunday -- something he also mentioned after the loss to Buffalo.

"I have to communicate to the line," Tagovailoa said. "The cadence in a loud environment, you know, all of those things play a role in us going out there executing, especially with a loud environment."

Indeed, there were several things the Dolphins would like to clean up, like a delay of game on the first play of the game, a timeout to open a critical drive late in the third quarter, pre-snap infractions and an interception in the end zone.

On balance, the Dolphins have flipped the script on many of those issues compared to 2022, but they crept up again on Sunday night and played a factor in the loss.

The 10 penalties issued against Miami consistently put the offense behind the chains and wiped out a go-ahead touchdown in the first quarter. Against a team as good as the Eagles, in that environment, the Dolphins must play with fewer mistakes to secure a big victory.

The Dolphins host division rival New England in Week 8 before traveling to Frankfurt, Germany, to face Super Bowl champion Kansas City. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Mostert rushed for 45 yards on 9 carries in the loss to the Eagles. He also caught 1-of-3 targets for 6 yards through the air.

It wasn't the game many hoped for Mostert, who has been a touchdown machine so far this year. His lack of involvement was a bit puzzling, considering how the game was close for the majority of it. He'll look to get back on track against the Patriots Sunday.

Meanwhile, Jeff Wilson Jr. missed the first six games of the season with ribs and finger injuries.

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, Wilson ended last season as the Dolphins' most-used running back, so there was a possibility that he would handle a big role right away.

Instead, he was mostly limited to playing in the two-minute drill to end the first half.

Wilson never ran the ball but caught one pass for 4 yards. Salvon Ahmed remained the primary backup to Mostert on early downs.

Wilson will have only two more games to work his way back up the depth chart before De'Von Achane returns from injured reserve. Jahnke went on to suggest it's fine to hold onto Wilson in the short term to see if his role expands, but this was not a promising start for his fantasy value. ...

Hill and Jaylen Waddle combined for 17 of Miami's 23 receptions and 151 receiving yards.

Waddle suffered a back injury early in the second quarter, but he was able to return near the end of the third quarter. Cedrick Wilson Jr. was the main replacement for Waddle during the time he missed.

Chase Claypool made his Dolphins' debut, but most of his snaps occurred when Waddle was out. It's unclear how much he would have played had Waddle stayed healthy.

Jahnke believes it's at least possible that Claypool surpasses Wilson as the top backup on the outside, where he would have fantasy value if Hill or Waddle ever missed time. ...

On the injury front. ... Waddle played just 45 percent of snaps because of a back injury. His status bears watching and I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.

Beyond that, LT Terron Armstead (knee) remains on injured reserve, C Connor Williams (groin) missed his third game, and LG Isaiah Wynn injured his quad in the first quarter Sunday. ... CB Xavien Howard (groin) was inactive.

S Jevon Holland and Long collided helmets chasing Jalen Hurts in the third quarter. Both players remained on the ground after the play but walked off under their own power to be evaluated for concussions. Holland was cleared to re-enter to the game a few plays later.

Long did not return but was cleared after the game. Holland was placed in the concussion protocol Monday after reporting symptoms in his follow-up exam. ...

Finally. ... The Dolphins will be the featured in-season team for "Hard Knocks," they announced in a joint statement with HBO and NFL Films.

The show will air on MAX later this fall. An exact release date has not yet been announced.

The Dolphins will be the third team to be featured on the in-season version of the show, joining the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. Miami was featured on the training camp version of "Hard Knocks" in 2012.

McDaniel commented on his team's involvement while meeting with local media Monday. He admitted that it wasn't necessarily the Dolphins' choice to participate, but he can see the value in how the show will help bridge the gap between the team and its fans.

"I wouldn't call it a team decision. ... I steer clear of worrying about things that we can't control," he said. "I see some positives with this particular team, just knowing that there's a lot of things that, in terms of when we do have success on the field, people are curious as to how that happens.

"I think they'll see exactly where that comes from. I don't think it's a bad thing for people to see our day-in, day-out hard work."

Viewers will get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most interesting teams in the NFL with a star-studded locker room.

QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Odell Beckham, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Jonnu Smith, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell reported Kirk Cousins let the ball fly for Jordan Addison earlier than he wanted to in the face of an all-out San Francisco blitz in the closing seconds of the second quarter for Minnesota, bracing for the worst after realizing the pass was underthrown.

Addison won the tug-of-war battle this time with 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward and spun away for a 60-yard touchdown, and the Vikings finally pulled out a victory after three straight late lapses at home.

"I thought it was getting picked," Cousins said. "I still don't know how Jordan came away with it."

Cousins connected with Addison for two first-half scores, Camryn Bynum intercepted Brock Purdy twice in the fourth quarter, and the Vikings held on to beat the 49ers 22-17 on Monday night.

"One play here, one play there. We've had some tough losses," said Cousins, who went 35 for 45 for 378 yards and no sacks. "Last year we were fortunate enough to pull them out. We found a way tonight."

Addison, stepping up in a big way with superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson sidelined by a hamstring injury, had seven catches for 123 yards in his breakout performance on a prime-time stage.

The play of the game came with on third-and-6 with 16 seconds left before halftime when the 49ers sent three extra rushers. The fight for the ball with Ward was eerily similar to the opening drive of the game, when Cousins threw to Addison over the middle where it was wrestled away by Ward to hang the Vikings with their fourth opening-drive turnover in seven games.

"I needed that one," Addison said. "I couldn't let him get it twice."

The first-round draft pick from USC, who left the game briefly with leg cramps, also had a 14-yard reception on third-and-4 on a drive that could have sealed the game for Minnesota (3-4).

But Greg Joseph, who also missed an earlier extra point, pulled a 50-yard field goal wide right.

With no timeouts and 1:11 left, the 49ers took possession at their 40. Purdy, who was picked off with 5:30 remaining at the Minnesota 30 after an off-target pass intended for Jajuan Jennings, completed two short throws to reach the Minnesota 40. But Bynum zeroed in on a pass over the middle for Ray-Ray McCloud III and leaped in front of him for the interception.

"Obviously, our season isn't going as well as we would like it to, but nothing's better than bouncing back from adversity and stacking wins up," Bynum said.

The Vikings know a little about this.

All seven of the Vikings' games this season have been decided by one score. Last season, they famously went 11-0 in such contests.

Of course, they'll be looking for a more definitive victory this Sunday when they visit Green Bay to take on the Packers. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Cousins entered this game having won only two of 12 career starts on "Monday Night Football," tied for the most losses in NFL history among quarterbacks with at least 10 such starts. But he performed admirably against one of the NFL's top defenses on a night when the Vikings didn't appear to trust their running game.

Cousins hit the 300-yard mark for the 50th time in his 12-year career. Only four others have done that by their 12th season: Drew Brees (67), Matt Ryan (64), Peyton Manning (56) and Kurt Warner (52).

Meanwhile, as's Kevin Seifert notes, many wondered how the Vikings would navigate the loss of Jefferson.

So far, so good!

The Vikings are 2-0 since placing Jefferson on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury. And while their offense struggled to move the ball in Week 6 at Chicago, totaling just 220 yards, it controlled the game against the 49ers' previously stingy defense Monday night.

Those who watched the Vikings training camp knew that Addison was the real deal.

Cousins said as much recently, adding, "He's a great player."

And all it took was an injury to Jefferson for the rest of the NFL world to see it.

Addison's six receiving touchdowns rank second in the NFL, and his 14-yard catch on third down at the 2:19 mark -- after returning from a round of cramps -- helped seal the game.

One issue?

The running game.

Cousins threw 45 passes against only 19 carries by running backs.

The Vikings got a season-long 19 yards on their first running play of the game but managed only 55 yards on their other 20, forcing Cousins to continue throwing even as the Vikings were trying to run clock and preserve their lead

Alexander Mattison rushed eight times for 39 yards, adding three yards on two receptions. Cam Akers rushed 10 times for 31 yards, adding 30 yards on two receptions.

As Rotoworld notes, Mattison saw all of the work on the team's first two drives before ceding most of the remaining backfield opportunities that came outside the five yard line to Akers, notably getting stuffed on two goal line carries as well.

On the injury front. ... LB Brian Asamoah limped off after colliding on the kickoff with Flannigan-Fowles. ... LG Ezra Cleveland (foot) didn't play, replaced by Dalton Risner.

QBs: Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Sam Darnold
RBs: Aaron Jones, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor
TEs: Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse, T.J. Hockenson

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Head coach Bill Belichick recorded his 300th career regular-season win in dramatic fashion Sunday, as quarterback Mac Jones led a touchdown drive in the final minute of a 29-25 triumph over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.

As's Mike Reiss, the Patriots (2-5) were on the cusp of letting a game they led for large stretches slip away from them before Jones engineered an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive after taking over with 1:58 left on the clock. Jones hit tight end Mike Gesicki on a 1-yard pass with 12 seconds remaining.

It was the type of final drive that Patriots fans had grown accustomed to during Tom Brady's playing days but had mostly been elusive for Jones, who is in his third season.

"I want to continue to do that and make people believe," Jones said.

Jones was 11-of-13 for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He finished 25-of-30 for 272 yards with the two touchdowns and no interceptions, and his 83.3 completion percentage was the third highest in franchise history in a game with at least 30 pass attempts.

Jones had been pulled from blowout losses to the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints in Weeks 4 and 5, as costly turnovers that were turned into points loosened his hold on the starting job. Players rallied around him after Sunday's win.

"I don't think a lot of the talk and stuff that happens with him is fair, honestly," Gesicki said. "I think he's done an unbelievable job blocking that out and internally leading us through all that adversity. Today, back against the wall, and you hear all the talk about 'We can't close,' and he stood in there and delivered play after play after play."

Reiss reminded readers that Jones' only other late-game winning drive came in Week 5 of the 2021 season, in a 25-22 overtime win over the Houston Texans. As for Belichick, whose team was off to the worst start in his 24 years as coach, he becomes just the third head coach in NFL history to reach 300 career regular-season wins -- behind Don Shula (328) and George Halas (318).

Including playoffs, Belichick has totaled 331 wins, shy of just Shula's 347.

"He's probably the best to do it," safety Jabrill Peppers said. "Knowledgeable. He knows how to win. He coaches the right way. He knows how to push the right buttons to get guys going. We're going to continue to play hard for him."

Belichick downplayed the honor, saying: "It's great, but I'm really more focused on our team and this year. Will worry about that later. Thank you."

The Patriots' final drive was needed after the Bills turned a lost fumble from receiver Kendrick Bourne into a touchdown and 2-point conversion to take a 25-22 lead on the first play after the two-minute warning.

It started with a 34-yard catch-and-run from running back Rhamondre Stevenson, and a 15-yard connection from Jones to tight end Hunter Henry on third-and-8 was another critical play.

"We watch those guys take ownership in practice," Peppers said. "Mac had a great week ... and it showed. I know they feel good they can win the game for us when it mattered."

Gesicki's touchdown marked the third time in the past 30 seasons that the Patriots have scored a go-ahead passing touchdown in the final 15 seconds of a game, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The others were quarterback Drew Bledsoe to tight end Ben Coates with no time remaining to beat the Bills in 1998, and Brady hitting receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with 5 seconds remaining to beat the New Orleans Saints in 2013.

And now, as Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower notes, the seat under Belichick isn't as warm as it seemed just a week ago.

How long that remains the case is to be determined.

At 2-5, New England is still at the bottom of the AFC East and would need to improve significantly over its final 10 games to move into playoff contention. But for a team that entered the week mired in injuries, inconsistency and ineptitude on offense, Sunday's victory offered the first real signs that the Patriots possess the potential -- and personnel -- to compete with the AFC's better teams.

They'll look to build on that over the next three games. They feature matchups against three defenses ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in points per game allowed: Miami (26.7), Washington (27.1) and Indianapolis (27.3).

Stevenson said Sunday's win carries the same meaning across the locker room.

"Just getting back on track. Gaining some more confidence," he said. "It just builds confidence and we've got to keep it rolling. ..."

This week, the Patriots will look to avenge a Week 2 loss when they visit Miami on Sunday. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is 5-0 against Belichick.

Other notes of interest. ... The Patriots had a new combination of wide receivers healthy, and's Nathan Jahnke points out there were some surprises in which players played a lot of snaps.

Last week, Tyquan Thornton was activated off injured reserve while JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario Douglas were out due to concussions.

Douglas returned this week while Smith-Schuster remained out.

Douglas played 100 percent of the 11 and 01 personnel snaps with no snaps in 12 or 22 personnel. He played almost entirely in the slot, moving Bourne back outside.

Bourne also played 100 percent of snaps in 11 personnel and nearly every snap in 12 personnel. He led the team in targets.

Thornton seemed to be the primary competition for DeVante Parker at the other outside receiver spot as Parker only had 136 receiving yards and no touchdowns in his five games. Instead, Jalen Reagor nearly split time with Parker. Parker tended to play more in 11 personnel while Reagor played more in 12 personnel.

Douglas, a 2023 sixth-round pick out of Liberty, has emerged as the team's most dynamic playmaker, as he provided the type of spark the offense badly needed after returning from missing last week due to a concussion (4 catches for 54 yards; 1 rush for 20 yards; 1 punt return for 25 yards).

He didn't reach the end zone, but each of his touches put the Patriots in position to score. ...

Hunter Henry's playing time has decreased each of the last several games as other tight ends have gotten more involved.

Henry was questionable heading into this game due to an ankle injury that also limited him in Week 6. He only played in 10 of a possible 22 snaps in 12 personnel while Gesicki and Pharaoh Brown were the primary tight ends in that personnel group.

Henry remained the primary tight end in 11 personnel with 19 of a possible 36 snaps, but both Gesicki and Brown were involved there too.

Henry caught two of his three targets for 27 yards. He had only caught one pass for seven yards in the previous two games.

As Jahnke suggests, "There is certainly a chance his playing time bounced back a little bit, but it probably won't reach the heights of earlier this season or last season. ..."

Also according to Jahnke, Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott's playing time remained similar to the past two weeks. Stevenson played every snap on the first drive and Elliott took every snap on the second drive, which is when Elliott scored his touchdown.

Elliott has scored in back-to-back weeks but isn't necessarily the Patriots' goal-line back, making him a potential asset to sell high.

On the injury front. ... Linebacker Anfernee Jennings was able to run off the field after being shaken up following a hit on Latavius Murray in the third quarter. Left tackle Trent Brown left with a knee injury. Lowe left with an ankle injury.

Finally. ... Quarterback Malik Cunningham's stay on the Patriots' 53-man roster turned out to be a brief one.

The Patriots waived Cunningham on Tuesday. They also released veteran defensive end Trey Flowers rather than activate him from the physically unable to perform list.

As notes, Cunningham initially signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent this offseason and he wound up on the practice squad after some impressive preseason performances. He was signed to the active roster on October 14 and played six snaps in New England's loss before being inactive for their Week Seven win over the Bills.

Bailey Zappe and Will Grier remain on the roster as backups to Jones.

Flowers was designated to return three weeks ago. He was placed on the PUP list after signing on for a second stint with the team in August. Flowers played in 55 games and won a pair of Super Bowl rings during his first run in New England and moved on to play for the Lions and Dolphins over the last four seasons.

QBs: Bailey Zappe, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Antonio Gibson, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Pharaoh Brown

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Head coach Dennis Allen said he's frustrated that quarterback Derek Carr and the wide receivers haven't been able to get on the same page near the midpoint of the season.

Miscommunication issues have been a focal point of the Saints losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday and to the Houston Texans last Sunday. Allen has said multiple times this week that he feels like the Saints are too inconsistent, and the offense being out of sync is one of the main reasons.

"That is probably one of the things that I'm most frustrated about, is just that's part of that inconsistency," Allen said after the 31-24 loss to the Jaguars. "Somehow, some way, we have to get those guys on the same page. There's a lot that goes into that."

As's Katherine Terrell reminded readers, the Saints went 0-3 in the red zone in Week 6 against the Texans and those problems continued into Thursday night, with the team failing to score a touchdown against the Jaguars until the start of the fourth quarter. The Saints were 3-of-18 on third down against the Jaguars and rank 25th in third down conversions and 28th in red zone efficiency overall.

Allen and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael have both questioned whether they need to simplify things on offense after lamenting the inability to get the unit on the same page.

"Our team is too inconsistent right now and that's what's causing us problems so we'll have to work to get that done," Allen said as the Saints head into a mini-bye week. "We've got 10 days to get it done."

One example of that inconsistency occurred on 3rd-and-5 with 10:44 left in the game. Carr showed visible frustration after an incompletion thrown in wide receiver Chris Olave's direction went out of bounds down the sideline.

Allen said Olave's job was to take off and clear out the defense. The broadcast announcers remarked that Olave appeared to slow down and pull up on the route before the play was over.

"Derek thought there was a good chance to get a 1-on-1 shot with him on the outside lanes ... and Chris didn't run that route the way it needs to be run," Allen said. "So that's what happened. We ended up having a throwaway there."

Allen mentioned inconsistencies again when asked about an assessment of Olave's play. The second-year player leads the team with 471 receiving yards but has had some up-and-down performances this season.

"There's obvious shots of guys that are doing it right, and when they do, it looks really good," Allen said. "It's efficient, it's effective and then there's plays where it's not efficient and effective and it's not being done exactly the way we need it to be done, and that's what has to be cleaned up."

Carr appeared to be yelling in Olave's direction after the play finished. Olave initially went to the bench to review a play on the tablet as Carr talked to running back Alvin Kamara. Carr and Olave then spoke briefly on the sideline.

It was the second time in a week that Carr was seen upset on the sideline and he's admitted he needs to control his emotions better.

"I have been showing my emotions a little too much on my sleeve," Carr said. "I have got to kind of chill out and that's me holding myself accountable because that's not going to help anything. Just trying to be a calming influence in those moments especially during moments of heightened frustration- I can be that presence to calm everybody down."

Carr said he apologized to Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael the previous Sunday for a sideline outburst that wasn't directed at him, and said his outburst on Thursday was not directed at Olave either.

"I wasn't talking to Chris, like the past two weeks, I was just talking in general," Carr said. "There were some things that happened today that led to some pretty big negative plays that should never happened and I think that's where my frustration came from"

The Saints have discussed communication at length in the past week, with team captains urging everyone after the Texans loss to look in the mirror and take accountability. But the Saints weren't able to turn things around on a short week.

"It's not like we're not trying to communicate," said wide receiver Michael Thomas. "There's no guys that are defiant. I just don't know if everyone's definition of communication is the same."

The one positive the Saints took away from the game was their success with the hurry-up offense and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Allen said running up-tempo gave the team a spark and could be used going forward.

"No question I felt like that was something that jump-started the offense a little bit," Allen said. "Maybe that's something that can benefit us as we continue to go through this season."

"I think that's an advantage to the offense. We like getting into that two-minute or up-tempo kind of offense," Kamara said. 'We have a lot of advantages. I think we left some opportunities out there though. I think there are some matchups that we still have to take advantage of. We have to play matchup ball. It is tough because sometimes I think we are not playing matchup ball. We are just playing."

According to Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel, Allen views his team's recent rough patch through a hopeful lens.

"We're not even at the halfway point" of the season, Allen noted Friday after reviewing video of Thursday night's loss. "There were some encouraging things in terms of our ability on offense and what we can do. I saw what we can be offensively."

The loss was the fourth for the Saints (3-4) in five games, but they are by no means out of the NFC South race. Tampa Bay entered this week leading the division at 3-2.

Three of New Orleans' losses were close, with the Saints threatening to go ahead or tie the score in the final two minutes of each.

The Saints visit Indianapolis this Sunday, followed by a home game against Chicago and a visit to Minnesota before a bye in Week 11. ...

Meanwhile, Olave was arrested Monday in Kenner, Louisiana, for reckless operation of a motor vehicle, the Kenner Police Department confirmed to NFL Media.

Olave was driving 70 mph in a 35 mph zone on the 1700 block of Joe Yenni Blvd. The charge of reckless operation of a vehicle is a misdemeanor.

Olave, 23, is a second-year player who was taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Saints with the No. 11 overall pick.

The Ohio State product posted a 1,000-yard season as a rookie and has played in each of the Saints' seven games this year with five starts, 39 receptions, 471 yards and a touchdown.

I'll be watching for any ramifications from this in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...

Other notes of interest. ... As's John Paulsen noted, Jamaal Williams returned, but only played 22 percent of the snaps and saw just 5 carries.

Kamara's workload (29 touches, including 12 catches) continues to be massive. He has 55 touches in the last two games.

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason points out that Kamara has averaged 9.8 targets per contest over his four games this year. He's hit a 28 percent target share in two of those four games. ...

Taysom Hill rushed for 18 yards and a TD and added 4-50 (5) as a receiver. He played 58 percent or more of the snaps for the second week in a row and has 17 touches in that span. ...

The Saints were inside the Jacksonville 10-yard-line for four plays in the final minute, but never scored a touchdown that would send the game to overtime.

The closest they came was a third down throw to tight end Foster Moreau in the corner of the end zone, but Moreau dropped Carr's pass and the Jaguars went on to hold on for the win. Moreau said he cut his route too short and that's why he didn't come up with a "routine" pass.

"Yeah, you know, it's tough," Moreau said. "In front of every man, woman and child I've ever known. It's a dark place to be. It's the National Football League. It doesn't come down to one play, but it comes down to one play. The team fought. The team fought as hard as we did. It's just unacceptable, it's just pathetic."

Carr and Kamara echoed the idea that games don't come down to one play and said they are confident that Moreau is going to bounce back, but it was clear after the game that it will take a bit for Moreau to let himself off the hook for how Thursday night ended. ...

The Saints had four cracks at the end zone from the Jacksonville six yard line to score a game-tying touchdown in the final 40 seconds of last night's game. And with only 18 feet between the Saints and paydirt, they did not deploy tight end Jimmy Graham.

After the game, Allen was asked about Graham's absence from the red-zone package.

"Look, it's a staff decision in terms of what we do," Allen said. "So I think any time you're not successful down there, you know, everybody's gonna want to know why you didn't do something else. And, look, valid question. We had a plan going in, and that was the plan."

Graham was on the field for only 18 of 90 offensive plays last night. He was not targeted a single time.

For the season, Graham has been targeted only twice, with one catch for eight yards and a touchdown against the Packers. ...

Finally. ... The Saints did not appear to have any significant new injuries on Thursday night.

Now they hope the extra time off will help right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (concussion), left tackle James Hurst (ankle) and tight end Juwan Johnson (calf) recuperate.

Allen said Johnson should be available against the Colts.

QBs: Derek Carr, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood, Lynn Bowden, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As's Jordan Raanan noted, several days after the Giants articulated their intention to keep Saquon Barkley through the trade deadline, the star running back scored the winning touchdown after hyperextending his elbow earlier in the contest.

Barkley's 32-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter turned out to be the winning score in an up-and-down 14-7 victory over the Washington Commanders. He also fumbled deep in Washington territory late in the fourth quarter to keep it a one-score game.

All this came after he hyperextended his elbow on the game's second drive when he was tackled to the ground and into the kicking net by Washington linebacker Jamin Davis. Barkley went to the sideline and was attended to by trainers. He returned the following series with a sleeve on his left arm and elbow.

"I'll be all right," Barkley said with a meeting against the crosstown rival New York Jets on the horizon next Sunday.

The trade deadline is the following Tuesday (Oct. 31) at 4 p.m. ET.

It doesn't look as if Barkley is going anywhere, even though he is playing on an adjusted franchise tag and set to become a free agent after the season. After Barkley was asked about the potential of being traded last week, the Giants' brass pulled him aside to assure that they wanted him to remain a key piece to their puzzle.

"I wouldn't say it's a sigh of relief. ... It didn't cross my mind," Barkley said. "I don't even think about it. I know you guys are doing your job and asking the question.

"There was a conversation during the week from [coach Brian Daboll] and [general manager] Joe [Schoen]. They pulled me aside and talked to me. I can't control that, if it doesn't happen or it does happen. What I can control is how I come to work every single day and how I compete, my mindset and my work ethic. That's what I'm going to continue to do."

The Giants (2-5) won on Sunday for the first time since Week 2. They snapped a four-game skid. They also scored an offensive touchdown for the first time in over a month.

They'll have some decisions to make by the deadline aside from Barkley, especially if they lose to the Jets. But trading their most explosive playmaker would be detrimental to the product on the field this season. That his future remains uncertain is a separate pressing issue.

Barkley, 26, made it clear that does not want to be anywhere else other than the place where he was drafted second overall in the 2018 NFL draft.

"Everyone knows I don't want to be traded," he said last week.

Barkley has consistently stated he wants to be a Giant for life. He has a life and family in New Jersey, where the Giants make their home. Uprooting everything he has built in the area is not among his preferences.

But while Schoen has said before he's not "shopping" a player, it doesn't necessarily mean he won't listen. He eventually traded Kadarius Toney (in a much different situation) only a few months after insisting he wasn't exploring trades for the wide receiver.

Barkley's value to the Giants is obvious. They have looked significantly more competent since his return last Sunday night in Buffalo from a high ankle sprain that cost him three games. Barkley had 77 yards on 21 carries against the Commanders. He added three catches for 41 yards and the touchdown.

And also the fumble that kept the Commanders alive late. It prompted him to joke afterward that the fan base would "ship my ass out if we had lost that game."

In the end, the Giants finally played a game that reminded people of the team that went to the playoffs a year ago, ending a five-year postseason drought. Or, as Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan put it, "In beating the Commanders on Sunday, the Giants did just enough to win."

The Giants can't afford many more losses. They have five and the remainder of the schedule includes two games with Philadelphia (6-1) and one at Dallas (4-2).

The other teams on the schedule are as inconsistent as the Giants.

That's the hope for Daboll's team. Pull a surprise or two against their NFC East rivals and win as many of the other games as possible. It's a road to the playoffs, but it will be difficult to traverse.

Next up, is the only thing that matches an NFC East rivalry game: A meeting for the bragging rights of MetLife Stadium: Jets-Giants on Sunday. ...

For the record. ... The offense ended its scoring drought at almost 221 minutes when Tyrod Taylor threw a touchdown pass to Darren Waller 42 seconds into the second quarter. Taylor added the aforementioned 32-yard catch-and-run to Barkley later in the quarter.

The 14 points were about three above their average.

Taylor had another good day filling in with Daniel Jones sidelined for the second straight week with a neck injury. The 34-year-old was 18 of 29 for 279 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. He also ran eight times for 25 yards.

"I would just say Tyrod had a good game this game and he's a true pro and I'm glad we've got him," Daboll said.

The 279 yards were Taylor's most in a game since Week 1 of the 2021 season, when he threw for 291 yards for the Texans against the Jaguars. Taylor's 116.9 passer rating was his highest in a start since Week 2 of the '21 campaign vs. Cleveland (144.3).

Jones' status is uncertain. Daboll said he will know more Wednesday.

The offensive line played without tackles Andrew Thomas, Evan Neal, Matt Peart, Josh Ezeudu and center John Michael Schmitz. Cornerback Adoree Jackson (neck) also missed the game and Gray (calf) and Brightwell (hamstring) were injured on special teams.

I'll have more on Jones and the o-line -- and Barkley if need be -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

A few final items. ... According to Canavan, it was only a matter of time given the talent and target share, but Waller finally had a breakout game as New York's No. 1 receiver with seven catches on eight targets for 98 yards and his first touchdown as a Giant.

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that Waller has now given us two top-seven PPR performances at tight end over his last three games. His target shares over his last three: 36.7 percent, 22.6 percent, and 29.6 percent. ...

Jalin Hyatt caught two passes in this game, one for 42 yards and another for 33. He had two receptions of 25-plus air yards before his week, and he added another two this week.

Hyatt joins A.J. Brown, Rashid Shaheed, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Joshua Palmer and Marvin Mims Jr. as the only wide receivers with four or more such plays.

He's spent the season rotating with Isaiah Hodgins for an outside receiving role. Hyatt more than doubles Hodgins in offensive snaps for a second straight week.

In fact, per Zachariason, Hyatt ran the third-most routes for the Giants today, trailing only Darius Slayton and Waller. He finished with a season high 18.5 percent target share (previous high was 12.9 percent). ...

Punt returns were an issue. ... Rookie Eric Gray fumbled a punt that Nick McCloud recovered in the first quarter.

Sterling Shepard took over after Gray (calf) was hurt and had a fair catch, a 5-yard return and the fumble that helped give the Commanders their touchdown. Slayton was next up. He let one punt go over his head into the end zone and fair caught the last one, drawing a sarcastic cheer from the fans. Daboll said the team would have tryouts this week, and it's probable a punt returner will audition.

Gray was placed on injured reserve due to the injury on Tuesday.

QBs: Tommy DeVito, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones
RBs: Devin Singletary, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr., the switch seemed to flip for Zach Wilson against an unlikely opponent.

With the Jets considered heavy underdogs against the Kansas City Chiefs three weeks ago, Wilson had arguably the best performance of his career.

Confidence and clutch playmaking were on display in what would end up as a loss on the field -- but a victory for a young quarterback who consistently struggled in his first two-plus seasons. Wilson has since continued to be mostly solid for the Jets, who are opening the playbook and showing increased belief in him.

"That trust level started with that Kansas City game," head coach Robert Saleh said Monday. "From a game-planning standpoint, it's been an open book with him starting with the Kansas City game where it was, 'all right, let's see what he's got.' And now he's proven it week in and week out and he's doing a really nice job."

Saleh acknowledged that defenses will dictate what the offense can accomplish -- or can't -- in a given game.

"But as far as game planning and trying to figure (things) out, we're not trying to hide Zach at all," Saleh said. "We're letting him play football and the play designs and the game plan is one that is for a quarterback we trust."

Wilson was 28 of 39 for 245 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers in that 23-20 loss to the Chiefs. He went 19 of 26 for 199 yards with no TDs and an interception in a 31-21 win at Denver, then followed that up by going 19 of 33 for 186 yards without a TD or turnover in a 20-14 victory over previously undefeated Philadelphia.

They aren't eye-popping numbers, by any means. And Wilson isn't the main reason the Jets won two in a row before going into their bye last week.

But Wilson also has not been the cause of any losses lately.

"He just got better," running back Breece Hall said. "It's just the team and everybody being confident in him and letting him know we believe in him."

That's a significant step, one the Jets hope continues Sunday when they take on the Giants.

"When the whole world is coming down on you, you're naturally going to defend yourself," Saleh said. "The difference between last year and this year, it's a lot of things that you guys don't see because you guys aren't at practice. His execution at practice is so much better than it was at this time a year ago.

"I think he knows he can play this game and he's got inner confidence with himself first."

That might not have been the case always, especially after he was benched twice last season and rubbed some of his teammates the wrong way for not taking responsibility for a particularly tough loss to New England.

Wilson took a backseat this offseason to Aaron Rodgers, who came to the Jets as what many considered the missing piece to a return to the playoffs -- and perhaps far beyond -- after a 12-year drought.

When Rodgers went down with a torn left Achilles tendon four plays into his debut, the fear was the postseason hopes went with him.

But backed by what has been a strong defense and Wilson's improved play, the Jets' playoff hopes don't appear so grim.

New York still needs to improve greatly in several areas of offense, though, and Wilson has said that starts with him. The Jets' 25 percent third-down conversion rate ranks last in the NFL. So does their 29.4 percent efficiency in the red zone.

But belief in their quarterback has risen drastically. And that bodes well for Wilson.

"I think he feels that this organization is behind him," Saleh said. "I think he feels that the locker room is behind him. I think he feels that the coaching staff is behind him. And on top of it, I think he sees he's practicing really well and his teammates see that he's practicing well. Then you get to game day and I think everyone sees that he's gotten a lot better.

"He still has a long way to go. He incrementally is getting better. ... I think it's very easy for a person to be able to take accountability when you know you got people that have your back. ..."

Heading into Sunday's game against the Giants, Saleh said CBs Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed remain in the concussion protocol. ... LT Duane Brown is eligible to return from IR this week, but Saleh said the team will see how he feels before making a decision. ...

Other notes of interest. ... It was 365 days ago on Monday that Hall sustained a torn ACL in Week 7 against the Denver Broncos at Empower Stadium at Mile High.

Hall missed the final 11 games of his rookie season and spent the offseason rehabbing and was back in time to be ready for Week 1 of the 2023 season. A year after the injury, Hall leads the NFL with 6.5 yards per carry (min. 50 attempts) and is No. 6 in the league in rush yards (426).

The second-year tailback shared a tweet to commemorate the anniversary and reflected on his journey back when talking to the media Monday.

"I had no idea today was the day until I think one of my trainers had told me and I was like, 'Oh, that is crazy,'" Hall said. "I really wasn't even thinking about it or it hadn't crossed my mind or anything. But it has been a crazy year, ups and downs, frustrations, tears, everything. Just prayed throughout the whole process, worked my tail off and I am here today."

In Week 5, Hall set a career-high with 177 yards rushing against Denver and has brought a spark to the Jets locker room.

"I think I bring the mentality that not only helps myself but helps the guys on our team out," Hall said. "They see me walk out there and kind of have that mindset that I am the best player when I am on the field. Those guys see that, and they believe in me, they know I believe in them, and I just want to be one of those guys that just grabs everybody, turns everybody up, and makes everybody play a little bit better."

Finally. ... Saleh said that the decision to trade WR Mecole Hardman, who was signed in free agency, to the Chiefs was largely driven by the emergence of undrafted free agent Xavier Gipson.

Gipson gave a glimpse of his versatility when he returned a Buffalo punt for the winning TD in OT in the season-opening game on Sept. 11.

"With Mecole, he's been fantastic, a good young man," Saleh said. "He was battling injuries in OTAs and training camp, and in the meantime here comes this undrafted rookie, and man this guy's really good. It was an opportunity for us to develop a young guy. I'm excited for Mecole and his opportunity, but it's more a testament to Gipson being able to get some reps. He took it and ran with it and is doing a heck of a job."

QBs: Trevor Siemian, Tyrod Taylor, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Mike Williams, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Jalen Hurts played the second half of Sunday night's 31-17 win over the Miami Dolphins with a brace on his left leg.

According to's Tim McManus, Hurts did not go into much detail postgame, but a source said it's believed to be a knee injury.

"I'll be fine," Hurts said, though when asked if it's something that will affect him moving forward, he responded, "I hope not."

Hurts on Sunday rushed 11 times (including three kneel downs) for 21 yards and a touchdown while throwing for 279 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He rushed three times in the second half.

Hurts appeared to be grimacing as he jogged off the field after the game. Teammates indicated he played through pain.

"I don't want to put his business out there, but he's a tough individual," receiver A.J. Brown said.

"Our style of play, sometimes he scrambles out and may get nicked up," added right tackle Lane Johnson. "But he does a good job. He never really shows it or complains or anything."

Hurts was late coming out of the tunnel for the second half, and backup Marcus Mariota warmed up on the sideline in his absence, creating some confusion about who would be under center when the offense retook the field.

Head coach Nick Sirianni, though, said it wasn't in doubt that Hurts would continue playing.

"He played the rest of the game and played at a very high level," Sirianni said. "I thought he played really outstanding. Man, he is a competitor. There is nobody else I would rather be our quarterback. He played his butt off tonight. He's tough."

Hurts had a pair of giveaways in the game, including a pick-six, upping his turnover total to 10 on the season -- second highest in the NFL behind Desmond Ridder of the Atlanta Falcons. Hurts has thrown an interception in a career-high three straight games.

But he continues to generate points, and Philadelphia keeps winning, improving to 6-1 on the year.

On a night when the Eagles donned the throwback kelly green jerseys, Hurts tied Randall Cunningham for most rushing touchdowns by an Eagles quarterback (32).

"It's crazy," Hurts said. "Kind of cool to do that wearing his old jersey."

When asked what's in store this week in terms of following up on his injury, Hurts said: "Nothing too much. Just get ready for the next opponent."

Beyond all that however, Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston contends Hurts clearly hasn't been himself this season.

The game-breaking runs have been kept in check and his eight interceptions are two more than he threw a season ago. Gelston went on to suggest Hurts has seemed hesitant at times, almost as if he didn't trust himself to make the right play -- and his knack for holding on to the ball has led to some of the picks and fumbles that plagued him this season.

Whether it was the lingering effects of offseason surgery on his left ankle or a series of hard hits that took a toll, Hurts has only 274 yards rushing this season.

His six scores are largely the result of the 1-yard "tush push" that has become both copied and reviled around the league.

As Hurts goes, so go the Eagles.

They started 13-1 last season before Hurts sprained his right shoulder and they lost two straight games. He returned in the finale and led the Eagles to a win over the Giants and the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

This week, the Eagles hit the road for a rematch with the Commanders. Jake Elliott kicked a 54-yard field goal in overtime to lift Philadelphia to a 34-31 victory over Washington at the Linc on Oct. 1.

All eyes will, of course, be on Hurts.

On Monday, Sirianni was asked at his press conference about how Hurts is feeling a day after the game. Sirianni said the quarterback seemed to be doing well, but the team would keep monitoring him as the week unfolds.

"Seemed like he was in good spirits and good today," Sirianni said. "We'll see later in the week of how he's feeling and everything. I know that he battled through being uncomfortable yesterday. He can answer some of those questions as far as how he felt and all those different things. I just know this guy is tough as nails and is going to do everything he can do to help our football team win. He knows to help our football team win he has to be on the field, and just credit to him for him playing one of his better games this season through some discomfort that he had yesterday."

Hurts has taken every offensive snap for the Eagles through the first seven weeks of the season.

As for how much Hurts practices the rest of the week, Sirianni said, "Got to talk to the trainers, talk to Jalen."

I'll have more on the QB's status as developments warrant in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest. ...

Other notes of interest. ... A.J. Brown is well on pace to have a better year than last season, when he set the team record with 1,496 yards receiving. He is having one of the best seasons for any Eagles player, at any position. Brown had 10 catches for 137 yards against the Dolphins. In his previous four games, he had 131 yards, 127, 175 and 131.

Brown became the second NFL player since the 1970 merger to record 125-plus receiving yards in five consecutive games, joining Detroit's Calvin Johnson in 2012. Brown also joined Terrell Owens in 2004 as the only Eagles receiver since the merger with five straight games of 100-plus receiving yards in a single season.

Each of Brown's 10 receptions came against the Dolphins in off coverage (5-pluse yards of cushion). Brown currently leads the NFL in targets (58), receptions (43) and receiving yards (625) against off coverage this season. ...

Olamide Zaccheaus had zero catches on one target. With Julio Jones now in the fold, Zaccheaus' playing time could be limited.

Jones was expected to play between 15 and 25 snaps heading into the game, and he fell right into that range, with all of his snaps coming in 11 personnel.

While Zaccheaus was primarily the slot receiver when he played in 11 personnel, Jones lined up wide more often than not, with DeVonta Smith taking more snaps from the slot. ...

As's Nathan Jahnke noted, most top tight ends played well for National Tight End Day, and that included Dallas Goedert. He caught five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He needs only one more touchdown to match his entire 2022 total.

D'Andre Swift averaged 6.9 yards per carry in his first two starts with the Eagles, 4.1 yards per carry in his following two games and 3.2 yards per carry in his last two. Swift finished with 62 yards on 15 carries. Kenneth Gainwell didn't do much until he sealed the game late with a 3-yard TD run.

Finally. ... The Eagles traded for two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard on Monday to help a banged-up secondary hours after beating the NFL's best offense.

The Eagles are sending safety Terrell Edmunds to the Tennessee Titans, along with fifth- and sixth-round draft picks in 2024.

The 30-year-old safety is one of two players in the NFL with 600-plus tackles and 20-plus INTs since 2017 (Jordan Poyer), and his 27 picks are second-most in the NFL (Xavien Howard), according to NFL Research. Byard leads all safeties with 59 passes defensed since 2017.

Byard will pair with Reed Blankenship, who is dealing with an injury, to form a Middle Tennessee State safety duo on the back end of Sean Desai's defense.

QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Kenny Pickett, Tanner McKee
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves wrote, "On paper, the Pittsburgh Steelers don't make any sense.

"They've been outscored by 24 points, outgained by more than 360 yards and outplayed for most of the 24 quarters they've been on the field this season.

"And yet they're 4-2 anyway heading into a three-game homestand that could define their season. ..."

"I just love the fight in this group," head coach Mike Tomlin said after a comeback victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. "They don't blink. They cut their eyelids off."

This prompted Graves to suggest, "Considering the way it looks sometimes -- particularly on offense -- it might be the only way to watch."

For more than two hours against the Rams, it looked like more of the same. The Steelers didn't move the ball with any regularity. First downs, momentum and any sense of cohesive play were hard to come by.

Until, suddenly, they were.

Pittsburgh's late surge at SoFi Stadium was as overwhelming as it was unexpected.

The Steelers racked up 184 yards, scored two touchdowns and held the ball for more than 13 of the game's last 16 minutes to beat the Rams in Los Angeles in the regular season for the first time in franchise history.

While Tomlin often likes to say there's nothing "mystical" when it comes to playing better football, the reality his team seems to conjure competency out of thin air at just about the moment all seems lost with surprising regularity.

"Just playing football, man," quarterback Kenny Pickett said after the fifth comeback win of his career. "It's not going to be smooth all the time."

At some point, especially if the Steelers want to keep pace in what looks to be a very competitive AFC North, it might have to be.

Pittsburgh's early 2023 formula of "sputtering for a while and hoping T.J. Watt bails us out" isn't going to work forever.

Yet it worked -- again -- in Los Angeles.

Watt's interception at the start of the second half led to a Pickett quarterback sneak for a touchdown that drew the Steelers even and when the Rams kept missing kicks and opportunities to put Pittsburgh away, the Steelers took advantage and made Los Angeles pay late.

Just as they did against Cleveland in Week 2. Just as they did against Baltimore in Week 5.

Is it sustainable?


Yet Pittsburgh is optimistic it doesn't have to be. Watt and the defense -- and some questionable decision-making by the opponents (particularly the Browns and Ravens) -- have bought the offense time to get it together.

The Steelers are hopeful it finally might be happening. Pittsburgh is 11-4 over its past 15 games going back to last year's bye week.

Even though points remain at a premium. Even though Pickett and company remain very much a work in progress.

If the Steelers ever start to figure things out offensively on a consistent basis, they even might start to make sense on paper and the field and not just the standings. That's a massive "if"."

"I think the sky's the limit if we work and put it together," Pickett said. "I'm not going to get into expectations of what I think that we should do or could do, but we're on our way there so that's good news."

Next up, the Steelers will try to do something they've done only once since 2001: Beat Jacksonville at home. The Steelers are 1-5 in their past six meetings with the Jaguars (including playoffs) at Acrisure Stadium. ...

Among their primary objectives: The Steelers need to find a way to keep their emotions in check, particularly wide receivers Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. The two were each assessed a taunting penalty against Los Angeles, with Pickens drawing another 15-yard flag for an illegal blindside hit.

"Obviously we got to clean up some things from a management of our emotions, but I would much rather say, 'Whoa' than 'Sic 'em,'" Tomlin said after the win. "We got some guys that are competitors. They just got to compete in the appropriate and mature and professional way. We use it as a learning experience. It's good to learn while sitting at 4-2 as opposed to 3-3."

Johnson, playing for the first time since sustaining a hamstring injury in Week 1, was flagged for holding a finger to his face mask in a shushing mime to cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in the fourth quarter.

"Emotions are high," said Johnson, who had five catches for 79 yards. "You never know what can happen out there. Everybody wants to be the best out there and make those plays, and like I said, our emotions sometimes get the best of us, but that's not an excuse.

"That's just a matter of keeping your head and knowing how to handle the situation out there and just keep playing."

According to's Brooke Pryor, Pickens, who had five receptions for 107 yards for his first career back-to-back 100-yard games, got a similar message from his teammates and coaches when he came to the sideline after his taunting penalty -- his second 15-yard penalty of the afternoon after being whistled for a blindside block that wiped out a 19-yard Johnson completion at the end of the first quarter.

Pickens said he noticed defenders playing him differently Sunday, purposefully trying to rattle him and goad him into making those costly mistakes.

So for Pickens and the rest of the Steelers, it's about finding that perfect balance of playing with an edge and being fueled by opponents' gamesmanship without acting in a way that's detrimental to the team.

"It's tough," Pickett said. "You're walking a fine line there with not getting overboard, but that's what makes those guys great. That edge they play with. It's just tone it back when we need us to dial in and find a way to win. So those guys are smart players, man, they'll figure it out and we will help 'em through. ..."

In a related note. ... Johnson posted his highest receiving yards over expected total (+23) of his time spent playing with Pickett, and the second-highest mark of his career. ...

According to Graves, the increasingly 1A/1B approach to using running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren continues to lead to success.

The two running backs have complementary skill sets and seem to be feeding off each other. They each ran for a fourth-quarter touchdown while having an almost 50/50 split in terms of snaps. ...

On a less positive note. ... Darnell Washington came up short as a pass catcher. The massive rookie tight end's blocking continues to improve and is the main reason the Steelers drafted him in the third round.

Yet the 6-foot-7 Washington has just three targets and one reception through six games. With starter Pat Freiermuth out at least three more games with a hamstring injury, it's time to see if Washington can be effective in the passing game or else the Steelers risk becoming too one-dimensional when his No. 80 is on the field.

QBs: Justin Fields, Russell Wilson, Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

The San Francisco 49ers have thrived under coach Kyle Shanahan with an efficient and versatile scheme that feeds off one of the NFL 's most balanced and punishing defenses.

For all the elite players they have on both sides of the ball, the 49ers are built to win with intelligence and toughness.

For the second straight week, they found themselves lamenting the way their opponent beat them at their own game.

Kirk Cousins connected with Jordan Addison for two first-half touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings, and the 49ers gave up a season-high 452 yards on a 22-17 loss on Monday night for just their second two-game losing streak in two years.

"We've got to find ways to win the grimy games," linebacker Fred Warner said. "Obviously we can win 30-10, but who are we and what are going to do when we're down and we've got to come back?"

The 49ers (5-2) lost 19-17 the previous week at Cleveland. They host Cincinnati on Sunday.

"The NFL will humble you every step of the way," said defensive end Nick Bosa, the 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year who has only 2½ sacks after 18½ sacks last season. "Getting off to a 5-0 start, you kind of get that confidence that we are who we need to be, but the NFL does that. Good players, good schemes, and we're going to face another good team this week so we've got to be ready."

The 49ers fell to 0-36 under Shanahan when trailing by eight or more points in the fourth quarter, including playoff games. They also had their streak of 16 straight regular season games without a negative turnover differential stopped, thanks to a first-quarter fumble by Christian McCaffrey at the Minnesota 11 that prevented them from scoring on their first possession for the first time this season and the two interceptions thrown by Brock Purdy -- both by Camryn Bynum -- over the last 5:30 of the game.

But this proud defense stacked with Pro Bowl picks that has ranked among the league's best in so many categories over the last four seasons has shown some cracks in the armor in 2023.

The 49ers failed to sack Cousins, just their sixth game since the start of the 2019 season without one, and gave up 378 passing yards for their second-worst total in five years.

"There was definitely a couple opportunities there where I could've changed the game, and I definitely need to do that with the kind of player that I'm supposed to be," Bosa said.

Said Shanahan: "When you go against a quarterback like that, you've got to make him uncomfortable, and he didn't seem too uncomfortable."

The defining moment came in the closing seconds of the second quarter, when 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks sent an all-out blitz on third down with three extra pass rushers charging at Cousins. He underthrew his pass for Addison, but the rookie won the tug-of-war battle with cornerback Charvarius Ward and spun away for a 60-yard touchdown with no safety help behind.

As for the risky call by Wilks?

"That's stuff we'll discuss throughout this week," Shanahan said. "Obviously I did not like the result."

Meanwhile, Purdy looked sharp through most of the game, as he made all the throws that were there.

And even without All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, the 49ers' pass protection generally held up well against the wide array of blitzes Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores dialed up.

But in the final 5:30, the game fell apart. Purdy missed Jauan Jennings on a deep ball, and Vikings safety Camryn Bynum grabbed the interception.

Purdy and the 49ers had a final chance, but Bynum again intercepted Purdy.

Purdy completed 21 of 30 passes for 272 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. McCaffrey helped the 49ers beat an all-out blitz with a 35-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.

With that, McCaffrey extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown to 16.

San Francisco managed just 3.0 yards per carry on its 22 rushing attempts. Purdy had the longest run of the game with a 17-yard scramble.

Are the 49ers still legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

According to's Nick Wagoner, the short answer, despite the results of the past two weeks, is yes.

But the Niners are going to have to prove they are made of championship mettle over the next seven weeks, when they will play other contenders such as Jacksonville, Seattle (twice) and Philadelphia, as well as resurgent Cincinnati next in Week 8.

The 49ers still boast one of the league's best rosters but need more from their highest-paid superstars, especially with injuries starting to pile up, if they are going to make a real run come the postseason. ...

A few final items. ... Kicker Jake Moody connected on a 55-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He needed that, for sure, after missing his first attempt of the game.

In the second quarter, Moody did nothing to erase the lingering sadness from his miss on the game-deciding kick against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. Moody's first attempt was wide right from 40 yards out at the beginning of the second quarter.

On the injury front. ... LB Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles departed after an ankle injury that occurred while covering the third-quarter kickoff. ... LB Dre Greenlaw (hamstring) returned from a one-game absence.

Deebo Samuel will miss this week's game -- his second-straight -- with a hairline fracture in his shoulder.

QBs: Brock Purdy, Josh Dobbs, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

According to's Brady Henderson, as Jaxon Smith-Njigba slogged his way through an underwhelming start to the season, slowed by a summer wrist fracture that was still healing and held back by a curtailed role in the Seattle Seahawks' offense, the feeling expressed by teammates was that it was only a matter of time before the rookie wide receiver broke out.

Smith-Njigba has yet to explode with the type of monster performance that typified his sophomore season at Ohio State, but if it wasn't clear last week that the 20th overall pick is now a viable threat for Geno Smith, then it should be clear after his performance in the Seahawks' 20-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Smith-Njigba caught four passes on seven targets for 63 yards and his first NFL touchdown.

Jake Bobo delivered a nearly identical stat line with four catches for 61 yards and a highlight-reel score as Seattle's rookie receivers stepped up with DK Metcalf on the sideline with a hip injury.

"We were waiting for Jax to get going," said Bobo, who led all Seattle receivers with 45 offensive snaps against Arizona. "Obviously we knew we needed to get him the ball. We did today, so now you guys are seeing what we see every day in practice. But with 14 out, we knew we were going to have to step up. Obviously he'll be back soon, he'll be back healthy. I was just looking to semi-fill his big shoes and it felt like we did a little bit of that today."

Henderson went on to advise readers that Smith-Njigba looked all summer like a player poised to be a difference maker from the get-go, especially on third down as a chain-moving slot man. But his progress was halted when he broke a bone in his left wrist in the Seahawks' second preseason game. Smith-Njigba had surgery and made it back by the opener but had minimal impact over the first four games, catching 12 passes for 42 yards on 20 targets.

"It's been difficult," he said of playing so soon after wrist surgery, "but it's been feeling a lot better these last weeks. Definitely thankful for that."

Another factor in his slow start was the trickle-down effect of Seattle losing starting tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas to injuries in the opener. Smith-Njigba averaged only 33 snaps over the first four games as offensive coordinator Shane Waldron favored packages with multiple tight ends -- as opposed to a third receiver -- to help out their backup linemen in pass protection.

It didn't seem like a coincidence that with Cross back at left tackle last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Smith-Njigba played 53 snaps and had his most productive game to that point with four catches for 48 yards. That would've been his breakout performance had Smith seen the receiver running open towards the end zone for what would've been the go-ahead, 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

With Metcalf sidelined Sunday for the first time in his career, Smith-Njigba started alongside Tyler Lockett and scored his elusive first touchdown. It came on Seattle's second possession, when Smith found him wide open up the seam on a play-action fake for a 28-yard catch.

Bobo's 18-yard touchdown catch had a much higher degree of difficulty.

He barely had a half step on cornerback Starling Thomas V while running down the right sideline, but in an apparent sign of the trust he's already built with his quarterback, Smith gave him a chance.

Bobo rewarded Smith's faith and perfect throw by making a leaping catch, barely getting his second foot in bounds. Officials reversed it to a touchdown upon review after Pete Carroll challenged the initial ruling of an incomplete pass.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the throw had just a 15.9 percent completion probability, which takes into account factors such as separation between receiver and defender, pass distance, time to throw and field location. That made it the most improbable touchdown pass of the season.

"Phenomenal footwork," Smith said. "I think now we can say Jake's probably up there with Tyler when it comes down to the toe-drag swag. That was a great job by him and obviously an awesome call and great protection all around as well."

As Henderson noted, Bobo is ascending towards folk hero status in Seattle. The undrafted receiver with an unfathomably slow 40 time -- a 4.99 in wet conditions at UCLA's pro day -- now has two touchdowns over his first six games and three third-down conversions over the past two weeks.

"There's no catch that he can't make," Carroll said. "There's nothing he can't do with catching the ball and using his body in that fashion. In a short time, six months of watching the guy, I totally trust him."

According to the Seahawks, Bobo and Smith-Njigba became the team's first pair of rookies to catch touchdown passes in the same game since Lockett and running back Thomas Rawls in 2015. No two Seattle rookie receivers had ever done it until Sunday.

"It's great for us," Carroll said. "Here we are, coming around to the halfway point and having the pups play like that. They can play like starters, and they did."

Before Metcalf was ruled a game-day inactive because of a hip injury he suffered against Cincinnati, he made national headlines on Wednesday when he said he wouldn't change the way he plays despite mounting scrutiny over his penalties. Metcalf struck that defiant tone after Carroll had essentially called him out in the team's "Tell the Truth Monday" meeting in order to underscore the importance of curbing the penalty issue.

On Sunday, Carroll volunteered a defense of Metcalf seemingly aimed at shooting down any notion that the receiver was suddenly disinclined to play through pain like he had been doing since he injured his ribs in Week 2.

"He's hurting," Carroll said. "If he could have played, he'd have played. Don't for a second think -- don't think for a second that he's looking for a way out of this thing. That's not him at all. He's sick that he couldn't play and he tried. ... He's played the last couple of weeks under tremendous duress and played well in those circumstances. It's just added up too much and he couldn't get it done. If he can get back, he'll be back."

Carroll sounded hopeful on Monday that Metcalf could be back for this week's game against the Cleveland Browns. If not, Smith-Njigba and Bobo showed Sunday they can pick up the slack.

In a related note. ... There's no question the red zone offense needs to improve. In the past two games, Seattle has gone 2 of 8 in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns. For the season, the Seahawks are 12 of 25 and one of 11 teams under 50 percent.

Also of interest. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, there have been a series of mistakes creeping back into Smith's game the past two weeks that can't continue.

Smith lost a fumbled snap, threw one interception and likely should have had another pass picked off in Sunday's win. The pass that was intercepted at the Arizona 1 was a poor decision and a poorly thrown ball, although Smith said his arm was hit on the release. The fumble happened early in the fourth quarter at the Seattle 37 and the Seahawks were holding only a 17-10 lead.

The mistakes ultimately didn't affect the outcome, but coming on the heels of the loss to Cincinnati where Seattle scored 10 points on five red zone trips in part because of miscues by Smith, the trend needs to change.

One positive sign: Smith picked up 129 of his 219 passing yards on attempts over 20 air yards (5 of 6, 129 yards, 2 TDs, +43.8 percent CPOE) against the Cardinals. ...

Kenneth Walker III rushed for 105 yards on 26 carries against the Cardinals. He also caught 2-of-3 targets for an additional six yards through the air.

With Zach Charbonnet sidelined, Walker was a true workhorse all afternoon for Seattle. He could not find the end zone where he was stuffed at the goal line multiple times. Walker has seen 17-plus carries in every game since Week 2 and remains a safe play on a week-to-week basis.

It's worth noting, even with Charbonnet inactive, Walker only received a slight increase in offensive snaps. That's mostly because his snap count has generally been on the rise even before Charbonnet's hamstring issue.

According to's Nathan Jahnke, Noah Fant is one of the highest-graded tight ends in the NFL this season. He ran the most routes among the Seahawks tight ends, but he was held to one reception for the second straight week. This is the first time in his career he was held to one or fewer catches in back-to-back games.

On the injury front. ... We'll be watching the status of Metcalf and Charbonnet closely in coming days; neither injury has been discussed as long-term issues. I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

One last note here. ... In the past three games, Seattle's defense has allowed 30 total points and only three touchdown drives in 33 offensive possessions.

QBs: Sam Howell, Geno Smith
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall, Todd Bowles' message was short and to the point.

The Buccaneers have dropped three of four games following a 2-0 start. The latest was a 16-13 loss to the Falcons, who overcame three turnovers in the red zone to not only stop an eight-game road losing streak but replace the Bucs (3-3) at top of the NFC South standings.

"Can't let one loss turn into two. We've got a game in a couple of days. We've got to get ready for that," Bowles said, looking ahead to only having three days to prepare to face Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.

"It's going to take everybody, from a mental approach, to be mentally tough," the coach added. "As bad as this one was, we can't let it affect the next one."

There's plenty to address in the short amount of time the Bucs have before boarding a flight for Buffalo on Wednesday, including a sputtering offense that has scored two touchdowns and 30 points total in three losses.

Tampa Bay's defense has been good statistically, but not nearly as dependable as it needs to be in crucial moments of games while allowing only 17.3 points per game -- seventh fewest in the NFL.

"We focus on us. We've made enough mistakes (that we need) to focus on us," Bowles said, addressing a question about the focal point of preparation for the Bills (4-3), who've had some offensive woes of their own lately.

"We can't play Buffalo plus Tampa," the coach added. "We've got to get Tampa under control before we can handle Buffalo, so we focus on us."

With the exception of a couple of lapses that could have changed the outcome, the defense played fairly well in defeat.

Atlanta's 16 points were the second-fewest the Bucs have allowed this season. The Falcons scored one touchdown in five red-zone opportunities and only averaged 4.1 yards per rushing attempt on 38 carries. That's Atlanta's fewest yards per carry in a game in which they've had at least 38 attempts since Week 15 of the 2002 season. With the game on the line, though, the defense yielded TE Kyle Pitts' 39-yard catch-and-run, which set up Younghoe Koo's 51-yard winning field goal as time expired.

Meanwhile, the running game remains a problem.

The Bucs rushed for 73 yards on 20 carries against Atlanta, with 31 of that coming on Baker Mayfield's fourth-quarter scramble -- the quarterback's longest run since his rookie season in 2018.

In particular, the offensive line continues to struggle to open holes for a rushing attack that's averaging 3.1 yards per carry. The unit has allowed just eight sacks, however Mayfield's mobility has helped in that regard. Bowles said Monday he is not contemplating any lineup changes.

On a more positive note. ... Mike Evans scored on a 40-yard reception against the Falcons, the 15th TD catch of 40-plus yards in his career since entering the NFL in 2014. That's tied for the fifth-most in the league during that stretch. It was also the 85th TD reception of Evans' career, tied with Hines Ward and Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Paul Warfield for 18th-most all-time.

According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, Chris Godwin and Evans have an identical 24.9 percent target share this season. Evans obviously has four touchdowns. Godwin none.

In a related noted. ... Rachaad White has seen at least a 10 percent target share in each game since Week 1. After a bad running back rush share last week of 53.8 percent, he saw that jump up to 76.5 percent this week. ...

Also worth noting. ... Mayfield completed only two pass attempts of over 10 air yards on Sunday, his fewest in a game this season.

The QB led a drive late in the fourth quarter that set up a game-tying field goal with less than a minute left, but he also overthrew tight end Cade Otton and was intercepted with the Bucs trailing by three and in field goal range on the previous drive.

Mayfield landed on Monday's estimated practice report as a non-participant because of a knee injury, but he didn't sound like there's any concern about his status for Thursday's game against the Bills.

The injury report was an estimated one because the Bucs only held a walkthrough a day after their loss to the Falcons and Mayfield was spotted at their second walkthrough of the week on Tuesday. After the session, Mayfield said that the knee issue isn't serious and that he's confident he'll manage it well over the next few days.

"Yesterday it was pretty sore," Mayfield said. "Less than 24 hours after the game, that's kinda how it always goes. Just re-aggravated what I had against the Saints. Nothing too bad, just pain tolerance and move on."

Godwin, defensive tackle Vita Vea, and left guard Matt Feiler were also listed as out of practice on Monday. The team will release another injury report later on Tuesday.

Finally. ... The Buccaneers have designated running back Chase Edmonds to return from injured reserve, the team announced on Monday.

Edmonds suffered a knee injury back in Week 2.

He could be on the field for against Buffalo this week. But the Buccaneers have 21 days to activate Edmonds to the 53-man roster.

Before going on IR, Edmonds had recorded 20 yards on four carries in two games with the Bucs. He was on the field for 11 offensive snaps and 18 special teams snaps.

QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

Even with all the offseason changes, the Tennessee Titans have reached their bye where they left off last season.


The Titans (2-4) have lost two straight and 11 of 13 dating to last season. Veteran quarterback Ryan Tannehill couldn't finish the last game, a 24-16 loss to Baltimore in London. He has a sprained right ankle similar to the injury that cost him two starts last season.

As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker notes, restless fans are ready to see what Malik Willis or rookie Will Levis can do.

With the trade deadline looming on Oct. 31, some want the Titans to stock up for the future by trading away anyone another team might want.

Others want coach Mike Vrabel fired. That's despite the Titans reaching the playoffs in three of his first five seasons with losses in season finales keeping that from being five straight postseason berths, including 2022 with Tennessee mere minutes from a third straight AFC South title.

The Titans? They're preaching calm.

Vrabel, who's 52-41 as Tennessee's coach, said he might read some mean social media posts to his team.

"I read all the funny stuff that they say about us or me specifically," Vrabel said. "I did that one year. I think we ended up winning 12 games. 'This coach sucks,' 'This guy stinks,' and ended up having a different tune. Guys all laughed about it."

Three-time All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been on teams that went 2-14 and others that rebounded from early struggles with winning streaks. He advised patience.

"We still got a lot of football to play," Hopkins said.

Yes, Tannehill is hurt. The offense is averaging 17.3 points a game -- down from the 17.5 the Titans averaged last season that was 28th in the league. Despite a change at coordinator to Tim Kelly, they have the NFL's longest active streak and a franchise-worst 24 straight games scoring fewer than 30 points.

The Titans can't blame injuries that caused them to lead the NFL in each of the past two seasons for most players used, though they have had some key players hurt.

Starting left guard Peter Skoronski, the 11th overall pick, needed an emergency appendectomy Sept. 16 that cost him two games. Wide receiver Treylon Burks, the 18th pick overall in 2022, has missed three straight after aggravating the left knee he hurt in August.

Burks is expected to return to practice and should be available Sunday when the Titans host Atlanta. He'll need the work with whoever the Titans pick to replace Tannehill while the veteran is out.

The 86th pick last year by general manager Jon Robinson, who was fired in December, Willis won his first start as a rookie at Houston, a game in which the Titans let him throw once in the second half. Derrick Henry, the two-time NFL rushing leader, ran for 219 yards, leading Tennessee to a big win.

The Titans lost Willis' next two starts and turned to a quarterback signed Dec. 21, Joshua Dobbs, to start the final two games trying to reach the postseason. With Tannehill going into the final year of his contract, new general manager Ran Carthon traded up in April to No. 33 overall to select Levis out of Kentucky.

After the bye, it may be time to see what Levis can do.

But it's possible the Titans could utilize a two-quarterback game plan against the Falcons.

Vrabel told reporters that if Tannehill can't play on Sunday, the coach expects both Willis and Levis to see action.

"We'll see where (Tannehill) is at the end of the week," Vrabel told reporters. "If Ryan can't play, I would anticipate both of those quarterbacks playing in the football game."

Given Wills' lack of development and Levis' lack of reps, it's little surprise Vrabel would see which fares better in live action. But two-QB systems rarely work well for long.

Vrabel underscored that any discussion about QB usage on Sunday would revolve around Tannehill's health.

"We'll see what the game plan looks like," he said. "First of all, see where Ryan's at, and then talk about what we may want to do throughout the course of the game."

Reporting early Wednesday suggested Levis would get the start, but that both would indeed play.

I'll have more on Tannehill, Willis, Levis and Burks via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Meanwhile, the Titans' two wins both came at home. Sunday will be their lone game in Nashville in a seven-week stretch, including a short turnaround to a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh in Week 9.

That starts a three-game road swing against teams that currently have winning records. The crucial game is Nov. 19 when the Titans visit defending AFC South champ Jacksonville, the first of five games remaining inside the division.

Then it's back to Nashville for five of the final seven games, including the regular season finale against Jacksonville.

Vrabel, whose contract extension was announced in February 2022, planned to remind the Titans of what they're doing well, fix what must be better and hold everyone accountable.

"We're going to fight, we ain't going to quit," Vrabel said. ...

But that doesn't mean everybody currently on the roster is going to remain there. In fact, the Titans shipped two-time All-Pro safety Kevin Byard to the Eagles on Monday in exchange for safety Terrell Edmunds and fifth and sixth-round draft picks in 2024. The Eagles and Titans confirmed the trade of Tennessee's five-time defensive captain to Philadelphia on Monday night.

It's worth noting that when word of Byard's trade broke Monday, some wondered who else they are willing to trade.

As's Mike Florio noted, there was noise early in the offseason that the Titans were shopping Henry, who is in the last year of his current contract. If the Titans recognize that they're simply not built to contend in 2023 and if they recognize that Henry will be moving on anyway after this season, why not get something for him now?

The trade window closes next Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET. Every team plays this weekend, with no byes. That one extra game will provide the final piece of information aimed at letting teams decide whether to be sellers or buyers at the deadline.

Also, injuries could create interest that currently doesn't exist.

The Byard trade shows that the Titans are inclined to consider selling current assets for future considerations. Henry is 11 regular-season games from walking away in free agency.

Could he be traded?

It's definitely something we'll be watching for as the Oct. 31 deadline draws nearer.

QBs: Will Levis, Malik Willis
RBs: Tony Pollard, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Tyler Boyd, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco

Washington Commanders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2023

As's Myles Simmons noted, Sunday was another tough outing for quarterback Sam Howell, as the Commanders fell to the Giants 14-7.

Howell finished the contest 22-of-42 passing for 249 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He was also sacked six times, five of which came in the first half.

The Commanders currently rank No. 20 in points scored and No. 22 in yards with Howell as their first-year starter under coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Head coach Ron Rivera said on Monday that he's "been fine with what we've tried to do offensively."

"As far as I'm concerned, you look at some of the biggest things, it really is about the development of this young quarterback," Rivera said. "There have been a lot of positives that you see coming out of some of the things that Sam has been doing. As far as that's concerned, you see his decision-making has been really good in terms of who he's throwing the ball to.

"Some things, he can clean up are the types of throws that he's making. Is he trying to loft the ball when he needs to put the ball on a line a little bit? We saw a little bit of that yesterday. But he's been really good at it. And just really appreciate his development and growth. I think that's one of the big important things for us."

To that end, Rivera effectively said there are no plans to make a change at quarterback.

"Well I will tell you this, I'm committed to him and we'll see how things go," Rivera said. "But I can't predict the future and the only thing I'm going to do is, I'm going to focus in on one game at a time. Because the truth of the matter is, that's the only thing that matters right now, and that's getting ready for Philadelphia. Once I get done with this conversation with all you guys, it'll be on to Philadelphia."

Rivera noted that while the Commanders are 3-4 again, this year feels different because of the hope Howell has brought with his play.

"As long as we have that young quarterback, he's growing and developing, and we as a team play consistent complementary football, we have a chance," Rivera said. "We just have to be accountable for what's happened right now. Step up, develop, grow, and recognize our mistakes and correct those things.

"And that's on me -- it starts with me and I get that. Believe me, I've been doing this for a long time. And I'll continue to do it as best as I can."

In seven games, Howell has completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 1,749 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's also rushed for 119 yards with a TD.

But he currently leads the league having taken 40 sacks, getting brought down on 13.5 percent of his dropbacks. That's on pace to shatter the NFL record.

In addition, after Howell dropped back to throw 52 times compared to 19 rushing attempts, Rivera defended the pass-heavy approach rather than criticizing the decision not to run the ball more.

"I've been fine with what we've tried to do offensively," Rivera said Monday.

He cited Howell's development as the reasoning, seemingly signaling a shift in the team's approach from doing whatever it takes to contend for a playoff spot to preparing the young quarterback for life in the NFL beyond this season.

"I think we have found a young quarterback that gives us an opportunity," Rivera said. "We're trying to play the best football we can and at the same time grow a football team.

"We're not going to go around cutting a bunch of people, trading for a whole bunch of people, trying to hire a whole bunch of people. We're trying to develop a young football team to be a very good football team for the future, and that's what we're going to continue to work on."

As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno suggested, with new ownership led by Josh Harris now running the show, that future could come with a different front office and coaching staff that doesn't include Rivera or Bieniemy. This is Rivera's fourth season in charge in Washington and could be the third in that time without a playoff appearance.

The Commanders have lost four of five since a 2-0 start, again falling below .500 with the demoralizing loss to the Giants.

The difficulty level gets ratcheted back up on Sunday, when the NFC East-leading Eagles come to town with the NFL's seventh-ranked defense. That said, the Commanders pushed the Eagles to overtime earlier this season at Lincoln Financial Field and go into this home game as 6 1/2-point underdogs on FanDuel Sportsbook. ...

Other notes of interest. ... In an unexpected twist, Chris Rodriguez Jr. led the Commanders in rushing yards against the Commanders.

The rookie gained 31 yards on seven carries.

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, Rodriguez's carries were spread out over the entire game. He had run seven times in the previous six weeks, but those carries were generally late in victories.

Brian Robinson Jr. continued to be the primary running back in rushing situations, but he only ran eight times for 23 yards and a touchdown. Antonio Gibson was the only running back to get involved in the passing game with two receptions for 24 yards.

Jahnke went on to note Robinson has generally been a great play when the Commanders win but a questionable play when they lose, and that trend continued. But Robinson might become even less reliable if Washington continues to get Rodriguez involved. ...

Terry McLaurin finished with 90 yards on six catches -- all coming in the second half and providing the only real energy on offense. Second-year receiver Jahan Dotson's production already was being questioned after he had just 17 catches for 140 yards through six games.

Dotson had five against New York but also a big drop on fourth down that would have given Washington a first-and-goal opportunity.

Finally. ... Injuries are starting to pile up after a relatively calm start to the year. Linebacker Cody Barton and left guard Saahdiq Charles were both having MRIs after leaving the Giants game. Rivera said the expectation is that Barton has a high ankle sprain and Charles aggravated a strained calf muscle that bothered him during training camp.

Reserve safety Jeremy Reaves, an All-Pro special teams player last season, said he's having season-ending knee surgery. Reaves was injured in a 40-20 home loss to Chicago on Oct. 5.

RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Austin Ekeler, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates