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Team Notes week 14 2022
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
The Arizona Cardinals are trying to remain optimistic about their season, clinging to the possibility of a miracle run into the NFC playoff bracket.
"In reality," Associated Press sports writer David Brandt wrote, "it's almost certainly too late."
But even if the postseason is a long shot, the final five games of the season provide plenty of intrigue for the Cardinals (4-8). The team's performance over the next month could decide whether owner Michael Bidwill ends up making big changes.
"It's just all about trying to get better at this point," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. "I still think our best football is in front of us, and that's what we talked about was we've got to find a way to maximize who we are and what we put out there these last five weeks. We've got to rest, recover, and go from there."
The Cardinals' next game is at home against the New England Patriots on Monday night.
The team had plenty of optimism when the season began. Arizona had been on a steady climb since 2019 after hiring Kingsbury and drafting quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick out of Oklahoma. The Cardinals went 10-5-1 in 2019, 8-8 in 2020 and 11-6 last season, making the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
But the falloff this season has been steep and the core question is this: Are injuries to blame -- 10 out of the team's 11 offensive starters have missed significant time -- or is the poor performance evidence that the roster and coaching staff need an overhaul?
The Cardinals provided a glimpse of what could have been in last week's 25-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The team's best playmakers -- receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown, running back James Conner and Murray -- were all on the field together for the first time this season. Even with four starting offensive linemen out with injuries, Hopkins caught six passes for 87 yards and a touchdown and Conner ran for a season-high 120 yards. Murray threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
"It felt good to have them back out there," Murray said of Hopkins and Brown. "There were some things we wish we could have back, but to have them back out there on the same field, that was the first time actually. It was good to see them both in action."
Said Kingsbury: "I think the more they play together you can see that it can cause some problems for the defense."
Hopkins, Brown, Conner and Murray are all under contract for next season.
It's fair to wonder if Kingsbury -- who is in his fourth year with the franchise -- will be in the desert to oversee a fifth. The low-key coach was brought in specifically because of his expertise with quarterbacks, but Murray's development has stalled in Year 4, months after he signed a $230.5 million contract that keeps him with the franchise through 2028.
The coach was asked about his relationship with Murray after the latest loss.
"We've been good," Kingsbury said. "When you're not winning obviously everybody's going to be a little on edge, but I thought he played really well today. I think moving forward he'll play at a high level. I was proud of his effort."
There are also plenty of questions about the Cardinals' defense, which has ranged from good to OK to pretty bad. Arizona's young nucleus of safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson, and linebackers Isaiah Simmons and Zaven Collins, is under contract for next season.
But decisions loom on whether to bring back cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. and defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Zach Allen. The future of well-respected defensive coordinator Vance Joseph is also cloudier than it was a few months ago.
As Brandt suggested, strong finish to the season could persuade Bidwill and GM Steve Keim to stay with the status quo and hope for better injury luck.
A continued freefall might prompt them to blow up the roster and coaching staff.
"Five games left is a lot of football to be played, and like I said our goal is to make sure we play the best football moving forward those last five weeks," Kingsbury said.
On the injury front. ... We'll be watching for signs that Rondale Moore, who missed the last game with a groin injury, is ready to return this week. Fellow wideout Greg Dortch was sidelined by a thumb injury. Kingsbury said on Tuesday he was optimistic Dortch had a chance at playing Monday against the Patriots.
Dortch was seen on the practice field Wednesday; Moore was not.
I'll pass along any developments with both receivers via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Finally. ... Trey McBride was a second-round pick, and the spotlight has been brighter on the tight end for a couple of reasons: One, and the biggest, is that starter Zach Ertz (who was on pace to crush the franchise record for tight end catches in a season) is out for the year. The other is that the Cardinals traded away their first-round pick, so McBride's arrival put him atop the 2022 draft class depth chart.
It hasn't been the debut McBride probably wanted so far, but he's going to get the snaps anyway.
McBride has been targeted 11 times this season and has nine catches for 45 yards. The last target he had Sunday was a big one on third down, and while it looked in real time the McBride could have had the first-down catch it was clear on replay the Chargers defender was able to get a hand in to knock it out.
According to Darren Urban of the team's official website, McBride's production is a reflection of the learning curve he is trying to climb. Since Ertz went down he's played the slot tight end much more, sliding out with Maxx Williams becomes the inline tight end, in two tight end sets. McBride was in the inline role when Ertz was playing.
It hasn't been as much production as the Cardinals may have hoped for, but at this point, the work can only help McBride as he tries to go into 2023 that much further ahead.
"He's just growing into it right now," Kingsbury said. "We see some real flashes at practice where you know he's going to be a very good player in this league. Sometimes in the games it seems a little sped up for him, but that is all rookies. The more reps he gets with Zach being out, I think it's going to continue to help him, and you'll start to see some of those flashes as the season winds down."
Kingsbury also shed a little more light on the Williams situation. It's been a weird year for Williams, who came off his major knee injury, played a few games, was released and re-signed to the practice squad so he could get healthier, and now has been elevated a couple of times after Ertz went down.
Kingsbury said Williams’ body is "as healthy as it's going to be." Williams does have notable issues walking, with him having trouble at times picking up his foot as he walks. "The injury he had, that nerve is basically dead so being able to lift it up is tough," Kingsbury said.
There is no repair for that, Kingsbury said, so they brace it for the games. But it is also another hint as to why the Cardinals decided to pick McBride in April's draft when they did, knowing Williams might have trouble returning to full strength.
Now McBride is in the middle of being force-fed, ready or not. It's a tough indoctrination, but the plan is it will pay off long-term.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Michael Carter, Emari Demercado
WRs: Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim, Zach Ertz
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reported it, the tone was different Sunday afternoon when head coach Arthur Smith was asked directly whether or not he'd be making a change at quarterback.
Some of Smith's previous defiance and conviction on the issue were gone. Smith didn't definitively say he would. But he left open the option to go from veteran Marcus Mariota to rookie Desmond Ridder as the Falcons head into their bye.
"We'll evaluate everything," Smith said. "Every job."
What will go into that decision?
Smith explained -- sort of -- what he and his staff might be looking for. But he was also cautious to not say too much, at least not now.
"We just finished the game, obviously. I have some private thoughts but we need to decompress, we need to meet as a staff," Smith said. "There's a lot of things, sure, we've been close, but we've got to evaluate everything. We've got to get back over the hump, get back into the winning category so there's a lot that needs to be evaluated, talked about and discussed.
"I understand the questions right now but the game just ended. The bye is coming at a good time for us."
Rothstein went on to note that Mariota -- who has started all season after the team drafted Ridder in the third round out of Cincinnati -- played well enough during the first half. The Falcons were a surprising 4-4 through eight weeks, as Mariota teetered between moments of brilliance and games that were rough.
The last month has seen that balance tip to the negative end of the scale.
The Falcons have lost four of five games heading into the bye week, and Mariota hasn't completed over 65 percent of his passes in a game since Oct. 30.
Entering Sunday, he had been off target on 18.9 percent of his passes, sixth-worst in the league, ahead of just Houston's Davis Mills (who has been benched), the New York Jets' Zach Wilson (who has been benched), the Washington quarterback duo of Taylor Heinicke and Carson Wentz and Chicago quarterback Justin Fields.
Mariota has done some good things.
He has been efficient in the red zone, completing 60 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and one interception. His running and zone read abilities give Atlanta a different offensive dimension, as he averages 5.15 yards a carry with four touchdowns. Mariota has shown the ability to handle all the pre-snap adjustments that Smith's scheme requires.
But his play has also limited the Falcons.
His completion percentage of 61.3 percent is ahead of just Russell Wilson in terms of full-time starters who weren't benched (Carolina's Baker Mayfield, Wilson) or a replacement for a starter (Dallas' Cooper Rush). His nine interceptions are tied for No. 28 in the league with Minnesota's Kirk Cousins and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, but Cousins and Rodgers each have over 100 more dropbacks than Mariota.
Smith said he wanted to make sure he wasn't making a decision based on overreaction -- one way or the other.
"You want to make sure you're doing the right thing," Smith said. "Not overreacting emotionally. Sometimes change, there's plenty of examples where that can maybe help, spark something. So, every option is on the table."
On Sunday, Mariota completed 13 of 24 passes -- 54.2 percent -- for 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception while rushing three times for 17 yards. Of his missed passes, he had multiple bad overthrows. On one play late in the second quarter, Mariota threw the ball into what appeared to be double coverage to Olamide Zaccheaus when he had Drake London, this year's No. 8 overall pick who had a career-high six catches for 95 yards Sunday, open with no one around him.
This might seem like a specific criticism, except it happened often. On downfield throws, it's been a season-long issue as Mariota has completed 28.6 percent of his passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air, tied with Fields for No. 31 in the league, ahead of just Lamar Jackson and Wilson.
Mariota's final throw Sunday was a game-sealing interception for the Steelers. It was a tough position to be in, backed up on their own 2-yard-line with 42 seconds left, needing a field goal to tie. The drive never got started. Mariota threw the interception on the first play, sending the Falcons' staff into another round of questions about their quarterback.
Mariota said Sunday he wasn't thinking about whether or not Atlanta might replace him as a starter.
"That's not where my mind is at," Mariota said. "You're still trying to reflect on what happened in the game. At the end of the day, they have to make a decision that's best for the team and whatever happens, happens, but I'm not really thinking about that right now."
The Falcons have a week-plus to have conversations and make a decision. If they did make a change soon, it would give Ridder, the No. 74 overall pick in the 2022 draft, more time to prepare. The 23-year-old was praised in the offseason for how quickly he picked up the playbook, appearing during the preseason with the second-and-third teams.
Ridder has yet to see a regular season snap but has run the scout team during practices. He's spent additional post-practice time working with players on the practice squad and back half of Atlanta's roster to get more reps in the absence of live game action.
"Regardless of if he's a rookie or not, Des has a dual mandate," Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said recently. "The mandate is to make himself, prepare himself as if he can play which gets himself ready physically and mentally. Then the other mandate is to make sure he is the best he can be for the starter, which is Marcus."
The reality of where Atlanta is in the playoff race could factor into the Mariota vs. Ridder decision. The Falcons are still alive, mostly because the NFC South is the worst division in football, with no teams even at .500.
But Tampa Bay's win over New Orleans on Monday night. Another Tampa win against San Francisco this week would give them a two-game lead with four to play, further reducing Atlanta's chances.
Beyond that, however, after losing four of five, and seeing a chance at running away with the division having been all but eliminated, Smith knows something has to change.
"There's a lot of things we can improve on and we need to, right? It's going to be hard when you have low-possession games and you're playing in the teens, that's not what we want," Smith said. "We want to get back in the winning side. We've played a lot of close games. It's not an issue of [the] guys, and you see the resolve we have no matter what. There's no moral victories. We've got to get over this hump.
"We have to look at everything and get back to the other side of winning. There's a lot of reasons why. It'll be good to take a step back. There will be changes made. We've got to look at everything."
That being the case, it's worth noting that when talking about the progress of rookies, Smith said the Falcons staff feels good about the development of first-year players on their roster, the ones who have seen action and the ones who haven't.
"We feel pretty confident in the guys we've been bringing along and what we've done practice-wise and their development program," Smith said. "If we have to play them, we feel (they are) more ready now than they may have been in August."
The Falcons drafted eight players in the 2022 NFL Draft. We've seen almost all of them throughout this season.
London, Arnold Ebiketie, Troy Andersen, DeAngelo Malone and Tyler Allgeier have all played significant roles in their rookie year. The three we haven't seen are Ridder, Justin Shaffer and John FitzPatrick. Shaffer and FitzPatrick are on injured reserve.
Ridder is the only rookie on the active roster for the Falcons who has not taken a live snap during a game day this year.
So, when Smith talks about rookies who are "guys that you may have seen," vs. the ones you "may not have seen yet," you can infer who he's talking about.
Smith will not speak to the media again until next Monday, which is after the Falcons bye week comes to a close. He assured that if there are significant personnel changes made he will disclose them then.
"Every change, especially when it goes into the regards of personnel, I'll be transparent," Smith said, "and we'll have decisions made."
By the way. ... As noted above, London had the best game of his young career. According to LateRoundQB.com's JJ Zachariason, London saw 12 of 24 team targets for a 50 percent target share en route to his six-catch outing. He hadn't been over 20 percent in each of his last two games heading into this week.
No other Atlanta player managed more than two catches Sunday. London totaled more yards receiving against the Steelers than he'd had in the previous four games combined.
In addition, per Next Gen Stats, Allgeier out-snapped Cordarrelle Patterson 28 to 24. Last week, Patterson out-snapped Allgeier 32 to 21.
The Falcons will play the Saints following the bye, on Sunday, Dec. 18.
You can access complete stats for the Falcons Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
Lamar Jackson is "week-to-week" with a knee injury after undergoing MRIs on Monday, head coach John Harbaugh said.
"As the week goes on, we'll see for this week," Harbaugh said. "It's probably less likely for this week, but it's not impossible. Then, after that, it'll become more and more likely."
On Tuesday, we got a little more clarity on the nature of Jackson's injury.
Jackson has a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his knee, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Schefter notes PCL sprains often keep players sidelined for one to three weeks.
If Jackson is sidelined this week, backup Tyler Huntley would start for the Ravens (8-4), who play at the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) on Sunday.
Huntley is 1-3 as a starter, throwing two touchdowns and four interceptions.
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley reported, in Sunday's 10-9 victory over the Denver Broncos, Jackson was hurt on the last play of the first quarter when he was sacked from behind by linebacker Jonathon Cooper. It looked like Jackson's left knee was driven into the ground when Cooper landed on top of his back.
Jackson walked without a limp to the locker room and didn't play the final three quarters.
This would mark the second straight season that Jackson has missed a game due to injury. Last season, the Ravens lost all four games in which Jackson was sidelined with an ankle injury.
Jackson had been extremely durable in his first 3½ seasons, missing only three of his first 51 starts and none because of injury. In 2019, Jackson was held out of the finale because Baltimore had already clinched the top seed in the AFC. He didn't play one game in 2020 because of COVID-19 and he was inactive for one game in 2021 because of illness.
This season, Jackson had shown signs of some wear and tear. He missed one practice two weeks ago because of a hip injury, and he didn't finish a practice last week due to a quadriceps injury.
According to Hensley, since entering the NFL in 2018, Jackson has taken a league-leading 877 hits, which amounts to an average of 12.5 hits per game.
The Ravens have expressed plenty of confidence in Huntley, who led a game-winning, 91-yard drive on Sunday. Huntley's last start came in a 16-13 loss to the Steelers last season, when he was 16-of-31 for 141 yards and two interceptions. Huntley also ran for 72 yards.
Huntley is expected to take most of the reps in practice this week, according to Harbaugh. Jackson did not practice Wednesday.
"We run the same basic offense with both players [Jackson and Huntley], so it's not really going to change anything in terms of preparation," Harbaugh said. "[Huntley is] a player that's got a lot of dynamics to his game. He operates really well. So, if that's the way he goes [and Huntley starts for Jackson], that's the way it goes. We'll be excited to play, and our guys will be fired up."
I will, of course, be following Jackson's progress (or lack thereof) closely in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Expectations surrounding Sunday's game circled around the Ravens' rushing attack and how it could help get the ball moving against the Broncos' defense. But the results were middling as the Ravens running backs combined for 43 yards on 14 carries.
Kenyan Drake (seven carries, 29 yards) led all running backs by playing 47 percent of the snaps against the Broncos, while Justice Hill and Gus Edwards both played 24 percent.
However, Baltimore struggled on the ground and averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Huntley led the running attack with 41 yards on 10 carries.
Press Box Online's Bo Smolka aired concern following the contest, stating "this game was perfectly suited for the running game, and it couldn't deliver."
"Once Jackson left the game, it seemed even more likely the Ravens would rely on running backs Edwards, Drake and Hill to dictate the tempo, rather than subject Huntley to a Broncos pass defense ranked No. 3 overall," Smolka wrote. "The Ravens' running attack, though, got little traction throughout.
"The three running backs carried five times in the first half for a total of 13 yards, and overall they totaled 43 yards on 14 carries."
Smolka did note next week's opponent may be more challenging to run the ball against.
"The Ravens face a top-10 run defense in Pittsburgh next week, and regardless of who is playing quarterback, the pressure mounts on the Ravens running backs to step up and command a larger role of an offense built around the running game."
Remember, Harbaugh suggested last Friday that J.K. Dobbins could be activated for this week's game.
Dobbins hasn't played since Week 4. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to clear out some scar tissue from his previous reconstructive knee surgery.
I'll obviously be watching for more on that as well. ...
As for the receiving corps. ... Devin Duvernay (six catches, 34 yards) rarely left the field and played 94 percent of the offensive snaps, highest among non-offensive linemen. Mark Andrews (86 percent) and Demarcus Robinson (76 percent) also carried a heavy workload.
Worth watching, Duvernay was not seen on the practice field Wednesday.
Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely played just 26 percent of offensive snaps, but he was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded offensive player (72.4). Likely finished with four catches for 30 yards.
In a related note, veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson will be sticking with the Ravens for a while.
Jackson signed to the team's practice squad earlier this year and he has been elevated to the active roster three times. Jackson has reverted to the practice squad each time, but the Ravens would have to release him if they promoted him a fourth time.
They remedied that by signing him to the active roster on Monday. Jackson's agent Drew Rosenhaus announced the move.
Jackson had two catches for 10 yards in Sunday's 10-9 win over the Broncos. He has five catches for 100 yards over all three of his appearances for Baltimore.
Finally. ... Quarterback Brett Hundley is back with the Ravens.
Hundley's agent Kenny Zuckerman announced that his client has signed with the AFC North team. Hundley is joining the practice squad, but will be able to be elevated to the active roster for Sunday's trip to Pittsburgh. Hundley signed with the Ravens in May and remained with the team until late August. He spent last season with the Colts and last appeared in a game with the Cardinals during the 2019 season.
You can access complete stats for the Ravens Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Keaton Mitchell, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
The Buffalo Bills finally have a win over a divisional opponent -- and it couldn't come at a better time.
As Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow noted, Buffalo's 24-10 victory over New England on Thursday kicked off a critical December stretch for the Bills. After going 0-2 in the division to start the season, the win over the Patriots came in the first of three consecutive games against AFC East opponents.
Turning things around in the division is crucial for the Bills if they hope to win their third straight division title. The Bills (9-3) are looking to win three consecutive AFC East titles for the first time since a four-season stretch from 1988-91.
"A divisional win is important," head coach Sean McDermott said. "We knew coming in here it was going to be tough ... we're thankful to get a win, and in the division on top of that."
Buffalo's upcoming games will be hugely important in that divisional race. Ahead of games against the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins, the Bills still have one less divisional victory than every other team in the AFC East. At 8-3, the Miami Dolphins are currently behind Buffalo in the divisional standings, but have a 2-1 record in divisional games.
The key for the Bills against the Patriots was a balanced approach -- which was lacking in the team's previous losses to the Dolphins and Jets.
Josh Allen was terrific against New England, going 22 of 33 for 223 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was one of Allen's most consistent performances of the season after a recent up-and-down stretch. But it was a breakout performance by the Bills running game that proved critical against the Patriots, providing the Bills with some much-needed balance on offense.
Rookie James Cook had a career day against New England, picking up a combined 105 yards from scrimmage. Devin Singletary had 51 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries. The Bills outgained the Patriots 132-60 in rushing, which came as a surprise for the pass-heavy Bills and the run-heavy Patriots. That production allowed the Bills to control the time of possession, nearly doubling New England on the evening (38:08 to 21:52).
"They were playing some two-high shell and just kind of basically daring us to run it," Allen said. "I thought (offensive coordinator Ken) Dorsey did a good job of staying patient. Our guys did a good job of holding on to the football and making some good cuts, making some good runs and moving the chains."
Buffalo's defense also did its part, stepping up after star pass rusher Von Miller was placed on injured reserve hours before the game. The Bills held the Patriots to 242 yards of offense and New England was forced to punt six times.
"I thought the offense did a good job and the defense complemented it, which is what football is all about, playing complementary football," linebacker Tremaine Edmunds said.
In particular, the running game was on point.
After struggling to run the ball with consistency for most of the season, the Bills have found more production in the ground game in recent weeks. Thursday's game was the third time this season that the Bills had more rushing attempts than passing attempts, and the Bills are 3-0 in those games.
Cook, the team's second-round pick, has become a much bigger part of the game plan in recent weeks after a slow start to the year.
Also on point?
Buffalo's offense didn't run up the score, but when they reached the red zone, they were sure to cash in with seven points.
Facing the league's seventh-ranked red-zone defense, the Bills found the end zone on all three of their red zone opportunities.
On 14 red-zone plays, Dorsey had seven run plays called to the backs and Allen ran on two others.
Allen completed two of the red zone possessions with touchdown passes.
The final red zone touchdown came on a third-and-goal from the one-yard line that Singletary ran in when the back side opened up for a walk-in touchdown to cap off the nearly nine-minute drive to seal the game.
Combined with last week's 3-for-4 performance in the red zone, Buffalo has now put the ball in the end zone on six of their last seven red zone possessions.
It's given the offense a feeling that they're building something sustainable in the most important area of the field for the five regular season games remaining.
"I definitely do," said Allen. "We know that we haven't been as good as we've wanted to down there and it's been a key emphasis for us, just making sure that we love the play calls down there and guys know what they're doing and executing. I think Dorsey is doing a good job of mixing it up and allowing us to go down there and be free and not having to worry about the other stuff."
"Those points are important," said McDermott. "When you get the ball down there in the red zone, you've got to cash in, and we've done that the last couple of weeks."
What wasn't on point?
Production from receivers not named Stefon Diggs.
Diggs had another big game against the Patriots with 92 yards and one touchdown, but the Bills still need more production from their other receiving targets.
Tight end Dawson Knox didn't record a catch against New England and had only one target. The Bills gave Knox a big contract extension in September.
Next up, Buffalo's divisional run continues with a home game against the Jets on Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... McDermott announced Wednesday that Miller will miss the remainder of the 2022 season after undergoing exploratory knee surgery this week.
During the surgery, it was discovered that Miller had a torn ACL which needed to be repaired. Miller was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 1 after injuring his knee on Thanksgiving against the Lions.
McDermott said that Miller's surgery was planned and it wasn't until the operation that it was discovered his ACL was torn. It's same right knee he had ACL surgery on in 2013.
Also. ... Left tackle Dion Dawkins missed the game with an ankle injury; his status this week is uncertain. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips injured his shoulder late against New England but said he was fine after the game.
And finally. ... When the Bills returned home for their extended weekend off, they hosted free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on his official visit. As Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic noted, the Beckham storyline has been a constant all summer and season, as Miller has made his feelings quite clear, insinuating a belief Beckham will sign with the Bills when all is said and done.
The Bills are one of three teams reportedly hosting him on a visit, with the Giants and Cowboys making up the other two. All the attention will be on Beckham over the next week, but he isn't the only veteran receiver the Bills have a chance to put on their 53-man roster.
That's where Jamison Crowder comes in.
The Bills placed Crowder on injured reserve ahead of their Week 5 game against the Steelers due to a fractured ankle. Leading up to the Patriots game, McDermott didn't rule out Crowder from returning this season. In fact, Crowder has a target in mind.
"Around like that late December timeframe. That's the goal for me," he said. "
According to Buscaglia, getting Crowder back would be huge to a receiver room in crying need of depth and someone to boost the offense. Although Crowder isn't an explosive pass-catching option, he is a reliable target who would provide an upgrade over their usual slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie when working against zone coverage.
It's certainly not guaranteed Crowder will come back, but there is some momentum for it to happen before the playoffs arrive. ...
Finally. ... The Bills waived receiver Marquez Stevenson on Tuesday, the team announced.
They had opened his 21-day practice window Nov. 16, so the team faced a decision about whether to activate him to the 53-player roster. The Bills could have ended his season on injured reserve.
Instead, he now is on waivers, and if he clears, Stevenson will become a free agent.
Stevenson underwent foot surgery in training camp.
The Bills made Stevenson a sixth-round pick in 2021, but he began his rookie season on injured reserve, too. He ended up playing five games last season and returned 14 punts and seven kickoffs.
He played six offensive snaps and 40 on special teams in 2021.
You can access complete stats for the Bills Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris, Dawson Knox
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
The short-lived Baker Mayfield era is over in Carolina.
The Panthers waived the struggling quarterback on Monday after the 2018 No. 1 draft pick asked for his release. Mayfield would be subject to waivers and become a free agent if he goes unclaimed.
The move does not come as a surprise, because Sam Darnold replaced Mayfield after his failed second stint as starting quarterback, and the Panthers like what they have in backup P.J. Walker. The move gives Mayfield a chance to potentially land with a team that needs quarterback help.
San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson all suffered injuries over the weekend.
Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks said Mayfield asked for his release once he informed the quarterbacks that Darnold would be the team's starter and Walker would be the backup this Sunday at Seattle.
"Baker has been nothing but a professional since he's been here, a complete pro," Wilks said. "I have tremendous respect for him."
Wilks said he made the decision to go with Walker over Mayfield as the backup after "looking at the body of work the last couple of weeks. I felt P.J. has been productive when he was in there."
Mayfield was 1-5 as Carolina's starting QB and completed just 57.8 percent of his passes, having six touchdowns and six interceptions. He also struggled with tipped passes at the line of scrimmage. The Panthers are last in the league in third-down conversions.
Wilks said he couldn't pinpoint why Mayfield didn't work out in Carolina.
"I can't answer that question," Wilks said. "It is so many different reasons. I wouldn't say that he failed. I would say that it just didn't work out. He is still a good football player. Just like coaches and just like players, sometimes they need a change."
Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer traded for Mayfield earlier this season after unsuccessfully trying to acquire Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans, and he beat out Darnold for the starting job in training camp. Darnold later injured his ankle and landed on injured reserve and only recently returned to action.
Carolina will send the Cleveland Browns a fifth-round pick in 2024 as compensation.
Fitterer was not made available to reporters on Monday.
"I have nothing negative to say about Baker," running back D'Onta Foreman said. "I think he handled the situation the right way. Even with his ups and downs you never saw him act different or have a mood change. He was always the same guy. So I respect him and wish the best for him."
Guard Austin Corbett said Mayfield stopped by the offensive line meeting room to inform them that he'd been released before leaving Bank of America Stadium, thanking them and telling them he loved them.
Corbett said he expects Mayfield to land with another team and doesn't blame the QB for asking for his release, given he wouldn't have been activated on game day.
"When you're the number three (quarterback), why not go try to be number two somewhere?" Corbett said. "We saw quarterbacks getting banged up all day Sunday and hopefully he lands in a good situation."
Corbett had been teammates with Mayfield in Cleveland, and he said the move was a reminder to him about how temporary tenures are in the NFL.
"This business strikes again, just being the worst thing ever to make friends in and make connections in," Corbett said. "I love Baker and love his family. He and his wife, Emily, they are just two great people, wholesome people. This business sucks. It's tough. He will get picked up no doubt and we will see him down the road."
Other than releasing a quarterback, Monday was a normal day at work after the bye week.
Wilks emphasized that he's talking to players this week about winning a road game (something they haven't done this year) and having a "playoff mentality" heading into this weekend's trip to Seattle, without getting bogged down in talk of playoff chances.
"What it looks like is a team that's resilient in their approach," Wilks said of that mentality. "Each and every week, which I've seen our preparation, I just told the guys I'm not worried about our preparation. We've had exceptional preparation each week."
Specifically, considering Seattle's reputation for fan noise, Wilks said they have to "over-communicate" on the field to make sure they don't suffer self-inflicted mistakes.
"But the mindset is not, you know, what can happen at the end (of the season)," he said. "It's really trying to take care of each day in and day out. And once we do that, we'll look at the end and see where we are."
While Monday's news was just the latest big change for the Panthers this year (they've already fired a head coach and traded Christian McCaffrey), they've also responded well to some of those events, and Wilks said the reality of the league is that you have to be prepared for changes.
"Really, the message that I that I try to convey is, don't let 'it' get in the way, you know, whatever 'it' may be," Wilks said. "We have to understand as professionals is that this league is not going to stop. And each week is another challenge. So, we know, we know we signed up for as players and coaches, and this is part of the business. And we just got to continue to go out and respond. And they have done that all year."
Foreman, who has carried the offense in recent weeks (four 100-yard games in his last six), said he's something other than 100 percent.
He mentioned rib and foot issues but was optimistic that he'd be ready to play the Seahawks.
"Me being who I am, I'll go," Foreman said.
Wilks also mentioned that the bye gave some other players a good chance to return this week when specifically asked about Brian Burns and Foreman.
I'll be watching for more on Foreman, who didn't practice Wednesday in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Update section for the latest.
QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas, Giovanni Ricci
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recognized what's become apparent about Justin Fields, despite the Bears being officially eliminated from postseason contention with their sixth straight loss Sunday.
"They've got a talented quarterback who has a chance to be around for a long time," Rodgers said.
Cronin went on to explain the box score from Chicago's 28-19 loss to Green Bay isn't an accurate representation of how well the offense operated as Fields -- coming off a separated left shoulder -- saw his first action since Nov. 20.
A 55-yard touchdown scamper -- Fields' sixth straight game rushing for a score -- reiterated the quarterback's game-changing rushing ability. The types of throws he made while reaching his highest passing output of the season (20-of-25, 254 yards, 2 INTs) showed the strides Fields is making in becoming a well-rounded quarterback.
There's no question this was Fields' most complete game.
"I think so," Fields said. "I think this was one of my best games passing-wise. Of course, the stats aren't going to show that, but I felt really comfortable out there in the passing game. I'm just going to keep improving and keep getting better."
Green Bay had the NFL's fourth-best pass defense (187.8 yards per game) and held Fields to 48 net passing yards in Week 2. Chicago's game plan 11 games later relied on its quarterback's ability to pick Green Bay apart with his arm in ways he had yet to display.
Fields said he knew Wednesday -- when he was a limited participant in practice -- that he was going to play against Green Bay. He said he didn't receive an injection in his non-throwing shoulder pregame, only that he wore a shirt that contained extra padding to protect the area.
Cronin added what Fields did without his top wide receiver, Darnell Mooney, who is out for the season with an ankle injury, was an important step forward for someone hoping to become a franchise quarterback. Learning how to win from the pocket and make big-time, anticipatory throws is the next part of that process.
These moments were ones the Bears had hoped they would see from Fields this season. They resulted in 409 yards of offense, Chicago's most in a game this season.
Fields was quick to praise his pass protection for his season-best day. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Fields was pressured on a career-low 22 percent of his dropbacks (6 of 27) and didn't take a sack for the first time as a starter. That protection helped him reach his highest completion percentage in a game as a starter (80.0 percent) and a 90.6 QBR, his second highest of the season.
Fields and the offense once again had a chance to lead a game-winning drive, their fourth opportunity in their last five games. The result was another interception that crushed Chicago's momentum, this one coming on a play where Fields said he was expecting St. Brown to run a dig route, which is when the receiver appears to be running straight downfield before digging in his foot and turning toward the middle of the field.
"Justin's been ripping that pass a couple times earlier," head coach Matt Eberflus said. "And that's a trust throw. When you have a trust throw, that means that he's reading it, and he's going to let it rip, and the guy's got to do a great job of stepping up and making those plays. I thought the corner made a nice play. He jumped it. But hopefully our receiver can jump out and knock that down if possible."
Fields has proved he can carry the Bears in competitive games. When the talent around him improves, so will the results in the win-loss column.
For now, the strides Fields is making as a passer are ones the Bears can build on coming out of their Week 14 bye with a stretch that features Philadelphia, Buffalo, Detroit and Minnesota.
"The wins are going to start coming," Fields said. "I thought as an offense we got better today. I just can't wait until they start coming. They're going to start rolling in here soon, so just got to keep working and keep getting better."
How will the Bears approach their final four games after the Week 14 bye?
One of the biggest issues is how offensive coordinator Luke Getsy puts Fields in position to grow as a passer. It will set the table for the 2023. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Without Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown and N'Keal Harry helped fill the void.
St. Brown caught three passes for 85 yards, including a career-long 56-yard reception. Midway through the second quarter, St. Brown beat Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander downfield and caught a perfectly thrown long pass from Fields in stride. On the next play, David Montgomery's 7-yard touchdown run gave the Bears a 16-3 lead.
Harry also produced a career long reception, hauling in a 49-yard pass from Fields early in the fourth quarter. The Bears quarterback scrambled out of the pocket and chucked the ball downfield to Harry, who made an acrobatic leaping catch.
"Just instincts really," Harry said. "It was a good job by Justin getting out of the pocket. He threw it up and I just went and did what I'm used to doing."
The Bears acquired Harry in a trade with the Patriots July 13. He hurt his ankle in training camp and missed the first six games of the season. He played in three contests and then was a healthy scratch for three straight weeks.
Sunday marked his first game action since Nov. 6 against the Dolphins.
"It feels good, but at the end of the day I know I could do more," Harry said. "I know I could make a bigger impact. So I've just got to really lock in these last few weeks and make sure I'm ready to go.
"I've been working really hard trying to make sure I stay mentally ready, physically ready, so I've just got to take advantage of every opportunity moving forward. ..."
The Bears running game took two hits when fullback Khari Blasingame came down with an illness Saturday night and was unable to play and tight end Trevon Wesco exited with a leg injury on the third play from scrimmage.
"When you have a fullback like Khari that we have, he's instrumental of our offense being able to do all the lead blocking and all the different things that we do," said Eberflus. "I thought the offensive coaches did a really good job of getting Wesco ready to go because he's our guy that really steps into that role. Then Wesco gets hurt. ... So then our offense had to move and do a good job with adjusting during those two things that happened. I think they did a good job."
The Bears rushed for 155 yards and two TDs on 25 carries. Fields ran for a team-high 71 yards on six attempts, while Montgomery added 61 yards on 14 carries.
The normally reliable Cairo Santos missed both a field goal and an extra point for the first time in 47 career games with the Bears.
After pushing an extra point attempt wide right in the second quarter, Santos' 40-yard field goal try early in the fourth period was blocked by Green Bay defensive lineman Dean Lowry. The kick could have extended the Bears' lead to 22-17.
Santos has now missed four extra points this season, the most in his nine-year NFL career. Two came in monsoon-like conditions in a Week 1 win over the 49ers, but the third proved to be costly in a 31-30 loss to the Lions Nov. 13.
Santos' missed field goal Sunday was only his second of the season. He made his two other attempts from 40 and 28 yards and is now 18 of 20 this year (90.0 percent) and 75 of 84 over four seasons (89.3 percent) with the Bears.
You can access complete stats for the Bears Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, head coach Zac Taylor didn't hesitate when asked whether quarterback Joe Burrow should be in contention to win the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.
"Absolutely," Taylor said.
Burrow added to his growing list of credentials in a statement 27-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Burrow became the first quarterback to beat K.C. counterpart Patrick Mahomes in three straight games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Tom Brady is the only other quarterback to have that many victories versus Mahomes, the 2018 MVP.
Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase firmly agreed with his coach about Burrow's MVP candidacy.
"He's one of the best quarterbacks in this league," Chase said. "Everybody knows that. He should be in the MVP race. If he's not in it, he should be. Number one quarterback in the race."
Burrow was 25-of-31 passing for 286 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.
Cincinnati (8-4) entered the fourth quarter trailing Kansas City (9-3) by a touchdown before things turned in the Bengals' favor. After linebacker Germaine Pratt stripped the ball out of Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce's grip and recovered the fumble, Burrow and the offense went to work.
With the Bengals trailing 24-20 at that point, Cincinnati went on a 10-play drive capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to running back Chris Evans. That was Burrow's ninth passing score in the fourth quarter, the most by any quarterback in the NFL this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Taylor was quick to praise Burrow's pass protection on Sunday. Burrow was not pressured on 27 of his pass attempts, per NFL Next Gen Stats, and was sacked just once.
But the third-year player proved slippery throughout the day. He had a career-high 11 carries for 46 yards and one rushing touchdown. He now has five rushing touchdowns, matching Jack Thompson's 1979 record for the most by a Bengals quarterback in a single season.
"He has great size and elusiveness," Kansas City defensive end Frank Clark said. "People don't really put a lot of respect on his name when it comes to how elusive he is in the pocket and his pocket presence."
Taylor, the team's playcaller, put the ball in Burrow's hands to seal the game and end Kansas City's streak of 14 consecutive victories in the month of December, a stretch that dates back to Mahomes' first year as a starter in 2018.
On third-and-11, wide receiver Tee Higgins said he and Tyler Boyd thought Cincinnati was going to run the ball to chew up some clock. Higgins said the receivers looked at Burrow in the huddle and asked him a simple question: run or pass?
"He said, 'Pass,'" Higgins said. "We all looked at each other. He said, 'Let's get it done.'"
Burrow and the Bengals did just that. He found Higgins for a 14-yard completion that effectively ended the game.
Both of Cincinnati's victories against Kansas City last season came on winning field goals as time expired. Against the AFC's top team so far in 2022, the winning margin was bigger.
Burrow shrugged off the MVP discussion from Taylor and his teammates.
"I don't play the game for those kinds of accolades," Burrow said. "I play the game for those guys in the locker room. What it takes from me every Sunday, that's what I'll do. If I have to hand the ball off 72 times and come out with a win, I'll be happy."
Entering Sunday, Burrow ranked third in the NFL in fourth-quarter QBR, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
When Cincinnati needed big plays against one of the NFL's best teams and quarterbacks, Burrow delivered.
It's happened a lot this year.
Burrow, who on Wednesday was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, has thrown 25 touchdown passes this season, tied for second in the league with Josh Allen. Mahomes is the leader with 30.
"He's playing at the level we need for him to lead us, to be confident that we can win every game we play," Taylor said, adding that there's no doubt about Burrow's standing in the MVP conversation. "I've said it before. I wouldn't trade him for anybody in the world."
Next up, Cincinnati gets a chance on Sunday to avenge the embarrassing 32-13 loss to the Browns on Halloween. The Browns (5-7) will be led by Deshaun Watson, who last Sunday came off an 11-game suspension after accusations by more than two dozen women of sexual harassment and assault during massage sessions.
He wasn't much of a factor in the game, but the Browns got two defensive touchdowns on the way to topping the Houston Texans 27-14.
Meanwhile, running back Joe Mixon, who's been out for two weeks with a concussion, has a chance to clear the NFL concussion protocol early this week, according to Taylor.
In Mixon's last full game played, he rushed for four touchdowns and caught one against the Carolina Panthers. Samaje Perine has filled his spot wonderfully, as he's averaged four yards per carry and scored four touchdowns since Mixon's concussion occurred in Week 11.
In fact, over the last two weeks, as LateRoundQB.com's JJ Zachariason outlined this week, Perine has a 92.5 percent rush share per game; 21 percent target share per game; 20.4 PPR points per game; and two top-10 games.
Mixon, when healthy this season: 85.4 percent rush share per game; 14.9 percent target share per game; 19.1 PPR points per game; 2 top-10 games.
How the team rotates both backs will be fascinating to watch when Mixon does return.
While Mixon may play this Sunday against the Browns, Hayden Hurst is likely to be sitting out. The tight end injured his calf against the Kansas City Chiefs and didn't return. Taylor said Hurst is doubtful to play this week.
Hurst's injury may sideline him for multiple weeks if Taylor is already virtually declaring him out a day after the injury, but it's still early to determine the extent of the injury.
Mitchell Wilcox is next man up at the position.
I'll follow up on Mixon, who worked fully on Wednesday, as needed in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Also, in case you missed it. ... Chase had a loud return after missing four games with a hairline fracture of his hip. The reigning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year had seven catches for 97 yards, including two grabs that kept the Bengals' final drive going so they could run out the clock.
You can access complete stats for the Bengals Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans, Chase Brown
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
Deshaun Watson met all the NFL's requirements to play again. He now needs to quickly fulfill the obligations of a franchise quarterback.
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers put it, "He didn't look anything like one Sunday."
Showing more rust than expected following a 700-day break between regular-season starts, Watson struggled in his long-awaited debut for the Browns, who offset their QB's poor performance by scoring touchdowns via punt, fumble and interception returns in a 27-14 win over the Houston Texans.
Watson wasn't good, but he did enough to beat a really bad team. He'd better improve quickly with Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals up next, or the Browns (5-7) can kiss any playoff hopes goodbye.
Watson's return following an 11-game suspension for alleged sexual misconduct wasn't just unimpressive. At some levels, Withers suggests, it was alarming.
He fired incompletions into the NRG Stadium turf, either missed open receivers or was late seeing them, and threw an interception in the end zone when he failed to see Texans rookie safety Jalen Pitre lurking in coverage.
Watson finished 12 of 22 for 131 yards and didn't produce an offensive TD in his return to action, exactly 700 days from his last on-field appearance.
As ESPN.com’s Jake Trotter reminded readers, Watson admitted last week that he wasn't sure how rusty he'd be after so much time away from the field. He also said he wasn't worried about the atmosphere he'd encounter in Houston.
After Sunday's game, he downplayed the booing that rained down on him but admitted to the rust.
"I'll just say I felt every single one of those 700 days," he said.
It was hardly the return the Browns envisioned when they invested in the 27-year-old by signing him to the richest contract ($230 million over five years, guaranteed) in history.
There were a few moments of the old Watson, the one who can turn a would-be sack into a first-down scramble. But there weren't enough of them and the game seemed to be moving too fast for the three-time Pro Bowler, who twice pounded his hand on the artificial surface in frustration.
Nerves may have played a part in a hostile homecoming for Watson, who returned to face a fan base that no longer adores him while also playing in front of some of the women who accused him of lewd behavior during his massage therapy sessions.
Afterward, Watson said he wasn't "jittery" and continued to steer clear of non-football matters, deflecting questions about remorse or responsibility.
"I did everything that I was asked and was required to do," he said.
As expected, head coach Kevin Stefanski gave Watson's less-than-stellar debut a positive spin.
"That was the first one and the first one in a long time, so we knew that there was going to be a little bit of playing through that," Stefanski said Monday. "He will get more comfortable with the more game reps that he gets. All of those things that you look at offensively and all of those things that you look at with Deshaun, they are all correctable."
They'd better be. Time is short.
The Browns have zero margin for error if they want to make a playoff push. With two straight wins, they're within sight at .500, and getting there will require a win this week in Cincinnati and next week at home against Baltimore, suddenly dealing with a Lamar Jackson knee injury.
Watson has got catching up to do. Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has no doubt he'll get there.
"He's still that quarterback. That unique guy. That profound guy," Owusu-Koramoah said. "He had been off the field for 700 days. So I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. I'm not saying 'Oh, he's going to be the No. 1 quarterback,' no. But he's going to perform well, I know it.
"Just from what I've seen, he's going to be a great quarterback here for us, and he's going to be here for a long time. So get used to him."
That said, Stefanski may need to further tailor the offensive game plan to ease Watson's transition.
He didn't look comfortable throwing deep, and the Browns didn't employ many run-pass options, perhaps to keep Cincinnati guessing. We'll see what the coach cooks up for Sunday's game against the Bengals, but fantasy owners will obviously want to continue slow-rolling Watson's return to their lineups until/unless he shows signs the rust is diminishing. ...
Also of interest. ... Nick Chubb rushed the ball 17 times for 80 yards against the Texans.
Chubb continued to run with strong efficiency, ripping off two rushes of more than 15 yards. However, he remained uninvolved as a pass catcher and also failed to find the end zone for only the fourth time this season. While it was a bit of a letdown performance, the Browns seem content to remain a run-heavy offense. ...
That said, Kareem Hunt isn't a major piece of it.
Hunt carried nine times for 56 yards in Houston, adding two catches for 18 yards on three targets. As NBCSportsEdge.com notes, Hunt got the majority of his yards in Cleveland's two two-minute drill drives, adding 24 of his rushing yards and one of his targets in the final seven plays before halftime. ...
On an afternoon in which the Browns had their share of big plays, none was more thrilling than Donovan Peoples-Jones' 76-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Houston Texans.
Peoples-Jones' tackle-breaking return got the Browns on the board and earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
On the injury front. ... David Njoku missed Sunday's game with a knee injury; there's been no updates since last week although he did practice on a limited basis Wednesday, so I'll be watching for more on his progress in coming days.
Rookie receiver David Bell (thumb) is day to day (he was limited in Wednesday's practice).
Watch the Late-Breaking Update section for all the latest as the week progresses. ...
In addition, wide receiver Anthony Schwartz's day went from bad to worse. ... A week after the speedster scored his first career TD on a reverse, Schwartz caught a short pass from Watson and headed up field before the ball was punched free and Houston recovered.
Schwartz later left with a concussion and the Browns placed him on injured reserve Wednesday and claimed Jaelon Darden, a source NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
It's an opportunity for the former Bucs receiver and returner, who was released by Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
You can access complete stats for the Browns Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
The Dallas Cowboys have won five of their last six games, and Sunday night's 54-19 rout of the Indianapolis Colts was their most dominant performance of the season.
The Cowboys' defense had five forced turnovers, including two interceptions by rookie cornerback DaRon Bland and one from former Colts safety Malik Hooker. Rookies Sam Williams and Damone Clark accounted for the remaining turnovers by each forcing a fumble.
Dallas' offense was also quite productive as Dak Prescott threw three touchdowns, two to Michael Gallup and one to CeeDee Lamb. Tony Pollard added two scores on the ground, while Ezekiel Elliott and rookie Malik Davis added one touchdown apiece.
The Cowboys have scored 199 points in their last five games, making it the most in that span within a single season in franchise history.
Here are some numbers that display Dallas' dominance over Indianapolis (via ESPN.com's Brianna Williams):
So yeah. It was a really good game and the Cowboys are looking to add to it.
Even with receivers Lamb and Gallup on board, the Cowboys were set to host Odell Beckham Jr. on a free-agent visit.
In the past month, Lamb had the only 100-yard games of the season for a Dallas wideout, along with three touchdowns. Gallup just had his first two-TD game since tearing an ACL last January.
"I mean, we're winning, look at us," Lamb said. "Put yourself in this offense and kind of envision it. We're distributing the ball very well, and I'm sure as hell he would love it. I'm sure."
Beckham was expected to spend most of Monday at the team's swanky headquarters and practice facility in Frisco, 30 miles north of Dallas.
There was talk of Beckham attending Monday night's NBA game between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.
On Tuesday, Beckham was set to meet with the team's leadership council, a players-only group headed by Prescott.
Beckham met last week with the Giants, where he spent his first five seasons and had one of the best catches in NFL history against the Cowboys in 2015. He spent part of this past weekend with the Buffalo Bills, strong Super Bowl contenders led by quarterback Josh Allen.
"We're trying to be as great as we can be in every aspect," Prescott said. "And obviously getting late into the year with what we've got coming up just in our schedule, then obviously making a run at the Super Bowl, you want to make sure you have as many weapons as you can."
In the seven weeks since Prescott returned from a broken thumb, the Cowboys lead the NFL with 28 offensive touchdowns. They just rushed for a season-high 220 yards.
Lamb, Gallup and both running backs in the tandem of Elliott and Pollard had TDs against the Colts, who helped Dallas by committing four of their five turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Beckham didn't work out for the Giants or Bills with the question of his recovery from the knee injury looming. The Cowboys have been vague about whether that would happen on this visit.
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones seemed unconcerned on Monday.
"I want this to work," Jones said after the rout of the Colts. "That means I'm going to be trying to make it work. So I'm going to be looking for reasons to do, not reasons not to do."
Jones, though, took a different tone Tuesday, saying he was "not confident at all" with signing the free agent receiver without a workout.
It surely wasn't a coincidence that Jones' latest comments came after Beckham underwent a thorough physical at the team's training facility with team doctors.
Indeed, David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Cowboys have concerns that Beckham's recovery from his torn anterior cruciate ligament has not progressed enough to ensure he would play before mid-January.
"It appears his rehabilitation will extend into the postseason," Moore writes, with no guarantees that Beckham can play this season.
Jones paused Tuesday before responding to a question about Beckham's ability to play this season.
"I'm gonna kind keep that one at bay," Jones said on 105.3 The Fan.
As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon notes, Lamb has been solid in his first season as the No. 1 receiver after the offseason trade of Amari Cooper in a cost-cutting move. Since being limited to two catches on 11 targets in the opener, he's averaging six catches and 82 yards per game. Four of his six TDs have come in the past five games.
Gallup might have been even better than he was against the Colts in the previous game against the Giants, a 28-20 victory on Thanksgiving. He had several tough catches among season highs of five grabs and 63 yards.
According to the NFL players' union, the Cowboys have $6.3 million in cap space this season. They've already committed the vast majority of their cap space for next season with several key players headed to free agency. These could be issues in trying to get a deal done with Beckham.
Still two games back of NFL-leading Philadelphia in the NFC East, the Cowboys have the other two sub.-500 AFC South teams the next two weeks in Houston (home) and Jacksonville (away).
Then the Eagles come to Texas on Christmas Eve. ...
Meanwhile, the Cowboys, and specifically Jones, have been unwavering in their loyalty to Elliott. Whenever Jones has been asked, he doesn't allow for a small possibility that Elliott isn't the focal point of Dallas' offense.
Every single game Elliott had suited up for the Cowboys before Sunday, he started.
On Sunday night, that streak was broken.
In Elliott's 98th game, he didn't start. Pollard started for the Cowboys and played the entire first series.
Jones also said Elliott's starting streak ended at 97 games because of a minor disciplinary issue, although he did not give the exact details. Elliott had said after Sunday's game that the Cowboys just decided to mix up the rotation between him and Pollard.
"I think those type of things, whatever extent it was, those are really situations for the locker room," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I know we're in the everything-is-available, content-creating environment, but I don't think this is one of those cases."
McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore praised Elliott, who had 38 snaps compared to Pollard's 28 and finished with 77 yards rushing on 17 carries and a touchdown. Pollard had 91 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.
"Zeke's a rock star," Moore said. "He's handled this season phenomenal. ... Those guys complement each other really well, work off each other, feed off each other. They're on the field at times together and they support each other. We're very, very fortunate to have those guys. ..."
Returner KaVontae Turpin badly wants to make an impact either on a punt or kickoff. He might be trying too hard. The 26-year-old rookie returned three kickoffs, but twice pinned the Cowboys inside their 20.
On the injury front. ... The Cowboys could benefit from the return of Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith soon.
Smith suffered a torn hamstring in one of the final training camp practices and required surgery. When the Cowboys practice Wednesday, the six-time Pro Bowler will participate in his first session of the regular season. The Cowboys will have three weeks of practice with Smith before needing to activate him off injured reserve or keep him there for the season.
He has been increasing his rehab work in the past few weeks, and with the Cowboys not getting any padded practices this week, it is possible he could return Dec. 18 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I think the biggest thing is just to get him back out there," McCarthy said. "So we're obviously looking forward to Tryon being back out there Wednesday."
Rookie Tyler Smith has started every game at left tackle, although in recent weeks, he has seen work at left guard in anticipation of Tyron Smith's return.
"I can't think of any single thing that could help a football team more than to have Tyron Smith come in healthy at left tackle. I really can't," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "So right there is the biggest lift that you could draw up for the Dallas Cowboys without exception."
Jones said CB Anthony Brown would be out for the season after tearing an Achilles tendon against the Colts. He's the second cornerback sidelined by a season-ending injury. Jourdan Lewis broke a foot in Week 7 against Detroit. ...
And finally. ... Dixon noted that Salvation Army donations are probably rising with the oversized red kettles beyond the end zones at AT and T Stadium now the center of celebrations again.
Elliott started it as a rookie seven years ago when he hopped into one after a touchdown and continued it when he dropped $21 (his number) into one of the kettles two years later.
All four Dallas tight ends got the tradition going again on Thanksgiving with a "Whac-A-Mole" demonstration after rookie Peyton Hendershot scored.
Trying not to be outdone, Elliott solicited Prescott's help after the running back's TD against the Colts. The QB pretended to crank the kettle as Elliott rose up out of it, "jack in the box" style.
"I just had to come up with something to try to top the guys from last week," said Elliott, who probably will be fined. He and Prescott donated $21,000 to the Salvation Army after a 2018 fine, and the Cowboys matched it.
You can access complete stats for the Cowboys Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, 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 BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold framed it: "Another week, another excruciating one-score loss for the Denver Broncos. ..."
But, Legwold went on to contend, Sunday's later stumble may push their pain tolerance to the limit. The Ravens went 91 yards on 16 plays with backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to score their only touchdown of the day with 28 seconds left in the game for a 10-9 win over the Broncos in Baltimore.
"This one sucks," Broncos safety Justin Simmons said. "We gave ourselves a chance to win and defensively we didn't pull it out. Can't play three and half quarters of good football and give up the two-minute drive at the end and be satisfied with that."
"We did some good things," said guard Dalton Risner. "...But it doesn't count if we only do it for just one half."
For the 3-9 Broncos, Sunday was:
"That's what sucks," Broncos linebacker Alex Singleton said. " … No matter how you get there, [the score] could have been 42-41, we've got to stop them on the last drive. Doesn't matter how we get there, we've got to get there on the last drive."
The Broncos do have a win over one of the league's heavyweight sluggers this season -- 11-10 over the physical San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. And Sunday, with Baltimore starting quarterback Lamar Jackson having left in the first half with a knee injury, the Broncos had a 9-3 lead over the run-first Ravens with 3:58 to go in the third quarter.
And by the time the Ravens took over at their own 9-yard line with 5:02 left the in the game, Baltimore had punted six times, had 133 net yards passing and been intercepted twice -- both by Simmons.
But the Broncos turned those two second-half interceptions, one at the Ravens' 40-yard line and the other in the Broncos' end zone, into just a field goal. And even with 91 yards to go for the Ravens to earn the win, those lost points in another historically difficult day for the Broncos' offense removed virtually all of the margin for error for a Broncos team that has now lost eight of the last nine games.
"Can't play a great game the whole game and not down to the last second," head coach Nathaniel Hackett said. "We just have to find a way to finish these games … everybody is trying to do everything they can, I give them credit for that, but it hurts to lose, especially that way."
During the game-winning drive, the Ravens converted one fourth-down play with tight end Mark Andrews taking the snap. They were also aided by a personal foul on Singleton for a hit on Andrews to go with a pass interference penalty on cornerback Pat Surtain II.
A fumble forced by Simmons in that final drive rolled out of bounds, so the Ravens maintained possession as Huntley put together a timely scramble or two to go with a selection of short completions. Huntley capped it all off with a 2-yard run with 28 seconds to play.
Asked what it would have taken for the Broncos to escape Sunday, linebacker Jonathon Cooper didn't hesitate.
"Stop 'em," Cooper said. "We have to get a stop, we have to get a turnover, we have to get off on fourth down, whatever it takes, whatever it takes to get our offense back on the field, that's our job as a defense. ... We didn't do that."
That's all true.
But some of the blame for the latest collapse goes to struggling quarterback Russell Wilson, who couldn't drive Denver into the red zone, much less the end zone, on Sunday.
As Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton notes, the Broncos can't score touchdowns and they can't close out games, and these problems are intertwined.
Wilson's stumbling, bumbling offense is turning Denver's rumbling defense into a crumbling one come crunch time.
"We have to score more points," Hackett said Monday. "We can't put them in that position."
Sunday was their 10th game of the season with one or no touchdowns by the offense, and the yardage total was ugly with 272.
Denver has scored just 15 third-quarter points all season -- two of them on a safety -- and 49 in the fourth quarter.
That pales in comparison to the 102 points they've scored before halftime, but Hackett said that number doesn't please him, either.
"We gotta score more points," he reiterated.
The Broncos own the league's worst offense. Their 13.8-point average would go down as the worst in franchise history.
Rookie tight end Greg Dulcich is just about the only bright spot in Denver's offense. He led the team with six catches for 85 yards against the Ravens. After missing the first five weeks of the season with a hamstring injury, Dulcich has caught 25 passes for 319 yards and a touchdown in seven games.
Hackett said the team is using Dulcich in a "wide receiver role."
Still, with Wilson and the offense continually coming out of halftime incapable of staying on the field, there are no winners here. ...
Next up, the Broncos host MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs, who have beaten them 13 consecutive times since 2015. The Broncos' latest embarrassment was getting Mahomes flexed out of the Sunday Night Football slot after Denver averaged 13 points in four prime-time games through the first six weeks of the season. ...
With K.J. Hamler (hamstring) having a setback last week and going on IR, the Broncos couldn't afford another injury at wide receiver like they had when Courtland Sutton went out with a pulled hamstring.
Hackett told reporters on Wednesday “it’s not looking good right now” for Sutton to play Sunday against the Chiefs.
Sutton played 23 of the Broncos' 53 offensive snaps on Sunday before exiting the game. He was targeted once but had zero catches.
On the season, Sutton leads the Broncos in catches (52) and receiving yards (688).
Denver's depth at receiver has been tested this season as the team has dealt with several injuries. Tim Patrick suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp, and Hamler was placed on injured reserve on Saturday as he deals with a hamstring injury of his own. Starter Jerry Jeudy returned to the lineup on Sunday for the first time since suffering an ankle injury on the first offensive play of a Week 10 loss to Tennessee, but he was limited to just 20 snaps against Baltimore.
As the Broncos have faced these absences, they've looked to their younger players, including Kendall Hinton, Montrell Washington, Jalen Virgil and Brandon Johnson.
Combined, they have recorded 27 receptions for 353 yards.
Hackett also said the team is assessing the statuses of outside linebacker Randy Gregory and center Lloyd Cushenberry III, who are on injured reserve.
"Both those guys we're going to evaluate," Hackett said. "We talk about that kind of today and tomorrow to kind of see where they're at. We'll meet with our medical team."
Gregory has not played since suffering a knee injury in a Week 4 game against Las Vegas, and Cushenberry's last action was during Denver's Week 8 win over the Jaguars. The veteran center will be eligible to return to practice as early as Wednesday, as he has now missed the Broncos' past four games.
NFL teams are allowed to activate eight players from injured reserve during the season. So far, the Broncos have activated five: Justin Simmons, Michael Ojemudia, Dulcich, Jacob Bobenmoyer and Mike Boone.
Stay tuned. I'll have more on Sutton via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
You can access complete stats for the Broncos Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
What Dan Campbell has done to fix the Detroit Lions is simple.
How he got it to work is a lot more complicated.
In Detroit's 1-6 start, it was minus-5 in turnovers -- committing 11 while only forcing six. In the five games since, they have gone 4-1 with a plus-6 margin. They've turned the ball over three times -- two in their Thanksgiving loss to Buffalo -- and forced nine.
"We're getting better," Campbell said. "We're working together better and we're understanding each other better. As we gain more confidence in what we're doing, we can open the playbook up a little more and do some more complex things."
Sunday's 40-14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was probably Detroit's most complete game of the season.
The offense put up more than 400 yards without a turnover and scored on eight consecutive drives to start the game against Jacksonville, marking the first time they've done that in a game since at least 1993 , while the defense held Jacksonville under 300 yards and got an early turnover.
"That's about as close to the dream as you can get," Campbell said. "Ideally, it would work that way every week, but it doesn't work that way. But we got the early takeaway and didn't have to punt. The only icing on the cake would have been a kick return for a touchdown."
Credit quarterback Jared Goff, who hit wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown with two touchdowns, and now has rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams, who was making his NFL debut.
Goff enjoyed relegating punter Jack Fox to limited duty -- no punts -- for the day.
"He got his holding in, but that was about it," Goff said, not crediting Fox for his kickoff duties. "It felt good. The defense forced a turnover on the first drive and we walked right in and scored, and then we did it again on the next drive. At that point, we feel like we can just keep that going."
While they've been faring well enough, the Lions hadn't scored 40 points or put up 400 yards since a 48-45 loss to Seattle on Oct. 2. Against the Jaguars, the offense played at that level, while the defense went from allowing 48 points on 555 yards to giving up 14 points on 266 yards.
Still, as Associated Press sports writer Dave Hogg suggested, Detroit still needs to find a way to make big plays on offense.
Their longest run was only 12 yards, and while D.J. Chark caught a 41-yard pass, the Lions only have one 50-yard reception this season, and that went to TE T.J. Hockenson, who has since been traded to Minnesota.
However, Williams, the 12th overall pick in this spring's draft who has recovered from a knee injury sustained in last year's national championship game, could change that.
"Obviously, we wanted to have him out there in April, but right now is great," Goff said. "He's a rookie and hasn't had any reps, but as time goes, he can be that guy. He's got everything it takes to be a premier threat in this league."
Williams was targeted once on eight snaps by Goff, but as he's able to shake the rust and get in sync with Goff, he should receive more attention going forward.
In addition, Jamaal Williams has 14 rushing touchdowns, one more than he had in his first five seasons combined.
Eleven of the 14 have come inside the 5, including eight from the 1, but he also had a 51-yarder against the Seahawks.
St. Brown runs routes all over the field, and wherever he runs he winds up with the ball in his hands. In the last four games he has been targeted 41 times and caught 37 passes.
So what's not to like?
The Lions are now a fringe playoff contender, but they still rank last in the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed and first downs allowed. They are 31st in passing touchdowns allowed and average yards allowed per passing attempt. They will need to be better than that to beat Minnesota on Sunday.
That said, from a fantasy perspective, the Lions are a dream team with their potent scoring offense forced to do just that with opponent usually able to set the pace. ...
On the injury front. ... The Lions are in their best shape of the season.
In fact, after spraining his ankle in the season opener, and briefly landing on the shelf with a shoulder injury suffered in Week 3, running back D'Andre Swift had struggled to recapture his early-season role in the offense.
Swift racked up 175 yards on 18 touches in that opener, but in five appearances since returning to action at the end of October, he had amassed 170 yards from scrimmage and averaged fewer than eight touches.
That's right, he had more production in Week 1 than the previous five games.
But as Detroit News staffer Justin Rogers noted, on Sunday, the Lions finally removed the bubble wrap. Swift matched his opportunities from the opener, racking up 14 carries to go with four receptions, contributing 111 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars.
"I would say this is the best he's looked in practice," Campbell said. "We could tell on Wednesday that he had a spring in his step, he was feeling better. Just some of the things, the way he moved, everything, and then just every day he looked better, felt better. We have said all along, the better he feels and where he feels like he can open it up and go, then he's going to get more."
Swift, who played 51 percent of the snaps Sunday, nearing full strength fits well with an offense that's getting healthy just in time for a stretch run. Chark, who missed six games with an ankle injury, had his best game of the season against Jacksonville, hauling in five passes for 98 yards. And Josh Reynolds, who missed three weeks with a back issue, chipped in three receptions in the victory. ...
We're hoping that heavier than usual workload for Swift explains his limited practice Wednesday; he's listed with an ankle issue but the light work day might be a maintenance issue.
Either way, I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
Finally. ... NFC Special Teams Player of the Week went to kicker Michael Badgley. Badgley was responsible for 16 of the Lions' points in a 40-14 lambasting of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He converted all four of his extra points and all four of his field goals.
You can access complete stats for the Lions Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
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 PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
At this point, the Green Bay Packers insist they want Aaron Rodgers back next season.
That, however, could be open for discussion in the offseason.
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky noted this week, Rodgers, 39, signed a three-year, $150 million contract last March that runs through the 2024 season. It contained a $58.3 million guaranteed bonus for next season that would only void if he retired.
"Well, certainly that's an offseason-type kind of decision, but surely, yeah," Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said Monday when asked if he wants Rodgers back next season. "I mean we want all our guys back. We made a big commitment to him this offseason, so that was obviously something that was really important to us. But like we've talked about in the past, this is something we'll sit down with him after the season and it will be something we do together and move forward that way."
Gutekunst was already scheduled to speak to reporters Monday as part of the Packers' bye week, even before Rodgers rekindled the topic following the win Sunday win over the Chicago Bears when he said of his future: "There has got be mutual desire on both sides."
Gutekunst said he and Rodgers have not discussed next season and that he would not speculate on why the quarterback made his comments Sunday. Rodgers has not said whether he intends to play in 2023.
"We don't talk about those things during the season very often," Gutekunst said. "We just talk more about our team when we speak. Certainly, that'll be something we get to. ... But again, we went through something in the offseason where it was a very big commitment on our part. It wasn't certainly for one year. But no, we really haven't had any conversations about that stuff during the season."
Rodgers' contract would it make it difficult to trade or release him because of the massive amounts of dead money that would impact the salary cap.
Head coach Matt LaFleur didn't hesitate to say, "Yeah, absolutely, of course," when asked Monday if he wanted Rodgers back.
Rodgers has played through a broken thumb and a rib injury this season. He said Sunday that both could be close to fully healed after the bye.
The Packers have four games remaining, beginning with the "Monday Night Football" matchup against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 19. At 5-8, they haven't been eliminated from playoff contention, but another loss could make that official.
At that point, the Packers will have to decide whether to shut down Rodgers and go with Jordan Love the rest of the way.
"I think obviously if we get to that point, we'll kind of look at those things," Gutekunst said. "But I think no matter -- even if we're eliminated from the playoffs, which it wouldn't be ideal -- I said we're going to still go out to win the game, and I think that's really important. There's a bunch of guys in that locker room that deserve that, so we're going to go out to win the game and we're going to make the decisions that are in the best interests of us going and winning the game."
The Packers have to decide by next May whether to exercise the fifth-year option for the 2024 season on Love's rookie contract. That would be worth in the $20 million area. Love has started only one game in his first three seasons, a loss at Kansas City in 2022. But he had a promising show in relief of Rodgers two weeks ago at Philadelphia.
Gutekunst said the Packers don't need to see Love in further action to decide whether to pick up the option.
"I think that it would be really good for him -- the growth that you need to go through, seeing things for the first time, making those mistakes that you need to make," Gutekunst said. "But I think from our end of it, we've seen what we need to see."
Meanwhile, the Packers appear to have found their next go-to receiver -- something that might just motivate Rodgers to continue playing as long as possible.
Christian Watson continued the second-half surge to his rookie season Sunday by scoring on a 14-yard catch and a 46-yard run against Chicago.
Watson, a second-round pick from North Dakota State, has seven touchdown catches and one touchdown run over his past four games.
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee pointed out, the only other rookies in the Super Bowl era to catch at least seven touchdown passes in a four-game span were Randy Moss in 1998 and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014. The only other rookies to score at least eight touchdowns from scrimmage in a four-game stretch were Moss, Eric Dickerson (1983), Edgerrin James (1998), Mike Anderson (2000) and Clinton Portis (2002).
"It's a rapid, wild development," Rodgers said after Sunday's game. "It's hard to think about another player who goes from being kind of here and there, minimal production, to go-to type player, home run player."
Watson had just 10 catches for 88 yards before this four-game stretch, his only touchdown coming on a 15-yard run against New England on Oct. 2. Watson spent most of the preseason recovering from knee surgery, missed two games with a hamstring injury and missed most of a third because of a concussion.
Now that he's healthy, Watson is showing the big-play ability the Packers had lacked from their passing attack for much of the season as they dealt with the loss of two-time All-Pro wideout Davante Adams, now with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Although Watson is 6-4 and possesses good speed, he lasted until the second round in part because he didn't put up huge statistics while playing in North Dakota State's run-oriented offense.
"I think I was definitely pegged as being rawer than I truly was," Watson said. "I definitely feel like I have a lot of growth and potential as well. I was in an offense that, you know, was really successful at what we did, and I only needed to run three or four routes for us to be successful and win championships in college. That's exactly what we were going to do.
"So there's a lot that scouts, or whoever turned on the tape, weren't able to see out of me because we didn't need to do that to be successful. Now I think I've been able to prove I can do more and more than people thought I could do. But, you know, I think there's a lot of room for growth as well."
Also worth noting. ... A.J. Dillon had a season-high 93 yards rushing, including a 21-yard touchdown. Dillon has rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries over his past two games.
Robert Tonyan had one catch for 10 yards. Tonyan hasn't scored a touchdown since Oct. 2 and has totaled 57 yards receiving over his past four games.
On the injury front. ... LaFleur had no update on a timetable for OT David Bakhtiari's possible return following a Friday appendectomy. "We'll see how he feels when we come back from the bye and see where he's at," LaFleur said Monday. "From what I've been told, it could be a while."
Rookie receiver Romeo Doubs (ankle) sat out a fourth straight game. ...
One last note here. ... Demovsky thinks it's fair to ask how much longer can LaFleur stick with defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
Thanks to cornerback Jaire Alexander's interception with 2:52 left and Keisean Nixon's with 44 seconds left, at least another couple of weeks.
Last week, LaFleur was adamant that a defensive coordinator change was not the way to go. However, one seems inevitable, and it was worth wondering whether it could have happened during the bye had the Packers lost on Sunday -- which was another day with wide-open pass-catchers and untouched ball carriers for much of the day.
The Packers will return from the bye week to take on the Los Angeles Rams (3-9) on Dec. 19 in a Monday night matchup between two of the NFL's most disappointing teams.
You can access complete stats for the Packers Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, 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 TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
Stop me if you've heard this before: The offense wasted a great defensive performance.
As ESPN.com's DJ Bien-Aime noted, the offensive woes have been the driving force behind a lost season for the Texans, and Sunday's 27-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns was a perfect picture of it.
The defense didn't allow a touchdown, but the offense handed the Browns 14 points.
Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken noted it's unclear what would get Houston's embarrassing passing game going.
What is clear is Kyle Allen is not the answer.
Allen followed up a terrible season debut last week with an even worse performance Sunday.
Allen took over last week after Davis Mills was benched and threw two interceptions in a loss at Miami. He was picked off on Houston's first play of the game Sunday, had a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception brought back for another score as Houston (1-10-1) dropped its seventh straight game.
"We're not a good offense right now," head coach Lovie Smith said. "We're still searching for what we can do well. When we did try to run the football, I thought Dameon Pierce continues to play the same way, but we've got to find a way, some kind of way, to get our passing game going."
The Texans have the NFL's worst passing offense by averaging 279.3 yards a game. The five turnovers Allen has had in the last two weeks have left the Texans at minus-6 in turnover margin, which ranks 29th in the league.
"With the pick-6 on the tip and then the fumble on the sneak and giving up 14 points, you're just not going to win games like that," Allen said.
So it cam as no surprise when Smith told reporters on Wednesday that Mills will return to the starting lineup for this Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.
"Davis will start for us this week and we expect two weeks from watching from the sidelines to help," Smith said.
Mills completed 61.9 percent of his passes while throwing 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the first 10 games of the season.
Smith wouldn't say Monday if the Texans would consider adding Baker Mayfield after the 2018 top overall pick was waived by the Panthers on Monday.
"Everybody that's available we look at to see if they fit," Smith said. "We're constantly trying to improve our roster. So, if there's anybody that's out there, we'll look at them. ... (But) we're trying to get better play from the guys we have on our current roster right now."
The Texans did not make a waiver claim on Mayfield, who landed in Los Angeles with the Rams.
Looking for positives?
The Texans' defense had perhaps its best game of the season. The unit held the Browns to just two field goals on offense in Deshaun Watson's return after he sat out almost two years after refusing to play for Houston last season and serving an 11-game suspension after two dozen women accused him of sexual harassment or assault.
And Pierce had 18 carries for 73 yards Sunday to bounce back after combining for just 16 yards in the previous two games.
"Dameon Pierce looked more to the true form of what he's been in the past," Smith said. "I thought he ran hard."
Next up, the Texans will try to limit their mistakes and turnovers against a Dallas team that had five takeaways Sunday. It's a rare matchup between these in-state rivals who have met just five times and last played in 2018. ...
On the injury front. ... Wide receiver Brandin Cooks could miss this week's game after sitting out against Cleveland with a calf injury. Rex Burkhead is likely to return after missing Sunday's game while in the concussion protocol.
Neither Cooks nor Nico Collins (foot) practiced Wednesday.
I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also. ... CB Derek Stingley, the third overall in the draft, is likely to miss a fourth straight game with a hamstring strain.
By the way. ... Without Cooks, Phillip Dorsett ran the most routes for the Texans. According to LateRoundQB.com's JJ Zachariason, Collins was just one behind, and Collins finished the day 10 targets, the second time he's hit 10 looks all season long. He tied a season high 27 percent target share.
You can access complete stats for the Texans Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Devin Singletary, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson, Tank Dell
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot framed it: "Colts owner Jim Irsay lobbied the NFL schedule-makers for more night games.
"So far, Indianapolis has been a prime-time flop. ..."
From the ugly October overtime win at Denver to last Monday night's fourth-quarter collapse against Pittsburgh to Sunday night's disastrous fourth quarter in Dallas, not much has gone right on the NFL's most visible stage.
Mostly, it's been embarrassing.
"I haven't been involved in many losses in general, but definitely not like this," interim coach Jeff Saturday said shortly after the game. "I think we went four possessions in a row with a (turnover). You're not going to beat anybody in the NFL, but you're dang sure not going to beat a good football team that way."
The Colts (4-8-1) haven't beaten many good teams this season.
They've now lost three in a row with Saturday at the helm and six of their past seven overall, the only win coming at Las Vegas in Saturday's head coaching debut. Only two of Indy's victories have come against teams with more wins -- Kansas City (9-3) and the Raiders (5-7). The tie came at Houston (1-10-1).
But they've saved some of their worst performances for prime-time audiences.
The forgettable game at Denver featured no touchdowns and is widely considered one of the league's worst games all season. Against the Steelers, a game in which both offenses struggled, the Colts showed some spark with two third-quarter touchdowns to take a 17-16 lead, only to blow a fourth-quarter lead in their third consecutive home game.
On Sunday night, Indy kept interested fans around three quarters. Then Dallas converted four turnovers into four fourth-quarter touchdowns including a fumble return for a TD by former Colts safety Malik Hooker, turning what had been a 21-19 contest into such a lopsided affair that quarterback Matt Ryan ended the game by taking a knee.
They have one more prime-time game, the Monday after Christmas, when the Los Angeles Chargers visit Indy.
Perhaps by then, the Colts can put on the kind of show Irsay and others inside the organization envisioned.
"Not a whole lot to add from last night, obviously disappointing loss, terrible, terrible way to end it in the fourth quarter," Saturday said Monday. "Frustrated by it, disappointed but not discouraged. We're going to keep building. Nothing's changing. We're not changing who we are, we just have to be better at it."
From a fantasy perspective, it wasn't all bad.
Jonathan Taylor isn't gashing teams as he was this time last season, but the defending rushing champ seems to have put this season back on track. Against a defense designed to slow him down, Taylor still rushed 21 times for 82 yards and caught three passes for 21 yards.
He's had at least 90 total yards in all four games since Saturday replaced the fired Frank Reich.
In addition, a week after Jelani Woods broke out for 8 catches and 98 yards against the Steelers, another rookie made plays on offense.
Alec Pierce took responsibility for Ryan's first interception, which tipped off his hands on a late-second-quarter drive (Ryan thought the defensive back guarding Pierce made contact early, which led to Pierce losing his balance and ultimately the interception). But Pierce caught four passes for 86 yards, highlighted by a 45-yard snag on a go ball and a 15-yard touchdown.
As Colts.com's JJ Stankevitz reported, Pierce's speed, athleticism and body control all shined on those receptions, which came after he had only four catches for 51 yards over his previous four games.
Wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne said last week he didn't see Pierce hitting a rookie wall; instead, what he saw from the 2022 second-round pick on film was encouraging for when the ball would eventually come his way, as it did Sunday in Texas.
Prior to that four-game lull, Pierce was averaging four catches and 62 yards per game in Weeks 3-8.
Meanwhile, Marot notes that not all of the team's five turnovers Sunday night were Ryan's fault. But the 37-year-old threw poorly throughout the game and made some bad decisions, too. The result: three more interceptions and another lost fumble, giving him a league-high 18 turnovers this season as he closes in on a career high (21).
It's prompted questions about yet another quarterback change.
The bye week finally gives Saturday a chance to catch his breath and meet with the assistant coaches to contemplate what can still be fixed this season. With four games left and the Colts on the verge of being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, Saturday has promised his team will keep fighting.
Fans, meanwhile, seem more inclined to start getting ready for next season and April's draft.
You can access complete stats for the Colts Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Zack Moss, Trey Sermon, Jonathan Taylor, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
The young Jaguars are still trying to figure out how to play at a consistently high level.
Following their upset win over the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, the Jags went to Detroit and got destroyed, losing 40-14.
"It's embarrassing, honestly, what we put out there in such a big game for us. I mean, that's the word to describe it. It's embarrassing," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "I mean, this is a playoff game for us and we go out there and laid down. Credit to them, those guys, those guys whooped us...
"It's just embarrassing, especially coming off a big win when you come out here and lay an egg. It just can't happen. We've lost eight games this year, and never have I felt like we got embarrassed like we did today."
Lawrence came off his best game of the season against Baltimore but couldn't continue that play against a Lions defense that entered the week ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed and last points given up. The QB finished with just 179 yards on 17-of-31 passing with a touchdown despite suffering an injury just before halftime.
According to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco, Lawrence was having further tests on his injured left foot Monday, but head coach Doug Pederson is optimistic about Lawrence's availability for practice this week and Sunday's game at the Tennessee Titans.
Even though the quarterback will be held out of Wednesday's practice, Pederson said in Wednesday press conference that Lawrence is considered day-to-day.
Lawrence was hurt on the final play of the first half of Sunday's loss. Lions linebacker James Houston beat left tackle Cam Robinson and hit Lawrence at the hips. Lawrence's left foot got caught under Houston as the two twisted to the turf, and Lawrence immediately grabbed the back of his left knee.
Lawrence stayed down for several minutes and then walked off the field. He returned to the field in time for the Jaguars' first possession of the second half. He ended up completing 17 of 31 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. He also had five dropped passes (three by Zay Jones and two by Evan Engram).
"The nature of the hit, the way it [his leg] was twisted, it started from the knee down through the calf, down through the ankle, eventually down through the toe as everything ultimately ended up at the ground level," Pederson said.
Lawrence said after Sunday's game that he expected to be sore but was thankful the injury wasn't serious.
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Mark Long suggests, Pederson may need to consider changes to his defensive staff following the season.
Maybe even sooner.
The Jaguars are well on their way to becoming the NFL's worst defense, and there doesn't seem to be an explanation for the sudden decline. The young unit -- Jacksonville starts two rookies and two second-year pros -- has been downright dreadful in its past three games, culminating with a 40-14 loss at Detroit on Sunday in which the Lions never punted.
The Jags allowed an average of 446 yards in games against Kansas City, Baltimore and Detroit. They gave up first downs on 23 of 36 third-down conversions during that span, a staggering 64 percent success rate, and don't have any answers despite spending considerable cash and draft capital to upgrade that side of the ball.
Maybe they'll get a break Sunday at Tennessee (7-5), which ranks 29th in the league in total offense, but nobody should count on it.
Jacksonville's linebackers look mostly lost in coverage, its defensive backs are often a step slow and its pass rush has been a season-long no-show.
First-year defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell has made several changes in hopes of creating a spark, but so far, no good. He moved on from high-priced cornerback Shaquill Griffin, benched linebacker and first-round draft pick Devin Lloyd in favor of fellow rookie Chad Muma, demoted cornerback Tre Herndon, gave NFL journeyman and former Canadian Football League cornerback Tevaughn Campbell a shot and tried playing defensive end Dawuane Smoot more.
None of those moves made a noticeable difference and now the Jaguars are on the verge of their 11th losing season in 12 years.
"We've just got to have conversations and be open and we've all got to be honest with what we're doing and making sure we've got the right guys in the right spots," Pederson said.
The better question: Do they have the right guys -- or the right coaches?
Maybe most damning for the Jaguars is the lack of progress by their youngsters. No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker hasn't notched a sack since October. Lloyd regressed after a solid September. Muma has been a mix of good and bad. Cornerback Tyson Campbell and safety Andre Cisco, both second-year pros, haven't shown much improvement.
"Nobody's going to feel sorry for us, and so we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves," Pederson said. "We're going to go to work and we're going to get things cleaned up and try to make it right.
"But it's everybody. It's not one person, one position group. It's everybody. It's coaches, players, myself, it's all of us. And, obviously, it starts there with me."
Of course, fantasy managers aren't going to complain about a generous defense that forces its offense to play keep up.
That said, the offense needs to do its part.
Travis Etienne Jr. played 88 percent of snaps in Detroit and was held to 66 total yards, lost a fumble, and did not score a TD.
It was a very disappointing showing for an explosive running back against a weak run defense. However, the good news is that his health was not a factor here whatsoever. In addition, JaMycal Hasty didn't garner a single touch in this one. While Darrell Henderson Jr. could return after missing Sunday's game due to illness, Etienne is clearly the man in Jacksonville's backfield.
He has a difficult matchup with the Titans in Week 14, but Etienne can at least be counted on to be on the field for nearly every snap.
Lawrence's connection with Christian Kirk is one of the few consistencies seen from Jacksonville. They hooked up six times for 104 yards against the Lions, giving Kirk 27 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns in the last four games.
Zay Jones dropped three passes a week after finishing with 11 receptions for 145 yards, both career highs. Two of his drops came on third-down plays in the first half, including one that might have resulted in a touchdown. Jones was contrite after the game and shouldered blame.
So this week, the team will regroup and find something positive to build on defensively, a daunting task considering Jacksonville's history against Derrick Henry and the Titans.
One last note. ... Jones (chest) was limited in Wednesday's practice. He played through the same injury in Detroit after being listed as questionable on Friday. As NBCSportsEdge.com suggests, his limited session today is likely a case of workload management. That said, I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update along with Lawrence.
You can access complete stats for the Jaguars Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Jamal Agnew, Christian Kirk
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
With a rare fumble by Travis Kelce, a missed field-goal try by Harrison Butker and a woeful inability to pressure the quarterback on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs squandered a chance to control the AFC playoff race down the stretch.
After losing their third straight game to the Bengals, blowing a fourth-quarter lead in a 27-24 defeat in Cincinnati, the Chiefs tumbled out of the top playoff position in the conference.
They are now 9-3 and tied atop the standings with Buffalo, which handed the Chiefs one of their losses and thus holds the tiebreaker with five games left to play.
Making things even more worrisome: The Bengals hold the tiebreaker over Kansas City, too.
And they're tied with the Ravens and Dolphins at 8-4, just a game behind the Bills and Chiefs in what is suddenly a tight playoff race.
"They've beaten us three times in a row," Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon said, "so they obviously have our number right now. Looking at it and what we're going through, a lot of times it comes down to just doing what it takes -- a minor mistake here and there, and it will come back to cost you."
Such as when Kelce fumbled trying to gain unnecessary extra yardage while the Chiefs were clinging to a 24-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Or when Butker missed a 55-yard field goal well within his range with 3:24 to go that would have tied the game. Or any of the times the Chiefs failed to get to Joe Burrow, who was barely pressured much less sacked.
It was all an eerily similar script to the previous two meetings with the Bengals, when the Chiefs blew leads in a regular-season loss in Cincinnati in January and an overtime loss four weeks later in the AFC title game.
"They just have a well-put together team," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "You saw the offense, even though it has the playmakers, they'll take their time and kind of utilize the clock. Their defense changes up a lot of different coverages. They did a good job trying to take Travis away as much as possible and that's why you saw a lot of the other guys making catches. I feel like we executed at a high level. ... (But) it wasn't high enough because we didn't win."
In fact, the Chiefs have had a difficult time defeating both of their biggest rivals for AFC supremacy.
Along with three straight losses to the Bengals, the Chiefs have lost two of their past three against the Bills, including the 24-20 setback at Arrowhead Stadium earlier this season that is suddenly looming large in the playoff picture.
"It was a rematch of the AFC championship game and it lived up to it," Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. "It isn't a good feeling right now, but the good news is we have a lot of football left to play in December, and I'm sure we're going to see those guys again come January."
Still, the Chiefs will win their seventh straight AFC West title if they win in Denver this week while the Chargers lose at home against the Dolphins.
But they'll need some help if they're to get the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed. The Chiefs have the easier remaining schedule, but their margin for error is gone after the loss to the Bengals. They might have to win each of their final five games to get the top spot. But even that won't be good enough if the Bills win out, too. ...
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta noted, the rushing attack has given the offense some balance, and a good argument can be made that the Chiefs didn't utilize it enough Sunday.
McKinnon carried eight times for 51 yards with a TD catch and Isiah Pacheco had 14 carries for 66 yards and a scoring run.
All told, the Chiefs ran for 138 yards at 5.5 yards per carry; Mahomes was held to 223 yards on 27 attempts.
Skretta went on to suggest that McKinnon might be the only player on the Kansas City sideline that could feel good about his play Sunday. He's been used primarily as a receiver out of the backfield, but he proved against the Bengals that he can run the ball, too.
On the injury front. ... Mahomes isn’t quite 100 percent, but he doesn’t sound concerned about his status for this Sunday’s game against the Broncos.
Mahomes told reporters on Wednesday that he has a bruised foot after hurting it late in last Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. Mahomes was sacked by Bengals edge rusher Joseph Ossai on Kansas City’s final offensive play of the game.
Mahomes was set to practice on Wednesday and he said he does not think the injury is going to have a negative impact on him this weekend.
Reid said that every member of the active roster is expected to practice in some form on Wednesday and the team’s injury report will bring word if Mahomes was limited during the workout.
That includes Kadarius Toney, who has missed the last two weeks with a hamstring injury and left guard Joe Thuney, who missed last Sunday’s loss to the Bengals with an ankle injury.
Toney had six catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in his first two games after arriving in a trade with the Giants. He got hurt early in their Week 11 win over the Chargers, however, and has been off the field since then.
I'll have more on Mahomes and Toney via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
One last note. ... The Chiefs have turned the ball over at least once in seven straight games, the longest streak during Reid's tenure. That includes two in the loss to Buffalo at the front end of the streak and one to Cincinnati on Sunday.
You can access complete stats for the Chiefs Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Mecole Hardman
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
The Raiders, already on a roll with three consecutive victories, could soon get a major infusion of offensive talent.
Tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (oblique) are eligible to come off injured reserve this week. Given the short turnaround to play at the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday, the more likely scenario is both players will return next week.
Head coach Josh McDaniels alluded Monday to when cornerback Nate Hobbs came off IR two weeks ago, but was ill and didn't practice. As a result, Hobbs didn't play that week at Seattle, but was activated for Sunday's 27-20 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Raiders will have only walkthrough practices this week, so Waller and Renfrow won't get a chance to get in a proper workout before returning to game action.
"Obviously, with no practice and those kinds of things, it's a little bit of a unique situation," McDaniels said. "We're going to have some discussions, I think, later this morning once we kind of get a handle on where our team is relative to the health of it from yesterday's game. ... You've got to be careful a bit and try to make a smart decision, but we're going to kind of let the health of the team assist us in some of those discussions."
The Raiders (5-7) have more than made up for the losses of those players with their recent play, using the combination of wide receiver Davante Adams and running back Josh Jacobs to average just shy of 30 points in the past three games.
Adams was held to one catch for three yards in the Raiders' 24-0 loss to the Saints in Week Eight, but things have taken a much more positive turn over the last five weeks.
Adams has 41 catches for 664 yards and seven touchdowns over that span and he played a major role in Sunday's win over the Chargers. Adams caught two touchdowns from Derek Carr during the win and set a season-high with 177 receiving yards.
The big day leaves him with 79 catches for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year. He is on pace to set new Raiders records for catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in a single season and the team has won three straight games to put a brighter face on the team's overall play this season.
"Stats mean a lot to me in the sense that it means that I'm holding up my end of the bargain and I'm doing what I got to do," Adams said, via Tashan Reed of TheAthletic.com. "The efficiency part is a big part of it, too, so we got to make sure we're being as efficient as possible and let the stats and all of that take care of itself down the road. Ultimately, I want to get the ball so I can put the team in a position to win games."
Despite dealing with a calf injury and questionable designations the last two weeks, Jacobs has not only played but had 67 touches for 453 yards and three touchdowns in wins over the Seahawks and Chargers.
With 1,303 rushing yards on the season, Jacobs already ranks No. 2 on the Raiders' single-season rushing list. Jacobs is on pace for 1,846 rushing yards, which would break Marcus Allen's franchise-record of 1,759 yards set in the 16-game 1985 season when he was NFL MVP.
The returns of Waller and Renfrow, whether it's this week or next, would figure to only help the offense. Waller had 107 catches for 1,196 yards and nine TDs in 2020, though his numbers slipped to 55 receptions, 665 yards and two scores last season. Renfrow caught 103 passes last year for 1,038 yards and nine TDs.
Even if those two don't return this week, the Raiders have shown they can win with the players they have.
Now they face the defending champions, but at 3-9 the Rams resemble little of the team that held up the Lombardi Trophy in February.
"They've had challenges like we have in terms of health and all that, but this is a team that obviously is very resilient," McDaniels said. "This team is going to battle, there's no doubt about it, so going to have our hands full."
Once they've made it past this week's game, the Raiders will have extra time to prepare for the Dec. 18 home game against the New England Patriots, where McDaniels spent 18 seasons, including 13 as offensive coordinator. The NFL on Monday flexed what was supposed to be the stand-alone Sunday night game to 4:05 p.m. EST. ...
A few issues. ... As Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson suggested, Las Vegas has to find ways to get off to better starts. The Raiders have been shut out in the opening quarter in four of the past six games, and they totaled 14 points. Opponents have scored 38 in the first period over that span.
In addition, protecting the ball has suddenly become an issue. The Raiders have four turnovers in the past two games after committing just seven until then.
Though they won both games, it's not a sustainable path if the Raiders keep handing over the ball at that kind of rate.
Worth noting this week. ... Carr's passer rating in his five Thursday appearances is 100.4. He has thrown five touchdown passes without an interception.
On the injury front. ... It's not surprise that Jacobs remains on the injury list this week. The Raiders did not practice Monday, but they were required to provide an estimation of the participation of their injured players since they play in Thursday Night Football.
Jacobs was limited with his calf injury as well as an injury to his quad; he remained limited Tuesday and was officially listed as questionable.
The Raiders had a long injury list, though Carr was off the report after spending a few weeks on it with a back issue.
The Raiders had only one change to their Tuesday practice report, with cornerback Tyler Hall (back) having limited work after sitting out Monday.
Defensive tackle Andrew Billings (fibula), linebacker Jayon Brown (hand), tight end Jesper Horsted (concussion) and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (knee) remained out of practice.
Running back Ameer Abdullah (hamstring), running back Brandon Bolden (calf), linebacker Curtis Bolton (ankle), safety Duron Harmon (quad), center Andre James (quad), safety Isaiah Pola-Mao (ankle) and defensive tackle Kendal Vickers (back) again were limited.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game. ...
You can access complete stats for the Raiders Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Josh Jacobs, 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 ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco spent more than $112 million in guaranteed salaries during the offseason to get players with experience in Brandon Staley's defense.
Through 12 games, the returns have been disappointing.
The inability to stop the run and allow explosive plays were on display again during Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
The defeat leaves the Bolts at 6-6. They must go on a late-season run to avoid missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
"It's just gonna come down to covering and tackling better. It certainly changes the game when you give them up. The story yesterday were the explosions because the big ones for them were certainly big," Staley said. "We've got five games left. The AFC is really tight. We need to put this one behind us and get ready for Miami."
Josh Jacobs became the seventh running back to get a 100-yard game against the Chargers this season with 144 yards on 26 carries.
Los Angeles is 29th in rushing defense, allowing 151.6 yards per game, but opponents are averaging 5.43 yards per carry, which is on pace to become the highest since the merger.
The seven 100-yard games are tied for the most the Chargers have allowed in a season. With five games remaining -- including Tennessee's Derrick Henry and Indianapolis' Jonathan Taylor -- that mark is likely to fall.
The Chargers are 3-4 when giving up at least 100 yards on the ground.
Another season-long problem has been giving up explosive plays. They have allowed a league-high 13 touchdowns of 20 yards or more, including three against the Raiders. Jacobs scored from 20 yards while Davante Adams had TDs of 31 and 45 yards.
"Adams is a really good player and he made some plays yesterday. On the Jacobs touchdown, was poor setup. We weren't aligned right to the tight end side of the formation," Staley said.
Opponents have 54 plays of at least 20 yards, which is tied for fifth most.
Whatever the case, Staley said Monday that the teams knows exactly where they stand right now.
The Bolts will host the Dolphins on Sunday Night Football this weekend. Miami is spending the week on the West Coast after playing San Francisco, a team the Chargers saw just a few weeks ago.
"They know where we're at in the AFC," Staley said of his team's mindset. "They're aware of, 'Hey, there's two teams with nine [wins], two teams with eight [wins], there's a couple teams with seven [wins] and you know, there's two teams with six [wins]'.
"So, we're a game out right now and we're playing a team with eight wins this week, a team that's a good football team," Staley added. "A team that played a team that we played recently."
And while the big-picture focus is on the playoffs, Staley said he wants his team to focus on the task at hand each day this week in preparation for the Dolphins.
"It's about this week. You guys have heard me say it after the bye week, the games do mean more as you go," Staley said. "Every week they're going to mean more and more because you're getting closer to the end and there's a lot at stake in terms of positioning, but you got to pour yourself into that week, and that's where our focus is, on Miami.
"My focus is on getting our team back physically, getting us back physically, getting a couple of players back, and having a good week of practice, finding out how to win this game," Staley added. "That's where our approach is going to be this week."
The Bills host the Jets and the Bengals host the Browns in Week 14. New England is on the road in Arizona for Monday Night Football.'
One thing the Chargers need to work on, per Reedy, is second-half adjustments.
The Chargers have been outscored 53-25 after halftime in the past four games. They have only four scoring drives in 21 possessions and have committed four turnovers.
Justin Herbert was under pressure from the get-go Sunday, as the ball was swatted away from his hand on his first drop back in Las Vegas. It was a sign of things to come, as Herbert would eventually be sacked five times and hit 14 total times against the Raiders.
The offensive line at one point featured four players who weren't starters when the season began, but Staley said a new-look unit wasn't the sole reason for the high-pressure rate.
The Bolts also struggled to run the ball effectively in the game, and a tough third quarter saw the Chargers three-point lead turn into an 11-point deficit after halftime.
"I think the cumulative effect of all those factors adds up to the pressure. I think that being behind in the game -- late in the game, when you're having to work your way back, when you're down 24-13 -- that's a contributing factor," Staley said. "At the beginning of that ball game, I think you could tell that their gameplan was to try and heat it up and force people to be on islands a little bit.
"I thought that we adjusted well throughout the game and made some good protection adjustments as the game went on," Staley added. "I liked the communication, in terms of how we were able to get that done."
But Staley noted that Herbert getting hit has been a constant theme of late, as the quarterback has now been sacked 14 times over the past three games.
One bright spot has been Herbert's ball security of late.
"There has been pressure the last three weeks, that's for sure, but I think that Justin has done a good job of protecting the football. I've mentioned that in other weeks, but I think it has been a bright spot for us," Staley said. "We've been able to protect the football and stay out of those killer takeaways that just give you no chance.
"We're going to keep working hard at it, keep working on our mixture of run and -- the types of passes, the type of runs," Staley added. "We're trying to take pressure off of the O-line the best we can. That's such a big part of what we try to do here. We're going to keep working hard at it as we go, try to get some guys healthy on the O-line and keep it moving."
The Chargers run game ranks 30th in yards per attempt (3.74) and the Bolts are 31st overall with 84.7 rushing yards per game.
"I think you have to try to feature premium looks," Staley said of getting that unit going. "You have to try to play premium hands in the run game. Then, the types of runs that are available, pairing that with advantage passing looks. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Herbert has passed for at least 300 yards in 20 games, which is the most by any player in their first three seasons in the league.
Andrew Luck had the old mark with 19 from 2012-14 while with the Indianapolis Colts. ...
Keenan Allen became the fourth player to have 100 career catches against the Raiders. The 10th-year receiver, who has 103 in 17 games, joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (114), former Charger Antonio Gates (111), and former Broncos standout Rod Smith (104).
On Sunday, Allen finished with six receptions for 88 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown during the fourth quarter.
On the injury front. ... Staley provided a handful of injury updates Monday afternoon.
Mike Williams is also day-to-day with an ankle injury but Staley provided some optimism with him.
"I think that you should see him, at some point, in practice this week," Staley said.
Williams practiced on a limited basis Wednesday.
Donald Parham, Jr. is expected to return to practice this week after being put on Injured Reserve a month ago with a hamstring injury. Once he does practice, the Chargers have a 21-day window to activate Parham to the active roster.
As for the offensive linemen, Trey Pipkins III, who missed Sunday's game with a knee injury, is considered day-to-day. Corey Linsley is still in the concussion protocol, while Zion Johnson is day-to-day with a shoulder issue suffered against the Raiders.
On defense, Sebastian Joseph-Day, who left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter, has a sprained MCL.
"We will know a little bit more, in terms of his status for this week, in the next few days," Staley said.
Bryce Callahan is day-to-day with a core muscle injury. He had a pick 6 in the first quarter against the Raiders but left the game in the second half.
Staley also said things are "status quo" with Joey Bosa's groin injury.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
You can access complete stats for the Chargers Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Josh Palmer, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
Matthew Stafford has a spinal cord contusion, head coach Sean McVay said after Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
McVay's announcement came a day after Stafford was placed on injured reserve.
Although he is eligible to return from IR in Week 17, McVay said "there's a good chance" the quarterback will not play again this season.
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop reminded readers, Stafford has been sidelined since he injured his neck in the Rams' Week 11 loss to the New Orleans Saints, a game he left after being evaluated for a concussion. McVay later said Stafford felt some numbness in his legs after taking a hit in that game.
Stafford cleared the concussion protocol on Friday but was held out of Sunday's game.
Stafford was playing against the Saints just two days after he was initially cleared from the concussion protocol. He first entered it Nov. 8.
In nine games this season, Stafford completed 68 percent off his passes for 2,087 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Backup quarterback John Wolford started Sunday against Seattle, completing 14 of 26 passes for 178 yards and two interceptions.
He also rushed for 29 yards.
If healthy -- he's currently dealing with a neck issue, Wolford appears likely to start the rest of the way for L.A.
The club also has Bryce Perkins on its active roster. He started the Week 12 loss to the Chiefs.
Oh wait. They also have Baker Mayfield.
That's right. Mayfield was awarded to the Rams on waivers Tuesday and was reportedly scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles Tuesday night.
He could play as soon as Thursday night.
"There's a shot," an unnamed source told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
It could be a long shot, but it's a shot.
As of 4:25 p.m. ET, the Rams were sending Mayfield a playbook, so that he could study the offense during his flight to Los Angeles.
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio suggested, it would seem to be a very tall task for the Rams and Mayfield.
How much can he really learn in two days? How much practicing will be done before kickoff?
On one hand, he only needs to learn the plays to be used on Thursday night. On the other hand, he needs to learn the plays -- the names of them, the assignments, the concepts.
He has a clear incentive to get it done. There are five games left.
Five auditions for Mayfield, as he approaches free agency. Whatever he does that looks good, helps his chances when the time comes to get paid on the open market.
As for the Rams, they're 3-9 and unofficially the worst defending Super Bowl champions in NFL history.
What do they have to lose?
As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham notes, Wolford has mobility and decent accuracy, but his relatively weak arm strength was exposed on several throws against the Seahawks, and it must be reflected in McVay's game planning. Along with a number of underthrown passes and curious choices, Wolford has only one touchdown pass -- a meaningless last-minute score in a loss last month -- in four career NFL starts.
Perkins lacks experience.
Mayfield might not have the strongest arm out there, but he does have ample starting experience.
"He's the type of guy, he's gonna go out and compete his tail off. Glad to have him in the room, for sure," Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen told reporters Tuesday. "It's just kind of acquiring talent, to be honest, and acquiring somebody to come in and evaluate him, but also our offense. Continuing to evaluate the offense, the other players. It's more so about acquiring talent. Just getting somebody in here that we can continue to develop some competitive nature within the room."
The Rams will pay Mayfield $1.35 million for the remainder of this season. Mayfield will hit free agency after the season, and although the Rams are invested in Stafford as their franchise quarterback, they'll surely evaluate Mayfield for the possibility of bringing him back as Stafford's backup next year.
So I'll obviously be watching for more on this in advance of Thursday night's game; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio suggested, there was no reason to believe the Rams would be as bad as they based on the unbridled optimism of folks like McVay. Now that the season has crashed and burned, McVay has become more willing to acknowledge the factors that contributed to the Rams winning 25 percent of their games, so far.
In a Monday press conference, McVay was asked whether Stafford not throwing in the 2022 offseason affected the team.
"I definitely think it had an impact because you talk about rapport, establishing a rapport, a rhythm, a comfort not only with, everybody wants to talk about he and Cooper [Kupp], but even just some of the newer pieces," McVay said. "Yeah, otherwise I'd say, 'Why the hell do we practice?' I think it definitely had an impact without a doubt."
That's a far cry from the endless "everything is fine" vibe that McVay created during an offseason that saw no throwing by Stafford due to an elbow problem.
The decision to put Stafford on injured reserve, with the apparent expectation that he won't play again this year, was motivated by a desire to ensure that Stafford won't have a repeat of 2022.
"It's more about having a healthy offseason," McVay said within a longer answer as to Stafford's current status.
It will also help that the Rams didn't have the kind of year that resulted in the pilfering of the coaching staff by other teams. Asked whether the turnover in the coaching staff impacted the season, McVay gave a meandering answer that included multiple references to the limited downtime following a Super Bowl run, before he landed the plane.
"Ultimately to answer your original question, that is a factor," McVay said. "I think the turnaround, the timing of it, but ultimately it falls on my leadership and for that I've learned and I will continue to learn from the mistakes and make sure we don't repeat them."
There are other factors, too.
Per Florio, "The invoice came due quickly on the all-in, 'eff them picks' approach of the past couple of seasons. Yes, it delivered a championship. But there's too much money invested in too few great players and not enough cheap, young, talented players to complement the stars and provide depth when they are injured."
Fair point. ... With major, market-level contracts given to the likes of Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald (three of whom got new deals after the Super Bowl win), cap dollars had to be sacrificed elsewhere.
The offensive line became a mess this year once the injuries began to happen. Not surprisingly, the offense fell apart.
Still, Beacham reports the locker room has not fractured and McVay still speaks optimistically about his veterans' leadership, his young players' emergences and this franchise's long-term future.
And there are reasons for limited optimism.
Los Angeles' terrible rushing offense is showing signs of life after picking up 171 yards on the ground against Seattle. Cam Akers had 60 yards and two TDs, while wideouts Brandon Powell and Tutu Atwell combined to rush for 68 yards on seven jet sweeps and similar plays.
Powell had a career-high 84 total yards.
Atwell enjoyed a six touches in his first career start. The 5-9 speedster turned them into a career-high 71 total yards with two receptions and four rushes.
Wolford underthrew Atwell on what would have been a long touchdown reception, and Atwell barely missed a 22-yard TD catch as well when he couldn't get his second foot inbounds. McVay has finally given Atwell his first regular role on offense over the past two weeks, and the coach acknowledged Monday that he should have utilized Atwell's talents sooner.
Worth noting. ... Akers saw a 73 percent snap share Sunday. According to LateRoundQB.com's JJ Zachariason, it's the first time he's been over 50 percent all season long.
As for this week. ... The short turnaround is physically demanding, but the Rams can build quickly on the offensive concepts that worked against Seattle. A win over a franchise that's still beloved in Southern California would be an enormous relief for McVay's group.
If not, the Rams will match their longest skid since moving home to LA.
As noted above, Wolford took a beating against the Rams. He took nine hits and four sacks and left for one play after one particularly brutal sack.
The Rams estimated Wolford as a non-participant in Monday's practice, but he returned to limited work Tuesday and was listed as questionable on Wednesday.
For the second week in a row, the Los Angeles Rams won’t have Aaron Donald on defense. He’s been ruled out for Thursday night’s game against the Raiders due to an ankle injury, which he suffered in Week 12 against the Chiefs. This is just the second game ever that Donald has missed due to injury.
Terrell Lewis and David Long Jr. have also been ruled out this week; Lewis has a back injury and Long injured his groin on Sunday. Travin Howard’s hip injury will keep him out of the game, too.
Additionally, Troy Hill, Brandon Powell and Lance McCutcheon are questionable, as well.
Powell was not listed on the injury report Monday or Tuesday, so him being questionable is surprising.
Again, watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on the walking wounded and Mayfield as developments warrant leading up to Thursday night's kickoff. ...
One last note here. ... The Rams are losing their running backs coach.
Ra'Shaad Samples is headed to Arizona State to become the Sun Devils' wide receivers coach and pass game coordinator, Matt Zenitz of On3 reports.
Samples, 27, was a rising star in the college coaching ranks before joining McVay's staff as the youngest position coach in the NFL.
You can access complete stats for the Rams Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, 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, Hunter Long, Davis Allen
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
Tua Tagovailoa said he feels "as good as I can" after leaving Sunday's 33-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers because of an ankle injury.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques reported, Tagovailoa left the game for Miami's final drive and was listed as questionable to return. He also had been listed on the injury report with an ankle injury during the week but was a full participant in the team's practices.
The third-year quarterback came up limping after taking a hit from 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa earlier in Sunday's game but was able to return.
He was strip-sacked late in the fourth quarter by Bosa, however, and left the game for good.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, however, Tagovailoa's injury is not believed to be significant and the signal caller could have re-entered the game had it not been out of reach.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports Tagovailoa will be limited in practice early in the week but should be fine for Week 14.
Still, as the Dolphins stay on the West Coast this week in preparation for their game against the Chargers, head coach Mike McDaniel said the club will monitor the quarterback's ankle at practice.
"We will just be mindful of what he does," McDaniel said during his Monday news conference. "Really, you're looking at Wednesday, just making sure that we don't do anything to have any setbacks, breaking the pocket and whatnot. But I'm very confident and don't anticipate any sort of setback that would negate him playing in the upcoming football match."
Tagovailoa may have one of his starting offensive tackles back for Week 14 in L.A.
While Miami placed Austin Jackson on injured reserve, McDaniel seemed fairly optimistic that Terron Armstead could be back for the matchup against the Chargers.
"I feel pretty good about where he's at," McDaniel said of Armstead. "He was pretty close this past week, relatively to where he just continues to defy normal timelines with injuries that would keep a lesser athlete with the toughness and desire that would keep them out for longer. So I expect him to get some work and practice this week. I don't know exactly -- every day is so important for that healing process. So whether that's Wednesday, Thursday Friday, we'll at least let Tuesday happen before we concretely pin that in.
"But his plan is to get some action this week for sure and I know he's optimistic to play in this upcoming game."
The Dolphins also signed OT Eric Fisher, who last played for the Colts in 2021. The former No. 1 overall pick could line up at either tackle position for the Dolphins.
At 8-4, the Dolphins are currently second in the AFC East and the No. 6 team in the conference entering Week 14. They could deal a blow to the Chargers' postseason hopes with a victory on Sunday.
Of course, it should be noted that Tagovailoa was shaky throughout Sunday's game in San Francisco, completing 18 of 33 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns. Tagovailoa's 79.7 passer rating was his lowest all season. A lot of his misses were on passes over the middle of the field. He also threw interceptions on two consecutive passes in the third quarter, his first since Week 4.
Tagovailoa had thrown 174 passes without an interception before throwing those back-to-back picks Sunday. His three turnovers against the 49ers matched his season total entering Week 13.
Tagovailoa said afterward that some of his errant throws were because of miscommunication with receivers, but he shouldered the majority of the blame for Sunday's poor offensive performance.
"It sucks. It sucks that we didn't come out and do what we wanted to do as a team," he said after the game. "Obviously, it starts with me -- turnovers, with third-down communication errors. In that retrospect, it's hard to win a game when you're not on your P's and Q's and you're not dialed in. A lot of that has to do with understanding what we're trying to accomplish and what we're trying to do.
"It was definitely a poor performance from my part in that aspect of the game."
The Dolphins were 0-for-7 on third down Sunday and playing without left tackle Terron Armstead and right tackle Austin Jackson. Tagovailoa was in turn pressured on seven of his 36 dropbacks and sacked three times.
The biggest thing McDaniel wanted out of Miami's matchup against San Francisco, besides a win, was for his team to experience a playoff atmosphere. As Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames notes, most of the players on the Dolphins roster have never played in a playoff game, but Sunday's loss to the 49ers gave them a glimpse at what to expect as they push toward the postseason.
"The idea is to lay it all out on the line for each other and then deal with the consequences," McDaniel said. "So as frustrating as it was, I think that we are well-equipped and we have the guys in the locker room that collectively will take this piece of adversity and get better from it, and that's the objective."
Worth noting. ... Despite almost nothing working for Miami's offense Sunday, they did have two explosive touchdowns, starting with a 75-yard strike from Tagovailoa to receiver Trent Sherfield on the first play of the game. Tagovailoa also found Tyreek Hill in the fourth quarter for a 45-yard score. Hill had nine catches for 146 yards -- his sixth 100-yard receiving game this season.
In the running game, Raheem Mostert said he personally should have performed better.
"I could have been game changing," he said. "I wish I could take that stuff back."
Miami finished with just 33 yards on the ground. Mostert had 30 yards on seven carries against his former team. Jeff Wilson had just one carry for three yards.
As LateRoundQB.com's JJ Zachariason noted, Mostert played 60 percent of Miami's offensive snaps, while Wilson was at 38 percent. That's the first time Mostert's played more snaps than Wilson since Wilson joined the team. Wilson had a 12.5 percent running back rush share, his lowest of the season. ...
Beyond Tagovailoa and the offensive tackles, receiver Jaylen Waddle left Sunday's game briefly with a lower leg injury. I'll be following the progress of both closely this week; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days. ...
You can access complete stats for the Dolphins Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell reported, Camryn Bynum jumped in front of New York Jets wide receiver Corey Davis for the fourth-down interception just in front of the goal line, preserving another harrowing Minnesota Vikings victory.
The second-year safety added that highlight with 10 seconds left to the collection of well-timed stops and game-ending turnovers the Vikings (10-2) have used to effectively minimize their big-play vulnerability on defense this season.
Campbell went on to note their perfect record in nine games decided by eight points or fewer has been made possible by a defense that has taken the bend-not-break mantra to a whole new level.
As the team's official website put it, "Regardless of what happens during an opponents' drive toward the goal line, if there's a blade of grass -- or synthetic turf -- to defend, the Vikings defense believes it can do so."
It didn't matter Sunday if the Jets made it to the Vikings red zone six times in the second half. Nor that New York had first-and-goal from the Minnesota 4-yard line with four plays inside the 2-minute warning to take the lead.
"Honestly if we can win, I don't give a damn, even though we want to bury them and close it out when we can," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "These teams are really good. They have players that can play too. We have 10 wins. Everybody's gunning for us and knows that we're a target, so we're getting everybody's best to the very last second."
The Jets had 24 plays inside the 20-yard line, all in the second half. They netted 36 yards and scored only one touchdown in six opportunities.
The Vikings also stopped the Jets short of the sticks on 13 of 16 third downs and three of five fourth downs.
That's good news as Minnesota's offense struggled to stay on the field in the second half, possessing the football for just 5:30 in the third quarter and 6:00 in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings netted just 10 yards and punted thrice to end its first three possessions of the second half before finding the answers on a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by Justin Jefferson for a 27-15 lead with 8:33 remaining.
The offense, however, netted five yards on its next two possessions that lasted 1:15 and 0:24.
On the other hand, only Detroit -- which Minnesota visits this Sunday -- has allowed more total yards per game in the NFL this season. No team has permitted more passing yards per game or per play than the Vikings.
"You have to continue to look at it, just because it just puts a lot of pressure on your football team," head coach Kevin O'Connell said.
As for the offense. ... Even facing a stout defensive front, the Vikings quietly had one of their most productive games running the ball this season with 128 yards on 29 attempts. Dalvin Cook rushed 20 times for 86 yards, and he and Alexander Mattison each had second-quarter touchdowns.
"The belief we have in those two, they're warriors," right tackle Brian O'Neill said. "I want to give them the rock."
According to Sportradar data, the Vikings gained a season-high 84.4 percent of their rushing yards before initial contact by the defense on Sunday.
Meanwhile, facing pressure and hard hits by the Jets' defense, Kirk Cousins hit 21 of 35 passes but gained only 173 yards.
That includes seven receptions by Justin Jefferson -- for 45 yards. It was a slog, and a higher-than-usual number of off-target passes will generate plenty of discussion in the coming week. But on the most important drive of the game, he completed all five of his attempts for 62 yards en route to Jefferson's winning touchdown.
According to ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, that's what should be remembered.
For the record, no quarterback in the NFL has been pressured (123) or hit (93) more times this season than Cousins, per Sportradar. After taking several jarring blows from the Jets, the ultra-durable Cousins said he was fine physically but acknowledged the rush affected his accuracy. ...
Receiver K.J. Osborn has totaled only 14 receptions for 103 yards over the past seven games.
Cousins has completed only 58 percent of his passes targeting Osborn, compared to 69 percent for Jefferson and 68 percent for Adam Thielen.
Osborn, who had seven touchdown catches last season, has just two this year.
Looking ahead. ... A win or tie against the Lions will seal the NFC North for the Vikings after three straight years with the Packers taking the divisional crown. Then they have two more home games, against Indianapolis (4-7-1) and the New York Giants (7-4-1).
The chance of passing Philadelphia for the NFC's No. 1 seed with the loss of the head-to-head tiebreaker keeps dwindling, making their two-game lead on San Francisco for the No. 2 spot likely the most important race for the Vikings down the stretch. ...
On the injury front. ... Left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who has also been in the concussion protocol twice in the past four weeks, has been held out of the past two games. He practiced Friday and has been progressing.
You can access complete stats for the Vikings Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, head coach Bill Belichick said Monday that it would be too difficult to make major scheme-based changes to the team's struggling offense at this point of the season.
"I think we need to do what we're doing better. I don't think at this point making a lot of dramatic changes; it's too hard to do that," Belichick said in his weekly interview on WEEI Radio.
"If we can just do, consistently, what we're doing, I think we'll be all right. We just haven't been able to have enough consistency. And that's hurt us. It's not one thing. One time it's one thing. Next time it's something else. We just have to play and coach more consistently."
Belichick's remarks come in the wake of quarterback Mac Jones' sideline outburst calling for deeper pass plays in Thursday's 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills that dropped the team to 6-6. Jones later said he let his emotions get the best of him, but that it wasn't directed at anyone in particular and intended to provide a spark to the team.
The Patriots rank tied for last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, having scored touchdowns just 12 times in 32 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
It is one of several key categories in which the offense is rated near the bottom of the NFL, including first downs (28th), sacks per pass play (25th) and interception percentage (25th).
The Patriots rank 20th in points per game (20.75 average).
The offense's conversion percentage on third down was 25 percent (3 of 12) after it made finishing drives a priority following last week's loss at Minnesota. It drops the Patriots to a conversion rate of 36.2 percent for the season, which ranks 27th in the NFL.
"It's been a combination of things on every front really -- coaching, playing, penalties," Belichick added during that Monday appearance. "We've had some high penalty games and we've had some low penalty games. We've had some turnover games and then we've had some no turnover games, and so forth.
"It hasn't always been the same problem, or it hasn't been the same problem on certain plays. Sometimes that's shifted. And there's certainly been some plays that haven't matched up well against the defense when they were called. So, whether that's the design of the play, or the way it hit against a certain defense, those have come up as well."
The Patriots' offensive struggles have come after coordinator Josh McDaniels departed to become the Las Vegas Raiders' head coach following the 2021 season, and Belichick tapped former NFL head coaches Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as leading replacements. It was an unconventional approach because Patricia's and Judge's primary background as assistants had been on defense and special teams, respectively.
Patricia calls the plays in to Jones, and Judge is the quarterbacks coach, with Belichick stressing all year that it's been a collaborative effort among all coaches.
In the offseason, Belichick also oversaw a streamlining of the offense, which had grown in volume since his first year as head coach in 2000. One goal in doing so was to allow players to play faster.
The transition hasn't produced the desired results, with Jones, in particular, dipping after a promising rookie season. In just over eight games, he is 184-of-270 for 1,963 yards, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
As a rookie, playing in all 17 regular-season games, Jones finished 352-of-521 for 3,801 yards, with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
In case you missed it, Jones was adamant an expletive-laced tirade on the sideline during the loss to Buffalo was about motivating himself and not an emotional plea about the play calling or anything directed at his coaches.
Only he knows for certain.
What does seem apparent is his vocal outburst had an undertone: He wants the training wheels to be removed from the offense.
"What I said was about throwing it deeper in the short game. I got to execute that part better," Jones said. "But it's the short game we kept going to, which is working. But I felt like we needed chunk plays. I shouted that out to kind of get everyone going. That's emotional. That's football. I'm passionate about this game."
As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower noted, it's been costly to the development of the second-year quarterback and remains the most baffling thing about a team that is clearly content to ride out the status quo on offense despite diminishing returns.
Jones is just 4-5 as New England's starter this season, with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. For the season, his passer rating is down to 87.0 -- 24th in the NFL.
Asked Monday if he's concerned about Jones' progression, and how he's been under duress for extended stretches this season, Belichick said on WEEI: "I think we'd all certainly like to be doing better than what we've been doing -- from a record standpoint and from an individual execution [standpoint]. But we're going to look ahead and not backward."
For what it's worth, not everybody agrees with Belichick's assessment.
Kendrick Bourne called out the Patriots' play-calling and offensive design following the loss to the Bills.
As NBCSportsEdge.com suggests, "This is not recommended behavior in Belichick's locker room," but Bourne said what many Pats seemed to be thinking after an awful home loss.
"Yeah, man, we need to scheme up better," was Bourne's response to the question of whether the Pats need to play differently on third down. "We need to know what they're doing. We need to know what they wanna do on third down. ... They call this, and we call that, and it falls right into what they want."
He then got much more specific. "No Von Miller, we gotta take advantage of that. No Micah Hyde. ... They're more soft in what they're doing, so they're more conservative. We've gotta take advantage and not just have five-yard throws. We need to be able be able to attack and put pressure on the defense."
Bourne's comments seem to echo Jones' in-game complaints. ...
Next up, the Patriots visit the Arizona Cardinals in a "Monday Night Football" matchup. ...
It should be noted, the team is making an effort to get the offense rolling. Cornerback Marcus Jones' surprise usage on offense and subsequent 48-yard touchdown reception was the Patriots' biggest highlight.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Jones is the first player in Patriots history to log both a receiving touchdown and a punt return touchdown in his rookie year.
But the line has been a limiting factor.
Though dealing with injuries that forced practice squad elevation of Conor McDermott into the starting lineup at right tackle, the Patriots struggled up front. The group was whistled for four of New England's six accepted penalties -- holding calls on McDermott, Trent Brown, David Andrews and Cole Strange.
On the injury front. ... The Patriots had no announced injuries but have several key players on the mend. Starting running back Damien Harris (thigh) sat out along with tackles Isaiah Wynn (foot) and Yodny Cajuste (calf and back).
I'll have more on Harris via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
You can access complete stats for the Patriots Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Bailey Zappe, Mac Jones
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Pharaoh Brown
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Didtler reported, the New Orleans Saints were five minutes away from moving within a half-game of NFC South-leading Tampa Bay when the bottom fell out of the game, and most likely the season.
Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes in the final three minutes Monday night as the Buccaneers rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat the Saints 17-16.
"It's frustrating to not come out with the win when you're up 16-3 in the fourth and you lose," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "That's sort of been the story of the year, and that's not winning football."
The loss guarantees a losing season for the Saints (4-9), while Tampa Bay (6-6) tops the division.
Head coach Dennis Allen was unsurprisingly unhappy after his team blew that fourth-quarter lead.
"It sucks. It stings. It hurts," Allen said.
Allen said the game came down to a few plays the Saints didn't make.
"We didn't get it done," Allen said. "We had some opportunities to make some plays and we didn't make them."
Allen acknowledged that the Saints let the Buccaneers hang around in a game the Saints had been dominating until the late fourth quarter.
"When you play Brady and you have a chance to put him away, you have to put him away," Allen said.
The Saints didn't do that.
Instead, Brady put away any real hope the Saints had of winning the NFC South. And the Saints' loss placed Allen squarely on the hot seat.
One of those "few plays" Allen alluded to came with the Saints leading 16-3 and facing second-and-8 near midfield with six minutes remaining, Mark Ingram caught a short pass and had a clear path to pick up a first down.
Bizarrely, Ingram stepped out of bounds a yard short of the first down.
If Ingram had picked up the first down, the Saints probably would have won the game. A fresh set of downs would have given them more plays to keep the clock running, and the Bucs wouldn't have had time for their two late touchdown drives.
But Ingram stepping out of bounds left the Saints with third-and-1, they threw incomplete on that play and then punted on fourth-and-1, and the rest was history.
After the game, Ingram admitted he was to blame.
"I'm sick about this one," Ingram wrote on Twitter. "Regardless of circumstances or how I feel I have to get that fresh set of downs for the squad. I apologize to my teammates my coaches and my city for a crucial mistake. We work way too hard and sacrifice blood sweat and tears. I will be better."
It was an enormous missed opportunity, in a game that effectively ended any opportunity the Saints had at winning the NFC South.
Ingram knows he cost his team dearly -- and as it turns out, in his final game of the season.
Ingram suffered a slight ear of his MCL and will miss four to six weeks, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton threw for 229 yards and a touchdown without an interception for New Orleans, but the Saints failed to take advantage of opportunities to put the score out of reach by settling for three short field goals.
"There's only four games left and it's unfortunate that we keep having to say the same thing over and over again," Dalton said. "The missed opportunities have hurt us. We've had chances in a lot of games this year. We haven't made plays when we needed to. It has affected the game and it's been the same outcome."
Dalton threw an incomplete pass intended for Marquez Callaway on a 3rd-on-1 at the Tampa Bay 44 with the Saints up 13 and 5:34 to play.
"It was 1-on-1 over there and I tried to give him a chance," Dalton said.
The Saints took a 10-3 halftime lead on Dalton's 30-yard scoring pass to Taysom Hill and a 38-yard field goal set up by Demario Davis' interception. It was also only the eighth takeaway for New Orleans' defense in 13 games.
Jordan forced a fumble that led into a 12-play drive that Wil Lutz finished with a 21-yard field goal to make it 13-3 late in the third. ...
Of ongoing concern to fantasy managers, Alvin Kamara tallied 12 carries for 26 yards and caught two of three targets for 11 yards during Monday's loss.
As CBSSports.com framed it, Kamara continued to underperform expectations, averaging less than four yards per carry for the sixth game in a row.
While the five-time Pro Bowler was limited by three of the league's best rushing defenses in his previous three outings, he did not manage to break a run longer than five yards against a Buccaneers defense that allowed 4.6 yards per carry coming into Week 13.
Kamara also posted his worst receiving stat line of the season despite Dalton's solid performance.
The running back has been forced to operate behind a banged-up offensive line recently, and this unit should have some time to recover during New Orleans' upcoming Week 14 bye.
Still, with 37 yards rushing and receiving combined, this was Kamara's fifth straight game with fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage and his third game in that stretch with fewer than 50.
"Defenses are keying on him, obviously," Allen said. "We've got to find ways to get him the ball where he can be effective. That's something we have to look at as a coaching staff. ..."
Chris Olave caught 4-of-6 targets for 65 yards and remained the top option in the pass game, leading the team in targets yet again. According to NBCSportsEdge.com, his numbers could have approached the 100-yard threshold had he not dropped a perfect pass from Dalton in the second quarter, which would go down as his first drop through 98 targets as a rookie. ...
The Saints were without tight end Juwan Johnson (ankle) on Monday night. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) missed an eighth consecutive game. Safety P.J. Williams also sat out with a knee injury. Linebacker Zack Baun left in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
Looking for positives?
As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel noted, the kicking and return game are on point.
The Saints downed three punts inside the Tampa Bay 14, including one inside the 10. Wil Lutz was good on all three of his field-goal attempts and his lone point-after kick. New Orleans also had nearly 90 return yards on kickoffs and punts.
In addition, Rashid Shaheed, an undrafted rookie, has become a more prominent player on offense and special teams by the week.
He led the Saints with 74 yards receiving on four catches, added 59 kickoff return yards on two returns and returned a punt 30 yards.
New Orleans will have a bye week to reassess and reorganize before they return to take on the Falcons. Based on what we've seen to date, that might not be enough time to figure things out.
You can access complete stats for the Saints Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, 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 GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
According to Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan, the New York Giants are showing signs of cracking with five games left in the regular season and the playoffs on the line.
Record-wise, head coach Brian Daboll's team is in the second of three wild-card spots with a 7-4-1 mark, just ahead of Seattle (7-5).
Washington, which rallied for a late touchdown to tie the Giants 20-20 tie on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, is just outside a playoff position with a 7-5-1 mark.
The concern for the Giants is they are not playing their best football. They are 1-3-1 in their last five games, and things are going to get tougher.
New York has two games left with Philadelphia (11-1) and one with Minnesota (10-2), the NFL's top two teams by record. They also have another contest with Washington on Dec. 18, which was flexed to a Sunday night game.
For the first time this season, there is some friction on the Giants. Cornerback Rodarius Williams and inside linebacker Tae Crowder both complained about their playing time after the tie.
Daboll said adversity and criticism are part of a coach's job, whether as the head guy or an assistant.
"I appreciate the support," Daboll said. "I also appreciate the negativity and the criticism. If you want to be mentally tough and strong, this is the sport to be in, whether you're a coach, whether you're a player. You can't focus too much on that. You appreciate it."
Daboll said he would talk to Crowder and Williams. He plans to approach the final stretch the same way he has approached the season. He's focusing on the Eagles this week, and that's it.
It's just another must-win game, until the next one.
Despite giving up 411 yards in total offense, Wink Martindale's defense was outstanding in earning the tie. It was on the field for 82 plays and saw the Commanders possess the ball for more than 41 minutes.
The defense also set up Daniel Jones' third-quarter touchdown pass to Isaiah Hodgins when linebacker Azeez Ojulari recorded a strip-sack and eventually recovered a fumble that teammate Oshane Ximines lost at the Washington 20. The Commanders were 3 of 14 on third down.
Why are we talking about the defense?
The offense was horrible in the second half.
New York had the ball nine times in the final 40 minutes and only one possession lasted longer than five plays. The touchdown drive was five plays and 20 yards.
Overall, the performances of the key skill players were middling.
Jones completed over 80 percent of his passes for the second time this season, finishing with 200 passing yards, one touchdown and no interception. It was his third consecutive game with at least 200 yards in the air, which helped him earn a passer rating of 104.3.
Jones added a career-high 12 rush attempts against the Commanders and gained 71 yards, good for an average of 5.9 yards per carry, including 51 yards after contact. He did lose a fumble, just his third of the season, and had two runs of 10-plus yards.
Saquon Barkley totaled 63 yards on the ground, bringing his season total to 1,055. It marks the third time in his first five seasons that Barkley has reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark and the first since 2019. His 87.9 rushing yards per game this season is the most he's averaged in his career.
Darius Slayton led the Giants in targets (eight), receptions (six) and receiving yards (90) in Week 13. The fourth-year receiver has 566 receiving yards on the season, 266 yards more than Richie James who ranks second on the team with 300. Of those 566 yards, only 11 came in the first four games. Since Week 5, Slayton is averaging nearly 70 receiving yards per game with 555 total receiving yards.
Hodgins had a career day against the Commanders. He caught five passes for 44 yards, both of which set new career-highs, and caught his first NFL touchdown. Jones had a 136.8 passer rating when targeting Hodgins, who also forced two missed tackles.
In addition, Daniel Bellinger caught 5-of-5 targets for 24 yards in first game since suffering a fractured eye socket and septum in Week 7.
While he didn't rip off any big gains, a five-catch performance in his return is still encouraging. As NBCSportsEdge.com notes, Bellinger was slowly emerging as a legitimate threat in the Giants' passing attack and could be in line for more targets given how thin New York's receiving room has become.
While they have some viable options, it's still fair to wonder if they'll Odell Beckham Jr. for a playoff push and beyond.
Beckham visited with the Giants on Thursday and Friday. He went straight to Buffalo afterward, and the Cowboys on Monday. It's understood that Beckham would like to return to New York, where he began his career and where he still has some unfinished business.
But do the Giants want to pay Beckham what he believes he's worth? GM Joe Schoen has been extremely disciplined financially this season. According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, it's hard to see that changing all of a sudden.
Whatever the case, the Giants renew their rivalry with the Eagles. The games are usually close. One of their four wins last season was against Philadelphia.
In fact, the New Jersey Turnpikes foes have split games in each of the last two seasons. ...
On the injury front. ... Receiver Kenny Golladay, who missed Sunday with an illness and a high fever, was back in the team facility wearing a mask Monday. His temperature is lower, Daboll said
Golladay went on to practice fully on Wednesday while James (knee) was limited.
I'll have more on the wideout's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
You can access complete stats for the Giants Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Tommy DeVito, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, Darren Waller
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reminded readers, two weeks ago, wide receiver Garrett Wilson stood in front of his locker after a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots, tearing apart the offense after an utterly inept performance. He didn't name names, but it wasn't hard to read between the lines. Much of his frustration appeared directed at quarterback Zach Wilson.
Three days later, Wilson was benched.
That situation is worth noting because of what occurred in the locker room Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Jets lost a heartbreaker to the Minnesota Vikings 29-22. There was Wilson once again, holding court before a crowd of reporters.
Yes, he was upset with the outcome, but not his quarterback.
The talented rookie delivered an iron-clad endorsement of Mike White, who became only the fourth Jets quarterback in the past 25 years to throw for 300 yards in back-to-back games.
"He was out there, controlling the huddle, never letting the moment get too big," Wilson said. "It was cool to see. Looking back on it now, it's cool to think about. I know I'd go to war for that boy. He's got something special about him."
White didn't play a flawless game -- far from it. He threw two interceptions and struggled to get his team in the end zone -- going 1-for-6 in the red zone -- which is the ultimate job of every quarterback. But it was clear from the postgame vibe -- highlighted by Wilson's testimonial -- that White strengthened his hold on the quarterback position in the eyes of his teammates.
In his fifth career start, only his second on the road, White nearly rallied the Jets from a 20-3 deficit. He got them to the 1-yard line on their penultimate possession before hitting the imaginary brick wall on the goal line that stymied the offense most of the day.
Another three feet. That's all he needed for a potential miracle win. They would've been writing poems about White, everybody's favorite underdog, if he had pulled it off. But the former QB3-turned QB2-turned QB1 showed plenty of moxie in the second half.
"I thought Mike did a great job," head coach Robert Saleh said. "There was a little of some ups and downs, like normal in a football game. They're a good football team, but I thought he kept his composure, stayed within the game, made some big, big throws."
White threw a lot (31-for-57), which isn't ideal, but amassed 369 passing yards -- including 248 in the second half. He made history, not the good kind, though -- the most passing yards in franchise history without a touchdown pass.
The "mark" was held by Joe Namath, who did it with 341 yards in a 1968 loss to the Denver Broncos -- the year the Jets went to their only Super Bowl.
In two starts, White has developed something special with Wilson, who is playing like a serious contender for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. With White slinging the ball, Wilson has 13 receptions for 257 yards and two touchdowns, including an 8-for-162 game against the Vikings' overmatched secondary -- the most yards for any Jets receiver since Eric Decker's 221 in 2014.
Zach Wilson hasn't had that kind of chemistry with any receiver because of his inability to operate a consistent passing attack. He has 1,279 yards in seven starts -- 183 per game. White has 684 in two starts -- 342 per game.
Saleh hasn't declared White the permanent starter, saying he will go back to Wilson "when he's ready to roll" -- a vague statement that creates questions.
According to Cimini, reality says it's White's job to lose.
Publicly, Saleh probably will let it play out organically, but Cimini added: "Know this: He might have a mutiny in the locker room if he yanks White anytime soon."
In a possible show of solidarity, White and several offensive players showed up for the game wearing Anaheim Mighty Ducks hockey jerseys. (The movie was filmed in Minneapolis.) On Saturday, a few players wore "Mike F'n White" T-shirts.
"He's a baller, obviously," said wide receiver Braxton Berrios, who participated in both fashion statements.
Let's not mistake guts with precision, though. White didn't get it done in the red zone, completing only six of 17 passes for 24 yards and an interception. The 1-for-6 performance was their worst red zone percentage on six possessions since 2014. With only average efficiency, they would've hung 40 on the Vikings.
There was some curious playcalling in the red zone, along with a drop by Berrios on a fourth-down pass in the end zone -- a tough play, but one he felt he should've made. White took the heat, saying he threw it slightly behind Berrios on his sidearm flick.
"That's not on him -- that's on me," Berrios said. "It's fourth down. He has everything in his face, the rush coming. He's seeing bodies flying everywhere. He put it where I should've got it. So, yeah, that one's on me."
White was incomplete on his last six attempts in the red zone.
"My job as a quarterback is put our team in the best position, and that's scoring in the red zone," White said. "So it starts with me."
He took accountability, which no doubt scored points with his teammates. It was the perfect answer to an imperfectly impressive day.
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. summed up: "Sunday wasn't perfect. The Jets had too many field goals, not enough touchdowns.
"But Wilson, and presumably other teammates, don't care. They've embraced White. They'll follow White. White has become more than the figure who takes the snaps and then hands the ball off or throws it (or runs it himself, as he did for the team's only touchdown of the game). He's taking over as the leader of the team."
The Jets remain very much alive in the AFC playoff picture.
Things get no easier in six days, however. That's when the Jets go to Buffalo for a rematch of a game New York won four weeks ago, with Wilson at the helm. A loss would drop New York to 7-6 and make the final month of the season a little rocky.
But the whole season has been rocky, in a good way.
They weren't supposed to be in contention this year. They are. It bodes very well for next year, especially if White can continue to win over the other men who play for the team. ...
For the record, New York rolled up 486 total yards at Minnesota, the Jets' highest output of the season -- 20 more yards than they had in their 31-10 rout last week of Chicago.
The difference was they got four touchdowns in that one, including going 1 for 2 in the red zone.
"It comes down to execution," Saleh said. "Obviously, there's things we could've done better as a coaching staff, and there's things we could've done better as players from an execution part. But credit to (the Vikings), too, they played situations really well. ... "Yeah, obviously, it just wasn't a good day in the red zone."
That has been the case all season for the Jets, who rank 26th in the NFL in red zone efficiency at 48.6 percent (18 for 37). They've been even worse the last three weeks, ranking 31st while going just 2 for 9.
Other notes of interest. ... Garrett Wilson is on fire. The first-round pick has had a terrific season, with his 790 yards receiving just 54 shy of Keyshawn Johnson's franchise record for a rookie. But Wilson has elevated his game the last two weeks with White at quarterback.
He has 13 catches and 257 yards receiving, including 119 after the catch, with six receptions gaining 15 or more yards during that two-game span.
Greg Zuerlein has also been on fire. The Jets kicker booted five goals against the Vikings, including a franchise-record 60-yarder before halftime. That came a week after he tied the previous mark of 57 yards he shared with Chandler Catanzaro.
While New York doesn't want to rely on too many field goals given their red zone woes, it has a consistently reliable kicker -- something for which it has been searching the last several seasons.
Tight end Tyler Conklin, in his first season with the Jets after signing as a free agent, got off to a good start by catching 18 passes for 140 yards in the first three games. But Conklin has just one game since with more than four catches, and he caught only two of his seven targets Sunday -- including having a couple of passes go off his hands -- for 9 yards.
Michael Carter missed the game at Minnesota with a lower ankle sprain. He'll be monitored throughout the week and I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update.
Rookie Zonovan Knight filled in admirably as the starter Sunday, rushing for 90 yards on 15 carries and adding five catches for 28 yards.
It's worth noting that Knight played 55 percent of New York's snaps, while Ty Johnson was at 34 percent and James Robinson 10 percent. As LateRoundQB.com's JJ Zachariason noted, Johnson did get used a lot in the passing game, predictably, running three more routes than Knight.
But Knight still had a 9 percent target share and a solid 75 percent RB rush share.
For what it's worth, Saleh told reporters on Wednesday that Knight is "not going anywhere" when Carter returns to the lineup.
In a related note. ... Carter is no longer on the Jets' injury report.
Also per Zachariason, Elijah Moore ran just one fewer route than Corey Davis Sunday, and he played 69 percent of New York's offensive snaps (Davis at 81 percent).
That's Moore's highest snap share since Week 4. 75 percent of his snaps were in the slot, per Next Gen Stats.
For what it's worth, Davis (illness) did not practice on Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
You can access complete stats for the Jets Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, A.J. Brown's touchdown celebration said it all.
After hauling in a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts early in the second quarter in the Eagles' 35-10 win over the Tennessee Titans, Brown pulled out a towel, ran towards the goal post, wagged his finger at it as if it misbehaved, and then slapped the post with the towel three times before giving it a hug.
The message was directed at his old team.
"Today, I'm going to have to give you this whooping," he said. "But I still love you, though."
That touchdown was overturned because Brown didn't get a second foot in bounds, but he scored on the very next play, and ended with eight catches, 119 yards and two touchdowns.
After the second score, he pulled the towel out again.
"This one meant a lot to me. Early on I had mixed emotions about the trade and everything. I'd be lying to you to say I didn't circle this game," he said.
Brown was dealt from the Titans to the Eagles on the first night of the draft in April for the Nos. 18 and 101 overall picks. The trade was contingent on a new contract extension -- something Brown and the Titans could not come to terms on. Philadelphia signed him to a four-year, $100 million deal that includes $57 million guaranteed that night.
He's been dynamite for Philadelphia. Through 12 games, he has 61 catches, 950 yards and nine touchdowns.
Leading up to the game, Brown said the matchup wasn't personal. But he came clean afterwards about how much it meant to him.
"It's been personal since the trade to be honest. I've just been trying to keep it down," he said. "That's where I wanted to be and things didn't work out and it was kind of just, 'here you go -- we don't want you anymore,' and you kind of just get pushed to the side. In that situation for me, I had to grow up quick."
Brown added that he had "to learn it was a business" and that "of course I wanted to make them regret the decision."
Brown grew animated late in the third quarter when Tennessee defensive back Andrew Adams tackled him by his lower right leg and appeared to continue to twist it even after Brown was on the ground.
"He kind of just rolled, kind of twisted my ankle. There's no need for those types of plays. Competing, doing whatever between the whistle, I'm all for it. If you get me, you got it. But dirty stuff after the play, I'm not going for that," Brown said. "I'm a man first. We play this game. We're playing football. I'm not out here trying to hurt you, so you should not be out here trying to hurt me. It's a mutual respect -- there should be. I'm not going for that."
That sequence aside, Brown expressed mostly love towards his former team and teammates, even if he was out to prove something to them.
"I think the whole world knew what it meant to him based off of who he is, how he is, and how he responds to certain things," said Hurts, who threw three touchdowns and ran for another against the Titans. "I'm happy that he put on a show. He's a special player and a good friend. He's a real special player. I know that we make a big deal about it, but hopefully we can move on from it now. He did what he did, and onto the next."
Meanwhile, good luck trying to find a game this season where Hurts hasn't set an Eagles' record or achieved some sort of milestone not yet reached in the NFL.
As Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston notes, in his latest, Hurts became the first player in franchise history with 350-plus yards passing, three passing touchdowns and a rushing score in one game. That feat came a week after Hurts set an Eagles' single-game rushing record for a quarterback.
The swole numbers all help build Hurts' MVP bid.
And they keep the Eagles as the team to beat in the NFC and on the short list of teams that can win a Super Bowl.
Philadelphia's win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday made it 11-1 for just the fourth time in franchise history. The 1949 Eagles won the NFL championship. The 1980 and 2004 teams lost in the Super Bowl.
Take a look around the NFC and it's hard to find a team that can make a serious case that it can knock off the Eagles in the playoffs, even though anything can happen in one postseason game.
"It's the same old message with me," Hurts said. "We just want to continue to grow, to continue to rise, to continue to learn from everything we do good and bad, and grow from it."
The Eagles are fortunate Hurts' play is more dynamic than his quotes. But the mild-mannered performance at the podium belies an aggressiveness at QB that allows him to bust games open on land (157 yards rushing vs. the Packers) and through the air (380 yards passing vs. the Titans).
Hurts this season has 2,940 yards passing, 20 TDs, only three interceptions and a 108.3 passer rating on 243-of-357 (68.1 percent) passing. He also has 609 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.
Hurts, who on Wednesday was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, could become the first Philadelphia Eagle to ever win NFL MVP.
"I'm not going to try and put any pressure on him. He's been doing an amazing job on the ground and throwing the ball," Brown said. "We'll leave all the MVP stuff to who votes for all that. But, he's doing a great job leading this team. He's a great leader. He's still climbing. He wants the team to be great."
The Eagles can't put the NFC East to bed this week, but they can book at least a Wild Card slot by beating the Giants. They'll also be in the playoffs with a loss to the Giants as long as the 49ers lose to the Bucs and the Seahawks lose at home to the Panthers.
Of course, as things stand now, the Eagles are on pace to play all playoffs games at the Linc.
But a potentially bumpy three-game road trip awaits starting Sunday at the New York Giants. They follow by visiting Chicago and Dallas. ...
Other notes of interest. ... DeVonta Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner and 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft, has said all the right things about putting team over personal stats. But except for one 169-yard game against Washington that made the Eagles 3-0, Smith largely took a backseat to Brown.
Yet he had five catches for 102 yards and a touchdown and teamed with Brown (eight catches, 119 yards and two touchdowns) to become the first Eagles receivers to top 100 yards receiving since Nelson Agholor and Zach Ertz on Dec. 23, 2018.
"DeVonta has been going the whole year. He's had some really big games," head coach Nick Sirianni said. "Any time you get two guys that have 100 yards, that's pretty sweet and makes you feel good as a coach."
And if you want to talk about hitting on all cylinders. ... For the first time this season, the beleaguered special teams unit had an all-around useful outing. Britain Covey averaged 17.5 yards on six punt returns and ripped off runs of 21, 25 and 27 yards. Boston Scott added a 26-yard kickoff return. The Eagles didn't allow any game-changing returns, nor did the unit make any kind of silly mistakes that extended drives.
"It was just a spark that we really needed. It was," Sirianni said. "That's why it felt like just a complete game by our entire team today."
Also according to Gelston, in another sign of just how much things are rolling for the Eagles this season is that a whopping 12 penalties didn't really cost them much at all. Yes, an offside call on third down extended the drive of the Titans' only touchdown of the game. And seven false starts in a home game is something the team clearly needs to clean up.
The Eagles were even penalized nine times for 60 yards in the first half. But it was hard to remember any of the calls after such a scintillating offensive performance.
On the injury front. ... Receiver Quez Watkins (shoulder) and LB Shaun Bradley (hamstring) were hurt during the game; I'll have more on Watkins, who was limited in Wednesday's practice, via Late-Breaking Updates in coming days. ...
In addition, DE Robert Quinn is having a knee scope this week and will go IR today. Quinn had been coming on and settling into the scheme before the knee got twisted in practice last week. Now out at least 4 games, but there's optimism he's back for the playoff push. ...
One last note here: The Eagles became the first team to throw for 350-plus yards (386 total) after rushing for 350-plus yards the previous week (363 vs. Green Bay) since the 1987 Los Angeles Raiders (356 rushing on Nov. 30, 1987; 360 passing on Dec. 6, 1987).
You can access complete stats for the Eagles Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, 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 SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves framed it: "When he's at his best, Najee Harris is a blunt instrument. Powerful. Decisive. Destructive. Capable of imposing his will -- usually in the form of a stiff arm -- whenever the mood strikes."
Indeed, the second-year running back displayed that in a 19-16 win over Atlanta on Sunday, shoving Falcons safety Richie Grant into the turf with his right arm during a first-quarter run that showed why head coach Mike Tomlin remains committed to Harris after a sluggish start.
While regularly fielding questions about whether Jaylen Warren should get increased playing time, Tomlin has praised the development of the undrafted rookie free agent but hasn't wavered in his support of Harris. Any path the Steelers had toward relevance on offense this season started with Harris, who spent the first two months playing behind a line that was spotty at best while standing next to a pair of quarterbacks finding their way in a new system.
The line is starting to coalesce. Rookie QB Kenny Pickett is starting to figure things out. And Harris is starting to regularly flash the talent that made the Steelers so high on him in the first place.
Pittsburgh (5-7) has won 3 of 4 following a 2-6 start.
That Harris is averaging 4.6 yards per carry over that span -- a full 1.3 yards better than his average over the Steelers' first eight games -- is not a coincidence. While down the road the offense likely will revolve around Pickett, at the moment Pittsburgh's identity is attached to a player whose ability to lead by example became so apparent to his teammates they elected him a co-captain at age 24.
Harris ran for 86 yards against Atlanta despite missing two days of practice with an abdominal injury sustained in a victory over Indianapolis that needed be checked out at a hospital. He hardly looked banged up Sunday, approaching his job with a fury that is a throwback of sorts on a team whose lineage at Harris' position is littered with Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers.
It's telling of Tomlin's confidence in Harris that the coach held the RB out of practice in an effort to essentially protect Harris from himself and keep him healthy in time to play.
"I just knew that it was going to be this type of (bruising) football game," Tomlin said.
The kind the Steelers will try to play regularly down the stretch. There's still only a remote chance Pittsburgh makes the playoffs. That the postseason remains even a part of the discussion is a tribute to the mediocrity in the middle of the pack in the AFC, a schedule the rest of the way that isn't exactly overwhelming and the team's identity coming into focus.
"Run the ball," Graves summed up. "A lot if necessary, with Harris leading the way, one stiff arm at a time. ..."
Fantasy managers will be fine with that.
In addition, Pittsburgh finally found a successor to Heath Miller at tight end in Pat Freiermuth.
Freiermuth has become the kind of dependable, no-frills option for Pickett that Miller was for years for Ben Roethlisberger. Nearly 60 percent of Freiermuth's 50 receptions have gone for first downs, the second-highest conversion percentage on the team.
Also, we should recognize the success offensive coordinator Matt Canada's game plan is having between the 20-yard lines.
The Steelers are averaging 157.8 yards rushing over their last four games, the second highest over any five-game span of head coach Mike Tomlin's 16-year tenure. The ability to hog the ball has allowed Pittsburgh to move into the top 10 in time of possession, meaning the defense is fresher later in games, a serious issue early in the season when the Steelers had trouble moving the ball.
That said, Graves points to Canada's game plan in the red zone as a weakness.
Pittsburgh has turned just 49 percent of its red-zone possessions into touchdowns, which is 26th best in the league. That number needs to tick up considerably if the Steelers want to put together a realistic shot at a playoff push.
Next up, the Steelers will try to keep their momentum going next Sunday against AFC North rival Baltimore (8-4).
The Ravens could be without QB Lamar Jackson, who left a win over Denver with a knee injury.
Other notes of interest. ... More than a few fantasy managers would like to know what happened George Pickens.
In Week 12, Pickens continued his emergence as Pickett's favorite target with a team-high three receptions for 57 yards on "Monday Night Football."
Against the Falcons, though, the rookie receiver had just one target at halftime and didn't get a second target until only 30 seconds remained in the third quarter.
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor reported, Pickens looked forlorn as wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson sat with him on the bench and defensive captain Cameron Heyward talked to him. Then, in the fourth, Diontae Johnson recorded his second drop of the game -- initially ruled a fumble recovered by Atlanta -- and Pickens walked off the field visibly frustrated.
Sunday was Pickens' second-lowest output of the season, with one catch for 2 yards (his worst was against Philadelphia in Week 8, when he didn't record a catch).
Tomlin doesn't take issue with Pickens' competitive nature. He does wish the rookie wide receiver would express his frustrations in not such a public manner, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
"I'd rather say 'Woah' than 'Sic' em,'" Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. "I want a guy that wants to be a significant part of what it is we do. Now the appropriate and professional and mature way to express that, we're growing and working on, and we will continue to do that.
"But that spirit, that competitive spirit, that guy that wants the ball -- I want that guy."
Pickens has 37 catches for 512 yards and has two of the team's eight receiving touchdowns. No other Steelers receiver has more. ...
Worth noting. ... Johnson saw a 46 percent target share Sunday, which was a season high. He finished with 5 catches for 60 yards. He hasn't scored a touchdown this year on 105 targets. ...
On the injury front. ... Harris (oblique) was held out of practice Wednesday. Linebacker T.J. Watt (ribs) and Johnson (hip) were limited; I'll have more on Harris and Johnson via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Finally. ... Chris Boswell is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, though Tomlin did not indicate whether Boswell's groin has healed enough for that to be a possibility. Replacement Matthew Wright has kicked well recently, making all 15 of his kicks (five extra points, 10 field goals) over the last three weeks.
You can access complete stats for the Steelers Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a broken foot during Sunday's 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced.
The injury occurred at the 11:22 mark of the first quarter when two Dolphins, Jaelan Phillips and Jerome Baker, both took Garoppolo down for a sack.
Garoppolo's left foot was stuck underneath Phillips awkwardly as he went down. Jimmy G limped off the field, was carted to the locker room for observation and did not return to the game after attempting only four passes.
The good news?
Garoppolo's injury won't require surgery, clearing the way for a potential return sometime in the playoffs should his rehab go smoothly, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday.
Pelissero added that Garoppolo's recovery timeline would depend on how rehab goes. With the Super Wild Card Round scheduled to begin on Jan. 14, that puts a five-week timeline on a potential return for the start of the playoffs. The Divisional Round (Jan. 21-22) and Championship Round (Jan. 29) follow in the subsequent weeks, with Super Bowl LVII scheduled for Feb. 12.
NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo noted the reason for the optimism concerning Garoppolo is there was no ligament damage, per sources.
That was the reason behind the timeline shifting.
Shanahan acknowledged that on Wednesday, saying: "Still going to be a big recovery. There's that way outside chance (of a return) late in the playoffs but just an outside chance. Not real optimistic about it but never rule it out."
For fantasy purposes, of course, a post-season timeline is irrelevant. Which is kind of fitting.
Brock Purdy, the 2022 NFL Draft's "Mr. Irrelevant" who started this season as San Francisco's scout-team QB, replaced Garoppolo vs. Miami. Purdy went on to complete 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards, two TDs and one pick in the win. Prior to Sunday, he had appeared in three games as a rookie, completing 4 of 9 passes for 66 yards and an interception in a blowout loss to the Chiefs in Week 7.
Shanahan gave Purdy a strong endorsement for his performance Sunday.
"Brock came in and made some big plays," Shanahan said. "We've got to clean some stuff up, obviously, but just throwing him in there in the heat of battle like that (with) how much (all-out pressure) that team did, too, which you guys can see. ... We were having to change a lot of stuff on the fly, so putting a lot of pressure on (Purdy) in that way.
"I thought he did a hell of a job doing it. Protected the ball well, didn't have any turnovers and made some big plays too that I thought weren't there always."
Purdy was a four-year starter at Iowa State, completing 67.7 percent of his passes, throwing for 12,170 yards, 81 touchdowns and 33 INTs and also rushing for 19 scores. He's the school's leader in completion percentage, passing yards and TDs and led the team to four straight bowl games.
Following Sunday's game, Shanahan even leaned into the Kurt Warner-esque storyline -- unknown Iowa quarterback thrust into the starting lineup out of nowhere -- when asked how his team would handle the shocking Garoppolo news, using the same words former Rams head coach Dick Vermeil did in 1999 for Warner that Shanahan would for his new starter.
"We rally around Brock Purdy and play good football," Shanahan said.
Purdy's teammates also expressed confidence in the rookie leading them forward.
"He's played against the best defense in the league for the past 13 weeks," linebacker Fred Warner said, via NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. "He'll be fine."
Garoppolo and Purdy were the only two quarterbacks on the 49ers' roster this week. To fill the void created by Garoppolo's injury, the 49ers signed quarterback Josh Johnson off Denver's practice squad as a backup, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
The Niners also have former Colts fourth-rounder Jacob Eason on their own practice squad.
This is the kind of thing that could sink the 49ers' Super Bowl chances -- or give Shanahan a chance to flex his creative muscles. Long respected for his play-calling innovation, Shanahan might be forced to empty his bag of tricks and use his many multi-purpose tools, such as Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey, in slightly atypical roles.
The 49ers' schedule is somewhat favorable in that three of their final five games are at home, and the team won't have to leave the west coast for the remainder of the regular season. The Niners also have a defense that can keep almost any offense in check and plenty of other offensive talent that can rise up to this newest challenge.
But the injury also robs us of a Garoppolo vs. Tom Brady matchup when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers arrive to face Brady's childhood team next Sunday. Instead, we'll likely see Brady, the Round 6 legend, face off against Purdy, who now has a chance to write his own fairytale story.
Will Mr. Irrelevant become relevant?
We'll see as the Niners turn the page to preparing Purdy to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. ...
For what it's worth, this marks the fourth time in six seasons under Shanahan that the Niners will be forced to use three starting QBs. In the other two seasons, Garoppolo was mostly healthy -- starting 31 of 33 regular season games -- and San Francisco went to the Super Bowl in 2019 and the NFC title game last season.
The Niners are just 9-29 under Shanahan when anyone other than Garoppolo starts, but most of those games came when the team didn't have a roster like the current one featuring the league's top defense and an offense with playmakers such as McCaffrey, Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk.
One possible approach for Shanahan and the offense will be leaning more heavily on the run.
The Niners finished Sunday's game with 121 yards on the ground, but averaged just 3.6 yards per carry that got a big boost from a late 30-yard run by McCaffrey. Eight of San Francisco's 31 run attempts, excluding kneel downs, ended up going for no gain or negative yards with eight more carries going for just 1 or 2 yards.
But again: Shanahan and teammates have plenty of confidence. They're ready to "Rock with Brock."
Kittle said Purdy has "cajones."
Samuel said Purdy didn't wait for Shanahan to call timeouts, which "takes nuts."
Shanahan added: "He's got some balls out there."
"It's beyond how he played," Aiyuk explained when asked about Purdy. "It's the preparation throughout the week when you don't even think you have a chance to touch the field. You are still prepared to go out there and give yourself a chance to perform. That's why I could respect it."
Aiyuk went on to speak about Purdy apologizing for missing him on a play, which surprised the receiver because he didn't expect an apology from his quarterback.
We'll see how it plays out. ...
One last note here. ... Jordan Mason appears to have the Elijah Mitchell role behind McCaffrey locked up. Mason had eight carries for 51 yards against the Dolphins while fellow rookie Tyrion Davis-Price went without a touch.
It's obviously not a front-line role for Mason, but it is a role and McCaffrey isn't known for his durability.
That said, McCaffrey was plenty busy against the Dolphins.
McCaffrey played 81 percent of San Francisco's offensive snaps, with Mason playing 19 percent. As LateRoundQB.com's JJ Zachariason pointed out, McCaffrey's Week 12 snap share was 63 percent, his Week 11 share was 66 percent and his Week 10 65 percent.
Worth noting: McCaffrey (knee) was limited in Wednesday's practice. Samuel (quad) was limited. I'll have more on their progress via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
You can access complete stats for the 49ers Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, 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 SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth noted, one of the missing pieces from Geno Smith's terrific comeback season for the Seahawks was directing something memorable late in the game.
That finally happened Sunday when Smith led a game-winning drive in the final minutes as Seattle rallied past the Los Angeles Rams for a 27-23 victory in a must-win game for the Seahawks' playoff hopes.
Smith hitting DK Metcalf for the winning touchdown with 36 seconds left was another special moment to be savored in what has continued to be an unforgettable season for Seattle's QB. His 367 yards passing were a career high, he threw at least two TD passes for the sixth straight game. If not for a disputed interception, Smith's 116.1 passer rating would have been closer to 130.
"I think it puts it to rest that, OK, he's done that. He's come from behind and led the final drive. ... It's just good to have that behind him. It's been a while and he was aware of that," head coach Pete Carroll said.
But the fact Smith had to rally the Seahawks (7-5) despite such a big game throwing the ball only highlighted some of Seattle's continued deficiencies.
Seattle's defense struggled to stop the run for a third straight game. And this wasn't the Rams' Super Bowl-winning offense they were failing to slow. This was a Rams unit filled with backups that were finding plenty of yards to gain against a defense that has continued to backslide following a strong midseason stretch.
Additionally, Seattle's run game remained mostly quiet, but that was as much to do with injuries as effectiveness. Kenneth Walker III had just three carries for 36 yards and played only 14 snaps before being sidelined by a foot/ankle injury. Deejay Dallas was also slowed by an ankle sprain and it left Tony Jones Jr. as an unexpected contributor in the second half.
Still, the efficiency of Seattle's pass game and the connection between Smith and his primary wide receivers continues to thrive.
The win over the Rams was a display of just how strong that connection has become.
Smith was 17 of 20 for 255 yards and two touchdowns when targeting Lockett and Metcalf.
All eight of Metcalf's targets resulted in completions.
Whatever concerns about a dropoff in production for Metcalf and Tyler Lockett with the departure of Russell Wilson have been pushed aside. Both players are on pace for nearly 100 catches, which for Metcalf would be a career high. Lockett is on pace for 10 TDs, which would match his career best.
Seattle begins a critical two-week stretch with consecutive home games five days apart. The Seahawks will host Carolina on Sunday with the Panthers coming off their bye. That's followed by a Thursday night showdown with San Francisco and massive implications in the NFC West race on Dec. 15.
As we head into this week, the overall health of Seattle's running backs room, which is especially important for a team that wants balance offensively, will have our attention.
Injuries to Walker and Dallas were exasperated by Travis Homer, who has a knee sprain, being inactive and left Jones getting an unexpected amount of snaps.
As of now, Carroll isn't sure what the status of Walker, Homer and Dallas will be this weekend.
"I can't give you much right now to go on, we'll wait on that," Carroll said. "But there's going to be some questions about how the guys make it back, and we'll have to wait and see how it goes. Right now, I can't tell you."
On Walker, Carroll reiterated that it's an unusual ankle injury and not the typical sprain.
"I don't have much more detail about it," he said. "He's got an area of ankle that's sore that he jammed. There's some strained tissue in there, but it's not an ankle sprain. It's not a high ankle sprain, it's not a lateral ankle sprain like we normally report on. It's different than that."
Asked with all that uncertainty if the Seahawks needed to add help at running back, Carroll said the Seahawks can turn to the practice squad if necessary, with Darwin Thompson and Godwin Igwebuike both available.
"We've got a couple of guys that are on the practice squad that are available to us, so we'll figure it with what we've got at this point," Carroll said.
In addition, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is signing Wayne Gallman.
He will be eligible for promotion to the active roster as soon as this Sunday's game against the Panthers.
Gallman was a 2017 fourth-round pick by the Giants and he spent his first four seasons with the NFC East team. He played in six games for the Falcons and two games for the Vikings last season.
Gallman has 366 carries for 1,548 yards and nine touchdowns in 61 career games. He also has 81 catches for 519 yards and two touchdowns.
Stay tuned. More on Walker and Dallas -- neither of whom practiced Wednesday, and Homer, who was on the field to open the week, via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
Finally. ... In a semi-related note, Rashaad Penny is optimistic about his recovery, but is "still a ways from getting back."
When Penny went down with an ankle injury in Week 5, one that required surgery, the belief was that it was season-ending. Penny, who rehabbing back home in the Los Angeles area, was in attendance at Sunday's game, and he said after the game that he might be able to make it back for a playoff run.
Carroll didn't shoot that idea down entirely, but he did note that Penny is not yet running and has a ways to go in his recovery.
"Well you've got to love his optimism," Carroll said. "He hasn't run yet. Who knows what's going to happen. He's still a ways from getting back, but I love that he feels really good about the process that he's in right now. That's a good sign."
You can access complete stats for the Seahawks Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
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, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine noted, even Tom Brady's own daughter, Vivian, who turned 10 years old Monday, expressed skepticism that her father could defeat the New Orleans Saints at home on her birthday.
"She was a little worried when I said, 'We're playing the Saints,'" Brady told the ESPN broadcast. "She said, 'I don't know, Daddy.'"
He hadn't done it in two previous tries at home and hadn't even thrown a touchdown pass in those games. And with the Bucs trailing 16-3 with 5:21 to go, it didn't look like it was going to happen in 2022, either.
But Brady, 45, down yet another offensive lineman in All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs, threw two touchdown passes to defeat the Saints 17-16, surpassing Peyton Manning for most career fourth-quarter comebacks in NFL history with 44.
The first, running no-huddle, came on a 91-yard drive that saw Brady complete passes to six different receiving targets and was punctuated by a 1-yard pass to Cade Otton in the corner of the end zone -- the same corner he secured the Bucs' come-from-behind victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 9.
Then after the defense forced a three-and-out with a sack for a 10-yard loss by outside linebacker Carl Nassib, Brady got the ball back with 2:29 to go. From there, he completed 8 of 10 passes, with a 6-yard touchdown to rookie running back Rachaad White, who dove over the goal line with 8 seconds remaining to give the Bucs their first sweep of the Saints since 2007.
Brady joked after the game, "Just like we drew it up. Just like we drew it up."
Wide receiver Mike Evans said this has become sort of the norm with Brady at the helm.
"One thing about us -- especially the past few years with Tom -- we just keep playing until the end because anything can happen. We've seen that time and time again. He gets better like in those moments. Like it's crazy.
"I think it's experience and his mindset. He knows that at the end of the game, he wants the ball in the offense's hands and he demands us to go out there and make plays."
Said Otton: "It's so obvious he has been there before. He gives us all the confidence to know that we can do it. That the biggest thing is the belief and the confidence at the end of the game that we are going to win this thing."
But only one other time had Brady actually been here before -- when the New England Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit, trailing by 19 points in the fourth quarter, to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI. Monday night marked the first time during the regular season that Brady won after trailing by 13 or more points in the fourth quarter.
"It's just amazing. I've just been grateful," White said. "I believe I was just born when TB had first gotten into the league. I was born in '99. Just to be able to be a part of that years later down the road, you just be grateful. And you've got to cherish these moments."
Just how improbable was the victory?
Teams over the past five seasons are 3-530 when down 13-plus points in the final four minutes of regulation, according to ESPN Stats and Information research, with the three wins being the Los Angeles Chargers at the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15 in 2018, the New York Jets at the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 this season and now the Bucs over the Saints. The Bucs' odds to win were as long as 25-1 at Caesars Sportsbook when the team trailed 16-3.
Even more improbable is this was the second time this season Brady has thrown a come-from-behind winning touchdown in the final 15 seconds of regulation. Brady's touchdown to Otton against the Rams came with 13 seconds left. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Brady is only the third quarterback since the merger to throw multiple go-ahead touchdowns in the final 15 seconds of regulation in a season, and he's the first since Brett Favre in 1999.
"I've been a part of plenty of 'em," said right guard Shaq Mason, who was part of the Super Bowl LI comeback when he was with the Patriots. "I had a feeling how it was going to end, but it was great to see that through. ... I mean, he's the GOAT for a reason. He's the greatest. I'm lucky to get a second chance to be with him. I love it. ... Everybody in this locker room has confidence in him when this time comes. He delivered for us."
And for his daughter, too.
Meanwhile, it should be noted the Bucs are averaging just 18 points a game. They swept the season series with the division-rival Saints, however they didn't score a touchdown until the fourth quarter of both victories.
Next up, the Buccaneers travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers, who lost injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the season last week, but who have won five in a row. They follow that up by hosting Joe Burrow and the Bengals, who have been hot lately, too, winning four straight to get their season back on track. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Although White has assumed a bigger role in the offense, it doesn't necessarily mean the Bucs are down on veteran running back Leonard Fournette, who rushed for a team-high 49 yards on 10 carries and had six receptions for 32 yards Monday night.
"I think we have two great backs, so we'll keep using them both," Brady said. "Whoever's in there, I've got confidence in."
Wide receiver Chris Godwin has the third-most receptions (65) in the league since Week 4 behind Miami's Tyreek Hill (75) and Minnesota's Justin Jefferson (70).
He has six or more catches in a franchise-record nine consecutive games.
Otton is developing into a reliable option for Brady. The rookie tight end had a season-best six receptions for 28 yards on Monday night. His first career TD catch beat the Rams last month; his second trimmed a 13-point deficit to 16-10 against the Saints.
On the injury front. ... Cameron Brate (illness) did not practice Wednesday. Brate did not play Monday night due to the same issue. ...
Finally. ... The Buccaneers have elected to make a change at returner.
Tampa Bay has waived 2021 fourth-round pick Jaelon Darden, the team announced on Tuesday.
Darden was averaging 10.6 yards per punt return and 22.3 yards per kick return in 2022. He had a 25-yard kick return on Monday night along with a pair of punt returns for 20 yards.
Darden, however, was not playing much on offense. He hadn't recorded a snap on the unit since the Week Seven loss to the Panthers. In 21 games, he'd recorded just eight catches for 69 yards -- with two receptions for 26 yards coming in 2022.
As noted by Greg Auman of FOXSports.com, Scott Miller is a possibility to take over for Darden on punt returns while White could return to handling kick returns.
He was on that duty earlier in the season. ...
You can access complete stats for the Buccaneers Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
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 TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
The Titans lost their second straight game to a playoff contender Sunday, getting steamrolled by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Coach Mike Vrabel said after the 35-10 defeat that if his club isn't careful, it could slide into oblivion.
"I think we're at a crossroads," Vrabel said. "I told the team I think we're at a crossroads with kind of how we want to continue down this season. We can't point fingers. We have to assume that each and every one of us didn't do a good enough job -- because we didn't. We have to come to work with greater energy and greater resolve to prepare to win a football game against a division opponent.
"It sucks losing. It sucks getting beat the way we did. But we got to make a decision. How much we are willing to invest and trust in what the coaches are doing, trust in what the other players are doing? I think it's a critical time for us."
Thanks to a good coaching staff, Vrabel's club has played over its head for much of the season.
But losses to the Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals have highlighted the talent discrepancy -- particularly with injuries on defense -- with the upper-echelon teams.
The Titans apparently saw that discrepancy.
The team announced Tuesday that general manager Jon Robinson has been relieved of his duties.
Robinson was informed of his firing by Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk on Tuesday morning.
The move comes two days after former Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown, who was traded to Philadelphia in the offseason, scored two touchdowns in the embarrassing loss to the Eagles.
"Since becoming controlling owner in 2015, my goal has been to raise the standard for what is expected in all facets of our organization. I believe we have made significant progress both on and off the field through investments in leadership, personnel and new ideas. This progress includes the core of our business, the football team itself, which is regularly evaluated both by results (wins and losses) and team construction/roster building. I am proud of what we have accomplished in my eight seasons of ownership, but I believe there is more to be done and higher aspirations to be met," Adams Strunk said in a statement.
"I want to thank Jon for his dedicated work to set this organization on an upward trajectory and I wish him and his family the best."
Brown was dealt from the Titans to the Eagles on the first night of the draft in April for the Nos. 18 and 101 overall picks. The trade was contingent on a new contract extension -- something Brown and the Titans could not come to terms on.
Philadelphia signed him to a four-year, $100 million deal that includes $57 million guaranteed that night.
Robinson had signed an extension with the Titans, along with Vrabel, in February of this year.
During his tenure as general manager, Robinson has drafted 29 players, two of which, running back Derrick Henry and safety Kevin Byard, have made Pro Bowls. Since then, three of Robinson's free agent/trade acquisitions have also made Pro Bowls, those being running back DeMarco Murray, safety Brynden Trawick for special teams, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Only two of the seven first-round selections Robinson has made since taking over as the general manager in 2016 are on the current roster. Up to this point, none of his selections have made it to a second contract with the Titans. That will likely change with 2019 first-round pick Jeffery Simmons.
The Titans said that Ryan Cowden, the club's vice president of player personnel, will oversee player personnel for the rest of the season. Cowden originally joined the franchise in 2016, as the director of player personnel and was promoted to his current role in 2018.
Robinson helped lead the Titans to a winning record in all six-plus of his seasons in charge, compiling a 66-43 record and winning the last two AFC South titles over that span.
In that time, Robinson has become the second-winningest general manager in franchise history with 69 wins (including playoffs), trailing only Floyd Reese (111 wins).
Since Mike Vrabel took over as head coach in 2018, the club is 48-29.
Luckily for the 7-5 Titans, playing in the AFC South has its benefits, as they sit as the only team with more than four victories. It would take an epic collapse -- coupled with another division rival going on a winning streak -- for Tennessee to miss the postseason. But making noise in January is another story.
"We're going to find out what we're about," Tannehill said. "I think we have a resilient group. We're tough and we have bounced back from a lot before, and I believe we'll bounce back from this.
"At the end of the day, this one's done. It stings. It hurts. We're all disappointed. We're all frustrated. Mad. Angry. Every emotion you can name. But we have to be able to get over it and get ready to go win the next one."
The next one is a home date against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who just got blown out, 40-14, on the road in Detroit.
In fact, they still have a pair of games remaining against Jacksonville (4-8) and Houston (1-10), giving Tennessee a chance to reach double-digit wins.
Worth noting: Tennessee's offense has regressed to 29th in yards and 26th in points in 2022 after finishing 17th and 15th in the same categories last season.
Tannehill wound up sacked a season-high six times in Philadelphia. Tannehill also was the Titans' leading rusher, which isn't a good thing with two-time NFL rushing champ Henry around.
With a passing attack that ranks 30th, averaging a mere 171.4 yards per game, Tannehill and the Titans can't take the pressure off defenses focusing only on stopping Henry.
He still ranks third in rushing in the NFL, but has been held to 38 and 30 yards rushing in Tennessee's two-game skid.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Turron Davenport reported, rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks was ruled out for the second half of Sunday's loss because of a concussion.
Burks suffered the concussion on the Titans' second drive of the game, when he caught a 25-yard pass from Tannehill for a touchdown in the first quarter. Eagles safety Marcus Epps delivered a hit on Burks, who held on to the ball as he landed in the end zone. Epps was penalized for unnecessary roughness.
"It was a huge play," Tannehill said after the game. "Obviously he took a big hit there and held onto the ball. The first thing when I saw him in the locker room at halftime, he said 'I wasn't going to let that ball go'. So, it just tells you a lot about the kind of guy he is and the competitor he is."
The score was Burks' first receiving touchdown of his career. He scored last week when he recovered a Henry fumble in the end zone against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Burks managed to get up and walk off the field under his own power before being taken into the locker room to be evaluated. It's still early, but Vrabel gave an indication Burks is all right.
"I think he's doing OK from what I've seen," Vrabel said. "I wasn't able to see him at halftime or talk to him after the game, but we expect that from challenges because I know what he's capable of. It's unfortunate that he couldn't finish the game."
Burks will now have to go through the concussion protocol and the team will have to wait for that process to play out before they know if there's any chance of having the first-round pick back to face the Jaguars next weekend. He did not practice Wednesday.
In addition, Tannehill told reporters on Wednesday that of his both ankles are doing okay after he got his left ankle rolled up on last Sunday. The earlier injury he dealt with this season was to right ankle.
I'll have more on both players via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The Titans now have 16 on injured reserve after adding wide receiver Cody Hollister on Monday, a list that includes two other receivers this offense desperately needs.
Vrabel said WR Racey McMath, who has been on injured reserve since Aug. 31 with an injured hip, might have a chance to start practicing this week.
One last note here. ... Tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo recorded a career high in receptions and yards in a blowout loss to the Eagles, but the majority of his production came before garbage time.
He caught a deep pass down the middle of the field in the second quarter, and he then shed a defender and turned upfield for a 41-yard gain. Though Austin Hooper is still the team's primary tight end, Okonkwo now has one reception of 40 or more yards in three of his last five games.
He's also seen a 20 percent-plus target share in three of his last six games.
Okonkwo might not be a vital addition to fantasy playoff rosters, but he is somebody Dynasty players should be securing if he's available.
You can access complete stats for the Titans Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Will Levis, Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 December 2022
There is no quarterback controversy in Washington. It's Taylor Heinicke's job.
Head coach Ron Rivera didn't entertain the thought of replacing Heinicke with Carson Wentz when the latter is medically cleared from his finger injury.
"I feel comfortable with Taylor," Rivera said Monday. "When Carson's activated, he'll be the primary backup and we'll go from there."
Wentz has been out since suffering a finger injury in Week 6 in Chicago. The QB returned to practice on Nov. 23, opening his 21-day window to come off injured reserve. Washington went 2-4 with Wentz under center.
Since Heinicke took over, the Commanders are 5-1-1.
However, the gunslinger hasn't exactly unlocked an offensive juggernaut, with Washington putting up 20 or fewer offensive points the past three weeks.
Against the Giants this past Sunday, Heinicke got sacked five times, fumbled twice (turning the ball over once) and was 27 of 41 passing.
But Rivera doesn't see a QB change creating some sort of spark.
"I think this is who we are," Rivera said. "This is how we play. We're running the ball right now well, we're controlling the time of possession, we're keeping our defense fresh. There's some things, obviously, that could help but, I think right now, for where we are and who we are, I think we're in a good spot. I really do."
Even a layperson can see the Commanders are a more consistent operation with Heinicke under center. He may put the ball in harm's way at times, but no more so than Wentz. The undrafted quarterback's pocket presence is also much better than Wentz's.
Perhaps the biggest reason to stick with Heinicke is that he's shown the ability to get Terry McLaurin -- the Commanders' best playmaker -- the ball repeatedly. In six games with Wentz, McLaurin caught 22 passes for 367 yards and one touchdown. Since Heinicke took over, the WR's production spiked, catching 50 passes for 578 yards and two TDs in seven games.
"You take the good with the bad, but I think that's true with a lot of quarterbacks," Rivera said. "I don't think there's a whole bunch of guys that are out there that aren't making a mistake every now and then."
Heinicke isn't perfect, as we saw in Sunday's tie with New York, but he's stabilized a poor offense and helped get Washington into playoff contention. With four games remaining following a Week 14 bye, there is no reason to turn back to Wentz at this point, barring injury.
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno reminded readers, after a recent Commanders victory, Montez Sweat said he and his teammates were "built" for close games and handling adversity.
It doesn't get any closer than a tie, and now they face a different kind of challenge moving forward.
Their 20-20 tie at the New York Giants on Sunday has the Commanders 7-5-1 going into their bye week with another game -- next time at home -- coming up against the NFC East rivals they're chasing for a wild-card spot. If nothing else, playing to a draw shows Washington's slim margin for error each week with the playoffs at stake.
"It really is kind of who we are: We play close games, we play tight games, you get some breaks, you don't get some breaks," Rivera said. “That’s our identity. We try to run the ball, be physical, keep them close and then see what happens."
What happened against the Giants was enough mistakes to end the Commanders' three-game winning streak, from Heinicke's lost fumble to seven penalties that cost them 56 yards. Their rushing offense remains robust, but New York quarterback Daniel Jones exposed some holes in the defense along the way.
The result was a disappointing tie.
Now Washington will get a bye week and game plan for the Giants in a weird home-and-home series scheduling quirk.
Washington is set to host New York on "Sunday Night Football" on Dec. 18 in Week 15 after the game was moved into primetime.
"We went through something weirder last year: I think we had Dallas, Philly, Dallas, Philly and then the Giants, so we had five straight division games," Heinicke said. "This isn't as crazy as last year. It's cool that we get a bye week in the middle. It is weird that we're playing them back-to-back games, though. ..."
"Over this bye week, we have to first of all get our minds right and our bodies better to get ready for this home stretch," wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. "We got them coming back to Washington in a few weeks. The film is right there to look at, and the good thing about is we have another opportunity at these guys."
As noted above, the ground game is leading the way.
Rookie Brian Robinson Jr. ran 21 times for 96 yards, coming up just short of his second career 100-yard game. The Commanders rushed for 165 yards as part of their new blueprint for winning.
"It was very physical," Robinson said. "We were expecting that -- a divisional game against a team who has struggled a little bit lately. We expected that they were going to play hard."
Rookie receiver Jahan Dotson made five catches for 54 yards, including a 28-yard reception that was Washington's longest play of the game. After he missed recent games with a hamstring injury, the first-round pick out of Penn State showed he can be an important piece of the offense.
Chase Young could make his season debut after the bye week, 13 months since tearing the ACL in his right knee.
You can access complete stats for the Commanders Week 13 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates