Team Notes week 9 2018
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 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, in Byron Leftwich's first game as interim offensive coordinator, the Cardinals' offense showed signs of evolution throughout the first three quarters but lacked in production. They scored just three points through three quarters.
Then, with a seventh loss minutes away, the offense produced.
Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen led Arizona on a 73-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Christian Kirk with 34 seconds left to give Arizona an 18-15 win over the San Francisco 49ers as the Cards head into their bye week.
"We were a little inconsistent at times but when we needed it in the end, we showed up, particularly on the offensive side of the ball," head coach Steve Wilks said.
Wilks was pleased with Leftwich's first game calling plays which produced Arizona's first 300-yard game of the season.
"Byron had us into a rhythm," Wilks said. "As you can see, the operations were great from a standpoint of just getting a play in, being able to get to the line of scrimmage and [identifying] the defense and linebacker was outstanding."
Rosen called Leftwich a "steadying force" for the offense.
When Leftwich was promoted to offensive coordinator on Oct. 19 following Mike McCoy's firing, his focus was two-fold: Get David Johnson involved more and resuscitate Larry Fitzgerald's season.
Both happened Sunday, albeit not to the standard that the Cardinals need to turn this year around.
Leftwich said on Thursday he didn't think Fitzgerald was "dead yet." And Rosen relied on Fitzgerald on that final drive, hitting him twice for 31 yards, including a 20-yard pass that moved Arizona into San Francisco's side of the field. Rosen then hit Fitzgerald on the two-point conversion that gave the Cardinals a three-point lead.
Fitzgerald had eight catches for 102 yards and a touchdown -- his first 100-yard game of the season.
"We all know what he is, a first-ballot Hall of Famer for that mere reason what you saw tonight," Wilks said.
While Fitzgerald was seemingly revived, Leftwich also found a way to get Johnson involved in different ways, not necessarily more ways.
Leftwich knew it was going to be "tough to change a lot in a week." But he was able to change just enough.
Weinfuss went on to explain that even though the Cardinals' offense mustered just three points in the first three quarters and looked as out of sorts as it has all season, it showed signs of renewed ingenuity. Leftwich got Johnson, who left the game in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion but eventually returned and is "fine," Wilks said, involved in the screen game.
Twenty-seven of Johnson's 41 receiving yards -- his best receiving day of the season -- came from the screen game.
Johnson complemented that with 59 rushing yards on 16 carries, giving him 100 all-purpose yards -- the second time this season he's reached 100 yards from scrimmage.
As the team's official website noted, the way Johnson was used left people encouraged.
"I liked the way we used David tonight in a number of ways -- in the screen game and getting him out to the perimeter," Wilks said. "Byron did a great job of just trying to utilize his talents."
The Cardinals head into the bye week 2-6 after the win over San Francisco.
The offense will assuredly hit rough patches the rest of the way, but the return of Johnson to Pro Bowl form would undoubtedly be an important step in turning the corner.
Of course, much will depend on Rosen, who became the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era (beginning in 1967) to win a game by rallying a team from a fourth-quarter, double-digit deficit.
Rosen was only 21 years and 260 days old Sunday.
As ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban noted, however, "With youth comes missteps."
Through three quarters, Rosen was only 11-of-22 passing for 102 yards and a bad interception in which he stared down Kirk and had it picked off - and that was with a lot of early screen calls that were successful. Rosen also had an intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety on a play in which he looked like he had enough time to at least get off a short pass and set up a punt.
"It felt pretty frustrating the first couple of quarters," Rosen said. "We were just trying to sort of get our feet under us."
But Rosen was marvelous in the fourth quarter, his most consistent period of his short starting career and probably his best stretch since his impressive (and drop-laden) initial start against Seattle. He finished 12-of-18 for 150 yards and the two touchdowns in his comeback.
The Cards also have two weeks to get him ready for a road game in Kansas City, including a few practices this week featuring work not against a Chiefs "look" team but the Cardinals' defense itself - which will be a little like a training camp week.
"It gives you more reps and that's the critical thing - he just needs more reps," Wilks said.
The rest of the season includes five road games, including trips post-Kansas City to the Chargers, Green Bay and Atlanta as well as Seattle. It'd be daunting for any quarterback, much less a rookie.
Rosen is ready for whatever roller coaster might come with it, just like he waves away any bad throws or bad decisions.
"It's a game," Rosen said. "I have fun with it. ..."
Also of interest. ... Wilks said he was optimistic that safety Tre Boston (shoulder/ribs) and guard Justin Pugh (hand) would be available again post-bye. There were no other major injuries to report. …
Wilks said the plan is to keep T.J. Logan as the kickoff return man, although it may be impacted by injuries week to week on the game day 46-man active roster.
And finally. ... Since he entered the NFL in 2004, Fitzgerald has had an "act like you've been there before" attitude in the end zone, something he learned from being a Minnesota Vikings ball boy in the 1990s.
That changed Sunday.
Fitzgerald unleashed a ferocious spike after catching a two-point conversion to give the Cardinals an 18-15 lead with 34 seconds left. He said after the win that it was the first spike of his career and was sparked by his oldest son, Devin, deciding to go to the Arizona State Fair rather than the game.
"I was a little frustrated and had a heavy heart today," Fitzgerald said. "My feelings were a little hurt, so I was carrying that around all day. So, when I got in there, I kind of let it out. To all the kids that are watching, I'm sorry. I set a bad example today."
Fitzgerald said he was a "little disturbed" by his son's decision on Sunday.
"I'll get over it," Fitzgerald said.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, Chase Edmonds
WRs: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
The Falcons returned to work this week in advance of Sunday's trip to face the Redskins. Falcons are 0-2 on the road this season and protection has been an issue in those games, with Matt Ryan being sacked 10 times and hit 27 times.
The Redskins 3-4 front can get after you with pressure as Matt Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan, and Jonathan Allen have a combined 14 sacks and 22 quarterback hits this season.
Not to mention Redskins only allow 80.1 rushing yards per game.
It'll be a tough test for entire Falcons' offensive line, especially guards Wes Schweitzer and Ben Garland, both thrust into the starting lineup after season-ending injuries to Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco.
Ryan's been on a roll with 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions in the last five games.
In fact, through seven games, Ryan is putting up 2016-like numbers.
In case you missed it, Ryan earned 25 of 50 votes and was named the Most Valuable Player in 2016 by posting career bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards (4,944), touchdowns (38), and QB rating (117.1) while tossing a career-low seven interceptions.
So far this season, Ryan has completed 187 of 263 passes for 2,335 yards and 15 touchdowns. He's also only tossed two interceptions. He's on pace to complete 71.1 percent of his passes, throw for 5,337 yards, 34 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
That would be a more impressive stat line than his 2016 numbers.
But for Ryan to end up being in the MVP conversation, the Falcons will need to start racking up some wins. The 2016 Falcons were 5-2 after seven games, not 3-4.
It's worth noting that back in June, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said the difference for him heading into Year 2 with the Falcons compared to his first season in 2017 was like "night and day." Sarkisian noted how he was "going through a lot of the growing pains of the system, the players and learning the staff in his first season.
After the 2017 season ended, head coach Dan Quinn listed a number of areas where the Falcons fell short of expectations: lack of explosive scoring plays, red zone offense and turnover margin. The first two areas fall squarely upon Sarkisian and the offense.
So how are things going through the first seven games? Outside of the run game (see above), the Falcons rank No. 1 in third down percentage, No. 3 in passing yards per game, No. 4 in points per game, No. 5 in yards per play, No. 6 in the red zone.
And speaking of the red zone, the Falcons have converted 15 of their 18 attempts since Week 1, which equates to a success rate of 83 percent. That's pretty good.
Julio Jones is on pace for a phenomenal statistical season catching the ball - 1,856 yards on 121 catches. If he keeps this pace up, Jones would venture in his 2016 totals when he caught a career-best 136 calls for 1,871 yards. Jones caught eight touchdown passes that year, too.
He's on pace to catch. ... Zero.
While the law averages would suggest that's likely to change soon, that's the bottom line.
Is Jones, who only caught three touchdowns in 2017, concerned about it? Not really. This is what Jones said back on Oct. 11: "As far as me not having a touchdown, I've never been a stat guy. I don't care about going out there and scoring a touchdown to make me feel good. I feel great regardless. I can go into a game and have no catches and I will still feel the same way. As long as we're successful, as long as I'm contributing to the team. If I'm going out there and demanding two-man and two guys on me, I'm doing my job for the team. Like I said, I don't go back and forth with touchdowns, this and that. Somebody tell me how successful I am. I'm doing my job. That's why I'm here."
Meanwhile, the running game has been inconsistent.
Out of the first seven games, Atlanta has one pretty good day running the football - and that was Week 2 in a 31-24 win over the Panthers. That was also the one game so far this season where a Falcons running back eclipsed the 100-yard mark - Tevin Coleman had 107 yards rushing on 16 carries and averaged 6.7 yards per rush.
Despite the inconsistencies and lack of big numbers on the ground, the Falcons have still managed to move the ball and score points.
Quinn said he wants more production out of the running game. It helps with play-action and sustain drives (eat up game clock). It also keeps your defense rested and the opposing offense on the sideline.
A few more positive notes. ... When the Falcons picked receiver Calvin Ridley with the 26th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, some wondered where he'd fit in the Falcons' already potent offense that features the likes of Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Devonta Freeman, Coleman, Austin Hooper, Justin Hardy and Marvin Hall.
With one ball to go around, it seemed like a fair question at the time. And through seven games, we've gotten our answer, too: Quite nicely.
Ridley has hauled in 27 catches for 392 yards and six touchdowns so far, which are tied with six others for the second-most in the NFL and just one behind Tyreek Hill's seven touchdown catches. The rookie is one pace to catch 74 passes for 896 yards. Ridley's route running, speed and feel for the game has made him a legitimate weapon - and one more thing opposing defenses must account for when game-planning for the Falcons.
For the record, Hooper is on pace for a career year.
As a rookie, Hooper caught 19 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns. Last season Hooper doubled his 2016 output by catching 49 balls for 526 yards and once again found the end zone three times. Seven games into the 2018 - at the ripe old age of 23 - Hooper already has 33 receptions for 321 yards and a pair of scores.
If you do the math here, the Falcons tight end is on pace to catch 75 passes for 734 yards and four to five touchdowns. That's impressive when you consider Ryan also connecting with Jones, Ridley and Sanu at a productive clip. Regardless, Hooper's continued development only bodes well for this already-potent Falcons offense.
Meanwhile, there's no question that the defensive unit has felt the sting most when it comes to the Falcons' myriad of early season injuries.
The defense lost two Pro Bowlers in safety Keanu Neal and linebacker Deion Jones. The unit also lost safety Ricardo Allen, who many refer to as the quarterback of the defense because he's so adept at communicating and getting everyone lined up in the right spots. Grady Jarrett, Derrick Shelby and Takk McKinley also missed game action during the Falcons' first seven games. That's a lot of star and firepower out of the lineup - and it's left defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel scurrying in a number of ways.
Some players have had to take on larger roles and do more. Others have had to simply play more than expected. A few have been thrown into the fire for some on-the-job learning.
As expected the end result hasn't been pretty at times and the numbers bear that out. The Falcons are surrendering an average of 419.4 yards per game on defense, which ranks 30th out of 32 teams. While the total number of yards given up can be misleading, points are what matter.
The Falcons are giving up 30.3 points per game right now, which also ranks 30th in the league. Only the 49ers (29.5) and Buccaneers (33.2) are surrendering more points per game right now.
And from a fantasy perspective, that's not necessarily the worst thing imaginable -- especially with the offense capable of keeping pace in shootouts.
One last item here. ... The Falcons got along just fine without kicker Matt Bryant the last two weeks, but he could return after a short absence.
According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the veteran kicker will test his sore right hamstring Thursday in hopes of a return.
"I think it treated him well, the reason that I say that is that he's making a turn for the better," Quinn said of Bryant getting some rest over the bye week. "We are not going to rule him out this week.". . . .
Bryant suffered his strained hamstring against the Buccaneers, and fill-in Giorgio Tavecchio won the NFC special teams player of the week during his absence.
In addition, Sanu (hip) opened the week practicing on a limited basis. He's been dealing with this injury most of October and has played through it in two games.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Russell Gage, Justin Hardy, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake
TEs: Austin Hooper, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As the team's official website noted, Joe Flacco opened Sunday's game against the Panthers on fire.
He marched the offense down the field for an 11-play touchdown drive on the game's opening series, making crisp throws and improvising with his feet.
It looked like Flacco and the Ravens offense were in store for a big day. But that was where the fun stopped.
Baltimore's offense never got back into a rhythm, and Flacco struggled for much of the afternoon as the Ravens fell to the Panthers, 36-21.
"We got our butts kicked today, and it's tough to take for sure," Flacco said. "They made everything tough today."
Even on the opening drive where the Ravens marched down the field for the touchdown, Flacco said it wasn't easy. The Panthers took away the big plays and made the Ravens go the long way to put up points.
Flacco took a couple of deep shots to John Brown and Michael Crabtree, but couldn't connect on anything. Flacco had to rely on the short and intermediate passing game and finished the day completing 22-of-39 passes for 192 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"We weren't able to really get any chunk yardage out of anything, so everything we had, we had to fight for hard," Flacco said. "They definitely came up and played us man to man, and even though we were completing a lot of passes early and moving the chains, we weren't able to get very many chunks."
On a day when yards were tough to come by, the Ravens also made life hard on themselves with turnovers.
They turned the ball over three times, as running back Alex Collins had a fumble to go along with Flacco's two picks.
Flacco wasn't sharp, but his targets didn't help him out in several situations. Wide receivers Willie Snead and Brown, and tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews all had drops.
Flacco finished the game watching from the sideline as the game was out of reach with the Panthers leading by three scores. Rookie Lamar Jackson took over on the final series and led a scoring drive capped off by a touchdown to fellow first-round pick Hurst.
The good news?
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, after the Ravens were "out-played, out-coached and out-everythinged" by the Panthers, there was a clear sense of urgency in the post-game locker room. With the team in the midst of a three-year playoff drought, the next two games -- home against the Steelers and Bengals -- will go a long way in defining this season as well as the futures of coach John Harbaugh and Flacco.
Two weeks ago, the Ravens were atop the division. Now, Baltimore has projected 69 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Power Index.
The NFL's top-ranked defense suddenly can't cover or get to the quarterback. The league's No. 9 offense can't consistently move the ball behind a beaten-up offensive line.
When Harbaugh told the media that the lopsided defeat "surprised" him, he meant generally, overall, etc. (He certainly took the fall, saying, "We just weren't there. There's nothing we did well. That starts with me.")
But as BaltimoreRavens.com's John Eisenberg noted, if one aspect of the game seemed especially surprising to the Ravens: The fact that the Panthers were the more physical team.
Playing tough supposedly is what the Ravens do, what they bring every week regardless if they're otherwise sharp or not. But the Panthers had the advantage this time, and not just up front: Carolina's secondary muscled the Ravens' receivers, causing big problems in the passing game. Flacco alluded to it, pointing out that the Ravens were trying to come back against a team "playing more physical than you."
Give some credit to Carolina, but that's an attack on the Ravens' core self-image, and an issue they must fix immediately with a game against the Steelers up next.
The pressure certainly ratchets up for Harbaugh and Flacco after an offseason in which owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged he contemplated firing Harbaugh and the Ravens drafted Jackson in the first round.
But, after playing five of their first eight games on the road, the Ravens can still right the season, albeit with a dwindling margin for error.
The Ravens can't afford to slip up during their home stretch, because they have road games in December against the Kansas City Chiefs (7-1) and Los Angeles Chargers (5-2).
And the failure to beat the rival Steelers on Sunday would drop the Ravens to below .500 and 1-3 in the division.
The pressure to pick up the pace might have been a factor in the Ravens acquiring running back Ty Montgomery from the Packers for a seventh-round draft pick in 2020.
Montgomery had 105 yards on 26 carries and 15 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown. He also had 210 kickoff return yards.
Montgomery will get a fresh start in Baltimore.
As the team's official website noted, the Ravens have been looking to improve their running game, and Montgomery could possibly work into the running back rotation with Collins and Javorius Allen.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
A few hours before the Buffalo Bills kicked off their only prime-time game of the season Monday night against the New England Patriots, head coach Sean McDermott was asked if running back LeSean McCoy was important to Buffalo's chances to beat its long-dominant AFC East foe.
"Correct," McDermott told WGR 550.
As ESPN's Mike Rodak suggested later, McDermott was prescient, but not in the way he would have preferred. McCoy, who McDermott said was in full health after being cleared Sunday from the concussion protocol, gained 12 yards on the Bills' first play after taking a direct snap in a Wildcat formation. His next 11 runs went for a total of 1 yard in a 25-6 loss to the Patriots that dropped the Bills to 2-6.
For a six-time Pro Bowl running back who counts $9 million against the Bills' salary cap this season, something seemed lacking against a Patriots defense that allowed the league's eighth-highest yards per carry entering Week 8.
With the NFL's trade deadline looming on Tuesday, it was fair to question whether McCoy's star has faded and what value he could bring to the Bills over the remainder of his contract, which expires after the 2019 season. Still, no deal was done and the veteran running back remains in Buffalo.
Although McCoy led the Bills with six catches for 82 yards on Monday night, he entered the game ranked 34th in the NFL in yards per carry (3.87) this season and 37th since the start of the 2017 season (3.95). His most recent touchdown -- rushing or receiving -- came in Week 15 of last season.
A noticeably sullen McCoy sat with his head down at his locker for several minutes after Monday's game before answering questions from reporters, at times seemingly holding back tears.
"The hard work I've put in my whole life, my career, for it to happen like this every game, it's tough," he said. "You see the defense out there, just grinding. It is frustrating."
McCoy has 257 yards on 75 carries this season, a 3.4 yards-per-carry average that is by far the worst of his 10-year career.
"I ain't expect to have no season like this," he said. "I'm not really playing well at all. We're not doing much on offense. ... What do I got, 200 yards? In the [eighth game]? That's never happened to me. Yeah, it's different. It's a different season. I'm 30 years old, playing since when I've been in high school. This stuff [has] never happened to me. It is tough."
McCoy, 30, believes his skills have not declined.
"I still can play," he said. "Defenses know I still can play. You see the way they approach me when I'm in the game."
Entering Week 8, McCoy was averaging 2.7 yards per carry in the first halves of games. Some blame for that lack of production should fall on the offensive line, which lost stalwart center Eric Wood and guard Richie Incognito to retirement last offseason, but McCoy's struggles to consistently gain positive yards and make game-breaking runs have become striking.
The Bills had an opportunity to escape Monday with a win over the Patriots (6-2) because of their defense's ability to hold New England's offense to field goals. However, the Bills' inability to establish their ground attack compounded the more expected issues at quarterback that showed up again in the fourth quarter, when Derek Anderson threw a game-clinching interception that was returned for a touchdown by Devin McCourty.
Anderson left the game with trainers on the Bills' final drive after taking a big hit on a sack. McDermott said Anderson's injury was being evaluated after the game and did not provide further details.
Subsequent reporting, however, indicated Anderson suffered a concussion and that Nathan Peterman is expected to start Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
Meanwhile, word on Monday was that the Bills offered free-agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor a contract and it appears Pryor likes the way that offer looks.
Josina Anderson of ESPN reports that Pryor is set to sign with the team.
There's no word on when the deal will be official, but it should put Pryor on the roster in time to face the Bears this weekend.
Pryor opened the season with the Jets and caught 14 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns before being released while dealing with a groin injury. The injury has cleared up and Pryor is said to be ready to go when he does complete his deal.
Pryor has been used as mostly as a receiver at the NFL level, and had 14 catches for 235 yards and two touchdowns with the Jets.
Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones have seen the most snaps at wide receiver for the Bills this season. Pryor's arrival would likely cut into their playing time unless the Bills decide to see if Pryor's days as a quarterback at Ohio State can help them fill that spot until Josh Allen is ready to play again.
The latter seems much less likely after the team signed free-agent QB Matt Barkley to a one-year deal on Wednesday; McDermott told reporters if Anderson is still in the concussion protocol at the end of the week, Peterman would start and Barkley would be backup.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams, Robert Foster
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
Cam Newton and the Panthers didn't wait until the fourth quarter to turn it up a notch on offense.
The result was an impressive win against the league's top-ranked defense.
Newton completed 21 of 29 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 52 yards and another score as the Panthers soundly defeated the Baltimore Ravens 36-21 on Sunday for their ninth straight win at home.
Christian McCaffrey had two touchdowns and the Panthers continued to get electrifying performances from different players. This time, it was rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore, who turned in his best game as a pro with 129 yards from scrimmage.
"We present a lot of issues for defenses and that is what this offense was kind of built for," Newton said. "We have dynamic players all around the field."
Unlike last Sunday when they needed three fourth quarter touchdowns to erase a 17-0 deficit and beat the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles 21-17, the Panthers took it to the Ravens early and often.
After spotting the Ravens a 7-0 lead on the game's first possession, the Panthers (5-2) scored on four straight drives in the final 16 minutes of the first half to break the game open and take a 24-7 halftime lead.
Newton threw an 11-yard TD pass to Greg Olsen, McCaffrey ran for a 11-yard score and leaped into the air to corral a 6-yard TD pass that ricocheted off the hands of safety Eric Weddle and into his arms in the end zone. And when Baltimore (4-4) climbed to within 13 late in the third quarter, Newton was there to calmly drive the Panthers 85 yards in nine plays, racing in untouched from 12 yards out on a naked bootleg to put the game away early.
The Panthers rolled up 386 yards against a Ravens defense that had come in allowing a league-low 280.6 yards and 14.4 points per game.
In addition, rookie DJ Moore had a career-high 90 yards receiving on five catches Sunday. He also rushed twice for 39 yards.
As ESPN.com's David Newton suggested, "Call it Moore's coming-out party."
"It has to be," said veteran wideout Torrey Smith, whose knee injury suffered a week earlier opened the door for Moore to take on a larger role. "When you're young, a major key is when you gain that confidence that 'I can make plays.' When you make plays against the best defense in the league, you can continue to grow from that."
Moore finished with a career-high 90 yards receiving on five catches, topping his four catches for 59 yards against Washington. He had two rushes for 39 yards, besting his one rush for 18 yards in two different games.
All in the first half.
"DJ is such an exceptional talent and dynamic player with the ball in his hands," Cam Newton said. "We have to find ways to get the ball in his hands."
Moore showed he has the potential to be the No. 1 receiver the Panthers haven't truly had since Steve Smith wasn't re-signed after the 2013 season. Kelvin Benjamin tried, but the 2014 first-round pick was more of a possession receiver who could beat you only with his size.
Funchess has shown glimpses of filling that role, but he hasn't been able to do it on a consistent basis.
In Moore, the Panthers have a receiver who can beat you in so many ways, the defense has to pay extra attention to him. That showed in the second half as Olsen found himself wide open in the seam a couple of times for big pickups.
Throw in McCaffrey and slot receiver Curtis Samuel and, as Olsen said, "we're pretty dynamic with our ability to run the ball out of a lot of situations."
In this game, both Moore and Samuel saw more playing time the Jarius Wright, a veteran familiar with Norv Turner's offense. How that will change when Smith returns, possibly this week against Seattle, remains to be seen. But it's clear the Panthers have to look for more ways to get Moore on the field.
Same for Samuel, who is also multidimensional.
"There are so many different things that we can do with those two young men," coach Ron Rivera said. "These two young players need to be on the field. That's how they develop, and we are going to develop as a football team with those kind of players."
Samuel perhaps summed up best what it means to have three young talents -- him, Moore and McCaffrey -- on the field at the same time.
"It's scary," he said.
What's scary is none is older than 22. Moore is the youngest at 21.
"He's going to be good for a long time," Smith said of Moore.
Having that many young, fast toys along with a mobile quarterback in Newton gives Norv Turner more flexibility than most offensive coordinators in the league.
Having a defense capable of being among the top five in the league with that kind of offensive firepower gives the Panthers a feel similar to what they had in 2015 when they went a league-best 15-1 and reached the Super Bowl.
This team arguably has more offensive weapons, and it's going to take that to keep pace with New Orleans in the NFC South.
"We've got so many weapons on this team, we feed of each other," McCaffrey said.
Indeed, in the win over Baltimore the Panthers tallied a season-high 36 points against the league's top defense entering Week 8. It marked the most points allowed by the Ravens this season. Carolina amassed 386 net yards, the second-most allowed by Baltimore this season.
Carolina rushed for 154 net yards, marking the sixth game this season that the Panthers have eclipsed 100 rushing yards. Carolina is 5-1 when rushing for over 100 yards.
All of that's worth with a home game against a generous Buccaneers defense coming this week. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Newton scored a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, his 58th career rushing touchdown. Newton tied Jonathan Stewart (58) for second in franchise history in total touchdowns scored (rushing, receiving, returns).
Newton finished with 219 yards passing on 21-of-29 throwing with two passing touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 116.9. It marked his season high in passer rating and was his fourth game this season with a passer rating over 100.
McCaffrey scored a rushing and receiving touchdown, marking his second two-touchdown game of his career. He now has seven career receiving touchdowns, tying him with Stewart and DeAngelo Williams for the most receiving touchdowns by a running back in franchise history.
Graham Gano hit all three of his field goal attempts, including a 54-yarder right before halftime. He extended his league-best streak of made field goals to 28 straight. He has also hit 39 consecutive field goals at home.
And finally. ... On the injury front, Charlotte Observer staffer Jourdan Rodrigue reports that Smith was not on the practice field Wednesday; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Will Grier, Kyle Allen, Cam Newton
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Brandon Zylstra, Chris Hogan
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson framed it, "The Chicago Bears had no trouble stifling the New York Jets' anemic offense without injured pass-rusher Khalil Mack, but quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's accuracy remains a source of concern. ..."
The Bears notched an important 24-10 win on Sunday.
Head coach Matt Nagy's team had to capitalize on facing the underwhelming Jets on the same day that NFC North rivals Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit take on the Rams, Saints and Seahawks, respectively.
Beating the Jets not only puts the Bears' record (4-3) back above the .500 mark, but it also sets the stage for another winnable game next week at Buffalo. The Bears will presumably be in the thick of the NFC North race when the calendar turns to November -- that hasn't happened since 2013.
The Bears entered Sunday's home game as heavy favorites, mainly because the Jets had next to nothing at their skill positions around rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold predictably struggled against Chicago's defense, but New York trailed only 14-3 at the start of the fourth quarter.
And as Dickerson noted, the Bears' inability to put away the Jets had everything to do with Trubisky and the offense.
"We wanted to stay aggressive and they were doing a good job stopping us in the first half but we also stopped ourselves a little bit there," Trubisky said. "We just needed to continue to get in into rhythm. We did a great job getting the running game going and I think O-line did a great job up front and I just need to be more consistent and finding completions and not trying to force a big play, just trying to move the ball and continue to convert on third downs. I think we can do better on third down today, but overall we just found a way and grinded it out and it was a lot better in the second half than the first one. We stuck together and stuck to the plan and executed our plays."
Trubisky found Tarik Cohen for a 70-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead, but the second-year quarterback finished the first half only 5-of-13 passing.
Trubisky failed to complete a pass 10-plus yards downfield in the opening 30 minutes, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He went 2-of-9 to close the half following the touchdown throw to Cohen.
Trubisky later threw a nice ball to Anthony Miller for a 4-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead, but his passes were often off-target.
According to Dickerson, the season is following a predictable script for Trubisky. When he's on, he's a dangerous dual threat. Trubisky, who rushed for 51 yards, may not have the league's strongest arm, but he can definitely make all the throws. Factor in Trubisky's way-above-average scrambling ability, and the Bears can legitimately say that they have a quarterback with whom they can win.
But when Trubisky is off, he's really off.
Last week, Trubisky missed 24 throws against New England. The Bears aren't going to defeat many playoff-caliber teams when their quarterback is 13-of-25 passing through three quarters.
The Bears did enough offensively to take care of the Jets, as expected. The next step is for Trubisky to string together four solid quarters. That hasn't happened since his six-touchdown-pass game against the Bucs on Sept. 30.
As Chicago's record continues to improve, Trubisky will be under more scrutiny each week.
How Trubisky responds to the pressure will determine whether the Bears can truly challenge for the postseason.
"Right now," Dickerson summed up, "It looks 50-50. ..."
That said, Trubisky threw the longest touchdown pass of his career on Sunday when he connected with Cohen for the above-mentioned 70-yarder against the Jets.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cohen got up to a max speed of 21.42 mph on his 70-yard touchdown catch, the fastest by any running back on a play this season.
Trubisky's 70-yard touchdown pass is the longest by a Bears passer since Jay Cutler threw an 83-yard TD to Jeremy Langford in Week 10 of the 2015 season at the Rams.
Other notes of interest. ... Like Cohen, running back Jordan Howard also had his best game since the season opener against the Packers. He carried 22 times for 81 yards and a clinching two-yard touchdown with 7:08 left.
Howard set up his own touchdown with a 24-yard run through a huge hole two players earlier. It was his longest run this season.
"I've been waiting to break loose," Howard said. "I've been bottled up a little bit, but it felt good to finally get a big run."
Mack missed his first game since Oakland drafted him with the fifth overall pick in 2014.
Without Mack, deactivated because of a right ankle injury, the Bears throttled the Jets and rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, limiting New York to just 207 total yards and 2.4 yards per rushing attempt.
The question becomes whether to rest Mack again next week at Buffalo.
The Bills, like the Jets, are a very beatable team on paper. Buffalo will be playing on a short week after hosting the New England Patriots on Monday night and early indications are Nathan Peterman will start at quarterback with Derek Anderson sustaining a concussion against the Pats.
Mack will undoubtedly feel a certain degree of pressure to play in Buffalo, since he starred at the University of Buffalo.
But do the Bears really need him in Week 9?
Remember, the Bears play five division games over the final eight weeks of the regular season. They have three straight games versus NFC North teams from Nov. 11-22.
There's simply no way the Bears (4-3) reach the playoffs without Mack having a huge impact on defense. When healthy, Mack is dominant. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September with five sacks, four forced fumbles and a pick-six.
Resting Mack for two straight weeks might benefit the Bears in the long run.
"The hope is that he can play against Buffalo," Nagy said. "But again, this is a day-by-day, hour-by-hour situation. It's just one that I really haven't been a part of before just because of where he's at, and so, you know, it could be a similar situation, but I just think right now, that was what was best for him and what was best for us. We had guys that stepped up. I think that's the other thing that you can't get lost in this is when a great player like Khalil or another player like Allen Robinson doesn't play, we have guys that step up and that's -- I'm proud of our guys for doing that, and understanding that, knowing that, 'Hey, here we go, it's my time and next man up.'"
I'll be watching for more on Mack and Robinson, who was held out to rest a lingering groin issue, as the week progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest. ...
Also on the injury front, tight end Ben Braunecker left Sunday's game because of a concussion while right guard Kyle Long suffered a right foot injury that is expected to sideline him for 6-8 weeks.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Taylor Gabriel
TEs: Jesper Horsted, J.P. Holtz, Bradley Sowell, Eric Saubert
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell reported, the Bengals' locker room was a contrast of emotions on Sunday following their 37-34 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There was happiness about the Week 8 win, eagerness to get out the door for the Week 9 bye, sadness about the loss of defensive end Carl Lawson, and general puzzlement about what to take away from the game.
"A win is a win, so you feel good, but this one feels a little weird," said linebacker Preston Brown. "We've got to find a way to do it on defense, but luckily our offense helped us out."
If it was possible to be elated and frustrated at the same time, that was certainly the postgame mood. The Bengals (5-3) picked off quarterback Jameis Winston four times -- enough to get him benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick -- but they also gave up 576 total yards of offense and 18 points in the fourth quarter alone.
On the other side, the offense raced out to a 27-9 lead in the first half, put up more than 400 yards of total offense, and executed a last-minute drive that ended in a game-winning field goal. But their lead evaporated in the second half thanks to a combination of poor defense and four straight three-and-outs that netted a total of 14 yards.
"Obviously we wish we would have played better in the second half and made the game a little easier than having to drive down and kick a field goal with no time left. We had the opportunity to do that, but we didn't. That is where it's disappointing. Offensively we didn't play the same way we did in the first half and we weren't getting first downs. We had way too many three-and-out drives, and in that way, it's disappointing. But we won. To be 5-3 right now is huge."
It's no wonder head coach Marvin Lewis said he was disappointed in how the team played.
"We've got an opportunity to keep playing and make plays, and we're not making plays. Those are makeable plays we have to do and we have to understand. We've got to figure it out."
Lewis noted several issues with the defense, which features several young players who he said need to adjust and mature quickly.
"They're trying to do too much at times," Lewis said. "They're trying to get out of their job to do something else. Just do your job first and everything will happen. Everything will fit together. You don't have to [do everything]. Make sure you understand the urgency of what [your] responsibility is on this particular play -- plain, flat and simple, that's what it is. Just do [your] particular job with the urgency on this particular play and let the other guys work and understand it."
Of course, as Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams pointed out, the Bengals defense isn't just bad. It's historically bad.
Cincinnati allowed the Chiefs to gain 551 yards last week, which is 1,127 in the past two weeks combined. That's 101 yards more than the Bengals have allowed in a two-game stretch in franchise history.
The Saints gave up 7,042 yards in 2012 to set the NFL record for most yards allowed in a season. The Bengals are on pace to allow 7,164.
So it's safe to say the bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Bengals.
Beyond the poor defensive efforts, their offense has been inconsistent for weeks. And their injury list has seriously piled up, with seven starters out prior to Sunday's game. Clint Boling also left the game with an injury and Lawson tore his ACL and is out for the season.
Those mixed feelings will linger over the next week.
While everything is in front of the Bengals in the second half of the season, the past few games likely leave them with a bitter taste in their mouths. ...
On the injury front. ... Receiver A.J. Green caught an 11-yard pass from Andy Dalton to move the team into field goal range at the end of last Sunday's game against the Buccaneers, so the team didn't have to push for more yards before Randy Bullock put the game-winner through the uprights.
If there had been more football to play, it's unclear whether Green would have been able to take part as he hurt his toe while making the catch. Green said he was okay after the game, but multiple reporters shared that he was in a protective boot at the team's facility Tuesday.
Since it's their bye week, the Bengals may just be taking every precaution in order to ensure Green is ready to go when they return to action against the Saints on November 11. The team won't have to release an injury report until after next Wednesday's practice, so it may be some time before there's official word about the severity of the injury.
Meanwhile, the team's official website reports when Billy Price (foot) is healthy, Lewis said he'll be the starting center when he returns and that looks like it's for the Saints at Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 11. But Trey Hopkins has drawn rave reviews at the spot and there are those wondering what might have been if they had turned to him last season at some point.
"He's grown a lot in his first exposure to playing center in significant games," Lewis said. "He's really done a nice job from the communication part of handling his own job, getting on the right person and being able to execute and block his guy. We have all been pleased with Trey. He was somewhat of an unknown (at center) when he played in the preseason there, but he has upheld his end of the bargain." …
Lewis said left guard Clint Boling should be OK after he left Sunday's game with back spasms. ...
Price looks to be the only injured guy that appears ready for the Saints. Running back Giovani Bernard (knee) looks to be a maybe and there's been no word on John Ross (groin) and Tyler Kroft (foot). ...
Lawson ended up with the club's fifth ACL tear of the season. It started with rookie guard Rod Taylor going down on one of training camp's first snaps in pads and then rookie safety Trayvon Henderson, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow and tight end Mason Schreck. It's believed to be the most in the last two decades. In the five previous seasons they had a total of six.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Stanley Morgan Jr., Damion Willis
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Cethan Carter, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Dan Graziano framed it, "If you thought it was tough watching Baker Mayfield play in Sunday's 33-18 loss to the Steelers, you should have tried watching him afterward.
"The Cleveland Browns' young quarterback carried the air of a tired old man when this one was over. He walked gingerly from the locker room to the podium. He sighed multiple times before answers. At the end of his news conference, he looked very uncomfortable bending down to pick up his bag. He walked very slowly, and with a slight limp, to the bus at the end of the long concrete hallway under Heinz Field.
"Mayfield was the 12th different Browns starting quarterback to try and fail to win a game in this town since 2003. And this loss was painful. Not just-missed-opportunity painful, or disappointing-painful, but physically painful."
"I've seen better days," Mayfield said.
The powers that be in Cleveland agreed with that. On Monday, Hue Jackson's ignominious run as Cleveland Browns head coach ended.
The purging in Cleveland didn't stop with Jackson's dismissal, however, as offensive coordinator Todd Haley also was fired Monday.
Jackson's two-and-a-half-year run in Cleveland ends with a disastrous 3-36-1 record (.088 winning percentage) including last year's 0-16 debacle.
After the winless season, Jackson convinced ownership to give him another year to right the ship, arguing that continuity could help an organization constantly in flux. Instead, the Browns coach crashed into the shoreline on the banks of Lake Erie.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra pointed out, Jackson's run of ineptitude in Cleveland included mismanaging his quarterback situation repeatedly, lack of sustainable improvement from high draft picks, and most recently a squabble with Haley.
The last straw for Jackson came in Sunday's loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a game that displayed the ineptness of the current Cleveland iteration.
Jackson getting fired after a loss to the Steelers marks the sixth straight time the Browns have canned their coach after the second game of the season against Pittsburgh.
Firing Jackson didn't come as a complete surprise.
On Sunday, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted that the Browns were poised to make a change from either Jackson or Haley if the Week 8 bout with Pittsburgh went poorly.
It did. And they did.
Sitting at 2-5-1, the Browns own the talent to be better than the wayward, dysfunctional group they have been under Jackson.
The Browns finally seem to have solved their millennium-long problem at quarterback with Mayfield. On defense, Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are foundational building blocks.
For all the talent brought into the building since GM John Dorsey took over, the bungling continued in Cleveland. And the ax finally fell on Jackson.
In his career as an NFL head coach, Jackson owns a .205 win percentage, which ranks 218th out of 219 coaches in NFL history. Only former Eagles coach/owner Bert Bell owns a worse win percentage at .176 from 1936-1941.
What what's next?
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will take over as interim head coach.
Williams has head coaching experience, going 17-31 in three seasons with the Bills. That's quite a step up after Hue Jackson just went 3-36-1.
But Williams also carries the shadow of his BountyGate days as the Saints defensives coordinator with him wherever he goes.
The Browns also announced that Freddie Kitchens will replace Haley as the team's offensive coordinator.
Kitchens had the titles of running backs coach and associate head coach before Monday's reorganization of the coaching staff. He joined the Browns staff this year after spending the last 11 seasons on the Cardinals coaching staff. Kitchens also spent one year with the Cowboys and has never been a coordinator at either the professional or college level.
According to NFL Network's Omar Ruiz, Kitchens will keep Mayfield's playbook to provide some continuity for Mayfield.
The Browns have longtime NFL coach Al Saunders on hand as a senior offensive assistant and former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese is on the staff as the quarterbacks coach.
How all this will impact the on-field product is the big question. And one we're not likely to get a solid answer to until we see them in action. In the meantime. Fantasy owners should keep the focus on the players they were already focused on: Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry are viable weekly plays based on anticipated opportunity alone. Tight end David Njoku, despite the fact he was shut out in Pittsburgh, is also in that conversation.
Beyond that, you're taking your chances. ...
A few final notes. ... The Browns offense was on the field for 64 snaps in Pittsburgh. Mayfield and the offensive line played all of them.
Antonio Callaway led the receivers with 59 snaps. Landry had 52, Damion Ratley played 32 and Breshad Perriman had 9.
Rookie running back Dontrell Hilliard played a season-high 15 snaps. He caught a 24-yard pass, which tied for the longest play of the game, late in the fourth quarter.
Seth DeValve made the most of his five snaps, catching two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Duke Johnson, who walked off with trainers early in the game, played 23 snaps. Chubb was on the field for 31.
Mayfield was not listed with an injury, but he took a beating from an aggressive Steelers rush in this game. According to ESPN.com's Pat McManamon, Mayfield was moving gingerly afterward in the locker room.
One certainty, Rashard Higgins (knee) was not on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice while Njoku (knee) was slated to work on a limited basis.
I'll have more on their health -- and on any major shifts in strategy coming with the new coaching staff -- as developments warrant via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Until then, it's worth noting the team hired former Cardinals QB Ryan Lindley as their running backs coach.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Garrett Gilbert, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies
TEs: Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
Dak Prescott won't know if he has a new No. 1 receiver with the Cowboys until the quarterback gets a chance to see how quickly Amari Cooper can be assimilated into the offense.
At least one thing is certain.
As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon reminded readers, the Cowboys paid the price of a top pass-catcher by giving Oakland their first-round pick in next year's draft in a midseason trade designed to jump-start a passing game that has mostly struggled to replace Dez Bryant, the franchise touchdown catch leader before being dumped in a cost-cutting move in April.
And Prescott didn't need such a bold move to believe there's a win-now mentality with the Cowboys (3-4), who are off this weekend before returning for a Monday night game Nov. 5 at home against Tennessee.
"There's no doubt about it in my mind that they're all in," Prescott told Schuyler, referring to owner and general manager Jerry Jones and the rest of the front office. "They know the team that we have. They know where we can go and they want to make sure they do everything to put us in that position."
Two years ago, the Cowboys won the NFC East with a conference-leading 13 wins while Prescott won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Dallas never really found a groove during disappointing encores for Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, in part because of a six-game suspension for the 2016 league rushing leader.
Year 3 with the two offensive stars has been the model of inconsistency - four road losses, with three home wins alternating in between.
And the root cause is a frequently punchless passing game that's been unable to punish defenses for focusing on Elliott. Spotty play from the offensive line hasn't helped, either.
In Cooper, the Cowboys grabbed the fourth overall pick from three years ago, believing he was still young enough at 24 to be a cornerstone alongside Prescott and Elliott, the fourth overall choice a year later.
Although his own Year 3 last season was a big letdown compared to the pair of Pro Bowl seasons that started his career, Cooper brings a solid pedigree to Dallas: 3,183 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns in 52 games. Prescott envisions something more than solid.
"He's an explosive guy that you don't have to draw too many crazy plays to get him the ball," Prescott said. "When you have a player like that, they'll be easy to put into this offense. We showed how good we can be. We've just got to continue to find a way to be consistent."
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and Cole Beasley, the top producer among the group of receivers Cooper is joining, both believe the open week will make a difference in getting the former Alabama standout ready for his new offense.
While the Cowboys essentially had just two additional practice days with Cooper because of the break, they were important days because Dallas wasn't in game preparation mode.
"It's huge because he can kind of go back to the basics and then learn fundamentals of how we run our routes here and just little things that we do," Beasley said. "That will help him a lot."
The other question is whether the presence of Cooper can help Elliott a lot.
While the focal point of the Dallas offense is still second in the league in rushing with 619 yards, there have been a lot of tough yards for Elliott. Plus, he's coming off the second-worst game of his career: 33 yards on 15 carries in a 20-17 loss to Washington.
While there were some bright spots for the NFL's 29th-ranked passing attack with the Redskins so focused on Elliott, including Prescott's season-high 273 yards, there were still plenty of problems for an offense averaging just 13.5 points on the road.
"I think it's going to help us as an offense," Linehan said. "You add firepower to your offense in proven-type guys like this, gives you some options. And even if it's just the threat of the option, it might help the other part of your offense."
Prescott and Cooper have been on opposing sidelines several times, mostly notably as juniors in college when Cooper and the Crimson Tide handed Mississippi State its first loss in 2014 when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history.
Last year, the Cowboys were hanging on to fading playoff hopes against the also-ran Raiders in a 20-17 Dallas victory in Week 15. Prescott had a mostly forgettable night and Cooper was out with an ankle injury. Now they're hoping to make memories together.
"I really like the way he throws the ball," Cooper said. "It's a good ball."
And Prescott thinks the Cowboys made a good move.
This week, we'll all get a chance to see how good it might -- or might not -- turn out to be.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys made a change to their coaching staff.
The team announced on Monday that they terminated offensive line coach Paul Alexander. Assistant offensive line coach Marc Colombo will take over in Alexander's absence.
Alexander was in his first season in Dallas and joined the team after 24 years with the Bengals. In a nice bit of symmetry, he was replaced on the Bengals staff by former Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
The Cowboys also bringing back former offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who has been hired to work with the offensive staff in an advisory capacity.
The offensive line has been a strength in recent seasons, but the unit's play has not been up to the same standard this season. Prescott has already been sacked 23 times, tied for the fifth-most in the NFL. Prescott has sacked 32 times last year and just 25 as a rookie in 2016.
The Cowboys rank 29th in passing at 183.1 yards per game, but rank fourth in the NFL in rushing at 136.9.
Last week at Washington, the Cowboys had just 73 total rushing yards, including the above-noted 33 for Elliott.
While the loss of center Travis Frederick to an illness certainly hasn't helped matters, it seems the Cowboys believe that Alexander wasn't the right guy to help push the unit back in the right direction.
On the injury front. ... Tight end Geoff Swaim and RG Zack Martin have sprained MCLs; their status for this week is uncertain. Neither seems likely to play this week, but I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
And finally. ... Sean Lee said he feels "great physically," after returning to the lineup last week following a three-game absence because of a hamstring injury. He is no longer receiving treatment and is practicing normally.
"The trainers did an incredible job, working with me, helping me get back," Lee told ESPN.com's Todd Archer. "Felt great coming out of the game. Had no issues. It's nice to have the bye week, practice the last two days and come back next week ready to go."
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Ventell Bryant
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
The Denver Broncos arrived to the season's halfway point Sunday at 3-5 after a 30-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold suggested, "They arrived with their collective ego bruised a bit, a little battered physically and with an unshakable belief of who has put them in the uncomfortable spot they didn't expect to be in before Halloween.
Penalties at the worst possible moments, technique mistakes at the worst possible moments and a tendency, especially on offense, to get away from what's working and lose momentum that the Broncos don't get back.
Legwold went on to note the frustration that embodies this Broncos season is illustrated by the fact that three of their losses, including Sunday's, have come to the Chiefs (twice) and the Los Angeles Rams, the class of the league to date. And those three losses have come by a combined 13 points.
Against the Rams earlier this month, even as Todd Gurley pounded the Broncos defense for 208 yards rushing, penalties cost the Broncos the points that would have given them a win, including a taunting penalty on wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders after he believed he had scored an early touchdown.
In the Oct. 1 loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos stopped emphasizing a running game that helped build a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. They lost that two-score lead, as the Chiefs went touchdown-touchdown in their first two fourth-quarter possessions to grab the win.
In Sunday's loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos were flagged 10 times, including two third-quarter offensive penalties that negated 23- and 10-yard runs, respectively.
The Broncos went away from what worked early on Sunday. They built a 7-0 lead with bigger personnel groupings and downhill running, as they used a three-wide receiver set only once on their first two possessions. They went away from that game plan on possession three and four.
They liberally sprinkled in three-wide sets in those two possessions, and the Chiefs regained momentum in large part due to that change. The Broncos punted twice, quarterback Case Keenum was sacked twice and the Chiefs turned a 7-3 deficit into a 16-7 lead. They never trailed again.
"The bigger the game, the harder they play, so I'm not disappointed in our guys," head coach Vance Joseph said. "I told our guys, we have to play better football, we have to play cleaner football. Are we playing hard? Absolutely. We want to win? Absolutely. But are we playing smart football to beat the best teams? We're not. We've battled, but we have to play cleaner to beat the best teams."
Now with half the season left to play and limited practice time leading up to each coming opponent, including teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, the Los Angeles Chargers (twice) and Houston Texans Sunday, opportunities to repair things are limited.
"We know where we are," Joseph said. "We understand where we are."
Meanwhile, in the moments after Sunday's loss, a plainly frustrated Demaryius Thomas put the odds at "50-50" that he would be traded in the coming days.
Turns out it was 100 percent going to happen.
On Tuesday, a couple hours before the deadline, Thomas was shipped to this week's opponent, the Texans, along with a seventh-round draft pick in exchange for a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick from Houston
Thomas, who was a first-round pick in 2010, was the Denver Broncos' longest-tenured player. He ranks second in franchise history -- to Ring of Famer Rod Smith -- in most of the team's major receiving categories. Thomas has been a team captain and one of the most durable, consistent performers through good times and bad.
Thomas was second on the team in receptions (36) and receiving yards (402) and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (three) this season. But his hefty salary-cap figure for 2019 -- $17.533 million in what is the last year of his deal -- and the emergence of rookie Courtland Sutton as a big-play threat raised the possibility of Thomas being shipped elsewhere.
Once it came to pass, general manager acknowledged that Thomas will be in the team's Ring of Honor someday, but that they wanted to look at younger players in the second half of this season.
"With the youth we have at receiver, we wanted to get them on the field and Demaryius goes to a team that wanted him," Elway told Mike Klis of KUSA. "It was best for both sides. We weren't going to do this unless we got value. We weren't taking less than a fourth."
The leader of that group of young receivers is Sutton and he should see the biggest spike in playing time with Thomas off of the depth chart. Sutton has 17 catches for 324 yards and two touchdowns so far this season.
I'll be following up on the immediate and long-term impact of this deal via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Worth noting. ... The Broncos had 10 penalties for 83 yards against the Chiefs on Sunday. In the Broncos' five losses, they have averaged nearly eight penalties per contest.
"In every big game that we've played, the penalties have killed us, especially the offensive holdings," Joseph said. "We lost 10 points against the Rams just strictly on penalties. And yesterday we lost three 20-plus-yard plays because of penalties. That's us. We have to fix that. We can't complain about the officials and the half-and-half calls. Everyone has half-and-half calls, but we have to play cleaner, and we haven't done it in the five losses. Again, we have to play better football, especially in the critical moments."
Against the Chiefs, only one starting offensive lineman - right tackle Billy Turner - wasn't called for holding. In one of the crucial junctures of the game, left tackle Garett Bolles was beat by Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford. Even after Bolles held him, Ford got to Keenum, forcing a fumble.
Running back Phillip Lindsay also had gains of 21 and 23 yards negated by holding penalties.
"It's all technique," said Joseph regarding fixing the holdings. "It's all technique. [Bolles] has to play better in technique. ... Not just Garett, but a lot of us."
Offensive holding wasn't the only issue, though. Bradley Roby was called for defensive passing interference with Kansas City facing a second-and-19. Joseph thought his cornerback had good position and didn't need to commit the penalty to prevent a possible completion.
"We can't bail teams out by having penalties," Joseph said. "We're not good enough for that."
Joseph provided updates to the two players who suffered injuries against the Chiefs and did not return to the game.
Inside linebacker Brandon Marshall is dealing with knee soreness, and he is still sore as of Monday, Joseph said, but he "should be fine."
Wide receiver/punt returner Isaiah McKenzie suffered a hip injury and is also fine, Joseph said.
There were no updates on Royce Freeman, who missed the game in Kansas City with an apparent high ankle sprain, and DaeSean Hamilton, who is dealing with a sprained need.
While Freeman seems to be closer to playing, it's not clear if he'll be ready for the Texans this weekend. He was not on the practice field to open the week Wednesday.
I'll have more as the week progresses (watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest).
QBs: Drew Lock, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As we barreled towards the Tuesday's trade deadline, there was plenty of talk about Golden Tate. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero first reported on Monday that the Lions had been fielding calls about the YAC-gobbling wideout. The report noted that Detroit wouldn't move the receiver unless it got "blown away" by an offer.
Lo and behold, the Eagles called with an offer sufficient to get the deal done.
Tate announced the trade himself on Twitter, and it was confirmed by the Eagles.
As NFL.com noted before the deal, the 30-year-old receiver was still the straw that stirred the Lions' offensive drink. Matthew Stafford consistently relied on Tate's ability to break tackles and gain first downs. The reigning Yards After Catch King has long been an extension of a woeful running game, with the Lions using him on a bevy of quick screens.
With Detroit moving on from Tate, it significantly hinders Stafford's operation in the short term. Some contend the only reason Tate was being discussed as a trade option is the fact that he's in the final year of his contract.
If Lions GM Bob Quinn didn't think he could re-sign Tate, getting what he can now is the smart play.
Still, it's a confusing move considering they just traded for defensive tackle Damon Harrison last week. As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith suggested, if the Lions think they're contenders, it seems odd that they'd trade Tate away. If the Lions think they're out of contention and need to build for the future, why trade a draft pick for Harrison, an expensive veteran?
But if this move comes as a surprise, it only adds to the existing vibe. In Sunday's post-game locker room, the overriding feeling seemed to be befuddlement.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein framed it, "How did the Lions -- a group that had won three of four games entering Sunday's game against Seattle -- play like that? How did all of their old problems cropped up again? How did the run defense could fail over and over again?"
Players were baffled that the plan the Lions had for the Seahawks resulted in a fairly dominant 28-14 Seattle win where no phase of the game went well. At all.
"It's aggravating to know you have one of the most talented teams in the NFL and don't care what nobody else says," Ricky Jean Francois said. "It's like, 'Ahh, you know you can do it. You know you can stop the run. You know you can run the ball. You know you can pass the ball. You know you can do good on special teams.'
"Just to see it not click, it'd be like, 'Why?'"
Those answers, at this point, are hard to pinpoint.
As Rothstein explained, Detroit knew Seattle would be a run-first team and the Seahawks ran for 176 yards (4.2 yards per carry). They knew that set up Russell Wilson in play-action, and Wilson had a perfect passer rating, completing 14 of 17 attempts for 248 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The special teams equaled the poor play. Ameer Abdullah lost a fumble on a kick return that, three plays later, led to Seattle's second touchdown. They struggled in coverage, picking up three penalties, and allowed punter Michael Dickson to run for nine yards and a first down to seal the game.
Offensively, the Lions had two turnovers (a Stafford fumble and interception) and Stafford's passer rating was under 100 for the first time since opening night. The run game looked more like the 2017 version, averaging 2.6 yards per carry.
In many ways, multiple Lions told Rothstein, it comes down to focus.
For one reason or another, and while it wasn't a problem in practice, it wasn't clear until things began falling apart Sunday.
"The mark of any good team is bouncing back and we didn't bounce back [Sunday]," Abdullah said. "So definitely got to continue to work on that factor, because stuff is going to happen.
"As a squad, as a whole, we didn't bounce back right."
At 3-4, and again in last place in the NFC North, the next four weeks should provide an indicator of this team truly bouncing back.
Detroit's next five opponents are over-.500. Three of them -- Minnesota and Chicago twice -- are in the division. All are in the NFC.
"Things must change," Rothstein summed up, "Fast. Otherwise the season will get away from the Lions. ..."
Meanwhile, as Detroit Free Press beat man Dave Birkett reminded readers, Marvin Jones had the quietest first six games of the Lions' big three receivers, but he exploded for season highs of seven catches and 117 yards against the Seahawks.
Facing a big, physical secondary, the Lions were able to take advantage of Jones' speed on deep routes. He caught touchdown passes of 39 and 19 yards, and he drew a 56-yard pass-interference penalty on one of those chuck-it-up plays Stafford has become famous for.
Of course, even with Tate gone, the Lions still have Jones and rising young talent, Kenny Golladay, who has inexplicably been targeted a total of three times over the last two games. Go ahead and assume the departure of Tate clears the way for more targets for Golladay and Jones going forward. ...
In a related note. ... After trading Tate to the Eagles, the Lions restructured the contract of Jones, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
The move saves $2.2 million against the Lions' cap.
Jones is in the third year of a five-year deal, scheduled to make a $7 million base salary and count $8.6 million against the cap.
He has made 26 catches for 387 yards and five touchdowns this season. ...
Beyond all that, Kerryon Johnson didn't have a great day running the football, gaining just 22 yards on eight carries, but he proved he can be a viable weapon in the pass game with six catches for 69 yards. There weren't many standouts Sunday, but Birkett notes, Johnson had another vicious stiff-arm and his production confirmed my belief that he can be a three-down back going forward.
Also worth noting, Johnson played 48 of the team's 59 offensive snaps against the Seahawks. LeGarrette Blount played just seven. While nobody should be banking on that ratio to continue, it's certainly a good sign. ...
Remember: Theo Riddick is under contract for another year and remains the Lions' third-down back for now, but Johnson's emergence could make Riddick expendable in the offseason.
In a related note. ... The Lions continued to use Abdullah on kick returns after his fumble, but if Riddick returns from his knee injury this week (he was limited in practice on Wednesday), this might have been the last time we see Abdullah, a pending free agent, in a Lions uniform.
And finally. ... As Detroit News staffer Justin Rogers reported, adding injury to insult, Stafford had to deal with painful shots to both his throwing and non-throwing hands in the second half of Sunday's loss.
Stafford was left clutching his throwing hand after taking a hit from Seattle linebacker Jacob Martin early in the fourth quarter. Martin was flagged for roughing the passer on the play.
Later in the fourth, after losing a fumble, Stafford was left clutching a finger on his non-throwing hand, which required a visit with a trainer on the sidelines.
After the game, Stafford brushed aside any concern, saying he would be fine.
I'll have more on Riddick and Stafford (if need be) via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant this week.
QBs: David Blough, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted, the Packers' offense took on two different forms Sunday in a 29-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, finding varying degrees of success by at first pounding away with a balanced, tight-end-heavy call sheet, and then spreading them out with up to five pass catchers flooding the backfield.
"Creativity aspect, I mean that's what the offseason's for," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We've got a lot of scheme, all three phases left. But once again, you want to fit the, make sure you're giving your players a chance to be successful. That's why you when you move those guys around that's really a product of who's healthy and what you think they're going to do."
In the first half, the Packers handed the ball off 13 times to running backs for 54 yards and had Aaron Rodgers drop back 15 times to pass (including a sack and scramble). Aaron Jones rushed eight times for 44 yards (5.5 yards per rush) and Rodgers was an efficient, if unspectacular, 7-for-13 for 127 yards and no touchdowns in giving the Packers a 10-8 halftime lead.
All four tight ends on the active roster saw playing time, with Lance Kendricks being motioned into the backfield as a lead blocker.
"We wanted to come out balanced, we wanted to establish the run and get them to back up a little bit and not stack the box," Jones said. "That way we could open up on play action, which you saw play action was working well."
McCarthy then switched it up in the second half, splitting Jimmy Graham out wide with three other wide receivers. A running back would often leak out as another option. The Packers handed off just four times to running backs in the second half and Rodgers dropped back 20 times.
"That was Mike calling the plays," Rodgers said. "I call them in the two-minute but we decided to open things up a little bit in the second half and it was working. We went to some one-by-three stuff, moving Davante (Adams) around, then got Jones some opportunities on favorable down-and-distances."
Jones broke off a 33-yard touchdown run on one of those handoffs, and Rodgers went 11-for-17 for 159 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Adams (5 catches, 133 yards) caught a 41-yard pass to set up Jones' touchdown run.
"We just got a little more aggressive," Adams said of the second-half switch. "That's what we gotta do. We gotta start out like that and games aren't going to be as close. I feel like we called a pretty good game. Aaron had some great checks in there, he manipulated a lot of what was going on in that second half. When you get a good feel for what's going on, it makes things easier.
Rodgers never got the chance to engineer a game-winning drive after Ty Montgomery fumbled a kickoff return in the final minutes, when he was supposed to take the touchback.
Yet if the loss to the NFL's only unbeaten team can be a galvanizing force for the Packers, then perhaps the Packers still have a chance to salvage something from their 3-3-1 start to 2018.
And as ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky suggests, getting more out of their young playmakers would be helpful in achieving that goal.
On the offensive side, Jones still didn't get the full workload that many have clamored for in Los Angeles, but he was no less effective. He carried 12 times -- a season high -- for 86 yards and a touchdown, even though he still split time with Jamaal Williams and Montgomery.
Jones' 33-yard touchdown was the Packers' longest rush of the season, and Jones' speed equated to 5.9 yards per rush before contact, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Williams and Montgomery combined to average 1.7 yards per rush before contact.
"I thought Aaron played well [on] first and second down," McCarthy said. "Did some things on third down we'll continue to work through. But the focus was to try and get him some more touches today, and I thought he was really productive."
Even with Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison back from hamstring injuries, the Packers did not go away from Valdes-Scantling. The fifth-round pick, who was coming off his first career 100-yard game, caught the 40-yard touchdown pass that gave the Packers the lead at 27-26 with 8:50 to play. It's clear that the connection between Valdes-Scantling and Rodgers has grown into something with big-play potential.
"We talked about it on the sideline," Rodgers said of his lone touchdown pass. "There was a picture we looked at, and it looked like he had gotten on top, and I asked him, I said, 'What do you want? Do you want another go route? Do you want a stop route?' He said, 'No, I want a go route.' So I came back to him. He beat him inside, restacked and made a nice play."
Rodgers was especially effective throwing deep, going 6-for-7 for 191 yards and the touchdown to MVS when throwing 15 or more yards downfield. In his past two games, he's 13-of-17 with two touchdowns on such throws after completing just 38 percent of those throws for two touchdowns in the first five games, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Of course, none of it was enough to knock off the Rams, and it's entirely possible that similar performances this Sunday at New England won't beat the Patriots.
"You can pull good things from any game," said Davante Adams, who posted his third straight 100-yard game. "You can get blown out by 30 and say you had five good rushes and a 25-yard completion that was great, but if you don't win the game, to me it doesn't mean s---. At the end of the day, it's not about building. We're in Week 8 or whatever the hell it is. We've got to win games."
With three more road games in the next four weeks, the Packers have to find a solution to their issues on the road thus far in 2018.
The loss Sunday dropped the Packers to 0-3, and they have to travel to New England, Seattle and Minnesota by the end of November. ...
Worth noting. ... Adams is steadily putting together an All-Pro-caliber season. With another five catches for 133 yards Sunday, Adams now has 24 receptions for 405 yards and three touchdowns over his last three games.
Jones has been off to a strong start to his sophomore season after returning from a two-game suspension, averaging 6.2 yards per carry through the first five games.
One last note here. ... Montgomery insists he did not intentionally disobey coaches' orders to take a knee on a kickoff in the end zone. The running back defended his decision to run the ball out, saying he was unsure how close to the field of play he was.
Montgomery was 2 yards deep when caught the kickoff with 2:05 remaining. He reached the Green Bay 20 before Ramik Wilson forced Montgomery to fumble with Wilson recovering the fumble. Rodgers never saw the ball again as the Rams picked up a first down and ran out the clock on a 29-27 victory.
"He said the same thing he always says, 'Catch the return, and if it's in the end zone, keep it in the end zone.'" Montgomery said. "At that point in time, I stood where I always stood. I had a returnable ball, so I made a split-second decision on, I don't know if this is going to land on the goal line, so I'm not going to take a knee on the goal line, at the half-yard line and take a chance on putting the game in the ref's hands. Unfortunately, I ended up fumbling the football, but I've never been a guy that completely disobeys what I've been told. I think you can ask a lot guys in the locker room. That's not what I do. That's not the kind of man I am. That's not the kind of person I am."
Montgomery also defended himself against charges that he acted out of selfishness.
Several Packers players anonymously called out Montgomery in a story written by Mike Silver of NFL Media.
Silver's report mentions a tantrum thrown by Montgomery after being removed from the game on the previous series.
Montgomery admitted Monday he was frustrated when he was pulled during the Packers' last offensive series and was unsure of his role on the team. But Montgomery was adamant that had nothing to do with his decision on the kickoff.
The questions now become: Where does Montgomery stand with his teammates? Where do the Packers stand with Montgomery?
Montgomery does not sound as if he will soon get over the "backlash" from teammates.
"We talk about being brothers," Montgomery said. "We talk about being family and keeping things in house, in house and this, that and the other, and that's not what happened. I don't know. Maybe that's what they do in their family, but that's not what I do in mine.
"No one ever said anything to me. No one ever came to me. So I'm thoroughly disappointed in the speculation and just the backlash that I have to deal with now, because now we're talking about my character. We're not even talking about the fumble any more. We're talking about my character."
There was some talk that Montgomery might be traded in the wake of all this -- and before you know it. ...
The Packers shipped Montgomery to the Ravens for a seventh-round draft pick in 2020, perhaps opening the door to a more fulsome role for Jones.
In addition, Green Bay traded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington.
That's no surprise, as Clinton-Dix said Monday that he understood there was a good chance he would be traded. Green Bay is in playoff contention but apparently felt that it was better to move on from Clinton-Dix immediately than risk him walking away after the season in free agency.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
In case you missed it, last week's win over the Dolphins came with a cost. Will Fuller suffered a season-ending torn ACL during the game.
Fuller suffered the injury early in the fourth quarter while running a deep route near the end zone. As the pass from Deshaun Watson was in the air, Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain ran into Fuller, who fell to the ground and immediately cradled his right knee with his hands.
Fuller finished the game with five catches for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Fuller has missed nine games in his first three NFL seasons. He has dealt with hamstring injuries, including one this season that caused him to miss a game. He also missed the first three games of the 2017 season with a broken collarbone.
Fuller had 32 catches for 503 yards and four touchdowns this season.
The loss of Fuller was a blow to an offense finding its stride during a five-game winning streak. On Tuesday, the Texans made sure that wasn't as big a concern as it otherwise would have been.
The Texans have traded a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick to the Broncos for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and a seventh-round pick.
Thomas' first game for Houston will be on Sunday in Denver.
Thomas, 30, has the second-most receiving yards (9,055) and touchdown catches (60) in Broncos history, trailing Rod Smith in both categories.
In addition, the Texans are likely to lean on rookie wide receiver Keke Coutee, who missed Thursday night's game with a hamstring injury. But head coach Bill O'Brien told reporters on Monday it's too early in the week to know if Coutee will be able to play against Denver on Sunday.
I'll be following up on both the acquisition of and plans for Thomas as well as the health of Coutee via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, it took until the eighth game of the 2018 season, but the Texans' offense looked like the version the team was hoping for entering the year, and Houston finally got a glimpse of the quarterback who lit up the NFL last season before he tore his ACL in early November.
Watson completed 16 of his 20 passes for 239 yards and a season-high five touchdown passes. Those five touchdown passes tied his career high, which he set last season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The second-year quarterback did not throw an interception for the second straight week.
"We were executing, sticking to the details, playing free," Watson said. "We got our swagger back today. We just wanted to have fun and try and light up the scoreboard in prime time, and that's what we did."
Watson has been playing hurt after injuring his lung and ribs in the Texans' Week 5 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He was listed with a chest injury on the injury report all week but was a full participant in practice.
The quarterback said he "felt great" on Thursday night and that he had plenty of time to rest between games.
"The biggest thing was more mental," Watson said. "And then getting a lot of rest and treatment and rehab. And then having three days off -- it's going to be fun. A lot of fun."
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop notes, Watson is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have multiple games with five touchdown passes within his first two seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The Texans had 427 net yards and scored on all four of their red zone opportunities.
For the first time this season, the Texans were able to lean on big offensive plays from their offensive stars.
Watson's third touchdown pass was a 73-yard completion to Fuller, who beat his defender across the middle and down the right sideline before trotting in the final five yards into the end zone. The pass was the longest touchdown of both Watson's and Fuller's careers. The pair have now connected for 11 touchdowns in 11 games played together.
"I said earlier in the offseason, I think we've got the best offense in the NFL," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "What we put up tonight against a pretty good defense, what we've shown in these past five games that we've won, we're up there with the best of the best."
Watson also threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Hopkins, who caught six passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Hopkins had 8.6 yards of separation on his 49-yard score, and 0.5 yards of separation on his next touchdown. Those were the most wide-open, and tightest-window touchdown passes, respectively of Watson's career.
"I don't even know how explosive we can be. I know it's top-notch, and we just have to keep working," Watson said.
Thursday's victory puts the Texans at 5-3 at the midway point of the season and ensures an outright lead in the AFC South entering Week 9. Houston now has won five games in a row after its 0-3 start to the season.
O'Brien praised his young quarterback for helping turn Houston's season around.
"I think the type of guy he is, if you're around him every day, I think he's the type of guy that gives everybody hope," O'Brien said. "He's a great guy in the locker room, works very hard, young player, young player that's getting better and better. Very level-headed guy, not an overly emotional guy.
"I think he's exactly what you're looking for in a starting quarterback."
The Texans will get a chance to stretch their winning streak to six against a Broncos team coming off another loss and desperate to avoid falling to 3-6.
In a related note. ... When he Texans depart for Denver, it will have been two weeks since Watson had to take the above-mentioned bus more than 800 miles from Houston to Jacksonville. On Monday, O'Brien confirmed that the having the quarterback fly is no longer a concern, and Watson will travel with the rest of the team.
O'Brien was asked whether the team was worried about Watson playing in the high altitude of Denver given the concerns about the air pressure on the plane two weeks ago. He said it's something he, team doctor Geoff Kaplan and director of sports performance Luke Richesson are discussing.
"I think the altitude is a factor for everybody, whether you're injured or not," O'Brien said. "So I think that's something that we're talking about relative to preparing for that.
"We get there Saturday, we play Sunday. I'm not sure of an effect it will have. But that's something we're talking about with all the resources we have here. So I think that's really a factor for everybody."
The Texans' offensive line has done a better job protecting Watson in their past two wins, over the Jaguars and Dolphins, but he has still been sacked 26 times and hit 76 times this season.
While Coutee's status for Thursday night's game remains uncertain, reports out of Houston indicate that Ryan Griffin, sidelined the last two weeks by an unspecified illness, will return this week.
I'll have more on Coutee in advance of tomorrow's kickoff via Late-Breaking Update early Thursday. ...
And finally. ... As USA Today noted this week, the Texans are nearing a deadline with running back D'Onta Foreman, and that is when he is able to come off the physically unable to perform list and begin practicing with the team.
Foreman, who started the season on PUP due to his lengthy recovery from a ruptured Achilles on Nov. 19, 2017, has yet to practice. When he does, it will activate a 21-day window for the Texans to decide whether or not he can be placed on the active roster or if they will have to cut bait and send him to injured reserve.
O’Brien acknowledged the second-year man is getting closer to practicing.
“Sure, yes,” said O’Brien. “Not sure the date of that, but yes he is definitely closer.”
Foreman carried 78 times for 327 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie campaign. He also caught six passes for 83 yards. Houston hopes they can get similar production from Foreman in his abbreviated season, as it would provide a nice change of pace for starter Lamar Miller.
In a semi-related item. ... Receiver Bruce Ellington was released from injured reserve, a source tells Houston Chronicle staffer Aaron Wilson. Ellington is healthy now after dealing with a hamstring injury.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
And it keeps working. ... And by "it," I mean the running game, which kept the Colts in the game long enough for Andrew Luck to put them over the top.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells suggests, Luck, whose offense is enjoying the best running game of his seven-year NFL career, continues to boost his case as the league's Comeback Player of the Year. He was perfect on the game-winning drive in the Colts' 42-28 victory against the Oakland Raiders.
Indianapolis heads into its bye week with a 3-5 record and trails the Houston Texans by two games in the AFC South.
The Colts took their first lead since the second quarter when Luck took advantage of having tight end Jack Doyle, who had missed the previous five games with a hip injury, find the open spots in the middle of the field to march 57 yards on just six plays. Doyle had four receptions, including the touchdown, for 52 yards on the drive.
The touchdown pass to Doyle extended Luck's streak of games with at least three touchdown passes to an NFL-high five straight. Former Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning has the record of eight games, which was set in 2004.
With the Colts' run game - led by an overpowering offensive line - performing like it has been lately, it allows Luck to become a much more efficient quarterback, as he completed 71 percent of his passes in Oakland. Luck was often pinpoint accurate, moving the chains (Indy's offense was 9-of-13 on third down) and making good decisions.
Luck finished 22-of-31 for 239 yards and three touchdowns to increase his season total to an NFL-high 23. He's gone 156 straight pass attempts without being sacked, after being sacked 156 times in the first five years of his career.
As mentioned above, even though Luck is the obvious headliner of the Colts, we must credit a suddenly surging running game led by second-year back Marlon Mack for much of the ongoing success.
Mack rushed for 132 yards on 25 carries, becoming the first player to rush for at least 100 yards in back-to-back games for the Colts since the 2007 season. What makes the Colts such a different threat out of the backfield is that they have multiple backs who bring different dimensions to the backfield. Rookie Nyheim Hines rushed for 78 yards on 11 carries.
The Colts followed up their 220-yard rushing game against Buffalo in Week 7 by gaining 222 yards against the Raiders.
According to ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft, Mack became the first Colts running back to score 25-plus PPR fantasy points in consecutive games since Joseph Addai (2007 Weeks 8-9).
Mack may have gotten most of the attention with another 100-yard game, but Hines had a very efficient day and his own career high in rushing yards.
Hines was a perfect complement to Mack Sunday, averaging 7.1 yards per carry and catching both of his targets for seven yards. Five of his 13 touches resulted in first downs.
"I mean, it was unreal," head coach Frank Reich said of Hines' ability to run tough. "We know he's tough, but he got tough inside yards today. (He) just seemed to not go down; spinnin', turnin', fightin' for the extra yards. It was fun to watch him get that kind of yardage."
Beyond that, Colts tight ends have caught 12 touchdowns this season, twice as many as any other team. The Colts had four receiving touchdowns from the position all of last season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
As the team's official website noted, Doyle came back from his hip injury like he was never out. After being sidelined since Week 3, Doyle caught 6-of-7 targets for 70 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, "On throws to Doyle, Luck produced a passer rating of 147.9 in their win over the Raiders on Sunday. Doyle caught six passes for 70 yards, with five of those receptions resulting in a touchdown or first down, tied for the most among tight ends this week."
On the drive in which Doyle scored, he completely owned the series, as four of the six plays went to him and he totaled 52 yards and converted three first downs.
Doyle was back, but it didn't hamper Eric Ebron's effectiveness. Although he saw just 17 snaps, Ebron made them count, catching all three targets for 37 yards (12.3 average) and a difficult, 20-yard touchdown catch.
Ebron's latest touchdown - his NFL tight end-leading seventh of the season - helped the Colts tie the game in the second half.
Still, the overall reduction in workload should be a concern for those with Ebron on their rosters. ...
Meanwhile, Adam Vinatieri moved ahead of Andersen when he made a 25-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in the first half against the Raiders. Vinatieri went into the game needing five points to pass Andersen's 2,544 career points.
The game was stopped briefly, and many of Vinatieri's teammates met him on the field and congratulated him. Vinatieri tied Andersen with an extra point and 26-yard field goal in the first quarter.
There was a possibility that Vinatieri would have to wait until after the Colts' bye week to pass Andersen because he suffered a groin injury on the first of his two missed extra points in the team's Week 7 game against Buffalo. Vinatieri didn't practice Wednesday before testing his groin out in practice Thursday.
Passing Andersen, who had held the top spot since he retired in 2007, is just another accomplishment for Vinatieri on his road to likely being a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer. The 45-year-old Vinatieri moved ahead of Andersen for most field goals made in a career on Sept. 30 against Houston.
Vinatieri, who played at NCAA Division II school South Dakota State, began his professional career by making a stop in the now-defunct NFL Europe before getting a shot with the New England Patriots in 1996.
Vinatieri's first significant moment came when he made arguably the greatest kick in NFL history, a 45-yard field goal in a blizzard to get the Patriots to overtime, then made the winner to beat the Raiders in a playoff game in January 2002. That ignited New England's dynasty. Vinatieri has made 27 game-winning field goals, including ones in Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII.
He also made an NFL-record 44 straight field goals, a streak that ended during the 2016 season, and he has made at least 80 percent of his attempts in 16 of his 23 seasons.
Vinatieri spent the first 10 years of his career in New England, where he totaled 1,158 of his points before signing with the Colts as a free agent in 2006.
On Wednesday, Vinatieri AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Dontrelle Inman, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco suggested Sunday, the Jaguars' season isn't mathematically over, but it sure feels that way after Sunday's 24-18 loss to Philadelphia at Wembley Stadium in London.
There were more injuries to an already banged-up roster. The defense had trouble getting off the field on third down. The offense couldn't run the ball, and the receivers dropped four passes. And, then there were the reports four players who were detained "over restitution of a bill" on Friday night in London.
About the only thing that went well was quarterback Blake Bortles rebounded from his benching and threw for 286 yards and a touchdown and -- most importantly -- didn't turn the ball over.
Bortles, who completed 24 of 41 passes, got little help Sunday. He was pressured throughout; the Eagles had four sacks and nine quarterback hurries.
But the Jaguars are now 0-for-October and 3-5 after their fourth consecutive loss. A season in which they were supposed to be one of the best teams in the AFC has rapidly fallen apart, and the main reasons for the mess aren't things that can get solved during the bye week.
The AFC South is not exactly a loaded division, though Houston sits in first place after winning five in a row after an 0-3 start, but it's hard to see the Jaguars being a factor with everything that's happened.
DiRocco went on to explain there are numerous reasons for the free fall, most notably injuries. The Jaguars are down to their third-string left tackle and fourth-string tight end, and the other four starters on the offensive line are dealing with nagging injuries.
Running back Leonard Fournette hasn't played since Week 4 because of a hamstring injury, either.
Remember: The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, and their goal for the season was to be a more dominant running team. Injuries to not only Fournette, but a slew of players key to the run game have resulted in the Jaguars being ranked 25th in the in rushing midway through the season with 95.0 yards per game.
That's down from 141.4 yards per game last season.
The Jaguars were down three of their top four cornerbacks against the Eagles and lost another during the game. Safety Barry Church, one of the four players detained after an altercation at a London club early Saturday morning, left the game in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. Quenton Meeks, one of three undrafted rookie cornerbacks who had to play on Sunday, left the game with a knee injury.
The Jaguars can't run the ball -- 70 yards against the Eagles and an average of 68 yards per game in the past three weeks -- and the receivers have not helped out much, either. Keelan Cole has five drops and two lost fumbles in the past three games and was sent to the bench in the second half against the Eagles after a fumble.
Receiver DJ Chark dropped a touchdown pass against Philadelphia. Tight end David Grinnage and running back T.J. Yeldon also had drops.
"We're in a league where you're expected to throw and catch," head coach Doug Marrone said. "If the ball gets in your hands, you're expected to catch it. Some players are good. You can see the ones on film, everyone knows. ... Part of your job. ... That's what it is, catching the football."
There have been a lot of off-field issues, too, which may have contributed to some chemistry issues. It may have begun in training camp when defensive ends Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler got into an altercation on the practice field in front of reporters.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, unhappy that reporters were filming it (as allowed by team rules), went on a profane tirade and later threatened one reporter on Twitter. That got him suspended for a week (as was Fowler).
During his suspension GQ magazine released a piece on Ramsey in which he offered his opinion on 25 of the NFL's starting quarterbacks. He called Buffalo's Josh Allen "trash," said Atlanta's Matt Ryan was over-rated and a product of Kyle Shanahan's offensive system, and labeled Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger "decent at best."
There was some yelling and frustration in the locker room after last week's loss to the Texans and Ngakoue had to be restrained by defensive end Calais Campbell.
News broke late Saturday night that four Jaguars players -- Church, D.J. Hayden, Ronnie Harrison and Jarrod Wilson -- were detained by London police after an altercation at a club.
Those things paint a picture of a team in disarray and one that struggles with discipline, something at odds with what is expected of a Tom Coughlin team.
As DiRocco summed up, "That's generally not the kind of team that can rally itself when the season goes wrong. Maybe the Jaguars can, but it's hard to see it."
For the record, Marrone put responsibility for the team's disappointing 3-5 record on himself: "I have to get everyone pulling in the same direction, everyone to understand accountability and what that means and everyone to do their job. If I can get everyone to understand that, if I can get everyone just to do their job, then there is a great shot that we can pull this thing around. ... I will tell you what I told the players today.
"There is a story out there about this team. It is an ugly story. But the story hasn't ended. We can still control how this story reads. When we get away, we have to think long and hard about it. We have to come back and we have to figure out what the story is going to be on the 2018 team."
The Jaguars will use the off week to do that figuring, but not before they dealt Fowler to the Los Angeles Rams just before Tuesday's trade deadline.
The Jaguars ostensibly made their decision on Fowler, the former No. 3 overall pick, a year ago, when they didn't pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.
He's been a productive pass-rusher, and that's what the Rams need, but the Jaguars were inclined to move on.
The Rams gave their 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-rounder in exchange.
And finally. ... According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Jaguars expected to sign former Steelers’ QB Landry Jones as insurance due to some concern about Bortles’ health following last Sunday’s game in London, per source.
Bortles still is expected to play in Week 10 at Indianapolis, as of now.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole
TEs: Ben Koyack, Nick O'Leary, Seth DeValve
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
So yes. The Chiefs' offense is faring well in 2018. In fact, the Chiefs have as many touchdown passes, 26, through a half-season as they had through all of 2017.
The most significant change is at quarterback, of course, where Patrick Mahomes has replaced Alex Smith.
"We've put together an interesting offense over the offseason with the pieces we grabbed," tight end Travis Kelce said. "Pat is 100 percent a part of that. You can't say he's not."
The Chiefs still have respect for Smith, a popular player in their locker room in his five seasons as their starter. But it's just as obvious their offensive capabilities with Mahomes at quarterback are far greater.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher noted, that was again on display Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos 30-23 to raise their record to 7-1. Mahomes threw four touchdown passes, something that for him is becoming routine. He has five games with at least four touchdown passes, including the last three.
Putting that into perspective from a team standpoint, the Chiefs had 21 such games in their 58 seasons before Mahomes became their starter. From an NFL perspective, just two quarterbacks have thrown more than 26 touchdown passes in the first eight games of a season.
Both players, Tom Brady in 2007 and Peyton Manning in 2013, went on to become the NFL MVP and will be in the Hall of Fame.
From a fantasy perspective, ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft pointed out Mahomes currently stands in terms of most fantasy points by a quarterback through his team's first eight games of any season (since 1950): Brady, 221.7, 2007 Aaron Rodgers, 219.5, 2011 Steve Young, 218.1, 1998 Mahomes, 216.9, 2018 Manning, 216.2, 2013.
But the Chiefs are obviously more interested in the bigger picture view here, and they seem to realize what they have in Mahomes, even if they don't want to overstate their case.
"I wouldn't just say it's the quarterback," head coach Andy Reid said. "That's not fair to Alex. He did a great job when he was here. But (Mahomes) is a part of it. Patrick has done a nice job. I'm not slighting that at all."
Mahomes similarly deflected credit for the improved passing game.
"Just (moving) the ball around, guys making plays," he said. "I feel like (the Chiefs are) running the scheme the way we're supposed to run it. Coach Reid is calling great plays and we're getting those lucky chances and those lucky plays where we get into the end zone.
"It's all about getting the ball out of my hand. That's the biggest thing for me. As long as I'm getting the ball out of my hand, there's a good chance good things are happening . . . I'm just getting it to the playmakers and they're scoring touchdowns."
Mahomes threw two touchdown passes to Sammy Watkins and one each to Kelce and Kareem Hunt. He finished 24-of-34 for 303 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
Also according to Teicher, Mahomes approached Watkins right before Sunday's game with a message.
"I kind of said, 'You owe [the Broncos],'" Mahomes said. "He was hurt in the last game [against Denver] at the very beginning so they didn't really know what kind of ability he brought to the offense. I was happy for him, to get out there and made a lot of big plays that really turned the tide of the game."
Watkins was indeed held without a catch in Week 4 when the Chiefs also played against the Broncos. He played just 12 snaps in that game because of a sore hamstring.
Watkins made up for that on Sunday with season highs in catches (eight), yards (107) and touchdowns (two).
Watkins tied his career high for TD catches. He had four previous two-TD games, including one against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in 2015 as a member of the Buffalo Bills.
"It's always good to see Sammy go off," Kelce said. "Everything he does, you're happy for the guy just because of the type of person he is and how hard he works during the week. It's awesome to see him have a day like he did today."
Watkins had his moments early in the season. He had six catches twice, 100 yards once and a touchdown in a Week 3 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
But he had always been outdone by one of his teammates, whether that was Kelce, wide receiver Tyreek Hill or Hunt -- and sometimes all of them. Even after his big game on Sunday, Watkins remains a distant third to Kelce and Hill in pass receptions and receiving yards and is fourth in receiving touchdowns.
On the surface, the Chiefs would seem to have reason to be disappointed in their investment. But given what their offense has become under Mahomes and how much they're getting from Kelce, Hill and Hunt, it's hard for them to be disappointed in anyone, even a $16 million receiver who's mostly been a complementary player.
"His approach has been unbelievable," Reid said. "He just comes out, does the same [thing], works hard. He's not concerned about how many catches he has or any of that. For a big-time receiver, that's unique.
"I mentioned it to the guys that there's only one ball and we have a bunch of guys who are pretty good players. When you have an opportunity, be a part of that, and he's done that. He's done a nice job with it."
On the injury front. ... Hill appeared to tweak his groin on a long catch early in the game, and he left late in the fourth quarter. The injury doesn't look serious and Hill practiced fully on Wednesday.
Reid said linebacker Justin Houston returned to practice today but was limited. He missed the last three games with a hamstring injury.
I'll be watching for more on his status in coming days; I'll report back as needed via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted, most teams would not want their bye-week break to happen during a four-game winning streak.
It comes at a good time, though, for the Chargers.
At 5-2, they have a winning record during their off week for the first time since 2014 despite not having one of their key defensive standouts play a game. Los Angeles is hoping Joey Bosa will be available when it begins preparations for its Nov. 4 game at Seattle.
Bosa has been out since early in training camp with a foot injury. He has spent the last two weeks rehabbing at the team facility during the team's road games at Cleveland and Tennessee in London.
"I think it's going to be really important for him," head coach Anthony Lynn said last week about the bye week for Bosa. "It'll give us another week and not have the stress of missing a game. I think it can do nothing but help him."
The Chargers struggled with their pass rush early in the season, but have 10 sacks over the past three games, which is tied for fourth-most in the league during that span. Defensive ends Isaac Rochell, Melvin Ingram and Darius Philon each have two sacks.
Bosa's return would create more matchup problems for opposing offenses. He has 23 career sacks in two seasons, including an NFL-record 19 in his first 20 games. The Chargers are ranked 16th in the league in total defense and have struggled on third down as opponents are converting 46.1 percent of the time. That is the third-worst percentage in the league.
All that said, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Bosa still has not progressed to the point where he is going to be ready to practice this week and he is not expected to return to the Chargers' lineup in time for next Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks, according to the source
Offensively, Philip Rivers is off to one of the best starts of his 15-year career. He's second in the league with a 117.8 passer rating and has a completion rate of 69.1 percent. Rivers' favorite target over the past three games has been Tyrell Williams, who has 10 receptions for 302 yards and three touchdowns.
Melvin Gordon is fifth in the league in yards rushing (466), but missed the game against Tennessee due to a hamstring injury. Lynn said he held Gordon out in the hopes the injury would not linger and that the fourth-year back would be ready for the last two months of the regular season.
Gordon is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, which is over a yard better than his career average of 3.95 yards. He also has 30 receptions and is on pace to surpass his career high of 58 from last season.
"I don't know what it is, we're just 'clicking' right now," Williams said. "Everybody is trusting the running backs to run and catch. Receivers are making plays and the offensive line is playing really well."
The Chargers did make a decision about their kicker this week. Caleb Sturgis missed four extra points in five games before suffering a quadriceps injury on Oct. 10. Mike Badgley made all three of his field-goal attempts and is 7 of 7 on extra points.
Nonetheless, Badgley was released on Tuesday leaving Sturgis as the lone kicker on the roster (Badgley was added back to the practice squad on Wednesday after clearing waivers).
Los Angeles is looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and has put itself in good position. Its schedule is favorable in November as it will face only one team with a winning record. The December slate will be more of a challenge as it includes a late-season trifecta against Cincinnati (Dec. 9), at Kansas City (Dec. 13) and then Baltimore on Dec. 22.
"We've kind of picked up, in some ways, where we left off last year (when the Chargers won nine of their final 12)," Rivers said. "We need to keep it going, though. We know the great teams sustain that over the long haul."
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams notes, the Chargers have finally solved the riddle of how to win close games -- an issue that had plagued the team over the past few years.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Chargers are 11-3 since Week 11 of last season -- only the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots have a better record in the NFL during that span.
And they are a perfect 11-0 when they have had a lead in the fourth quarter of those games.
"This team has a lot of grit," Lynn said. "This is a tough football team. We emphasize that, and our players go out and execute that. And I feel like they demonstrate that every single week."
From the start of the 2015 season to Week 10 of 2017, the Chargers lost 13 games when they led at any point during the fourth quarter -- four more than any other team. The Chargers also were 9-23 in one-score games (eight points or fewer) during that span, but they are 3-0 from Week 11 last season to the present in one-score games.
So how have the Chargers turned around their fortunes in close games? First, they are following an edict established when Lynn took over in January 2017 by taking care of the football.
During their 11-3 stretch, the Chargers have a plus-16 turnover margin, which is No. 1 in the NFL.
The Chargers also have closed out games by running the football. They are No. 9 in fourth-quarter rushing yards since Week 11 of last season.
Lynn pointed to the team's conditioning level as something he established when he took over the program last year. Strength coach John Lott established an offseason program built on more endurance and interval training, the kind a track athlete uses to create more stamina.
"We talk about being the best-conditioned team on the field," Lynn said. "They work at it. You see these guys out after practice running gassers, or inside running in the pool and on the treadmills.
"A lot of times it just comes down to stamina, last man standing. And these guys, I think they're in great shape right now, and that plays a part in it."
One last note here. ... Lynn said that Gordon (hamstring) would be a limited participant on Wednesday; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Andre Patton, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
Running back Todd Gurley broke free and was headed toward the end zone for a touchdown in the final minute of the Los Angeles Rams' 29-27 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
As ESPN's David Purdum noted, what happened next -- a heady play by Gurley that prevented the Packers from getting the ball back but also impacted the point spread and over/under total -- will go down in sports betting and fantasy football lore.
The Rams had just recovered a fumble on a Green Bay kickoff return deep in Packers territory and were in position to salt away the victory. On third-and-10 from the Green Bay 21-yard line, Gurley took a pitch, ran through the line untouched, picked up the first down and appeared to be on his way into the end zone. But instead of scoring, Gurley slowed up at the 10-yard line and allowed himself to be tackled at the 4 with just over a minute remaining. The Rams kneeled on the next play and ran out the clock.
"Man, forget fantasy and forget Vegas," Gurley said after the game. "We got the win, so that's all that matters."
First, the point spread: The Rams closed as 7.5-point favorites at most sportsbooks. If Gurley had scored, Los Angeles would have gone up nine.
The line had been as high as Rams -9.5 earlier in the week, but it started to shrink after money poured in on the Packers, who were the biggest underdogs they've been in the regular season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. On Sunday morning, 91 percent of the money that had been wagered on the game at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas was on Green Bay.
Secondly, the total closed around 57.5. If Gurley had scored, the game would have gone over the total.
The reaction from Las Vegas sportsbooks was mixed.
"We needed him to score in the worst way," Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill U.S., told ESPN in a text message.
"If Gurley goes in there," a Caesars Palace sportsbook manager said, "we lose a ton of teasers, get middled on the game, and the over crushes us. We're fans of his smart play."
A teaser is a form of parlay bet that allows bettors to move the spread, normally six points in their favor. A sportsbook loses on both sides of a game when it gets "middle."
MGM and William Hill sportsbooks said Gurley not scoring created six-figure swings against the house for them, and the South Point sportsbook said the Rams' two-point win produced the worst decision of the "worst Sunday of the season so far."
"It's not a 'bloodbath,' but a solid loser," Tim Fitzgerald, South Point sportsbook director, summarized the day in an email.
Gurley finished with 114 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown. A rushing touchdown and the added yardage would have given him the obvious six-plus additional fantasy points.
Meanwhile, shortly after the Rams defeated the Packers on Sunday, to the apparent surprise of Sean McVay, quarterback Jared Goff entered the team's X-ray room.
"Are you OK?" the coach asked as he prepared to hold his postgame news conference in an adjacent room.
Goff deadpanned: "Yeah. You OK?"
A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that he doesn't "think Goff will miss any time."
Goff completed 19 of 35 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the come-from-behind, 29-27 victory over the Packers. He also was sacked five times for the second time in three weeks.
"He took some shots. It was a physical game," McVay said. "But I think he's going to be good. I think no different than any other week where, physical football game, playing the quarterback position, sat in there, kept his eyes downfield, took some shots after he delivered the football ...
"I'm sure he'll be sore tomorrow, but I don't think it's going to be anything that's going to prevent him from being able to go this week."
The Rams (8-0) will face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in New Orleans. ...
Other notes of interest. ... McVay and Goff have both applauded second-year wide receiver Josh Reynolds' support in L.A.'s receiving corps in 2018.
Reynolds has recently stepped into a larger role, coming off an ankle injury suffered in the preseason and filling in at times for both wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp who each missed time to injuries over the last few weeks.
Reynolds started for the second-straight week against the Packers, and although he was L.A.'s fourth-best receiver in terms of yards, he provided two of the Rams' three touchdowns on the afternoon.
Before Sunday, Reynolds had only started in two games as a professional. He started in just one game in 2017, against the Saints in Week 12, and then earned the start just last week in San Francisco.
McVay said on Monday the Rams should see the return of Kupp this week after missing the last two games with a sprained MCL.
"I think there's a very good chance he'll be able to go this week," McVay said, via Myles Simmons of the team's website.
Kupp went down against the Denver Broncos in Week 6 when he was brought down in a horse-collar tackle by safety Darian Stewart. Kupp was carted off the field and briefly returned to the lineup before exiting for good.
Kupp has 30 receptions for 438 yards and five touchdowns in six games this season for the Rams. ...
And finally this week. ... The Rams spent the offseason making trades to shore up their defense, and continued right up to the deadline when they acquired former No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. from the Jaguars.
The Rams gave their 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-rounder in exchange. They dealt for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib this offseason.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
Wide receiver DeVante Parker got his chance in the Dolphins offense last Thursday night and made the most of it.
Parker set a career high with 134 yards on his six catches in the 42-23 loss to the Texans. The outing came a few days after Parker's agent blasted Dolphins coach Adam Gase for not playing his client in a rant that Parker said he disagreed with this week.
That may be the case, but Parker's performance made a strong argument for playing time. That may have been a surprise to some, but Parker said it wasn't a surprise to him.
"I already know who I am as a player," Parker said, via the Miami Herald. "I've still got the talent."
As Herald staffer Adam H. Beasley notes, that's true. Consistently maximizing that talent has been his problem. Heck, staying on the field has been a problem. Parker missed five of the first seven games this season for various reasons, including a broken middle finger, a bad quad and a coach's decision.
But when Parker is on, he's nearly unstoppable.
His numbers would have been even more impressive had Brock Osweiler not overthrown him deep down the left sideline. Parker had a step or two on Houston's secondary, and would have had a walk-in touchdown if the pass were on target.
And yet, his final stats were probably a fair representation of his night, seeing that 46 of those yards came on a wacky play that would have made Franco Harris smile.
Osweiler threw an on-target pass to Jakeem Grant, but the ball got jarred loose then ricocheted wildly off a helmet and into Parker's grasp.
It was one of a handful of breaks that could have swung the game in Miami's favor had the Dolphins gotten any stops.
"That shocked me," Parker said. It surprised me. It went like five yards towards me. I got an extra five yards. Just in the right spot at the right time."
Parker's name came up as a possible trade chip for Miami to use before Tuesday's trade deadline passed. Parker said it's "not on my mind at all" and the Dolphins' thoughts may have changed because of Albert Wilson's season-ending injury, but it wasn't long before we knew for sure.
The Dolphins considered trade offers last week, but that was before Wilson and Kenny Stills got hurt. The market for Parker surely improved after his first good game of 2018.
On Oct. 21, Parker's agent, Jimmy Gould, escalated an already sticky situation by calling Gase "incompetent" in a statement to ESPN that questioned the coach's honesty in how he has handled his client.
Parker was adamant that Gould did not speak for him and that it was "his own opinion."
He followed that up with his huge game against the Texans. ...
Meanwhile, Gase also said quarterback Ryan Tannehill is "slowly progressing" from the right shoulder injury that has kept him out for the past three games. Tannehill has begun light throwing, Gase said, but he's not ready to throw at the level he needs to be to play yet.
"He can throw a football. It's about how much power he can put behind," Gase said.
Indications are that Osweiler is in line to make his fourth start of the season Sunday vs. the New York Jets.
Gase said Tannehill threw tennis balls last week and has done some light throwing with a football. The Dolphins' coaching staff will watch Tannehill closely this week.
Gase said he would ideally like to identify this week's starting quarterback by Wednesday.
"He's in a position where he can throw a football. We're gaining strength in that area," Gase said of Tannehill. "We'll see more in the next few days of how he feels the next day after he gets a chance to throw -- how sore he is the next day or how much power he has."
Gase has repeatedly called Tannehill's injury "unusual," saying there is "a lot of gray" in how trainers evaluate his recovery. There is fear of a "huge setback" if they push him too fast.
Osweiler has received positive reviews from Gase and the Dolphins' coaching staff as Tannehill's replacement. Yet Gase has repeatedly said that Tannehill will be the starter once he is ready.
The coach confirmed on Wednesday, however, that it won't be this week; Osweiler will start after Tannehill went through drills at practice but did not throw any passes, according to the Miami Herald.
Stills was also a nonparticipant on Wednesday; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
A few final items. ... In case you missed it, the Dolphins made NFL history last Thursday night when Danny Amendola threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to running back Kenyan Drake in the third quarter. It made the Dolphins the first team to have two wide receivers throw a touchdown pass in one season (Wilson threw a touchdown pass to Grant against Oakland).
Additionally, Amendola joined Wilson, Tannehill and Osweiler with a touchdown pass for the Dolphins this season, tying the franchise record for most players throwing a TD pass in the same season. The record of four first was set in 1966 (Dick Wood, George Wilson, John Stofa, Rick Norton) and tied in 1983 (Dan Marino, David Woodley, Don Strock, Mark Clayton), 1993 (Marino, Scott Mitchell, Steve DeBerg, Keith Byars) and 2009 (Chad Henne, Chad Pennington, Tyler Thigpen, Ronnie Brown). ...
It took him a little bit to get going, but Drake has emerged as a solid fantasy football asset this season. Over his past four games, Drake is ninth in fantasy points for running back after going over 20 points per game in PPR formats in three of those four outings. ...
And last. ... Even though the Dolphins were off this weekend following the Thursday night game, Gase decided to give his players more rest and not start practicing until the usual Wednesday.
"We have some things to fix, obviously," Gase said. "The last two weeks haven't really gone as we thought. We need to make sure that we get a lot of things corrected and make some adjustments and make sure we have the right guys on the field. It'll be nice if we get some of these guys back that have been banged up. A few days off wouldn't hurt us, kind of getting a little bit of those two days, this weekend and then today and tomorrow we're not practicing.
"We should be pretty good on Wednesday."
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Patrick Laird, Samaje Perine
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Trevor Davis
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, Adam Thielen was in the process of stringing together another near-flawless performance, which had become the norm for the receiver during his first eight games of the season. And with just over a minute to play until halftime of a 30-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, everything started to come undone.
The Vikings were riding high throughout the first half of their rematch of January's NFC divisional playoffs, with quarterback Kirk Cousins carving up the Saints' secondary and utilizing his top two weapons, Thielen and Stefon Diggs, to do so.
After crossing into the red zone late in the first half, leading New Orleans by three, Cousins had Thielen in the slot and saw the Saints giving the Pro Bowl receiver a 10-yard cushion. It was a matchup he knew Thielen could win.
Thielen was wide open to receive a screen pass from Cousins and had the end zone in sight. Upon being hit by two Saints defenders at the 14-yard line, Thielen coughed up the ball -- his first lost fumble of the season and the Vikings' seventh, tied for the fourth-most in the NFL. New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore recovered Thielen's fumble and ran the ball 54 yards in the other direction.
"That's probably the biggest reason we lost the game," Thielen said. "When you have the momentum going into the half, going to score points in the second half, that's a huge play. It can't happen."
Thielen's costly mistake delivered a huge blow, but it didn't have to be the dagger. On Lattimore's return, Minnesota receiver Laquon Treadwell let his temper flare and was hit with unsportsmanlike conduct after slamming his helmet into the ground after he tackled the cornerback at the Vikings' 33-yard line, which then moved the Saints to Minnesota's 18. Two plays later, New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara was in for a touchdown.
"That's something I haven't done," Treadwell said of his penalty. "It's an emotional game and I have to control my emotions."
Cronin went on to point out that costly blunders, self-inflicted wounds and atypical errors haunted the Vikings on "Sunday Night Football." and it started with the mistake they made when they were 14 yards away from scoring before halftime.
Minnesota would get a shot at redemption after the Saints' touchdown. With 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter and two timeouts left (the Vikings lost their third timeout four plays into the game when Mike Zimmer lost a challenge), Minnesota ran one play -- a 7-yard rush by Mike Boone -- and decided to run out the clock instead of taking one last shot at the end zone.
Zimmer acknowledged his decision not to try and drive the ball down the field with 30 seconds left was affected by the fumble.
At the time, Cousins was 5-of-5 for 75 yards when targeting Thielen and 4-of-4 for 54 yards and a TD when targeting Diggs. Instead, the Vikings went into halftime trailing by four.
Coming out of the half, the Vikings still appeared shaken by how the second quarter ended. On Minnesota's first drive in the third quarter, Cousins was nearly picked off by Saints linebacker Manti Te'o and failed to complete a pass to Treadwell on fourth-and-1 from Minnesota's 45-yard line. While Treadwell was covered over the middle of the field by Lattimore, Cousins had two wide open reads with Thielen and Aldrick Robinson.
The Vikings' downward spiral didn't stop there. Upon getting the ball back the following drive, Cousins threw an interception, which was returned 45 yards for a touchdown by none other than P.J. Williams, the cornerback Cousins picked apart in the first half.
On the play, Diggs appeared to stop on his route, which the wide receiver shouldered the blame for postgame.
"[Cousins] was under duress and I was trying to give him a relief throw just because the pocket was collapsing and I was trying to show him my hands and he just did what he's coached to do, threw it to the spot," Diggs said. "Miscommunication, and I take full responsibility. He did everything right. It was all me."
Asked about the same play, Cousins noted he was "just playing to play fast" and said he would discuss what happened with Diggs and how to fix things "internally."
Costly mistakes created a snowball effect for Minnesota, and in the end, it was too much to overcome. Not even a miracle could have saved the Vikings from their own demise in Week 8.
"We beat ourselves," Thielen said. "All credit to them, though. That is a really good football team. They made a lot of plays and they were able to capitalize on the turnovers. That's how this league works. Usually the team who wins the turnover battle wins the game. ..."
On a more positive note, the Vikings totaled 85 yards rushing against the Saints, who entered the game ranked No. 1 in run defense, thanks in large part to Latavius Murray's efforts.
Murray recorded 56 yards on 13 carries, his longest being a 12-yard surge for a Vikings first down. He also added five catches for 39 yards through the air.
Zimmer said "getting to the second level, probably" has been the Vikings biggest stride in the run game after struggling to get it going to start the season.
Through the first four games, the Vikings averaged 85 rushing yards per game, a number that is somewhat skewed by 116 against the 49ers in Week 1.
Over the past four games, Minnesota's rushing average has increased to 111.3 rushing yards per contest, including a 195-yard outing against the Cardinals in Week 7.
Meanwhile, running back Dalvin Cook told Minneapolis Star-Tribune staffer Andrew Krammer on Monday he's unsure if he'll practice this week, which is his seventh week dealing with a lingering hamstring injury suffered Sept. 16 in Green Bay.
Cook missed his fifth game of the season Sunday night. He had practiced on and off before last week, when the Vikings held him out to give his leg more time to heal.
Cook said his hamstring is "feeling great," but that he's wary of setbacks like what appeared to happen in the Sept. 27 loss in Los Angeles when he played 10 days after the initial injury.
"[Rest] definitely helped me, but that's the tricky thing about these things," Cook said. "They feel good, but you go out there, overextend and do something stupid; set you back."
If rest is best for Cook, the Vikings could possibly sit him through this week against the Lions and aim at a Week 11 return after the upcoming bye. Cook has 205 yards from scrimmage in three games this season.
According to Cronin, Cook, Xavier Rhodes, Riley Reiff and Andrew Sendejo were practicing during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to media.
Diggs, Anthony Barr, Roc Thomas and Tom Compton were not. It's a rib injury for Diggs; I'll have more on Diggs and Cook (who was officially limited) when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday. ...
Beyond that, Thielen and Diggs each topped the 100-yard mark and found the end zone against the Saints.
Diggs had 10 catches for 119 yards and a score, his third-highest output of the season.
Thielen recorded nine catches for 103 yards and a score. He had a touchdown catch for the fifth straight game. Thielen also eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the eighth straight game, which is a record to open a season and tied the overall streak of eight games along with former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
Thielen leads the NFL with 74 catches for 925 yards, and he also has six touchdowns.
Murray and tight end Kyle Rudolph each had 39 receiving yards.
One last note here, ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft offered up the following this week: "Most PPR fantasy points by a WR thru his team's first 8 games (since 1950): Crazy Legs Hirsch 222.1, 1951 Torry Holt 215.3, 2003 Bobby Mitchell 206.3, 1962 Rod Smith 204.6, 2001 Marvin Harrison 203.1, 1999 Raymond Berry 202.6, 1960 Thielen 202.0, 2018 Wes Welker 201.2, 2011."
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
According to NBCSports.com's Tom E. Curran, if you had any doubt whether the 2018 Patriots had grown to rely on a potent ground game and, in particular, Sony Michel, then the offensive output against the Bills should douse it.
The Patriots ran 26 times for 76 yards and nearly one-third of those came on a 22-yard burst by Cordarrelle Patterson in the fourth quarter.
It was a key run, to be sure, as the Patriots scored their lone offensive touchdown of the night on that drive but, again, it was a wide receiver running it. From the running back spot. And it wasn't a novelty act.
Patterson led the team with 10 carries while running backs James White and Kenjon Barner combined for 10 carries and 19 yards.
Currant went on to note that Michel's absence and the lack of a play-action passing game that the Bills had to take seriously doesn't explain wholly explain the Patriots offensive struggles.
The Bills defense when the Patriots got deep was as difficult to maneuver against as Bill Belichick and Tom Brady advertised all week.
After punting on their opening possession, the Patriots had their next four drives stall on Buffalo's 7, 22, 20 and 32-yard lines, forcing them to settle for four field-goal attempts. Stephen Gostkowski made the first three before missing the fourth - a 50-yarder - in the closing seconds of the first half.
"They made us grind it out, grind out every yard," said Belichick.
"They made it tough on us," said Brady, who finished with 324 passing yards on 29-for-45 passing but no touchdowns, the first time since Week 3 in 2005 that he passed for 320 or more yards with no TDs. "We'll take the win however we can get it. They don't give up any big plays. We'd get in the red area but couldn't get in the end zone. If we scored those touchdowns we'd feel a lot better but they've been playing good all year."
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was held to three catches on eight targets for 43 yards in the win, echoed his quarterback. "We've got to put some touchdowns up," Gronkowski said. "Can't just come away with field goals all day. It just comes down to execution - getting more open and giving Tom more room to throw the ball. (We've) just got to execute down there better for sure."
Despite his lack of punch as a runner, White once again was the most effective part of the offense. He finished with 10 catches on 13 targets for 79 yards. The game's key play was made by White -- as it so often has been this season. On a third-and-8 from the Patriots 47 with 12:03 left and the Patriots ahead by the still-meager margin of 12-6, Brady hit White in the left flat and he gave a shimmy that left linebacker Julian Stanford grasping at air.
After that came the Patterson 22-yarder and a back-shoulder throw to Chris Hogan down to the Bills 1. White went in from there.
This was Julian Edelman's best game as well. He went over 100 yards receiving (10 catches for 104) and had a big 26-yard gain earlier in the Patriots touchdown drive. Edelman also carried twice for 13 yards.
The Patriots are now pointed toward a Sunday Night Football showdown with the Packers.
As Curran put it, "Green Bay will score."
The Patriots - who put up 38, 38, 43 and 24 on offense in their past four games will need a bigger output than the 18 they put up Monday night.
Green Bay has its own issues to deal with after a demoralizing loss to the Rams and some anonymous locker room finger-pointing after the loss. But the Patriots will need to get more on the ground. Since Michel went down, they've managed 154 yards on 49 carries (3.14 average) and 35 offensive points in the last seven quarters.
Although he was subsequently ruled out well in advance of this game, the fact that Michel made it back to the practice field on Saturday before initially being listed as doubtful is encouraging. I'll be following his progress closely in coming day; watch the Late-Breaking News section for more. ...
In a related note. ... White now leads the AFC with 55 catches (he's sixth in the NFL). His six touchdown receptions are tied for fourth.
With 55 catches in eight games, White boasts the second highest total in NFL history at this stage, trailing only the 58 recorded by Matt Forte in Chicago (2014) and Saquon Barkley this year.
As NFL Network's Mike Giardi pointed out, that's more catches for White than all-time great receiving backs like Marshall Faulk, Larry Centers, Darren Sproles, Priest Holmes and Reggie Bush had at this stage (they were all between 50 and 54 through eight games). All in all, it's been an impressive first half for White. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Shortly before the Patriots took on the Bills Monday night, there was a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that wide receiver Josh Gordon would be benched for the early part of the game as punishment for being late.
That report was followed by others that indicated Gordon was late for a team meeting as well as the team bus to the airport for the flight to Buffalo for Monday's game, but no punishment materialized. When the Patriots offense took the field in the first quarter, Gordon was one of the 11 players on the field and he wound up playing 64-of-78 offensive snaps in the win.
After the game, Belichick said he didn't know anything about the report.
"Yeah, I don't know," Belichick said, via NESN.com. "You'd have to ask whoever wrote that. I have no idea."
Gordon referred questions to Belichick while adding that he "was available, so that's a plus."
Gordon caught four passes for 42 yards in his fifth game with the Patriots.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers
TEs: Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, this time, the New Orleans Saints' defense stole one away from the Minnesota Vikings.
An improbable pick-six by cornerback P.J. Williams in the third quarter fueled the Saints' sixth straight victory, and they head toward a clash of the NFC titans next Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome: The 8-0 Los Angeles Rams at the 6-1 Saints.
No, Sunday night's 30-20 victory at Minnesota didn't make up for the "Minneapolis Miracle."
But it did provide a little revenge for that crushing playoff loss in January, which ended with Stefon Diggs' stunning, 61-yard touchdown as time expired.
Perhaps most importantly, Sunday's game provided reason for hope that New Orleans' embattled secondary can do enough to keep this team in serious Super Bowl contention. Nobody who watched the first 29 minutes -- or the first two months of this season, for that matter -- would have expected the Saints' secondary to lead New Orleans to its most important victory to date.
But that's exactly what happened on a night when Drew Brees threw for 120 yards and threw his first interception of the season in the second quarter against a feisty Vikings defense.
It was the lowest yardage total of Brees' career when he played a full game.
The Saints' offense definitely contributed to the win (Alvin Kamara had 76 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, and Michael Thomas caught five passes for 81 yards). But the Saints would not have won if the defense hadn't stepped up against one of the NFL's most potent passing attacks.
Remember, the Saints' pass defense had become such a concern that they traded fourth- and seventh-round draft picks to acquire cornerback Eli Apple from the New York Giants earlier this week. (Apple started Sunday night, while former starter Ken Crawley was inactive. Apple got picked on a bit early but held tight in the second half like the rest of the defense).
The Saints' defense will likely battle inconsistent performances for the remainder of the season, especially with coach Sean McVay, quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and the Rams' dynamic receiving corps heading to town this week.
But if the Saints' defense can keep stepping up when needed in big moments such as these, it won't have to be traveling back to Minnesota or anywhere else come January. ...
Meanwhile, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune noted, head coach Sean Payton threw the kitchen sink at the Vikings on the opening drive. He ran several plays with Taysom Hill at quarterback, including one with both Brees and Teddy Bridgewater lined up at wide receiver. Hill also threw a 44-yard pass to Thomas out of the read-option package.
It was the longest completion of Hill's Saints career. The Saints capped the eight-play, 81-yard drive in fitting fashion, with Kamara scoring from the 3-yard line on a shovel pass from Brees. It was wacky finish to a wacky opening drive.
Afterward, Peyton said the opening script was part of the plan to be aggressive and show the Vikings defense something it hadn't seen.
The three-quarterback play was called Bridgewater 11. "When we first installed it in the week, we all laughed," Hill said. "It's a ton of fun being out there with the guys."
Sunday's game featured two of the best receivers in the NFL in Thomas and Adam Thielen, and both wasted no time in showing off their great hands. Thomas made a spectacular leaping two-handed catch over Trae Waynes to convert a third-and-2.
Thomas somehow got both feet in bounds as he tight-roped the sideline. Later in the drive, he made a diving catch of a 44-yard pass from Hill.
Thielen one-upped Thomas a few plays later when he made a leaping, two-handed catch over the head and off the back of P.J. Williams and somehow maintained control of the ball as he fell to the ground. You won't see two better catches this season.
Thielen finished seven catches for 103 yards, while Thomas had five catches for 81 yards.
In a related note. ... Cameron Meredith wasn't targeted against the Vikings. It's the second-straight week Meredith was held without a catch and it's further indication that Tre'Quan Smith is locked in as the WR2 behind Thomas. ...
Kamara received a heavy workload in this one, which was to be expected given the Vikings' struggles to defend opposing running backs. Kamara had 12 touches in the first half as a runner, receiver and returner. He scored both of the Saints' first-half touchdowns.
He took some major punishment from the physical Vikings defense but still was running hard late in the game. The 5-10, 215-pounder is remarkably resilient despite the pounding he takes each game.
He finished with a team-high 20 touches -- 13 carries, seven receptions -- and 76 yards from scrimmage.
Now the Saints will return home to host the Rams, whose scheme has looked invincible at times but showed some vulnerability as they held off the Green Bay Packers 29-27 on Sunday. Goff missed on 9 of 12 pass attempts when pressured, averaging just 4.0 yards per attempt.
The Saints sacked Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins four times, hitting him a total of nine times, according to the official game book, and forced two turnovers.
If the Saints can produce that kind of havoc on the road, imagine what they could bring against the Rams at home. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this matchup will be the first time both teams enter the game averaging 33.0 PPG this late in the season. ...
On the injury front. ... Defensive end Marcus Davenport picked up two sacks and a toe injury in last Sunday’s win over the Vikings.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Davenport is getting tests on his toe to determine the level of severity, but the initial outlook indicates the rookie will miss a month.
The Saints gave up next year’s first-round pick to trade for Davenport in the first round of this year’s draft. He’s produced 11 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble while playing on 46 percent of the defensive snaps. ...
And finally. ... It's been overshadowed by the heroics of Brees and the Saints' other stars, but kicker Wil Lutz is enjoying a really strong season. He has now made 13 consecutive field goals and is 15 for 16 on the season.
And most of Lutz's kicks are no-doubters right down the middle. He's kicking with extreme confidence right now. It's been a while since the Saints' kicking game was this strong.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan framed it: "Anything and everything appears on the table for the New York Giants as they head into their bye week with the worst record in the NFL. Changes could be coming to their offense."
This was head coach Pat Shurmur's stance after his team again struggled offensively in a 20-13 loss to the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. New York's only touchdown came with 17 seconds remaining.
"I'm going to look at everything," Shurmur said postgame when asked about making drastic changes. "Look at everything as we move forward."
The natural questions begin at the quarterback position, where soon-to-be 38-year-old Eli Manning has eight touchdown passes and eight turnovers through eight games. He has been sacked 31 times, eight shy of his career high, with eight games remaining.
"I don't want to go there and I'm not going to tease that," Shurmur responded when asked specifically about the quarterback position. "I just want to look at everything and see what we have to do moving forward."
A day later, Shurmur was ready to re-commit to Manning.
"Eli's our QB," Shurmur told reporters Monday morning. "We've got to do what we can to help him be better. There's a handful of plays where he needs to be better. That's obvious."
OK, but what about after the bye?
Does this mean Manning will start Week 10's game against the San Francisco 49ers?
"We'll see," Shurmur told reporters (via NFL.com's Herbie Teope). "But yeah, I think Eli's our QB. I know what you're all trying to tease a headline out of. At this point Eli's our QB and we're looking at all ways to improve."
There's little doubt Manning needs to improve his play.
But the Giants desperately require improved play around the signal-caller, especially the offensive line when considering Manning is on pace to get sacked a career-high 62 times for the season.
At 1-7, the Giants could have elected to seek upgrades with free-agent signings or through trades. And the team showed willingness in the past week to ship defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Eli Apple to other teams in exchange for future draft picks.
But Tuesday's trade deadline came and went without any moves.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham or safety Landon Collins were of interest if the Giants wanted to move them. Indeed, Fox's Jay Glazer reported teams had inquired about the recently re-signed Beckham, but the Giants didn't want to move him and would have to eat $16 million in dead money next year if they did.
"[Trade rumors were] tossed around in the offseason. I don't think I am going anywhere," Beckham said. "All I want to do is be the very best that I can be when I'm on the field. Off the field as well. It's really hard to think about that, but it is what it is."
Beckham had eight catches on 11 targets for 136 yards against the Redskins, his third game with at least 130 receiving yards in the past four weeks.
He was asked if with the Giants is where he wants to be. Beckham nodded and then added, "This is where I'm at."
So for now, it appears the Giants will remain content with what they have and use the bye week to fully evaluate the roster.
Will that include evaluating the quarterbacks below Manning on the depth chart?
Alex Tanney has served as the backup quarterback for each of the Giants' first eight games. But Raanan believes if they make a change, it likely would be aimed at getting the more athletic Kyle Lauletta experience and playing time.
Lauletta is a fourth-round pick out of Richmond.
For what it's worth, Manning was asked prior to the deadline if he would waive his no-trade clause should a team make an offer for his services.
Manning shook his head and said, "I want to stay here."
Manning has been with the Giants since the 2004 NFL draft. He is a two-time Super Bowl MVP seemingly nearing the end of his career.
The Giants and Manning are at a crossroads. They are headed nowhere in what already has evolved into a lost season. Following an offseason filled with moves designed for them to compete for a playoff spot with Manning as the quarterback, they are already buried in the NFC East cellar at 1-7.
And the biggest problem is an offense that can't score points.
"On offense, we've got to score more points," Shurmur acknowledged. "Until we unlock that, until we get down there and score touchdowns, then it's going to be tough sledding. So that's where it is. You can't score 13 points in any game at any level and expect to win them. We've got to unlock that; we've got to get that better. Whatever it is, we've got to get that figured out. We've got to put the ball in the end zone more often."
Some more numbers that explain just how deep the Giants' offensive woes run:
The Giants have failed to score 20 or more points in five games this season. There are 26 teams averaging more than 20 points. Four teams are averaging over 30 points. The Giants have topped 30 once in their past 40 games.
The Giants have scored 14 total touchdowns in eight games this season. Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley has surpassed that by himself.
Manning has thrown eight touchdowns in eight games this season. Miami's Ryan Tannehill has thrown eight, and he has missed the Dolphins' past three games. Twenty-two quarterbacks have 10 or more touchdown passes already season. Two quarterbacks are already over 20.
Manning and Beckham have connected on 25 percent of their passes in the red zone this season. They connected on 59 percent their first four years together, with 21 TDs and one interception.
Something has to change.
One last note here ... Not that it had an impact on any major personnel decisions, but Lauletta was arrested Tuesday morning for a traffic violation in Weehawken, New Jersey.
Lauletta was reportedly trying to make a right turn from the wrong lane to get to Route 495 West. He was told to keep going straight, but made the turn anyway and nearly ran over the officer at the scene. Lauletta was then stopped by another office at the end of the on-ramp.
Lauletta has been charged with eluding police, obstructing administration of law and resisting arrest along with motor vehicle charges that include reckless driving and disregarding an officer's instructions.
Per the police report, Lauletta was observed driving recklessly in traffic as he closed in on a highway entrance and was told by an officer to continue driving in a marked lane. Lauletta allegedly came close to hitting the officer while making an illegal turn in an attempt to evade him and then refused to cooperate with another officer who stopped him a short time later.
The report also says that Lauletta's car was involved in a similar incident on Monday and issued a summons by mail because he was not stopped at the scene.
"We were made aware of the situation this morning, and we have been in contact with Kyle," Shurmur said in a statement. "We are still in the process of gathering information. This is obviously very disappointing."
Lauletta was not at Tuesday's practice. It was a missed opportunity with it being a veteran day and the rookie quarterback likely pegged to receive some first-team snaps.
Most of the players didn't seem to know why Lauletta wasn't at practice. They were hearing and reading about the incident during the open locker room period after practice.
"Definitely really surprised," Barkley said. "Don't know too much about it. That's more sort of a question for Coach Shurmur. I know Kyle really well and it was definitely shocking. I don't know too much about it to speak on it to be honest, but I know it's really nothing probably. I know it sounds crazy but I know it's probably nothing crazy because of the person he is."
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott
TEs: Kaden Smith, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. noted, all those good feelings and positive vibes from a two-game winning streak are long gone. Two straight losses have the Jets scrambling for answers - again - and they need to find them fast.
Todd Bowles' bunch is 3-5 after eight games for the third straight season. New York finished 5-11 in each of the past two, and a repeat performance might not sit well with ownership - or the fans.
"It's very frustrating," Bowles said Monday during a conference call. "We've got to put our heads down and we've got to correct this and we've got to try to come out and win some ballgames.
"The season's not over, but we're halfway through and we're 3-5 and you don't like where you are, but we've dug ourselves this hole, we've got to dig ourselves out."
Easier said than done, of course. Especially based on how the previous two seasons played out.
New York has a pair of AFC East rivals up next on the schedule, with a game at Miami next Sunday before the Jets return home to face Buffalo in two weeks. Then, they'll have their bye-week break - and have a good sense of what direction their season is heading.
The Jets ended a three-game skid three weeks ago with a convincing 34-16 win over Denver and followed that up by outlasting Indianapolis in a 42-34 victory to get their record back to .500 at 3-3. But in a 37-17 loss to Minnesota last week and an ugly 24-10 defeat at Chicago on Sunday, New York has looked flat and sloppy.
Injuries to key players such as wide receivers Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, running back Bilal Powell and center Spencer Long haven't helped.
But the Jets have also not made things easy on themselves with penalties, including eight against the Bears.
"Just shooting ourselves in the foot," quarterback Sam Darnold said. "The penalties killed. If we don't have the early false starts, I think it's just a different game."
New York was actually called for 10 penalties, with eight accepted. Of those, five were false starts and two neutral-zone infractions.
"That was probably the worst part of the game," Bowles said. "It's just a concentration thing by certain guys at certain times. We get that fixed as coaches, they've got to fix it as players. The false starts were the most disheartening thing of the whole ballgame."
That's saying a lot, considering there was plenty not to like against the Bears.
Darnold was 14 of 29 for 153 yards and a touchdown to Chris Herndon (his third-straight game with a scoring catch), but the offense was sluggish for most of the game. New York had just 207 yards of total offense, the third-lowest total in Bowles' three-plus seasons - and that's even with Chicago being without the injured Khalil Mack.
The running game was completely ineffective with just 57 yards on 24 attempts, a dismal average of 2.4 yards per carry. That's a far cry from the 323 yards rushing, boosted by Isaiah Crowell's franchise-record 219, against Denver three weeks ago.
As Cimini noted, the Jets need to rediscover their running game. Against the Khalil Mack-less Bears, Crowell and Trenton Cannon combined for 35 yards on 19 carries. At one point, Crowell failed to gain a yard on five straight carries. The longest run of the day? It was 13 yards by Darnold.
"Very frustrating," Crowell said.
"That's a good question," Bowles said when asked about the running game's struggles lately. "I didn't think it was good at all yesterday. I thought they beat us up front and they beat us to the punch.
"I thought we missed some assignments that we've got to correct, but we've got to keep grinding at it. We can't be up and down. We've got to be consistent at it. If we want to throw the ball consistently, we got to be able to run it consistently."
In the meantime, as ESPN.com's Rich Cimini suggested, if they're lucky, the Jets will get backups Osweiler and the Buffalo Bills' Derek Anderson in the next two games. It's a chance to turn around the season, saving themselves from pre-Thanksgiving irrelevancy.
It'll take some doing, though. ...
On the injury front. ... Enunwa (ankle) had a helmet and was on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice while Anderson (ankle) was not seen; neither man practiced, however. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Bilal Powell, Ty Montgomery, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Tim White, Demaryius Thomas
TEs: Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez wrote, "This was how Derek Carr was supposed to look and play in Jon Gruden's offense, right?
"A dash of West Coast offense dink and dunk here, a sprinkling of that pixie dust from 2016 there and, voila: a more comfortable and confident Carr in the pocket, exhibiting presence and poise and stepping into his throws.
"Indeed, this was the best Carr has looked in the pocket since Dec. 24, 2016, when these same Indianapolis Colts broke the Oakland Raiders quarterback's right leg and ended his dream season. ..."
Gutierrez went on to note that while Carr had three passing touchdowns and his first career rushing score on Sunday, the nightmare of 2018 continued with a 42-28 loss to the Colts in a game the Raiders led, 21-13, in the third quarter. Oakland fell to 1-6 heading into Thursday night's road game against the San Francisco 49ers (1-7) -- a contest that will feature the lowest combined winning percentage (.133) for a prime-time NFL game on Nov. 1 or later, per The Associated Press.
Still, Carr was upbeat.
"It shows that everything we're doing is right, to me," said Carr, who completed 21 of 28 passes for 244 yards and had three TD passes for a passer rating of 136.6 and also scored his first career rushing touchdown.
"Everything that coach is asking me to do, obviously the results haven't been what we wanted, but I wish I could tell you there was like some magical thing I did different [today], because that would make for a better story. But I've been doing the same thing, just listening to my coaches. ... Just trying to get better every week. ... I know that with certain guys gone that I do have to step up being more vocal."
Gruden has asked Carr to be more vocal.
And Carr has been under scrutiny since essentially bottoming out in London two weeks ago in a 27-3 blowout loss to the Seattle Seahawks, when he was sacked six times and had reportedly lost a "fractured" locker room.
Gruden, though, was not having it Sunday afternoon.
"I don't think the criticism is anything we are really going to address," Gruden said. "The critics are going to be critics. I've said I think he's a great player.
"Again, I'll say I think he's the strength of this team and I'm excited about him."
Carr completed 17 straight passes at one point, and his 1-yard score over the top of the pile was his first career rushing TD in his 69th game. It was the first rushing TD by a Raiders quarterback since Terrelle Pryor went 93 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 27, 2013.
"I saw him having fun today," running back Jalen Richard said of Carr. "I saw him having fun today, like not worrying about anything.
Especially when he hit Seth Roberts in stride for a 31-yard TD. And when he found Jared Cook on a similar skinny post pattern for a 25-yard score. Same with the 6-yard TD he threw to Brandon LaFell in the third quarter to give the Raiders a 28-21 lead.
Being kept clean by an offensive line to the tune of just one QB hit and no sacks will grow confidence for both the line and the quarterback.
Just imagine how much more "fun" these games would be with a victory attached.
"I'm not even close to where I can be," Carr said. "I still missed a few passes today that I wish I had back. I know that things can be better.
"Just to go out there and score some points and be efficient -- it does help you feel better as a human. At the same time, I didn't really feel good, because we lost. I'm tired of losing."
As are the Raiders and their fans.
"For the most part, we've done some really good things," Carr said. "Today was. ... Just reaffirming what I already knew. When the wins come, hopefully everyone will know, too."
Also of interest. ... Doug Martin's first game as the Raiders' lead running back went well until his final carry.
After the Colts took a 35-28 lead Sunday, the Raiders got the ball back with 5:28 left. Martin carried on the first play of the possession and had the ball punched out by linebacker Darius Leonard. The Colts recovered Martin's fumble and drove 27 yards on five plays for a touchdown.
"I thought my stiff-arm was going to be to the point where he wasn't going to be able to reach the ball," Martin said. "But I've got to hang onto it. No excuses."
In his first game replacing Marshawn Lynch, who was placed on injured reserve last week because of a groin injury, Martin carried 13 times for 72 yards and added two receptions for 17 yards.
"Thought Doug Martin stepped up," Gruden said, "other than the fumble late in the game. ..."
Gruden was not sure if Lynch would return to play for Oakland this season. "I would say it would be very difficult but I'm never going to shut the door on a guy like that," Gruden said, adding that the Raiders are already eyeing the likes of defensive tackle Justin Ellis, who is expected to start practicing this week, and right tackle Donald Penn, who suffered a groin injury against the Browns in Week 4, as the Raiders' two return-from-IR candidates.
"We'll see what happens with how fast they heal."
Lynch was injured late in the Raiders' 27-3 loss to the Seahawks in London two weeks ago and would not be eligible to return for a game until the penultimate game of the season, the Christmas Eve home finale against the Broncos.
LaFell's 6-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter Sunday was the 30th of his career but his first with the Raiders. LaFell had appeared in two games this season but was inactive the last three games.
"Before the play, (Carr) was in the huddle calling the play and every guy was talking, 'I'm going to be open,' and I just winked at him," LaFell said. "I'm like, 'Hey, all week you ain't thrown me the ball on this play but I'm telling you I'm going to be wide open.' It happened just the way I thought it would."
With LaFell and Roberts both scoring, it's worth noting that Martavis Bryant wasn't targeted in this game.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
A trip to London got the Eagles back on track. Now, they have a week off to get ready for the second half.
They got the ball rolling with by pulling off a trade at the deadline for the second year in a row, acquiring Pro Bowl wide receiver Golden Tate from the Detroit Lions for a 2019 third-round pick.
Tate, the 2010 second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks has 581 receptions for 6,936 yards and 37 touchdowns in 129 career regular-season games. He has also added 28 catches for 318 yards and two touchdowns in nine postseason games. The 30-year-old Tate was the Lions' leading receiver this year with 44 grabs for 517 yards and three scores.
Since signing with the Lions in 2014, Tate is the first player in Detroit history - and just the seventh ever - to post 90 or more receptions in four consecutive seasons. Tate, at 5-10 and 197 pounds, also leads all NFL receivers in yards after the catch since 2014 with 3,910.
Tate won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2013. He followed that up in Detroit by earning Pro Bowl honors in 2014, with 99 catches for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.
Last year, the Eagles sent a fourth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for running back Jay Ajayi, who led the Eagles in rushing yards in the playoffs on the way to the Super Bowl.
So the defending Super Bowl champions are 4-4 following Sunday's 24-18 win over struggling Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium. But they're right in the mix in the NFC East and have two games remaining against the division-leading Redskins (5-2) with their newfound receiving firepower.
"We were together for about 2 1/2 days, and it's really good to be able to do that," head coach Doug Pederson said Monday about playing in London. "This is why it was a great trip. Great timing for the trip, obviously. The guys handled their business extremely well, treated it like a business trip, like we always do."
Pederson gave the team a full week off instead of bringing them in for practice or meetings, saying: "I think just having the time off is really crucial."
It should help some of the injured players. The list grew when right tackle Lane Johnson hurt his knee on the opening possession against the Jaguars and cornerback Jalen Mills suffered a foot injury. Pederson couldn't provide an update on either because they weren't evaluated by the medical staff.
Reinforcements -- beyond Tate -- could be on the way by the time the Eagles return to practice. Running back Darren Sproles is getting closer to returning after missing seven games with a hamstring injury. Wide receivers Mack Hollins and Mike Wallace and tight end Richard Rodgers are on injured reserve and two of them could be activated.
The Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night Nov. 11. ...
For what it's worth, the week leading up to Sunday's game was the first of Carson Wentz's young career when grumblings could be heard in Philadelphia about the quarterback's play.
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus put it, "Not full-on Philly heat," but after Wentz failed to punch it in the waning moments last week against the Carolina Panthers despite being deep in Carolina territory, some questions popped up: Does he need to be more clutch late in games (he has three game-winning drives in three seasons)? Is he struggling with his decision-making? How much of the Panthers loss, and the Eagles' slow start to the season, should he wear? It was a topic of conversation on sports talk stations and around watercoolers. Coach Doug Pederson was even asked whether he would speak with Wentz about blocking out the noise.
You can bet those grumblings grew louder after Wentz committed two turnovers on the first two possessions in London.
Wentz rebounded in a big way, though, tossing three touchdowns, sending Philly into its bye at 4-4 and with some hope for the second half of the season.
"He played awesome. He even caught a pass," joked receiver Alshon Jeffery, referencing the batted pass that Wentz corralled and advanced for a first down early in the game. "He's just getting comfortable, getting into a rhythm."
Wentz now has the second-most three-touchdown games over the past two seasons with eight, trailing only Tom Brady (nine) -- a stat that's all the more impressive when you consider he missed the final three-plus games last year. He has tossed 13 TDs to two interceptions on the year.
Against the Jaguars, Jordan Matthews had four receptions for game-high 93 yards and all four of his catches gained first downs.
"You need to have a quarterback who can put the ball where it needs to be and Carson does that," said Matthews, who has 10 receptions for 200 yards and a touchdown since rejoining the team on September 19. "I'm kind of a 'feel' player and a lot of those routes I just have to find space and Carson is going to put the ball where it needs to be. He made it easy for me so it was great to go out there and help us get the win."
"The thing I love about J-Matt is, you can put him at Z, X (receiver positions), he's going to get the job done," Wentz said. "Both blocking, all the stuff we ask our receivers to do blocking-wise. He can make plays, beat man coverage. We saw him do it a couple years ago here for a while. It was big for him to step up the way he did today. It was cool to have him be the leading receiver again. It's been a while."
Matthews and Wentz are tight on and off the field and it shows when Wentz knows Matthews is going to get to his spot. Playing against a Jacksonville secondary decimated by injuries, Wentz spread the ball around. He targeted Matthews five times. He completed four passes for 35 yards to Jeffery, who was shadowed all game by All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Nelson Agholor was targeted six times and had three receptions for 49 yards.
Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert combined for five receptions, 58 yards, and a pair of touchdowns. Running back Wendell Smallwood took a screen pass and went 36 yards for a touchdown.
"He got us all involved," Matthews said. "We had a lot of talent here, a lot of weapons. It's just a matter of us doing our jobs and Carson putting us in great position."
I'll be looking for more on how Tate will be integrated into the mix and report back via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Rookie Josh Adams provided a steadying presence at the running back position. The Eagles have cycled through running backs this season due to injury, but in London, it was Adams who made the most of his opportunity, rushing for a game-high 61 yards on nine carries.
Corey Clement rushed four times for six yards (with one catch for minus-one yard) while Smallwood had eight carries for 24 yards (with two catches for 42 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown).
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Jay Ajayi
WRs: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Robert Davis, Nelson Agholor
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves noted on Monday, the Steelers aren't surprised by the success of second-year running back James Conner.
Conner continues to shine in the spotlight while two-time All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell remains away from the team. Conner enjoyed a history-making day, accounting for more than 200 all-purpose yards during the Steelers' 33-18 home win against Cleveland on Sunday.
"He's doing what he's been doing the whole time," right guard David DeCastro said. "He's keeping his head down and running really hard. He's a fun guy to block for."
Bell, who finished as the NFL's third-leading rusher last season, still has not reported nor signed his one-year, $14.5 million franchise tender.
Conner has taken full advantage while Bell has been away.
He finished Sunday's game with 212 all-purpose yards, just 25 fewer than the Browns totaled as a team. Conner, a 2017 third-round pick, rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 66 yards.
"I'm just doing what I love to do," Conner said. "Just trying to be in the right spots for (quarterback) Ben Roethlisberger with the check-downs in the passing game, and just trying to put the ball in the right spots in the right game."
He also made history while he was at it.
Conner is the first Steeler to rush for at least 100 yards and two touchdowns in three straight games. He eclipsed 100 yards rushing for the third straight game and fifth time this season.
"He did a lot of good things (against Cleveland), running the ball and catching the ball for us," center Maurkice Pouncey said. "He just looks good all the way around and runs the ball hard. He takes it very seriously and his preparation is very good. I can't say enough about him."
Now, the rest of the league is taking notice.
Conner's nine touchdowns rank second in the NFL and his 599 rushing yards are third. Conner, a former University of Pittsburgh standout, is also tied for the most touchdown runs, and has the second-most yards from scrimmage - 922 - through the first seven games of a season in team history.
"I had a front-row seat for his college exploits, so we are not surprised by his talents, play, demeanor, or his displays of will," said head coach Mike Tomlin, whose team shares a practice facility with Pitt.
Conner rushed for 135 yards, gained 192 all-purpose yards and finished with two scores during the season opener at Cleveland. He has 281 yards rushing, 404 all-purpose and four touchdowns in two games against the Browns.
It wasn't easy for Conner on Sunday: Conner had 36 yards rushing on his first 12 carries. But on his next 12, Conner added 110 yards rushing.
"I'm proud of him," Roethlisberger said. "It was so much fun to watch him go and work and be successful and hear the crowd love on him."
Conner didn't allow the slow start to affect his play.
"Things aren't going to go our way the whole game," Conner said. "You just have to have patience. We just wanted to stay focused and locked in."
Conner enjoyed a strong finish with 60 of 75 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown, during a third-quarter scoring drive that gave the Steelers an 11-point lead. He added a 22-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"It's just a moment that we have to take advantage of late in the game," Conner said. "We have the ball, trying to run the clock out and we need first downs. We're just trying to move those chains and stay on the field."
On Wednesday, he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Conner seeks a strong finish to the season, of course.
"I'm just trying to be a better back every week," Conner said. "I'm just running hard."
As for Bell?
It sounds like teammates are a bit weary of the ongoing drama.
"I don't want to talk about Le'Veon," Roethlisberger said during Sunday's post-game press conference. "I want to talk about this win and the guys that are here. Sorry."
For what it's worth, Bell did not report before Tuesday's trade deadline. As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, suggested if he decides to come back this week, Wednesday would make more sense because that's the first official day of game planning. Tuesday is an off day for players.
Whatever the case, the Steelers can't trade Bell now. He can only play for Pittsburgh this season.
He must show by Nov. 13 -- the Tuesday of Week 11 -- to be able to play this season. Bell is on record that he'll play in 2018.
As things stand at the moment, Bell has officially forfeited $6.84 million, or 8/17th of his $14.5 million franchise tag. That's money Bell can't recoup, though he's counting on his next big contract covering that amount and more.
But he can still make $7.695 million if he shows up this week. Despite the losses, that amount would make him the highest-paid running back in the league this year.
What happens if he doesn't report this week?
The Steelers travel to Baltimore for an AFC North clash with the Ravens with Conner as the lead back. Bell probably will stay in Miami and contemplate whether to return to action in Week 10 or Week 11.
Fowler went on to suggest if Bell really wants to get crazy and skip the whole year, the Steelers must decide if they want to go through the tag process all over again. The transition tag is an option because they can still trade him, but walking away allows them to secure a good compensatory pick.
If he does turn up, how will the Steelers work Bell back in?
Per Fowler, the most logical step for the Steelers is to start Conner while they progressively work Bell back. Then, once he's ready, the Steelers will gladly take back an All-Pro as long as Conner has a solidified role. He has earned that much.
While the Steelers have grown tired of the Bell questions in the locker room, but they do like the idea of a killer Bell-Conner combo.
"Can't wait to see [Conner] and Juice together," linebacker Vince Williams tweeted Sunday.
We'll all be waiting to see if that ever happens and what it actually ends up looking like. ...
A few final notes. ... Tomlin said Roethlisberger came out of Sunday's win against the Cleveland Browns with a broken index finger to his non-throwing hand. They do not anticipate it being an issue come Sunday in an AFC North clash with the Baltimore Ravens.
While Roethlisberger has dealt with his fair share of injuries, he has not missed a start due to one in more than two years. He suffered a torn meniscus in Week 7 of the 2016 season, and then missed all of one game following surgery. ...
According to Fowler, Cornerback Artie Burns was late to a team activity last week, according to sources, with one source saying that activity was a walkthrough. Burns did not play a defensive snap Sunday against Cleveland despite productive moments in practice.
QBs: Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Johnny Holton, Deon Cain, Tevin Jones
TEs: Vance McDonald, Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow suggested, allowing a rookie quarterback to lead two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and then botching a snap to cost a team a chance to get into range for a game-tying field goal might seem a bit improbable.
For the San Francisco 49ers, games like that have become far too typical in two years under head coach Kyle Shanahan.
San Francisco's 18-15 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday was the team's league-worst eighth in the past two years in games decided by three or fewer points as the 49ers (1-7) have too often been close but not quite good enough.
"It's something we've got to do to get better and get over that hump," Shanahan said. "It comes down to, you can do a lot of things throughout a game, but when it comes down to the end when we need to close people out and we need some closers to do that. We've had some opportunities to do it."
They had plenty of chances against the Cardinals on Sunday, starting when they had the ball on first-and-goal at the Cardinals 4 trying to add to a nine-point lead.
A botched zone read led to no gain on first down on the last play of the third quarter, before Matt Breida was hit for a loss on second down and C.J. Beathard was forced to scramble for just 2 yards on third down. San Francisco settled for a field goal and a 15-3 lead.
That figured to be safe against the league's lowest-scoring offense led by rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. But the Cardinals drove 75 yards and scored on a 13-yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald to cut the deficit to five.
The 49ers gained two first downs on the next drive before punting but seemed to be in good shape when they recovered a fumble with 4:44 to play. They got one first down on a penalty before Beathard was sacked on third down, leading to another punt and setting the stage for Rosen's comeback in the final 2:16.
"In order to win an ugly game in the NFL, you've got to be good on four-minute offense and four-minute defense, and we weren't there at the end, Shanahan said. "We went into that game knowing that we had to protect the ball and not turn it over and hoping to get turnovers. We accomplished that goal. That's why I think we had a very good chance to win at the end of the game."
The Niners have three close losses this year, all after Beathard took over as starting quarterback in Week 4 following a season-ending knee injury to Jimmy Garoppolo.
They blew chances on both sides of the ball in all three of those losses, leaving plenty of blame to hand around.
From a fantasy perspective in this one, Breida, hindered by an ankle injury the past few weeks, started and had a team-high 16 carries for 42 yards (season-low 2.6 yards per carry). Alfred Morris had 28 yards, but 26 came on one of his six carries.
Raheem Mostert's role dried up, as he had only two carries for 18 yards and left with a knee injury after a 14-yard run.
Kendrick Bourne had a team-high seven catches for 71 yards while starting at flanker in place of Pierre Garcon. Bourne drew compliments from Shanahan and C.J. Beathard, although he forced the 49ers to burn a timeout on the opening series when he wasn't sure where to line up before the snap.
Reporting prior to Sunday's game not only suggested a big role for Mostert but also for rookie receiver Dante Pettis. Neither materialized. ...
Heading into this week's Thursday nighter against Oakland, the Niners had to file a practice report for Monday, which is an estimation of how much each player would participate had there been an actual practice.
Beathard sustained a right wrist injury that would have prevented him from participating in practice Monday and Tuesday. The quarterback was sacked four times Sunday, but he played every snap against the Cardinals.
Shanahan said, via multiple reporters, that the injury is making it difficult for Beathard to hold a football and it doesn’t take decades of experience watching football to know that is a tough hurdle for a right-handed quarterback to overcome.
Shanahan said that he thinks Beathard would be okay to play if the 49ers were playing on Sunday, but it would be a challenge as things currently stand.
It sounds like a game-time decision is brewing here.
Nick Mullens has been serving as the No. 2 behind Beathard since Garoppolo‘s torn ACL, but has never seen regular season action. Tom Savage is also on the roster and has experience as an NFL starter, although little of it was of the positive variety.
In addition to Beathard, offensive starters Garcon, Joe Staley, Weston Richburg and Mike Person would have been unable to practice. The same goes for Mostert, who is listed with an ankle injury. Breida (ankle) would have been limited.
The defensive players who would have been sidelined because of injuries are Reuben Foster, Richard Sherman and Jaquiski Tartt.
"Our players, we had them sleep in a little bit today because of the short week," Shanahan said Monday. "We're trying to get them extra rest."
I'll have more on Beathard and the rest via Late-Breaking Update early Thursday. ...
And finally. ... Shanahan said there was no movement on potential trades before Tuesday's deadline, with Garcon one of the players who has been discussed as a possible target for other teams. "I know those guys are talking nonstop right now and they'll probably do it all the way up to the deadline tomorrow," Shanahan said on Monday.
No deals were consummated, however.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jordan Matthews
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Levine Toilolo
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
The Seattle Seahawks are looking more and more like legitimate playoff contenders. It started to seem that way when they went blow-for-blow with the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5, nearly upsetting the NFL's only unbeaten team for what would have been a third-straight victory.
It continued two weeks ago in London, where the Seahawks turned in a dominant performance in a blowout of the Oakland Raiders.
The latest evidence: A stress-free 28-14 victory over the Lions in Detroit.
It was the Seahawks' fourth win in their past five games and it came against a team that had knocked off the Packers and Patriots for two of its three wins entering Sunday.
"Now were just showing that this is really who we are," receiver Doug Baldwin said.
You'd have to look hard to find something that wasn't working for the Seahawks (4-3) Sunday at Ford Field.
Russell Wilson completed his first 10 attempts, tossed three first-half touchdown passes and finished the game with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the first time in his seven-year career. The running game, which has again become Seattle's offensive identity, produced 176 yards, including 105 yards and a touchdown from Chris Carson.
The defense, with its remade and largely inexperienced secondary, held up with the help of a pair of fourth-quarter takeaways and kept Detroit to only 34 yards on the ground. Seattle's special teams iced the victory just ahead of the two-minute warning with some improvisation from rookie punter Michael Dickson, who took off running - from his own end zone -- for a first down on what was supposed to be an intentional safety.
Indeed, an all-three-phases victory for Seattle.
Part of Carroll's claim about the Seahawks being the healthiest they've been in all year following last week's bye was due to the returns of linebacker K.J. Wright and tight end Ed Dickson, who both made their 2018 debuts Sunday. Wright finished with five tackles while Dickson caught two passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. His 42-yard reception was the result of a nifty play design that got him wide open after a play-action fake -- a part of Brian Schottenheimer's offense that has produced one big gain after another.
The type of efficient and mistake-free day that Wilson had - 14 of 17 for 248 yards and no turnovers - is becoming the norm. Wilson's 17 pass attempts matched the second-fewest of his career. The only time he threw less came in his rookie season when he was 7 of 13 passing against Arizona in a game Seattle won 58-0. He hasn't attempted more than 26 passes since Week 2 nor has he thrown for more than 300 yards all season.
With the way the Seahawks are running the ball, he hasn't needed to.
Carson topped 100 yards rushing for the third time and continues to show the makings of the featured back Seattle has sought since Marshawn Lynch departed. Carson capped his day with a 7-yard TD run in the fourth quarter while bowling over defenders at the goal line. The play gave Seattle a 28-7 lead.
Carson is finding success running the ball because Seattle's offensive line continues to play at a high level not seen from the Seahawks since their consecutive seasons winning the NFC championship.
"We have more run game than we've had in the past. We have more choices in how we go about doing it," Carroll said. "It's a different philosophy in how we're doing it up front and the guys have come along well. We have a very smart, experienced group of guys now to run with. ... We have a pretty good setup right now and really we're just kind of hitting it.
"I think we have a chance to get a lot better as we move on through the challenges of the season."
But things are about to get tougher.
Of Seattle's first seven opponents, only the Rams had a winning record entering Sunday while the Seahawks' next four opponents -- the Chargers, Rams, Packers and Panthers -- are all above .500 with a combined record of 19-6-1. All four have quarterbacks that are above average -- or in Green Bay's case, elite.
That stretch will tell us more about how far the Seahawks might be able to go. But as of now, they look more like a playoff team than one merely in transition.
Also of interest. ... As USA Today's Andy Patton noted this week, there is no longer any doubt receiver David Moore has moved past Jaron Brown and Brandon Marshall to be the team's No. 3 wideout.
However, the performance of the sure-handed receiver over the last few weeks has catapulted him into No. 2, or even No. 1 receiver territory.
Moore was targeted a team-high three times on Sunday, hauling in all three for 52 total yards and an acrobatic touchdown which bounced off his arm and face-mask before he brought it in for the score.
"David is doing a great job," Carroll commented after the game. "He's doing all kinds of cool stuff for us."
Sunday's performance gives Moore nine receptions on 11 targets in the last four games, totaling 176 yards and four touchdowns.
The 2017 seventh-round pick was considered a longshot to even make the roster when training camp began, but the former Division II receiver kept impressing Wilson and Carroll with his strength and speed, as well as his sure hands and tendency to make big plays.
Now, he has gained complete trust from his quarterback, who went to him for the first catch of the game on Sunday.
Having a sure-handed, big-bodied receiver like Moore is just what the doctor ordered for Seattle as the team has gone 4-1 since he has gotten more involved in the offense.
In fact, it was enough for the Seahawks to release Marshall on Tuesday.
Marshall signed with the Seahawks in May and made a couple of starts in the early weeks of the season. His playing time has dropped dramatically of late, however. He only played two snaps against the Lions.
Marshall, who turns 35 next year, had 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown this season. Marshall's 2017 season with the Giants was cut short by injury and he played poorly with the Jets in 2016, so it wouldn't come as a great surprise if those are the last numbers he posts as an NFL player even with ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting that he'd like to keep playing. ...
One last note here. ... While Carson continues to have great success, rookie Rashaad Penny continues to languish. In fact, Penny did not play an offensive snap against the Lions.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Travis Homer, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner, Jaron Brown
TEs: Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodell reported it, "Jameis Winston's inability to cut down on turnovers has cost him his starting job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. ..."
Without speculating on what the move means for the young quarterback's future with the team, coach Dirk Koetter said veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead the NFL's No. 1 ranked offense against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Winston, 24, was benched after throwing four interceptions during last Sunday's 37-34 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
"We're going to start Fitz at quarterback this week. That's what we feel we need to do this week to give ourselves the best chance," Koetter said, adding Monday's decision to turn to the 35-year-old Fitzpatrick is "just for right now."
Winston, who entered the NFL as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, has 11 turnovers - 10 interceptions and one fumble - in 3½ games since returning from serving a suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine notes, turnovers have plagued Winston since college and played a big role in Koetter's decision.
Winston has now thrown multiple interceptions in a game 16 times in his career, breaking a tie with Blake Bortles for the most multi-interception games since he entered the league in 2015.
"I don't like switching quarterbacks. That's not in my makeup," Koetter said, noting the way Fitzpatrick played Sunday, as well as while Winston was serving his three-game suspension, made the call easier.
With help from a talented group of playmakers including receivers Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries, as well as tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, Fitzpatrick became the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in three consecutive games while helping the Bucs go 2-1 while Winston was suspended.
The 14th-year pro also started Week 4's 48-10 loss at Chicago, but played poorly and was replaced by Winston with the Bucs trailing by 35 points at the half.
But in general, Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,550 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions this season.
"He's done a really good job of putting the ball in the right spot, and we do have explosive players," Koetter said of Fitzpatrick's success. "He has said himself that in all his time playing he's never been on a team that has this many guys who can make plays for him."
Although the Bucs continue to lead the NFL in passing offense and total offense, Winston's grip on the starting job gradually slipped away while turning the ball over seven times against Cleveland and Cincinnati the past two weeks.
"Both guys have had their moments when they've been extremely sharp," Koetter said. "But this really is just about we have to do a better job of protecting the football."
Winston described being benched as "humbling."
"It's not about me, though. It's my fault we were in that situation," Winston added after Sunday's game. "He had to make the decision. Fitz came in and played his tail off. Our offense responded, and we came back and had a chance to win."
Koetter declined to discuss specifics about how he broke the news to Winston that Fitzpatrick will start against the Panthers.
And with the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner's salary due to increase to $20.9 million if he remains with the Bucs next season, there's lots of speculation about whether Winston has started his last game for Tampa Bay.
"Jameis is a pro. He will continue to work on his craft. That's all he can do," Koetter said.
"Very rarely is switching quarterbacks forever. ... Jameis will get another chance at some point," the coach added, "and when he does he just needs to do a better job of taking care of the football."
In 49 games, Winston has thrown 54 interceptions and lost 17 fumbles. He's 19-29 as a starter, 1-2 this season.
The fourth-year pro said after Sunday's game that he was not fearful of losing the starter's job.
"I fear nothing but God. I know that I have to fix this problem, and I will fix it," Winston said. "It doesn't come with being scared. You have to look at yourself in the mirror, take a long hard look at yourself, and persevere."
A few final notes here. ... A rough rookie year for Buccaneers second-round pick Ronald Jones isn't getting any better.
The running back didn't play in the first three games of the regular season after struggling in training camp and the preseason and he's now set to miss more time because of an injury. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Jones is expected to miss a few weeks with a hamstring injury.
Jones was injured in Sunday's loss to the Bengals and ended the day with negative yardage on two carries. He's run 19 times for 42 yards and a touchdown overall.
Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers should get the work at running back for Tampa while Jones is out of action.
In addition to Jones, Evans (knee) was held out of practice Wednesday; Barber (ankle) was limited. I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
And one last thing. ... As ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft pointed out, in the past three weeks, the Panthers have allowed 79.2 PPR fantasy points to opposing tight ends, 10 points more than any other team. Howard owners and Brate streamers take note.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan
WRs: Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
Mike Vrabel has made it very clear he wants the Tennessee Titans to play fast and aggressive, and that's exactly how the rookie head coach operates.
Now, as Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker suggested, he just needs the Titans to do a better job of having their coach's back.
Tennessee (3-4) blew a strong 3-1 start with a three-game skid going into this week's bye that also cost them the lead in the AFC South.
The Titans are struggling with too many mistakes this franchise just can't afford with six games decided by a touchdown or less, including a pair by a single point.
Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and general manager Jon Robinson gambled in January firing Mike Mularkey after the franchise's first playoff victory in 14 seasons. They hired Vrabel, the man with 14 years as an NFL linebacker and three Super Bowl rings with New England, to make his debut as a head coach this season.
With his background playing for Bill Cowher, Bill Belichick and Andy Reid to coaching for Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien, Vrabel is trying to live up to the expectation that he would be a star once someone made him a head coach. Vrabel brought in Matt LaFleur, who also interviewed for the same job, as offensive coordinator to teach Marcus Mariota the quarterback's third different offense going into his fourth NFL season.
The Titans have loved Vrabel's hands-on approach, picking up blocking pads to work with everyone. His enthusiasm rubbed off quickly as the Titans shook off injuries to Mariota, their two-time Pro Bowl left tackle and three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker in the season opener to beat Houston and Jacksonville.
Vrabel and Tennessee has yet to find someone to replace Walker's production as Mariota's favorite receiver the past three seasons with the tight end on injured reserve with a broken right ankle. They also lost their most veteran wide receiver when Rishard Matthews asked to be cut, unhappy at having only three catches for 11 yards.
The rookie head coach has been aggressive, suggesting LaFleur mix in some wildcat plays to help out the offense with Mariota against Houston. Vrabel also decided to go for it on three different fourth downs in overtime against Philadelphia, and Mariota and the Titans came through with a 16-play drive for the winning touchdown.
Then the Titans turned the ball over three times and a receiver dropped a TD pass that cost them a 13-12 loss in Buffalo. Baltimore handed the Titans the franchise's first shutout in Tennessee, and then they lost 20-19 last weekend in London after a 2-point conversion failed with 31 seconds left.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo, who's still looking for his first sack this season, said they love how Vrabel attacks.
"That's the risk you take when you do things like that, but we love the aggressiveness," Orakpo said. "He's not playing for ties. The guy believes we should've won this game, and he went for it and we all had his back."
Offense has the most room for improvement ranked 30th in total yards, points scored per game and passing yards.
The young wide receiver group with Tajae Sharpe, the oldest veteran in his third season, has dropped the second-highest percentage of passes this season behind only Cleveland. Mariota has been at his best in the fourth quarter with a 112.6 passer rating, but he's thrown for only 1,030 yards with three TDs and five interceptions.
The defense is the NFL's third-stingiest giving up 18.1 points a game. The Titans need to limit big pass plays that have been an issue in almost every game this season, and they could use a few more turnovers and sacks.
The Titans face a tough stretch after their bye. They visit Dallas on Nov. 5 before hosting New England on a short week in their lone home game in November.
Then it's back on the road to Indianapolis and Houston. If the Titans can execute the way Vrabel asks, that would set them up to finish the season with four of their final five at home.
"We have to get more out of everybody, including me," Vrabel said. ...
Meanwhile, the Titans are getting back to work after their bye week and they'll do so with a familiar face back in the locker room.
The team announced on Monday morning that they have signed fullback Jalston Fowler to their 53-man roster. Fowler was a fourth-round pick of the team in 2015 and spent most of the last three seasons with the Titans.
Fowler appeared in 42 games for Tennessee and spent most of his time blocking or playing on special teams. He carried the ball 10 times for 20 yards and two touchdowns and caught six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown.
The Titans waived Fowler last December and wound up with the Seahawks, but got cut in August and failed to make the Falcons after a short stint in Atlanta.
Linebacker Robert Spillane was dropped from the roster in a corresponding move.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 31 October 2018
As ESPN.com's John Keim noted, a short run early in the game reminded all of what Adrian Peterson has accomplished in his career, resulting in another historic milestone.
A long run later on reminded everyone what he can still do.
The veteran running back rushed for 149 yards in a 20-13 win over the New York Giants and clinching the victory with a 64-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
On Wednesday, Peterson was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
In the second quarter, Peterson passed former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett for ninth place on the NFL's all-time leading rusher chart. Peterson, who has now run for 12,863 yards, entered the game needing 25 yards and achieved that in the second quarter on a five-yard run to push him past Dorsett's total of 12,739.
Peterson grew up in Palestine, Texas, as a Cowboys fan. He's marveled at the other names he's passed this season -- Marshall Faulk and Jim Brown. Dorsett is different.
"It means a lot," Peterson said. "He inspired me, being a guy who played for the Cowboys and accomplishing the things he accomplished in his career, and that's what I set out to accomplish in my career. So, I appreciate it, and hope to continue to pass more guys on the list."
Peterson now trails Eric Dickerson by 396 yards for seventh place. The 33-year-old Peterson has 587 yards rushing this season and is on pace for 1,342. In Washington's five wins, Peterson has averaged 112.2 yards. He also caught a 7-yard touchdown pass Sunday, his first since the 2013 season.
Peterson is a big reason why Washington (5-2) has won three straight with 345 yards in that span. Teammates say his impact extends beyond the field. It's also tough to imagine them being 5-2 had they not signed Peterson in mid-August, a week after Derrius Guice tore his ACL.
"I mean, look at the history of him being in the NFL," Redskins tackle Morgan Moses said. "It speaks for itself. Just the leadership he brings to the team. You got a Hall of Fame running back. Anytime you see a guy like that playing through injuries, it makes you play a little harder. The guy is 30-something years old and he's still running with a full head of steam. To have a back like that you know has a one-cut and hit the field, it's a great feeling."
That's what he showed on his 64-yard touchdown -- his longest run since the 2015 season.
"It has been a long drought since I broke one," Peterson said. "Guys kept saying 'Keep eatin', keep gettin' it, you'll break one.' Felt good to break through."
It started with excellent blocking by right guard Brandon Scherff and center Chase Roullier, pulling to the right. Peterson also showed more patience on the play, called 16 G force -- the second part of the name refers to the pulling action. According to Next Gen Stats, Peterson reached a peak speed of 20.37 miles per hour on his run, the eighth-fastest rushing touchdown by a running back this season. That also gave him 15 touchdown runs of 50 yards or longer, tying Barry Sanders for the most in NFL history.
Yes, Peterson still has something left.
The Redskins hope there will be more of the same ahead as Peterson's production has become a vital part of the team's offensive success.
In the five games he has run for 96 yards or more, Washington is 5-0.
In just a few months, Peterson has gone from someone out of a job to one of the highest-producing running backs in the league. A diamond in the rough for the Redskins, his game on Sunday showed why he's viewed as one of the best, and why he deserves carries even after a fumble.
"He's up there on all the leaderboards for a reason," offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, who laid a key block on the big run, said. "We're just happy he's behind us. ..."
For the record, Peterson has now rushed for 140 or more yards 25 times in his career. The last time he rushed for more than 140 yards was November 5, 2017 as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Peterson rushed for 159 yards on 37 attempts.
Peterson has now recorded 53 games in which he has rushed for 100 or more yards. He is currently ranked ninth on the NFL all-time list.
Peterson finished with 156 yards from scrimmage (15,029) and has passed Ricky Watters (14,891) for 25th on the NFL's all-time list.
Peterson (109) recorded two touchdowns with one touchdown reception and a touchdown run. He has now tied Barry Sanders (109) for 10th on the NFL's all-time list.
Meanwhile, Alex Smith completed 20-of-32 pass attempts for 178 yards and one touchdown for a passer rating of 87.8.
Tight end Jordan Reed finished with a team high seven receptions for 38 yards (5.4 avg.). Reed, with 3,119 yards, is now tied with Roy Jefferson) for ninth on the Redskins all-time list.
With his third reception of the game, Reed became the second fastest tight end in NFL history to 300 career receptions in 59 games. Kellen Winslow, Sr. is the fastest in the NFL to record 300 career receptions (57 games). ...
On the injury front, Paul Richards (knee, shoulder) returned from a one-game absence and pulled in two passes (on five targets) for 34 yards. Chris Thompson returned from a two game absence due to knee and rib injuries against the Giants, but he injured a rib on the other side and his status for this week is in question once again.
According to Keim, the issue for Thompson will be pain tolerance and he was not dressed for Wednesday's practice.
Running back Kapri Bibbs separated his shoulder early in Sunday's game but continued to play.
I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... Green Bay traded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington on Tuesday.
Clinton-Dix has started every game for the Packers and has never missed a game in his NFL career and Washington will appreciate adding some consistency to its secondary. As Profootballtalk.com suggested, with Washington atop the NFC East, this is a move that's about winning now.
QBs: Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges