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Team Notes week 10 2022
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Darren Urban of the team's official website framed it: "The first drive was perfect.
"OK, not perfect. It took a 21-yard scramble from Kyler Murray to save the Cardinals from a three-and-out, but that counts, and eventually Murray hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 22-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and that's what the Cardinals had sought.
"A first-possession touchdown.
"A first-quarter lead.
"And then? Not enough. ..."
Not against the Seahawks at State Farm Stadium, not in a 31-21 loss in which the Cardinals couldn't generate a second offensive score until the fourth quarter and the defense couldn't come up with a stop to create one last opportunity.
"It felt like we were going to roll on offense finally," tight end Zach Ertz said. "Started fast, got a lead for the defense, and from there, it just felt like the wheels fell off."
The Cardinals (3-6) are now essentially four games behind the NFC West-leading Seahawks (6-3), who swept the two games between the teams. And they have gotten there each week basically the same way.
"It continues to show up," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "By Week 9, you'd hope that would've settled in somehow. But we have to get an answer to it."
The drive after the initial Hopkins touchdown started with a 3rd-and-1 -- except center Billy Price snapped it too high, leading to a fumble and a 15-yard loss. The third drive had a "good play call" according to Ertz on third-and-8, but back-to-back false starts on guards Cody Ford and Lecitus Smith foiled that.
The Cardinals had 12 penalties, Murray lost a fumble right before the half that likely cost the Cardinals a field goal and a little halftime momentum, and Hopkins had just two catches (for eight yards) after the two he had on the first drive.
"The first drive was easy, on time, on schedule," Murray said. "That second drive, third-and-1, kind of the story of the day.
"I couldn't give you the answer why or what. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot."
The Cardinals did have a second half lead, rebounding from a three-and-out to start the second half when linebacker Zaven Collins read perfectly a Seahawks screen pass from quarterback Geno Smith and raced untouched 30 yards with an interception return for a touchdown and a 14-10 lead.
But the Seahawks grinded out a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to answer -- Kingsbury said he thought the Cardinals defense wore down in the second half in part because the offense didn't possess the ball enough -- and the Cardinals never could recover.
Murray threw a scoring pass to Ertz with 3:32 left to pull within 24-21, but again, the defense allowed a scary-fast 85-yard touchdown response.
"Real devastating, because we wanted to win the game," linebacker Markus Golden said. "But you've got to give those guys credit. They made some big plays at the right time."
Kenneth Walker ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns and Smith was good as he's been all year, going 26-of-34 for 275 yards and two touchdowns.
Murray's stats were good -- 60 yards rushing, and 25-of-35 and two touchdowns, although he threw for only 175 yards as the Seahawks played two-high safeties and dared the Cardinals not to make mistakes on long drives.
Overall, the Cardinals had the ball for 10 offensive possessions. Only three crossed midfield and only three featured more than one first down.
That was difficult on this afternoon.
"We think we're past certain things and they show up in critical situations," Ertz said. "We've just got to be better. I'm at a loss, really."
"We've got to give ourselves a chance," Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals now go to Los Angeles to play the defending Super Bowl champion Rams, who had a heartbreaking loss to the Buccaneers Sunday and who themselves have fallen to 3-5 on the season. After that, a trip to Mexico to play the 49ers.
The chances are dwindling to make this a season worth remembering.
"It's been the story of the year -- one step forward, two steps back," Ertz said. "We're too talented to be that, but at the end of the day, you are what your record says."
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested Monday, if they can't get on track down the stretch, there will be questions about whether the current leadership can bring the kind of success that the Cardinals are looking for.
Will there be major changes this week?
After all, the Cardinals rank 17th in total offense and 26th in total defense. They are tied for 16th in points scored and 31st in points allowed.
Yet, Kingsbury said Monday he will not change play-calling duties on either side of the ball for this week.
"Yeah, it hasn't [changed]. We'll keep it as it is," Kingsbury said Monday.
Kingsbury said a month ago that he would "definitely" consider giving up the offensive play calling if it helped the team win.
"I am open to anything that helps us score more points and helps us win," Kingsbury said. "We will see where it all goes, but yeah, whatever it takes to win, I'm all for it."
Assistant coach Spencer Whipple served as the offensive play-caller last season in Cleveland when Kingsbury was home with COVID-19. ...
Worth noting. ... One great play call by Kingsbury that should've rescued a third-and-long came in the third quarter. Needing 17 for a first down, Murray threw left to wide receiver Greg Dortch, who threw back cross-field to running back James Conner, who gained 18 yards. One problem: Both passes were forward. Murray said Dortch's toss was supposed to be the lateral.
Rondale Moore looked good again. But Hopkins only had three targets after the first drive (and his touchdown -- he did lose a second TD catch when Robbie Anderson false-started.) Rookie Tariq Woolen was on Hopkins a lot of the time, and he is getting credit for such defense. Hop will likely stew on that until the Cardinals see the Seahawks again in 2023.
Anderson had his first catch, but it lost four yards.
The Cardinals played Anderson a lot for the first time on Sunday. After getting just seven snaps in his second game last week against the Vikings, the veteran wide receiver was in for 52 of 63 offensive snaps Sunday against the Seahawks. (It didn't work out, with three targets and one catch on a screen pass that lost four yards.)
He took the spot of A.J. Green, who played only one snap. Hopkins played 59 snaps and Moore 57 to lead the receiving corps, while Ertz only missed two snaps.
Kingsbury said on Monday that it's expected for an in-season acquisition like Anderson to take time to get acclimated in the offense.
"Like I said, there's not a lot of time for teaching when you're installing trying to win games and so he's done a good job," Kingsbury said. "He's been on it and studying hard. It's just one thing to study it and know it, and then you go in a game, and it's full speed and executed at a high level. We'll keep feeding him reps and, hopefully he gets comfortable here pretty quickly. ..."
Conner carried the ball seven times for 45 yards and caught all five of his targets for 19 yards in his first action since Week 5.
After recovering from a rib injury, Conner saw 12 touches to Eno Benjamin's five but was still out-gained on the ground by Murray. That said, Conner played 72 percent of snaps in his first game back with Benjamin playing just 27 percent of snaps. Keaontay Ingram mixed in for 2 percent.
Also worth noting, Benjamin was limping late in the game after a play, so that's something to watch, especially with Darrel Williams on IR.
Adding to the intrigue. ... In addition to Moore being limited by a hand injury, Murray turned up on Wednesday's injury report with a hamstring issue; a source tells NFL Network's Ian Rapoport the QB is considered day-to-day. "Not nothing," Rapoport wrote. "But not catastrophic. Stay tuned this week. ..."
I'll have more on that as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In addition, the Cardinals will have to rework their offensive line before facing the Rams this week.
Right guard Will Hernandez left Sunday's loss to the Seahawks with a pectoral injury and Kingsbury said at his Monday press conference that Hernandez will not play in Week 10.
Sixth-round pick Lecitus Smith replaced Hernandez against Seattle, but the team could turn to Max Garcia this week if he is able to return from a shoulder injury.
Garcia was ruled out ahead of Week 9 along with center Rodney Hudson, who has been out since Week 4 with a knee injury. Kingsbury said he doesn't expect Hudson to play this week either and that could mean another start for Billy Price.
The news was even worse on the defensive side of the ball.
Two-time All-Pro safety Budda Baker suffered a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss multiple weeks, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported. Rapoport added the hope is Baker will return in two or three weeks based on the severity of the injury.
For a Cardinals defense ranked 31st in points allowed, Baker's loss is a big blow.
You can access complete stats for the Cardinals Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Michael Carter, Emari Demercado
WRs: Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim, Zach Ertz
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein framed it: "Rookie Tyler Allgeier took the ball on the right side, got around the offensive line, and black pellets from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf kicked up as he turned up field. The running back evaded tacklers and ran past the Los Angeles Chargers.
"By the time he was done, 44 yards later, he had the longest run from scrimmage for a Falcons player in two seasons. ..."
"Huh? You're lying. For real?" Allgeier said. "All the credit goes to the O-line, man."
Rothstein went on to acknowledge that it was just one play -- the longest run since Brian Hill went for 62 yards against Tampa Bay on Jan. 3, 2021 -- but emblematic of an entire Falcons team, really.
Atlanta's identity is clear.
Run the ball, over and over again, run the ball. And on a day where Atlanta got back its starting running back, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Patterson scored two touchdowns, it was more evident than ever.
The Falcons missed opportunities offensively with drops and mistimed passes and defensively with a continued inability to get off the field on third down in a 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. But the reason the Falcons are 4-5 and still in the midst of the NFC South race is its running backs. All of them are carrying the offense and really the entire team at the moment.
Patterson, 31, missed four games in October with an injury. But the ground game held surprisingly strong in his absence.
"Happy he's back," head coach Arthur Smith said. "We've got a lot of guys that we believe in that they can help us and clearly CP helped us in a lot of different roles."
Patterson had 13 carries for 44 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Allgeier had 10 carries for 99 yards, Caleb Huntley seven carries for 34 yards, and quarterback Marcus Mariota five carries for 24 yards.
Pre-injury, Patterson had received the bulk of the work, leading to two of his best rushing games as a pro. Then, in his absence, the Falcons discovered they had more than Patterson in their backfield. Allgeier emerged as what was expected out of BYU -- a hard-to-tackle runner who could break away from defenders.
That emergence has offered Atlanta a different type of balance -- something the rookie didn't necessarily anticipate.
"Shoot, who would have thought I would be getting this many reps, honestly," Allgeier said in an otherwise quiet Falcons locker room Sunday. "It just speeds up my process."
It's a process that began with Allgeier being inactive for the first week of the season as a healthy scratch. So much has changed since then. Veteran Damien Williams was injured on the second drive of the season and hasn't been back since. Patterson got hurt. And midway through his rookie season, Allgeier is leading the Falcons in rushing with 423 yards, including 176 after contact.
Each week, the speed became more familiar for Allgeier. His style fit well with what Smith wanted in a running back and as the weeks went on, his game caught up. He feels like he has become a more well-rounded runner now, learning spacing and pass protecting and catching out of the backfield. He's trusting everything more now, although it's still a process.
And trust can go throughout the Falcons runners.
The emergence of Huntley was unexpected but gives Atlanta three backs it can count on. Mariota can take off on scrambles and designed runs. Together, the Falcons finished Sunday as the No. 2 rushing offense, yardage-wise, in the league.
There's balance, too: Allgeier has 423 yards, Patterson 384, Mariota 304 and Huntley 299. Entering the game, they were the first quartet to have 250 or more rushing yards for a team through eight weeks in NFL history. In seven of nine games, Atlanta has rushed for more than 150 yards.
At 162.9 yards per game, they are on pace to have their best rushing offense since 2006, when they led the NFL with 183.7 rushing yards per game, the last of three straight years as the best rushing team in the league.
As Rothstein emphasized again: "The Falcons are a running team."
They are also a team, Sunday's loss aside, with a chance at the postseason and are building on a clear philosophy. If the defense can get a little stouter and the pass game a little more prolific, Rothstein believes it can be something to truly build on, too.
Next up, the Falcons will travel to Carolina to go up against a Panthers defense that just allowed Bengals' running back Joe Mixon to run for 153 yards and four touchdowns (Mixon had a fifth touchdown as a receiver and racked up 211 yards from scrimmage) this past Sunday. ...
According to Associated Press sports writer x, it may be notable that Patterson, a converted wide receiver, lined up out wide and had a catch for 9 yards on the first play of the game. There was no running back behind Mariota in that formation, but a configuration with Patterson as a wide receiver and Allgeier at running back could be a way for the Falcons to have their best 11 players on the field.
Also noteworthy: Atlanta's longest pass play was for 24 yards to Allgeier.
Mariota couldn't complete deep passes to the team's last two first-round picks, tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Drake London. Pitts and London combined for 50 yards with only five catches on 14 targets.
Mariota accepted responsibility for the inability to make completions downfield.
"I've got to do a better job of giving our guys opportunities to make plays," Mariota said. "I thought our guys were winning on the back end. Just didn't make some of the throws."
Mariota completed only 12 of 23 passes.
The meager completions total has become the norm. He has completed fewer than 15 passes in six of nine games. He passed for 129 yards for his third game under 150 yards this season.
On the injury front. ... The Falcons will not have offensive lineman Matt Hennessy for Thursday Night Football, Smith said Monday.
In fact, they won't have him for at least four weeks after he was placed on IR on Tuesday.
Hennessy injured his knee on a 3-yard touchdown run by Patterson in the third quarter. Hennessy was filling in at left guard for Elijah Wilkinson, who the Falcons placed on injured reserve on Saturday with a knee injury.
Colby Gossett finished the game at left guard.
Hennessy lost the training camp battle for the starting center job to Drew Dalman, so Sunday marked his first start of the season.
Hennessy was one of four players the Falcons estimated would have missed practice had the team practiced Monday.
That obviously didn't change Tuesday, when they did hit the field. Neither did the rest of the injury report.
Cornerback A.J. Terrell (hamstring), tight end Feleipe Franks (calf) and safety Erik Harris (foot) have all been ruled out for Thurday night's game.
Terrell has missed the past two games with his injury, and Harris was inactive Sunday.
Franks was injured during Sunday's game.
You can access complete stats for the Falcons Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
The Ravens (6-3) won their third straight and fourth out of their past five with a 27-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints, increasing their lead atop the AFC North.
The Ravens' defense delivered its most dominant performance of the season when the team needed it the most. The Ravens held the Saints to 243 yards, the fewest for New Orleans this season.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston delivered 2.5 sacks and a fourth-quarter interception. He became the first player in Ravens history with three consecutive multiple-sack games. Houston was the team's top playmaker as the defense didn't allow a touchdown until four minutes were left in the game.
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley noted, this was a timely effort by the defense because its offense is extremely banged up.
Lamar Jackson played without Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews (inactive with shoulder and knee injuries), No. 1 wide receiver Rashod Bateman (out for season with foot injury) and his top two running backs (J.K. Dobbins is on injured reserve with a knee injury and Gus Edwards was inactive with a hamstring injury).
As a result, Jackson was spreading the ball around.
He completed passes to 10 different receivers and nobody had more than two grabs (James Proche II and Demarcus Robinson). Rookie tight end Isaiah Likely led the team with 24 receiving yards, all gained on one touchdown catch.
Jackson completed 12-of-22 passes for just 133 yards and one touchdown.
That doesn't look great on the stat sheet, but the Ravens don't have to have a high-flying passing attack to win. They do need an efficient and/or clutch passing attack. That was accomplished, as the Ravens were 9-of-15 on third down and Jackson hit several key third-down passes to extend scoring drives. Several times, Jackson took what the defense gave him.
He didn't try to force the ball down the field or into tight coverage, and it paid off.
Of course, the Ravens don't want to be without Andrews, Edwards and Bateman. But injuries happen, and the way a team, and the backups, respond can be a net positive. Head coach John Harbaugh agreed that it could be a good thing over the course of a long season as Jackson leans on some of his ancillary targets and they come through for him.
Even once the top guns return, Jackson will still need his role players to step up in critical moments.
Indeed, Andrews and Bateman accounted for 39 percent of the Ravens' receptions in the first eight games, and while Baltimore is more dangerous with them, the Ravens appeared to be more balanced without them.
In addition, the way this ground game is rolling right now, the offense is hard to stop regardless.
Baltimore's line and fullback Patrick Ricard are wearing opponents out and then breaking their will in the second half. The Ravens piled up 188 rushing yards and owned time of possession with 15 more minutes than the Saints. That's reminiscent of the 2019 formula.
Kenyan Drake ran for 93 yards on 24 carries and had two touchdowns. A year after the Ravens struggled to find running backs with juice following last year's injuries to Dobbins and Edwards, Baltimore did well with its fortifications this year. Drake has juice.
Jackson, who ran for 82 yards in Monday night's win over the Saints, now has 635 rushing yards through nine games this season. That puts him on pace for 1,199 rushing yards over 17 games.
Jackson is the second player in NFL history to record 100 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns before turning 26, joining Josh Allen. Both were drafted in 2018. ...
The bye week is a good time to step back and take stock. If Baltimore gets even more efficient in the passing game, watch out.
The Ravens are a good team, capable of doing big things this year. The arrow is way up. ...
DeSean Jackson was the only injury of note coming out of the game, as the veteran wide receiver tweaked his hamstring. Harbaugh said he probably could have returned, but better to play it safe with the 35-year-old who flashed some before the injury.
In his Ravens debut, Jackson was on the field for 11 offensive snaps, catching one pass for 16 yards.
Beyond that, we'll see if the off week gives Andrews and Edwards enough time to get fully healthy.
One player is healthy now. The Ravens activated rookie tight end Charlie Kolar (hernia) from injured reserve on Tuesday. He took the entirety of the three-week window allotted to him. ...
The Ravens head into the bye with a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Bengals for first place in the AFC North. They return to play the Panthers on Sunday (Nov. 20).
You can access complete stats for the Ravens Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Keaton Mitchell, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
Josh Allen is nursing a sore right throwing elbow, leaving cause for concern over the Bills starter's status against the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings this weekend.
Head coach Sean McDermott on Monday would only say he's awaiting the results of tests to determine the severity of the injury sustained a day earlier in a 20-17 loss to the New York Jets.
He said it was premature to say whether Allen could practice this week or play.
"We all know Josh and how competitive he is, and he loves to compete, loves to be out there with his teammates," McDermott said. "So, you know, I would never count him out. That's the one thing I do know about him is that right now, the medical piece, we're still evaluating it. I'll know more, again for myself even, tomorrow morning a little bit more."
Allen played down the injury following the game by saying: "There's some slight pain, but we'll get through it."
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Allen is being evaluated for an injury to his ulnar collateral ligament and related nerves.
Asked for an update on Wednesday, McDermott described Allen as “day to day.”
As to whether Allen will play on Sunday, McDermott said only, “We’ll see.”
Allen was not scheduled to practice Wednesday and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that while it’s no sure thing that Allen plays the Vikings this weekend, the belief is it’s an injury he can manage moving forward.
How he responds this week is key.
If Allen is unavailable for this weekend, the Bills (6-2) would turn to veteran backup Case Keenum to face the Vikings (7-1), one of the 10-year journeyman's former teams. Acquired in a trade with Cleveland in March, Keenum has appeared in two games this season in mop-up duty.
Allen was hurt two plays into Buffalo's desperation final drive when Jets defensive lineman Bryce Huff knocked the ball loose as the quarterback had has arm ready to pass.
Huff burst in from Allen's right and got both hands down on the quarterback's arm to bend his elbow awkwardly.
The fumble was recovered by Bills lineman Ryan Bates for a 19-yard loss, and left Allen flexing his right hand afterward. On the next play, Allen bounced a pass short intended for Stefon Diggs, but then showed no limitations in launching a deep pass up the left sideline, where Gabe Davis couldn't bring the ball in on fourth down.
In fact, the NFL has a microchip in every football for tracking through its Next Gen Stats, and those stats showed that the pass Allen threw to Davis traveled 69.3 yards in the air. That made it the farthest distance a thrown football has traveled in an NFL game in six seasons.
Allen showed not only great arm strength but great accuracy, putting the ball right on Davis.
Unfortunately for the Bills, Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner was right on top of Davis and knocked the ball away for a game-sealing incompletion.
Allen is in his fifth season and hasn't missed a start since his rookie year when he was sidelined for four games because of a sprained elbow. The 2018 first-round pick out of Wyoming entered Monday ranking fourth in the NFL with 2,403 yards passing with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and also leads the team with 392 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
He holds the Bills single-season records in almost every passing and scoring category.
But Allen had his worst statistical passing game of the season.
The MVP favorite for much of the season completed 18-of-34 passes (52.9 percent) for 205 yards and two interceptions. All his of five sacks came against four or fewer pass rushers, which is a career high.
"It's tough to win in this league when you're playing a good team and your quarterback plays like s---," Allen said. "Made some bad decisions tonight, really cost our team. A lot to learn from, a lot to grow from. But that's not, that's not the standard we hold ourselves to. That's not the ball that we play. So, a lot to look at, a lot to learn from."
After playing with Allen for three seasons now, Diggs knows how hard he can be on himself when plays don't go his way.
"One thing I know about Josh, and as you can see what kind of player he is, he leads us the best way he knows how," Diggs said. "He makes a lot of plays out there. So, rallying behind him at a time like this -- I mean, turnovers are gonna happen. You hate 'em, but shit does happen."
For the couple of bad plays Allen felt he had, Diggs credited him for making a lot of great throws and running the ball. But with another game to look forward to next Sunday, Diggs is confident that Allen is going to shake this loss off.
"As far as like getting back on the grind and get back to being us, turnovers are going to happen," Diggs said. "Our quarterback is the best quarterback in the league. To me, he can do no wrong."
We'll see if he can get on the field. ...
Meanwhile, Keenum last started in the Browns' 2021 season-ending 21-16 win over Cincinnati in which he finished 17 of 24 for 176 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Keenum's best season came with the Vikings in 2017, when he finished 11-3, and was most remembered for his 61-yard touchdown pass to now-Bills teammate Diggs as time expired to secure a 29-24 win over New Orleans in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.
Overall, Keenum has a 29-35 record with just two starts -- both wins -- since going 1-7 with Washington in 2019.
Stay tuned. I'll obviously be watching this situation closely and will report back further via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...
Also on the injury front. ... McDermott did announce starting defensive tackle Greg Rousseau sustained a high ankle sprain and will be listed as week to week.
You can access complete stats for the Bills Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris, Dawson Knox
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
A season of upheaval for the Carolina Panthers continued Monday as cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni were fired by interim coach Steve Wilks.
Cooper was hired in 2020 by former head coach Matt Rhule, who was fired after a 1-4 start to this season. The 73-year-old Pasqualoni, a former head coach at Syracuse and UConn and a longtime NFL and college assistant coach, joined the team prior to this season.
Defensive assistant Bobby Maffei and interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb will help with the defensive backs for the Panthers, while Don Johnson and assistant coach Terrance Knighton will coach the defensive linemen.
Wilks is 1-3 as interim coach following the Panthers' 42-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in which the team faced its largest halftime deficit in franchise history (35-0).
Carolina was outgained 464 yards to 228 in the loss, giving up five rushing touchdowns after giving up only seven in the first eight games.
The Panthers also committed seven penalties for 50 yards, four by the defense for lining up offsides.
Meanwhile, the Panthers don't have a like time to get ready for the Falcons this week. So they're going to stick with what mostly worked the last time.
Interim coach Steve Wilks announced Monday that P.J. Walker would start at quarterback on Thursday night against the Falcons.
Walker had a disastrous first half against the Bengals Sunday (0.0 passer rating) before he was benched for Baker Mayfield.
But Walker was quite good in the second half against the Falcons last week (119.1 passer rating), so the decision was made to go back to him on a short week.
Walker completed 13-of-21 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown in the second half at Atlanta eight days ago, including the dramatic 62-yard touchdown to D.J. Moore that forced overtime.
Mayfield was much better in the second half Sunday, but he also acknowledged that the Bengals were defending much differently than they were earlier in the game (when it was somewhat in doubt).
And the Panthers also have choices now.
Sam Darnold was brought back to the 53-man roster Monday morning, after recovering from his preseason ankle injury which cost him the first nine games of the regular season. It's unclear whether he'd even be active on Thursday night, but he gives the Panthers an option at the position as they move through the rest of the regular season.
Mayfield wasn't lobbying to take over as the starter, though an argument could have been made for that.
"I want to win," Mayfield said. "Whatever my role is and however I can help, that's what I want to do.
"Not getting into that. Not my decision. I want to win. Whatever role gets decided, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to do it extremely well. ..."
On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said the quarterback call was Wilks' to make and that Walker's bad half doesn't negate good things he's done since moving into the job. He also took issue with a question about why Mayfield failed to live up to expectations this season.
"Baker has not failed. Baker got injured. ... I think Baker's a tremendous leader for us," McAdoo said at a press conference. "He had moments of playing well before the injury. He had a rough game the game getting injured, but that doesn't mean it's a failure. We still have a lot of football left to play."
Should Thursday night look anything like Sunday, Mayfield may have more football to play -- and he may have it sooner than the Panthers would like. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As CBSSports.com reported, D'Onta Foreman recorded seven rushes for 23 yards in Sunday's loss to the Bengals. He added two receptions for minus-2 yards.
Foreman had little chance to impact the game, as the Panthers couldn't maintain any type of offensive production and also fell behind by 35 points by halftime. As a result, even in the absence of Chuba Hubbard (ankle), Foreman was a non-factor.
He could be in a position to bounce back in Thursday's Week 10 matchup against the Falcons -- particularly if Hubbard remains sidelined.
That said, Hubbard was back -- at least hypothetically -- as a limited participant in Monday's practice after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.
Hubbard ramped that up to full participation on Tuesday and Wednesday, but he's still officially listed as questionable.
He tried to practice early last week, but he wasn't making the kind of progress he had hoped. If he was able to return this week, it would be a benefit to the running game, which stalled after two banner weeks.
Cornerback Donte Jackson (ankle) is also listed as questionable for Thursday night's game, but he was a full participant Wednesday after a full day of practice on Tuesday.
He was activated last week in Cincinnati but didn't play a snap, as they only wanted to use him in case of emergency.
Two players are listed as out for Thursday's game, safety Juston Burris (concussion) and wide receiver Rashard Higgins (illness).
In addition to Hubbard and Jackson, defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (back) and right tackle Taylor Moton (elbow) are questionable.
The rest of the players on the report were listed with no injury status, meaning they're clear for the game.
That includes defensive end Brian Burns (shoulder) after he was in and out of last week's game. The others in that group include tight end Stephen Sullivan (illness), linebacker Frankie Luvu (neck), wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (illness), defensive tackle Derrick Brown (illness), cornerback CJ Henderson (finger), and tight end Giovanni Ricci (neck).
I'll have more on Hubbard, who indicated on Tuesday he would return to action against the Falcons, and the other pertinent components via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...
Finally. ... Safety Jeremy Chinn is getting close to a return to the field.
The Panthers designated Chinn to return from injured reserve Tuesday, and he is practicing. Carolina can put him on the active roster any time within the next 21 days.
Chinn went on injured reserve on October 5 after suffering a hamstring injury in the fourth game of the season. Chinn had started all four games up to that point, and had started all but two games in his NFL career.
The Panthers' season doesn't appear to be going anywhere, but Chinn is a team captain and one of the best young safeties in the NFL, and they want to see their young players continue to develop. They'll hope to see Chinn continue making strides, possibly as soon as Thursday night against the Falcons.
You can access complete stats for the Panthers Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas, Giovanni Ricci
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
Justin Fields continued to make his case as the top quarterback from the 2021 draft class after reaching historic heights during Chicago's 35-32 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, the Bears quarterback set multiple NFL and franchise records on Sunday. His 178 rushing yards are the most by a quarterback in a regular-season game in the Super Bowl era, surpassing the previous high set by former Falcons quarterback Michael Vick (173) in 2002.
Fields was 3 yards shy of breaking the all-time record, which ex-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick (181 yards) reached in the 2012 divisional playoffs.
Fields, who on Wednesday was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career, also became the Bears' single-game franchise record holder by surpassing the 127-yard rushing mark set by former Chicago quarterback Bobby Douglass in 1972.
"I think I'm just growing and getting better each and every week," said Fields, who found out he broke the Bears' single-game quarterback rushing record when it was shown on the video board at Soldier Field. "My main goal right now is just to continue to do that. Continue to trend up, and each and every day I practice, just keep getting better and better. That's really all you can do."
Despite the loss, Fields turned in one of the best performances of his career.
The second-year quarterback completed 17 of 28 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns and finished with the third-highest passer rating of his career (106.7), his second consecutive game with a passer rating above 100. Fields also accounted for a rushing touchdown.
"It's insane," tight end Cole Kmet said. "It's nuts. When you see him run like that and then be able to execute in the pass game like he did, it's pretty special, for sure."
The highlight play came on a 61-yard scramble that ended with Fields in the end zone early in the third quarter. On third-and-5 from the Chicago 39-yard line, Fields dropped back to pass and initially looked to connect with wide receiver Darnell Mooney.
"We were expecting man (coverage) on that play," Fields said. "They went with motion to man and on the snap, they went to zone. I was looking for Moon, stepping up in the pocket looking for Moon, and right when I was about to throw it to him, he turned around so I kind of had to pull the ball back and at that point, instincts took over."
The longest rushing touchdown of Fields' career was the second-longest TD run by a quarterback this season. The longest was Lamar Jackson's 79-yard touchdown run in Week 2, which also came against the Dolphins' defense.
Miami entered Week 9 with the league's sixth-best run defense but has struggled to contain running quarterbacks. Jackson rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown on Sept. 18. On Sunday, the Dolphins had no answer for Fields, particularly on third down when he used his legs to keep plays alive.
Fields had seven carries for 111 yards and a touchdown on third down and converted for a first down six times.
"He's as fast as any skill position runner," Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. "Like he is really, really fast and he can cut and break tackles. There are a lot of running quarterbacks. This one in particular I think is very elite and adept at that."
Chicago's offense has averaged 31.3 points per game over the past three weeks after posting 15.5 points per game throughout Weeks 1-6. The added element of Fields as a runner has helped the Bears maintain their status as the league's top rushing offense (195.4 yards per game). That trend began in earnest against New England, when designed quarterback runs helped Chicago reach its highest scoring output (33 points) during the Fields era.
Against the Dolphins, it was Fields' scrambling ability (110 yards, touchdown) that ripped through Miami's defense.
"That was a big point of emphasis going into the game, just knowing how he's really helped really change that offense's complexion the last couple weeks," McDaniel said.
Fields continues to show progress week to week after an up-and-down start to the season. Even in a loss, Bears coach Matt Eberflus called Fields' performance "a huge step" for the quarterback and the direction the franchise is headed.
"I think it's special," Eberflus said. "I think we are building our football team. Like I said, we have a young football team. We are building upon that. And the centerpiece of that is the quarterback. That's the way it is in the NFL. Talk about toughness and grit and the ability to persevere through a lot of different things.
"Obviously, start of the season is feeling his way, and now the last three games he's really taken off. And we are excited about that as a group and we are excited about that for the Chicago Bears and the franchise."
Next on the agenda, the Bears host the Lions on Sunday with Detroit fresh off an upset win over division rival Green Bay. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Kmet stepped up Sunday at Soldier Field, catching two of Fields' three touchdown passes against the Dolphins.
Kmet gave the Bears a 10-7 lead with an 18-yard TD reception early in the second quarter. Fields spun away from linebacker Jaelan Phillips, rolled to the right and hit Kmet, who caught the ball in the right flat and turned up field.
"Cole is a weapon for sure," Fields said. "Every time he gets the ball, he runs hard. He puts his pads down and tries to run through guys. He's a big guy. We love getting him the ball. He's a great player and a great teammate."
Kmet later added a 3-yard TD reception from Fields following a play-action fake to Khalil Herbert, drawing the Bears to within 35-32 early in the fourth quarter.
"We've had that play in since camp," Fields said. "We're just working on that ball handling and just selling the fake. The running back has to sell it too. Khalil did a great job on that. Just great execution all the way around."
Kmet, who caught five passes for 41 yards, became the first Bears player with multiple TD receptions in a game since fellow tight end Jimmy Graham had two Dec. 27, 2020, in a 41-17 win over the Jaguars in Jacksonville. ...
Less than a week after being acquired in a trade from the Steelers, receiver Chase Claypool made an immediate impact in his first game with the Bears.
On the third play from scrimmage Sunday, the third-year pro drew a 28-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Keion Crossen, setting up Cairo Santos' 32-yard field goal. Claypool later caught a 12-yard pass from Fields in the first quarter and gained four yards on a jet sweep in the third period.
"It was super fun," said Claypool, who had two receptions for 12 yards. "I talked earlier in the season about the game slowing down. It sped up, but it was still super fun. It was like my first day playing football almost again. It was fun. The fans were super awesome, super welcoming. I'm excited to make an impact for the team."
Claypool nearly drew a second pass interference penalty on Crossen that could have led to a late game-tying field goal or winning touchdown.
"I wasn't sure during the play, but after I saw it on the [replay board], it was definitely 'PI' for sure," Fields said. "Just missed it. Can't do anything about it. Just got to move on to the next play."
"You feel something," Claypool said. "But it doesn't really matter what I kind of think. Just got to play the next down and see what happens after that. ..."
Fields' record-breaking performance enabled the Bears to become the first NFL team since the 1976 Steelers to rush for at least 225 yards in four straight games.
The Bears ran for 252 yards on 40 carries Sunday, led by Fields. David Montgomery added 36 yards on 14 attempts and Herbert ran for 23 yards on seven carries.
It's the first time the Bears have rushed for at least 200 yards in four straight games since 1956.
Fields' most impressive pass of the game resulted in a 16-yard touchdown reception by Mooney late in the first half.
Fields threw the ball in the corner of the end zone where only Mooney could catch it, and the Bears receiver leaped high over Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard to snag it. It was Mooney's first TD of the season.
"That's just man-on-man matchup," Fields said. "The guy over him, he was already inside leverage, so Dante [Pettis] did a great job protecting the safety from the ball and of course we had great protection up front. Really couldn't ask for a better play call in that situation and kudos to the guys up front protecting their butts off all day."
Rookie Velus Jones Jr. was a healthy scratch Sunday. The third-round pick has struggled, muffing two punts this season and dropping a long pass last weekend against the Cowboys.
"It was about special teams," said Eberflus. "We looked at our roster, our cover teams and we thought we needed to have other guys up for our cover teams. With Dante Pettis doing a good job with the punt returns, we thought this week that that was the right thing for us to do, and also based on the receiver position, we thought it was the best thing to do. ..."
Santos made the only field goal he attempted from 32 yards, extending his streak to 19 straight, including 13-of-13 this season … The Bears made their first two-point conversion of the season on a Fields pass to tight end Trevon Wesco that cut the deficit to 28-25 early in the second half. ...
You can access complete stats for the Bears Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby reported, no running backs in Cincinnati Bengals history had a game like the one Joe Mixon had Sunday.
Mixon set the franchise record for the most touchdowns in a single game in the team's 42-21 rout of the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Mixon scored five times, with a 14-yard touchdown in the third quarter setting the record.
The mark was previously held by two players, Larry Kinnebrew (1984) and Corey Dillon (1997), before Mixon had one of the best days of his career. Mixon had four rushing touchdowns, which matched Dillon's mark 25 yards ago against the Tennessee Titans. The running back also had one receiving touchdown, a 12-yard catch at the end of the first half.
Mixon had 211 total yards from scrimmage -- 153 rushing, 58 receiving. He became the sixth player in the Super Bowl era with at least 200 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns in one game.
Mixon, who on Wednesday was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, topped 100 yards for the first time since he ran for a career-high 165 against Pittsburgh last Nov. 28. His five touchdowns -- four rushing, one receiving -- was a franchise record. Honorable mention to the offensive line.
"I'm just happy that I rose to the occasion," the sixth-year back said. "My game rose, I'm here in this position, and I never take it for granted."
Before Sunday's performance, the Bengals' rushing attack was under significant scrutiny.
Coming into Sunday, Cincinnati was 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (81) and yards per rush attempt (3.54). Many of those questions revolved around Mixon. According to NFL Next Gen, Mixon rushed for 52 yards fewer than projected.
All of that changed on Sunday against the Panthers (2-7).
On the opening drive, Cincinnati effortlessly moved down the field to score, capped by a Mixon 2-yard touchdown run. That set the tone for the rest of the game.
Mixon rushed for 74 yards over expectation in Sunday's contest and took advantage of good blocking ahead of him. Mixon gained a career-high 104 rushing yards before first contact, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Thanks to Mixon's big day, the Bengals moved one game above .500 before their bye week and, despite some significant injuries, are feeling pretty good about themselves.
The Bengals improved to 5-4 with a 42-21 win over Carolina on Sunday that was a more thorough beating than the score indicated. They did it without their best receiver, Ja'Marr Chase, and their top cornerback, Chidobe Awuzie, both of whom are injured.
Some perspective: Cincinnati stood at 5-4 after nine games last season, went 5-3 the rest of the way and then embarked on a memorable playoff run that run that took the Bengals to the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years.
As Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacy suggests, despite some maddening inconsistency, the Bengals know everything they want is still well within their reach, especially when they have ultra-confident quarterback Joe Burrow running the offense.
"I think our guys are in a good place right now," head coach Zac Taylor said.
One issue: Cincinnati is going to need more consistency.
Its first three losses came by a total of eight points. The Monday night 32-13 rout by the Browns was difficult to explain, and it was bookended by dominant wins over the Falcons and Panthers.
"We have to find wins, scrape them out any way we can," Burrow said. "Not every day will be like (the Panthers win), so we have to find ways to win games down the stretch, where it's not perfect but you find a way to win."
The Bengals have plenty of positive vibes going into their off week, which will provide some extra healing time for those who are a little bit banged up. They play at Pittsburgh on Nov. 20. Cincinnati went 0-3 against AFC North opponents in the first half, including a Week 1 loss to the Steelers -- who've only won one game since.
Chase (hip) wasn't put on the injured list but it's not clear when he'll be able to play. ... RB Chris Evans left Sunday's game with a knee injury. ... CBs Mike Hilton and Tre Flowers also were out Sunday with injuries.
You can access complete stats for the Bengals Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans, Chase Brown
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers reported, Amari Cooper has been everything the Cleveland Browns hoped, providing leadership and high-quality play from the moment he arrived via trade from Dallas. He has been a standard of unquestioned excellence.
Except for about eight seconds.
At least Cooper was able to laugh late Monday night after his first pass in the NFL was intercepted when Cleveland's attempt to trick Cincinnati on Halloween backfired in the first half of a 32-13 win over the Bengals.
"An abomination," Cooper said.
Quick recap: Taking a pitch from running back Nick Chubb on a reverse, Cooper ran right and looked downfield in the direction of rookie receiver Michael Woods II, who had space behind Cincinnati's secondary.
With pressure coming from Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson, Cooper panicked and floated a pass that was intercepted by safety Vonn Bell, who had so much time to get under the ball he could have called a fair catch.
Cooper wanted to throw the ball away, and simply couldn't.
"It was terrible. I don't think they'll have me throwing any more passes," Cooper said, cracking a smile. "It feels like the whole world is watching you when you make a bad play like that. I understand that the game is long and there are ample opportunities to make up for the bad plays that you make."
The play was a head scratcher on numerous levels, and especially because it involved Cooper, a detail-oriented, route-running technician and no-nonsense pro who rarely makes mistakes -- and if he does, they usually aren't nearly this egregious.
More fundamental than flashy, Cooper's a throwback in a league loaded with players more concerned with how they look, than how they play. He has been a breath of fresh air for a team that spent much of last season absorbed in Odell Beckham Jr.'s drama.
Cooper has played at a high level for the Browns (3-5), who snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the Bengals for the fifth straight time and heading into their bye week feeling much better about this season.
The 28-year-old Cooper leads Cleveland with 39 catches for 553 yards and five touchdowns. In a game the Browns had to win or risk fading into November obscurity, Cooper had 131 yards receiving on just five catches and scored a touchdown.
He has developed a strong chemistry with quarterback Jacoby Brissett, and their bond was evident on the 4-yard scoring play. Seeing Cooper in one-on-one coverage, Brissett waited for him enough to make a quick inside move before breaking out and hauling in the soft pass.
Later, after the Bengals had scored their first TD, Cooper and Brissett hooked up on a gorgeous 53-yard pass.
Although Cooper was covered by two defenders while sprinting deep in his route, Brissett launched his pass anyway.
"Because it was Amari," Brissett said matter-of-factly.
Sure enough, Cooper extended his arms and snagged the ball with a diving catch to set up another touchdown by Chubb that buried the Bengals.
When he got back to the bench, Brissett said backup QB Joshua Dobbs marveled at Cooper's closing speed.
"I saw him slow down, and I was like, 'No, I am throwing it,'" Brissett said. "I tried to throw it out far enough that if he didn't get it, nobody got it. He obviously made a great play in going to chase it down."
Cooper's sensational catch -- he seems to make a tough one every game -- and another steady performance surprised no one with the Browns.
He has been on point since being acquired in March from the Cowboys for a fifth-round draft pick, a swap that appears to be a steal for Cleveland, which did have to assume his $20 million per season contract.
To the Browns, Cooper is worth every penny.
"Coop is a big part of what we do," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He's a big part of what we do on the field and he's a big part of who we are in this building and on the practice field. I enjoy watching Amari work.
"I enjoy watching him and the quarterbacks work together, rhythm up and talk about different routes. He's a consummate professional, and he's a talented football player. For his size, the way he's able to come in and out of breaks. He wins down field. He can obviously win at the line of scrimmage and tracks the ball well.
"A great player -- that's the obvious part. But he's a really, really, really good pro."
As long as he's not pretending to be a quarterback.
Brissett took a playful jab at his teammate for a pick they'll both remember.
"That play is not in (the playbook) no more, I'm just letting you know that," Brissett said. "Luckily, he can run routes."
Cooper's not planning any more aerial displays. At least only with his hands, not his arm.
"I'm just going to stick to getting open. That's it."
That's enough for the Browns. ...
Meanwhile, the Browns came back from their bye healthier than they've been in weeks.
Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward and Pro Bowl right guard Wyatt Teller returned to practice Monday as Cleveland ended its extended break, which signaled the unofficial halfway point of the 2022 season.
Ward has been in concussion protocol since sustaining a head injury in the fourth quarter on Oct. 9 against the Los Angeles Chargers. The 25-year-old has had at least three known concussions in his five-year NFL career.
Stefanski didn't say if Ward has been completely cleared, only that he's "still in the next step of the process." Stefanski didn't have any specifics about how Ward got hurt.
A first-time Pro Bowl selection, Teller missed the past two games with a calf injury.
Stefanski said both Ward and Teller were "trending appropriately."
The Browns (3-5) visit Miami on Sunday, and Cleveland could use both back but particularly Ward against the Dolphins (6-3) and their speedy receivers, including Tyreek Hill.
The time off also gave defensive ends Myles Garrett (shoulder/biceps) and Jadeveon Clowney (ankle) a chance to further recover from nagging injuries. Garrett's medical issues were sustained when he flipped his car while speeding on Sept. 26.
Garrett and Clowney worked to the side along with tight end David Njoku (ankle) and right tackle Jack Conklin (knee) during the portion of practice open to reporters.
Njoku got hurt on Oct. 23 against Baltimore and sat out the Browns' win over Cincinnati before the bye. He did not practice Wednesday.
Starting linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (knee) remains sidelined. He also sat out against the Bengals.
Stefanski said the timing of the bye helped players recover while getting focused on the next nine games.
"With that time, you are trying to get guys healthy and you are trying to get fresh, and I think the guys were able to do that," he said. "It's still a time to rehab and those type of things. For the players, if they can sneak out of town for a little bit and be with their families, I think that is important.
"There were a lot of guys here working and a lot of guys getting better from a rehab standpoint. It's always a good time where the guys can get a little bit of a recharge."
DE Chase Winovich (hamstring) and rookie RB Jerome Ford (ankle) were designated to return from injured reserve. They're in a 21-day window to be activated to the 53-man roster. Winovich was acquired from New England in an offseason trade. ...
I'll have more on Njoku via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Last week, it seemed like running back Kareem Hunt's time with the Browns could be up following the team's Monday night victory over the Bengals.
But then the trade deadline came and went and Hunt remained with his hometown team.
Hunt said Monday that he was feeling emotional as the game started, knowing it could be his last with Cleveland. Hunt's contract is up at the end of the season and the Browns reportedly received some interest in the running back.
But Hunt is just fine sticking with Cleveland for the rest of 2022.
"It is what it is," Hunt said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. "I've got a job to do. I was cool with whatever happened."
Hunt received some praise from G.M. Andrew Berry, who told reporters during Cleveland's bye last week that he's expecting Hunt to have a strong second half of the season.
"I guess it's nice, but I'm just going to show up and work," Hunt said. "I'm not going to worry about the outside noise and stuff. I was just worried about showing up to work wherever."
Working in tandem with Chubb, Hunt has 305 yards rushing with three touchdowns plus 19 receptions for 117 yards with one receiving touchdown in 2022.
"I just want opportunities to be able to make plays and play the game I love," Hunt said. "I feel I can help this team or any team in the NFL win. It doesn't really matter to me."
QBs: Joe Flacco, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys decided before the season that defense would define this team.
For a coach who inherited Dak Prescott and has a history of leading quarterback rooms that included Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, it was a significant realization.
Still, as Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon suggested, it made sense with a unit that included reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons, a veteran pass rushing partner in DeMarcus Lawrence and 2021 interceptions leader Trevon Diggs.
Now that the defense has carried the Cowboys (6-2) through five games without an injured Prescott and started as Dallas' stingiest since the Doomsday era of the 1970s, McCarthy can say it out loud.
"You want your defense to be the thermostat because the thermostat regulates the game," McCarthy said. "And they are clearly the thermostat for us, make no bones about it."
It's hard to overstate the difference from McCarthy's Dallas debut in 2020, when he hired old coaching buddy Mike Nolan to run what ended up being one of the worst defenses in franchise history.
The Cowboys immediately pivoted to Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator, putting the fired Atlanta coach back in the job he had when Seattle rode its defense to a title in the first of consecutive Super Bowl trips.
Taking Parsons in the first round (12th overall) of the first draft with Quinn certainly helped, as did the sudden second-year emergence of Diggs, whose 11 interceptions were the most in the NFL in 40 years.
Parsons is now one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL, and among the fastest to get to 20 sacks, while the defense picked up a slower pace on takeaways by getting five in one half against Detroit.
"Our defense? Coming from when, 2020?" a big-eyed Prescott asked. "Yeah, that's not even close, the comparison. One word that just jumps in my head is trust. The trust that they have in each other. The trust that they have in their coach."
A five-week window illustrates the difference for the Cowboys, who have a bye-week break before visiting Green Bay on Nov. 13.
Two years ago, Dallas allowed 180 points through the first five games on the way to a franchise-worst 473. This season, it was 72 -- basically three touchdowns fewer per game.
"I would say I didn't refer much to the past, I wasn't part of the staff at that time," Quinn said. "What I did do during that time, I knew we had to build a group together. I was going to be new to them."
Quinn noted the number of new players as well, from Parsons to third-round defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa and free agent safety Jayron Kearse. All three remain significant contributors.
"Building that connection early, I probably was able to lead based on how we want to play and play style," Quinn said. "So fast forward a year, you really see more of the players leaning in that space now.
"It's what you're looking for because inside the white lines, that's where the player-to-player communication ... has to go down. I had a sense that would come this season."
There was one other curiosity with the Cowboys believing defense would lead the way. They had one of the best offenses in the NFL last season.
However, Dallas traded No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper in a cost-cutting move and looked out of sync in the 19-3 loss to Tampa Bay in the opener, when Prescott fractured the thumb on his throwing (right) hand.
Cooper Rush won the next four games filling in, but mostly because he avoided mistakes and the Dallas defense allowed just five TDs the first five games.
The offense had its best showing of the season in the 49-29 victory over Chicago going into the open week, but the defense had its worst. The Bears ran for 240 yards -- again exposing the Cowboys' weakness against the run -- and scored four touchdowns.
The downturn going into the break won't change Parsons' mindset much.
"We're only as good as the last game we played," Parsons said. "That's just part of staying neutral and staying grounded and focusing on the opponent ahead."
With 33 sacks, the Cowboys might still be leading the NFL after their open week. Dorance Armstrong (five) and Dante Fowler (four) join Parsons (eight) and Lawrence (four) as players with at least four apiece.
Diggs has three of the team's seven interceptions, and safety Donovan Wilson is emerging as the club's best tackler.
The free agent signing of linebacker Anthony Barr during training camp gave the Cowboys more flexibility on keeping Parsons at the line of scrimmage. Barr's hamstring injury could change that formula.
Even with Prescott rounding into form coming off the injury, there's little question a franchise recognized for years by its offensive stars has a different identity. Parsons can relate, since he grew up a fan.
"To see the transition, you kind of look at the trend in the NFL right now, it's an offensive league, people call it an offensive league, so to have a defensive team and defensive mindset, that means a lot to us," he said. "We've just got to keep proving it."
The coaches have been saying it for months. ...
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have quite the sideshow this week with McCarthy returning to Green Bay, where he won a Super Bowl with the Packers to finish the 2010 season. He was fired midseason in 2018. McCarthy made the playoffs nine times in 12 full seasons in Green Bay.
He's well on his way to being 2 of 3 in Dallas.
"It's here," McCarthy said, via Jori Epstein of Yahoo Sports. "Just like anything, you have to get ready to go win. Obviously I have great memories about Green Bay and I spent a lot of time there. But I'm four years removed from working there. ... I really want to win the game. Is that enough?"
The Cowboys have done more winning than the Packers so far this season and they'll be fresh off a bye while the Packers are banged up after their fifth straight loss. An extension of that streak at the hands of a former coach would be a bitter pill to swallow in Green Bay. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Dixon noted, CeeDee Lamb has been solid in his debut as the No. 1 receiver after the offseason trade of Cooper, but the Cowboys don't have a group that scares opponents.
They've been linked to free agent Odell Beckham Jr., who is close to being cleared after tearing an ACL in the Super Bowl. He won the title with the Los Angeles Rams.
At his Monday press conference, McCarthy said that the team loves their current receiver group but he didn't douse the notion of bringing Beckham onboard for a playoff push.
"I've always been a huge fan of his. ... I've just heard so many excellent, excellent things about him," McCarthy said, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday, Jerry Jones backed the current receiving corps but on Beckham he said, Beckham "is someone we have all the appreciation in the world for, for what he is as a competitor and know that the Cowboys star on the helmet, when he puts it on could look pretty good. ..."
The Bills, Rams, Packers, Chiefs, 49ers, and Giants have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Beckham at points this season. If he is cleared this week, it seems likely that moves to sign him will pick up steam as well. ...
Dallas signed Brett Maher after the kicking competition in training camp between Lirim Hajrullahu and undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay flopped. Maher was released by the Cowboys late in the 2019 season because of inconsistency on shorter kicks.
He is perfect inside 50 yards, with both misses in 17 attempts coming from 59 yards. One PAT was blocked. ...
On the injury front. ... The biggest question for the second half is when eight-time Pro Bowl LT Tyron Smith will return, and what Dallas will do about rookie Tyler Smith in his spot. Tyron Smith appears on track for a December return after tearing a hamstring late in training camp.
The Cowboys drafted Tyler Smith in the first round because they see him as the future left tackle. But they seem inclined to move him even if it's a late-season switch. ....
Ezekiel Elliott missed the Chicago game with a right knee injury, but that was in part because he had the bye week to help with the recovery.
Elliott's absence from practice on Monday hasn't changed that outlook.
Jones said on Tuesday that the team still believes Elliott will be well enough to play in Green Bay on Sunday.
"It's anticipated he'll be ready to go," Jones said.
McCarthy said the team would monitor Elliott's practice reps this week and that the veteran was scheduled to be on the field Wednesday.
Elliott has 109 carries for 443 yards and four touchdowns while sharing time in the backfield with Tony Pollard this season. Pollard has 81 carries for 506 yards and five touchdowns.
I'll follow up on Elliott via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days.
Receiver James Washington (foot) is "very, very close to being ready" but won't return to practice this week, per McCarthy.
Washington has been on injured reserve since Aug. 1.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
Justin Simmons purloined Trevor Lawrence's pass at the goal line, a jaw-dropping interception that yanked the Denver Broncos back from the brink of still another faceplant that would have sent them careening home at 2-6.
Instead, they flew back from London and into their bye week with revived hope they can clamber their way out of their awful start, post their first winning record since 2016 and snap a six-year playoff drought.
It's a daunting challenge with two games left against Kansas City and road games with the Titans, Ravens and Rams.
And they'll be without defensive captain Bradley Chubb, whom GM George Paton traded to Miami to restock his supply of draft picks drained by the Russell Wilson trade that so far hasn't been working out.
"Our goals haven't changed and we feel we can still win moving forward," Paton said after obtaining a first-round pick and running back Chase Edmonds from the Dolphins.
"We feel we have depth at the outside linebacker position, we have a top-5 defense and we feel like the offense is trending in the right direction," Paton said. "We believe in our coaching staff, we believe in our players and we feel like we can make a push in the second half."
As Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton suggested, stumbling through the first half of the season, one marked by miscalculations, miscommunications and even misconceptions, makes that a difficult goal.
Despite averaging a meager 15.1 points under Wilson, all of the Broncos games have been close thanks to a phenomenal defense that's yielding just 16.5 points a game while burnishing first-time coordinator Ejiro Evero's credentials as the next hot, young head coaching candidate.
Wilson has engineered three of his patented game-winning drives, including the 21-17 comeback over the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. But he has also faltered alarmingly in the fourth quarter and overtime, missing wide open receivers with both his eyes and his right arm.
The Broncos' new Walton-Penner ownership group -- which paid $4.65 billion for the team this summer and put a guaranteed $165 million into Wilson's contract extension before the season -- have watched thousands of fans defiantly stream toward the exits in crunch time or let their tickets go unused altogether.
"You want to feel like the fans are going to stay there until the final horn, the final whistle," said new team president Damani Leech. "It's definitely something that we're focused on."
Rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett is focused on jumpstarting his lurching offense and he said he's not going to make any structural changes to his staff or game-day operations, such as handing the offensive play-calling duties to someone else.
"I think our staff has really worked hard on a unique schedule" Hackett said, referring to his team's four prime-time games, plus the trans-Atlantic flight last weekend. "They've been grinding and we've been trying to put the guys in the best position we possibly can. We're evaluating everything, always. We're making sure we check everything and find out if there's anything else that we can do for these players to put them in even better situations.
"Right now, I like where we're at."
While lamentable, all those close games, including losses by one, three, three and seven points, Hackett said, are a harbinger of good things on the horizon.
"The No. 1 thing is that this team fights," Hackett said. "You've seen it every game. It comes down to the wire ... To be able to get over that hump, it's about making those big plays."
That's what finally happened in London when Hamler hauled in a 47-yard pass to kickstart Wilson's winning touchdown drive in the closing minutes, followed by K'Waun Williams' one-handed interception that sealed the victory.
The chemistry between Hackett and Wilson, who has shown only flashes of the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback he was in Seattle, also needs more work.
"I get to know him more every single day," Hackett said. "You always grow as a coach, and you grow as a player. You grow the coach-and-player relationship when you go through situations and when you go through calling the plays for somebody.
"I agree to a certain extent with Russell that he's not necessarily pressing, but he's always trying to make a play. That's his mentality. ... And I'm trying to create those for him."
In case you missed it. ... Paton said last week that Melvin Gordon will continue as the team's starting running back
As NBCSportsEdge.com notes, while Gordon has continued to start in the absence of Javonte Williams, he's lost valuable touches to Latavius Murray while being ineffective. The Broncos have the 10th worst offense in the NFL so you shouldn't be rushing to start any Broncos' back regardless. The addition of Edmonds is likely an attempt to add some explosiveness that they lost in Williams.
And finally. ... Word last week was that Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry would miss time with a groin injury and he is set to miss at least four games before he'll be ready to return.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Cushenberry is going on injured reserve. The earliest that he will be able to return is the Week 14 game against the Chiefs.
Graham Glasgow is the likeliest replacement for Cushenberry in the starting lineup when the Broncos take on the Titans in Nashville in Week 10, when the Broncos' run defense will be tested by Derrick Henry, who had 115 yards and two TD runs in the Titans' 20-17 overtime loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
The Lions got a much-needed win over the Packers on Sunday, improving their record to 2-6 on the season.
Detroit picked off quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times in the victory, coming out ahead 3-1 in the turnover margin.
"It just says that we made the plays that were there," head coach Dan Campbell said in his postgame press conference. "We did not let an opportunity slip through our fingers."
Rodgers rarely throws interceptions in general. But picking him off three times, with two coming in the red zone, represented a banner day for a defense that has struggled mightily throughout 2022.
"I felt like we had a good plan for him," Campbell said. "And just how we wanted to play -- look, you have to disguise. I mean, you have to. And he'll take it all the way down to the wire to get a beat on what you're doing. And then, if you have an opportunity, you have to make the most of it, and we did that today.
"[T]hose guys just stepped up, and they made it happen today."
The "today" is the key word there. It's not clear their success on Sunday will carry over beyond that.
As Associated Press sports writer Dana Gauruder suggested, barring an unlikely turnaround, the Lions remain on the fast track to their 18th losing season in 22 years.
"I do feel like we're going in the right direction," Campbell said. "I know the wins are not there, though we just got one. I like the improvement. I would like to be in a better place than we are, certainly. I feel like we should have at least two more wins here and that's on me."
Gauruder points out the fact that Campbell has made some curious in-game decisions, but the losses have been a potpourri of frustration. A late rally against Philadelphia in the opener that fell short. A defensive meltdown against Seattle. Blown fourth-quarter leads against Minnesota and Miami. An offense that failed to score a touchdown against New England and Dallas.
"As far as looking back, it will do me no good," Campbell said. "I don't want to dwell on all that, what could have been. Make the corrections and we move on."
The organization seemingly raised the white flag by dealing tight end T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings at the trade deadline. But the defense stood tall against the Packers as Green Bay went 0-for-4 in the red zone.
That was an aberration, in part because Detroit doesn't have enough playmakers.
The No. 2 overall pick in the draft, defensive lineman Aiden Hutchinson, had an interception on Sunday and leads the team in sacks but the overall talent is lacking.
Quarterback Jared Goff has posted respectable numbers -- 14 passing touchdowns and a 255-yard-per-game average -- but has committed some untimely turnovers.
The Lions could move on from Goff by releasing him after the season at a cost $10 million in dead cap money. With a high draft pick, they could replace him one of the three top-rated quarterbacks in next year's draft -- Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud or Kentucky's Will Levis.
Goff's biggest shortcoming is he doesn't have the mobility to escape the pass rush very often.
Fortunately he's got a solid offensive line in front of him. He's only been sacked 13 times, with five of those coming against Dallas' fearsome pass rush.
The Lions have also executed plenty of chunk plays. They have 31 plays this season of 20 or more yards, tied for the fourth most in the league.
Aside from the spirited performance against Green Bay, the Lions' defense has been nonexistent.
Even with the statistics from the Packers game added in, Detroit still ranks last in points allowed (29.2 per game) and total yards allowed (417.2).
Until the Lions picked off the above-mentioned three passes by Rodgers on Sunday, including a couple of bizarre end-zone takeaways, they had only two interceptions.
Up next, the Lions, who play at Chicago on Sunday, can continue to evaluate their roster and even throw some of their practice squad players into the mix to see who they want to retain next season. They could take a look at rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams later in the season if he's ready to return from his knee rehab.
During a Tuesday appearance on a local radio program, Campbell said of Williams: "I'm hoping sometime in December we get him. ..."
They made a draft-day trade with the Vikings to select the former Alabama standout with the No. 12 pick, knowing he'd miss at least a portion of the season after he tore his ACL in the national championship game. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Running back D'Andre Swift came into the season with the lofty goal of posting 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards, a feat only accomplished by three players in NFL history.
Swift got off to a good start in the rushing category, gaining 144 yards in the season opener against Philadelphia.
Shoulder and ankle ailments have since derailed his plans and hampered the team's offense.
He missed three games and has been just a part-time player in the past two games. He had a 20-yard reception against Green Bay but otherwise had just four touches.
The good news?
Campbell told reporters on Monday there weren't any setbacks with Swift. "We're hopeful we can give him a little bit more this week," Campbell said. ...
With Hockenson in a Vikings uniform, the remaining tight ends on the roster have a chance to get involved in the passing game.
Brock Wright didn't catch a pass against the Packers but rookie James Mitchell and Shane Zylstra scored their first career touchdowns.
Mitchell tore his ACL during his senior year at Virginia Tech and slid into the fifth round of the draft. He could emerge as the top receiving threat. ...
On the injury front. ... The Lions placed running back Craig Reynolds (ribs) on injured reserve Wednesday. The team signed wide receiver Trinity Benson off the Broncos' practice squad in a corresponding move.
Josh Reynolds missed Sunday's game with a back injury and did not practice Wednesday; I'll be watching for more on him -- and Swift, who was limited Wednesday -- in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ..
You can access complete stats for the Lions Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, it didn't take Aaron Rodgers long to sum up his play.
The first thing the Green Bay Packers quarterback said after Sunday's unsightly 15-9 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field came without hesitation.
"I had some s---ty throws, for sure," Rodgers said, describing his season-high three interceptions.
It took him significantly longer to summon up a reason he believes his team can turn around a 3-6 season that's now pockmarked by five straight losses, including Sunday's defeat to a team that had previously won one time and had been allowing a league-high 32.1 points per game.
"I've been counted out many times in my life as have many of my teammates, and I hope we just dig deep and find a way," Rodgers said. "We will truly be underdogs for many games moving forward. Hopefully we can embrace that. We have two games at home. We've got to go win those two games in a week, and then this thing looks a little different."
Rodgers was referring to this Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and the following Thursday against the Tennessee Titans. Throw in the game at the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles to follow, and the Packers' next three opponents have a combined record of 19-4.
As poorly as the Packers have performed this season, Rodgers took it to a new low against the Lions. His three interceptions all came within the Lions' 25-yard line and two of those were within the red zone. He had never thrown two red zone interceptions in his career before Sunday.
"Credit to Detroit, they dared us to throw the football," head coach Matt LaFleur said of the red zone possessions. "We've got to do something different, obviously, because we're not throwing and catching to the level that is conducive to winning football."
That a team dared Rodgers to beat it with his arm speaks volumes about the Packers' offense.
He threw the first interception off the helmet of Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes. It bounced into the hands of safety Kerby Joseph, who also got Rodgers' third interception of the game when he undercut a throw down the middle to tight end Robert Tonyan. In between, Rodgers botched a tackle-eligible play to left tackle David Bakhtiari when he floated the pass well short of the lineman, and Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson picked it off in the end zone.
"I played s---ty, but I never gave up," Rodgers said.
"We moved the ball well in the first half, and I threw a couple picks in the end zone, took points off the board," he added. "That, obviously, came back to hurt us down the stretch."
One week after the Packers rushed for a season-high 208 yards at Buffalo, A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones were limited to a combined 59 yards on 20 carries. Rodgers was Green Bay's leading rusher with 40 yards on four attempts.
Allen Lazard scored Green Bay's lone touchdown on a 20-yard reception.
Lazard has five touchdown catches this season despite missing two games with injuries.
Tight end Josiah Deguara had a career-high five catches for 41 yards.
But Rodgers lost two receivers to injury (Romeo Doubs, ankle, and Christian Watson, evaluated for concussion) and Jones (ankle) during the game and already was without Randall Cobb.
He completed only 10 of 23 passes to receivers on Sunday, with the 43.5 percent clip being his worst since Week 5 of 2019. That's been a theme throughout the five-game losing streak, in which he has completed 51 percent to wide receivers compared to 74 percent during the Packers' 3-1 start.
"If you come out and you execute to the best of your ability as a team and you just fall short because the other team made more plays, you can live with that, right?" tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "But if you come out and you leave points on the field and the opportunity is squandered, what else can you say about that? Like I said before, this league is unforgiving. It will humble you quick, and the margin for error is small. Today, we didn't make enough plays, and that's the result."
More than once on Sunday, Rodgers became agitated either during or shortly after a failed offensive series.
"I'm sure he's extremely frustrated, as we all are," LaFleur said. "I don't think we've been in this [situation]. I know in my time here, we haven't been in this situation. And I don't think he's been in this situation too many times in his career, obviously. It's disappointing and frustrating. But, yeah, I think that we all probably need to do a little bit better job of controlling that frustration."
As demonstrative as Rodgers has been, he denied that he's miserable and said he does not wish he had retired last offseason, as he previously admitted he contemplated.
"I think that's an exaggeration," Rodgers said. "Frustration and miserability are two different emotions. So, when I decided to come back, it was all-in, and I don't make decisions and then hindsight 20/20 have regrets about big decisions like that. So, I was all-in, and this is a lot of life lessons, for sure, this year, but luckily it's not over. There's still a lot of games left. We'll be counted out, probably by many, and we'll see how we respond. ..."
We'll also see who plays.
Jones was in a walking boot after injuring his ankle during Sunday's loss to the Lions, but it appears he avoided a serious injury.
Jones told reporters on Sunday that X-rays were negative and Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that further tests also showed that Jones' ankle is in good shape. Per the report, Jones should be able to play against the Cowboys in Week 10.
"A little sore," Jones said after the game. "I was fine. They sent me for X-rays. X-rays were fine, but they decided to hold me [out]. It was frustrating because I felt like I could have went, but they were being smart. I definitely respect them, because after I stopped moving around and I sat still for a while, it got kind of sore. I respect them."
Jones ran nine times for 25 yards and caught two passes for 20 yards before he was knocked out of the game.
Doubs was injured on the Packers' first play from scrimmage, during which he caught an 18-yard pass. It marked the second straight week the Packers have lost a receiver on their opening drive. Watson suffered a concussion last Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and then left again Sunday with a head injury.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Doubs has a high-ankle sprain. Those are generally 4-6 week injuries, though further tests will determine the timeframe.
But another target for Rodgers to miss time. ...
For what it's worth, LaFleur confirmed that Jones has a chance to play this week and that Watson did not suffer a concussion.
"That was all precautionary, and I think that's just kind of the times that we live in right now and with what transpired vs. Buffalo," LaFleur said. "But it was 100 percent ruled that it was not a concussion. Matter of fact, he was dying to go back in the game, and we thought it was best to shut him down because of what transpired in Buffalo." For the record. ... Jones and Watson were on the practice field Wednesday; Doubs obviously was not. Sammy Watkins was also given Wednesday off as he deals with what LaFleur characterized as "bumps and bruises."
Rodgers, who has been dealing with a tender thumb, also wasn't seen at the open portion of Wednesday's practice.
I'll be following up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Beyond that. ... Left tackle David Bakhtiari's balky knee flared up after the first half, and he played only on the final series of the second half. Right guard Jon Runyan (knee) and Tonyan (cramps) also missed parts of the game but returned.
Zach Tom replaced Runyan and then moved to left tackle when Runyan returned and Bakhtiari was unable to start the second half. Bakhtiari rode the exercise bike for much of the second half until he returned for the final drive.
"Obviously, we know from past experiences with Dave's situation, that it's pretty fluid," LaFleur said. "He wanted to go back in there at the end of the game."
Word on Monday morning was that the Packers feared a torn ACL for linebacker Rashan Gary and that diagnosis was confirmed when LaFleur announced that Gary will miss the rest of the season at his Monday press conference.
"It's a tremendous loss," LaFleur said, via Wes Hodkiewicz of the team's website. "Not only from the production standpoint. He is a guy who competes at the highest level. He's one of the grittiest guys on this team. The effort he brings on a daily basis will definitely be missed."
Gary had 32 tackles, six sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in nine starts this season. The Packers exercised their option on his contract for the 2023 season. ...
A few final notes here. ... The Packers have committed 25 penalties over their past three games.
And last. ... The Packers claimed former Raiders’ Johnathan Abram on waivers. The former first-round pick was released on Monday. Packers’ Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia worked with Abram in Las Vegas and knows Green Bay’s new safety well.
You can access complete stats for the Packers Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Patrick Taylor
WRs: Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Tucker Kraft, Ben Sims, Josiah Deguara, Luke Musgrave
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken suggested, the Houston Texans look to be headed for their worst season in years.
The undefeated Eagles beat the Texans 29-17 last Thursday night, Houston's third straight loss since the season's only win over the Jaguars on Oct. 9.
The Texans (1-6-1) have arrived at the halfway mark of the season as one of two NFL teams with a single victory.
Houston had four wins in each of the last two seasons -- and might not match that this season. The worst seasons in franchise history? In 2005 and 2013, with a 2-14 record.
At this point, Rieken added, it might be better not to win any more games so they can try to top the one-win Lions for the No. 1 pick in next year's draft; currently, the Texans are trailing Detroit for that right after squandering a 17-point fourth-quarter lead in a 20-20 tie with Indianapolis in the season opener.
Houston went with defense in the draft last year with the third overall pick -- no elite quarterbacks were available -- selecting cornerback Derek Stingley.
If this season keeps going downhill, they could have some great options in the draft to replace quarterback Davis Mills, who has not improved in his second season. Mills has 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions, capped by two in the second half against the Eagles.
Alabama QB Bryce Young or Ohio State signal-caller C.J. Stroud would pair nicely on Houston's offense with rookie running back Dameon Pierce.
For most teams, looking ahead to the draft this early would seem silly. But for fans of these Texans, it's the only way to hold be optimistic with nine games left in what seems almost certain to be another dreadful campaign.
Meanwhile, virtually the only good thing about this team is the play of Pierce and Houston's other rookies. Pierce, a fourth-round pick, has improved a running game that ranked 32nd in the NFL last season.
He had a career-high 139 yards rushing in Thursday's loss to move into fourth in the NFL with 678 yards rushing.
"What we want to be a running football team, physical running attack -- our tailback kind of says it all in what we would like to be," head coach Lovie Smith said.
Pierce already has 251 more yards rushing than the paltry 427 that Rex Burkhead finished with as the team's leading rusher last year.
As ESPN.com's DJ Bien-Aime put it: "The Texans' offense goes as Pierce goes, if he's rolling, then the Texans' offense has a chance. When he's not, the offense struggles to score -- like it did in Week 8 when Houston posted 10 points.
So it's worth noting that Pierce was added to the injury report with a chest and shoulder issue and was limited Wednesday at practice.
Meanwhile, Houston has eight rookies that have started at least one game this season. Stingley and safety Jalen Pitre, a second-round pick, have started every week.
Rookie tight end Teagan Quitoriano made his NFL debut Thursday and grabbed a 2-yard touchdown pass on his first career reception on Houston's opening drive.
Quitoriano is a fifth-round pick who missed all season with a knee injury.
"They're on the football field because we think they give us the best chance to win," Smith said. "We start with that. Are they our future? Yes. You really get excited talking about all of the young players that we have that are contributing right now getting better weekly."
The effort to improve should start with the biggest problem: The run defense -- again.
Smith, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach this offseason, vowed to improve Houston's run defense, which was ranked near the bottom of the league for the past two seasons.
Instead, things have gotten even worse. The Texans are allowing an NFL-high 180.6 yards rushing a game. Derrick Henry ran for 219 yards last week when the Titans torched Houston for 314 yards rushing -- the second-most in franchise history.
With the season already lost, the last nine games will be a time for Houston's rookies to continue to develop. The experience will be important as Houston tries to turn things around in 2023.'
That starts with a trip to New York to take on the Giants...
Other notes of interest. ... Veteran receiver Brandin Cooks was inactive Thursday night, two days after he wasn't traded following days of speculation that it would happen.
Cooks didn't play after not practicing all week.
Smith said it was due to personal reasons and expects Cooks, who leads the team with 354 yards receiving, to return to the team, though it's unclear what his role will be moving forward.
Cooks in the middle of a subpar season by his standards, currently averaging 50.6 yards per game, the second-lowest per game average of his career.
If he doesn't play in the upcoming weeks, it will be a blow to a passing game that is already struggling, averaging just 188.6 yards a game to rank 27th in the league.
Cooks was at practice Wednesday, but on the sideline during drills.
Receiver Nico Collins missed a second straight game with a groin injury and could remain out this week, too. Smith on Monday was non-committal on Collins playing against the Giants. Collins was not practicing Wednesday.
I'll have more on Pierce, Cooks and Collins via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
You can access complete stats for the Texans Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Devin Singletary, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson, Tank Dell
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As ESPN.com's Stephen Holder reported it, one day after one of the Indianapolis Colts' worst offensive performances in recent memory, the team fired fifth-year head coach Frank Reich.
The Colts named Jeff Saturday as their interim head coach. Saturday, 47, a six-time Pro-Bowl center who played 13 seasons for the Colts and is currently an ESPN analyst, has been a consultant for the team and is in its Ring of Honor. Saturday also was head coach for the Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia, for three seasons.
Jim Irsay says of Jeff Saturday: "I'm glad he hasn't had the NFL experience."
Irsay explained that candidates with NFL coaching experience have "fear" and often lean on analytics: "He doesn't have that fear. We were very fortunate he was available. He has tons of experience. He knows this game inside and out."
In addition, Irsay has invoked the likes of Don Shula and Tony Dungy in speaking about Saturday, who is the coach for eight games, "hopefully more."
Saturday's first order of business was choosing a new coordinator.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday that pass game specialist/assistant quarterbacks coach, Parks Frazier, is expected to be named the Colts' offensive play-caller, starting this Sunday against the Raiders.
On the one hand, Frazier has the most experience of any offensive coach left on the staff after Monday's dismissal of Reich and last week's firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady.
On the other hand, Indy just handed the keys to its offense to a 30-year-old who has never called plays or been in a role higher than an assistant.
Frazier was hired to Reich's staff in 2018 as the assistant to the head coach, a position he held for two seasons, aiding with the practice plans, call sheets and scripts. He was elevated to offensive quality control coach in 2020. Frazier moved to assistant QBs coach in 2021 and added pass game specialist to his title in 2022.
In a wild week for Indy, Frazier's promotion to play-caller is the latest left-field move. One thing is for certain, Frazier went from anonymous assistant to assuredly getting some camera time from CBS this upcoming Sunday against the Raiders.
So what does the future hold for Saturday?
"I'm auditioning not only for this one, but for 31 others," said Saturday, who acknowledges he was shocked that he was offered this job with no pro or college coaching experience.
Why did Irsay hire Saturday over the likes of former head coaches Gus Bradley and John Fox and rising star Bubba Ventrone on staff?
"He's the best man for the job," Irsay stated. "There's no question about it, in my mind. ... If he turns us down, we're not here today."
Irsay compared this decision to hiring Bruce Arians as an interim coach.
General manager Chris Ballard said his conversation with Irsay about the coaching change was "spirited."
Ballard noted they've tried to hire Saturday multiple times in the past -- to a job on Reich's staff, including in 2019 as offensive line coach.
For what it's worth, Irsay says "of course" he expects Ballard back for 2023, calling the GM "a winner."
The Colts' 26-3 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday was their third straight defeat. It was the latest example of their deepening offensive challenges that are beginning to appear insurmountable despite a recent quarterback change from Matt Ryan to Sam Ehlinger and last week's firing of offensive coordinator Marcus Brady.
Reich, 60, was 40-33-1 (.547) in the regular season and had a 1-2 record in two playoff appearances. It was a tenure defined by incessant turnover at quarterback; the Colts had different opening-day starters in each of Reich's five seasons, as the franchise has struggled to find a quarterback to fill the shoes of Andrew Luck, who retired before the 2019 season. The tenures of the past two -- Carson Wentz and Ryan -- ended in ugly fashion (Wentz was traded after one season and Ryan benched after seven starts).
The Colts have been unraveling since the end of last season, when Indianapolis lost its final two games despite needing just one victory to clinch a postseason berth. The 2021 finale, a 26-11 loss to the 3-14 Jacksonville Jaguars, was a particularly unsightly performance that drew Irsay's ire and prompted him to recommit to fixing the problems that led to the poor finish.
Ultimately, 2022 has not brought markedly different results.
Offensively, the Colts (3-5-1) were in the worst shape of Reich's tenure.
After Sunday's game, the longtime NFL quarterback and Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator with the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles alluded to the frustration of the Colts being so inept on offense, his area of expertise.
The Colts failed to convert any of their 14 third-down attempts Sunday, tied for the worst single-game mark in the NFL in the past 30 years. Indianapolis generated 121 yards of total offense, the team's lowest output since 1997 and the lowest of Reich's tenure by 84 yards.
Indy failed to a score touchdown for the third time this season, allowed nine more sacks to put their league-leading total at 35 and went for 0 for 14 on third down. They finished with a 0.0 percent conversion third-down rate for only the second time on record.
Reich gained a reputation during his time in Indianapolis for being able to bring the team back from the brink. The Colts have been notoriously slow starters, but they have consistently rallied late in seasons. The Colts started 1-5 in 2018 but finished 10-6 and made the playoffs. Last year, they started 1-4 before rallying to 9-6, only to lose those final two regular-season games.
The team that once routinely won shootouts with Peyton Manning and Luck now ranks last in the NFL in scoring (14.7 points).
Indy also is the only NFL team that has trailed after three quarters of every game this season.
By the way. ... Saturday said Ehlinger will remain the starting quarterback.
Ehlinger is 0-2 with an interception, no touchdowns, 11 sacks and a lost fumble, while passing for a total of 304 yards.
It is the Colts' inability to find a long-term solution at the position that ultimately cost Reich his job. Ehlinger is the sixth starter at the position for the Colts since Andrew Luck's abrupt retirement before the 2019 season.
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot summed it all up: "The Colts were resilient during Reich's 4 1/2-year tenure, and they'll need to be again when they visit the reeling Raiders this week."
Ehlinger says he needs to "let it rip" and make quicker decisions. Having a healthy Jonathan Taylor would help, too.
But the biggest question is how they will respond to their new coach and yet another week of tumult. ...
Other notes of interest. ... What will Saturday do with an underperforming offensive line?
This is a unit giving up all those sacks and clearing holes for just 3.5 yards per rush. The league's highest-paid offensive line has been in flux for weeks and until its solidified, the Colts offense won't sustain drives.
Saturday also announced that Bernhard Raimann will remain the starting left tackle. The rookie has started three games this season, including Sunday's loss to the Patriots.
On the injury front. ... Rookie tight end Jelani Woods left with a shoulder injury Sunday and defending rushing champ Taylor has missed three games with an ankle injury. It's unclear whether Taylor will play this week at Las Vegas and the Colts didn't provide any updates Monday in the wake of the coaching change.
Taylor was, however, spotted on the practice field Wednesday; Woods was absent; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
On Wednesday, the Colts designated receiver Ashton Dulin (foot) to return from injured reserve. The team will now have three weeks in which to activate Dulin to the 53-player roster.
You can access complete stats for the Colts Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Zack Moss, Trey Sermon, Jonathan Taylor, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
Maybe this was a breakthrough for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Head coach Doug Pederson has preached all season about his young team needing to learn how to win -- or how not to lose -- close games. The Jaguars had been 0-6 in one-score games entering Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, and they were tied or leading in the fourth quarter of five of those.
But something clicked down the stretch against Las Vegas as quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and Jacksonville's defense made the necessary plays to seal a 27-20 victory.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, after the Jaguars lost to the Broncos in Week 8, one of the leading talking points around the team was the need for Lawrence to play better.
The Jaguars got what they wanted against the Raiders.
Lawrence's decision-making seemed as sharp as it's been in two seasons. He was quick to either get rid of the ball or scramble. He completed 25 of 31 passes for 235 yards, with a touchdown, no interceptions and no sacks. He also ran six times for a career-high 53 yards.
"Some of the Raiders guys were, like, 'Man, why do you have to get the ball out so fast?'" Lawrence said. "I've had to learn the hard way. I've learned my lessons. There's still a lot more I'm going to learn in years to come and games to come, all those things. It's a growing experience."
Lawrence went 15-of-16 for 133 yards and a touchdown in the second half as the Jaguars went from down 10 points to winning 24-20.
Pederson said that "it takes games like this for young players to really understand" what they need to do in the NFL and that Lawrence showed the kind of progress that the team is looking for.
"I thought he played solid," Pederson said, via the team's website. "He played within himself. He really managed the offense, the situations, made some tough throws, got out of some tough throws, got out of some sack situations, ran hard. [He] just took a step in the right direction. That's all you can ask from your quarterback."
Lawrence's final two drives set up field-goal attempts: Riley Patterson hit the right upright from 41 yards out and barely slipped in a 48-yarder that provided some cushion. And the defense forced a turnover on downs and a fumble as the Raiders tried to mount a comeback.
"We knew it was going to break open for us and it finally did," receiver Christian Kirk said.
Arguably more impressive than Jacksonville's closeout was its comeback.
The Jaguars trailed 17-0 after the first 20 minutes thanks to a turnover and Raiders receiver Davante Adams getting open on almost every play.
But Jacksonville adjusted at halftime and mostly dominated after leaving the locker room. Vegas managed just 70 yards in the final two quarters, with Carr completing 5 of 15 passes and Adams being held to one catch for no gain.
How much the performance helps moving forward could be tested Sunday at AFC heavyweight Kansas City (6-2). The Jaguars last won at Arrowhead Stadium in 2007.
"It's all steps in the right direction, right?" Pederson said. "It's something now that we can build upon. Guys have that feeling, kind of the taste in their mouth. We've just got to capitalize and keep improving."
The Jaguars may not be able to turn their rough start to the season into a playoff berth, but more days like Sunday for Lawrence will be the kind of building block the Jaguars have been looking for all season.
Next on the agenda?
Win consecutive games again, something that has happened just four times in the last five seasons. That will obviously be no mean feat in Kanas City. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long noted, Jacksonville's backup running back position seems less than ideal. The Jaguars traded James Robinson to the New York Jets last month, turning the spot over to JaMycal Hasty. The deal came a week after Hasty broke free for a 61-yard touchdown run at Indianapolis.
But since that big scamper, Hasty has carried 10 times for 21 yards, with 12 of those coming on a third-and-28 give-up play against Denver in London.
On the injury front. ... Tight end Evan Engram (back) and SS Rayshawn Jenkins (concussion protocol) could be limited in practice this week.
I'll have more on Engram, who was limited on Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Jaguars still have not had contact with newly acquired Calvin Ridley and aren't allowed to have contact with the suspended wide receiver under the NFL rules.
But the Jaguars have been assured that Ridley is working out as if he had a game Sunday and will be ready to roll once reinstated, sources told ESPN;s Adam Schefter.
Ridley hasn't played in an NFL game since Oct. 24, 2021, and is suspended for the entire 2022 season after an investigation found that he bet on NFL games over a five-day stretch in November 2021.
Despite the season-long suspension, the Jaguars traded a 2023 fifth-round draft pick and a 2024 conditional fourth-round selection to the Atlanta Falcons for Ridley before this past Tuesday's NFL trade deadline. The conditional pick could become a third-rounder if Ridley reaches certain incentives in 2023, or it could become a second-rounder if he's signed to an extension.
The Jaguars cannot talk to Ridley until after he is reinstated, but they believe he will be worth the wait. Pederson said this past week that he thinks Ridley will be "rejuvenated" by a "fresh start" in Jacksonville, while general manager Trent Baalke emphasized the organization is "confident in the work that we did and we feel very good about the decision to trade for Calvin."
In Ridley, the Jaguars have landed a player that, as recently as last year, one NFL head coach described to ESPN as "the best wide receiver in the league." The former first-round pick can apply for reinstatement on Feb. 15, 2023.
You can access complete stats for the Jaguars Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Jamal Agnew, Christian Kirk
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
On Sunday night, the Chiefs and Titans set a record for the biggest gap between completed passes for one team (43) and for the other (five).
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes nearly set two other single-game records in the 20-17 overtime win against the Titans.
With 68 pass attempts, Mahomes came within two of the all-time, single-game mark. Ditto for the single-game completion record, with Mahomes connecting 43 times.
The single-game attempt record of 70 was set by Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, on November 13, 1994. In that game, New England erased a 20-0 deficit against the Vikings, winning 26-20 in overtime. Bledsoe completed 45 throws that day, including the game-winner to Kevin Turner in the extra session.
Bledsoe set the single-game completion record of 45 that same day. Rams quarterback Jared Goff matched it on September 29, 2019 against the Buccaneers -- in a 55-40 loss to Tampa Bay.
Mahomes' performance as to attempts puts him in a four-way tie for third place on the all-time list, with Goff from his 45-completion game, Bengals quarterback Jon Kitna in 2001 against the Steelers, and Oilers quarterback George Blanda in 1964 against the Bills.
Mahomes is tied for fourth in single-game completions, along with Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in 2015 against the Packers, Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in 2012 against the Jaguars, and Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon in 2002 against the Steelers. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is in third place, with 44 completions against the Ravens in 2017.
Mahomes is the first Chiefs player with back-to-back 400-yard passing games.
He also accounted for 82 percent of his team's rush yards (63 of 77). That is the 5th-highest percent by a QB over the last 20 seasons and highest since Cam Newton hit 87 percent in 2017.
"We had like, 90 plays, and at the end of the 90 plays he's running around like it's play 3," head coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes, "and he's still able to throw the football and control the huddle and do all the things that you're supposed to do."
The Chiefs gained 164 yards on their last two scoring drives.
Mahomes accounted for 124 through the air and 36 on the ground -- all but 4 of them -- despite relentless pressure from the Tennessee defense.
Yes, Reid was quick to compliment the Kansas City defense, which kept his team in the game long enough for Mahomes to make those late plays. And he knows full well that his quarterback is going to need more help going forward.
Still, the performance by Mahomes on Sunday night provided another memorable chapter in another season full of them.
"He's Pat," Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman said, "and Pat is going to be Pat."
That said, the reason Mahomes threw the ball nearly 70 times was that they almost entirely abandoned the run. Mahomes had six carries for 63 yards on scrambles, but the rest of the Chiefs combined to run 13 times for 14 yards.
It was only the latest example of a run game that has been inconsistent this season.
Just about everyone in the Kansas City backfield has struggled at some point this season. And everyone did against the Titans.
Isiah Pacheco ran five times for 5 yards, Clyde Edwards-Helaire four times for 5 yards and Jerick McKinnon three times for 4 yards.
"We can do a little bit better up front," Reid said. "We can be a little more patient at the running back position, and as coaches we can always dial up different things, you know, and try to figure out something that might fit a little bit better."
For the record, McKinnon led the backfield with a 62 percent snap share; Pacheco drew 22 percent; Edwards-Helaire played just 17 percent of snaps.
As NBCSportsEdge.com put it, "McKinnon looks spot startable given his snap share and role in the passing game, but Edwards-Helaire should be glued to fantasy benches. ..."
On a more positive note. ... JuJu Smith-Schuster followed up his big game against San Francisco, when he had seven catches for 124 yards and a score, by hauling in 10 catches for 88 yards. He has become Mahomes' most reliable target besides Travis Kelce this season.
Next up, the Jaguars visit Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday after beating the Raiders 27-20 to snap a five-game skid.
On the injury front. ... Reid said Hardman is dealing with abdominal soreness. Hardman won't practice Wednesday but doesn't seem in danger of missing this week's game.
I will, of course, follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
You can access complete stats for the Chiefs Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Mecole Hardman
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez reported, the shock in the Las Vegas Raiders' locker room was palpable after their latest record-setting come-from-ahead loss, 27-20, at the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
And while defensive end Maxx Crosby had "no idea" if there was a silver lining in the defeat, slot receiver Hunter Renfrow said the goal was to "not walk around like it's a funeral" and stay positive. Quarterback Derek Carr preferred to keep his most private thoughts to himself, while receiver Davante Adams spoke freely.
"There's no reason why we should be losing games like this, and it's frustrating," Adams said at his locker after a lengthy talk with Carr. "If we played for a s---ty team, then it's one thing. But that's not what it is."
What it was, though, was Las Vegas losing its third game of the season after holding at least a 17-point lead -- 20-0 against Arizona, 17-0 at Kansas City and 17-0 in Jacksonville -- to fall to 2-6 under new coach Josh McDaniels. This after being 10-7 and a playoff team last season under interim coach Rich Bisaccia, who took over in Week 6 after Jon Gruden resigned.
The Raiders' three losses after leading by at least 17 points this season ties the mark for most such losses by any team in NFL history, and it's been done only two other times: by the 2020 Los Angeles Chargers and the 2003 Atlanta Falcons, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. The Raiders had never had two such losses before this season.
Entering this season, the Raiders had won 52 of their past 54 games, dating to 2000, when leading by at least 17 points.
Perhaps most galling for the Raiders in general, and Adams in particular, was how fast they had started by throwing the ball to Adams. In building a 17-0 lead, Adams had nine catches on nine targets for a season-high 146 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time in his nine-year career Adams had at least 100 yards receiving and multiple receiving TDs in a half.
The rest of the game, though, Adams had one catch, for no yards, on eight targets.
"The way we were attacking in the first half was working, to a certain extent," Adams said. "I feel like we got away from that and started playing the game a little different, and that's not the way we've got to do it."
Still, Adams would also say he was not taking a shot at his coaches or McDaniels' scheme.
"But at the end of the day, if I'm rolling in certain situations like that, or if the pass game is something that's helping us move the ball and win games, then, obviously, that's the idea," Adams said. "You want to stick with what's working."
Even, as Adams said, the Raiders want to have a balanced offense, with one of the top running backs in the league in Josh Jacobs.
"So, I understand that part of it," he said, "but I also understand the part that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's kind of the way I think. ... So at the end of the day, we don't need to make it any spicier than it needs to be, but I think y'all feel me on that.
"We did a decent enough job to still put ourselves in a decent position moving into the second half, and then, we just basically fell apart. I don't even know how else to even characterize it. But it's frustrating. Ain't no way we should be losing games at the rate we are, let alone the way that we are, and over the middle at the end of the game, I've got to make a play on that ball."
Carr, meanwhile, kept a relatively tight lip when asked about the Raiders blowing their third 17-plus-point lead.
"There is a lot I want to say, you know, but if I'm honest, I don't need to say it here," he said. "There are things that will be said [internally] ... things in house that we'll talk about man to man and all that kind of stuff that could be addressed."
McDaniels, who is 7-23 as a head coach after a 6-0 start with the Denver Broncos in 2009, said most of Adams' success in the first half came against single coverage.
And a week after apologizing for the showing in the 24-0 loss in New Orleans, he said the latest collapse was a result of not playing well for 60 minutes. The Raiders also spent the week practicing at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
"They don't have to feel good about losing," McDaniels said Monday. "People ask me, 'Are you concerned with them?' No, I'm not concerned with them. They should be pissed off. We all are. Losing sucks.
"There's only one way to get through this, and that's to work hard and earn the right to win."
As far as what changes McDaniels might make, he indicated not to expect anything dramatic.
"We're going to try to figure out what we need to do to shift the results," he said. "Some of those things might be very minor. If you change the result of four plays yesterday, it probably changes the game, and that's how every game is when it's that tight. I definitely am not going to go in there and panic and say we need to uproot everything we've done."
Vegas entered the season with a lot of hope that this would be the season everything coalesced for a long postseason run. Instead, the Raiders are off to a 2-6 start and back to the cellar in the AFC West.
The Raiders make a rare home appearance this weekend against the struggling Indianapolis Colts, who fired head coach Frank Reich on Monday. This is Las Vegas' only home game during a five-week stretch. ...
And there are things here to hang your hat on.
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow suggested, it's hard to discredit McDaniels' game plans, which have led to the Raiders jumping out to early leads. The problem is when both teams go off script, and Raiders opponents have done a much better job of making halftime and in-game adjustments.
Beyond that, the Raiders were at their best when they relied on Jacobs.
He rushed for at least 143 yards in three consecutive games as Las Vegas went 2-1, including a one-point loss at AFC West leader Kansas City. Jacobs also received at least 20 carries in each of those games, but didn't crack that total in the past two losses.
It was curious that Jacobs didn't get more carries in the second half against the Jaguars when the Raiders had a big lead.
On the injury front. ... Tight end Darren Waller has missed three games in a row with an injured hamstring. LB Divine Deablo injured a forearm against the Jaguars and was placed on injured reserve on Monday. To fill Deablo's roster spot, the Raiders signed free agent C Sidney Jones IV.
I'll have more on Waller via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Finally. ... The Raiders waived former first-round pick Johnathan Abram, who had been a starter at strong safety since being drafted out of Mississippi State in 2019.
But with a new regime taking over the Raiders in general manager Dave Ziegler and McDaniels, Abram lost his starting job in Week 8 this season to Duron Harmon. Abram's special teams snaps started to go up, and he was rumored to be shopped at the trade deadline, but to no avail.
Abram, the No. 27 overall pick in 2019 and the third of the Raiders' three first-rounders that year, entered the league with the reputation of a fearsome hitter, though he often doled out friendly-fire hits to teammates. His NFL career began with a season-ending shoulder injury suffered in the first half of his first game.
Abram's on-field production also failed to live up to the first-round expectations.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, of the 121 players who have logged at least 1,000 coverage snaps since 2019, Abram has allowed the second-highest completion percentage as a nearest defender.
You can access complete stats for the Raiders Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
Instead of bringing up the past, Brandon Staley would like everyone to focus on the here and now when it comes to the performance of his Los Angeles Chargers team.
The problem though is that this year isn't looking much different from previous seasons.
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted, no matter the coach, the Bolts continue to be blindsided by injuries and most games coming down to the final possession. The difference this time is that they are winning most of them.
Two years ago, the Chargers became the second team in league history to lose three games when leading by at least 17 points. With Sunday's 20-17 victory at Atlanta, they are the fifth team to win three games when trailing by double digits at the end of the first quarter.
The victory put Los Angeles at 5-3 for the second straight season as it tries to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
"Since I've been the head coach, we've played in a bunch of close ones, and we're comfortable in this space. When you have as many people go down as we have throughout the season and you go on the road, it's not going to be poetic," Staley said. "We've been able to hang tough together and get going and then finish the game playing our best."
The Bolts are over .500 despite their top two receivers -- Keenan Allen and Mike Williams -- being sidelined and outside linebacker Joey Bosa not expected to be back until early December.
Cameron Dicker, who made the game-winning field goal from 37 yards, is the third kicker they've used this year because of injuries to Dustin Hopkins and Taylor Bertolet.
While the Chargers have shown fortitude in rallying, none of their wins have come against teams with winning records. Los Angeles' .329 strength of victory winning percentage is the second lowest in the league.
"I'd much rather have a boring win where we beat a team by a lot of points than having sweet victory where we didn't play our best football," wide receiver Josh Palmer said.
The good news?
Justin Herbert continues to thrive despite playing most of the first half of the season with a rib injury. He has also found a way to maximize an offense where his two top receivers have played together only four quarters in the first eight games.
Entering Monday, Herbert was among the top five in passing yards despite Allen missing six games because of a hamstring injury and Williams suffering an ankle injury against Seattle on Oct. 23 that will keep him out for at least three games.
Against the Falcons, Herbert completed 30 of 43 passes for 245 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Austin Ekeler rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and caught seven passes for 24 yards
Palmer stepped up in a big way, finishing the game with eight receptions for 106 yards. It was his first 100-yard receiving game as a pro.
After the game, Staley spoke about the 2021 third-round pick.
"This was a real feature game for Josh," Staley said postgame. "I thought you saw the type of receiver we believe he is. He got his opportunities today and he really took them and ran with them.
"It wasn't perfect for him, but I think you see why we feel the way we do about him, and I really thought those two guys were real bright spots for us," Staley added.
Palmer shined late, hauling in three catches for 51 yards throughout the fourth quarter alone. One of those was a big 21-yard catch-and-run that set the Bolts up to kick the game-winning field goal.
"Mike and Keenan are a big part of our offense," wide receiver Deandre Carter said after the game. "Being down, Josh Palmer stepped up. He had to be wide receiver [No. 1] today and had his first career 100-yard receiving game.
"Proud of that kid, really stepped up," Carter added.
While Palmer led the way in yards, Carter added some crucial conversions when the Chargers needed them the most.
Carter converted himself into Herbert's safety blanket, as all five of his receptions went for first downs (four on third down, one on fourth down).
"I think [Carter] had four out of his five catches were third-down catches," Staley said about Carter. "He's mad that he didn't score down there, but he's been fantastic for us all year, and [Allen] and [Williams] out, once guys are injured, those guys have stepped up."
"Keenan is real big for us on third down, so I was able to step in and kind of fill that role," Carter said. "I'm happy that the coaches had confidence in me to call the plays and be able to make the plays for Justin."
Don't be surprised if they're needed again this week.
Williams and Hopkins (hamstring) will likely miss a couple of more games. Tight end Donald Parham Jr. (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve on Saturday, which could open up more opportunities for Tre McKitty.
Allen was not expected to practice Wednesday, but Staley said he considers his WR to be day-to-day; I'll follow up on Allen via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The Chargers head to San Francisco for a Sunday night game against the 49ers before returning home to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 20. Four of the final nine opponents on Los Angeles' schedule are at or over .500. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Ekeler has scored both a rushing and receiving touchdown in 10 games now. That is tied with Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey for the most by a player within the first six seasons of a career.
Isaiah Spiller was expected to take over as the second running back, but has struggled during his rookie season. The fourth-round pick has played in only two games and has eight carries for 24 yards.
Still, the youngster played 19 percent of the offensive snaps in Atlanta, getting two more snaps than Sony Michel and Spiller out-carried him seven to one. ...
Finally. ... Dicker was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
You can access complete stats for the Chargers Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Josh Palmer, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, the Rams offense has struggled all season and things may have hit their lowest point against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Indeed, the Rams are 3-5 near the midway point of their season after blowing a late lead and taking an unsightly 16-13 defeat at Tampa Bay, their fourth loss in five games. They had never before been two games under .500 during Sean McVay's six seasons as coach, and LA had never been a losing team at any point in McVay's career until this year.
The Rams' problems are almost entirely related to their offense, which has a largely terrible line, a lack of game-breaking talent behind Cooper Kupp and a profound ineptitude both on first downs and late in games.
That offense is almost entirely McVay's responsibility, and the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl in NFL history knows the Rams' fate is on his group's shoulders.
"This is not good enough," McVay said after his group gained a laughable 203 yards in Tampa -- 69 of those on one catch by Kupp. "Changes have to be made. Adjustments have to be made. We can't continue to go on with this."
Whether he has the time or the resources to do anything substantial is unclear. The Rams already had their bye week, the trade deadline has passed and there are limited options to shake things up in-house at this point in the season. The team has talked about re-signing wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. on multiple occasions, but nothing has happened on that front and his return might not be enough to change the course of a season that has not gone how the Rams hoped.
In fact, only Tennessee is averaging fewer yards per game this season than the Rams' 286. Los Angeles has topped 350 yards just once in its eight games -- a shocking decline for a unit that's been among the tops in the league during McVay's best seasons.
"We've got to look ourselves in the mirror, dig down deep and find ways to execute, find ways to strain and make plays," receiver Allen Robinson said Monday. "That's how games in this league are won. You've got to make the tough ones."
The offseason departures of linemen Andrew Whitworth and Austin Corbett started the offense's problems, while the signing of Robinson and trading of Robert Woods in rapid succession further undermined its foundation.
And then the injuries kicked in: The Rams have five offensive linemen on injured reserve, and at least three of them won't play again this season. Los Angeles has used eight different starting line combinations in its eight games, a probable recipe for disaster.
After Sunday's game was over, cornerback Jalen Ramsey sounded off about the offense's shortcomings.
McVay said that he didn't know exactly what will be different, but that "everything's got to be up for debate" as the team tries to salvage its season.
"We're gonna stay connected throughout this," McVay told Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com. "But we do have to be able to look inward and figure out what are some of the solutions, changes, adjustments, different things that we have to do to be able to get different results and different production from our offense. ... As coaches we're responsible for identifying the problems and trying to provide solutions, and then the player's job to be able to go execute and be able to get it done. I have to be able to do my part first and foremost for them to be able to do theirs.
"And that's where you always look at. You want to look inward first."
Los Angeles' running game remains inept, ranking 31st in the league with a meager 68.4 yards per game.
Cam Akers gained 3 yards on five carries at Tampa Bay in his return from a three-week absence following a spat with the coaching staff. Darrell Henderson has played better, but he rarely has any space behind that offensive line.
Matthew Stafford grades out poorly in some analysis metrics, yet he's completing a career-high 68.4 percent of his throws despite getting sacked 28 times -- only two fewer than in all of the 2021 regular season. He's also thrown just three interceptions in the last six games after throwing five in the first two games.
His connection with Robinson is even improving, although not quickly enough to make a difference.
Of sudden concern, however: McVay announced on Wednesday that Stafford is in the concussion protocol; I'll have more on this via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Meanwhile, Van Jefferson, the Rams' 21-game starter and No. 3 wideout last season, has yet to make his first catch.
Jefferson had knee surgery early in training camp and returned two games ago, but he still hasn't had the ball in his hands despite five targets at Tampa Bay. The Rams' overall lack of playmaking behind Kupp has been a nightmare.
Tight end Tyler Higbee failed to catch his lone target in Tampa.
As NBCSportsEdge.com notes, after playing over 95 percent of the snaps Weeks 1-5, Higbee's playing time has been nose-diving in recent weeks. And now he has his first catchless game of the year after at least being a reliable source of catches in PPR formats prior to Week 6. ...
Fortunately, as Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham notes, every aspect of coordinator Raheem Morris' defense has been largely solid despite a thin secondary. The Rams are eighth in the NFL with just 312.4 yards allowed per game, playing particularly well against the run, and linebacker Bobby Wagner's arrival has been a boost in several aspects of the game.
The Rams are still clearly in the playoff race, but the second half of the season is a gut check for McVay, who spoke both openly and privately about burnout and possible retirement in the past year. The Rams will find out in the next month whether their in-demand coach has the determination to dig in and truly fix the Rams' problems.
After January, the spotlight shifts to GM Les Snead, who must figure out how to restock the Rams' roster with his limited draft resources and cap space.
Next up, the Rams host the Cardinals on Sunday. ...
You can access complete stats for the Rams Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
A lot of people were shocked when Tyreek Hill, only a few months into his Dolphins tenure, called Tua Tagovailoa the "most accurate" quarterback in the NFL.
As Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames suggested, maybe he was on to something.
At the midway point of the season, the highly critiqued Tagovailoa leads the league in several passing categories, despite missing two games, and has steered the Dolphins to a 6-3 record.
The Dolphins were expected to be a much better team this season after adding Hill and other offensive pieces in the offseason. But Tagovailoa has elevated his game, and the Dolphins are clearly better when he's on the field.
"He's playing at a tremendous level," Hill said. "He's making me look right about everything I said about him in the offseason."
Tagovailoa, in his third NFL season, leads the league in passer rating (115.9), yards per attempt (9.2), touchdown percentage (6.9) and net yards per play (8.5).
One of his biggest knocks since entering the league was his deep ball. Now he's pushing the ball down the field more efficiently than he has in his professional career.
Entering Sunday's game against the Bears, Tagovailoa had twice as many completions (32) to the middle of the field over 10 air yards as any other quarterback this season, according to Next Gen Stats.
He's having such a good season that the Dolphins sent away their only 2023 first-round pick, once essential in case they needed to draft another quarterback, to add defensive help.
"The growth has been unbelievable in how he's playing the position," McDaniel said of Tagovailoa, "learning the whole system, and then how he's handling the ebbs and flows of natural in-game momentum."
Meanwhile, Hill continues to put up mindboggling numbers in his first season in McDaniel's system.
In Sunday's 35-32 victory in Chicago, Hill generated seven catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. It marked the fifth time Hill has exceeded the 140-yard mark this season.
"I'm like a kid in a candy store," Hill said Sunday, via the Miami Herald. "I'm just having fun."
Hill has been the beneficiary of a ton of targets from Tagovailoa this season, and it helps that McDaniel's scheme creates wide-open plays for the speedy wideouts.
The Dolphins wide receiver leads the NFL with 76 catches and 1,104 yards, the most receiving yards in a player's first nine games in a season in the Super Bowl era (Calvin Johnson, 1,083 in 2013). He's on pace for 2,085.3 receiving yards over a 17-game season. Johnson's NFL record of 1,964 was set in 2012 in 16 games. Hill is currently on pace for 1,962.67 yards in 16 games.
Hill has never led the NFL in any major receiving category. He's on pace to lead it in two while averaging a career-high 122.7 yards per game.
He's not alone in having a hot start to the season. Teammate Jaylen Waddle has been nearly as impressive, earning five catches for 85 yards and a TD in Sunday's win.
Hill and Waddle have combined for 1,916 yards through nine games, the most by a teammate duo through nine games in the Super Bowl era (only Houston's Charlie Hennigan and Bill Groman in 1961 had more in nine games -- 1,950).
The NFL record for receiving yards by a teammate duo in a season is 3,174 by Herman Moore and Brett Perriman for the 1995 Lions. Hill and Waddle's pace? 3,619.
Given how the first half of the season has gone, there's no reason to believe a team has an answer for Tagovailoa's connection with Hill and Waddle.
Where the Dolphins defense was once the driving force behind their success, this season the offense is productive enough to outscore its opponents when the defense has struggled.
Adding to the positive offensive vibe, the rushing game appears to be truly hitting stride with Jeff Wilson Jr. joining Raheem Mostert in the backfield.
As Profootballtalk.com noted, Wilson had a crazy week. Sent almost as far as he could have been from San Francisco, Wilson ended up in Miami via trade. On Sunday in Chicago, he made an impressive debut, with 78 total yards from scrimmage on 12 touches, including a touchdown.
After the game, Wilson reflected on his topsy-turvy week.
"I was a little salty at first," Wilson told PFT's Mike Florio by phone. "That was the only place I've been for four and a half years. That's all I knew. And then coming to a place you don't know, you're not really familiar with everybody. It was a little scary at first, but that all changed the moment I walked in the building and saw the smiles on the people's faces. Like how my brothers, how my teammates welcomed me, man. How they were in the locker room, like I've been on the team since camp."
Was he aware he'd get so much work in his first game?
"I didn't know," Wilson said. "[Mike McDaniel] keep telling me just be ready at all times and make sure you're studying the playbook, in and out. All I did all week was stay up extra hours in the playbook and just prepare as if I was playing the whole game or a couple plays. I mean, I was just ready for whatever. And that's what Coach told me to do, and that's what it was."
The transition was easy, given that McDaniel previously served as offensive coordinator of the 49ers. Wilson said that "just a couple little terminologies" were different in the playbook.
It also helped that former Mostert, another former 49ers, plays for the Dolphins.
"Raheem is probably the first friend, the first friend/brother that I made coming into the league," Wilson said. "Like this guy did not have to do this. But, just sitting in the [hotel] room, he calls me up, 'Hey, come on, I'm gonna take you to go get breakfast.' I'm trying to pay for it, and he tells me, 'Nah, it's good. I got you.' This is the type of person he is, and he's never changed to this day."
Given that they play the same position, it would be tempting to compete for touches and attention and stats and glory.
"We don't worry about that," Wilson said. "That's something we don't worry about. We've got [Salvon Ahmed], we got [Myles Gaskin], all those guys could be starters and playing right now. It's just a brotherhood that we have. Like we've been around each other, we understand it. And at the end of the day, it's a business. We can't control any of that. All we gotta do is be there for each other and whoever's up or whoever's on the field, be ready to contribute."
Wilson made a significant contribution in his debut, with more touches and yards than any other running back on the roster.
Wilson played 50 percent of snaps; Mostert played 46 percent of snaps.
From a fantasy perspective, this should be viewed as a two-man committee. You should play the one you have and if you have both, prepare yourself for some tough week-to-week decisions. ...
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Xavien Howard has been playing through a groin injury and hasn't had cornerback Byron Jones (Achilles) opposite him. That has clearly affected his play. Howard does not have an interception this season after five last year and 10 in 2020. He did have an interception wiped away by a penalty Sunday, but he also allowed a 16-yard touchdown catch from Justin Fields to Darnell Mooney.
Four defensive players have gone on injured reserve through the first half of the season: CB Trill Williams (knee), CB Nik Needham (Achilles), LB Trey Flowers (foot) and S Brandon Jones (knee).
Miami has also had several injuries on the offensive line. LT Terron Armstead is playing through a toe injury. RT Austin Jackson (ankle) just came back from IR. LG Liam Eichenberg (knee) recently went on IR.
Up next, the Dolphins return home to face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. ...
You can access complete stats for the Dolphins Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
According to ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, the shouts could be heard from outside the Minnesota Vikings' locker room.
"You like that!"
"You bet I like that!"
"I love that!"
The Vikings honored their quarterback during a postgame celebration in their locker room after Sunday's 20-17 victory over the Washington Commanders. Kirk Cousins, who as a member of the Washington franchise in 2015 shouted, "You like that!" after a thrilling comeback victory, received a game ball and was asked by head coach Kevin O'Connell to break down the team.
Without missing a beat, Cousins bellowed his signature phrase again at FedEx Field.
"It was the first thing that came to mind," Cousins said.
Cousins, who spent six seasons with Washington before signing with the Vikings in 2018, already had played and defeated his former team once -- a 19-9 victory in 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium. But Sunday marked the first time that Cousins had played at FedEx Field since 2017, and he felt a range of emotions upon arrival.
"It kind of made me emotional going in on the bus," Cousins said, "just thinking about that and where things have gone. I'm just so grateful I got to play here and play for the coaches I did."
Cousins spent several minutes Sunday talking about the impact of playing for former coach Mike Shanahan and his son, then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, during his time in Washington.
"They believed in me before I believed in myself," Cousins said. "I remember my second start at Atlanta in , Kyle dapped me up before the game. He said, 'Go out and have a great day.' He's gassing me up, and I said, 'I want to prove you right.' And he said, 'You don't have to prove me right. You're going to be playing in this league for a long time.'"
Nine years later, Cousins completed 22 of 40 passes for 265 yards with two touchdowns along with one interception in leading the Vikings to their sixth consecutive victory. And if he didn't know before, he knows now: "You like that!" is here to stay.
"I guess those three words will follow me through the rest of my career and maybe my life," he said.
Meanwhile, it's worth noting the Vikings have owned the fourth quarter this season, with a plus-33 scoring differential that is the second best in the NFL.
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell, whether it's due to Cousins delivering clutch throws to Justin Jefferson and the rest of the receiving corps, Za'Darius Smith and the defense applying a fierce pass rush, late-game confidence or plain old good luck, the Vikings have reached the relative midpoint of their schedule on the strength of a series of steely performances in the closing minutes.
They're on a six-game winning streak, in first place in the NFC North by a stunningly wide margin for a team that doesn't rank particularly high in most of the basic statistics.
"It's complementary football that defines good teams in this league," O'Connell said on Monday. "You don't always win with style, but when you're able to win football games and consistently win close games by winning the fourth quarter, that does matter. We hate to put ourselves in position where you need to come from behind and win, but at least we know we've kind of removed all doubt and have belief in ourselves that we can go get those wins when we have to."
"Everybody has been rooting for each other, having each other's back, and the chemistry on this team is very strong," Jefferson said.
"Wherever we go down in those tight positions, we count on the next person to help us out and get us downfield where we need to be. This whole year we've been stressing that, and we've been doing a good job."
That's a fact.
The Vikings, who matched their eight-game start since 2009, have five fewer losses than Chicago and Green Bay. Both the Bears and the Packers have a bye in Week 14, when the Vikings play at Detroit.
Even if they split this daunting four-game stretch that begins at Buffalo on Sunday, the Vikings could well be in position to clinch the division with a win over the Lions on Dec. 11.
After the trip to Buffalo (6-2), the Vikings have three straight home games. That's the good news. The flip side is they play Dallas (6-2), New England (5-4) and the New York Jets (6-3).
Those are four of the top eight defenses in the NFL in fewest points allowed. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Cousins has been pressured a league-leading 85 times in eight games, according to Sportradar data, and while his sack total (16) has remained relatively low the Vikings must figure out how to reduce the heat he's often faced in the pocket.
Cousins has taken 59 hits this season, per Sportradar, the third most in the NFL. Eleven of those came from the Commanders, the highest single-game total against him in nearly two years.
Rookie right guard Ed Ingram Jr. has been responsible for more than his share of those hits and pressures. Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne used a simple swim move to leave Ingram in the dust for a sack in the first quarter and blew by him in the fourth quarter to flatten Cousins during a 47-yard completion to Jefferson that forced the quarterback to leave the game for one play because the wind was knocked out of him.
Backup Chris Reed, who has 29 starts, has not yet been active for a game this season. ...
Is there anything more the Vikings could have asked from new tight end T.J. Hockenson?
Seifert answered that question with a simple "Nope!"
After three days of practice with the team, Hockenson had by far the best game for a Vikings tight end this season. He was targeted a game-high nine times, catching all nine for 70 yards. He wasn't always elusive in the tight end screen game, but his first catch -- a 19-yard pass over the middle -- was the longest by a Vikings tight end this season.
If nothing else, this game proved how much the Vikings wanted and needed a tight end of Hockenson's skill set. ...
After emerging from their Week 7 bye in remarkably good health, the Vikings have begun to have some key players get hurt. Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson did not play at Washington because of a calf injury, and O'Connell sounded more cautious than optimistic when asked about his status for this week. Dantzler is "probably a long shot" to play against the Bills, O'Connell said.
You can access complete stats for the Vikings Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower advised readers, Bill Belichick believes he doesn't truly get a clear picture of the identity or potential of his team until sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday each season.
New England isn't quite to that point as it enters its bye week.
But the Patriots coach isn't short on information about a group that at 5-4 finds itself above .500 for the first time this season heading into the downslope of the schedule.
"We certainly know a lot more about our teams after nine regular-season games than we did back in September after three preseason games," Belichick said. "So, this will give us a good chance here in the next few days to look a little closer and find some areas that we can improve in as we go forward. Hopefully that will help us."
Despite being at the bottom of the AFC East standings, the Patriots are just 1 1/2 games behind first-place Buffalo (6-2). The Patriots still have four division games left to play, including two against the Bills.
New England hasn't finished last in the division since Belichick's first season in 2000.
The Patriots' defense has played a big role in them winning four of their last five.
But quarterback Mac Jones will have to play better if they hope to make it back to the playoffs.
He threw two touchdowns and five interceptions in his first three games before being sidelined three weeks with a high ankle sprain.
He has been taking better care of the ball in his three games back, throwing two TDs and two picks. Still, he says his standard is higher in Year Two.
"We want to play our best team ball," Jones said. "Our defense and special teams are playing really well. We're playing good at spots, but we need to continue to go up here and stop riding the wave, which we will. I think we have really talented players at every position. ...
"So we'll look at everything. I know our coaches have been grinding it out, doing a great job, putting us in a position to succeed. We've got to go out and execute a little better."
Execution in the red zone has been a weak point for the Patriots throughout the season.
Through nine games, they have scored TDs only 12 of 26 opportunities inside the 20 (46.2 percent), ranking 29th in the NFL in red zone efficiency.
The offensive line has also been wildly inconsistent, logging 25 penalties on the season. The issues have led to shuffling at both tackle and guard, with veteran Isaiah Wynn and rookie Cole Strange being benched for performance reasons. Complicating matters has been the absence of center David Andrews for the past two games as he recovers from a concussion.
Rhamondre Stevenson continued to take the majority of the work out of the backfield with Damien Harris (illness) sidelined.
However, he had a mediocre game from an efficiency perspective and also sat for the majority of the fourth quarter with the Patriots in control of the game. The highlight of Stevenson's performance came in the middle of the second quarter when he hauled in a three-yard touchdown pass from Jones.
While his performance was a touch underwhelming, Stevenson has at least 15 carries in four of his last five games as the Patriots head into their bye and it's hard to view him as anything but the lead component of this committee at the very least -- and it's fair to wonder if he isn't making it hard for Harris to return to as prominent role as we saw earlier this season. ...
Mark Daniels of MassLive.com reported Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard was calling out New England's offensive plays during Sunday's win, which Belichick was asked about during his Tuesday press conference.
Belichick said there were "for sure" instances where Leonard was able to correctly predict what New England was going to run. The same thing happened with Jets linebacker C.J. Mosely in Week 8.
"We definitely want to prevent that," Belichick said, via Zack Cox of NESN.com. "Yeah, I thought that there were two or three plays for sure that Leonard really got a big jump on and stopped us, basically, on those plays. Mosely got a couple of those a couple weeks ago in the Jets game. Mosely almost looked like he heard the play in the huddle he was on it so fast, and Leonard had a couple like that, too.
"So that's something we were giving away or just something that he anticipated based on whatever the keys were that he might have picked up, we certainly want to try to prevent that. But I thought definitely Leonard for sure did it, and I thought Mosely had a couple plays like that, as well.
"But that's what good defensive players do. They anticipate things, and they are able to sometimes get a read on what they think that's going to happen. They're not always right, but sometimes they are, and they can certainly make you look bad offensively."
Belichick noted that the offense strives for balance and tries not to give things away.
But the scheme is also, in theory, designed to have complementary plays.
"That's kind of the game within the game there," Belichick said. "Obviously, if a player or a team is stopping one thing, and you have something complementary to go to, then you can offset that.
"We certainly had that situation come up as well, too, where we were able to take advantage of whether it was a player thinking he knew what the play was or the defense trying to play a certain play but not defend another play. You have to kind of strike that balance. That's what it looked like to me, too."
After Week 9, the Patriots rank 16th in points scored but just 26th in yards this season -- their first with Matt Patricia as the offensive play-caller. The club will have to make some adjustments before facing the Jets for the second time in three games in Week 11.
On the injury front. ... The Patriots head into their bye with three players on injured reserve. OT Marcus Cannon provided some needed relief at tackle before sustaining a concussion and being added to the list before the game against the Colts. RB Ty Montgomery played in the season opener, but has been sidelined since with a knee injury. Rookie OL Chasen Hines was placed on IR with an undisclosed injury Saturday.
WR DeVante Parker and DL Christian Barmore were inactive Sunday, both dealing with knee injuries. C David Andrews continues to work back from a concussion. ...
New England jumps right back into division play on Nov. 20 when it hosts the Jets, who they beat on the road 22-17 on Oct. 30.
You can access complete stats for the Patriots Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Bailey Zappe, Mac Jones
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Pharaoh Brown
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
The Saints (3-6) hoped they had turned a corner following their dominant performance against the Las Vegas Raiders last week.
Instead, they simply found disappointment in a prime-time loss.
Many of the same problems the Saints dealt with earlier in the season returned. Quarterback Andy Dalton struggled, and the offensive line didn't protect him, particularly after the loss of center Erik McCoy to injury.
Dalton certainly didn't help his long-term case as the Saints' starting quarterback by throwing a late interception, nor was he helped by the Saints' run game, which didn't fare well against the Ravens' defense as New Orleans gained just 48 yards.
Still, head coach Dennis Allen says he is not considering benching Dalton.
Asked after Monday night's loss to the Ravens whether he considered making a change at quarterback, Allen answered, "No, I didn't."
Allen said Dalton was far from the only one to blame for the offense not doing much in the Saints' 27-13 loss.
"There was a lot that wasn't good offensively tonight. There was a lot of dirty hands in that," Allen said.
Dalton completed 19 of 29 passes for 210 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
Dalton doubled his season sack total and was picked off in the fourth quarter. He also will lament missing a wide-open Marquez Callaway in the end zone at the end of the first half. Callaway had 5.95 yards of separation on the play, making it only the second incompletion this season on an end zone throw with over 5 yards of separation.
Dalton's longest completion through three quarters was 19 yards, and the running game was just as ineffective.
Alvin Kamara, who was stuffed early for no gain on third-and-1, finished with 30 yards on nine carries.
"They did a lot of good things defensively that caused us a lot of challenges," Allen said. "We've got to go back to the drawing board, make some corrections and get better next week."
New Orleans converted only 3 of 11 third downs after entering with a success rate of 43.8 percent -- the eighth best in the NFL.
Asked if the performance changed his commitment to Dalton, Allen again answered, "No."
Jameis Winston opened the season as the Saints' starting quarterback but hasn't played since getting hurt in Week 3. Winston is healthy now and could play, but Allen seems to believe Dalton gives his team its best chance to win, despite Monday night's loss.
"Our offense has been pretty good and moved the ball effectively," he said. "This was not a good game tonight. We had a bad day at the office offensively and we've got to improve from it."
They'll try to find that improvement in Pittsburgh when they take on the Steelers this Sunday. ..
Worth noting. ... The injury bug came back to bite the Saints again, with C Erik McCoy, starting linebacker Pete Werner and starting defensive end Marcus Davenport all leaving with injuries. The Saints have been short-handed all season, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, so this would be another blow if all three end up out for any length of time.
The loss of Werner would hurt the most, as he has taken a huge leap forward in his second season and has been a key piece of the defense.
That said, Jarvis Landry, who was a pre-game scratch, appears to be closer to returning from his ankle injury. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The Saints are signing veteran running back Derrick Gore following a successful workout, a league source told Pro Football Network's Aaron Wilson. The Saints also worked out Antonio Williams and Jaquan Hardy. ...
One last note here. ... Dalton has a .231 win percentage in prime time (6-20), the worst of any quarterback since 2000. Kerry Collins is 5-16 for a .238 percentage.
You can access complete stats for the Saints Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood, Lynn Bowden, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
When the New York Giants raided the Buffalo Bills organization and hired Joe Schoen to be their general manager and Brain Daboll to be the coach, no one expected an immediate turnaround.
The Giants had had five straight losing seasons and the Bills probably are the best team in the past two seasons not to make the Super Bowl.
At the halfway point in the season, here's a surprise. The Bills and Giants have 6-2 records.
In particular, since taking over for the fired Dave Gettleman in January, Schoen has pushed all the right buttons in taking over a team that went 4-13 under Joe Judge in 2021.
It started with hiring Daboll to replace Joe Judge. Schoen followed that with tough salary cap decisions, terminating the contracts of star cornerback James Bradberry in the spring, while making a couple of cost-effective free-agent signings to rebuild the offensive line and provide depth at other positions.
His draft class of linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux, tackle Evan Neal, receiver Wan'Dale Robinson, guard Josh Ezeudu, tight end Daniel Bellinger and others have all contributed.
"What I'll tell you about our team is there's a lot of tough dudes that care about each other and love football," he said. "I thought we had some tough guys, I knew we had some competitive guys. I knew we had some good players, just you never know how those guys are going to gel."
The Giants have been resilient and their biggest players have stepped up when needed.
Quarterback Daniel Jones is playing his best football after Schoen decided not to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Running back Saquon Barkley is healthy again after an ACL injury early in 2020, and he is among the league leaders in rushing. Wink Martindale's defense is finding ways to confuse opponents and limit their scoring.
With three more wins, the Giants can guarantee their first winning season since 2016. With four or five wins in the last nine games, a playoff berth is likely.
Daboll set the tone for the season in the opener against Tennessee. Saying the Giants weren't going to play scared, he went for a 2-point conversion and a win with 1:06 in the game. The conversion was successful, and the Giants would go on to win three more in a row after trailing in each fourth quarter.
In all eight games, including the losses to Dallas and Seattle, New York has been tied at some point in the fourth quarter.
Jones, who has led five game-winning drives, and Barkley have been the keys for coordinator Mike Kafka's offense.
Jones has thrown for 1,399 yards, six touchdowns and hit a career-high 65 percent of his passes. He has only turned the ball over four times, and two of those were meaningless plays at the end of the first half.
Barkley is first in the NFC and second in the NFL with 779 rushing yards. His 968 yards from scrimmage is first in the conference and second in the league, behind Miami wide receiver Tyreek Hill (986 yards).
What's also important to note is the Giants have won despite injuries. They have used 12 players who were not on the roster in September.
The Giants' margins of victory have not been big. Their six wins have been by a total of 27 points. For the season, New York is plus six in scoring differential.
"That's what it's kind of been for us," safety Julian Love said. "Yeah, we want to be winning by more and all that stuff, but at the end of the day, if we win by one or we win by 30, a 'W' is a 'W.' That's kind of been our mindset. Is it sustainable? Yeah, because it's really based off of all the fundamentals of being successful at football."
And that's what Schoen and Daboll brought from Buffalo.
But as Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan suggested, we should stop the comparisons right there.
Barring the unforeseen, the Bills are going back to the playoffs for the third straight year and fifth time in six seasons. They just have so much talent, led by quarterback Josh Allen.
The Giants' postseason hopes are more uncertain. Their record is suspect.
They beat Carolina (2-7) and Green Bay, Jacksonville and Chicago, all 3-6. They have quality wins over AFC South leader Tennessee and AFC North leader Baltimore.
Their losses have been to NFC East rival Dallas (6-2) and NFC West leader Seattle (6-3).
The final nine games will determine whether New York gets back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, and only the second since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012.
The key is going to be the first two games after the bye. The Giants have home games against Houston (1-6-1) and Detroit (2-6). If Daboll's team can focus on the immediate goal and continue to find ways to win, an 8-2 record with seven games to go would be a major step.
The concern is the Giants haven't done anything the easy way this season. They have won six games by a combined margin of 27 points with the biggest margin being eight points against Chicago.
The other five wins have been by six points or fewer, and the victory against Jacksonville came on a play where the Jaguars receiver was tackled at the Giants 1-yard line as time ran out.
The final seven games will be tougher. Five will be against NFC East opponents, one at Dallas and home-and-home games with the Eagles (8-0) and the Commanders (4-5). Those are never easy. The other two games are against the NFC North leading Vikings (7-1) on the road on Dec. 24 and at home versus the Colts (3-5-1).
"We're 6-2, we've done a lot of good things," Schoen said. "I think everybody agrees that there's still some meat on the bone in areas where we can improve."
But make no mistake, Daboll is off to a fast start. He doesn't say many things different than predecessors Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge, but the players respond to him. His best move came in the season opener against the Titans, going for a game-winning 2-point conversion late.
It worked. Daboll has told his players since taking over not to be afraid to win. They have.
The negatives are obvious.
The receiving group. The Giants felt they had depth at the position with Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton and Robinson.
It disappeared quickly. Shepard was lost early to an ACL injury. Toney (hamstring) played in two games before being traded to Kansas City. Golladay, who has been a bust since getting a big free-agent contract last season, had two catches in four games before hurting his knee. Robinson also missed four games early with a knee injury.
Slayton leads the wide receivers with 232 yards. Robinson has started to contribute lately. David Sills, Richie James and Marcus Johnson have chipped in.
The team returned from their bye week on Tuesday and Golladay was on the practice field. It's the first time that Golladay has practiced since the Friday before their Week 4 win over the Bears and Daboll said that Golladay should play against the Texans this weekend.
Now all he has to regain the form he showed with the Lions. That seems like a reach, but I'll be watching for more on that and follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...
In addition, Daboll said James has cleared concussion protocol. The veteran wideout was spotted in a non-contact jersey at Wednesday's practice. As NBCSportsEdge.com notes, James had been phased out of the offense before the Giants' Week 9 bye. He hasn't topped 20 receiving yards since Week 3.
Meanwhile, OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf), OT Neal (knee), G Ben Bredeson (knee), G Shane Lemieux (foot) Bellinger (eye) and CB Rodarius Williams all could return from injured reserve.
Williams, who tore an ACL last season, Lemieux and Ojulari, are close to being back.
In addition, safety Xavier McKinney is one of the top defensive backs on the team, but going away during the bye week and hurting a hand while riding an ATV in Mexico is inexcusable. He was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list late Monday and will miss at least four games.
Not only that, he is the player who relays coordinator Wink Martindale's calls to the defense.
QBs: Tommy DeVito, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, Darren Waller
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reported, the New York Jets overcame a slow start, a double-digit deficit and a bizarre sky cam delay to deliver their biggest win in seven years: A 20-17 upset of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The Jets continued their improbable season with a dominating performance on defense (five sacks and two interceptions) and a bounce-back game by quarterback Zach Wilson, providing a loud statement to their many doubters.
One year after a 4-13 finish, the Jets (6-3) are tied with the Miami Dolphins for second place in the AFC East, only a half-game behind the Bills (6-2).
"Everybody outside of this locker room didn't think we had a chance, but it's been the same story all season for us," tight end Tyler Conklin said. "Everybody kind of thinks it's going to be the Same Old Jets, right? Last week was, 'Oh, the Same Old Jets.' ... Guess what? We're not the Same Old Jets."
The Jets went off as 10.5-point underdogs, making them the biggest home underdogs with a winning record since 2007. On cue, they fell behind, 14-3, on two touchdown runs by Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Their hopes were fading after a third-quarter fumble by Wilson in the red zone, ruining a potential scoring drive that was disrupted by an unusual delay.
The game was stopped for 11 minutes because of a broken cable on CBS' sky cam, which caused it to sink close to field level.
Asked what he was thinking during the delay, head coach Robert Saleh said, "It only happens to the Jets."
As it turned out, the sky cam fell on the Jets, but the sky didn't.
"I know a lot of people are going to be surprised, right?" Saleh said. "I don't think there's a person surprised in the locker room."
The Jets have won three games after trailing by double digits, compared to 4-30 in the previous four seasons. Under Saleh, they're 5-14 in those situations after going 0-20 in two seasons under Adam Gase.
"We don't flinch," Saleh said. "We're too young to flinch."
And now the Jets are on quest to deliver the franchise -- and its long-frustrated fans -- a playoff berth for the first time since 2010, which seems like a reasonable and realistic expectation.
"We're excited with where we're at, but we know there's a lot of work that needs to be done," Wilson said Monday. "I think because of where we're at, guys are taking this bye week very seriously as far as understanding where we need to be when we come back, the improvements we still need to make and how we can just keep this thing going."
As they head into their bye week, the AFC East is very much up for grabs. Not only that, the Jets hold the No. 5 overall playoff spot in the conference.
Sure, there are eight more games to play, including one each against their division rivals, but the reality is the Jets are currently positioned to be a playoff team.
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. reminded readers, coming out of training camp, the Jets appeared to have much more talent than they've had in several seasons. But success seemed a year away, especially with such a young -- but talented -- roster.
New York has positioned itself now to make a second-half run at ending the NFL's longest postseason drought at 11 seasons.
But Wilson said the Jets aren't entertaining the thought that if they continue doing what they've done, the playoffs are a possibility.
"Not in that way," the second-year quarterback said. "Kind of the way you're saying it almost makes it sound like we didn't expect to be here, but, hey, wow, we are, so let's see if we can keep doing it.
"But for us, we expected to be here."
The formula for success has become clear for the Jets: a ground-and-pound running game, coupled with limiting mistakes by the quarterback -- combined with an aggressive, opportunistic defense that ranks among the best in the league.
"It's been fun," Saleh said. "The first half of the year, even the most optimistic Jets fan wouldn't have had us at 6-3. But at the same time, we've got a great opportunity coming up in the second half of the season. ... It doesn't mean anything if we don't attack the second half in the same exact manner."
Perhaps the most encouraging development was Wilson (18-for-25, 154 yards), who set a career high for completion percentage (72 percent). He was under intense scrutiny after last week's three-interception disaster in a 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots, but he managed the game nicely and had only one turnover.
"I don't really care what anybody says," Wilson said. "Of course, I've been dealing with [criticism] my whole life. But that's a huge team win."
That said, Wilson is still developing and the Jets need to do all they can to make sure he maintains his confidence and doesn't force plays -- as he did two weeks ago. But offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur drew up a solid game plan against the Bills, one that allowed Wilson to get in rhythm and use the running game to his advantage.
For all his struggles, Wilson has no interceptions in four of his six games this season.
Other notes of interest. ... The rookie class is delivering.
The Jets were excited when they got cornerback Sauce Gardner, wide receiver Garrett Wilson and defensive end Jermaine Johnson in the first round, and then they traded up in the second round to draft running back Breece Hall. All were key contributors in the first half of the season, providing New York with a promising young core.
Meanwhile, second-year wide receiver Elijah Moore remains one of the Jets' more intriguing story lines.
After a solid rookie season during which he caught 43 passes and appeared to be a key playmaker, Moore saw his opportunities dip early this year. Frustrated, he requested a trade -- which the Jets insisted they would not grant -- and still appears to be an odd man out. Moore had zero targets against the Bills despite playing 27 snaps on offense.
Perhaps they can use the bye week to get Moore back in the mix. Saleh told CBSSports' Josina Anderson on Wednesday the team will move the second-year wideout to the slot.
"It’s a new position because we’ve been playing him outside for the most part," Saleh said. "We’re trying to find ways to utilize his strengths."
So we'll be watching for more on that coming out of the bye -- and to see if Corey Davis, who has missed two games with a knee injury, can return for their Nov. 20 game against the Patriots.
Finally. ... ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports DT Sheldon Rankins could miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a dislocated elbow in the win over the Bills.
You can access complete stats for the Jets Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
The Eagles inch toward midseason flying high at 8-0 for the first time in franchise history and the lone undefeated team in the NFL.
As Dave Spadaro of the team's official website framed it: "You are a defensive coordinator and you've got six days to prepare to play the Philadelphia Eagles. You'll go through the normal situational preparation and you will have your defense understand the personnel challenges ahead.
"And then you will try to get into the minds of Philadelphia head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and the coaching staff: What are they thinking this week? How are they planning to attack me? If I have to pick a poison on which to concentrate, what direction do I take?"
This is the predicament every defense faces when it lines up against an Eagles offense that has potent flexibility that, through eight games, has been remarkably consistent.
Following their win over the Texans last Thursday (before Sunday's games), the Eagles ranked third in the NFL in total offense through seven games, sixth in the run game and 10th passing the football. They averaged 28 points heading into the Texans game -- they scored 29 that night in the victory -- to rank third in the league.
You want to load up the box to stop running back Miles Sanders, quarterback Jalen Hurts and a stable of contributors on the ground?
Hurts will read it and look to a passing game that features the potent trio of wide receivers A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, and if you somehow manage to contract that terrific threesome, Hurts will feature wide receivers Quez Watkins or Zach Pascal, or take a peek at tight end Jack Stoll or get the running backs -- Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, and Boston Scott -- involved in the catch-and-run game.
"We've got so many playmakers here. Defenses, they have a lot to think about when they play against us," said Brown, who had four receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown last Thursday night and now has 43 receptions, 718 yards, and six touchdowns in the eight victories. "There are no so soft spots. We pride ourselves on having the ability to win any number of ways. When we get the passing game going, we're making big plays and going up and down the field. The running game, same thing. The coaches have done a great job keeping everybody involved, which isn't always easy to do.
"Jalen is the guy and he's directing things out there, reading the defense, and making the right decisions."
Flexibility and versatility are the goals here, and the Eagles have achieved them through eight games.
The running game, paced by Sanders who lit up Jacksonville for 134 yards with two scores and has five touchdowns in the last five games, has been consistent each and every week. Sanders already has 656 ground yards, averaging 5 yards per carry.
Hurts is the orchestrator, averaging 255 passing yards and 41 rushing yards per game with only one lost fumble and two interceptions thrown. He is directing an offense that is making beautiful music, one that scored touchdowns on all four red zone visits on Thursday night -- two running, two passing, of course -- and that has a 70 percent touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line, fourth-best in the NFL.
"Execution is the key," Hurts says over and over. "The opportunities for big plays and scores are there if we execute at a high level. That's our goal every time out. The pieces are here."
We've talked about this throughout the season: What is the personality of this offense? After eight games, it is a complete offense, fueled by an outstanding offensive line that makes everything go.
"All credit to the line," Sanders said on Thursday night after he ran for 93 yards and a touchdown on 17 touches. "They're doing a great job every week. I keep saying this over and over, but it's true. Without those guys, our offense isn't anywhere close to what we're doing now."
Even with that, when the players are asked about the offense and the way it has collectively played, the response is usually one that reminds us all that there is still room to grow and that points are still out there to be had. In other words, the Eagles expect that the best, the very best, is still to come.
"Oh, we have more to accomplish and we will continue to work on it," Brown said. "There is a lot more we can be better at, so the goal is to keep working hard and improving our game. We want to peak at the right time and put it all together. We haven't done that yet."
The thought is exciting, isn't it?
As good as the offense has been and as off-balance as defenses are when they line up against the Eagles, there is still growth potential. We're only eight games into something special, and everyone is aiming higher with nine weeks remaining in the regular season.
For what it's worth, the Eagles are the 29th team in the Super Bowl era to start 8-0 and the other 28 all made the playoffs. Fifteen of those teams went on to win their conference and eight won the Super Bowl.
"I know it's special for the city of Philadelphia," Hurts said. "I've been 8-0 before and lost a national championship. Just take it day by day. Take it day by day. We haven't accomplished anything yet."
Just because the ultimate goal is still months away, doesn't meant the Eagles haven't accomplished plenty in Sirianni's second season.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only NFL team to have a perfect season. The 2007 New England Patriots started 18-0 until a loss in the Super Bowl. The Eagles' schedule is pretty easy with three straight games against teams with losing records; Washington, Indianapolis and Green Bay before a Dec. 4 matchup against Tennessee.
The Eagles still have two games left against the 6-2 and NFC East rival New York Giants.
They'll host the Commanders on Monday night.
You can access complete stats for the Eagles Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Dale Lolley wrote for the team's official website, as typically is the case when a team has a rookie quarterback learning on the job, there has been both good and bad with Kenny Pickett.
But despite their 2-6 start to this season, the Steelers have been pleased with the way Pickett has handled some of the adversity thrown at him since head coach Mike Tomlin turned to him a little over a month ago.
Lolley was quick to note the results haven't necessarily been what the Steelers would have wanted.
But Pickett has faced a tough gauntlet of teams thus far in the four starts of his career against Buffalo, Philadelphia and Miami on the road and Tampa Bay at home. Those four teams are a combined 21-9 this season, with the Bills and Eagles being a combined 13-1.
Pickett made it through that stretch with his wits still about him, and the Steelers feel he'll be better in the long run for having gone through it, even though they went just 1-3 in those games.
"He's getting a trial by fire. He's being exposed," quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan told Lolley. "He goes on the road there at Buffalo, (seeing) some great defenses, some great pass rushes in Philadelphia. It gives him an opportunity to learn from those circumstances and continue to grow and develop the kind of confidence he already has, but it reinforces that. I don't think there is a downside to it. He's a tough young man and we're expecting big things from him."
The first four games have certainly had their ups and downs. He was intercepted three times in the loss to the Bills. Against the Eagles last week, Pickett was sacked six times, intercepted once and also lost a fumble.
But after playing three of their past four games on the road, the Steelers play five of their final nine games at home.
The Steelers' lone win in Pickett's four starts came at Acrisure Stadium three weeks ago against Tampa Bay. Coming out of their bye, the Steelers have back-to-back home games against the Saints and Bengals.
A pair of home games could be just what the doctor ordered.
But the struggles for Pickett weren't unexpected.
"I think for Kenny, a lot of quarterbacks that have gotten drafted in the first round have come in their first year and it has maybe not been as rosy as everybody has hoped and it's turned out to be really good, right?" offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. "There's statistical data to that. That doesn't make it OK right now. We're not all sitting here like, 'Oh, it's fine,' and he's not either. We want him to get better every day. We want that for everybody. Kenny is the quarterback and he's the focal point, but that goes for everybody."
Pickett admitted following the Steelers' 35-13 loss to the Eagles that he and the rest of the offense need to play better. He's taking ownership of what the Steelers, who have fallen to last in the NFL in scoring heading into their bye week, are putting on the field.
"We've been having these problems all year. That has to get changed," Pickett said. "That has to get fixed. We need to look each other in the eyes and get it turned around. We're only going to be able to do it. Coaches can say whatever they want. Everyone else in the media and fans can say what they want. But at the end of the day it's down to us so we have to figure it out."
The Steelers have great faith that Pickett, the only quarterback selected in the first round of this year's draft, will do so. But there are some things on which Sullivan feels his young quarterback needs to work, as well.
"In terms of the pre-snap and post-snap changes that can occur with some of the coverages, some of the looks, he's made good decisions for the most part," Sullivan said. "But there have been a few instances where defenses will change the look on you, so you're not expecting it to say what you think it's going to say. We'll have a read or progression to one side of the field, or starting a receiver across, etc., and you might have a good indication that, 'I think it's going to be X.' It turns out being Y. Just making that transition is something we'll continue to work on.
"Some of the shots down the field, we'd like to be able to complete more of those. There's a lot that goes into that. But from our standpoint, having pinpoint accuracy down the field is something we'll continue to work on."
In 165 pass attempts, Pickett has completed nine passes for 20 or more yards. Mitchell Trubisky, whom Pickett replaced at halftime of a Week 4 loss to the Jets, had 12 20-yard completions in 128 pass attempts.
Those are more than simply throwing the ball 20 or more yards downfield. Some of those explosive plays comes on catch-and-runs, something Sullivan would like to see more out of Pickett moving forward, as well.
"It's a guy being able to catch the ball without a defender close to him," Sullivan explained, "to use that natural elusiveness, speed and acceleration to create something. That's what we're looking for."
But the Steelers and Sullivan, in particular, feel Pickett has the ability to make those throws.
He just has to trust what he's seeing and let them rip. That is part of the learning process.
That's why coaches are pleased that one of the few bright spots has been the emerging chemistry between Pickett and fellow rookie George Pickens.
The athletic 6-3 Pickens perhaps had the catch of the first half of the season in a loss to Cleveland in September and has looked like the downfield threat the Steelers desperately need.
Beyond that, Pickett has thrown eight interceptions as a pro, again on his 165 attempts. He threw just seven interceptions in 497 attempts during his breakout season at Pitt last fall.
While not all the picks are his fault, Pickett needs to take better care of the ball if the Steelers are to have any shot at stringing wins together over the second half. ...
Whatever the case, the Steelers are 2-6 after eight games for just the second time in Tomlin's 16-year tenure. In 2013, Pittsburgh summoned enough to rally to an 8-8 finish, narrowly missing a playoff berth.
Yet that group had Ben Roethlisberger in his prime and offensive stars on the rise in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. It also had a locker room scattered with players who still had a Super Bowl appearance (or two) on their respective resumes.
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves noted, the 2022 version of the Steelers does not.
The leaders on offense include co-captain Najee Harris, who says all the right things but is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. Trubisky remains a co-captain, though his biggest role right now is serving as a de facto mentor to the 24-year-old Pickett, who has been thrust into the role as one of the faces of the franchise a little earlier than Tomlin initially planned.
Tomlin has tried to strike an even tone throughout perhaps the most difficult stretch of his career. He also knows, however, that what he says matters far less than what his team does.
"Words are not going to get it done, actions are," Tomlin said. "We're going to work hard and roll our sleeves up and continue this process."
It's true. And it's going to be a process to get where they need to be.
From a fantasy perspective, The offense is in the bottom quarter of the league in almost every major statistical category, including points (31st), yards (28th) and turnovers (28th). Canada has become a flashpoint for the unit's struggles, and he has done little in his 26 games calling the plays to come up with something that can work at the NFL level.
His job security after the season appears tenuous at best barring a major turnaround.
Harris looks the part of an NFL starting running back. His production, however, is not matching his pedigree. Playing behind an offensive line that looks more comfortable backpedaling in pass protection than it does trying to open running lanes, Harris has been a non-factor.
According to Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, Harris isn't going be benched (yet), but a source with knowledge of the team's plans tells Florio Jaylen Warren will get more touches moving forward.
An effective running game would go a long way to taking some of the pressure off Pickett to do it all. At the moment, it's not happening.
The defense hasn't been much better. The Steelers had seven sacks in Week 1. They have eight total in seven games without T.J. Watt.
That said, Watt could return as soon as this Sunday against New Orleans. The week off likely helped defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (knee), who has been effective at times after signing a one-year deal.
Asked on Tuesday how the passing game changes without Chase Claypool, Tomlin says "I don't know if it does."
The coach believes Pat Freiermuth's skillset, in effect, is redundant to what Claypool was doing. He will be the target in the middle of the field.
Finally. ... According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staffer Gerry Dulac, the Steelers have signed kicker Matthew Wright from the Chiefs practice squad, meaning they have to keep him on their 53-man roster for at least three games.
More importantly, it means Chris Boswell's injury might be more of an issue than feared.
Moving forward, they'll try to build some momentum toward 2023 over the season's final nine games. The schedule isn't overly daunting. The Steelers face just two teams the rest of the way who entered Monday with winning records: AFC North rivals Cincinnati and Baltimore.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
According to Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow, when the Panthers made the decision to trade Christian McCaffrey to San Francisco and begin a rebuild, the running back said it put a "chip" on his shoulder.
McCaffrey had a sense of urgency to prove the San Francisco 49ers right for paying a heavy price for him, and the early returns have been positive.
"I understand this is a business," McCaffrey said. "But any time somebody gets rid of you or something happens, you take it personally. ... It's part of the league. It happens to coaches. It happens to players. It's just more wood on the fire."
That extra motivation turned into a rare touchdown triple crown that sent the 49ers (4-4) into their bye week on a positive note with a 31-14 win over the division rival Los Angeles Rams.
It also gave a glimpse of how an offense that looked static at times the first half of the season could turn into a dynamic force after the bye with coach Kyle Shanahan having playmakers like McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk and Elijah Mitchell at his disposal.
As Dubow noted, McCaffrey adds a new twist to the offense as a pass-catching running back who is capable of doing more than just being just a check-down option.
He showed that with an acrobatic 9-yard TD catch from Jimmy Garoppolo that gave the Niners the lead for good in the second half against the Rams. McCaffrey's 400 receptions and 3,371 yards receiving are second to Alvin Kamara among all running backs since he entered the league in 2017.
"It adds an element for other things for people to worry about," Shanahan said. "It adds an element on areas to go when you think it's a weakness in the defense. Quarterbacks can always get to check-downs as an outlet, but it gives it more percentage of that outlet being a bigger play too, so the more different things that a player can bring to the offense, the harder all the areas become to defend."
McCaffrey showed off all his skills Sunday, rushing 18 times for 94 yards and a TD, catching eight passes for 55 yards and a score and throwing a 34-yard TD pass to Aiyuk.
He became the fourth player since the merger with a rushing, passing and receiving TD in the same game.
"I don't think anyone ever has a perfect game," he said. "I think any time you check the tape, you know regardless of the statistics, there's always a couple plays here or there where you kind of beat yourself up about, so I'm sure that'll happen again this week, but that's the beauty of football is there's always opportunities to get better."
The Niners are counting on McCaffrey to make them better after sending picks in the second, third and fourth rounds in 2023 and fifth round in 2024 to Carolina in the deal.
They felt the offense needed a spark after it struggled for most of the first half of the season when the defense carried the team for stretches.
But the Niners believe they now have the chance to get back to the level they were at last season when they made a second-half run to the NFC title game with an improved offense to complement Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and the stellar defense.
Samuel is expected back from a hamstring injury after the bye. His ability to run out of the backfield as well as play wide receiver coupled with McCaffrey's ability to line up out wide as well as being a top back offer endless possibilities for the offense.
San Francisco also has Aiyuk, who is emerging as a dangerous wideout in his third season, and Kittle, who is one of the top top-way tight ends in the league, as well as the expected return of 2021 leading rusher Mitchell from injury after the bye.
That gives Shanahan confidence his team can again peak at the right time of the season.
"You just want a chance to get into the tournament and with where we stand now, I still feel we have a very good chance of that," Shanahan said. "We have to play good football here going forward. The thing that you want most with your team is that you're getting better as the year goes and just all around in all three phases, probably had our best game as a team (Sunday) and I think that was real good timing for it."
Meanwhile, with the exception of a two-game stretch against the Falcons and Chiefs when injuries played a role, the Niners have been one of the top defenses in the league, ranking sixth in points allowed (18.4 per game) and third in yards per play allowed (4.75).
The offense has been more inconsistent but showed some positive signs against the Rams, with McCaffrey offering a new element and Garoppolo playing perhaps his best game of the season.
Building off that performance will play a big role in determining how far this Niners team is capable of going a year after falling one game short of the Super Bowl.
Next up, the 49ers host the Chargers on Sunday night.
They don't need to travel much the rest of the season, with six of their final nine games at home and only one trip out of the Pacific Time Zone when they play Arizona in Mexico City on Nov. 21.
Other notes of interest. ... One of the reasons the Niners decided to move on from Garoppolo and turn the team over to Trey Lance was to add more of a threat from the deep pass. While Garoppolo has played well at times since regaining his starting job, his issues in the deep game are still evident.
He has completed just 5 of 18 passes at least 20 yards downfield with one interception. He doesn't have a TD on a pass at least 30 yards downfield since 2019.
Nonetheless, third-year receiver Aiyuk has emerged as San Francisco's most reliable outside threat. While Samuel may be more versatile with his ability to run out of the backfield and turn short passes into long gains, Aiyuk has been more consistent.
He leads the team in receptions (38), yards receiving (483) and TD catches (four). He has 21 catches for 246 yards and three TDs in his last three games.
Third-round rookie wideout Danny Gray was supposed to bring the speed element to San Francisco's passing game but has been a non-factor so far. He has played only 33 offensive snaps in the five games he has been active and has no catches on six targets so far this season.
On the injury front. ... The Niners are hoping to get several players back after the bye week, including Samuel and fellow wideout Jauan Jennings, both of whom missed the team's last game with hamstring injuries, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who returns from finger surgery.
Shanahan said on Wednesday that Samuel, Jennings and Juszczyk were set to be full participants in practice. That bodes well for their chances of playing against the Chargers this weekend.
In addition, Mitchell, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, and offensive lineman Colton McKivitz have all been designated to return from injured reserve and have had their practice window opened.
Mitchell's anticipated return also made it easier for the 49ers to trade Jeff Wilson Jr. to the Dolphins last week.
Al-Shaair and McKivitz are also recovering from a sprained MCL.
Additionally, the 49ers signed receiver Tajae Sharpe to the team's practice squad and released tight end Troy Fumagalli from the practice squad.
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth reminded readers, before the season, oddsmakers set the over-under on the number of wins for the Seattle Seahawks at 5 1/2.
And many observers thought taking the under would be the smart move.
Halfway through the season, those who were bullish on the Seahawks have already cashed in, and Seattle is pushing toward the playoffs.
"Sometimes it's good for people to not place expectations on you, to play as the underdog, and I don't know if that'll continue, but it's kind of good for where we are right now," quarterback Geno Smith said.
Seattle improved to 6-3 with Sunday's 31-21 win at Arizona. The Seahawks have won four straight and have a 1 1/2-game lead in the NFC West.
A big reason for the low expectations surrounding Seattle was Smith, who hadn't been a full-time starter since 2014. Smith made one of his few critical mistakes of the season when he threw a pick-6 against the Cardinals, but he recovered to lead Seattle on three consecutive touchdown drives of 70 yards or longer.
Smith leads the NFL in completion percentage. He's third in passer rating and is tied for fourth in touchdown passes. If those numbers hold, he might be a contender not just for comeback player of the year, but for MVP.
Smith isn't the only reason for Seattle's unexpected success. Rookies are thriving in key roles. Smart free agent signings are contributing. And Seattle's defense has made a dramatic shift from where it was at the start of the season and has been one of the best units in the league over the past several weeks.
"The last couple of weeks we have been playing really good ball," head coach Pete Carroll said. "It's so pleasing that we've arrived here."
This is the seventh time during Carroll's tenure the Seahawks have started 6-3. In five of the six previous seasons, Seattle went on to make the playoffs -- including four times as NFC West champion.
After this week's game in Germany against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, Seattle has a bye and then plays three of its next four games at home.
Two of those games are against Las Vegas and Carolina, teams with a combined 4-13 record. ...
As for those rookies. ...Through nine games, no rookie class in the league has been better than Seattle's.
Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas have been excellent on the offensive line. Running back Kenneth Walker III is a contender for offensive rookie of the year. Tariq Woolen's play at cornerback already has teams avoiding throwing in his direction, while cornerback Coby Bryant and defensive end Boye Mafe have made strong contributions.
No matter what happens the rest of this season, Seattle has cornerstones to build around.
From a fantasy perspective, of course, no rookie has delivered like Walker.
After earning himself the Offensive Rookie of the Month award, he showed he truly deserved it in Week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale.
In Arizona, Walker logged 26 carries for 109 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He also managed three receptions for 20 yards. It's hard to ask much more from your rookie running back.
For much of Sunday's game, a tough Arizona defense made it difficult on Walker and the rest of Seattle's offense, but Walker, the offensive line and the tight ends all kept at it, resulting in Walker gaining 78 second-half yards, including 62 on those final two drives.
"He's something now," Carroll said. "He's showing us stuff every time we go out. He's got tricks, he's got creativity. It stems from this marvelous ability he has and capitalizes on it because he's so tough and he's so aggressive. He looks like he's going to pop those runs. He looks like he's going to get out and now we have seen enough stuff that you think he's going to sneak out and all of a sudden, he's going to be gone again. I think that anticipation is always really exiting with a great runner, and he's got that."
Earlier in the day, Carroll made a comparison to LaDainian Tomlinson when talking about Walker on his weekly radio show, and asked more about that comparison, Carroll said, "He's got the stuff that shocks you.
"The really great runners, they shock you with what they see and what they do and how they make their body function. He's got those moves and his ability to put his foot in the ground and get skinny and get huge, then he's hopping over guys doing all those kinds of things. That's what has been really exciting. It's that marvelous creativity and instinctive stuff that they've got that's always been the thing that I love about running backs. He's got a lot of juice now. He's got a lot of stuff for us."
Depth is one area where Seattle has not faced a significant challenge.
Other than running back Rashaad Penny and safety Jamal Adams, the Seahawks have avoided major injuries to starters. They clearly are talented enough to win with their current lineup, but if injuries mount that depth will be tested.
On the injury front. ... Seattle is unsure about the status of No. 3 wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and edge rusher Darrell Taylor going into this week's game in Munich.
Both players appear likely to return after the bye if they can't play against the Buccaneers. Backup safety Joey Blount could be back from a quadriceps injury this week.
The Seahawks had only one significant injury coming out of Sunday's game, with linebacker and special teams standout Cullen Gillaspia leaving the game due to a knee injury. Carroll said Monday that Gillaspia's injury will require surgery, but wasn't as bad as initially feared.
"He's going to have to get his knee fixed," Carroll said. "I was just with him in the training room. It's going to be a long haul. He had some pretty good news. It wasn't as bad as we thought initially, but he'll make his comeback.
Finally. ... The Seahawks signed Godwin Igwebuike to their practice squad, a running back who spent time on the practice squad earlier this season.
Igwebuike initially signed to Seattle's practice squad in September after running back Travis Homer suffered an injury that landed him on injured reserve, then was released from the practice squad last month when Homer returned from IR.
The Seahawks had an open spot on their practice squad after signing Bruce Irvin to the 53-man roster last week.
You can access complete stats for the Seahawks Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine reported, Tom Brady triumphantly pumped his fist in the air as he jogged off the field at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night, having secured a come-from-behind 16-13 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, who not only denied his quest for an eighth Super Bowl on this very field last season in the divisional round of the playoffs but also played a key role in luring him out of retirement.
Ten days ago, Brady was nearly inconsolable in the Bucs' locker room after falling to the Baltimore Ravens 27-22 in prime time.
The next day, he and Gisele Bundchen finalized their divorce after 13 years of marriage. But on Sunday, Brady got to recapture a piece of the magic that has come to define his remarkable 23-year career. And more importantly, he got to feel joy again. So did his coaches and teammates.
"That was awesome," said Brady, who had not beaten the Rams in three tries as a Buccaneer until Sunday. "That was f---in' awesome."
Brady's 15-yard pass to running back Leonard Fournette in the second quarter was a history-maker, as he became the first NFL quarterback to eclipse 100,000 career passing yards in the regular season and postseason combined. But it was what Brady did with 44 seconds left against the defending Super Bowl champions that showed why at the age of 45 he continues to defy both age and logic and that helped a downtrodden team snap a three-game losing streak.
"It's all about the win," Brady said. "It's all about the win, man. I never cared about the [records]. All about the win."
With Tampa Bay's offense having been unable to find the end zone all night, including three straight incompletions inside the L.A. 6-yard line on the previous drive, the Bucs' defense forced a Rams three-and-out, giving Brady the ball back at the Tampa Bay 40. From there, he completed four straight passes (on his fifth, Mike Evans drew a defensive pass interference call on Derion Kendrick), before finding rookie tight end Cade Otton, who ran out of a bunch formation and into the flat for a 1-yard touchdown.
"We always have a chance with [Brady]," said head coach Todd Bowles, whose defense held the Rams to 138 passing yards and 68 rushing yards. "We're grateful to have him. He got over 100,000 yards; that's a long playing career for anybody. He's still playing at a high level. We love the guy to death."
Not only did Brady become the first quarterback in NFL history to surpass 100,000 passing yards, he also notched his 43rd career fourth-quarter comeback, tying Peyton Manning for the most by an NFL starting quarterback.
"That's crazy," Evans said, shaking his head. "Like I don't know if that'll ever be touched. He's the GOAT for a reason. Congrats to him."
Bowles offered his assessment.
"You run out of things to say about him," he said. "I'm sure I can't say anything different than the 50 million people that [have] already commented things on him. He's a great player. He's one of the best, if not the best, to ever play the game, and he continues to do that."
But Brady and the offense have struggled all season to find the end zone. The Bucs had scored just two offensive touchdowns in their previous 33 possessions prior to Sunday's game-winning drive. And without several key players on their defense in recent weeks, they were unable to pick up the slack.
Through nine games, the Bucs are only averaging 18 points per game, which ranks near the bottom of the NFL after being one of the league's highest-scoring teams the past two seasons.
So the Bucs were pleased to get the late win.
"He's so under control in those situations," said Otton, who also caught a key 28-yard pass on the first play of the final drive. "We all believe in him, and we all believe in each other. And despite the results on offense this season, we still believed. And when it came down to it, and when it mattered most, we were able to get it done. We knew we had that in us. It was great to prove it."
Brady wasn't the only player who tucked aside his own personal pain to play.
Last weekend, Otton and his family held a celebration of life in Tumwater, Washington, for his mother, Sally, who died of Parkinson's disease on Sept. 20.
"Obviously, I miss my mom and [thought] about her right away, but I know she would be so proud of me," Otton said. "I'm just happy to do this and know she got to watch me do it."
Brady, Otton and several other teammates shared a quick embrace in the corner of the south end zone where Otton scored. It was the first time Brady -- still trying to figure things out without top target and close friend Rob Gronkowski, who retired for the second time this offseason -- had thrown a touchdown pass to a tight end all season.
"He's a rookie, he's a great teammate, he works his ass off," Evans said of Otton, who had five catches on six targets for 68 receiving yards. "I'm happy he got the game winner for his first one."
At 4-5, the Bucs are still one game below .500, but they regained control of the NFC South after the Atlanta Falcons fell on Sunday to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The team's win over Los Angeles, coupled with a win over the Falcons last month, gives Tampa Bay a tiebreaker advantage in the division race.
Still, it's much too soon to conclude they've resolved the issues that have undermined them, especially on offense.
Beating the Rams to avoid a four-game skid, nevertheless, is a step in the right direction and figures to make for a much more pleasant flight across the Atlantic Ocean this week to face the Seattle Seahawks (6-3) in Munich, Germany.
Next week's bye will afford Bowles and his staff an opportunity to assess where the team stands and implement any changes deemed necessary.
Bowles is confident the shortcomings are fixable. He was clearly encouraged after the defense allowed a season-low 206 yards against the Rams, including just 68 rushing on 24 attempts.
"It was a hard-fought game. It was complementary football. It was a team win," Bowles said. "It's a lot easier to fly overseas after you win a game than when you lose a game. We've just got to start putting them together. ..."
Also worth noting. ... Despite losing five of seven following a 2-0 start, Brady is second in the NFL with 2,547 yards passing. The team's red zone struggles are reflected in the fact the 45-year-old quarterback has only thrown for 10 touchdowns. He's thrown one interception, none since Week 1.
An inability to run the ball has made the Bucs rely on Brady's arm more than Bowles would prefer. The team is averaging just 3 yards per carry. There are 15 players around the league, including quarterbacks Justin Fields and Lamar Jackson, who have run for more yards than the 546 Tampa Bay has gained on the ground as a team.
As The Athletic's Greg Auman noted, Fournette has disappointed this season. His 3.3-yard average is the worst in the NFL in any of the last three seasons for anyone with as many carries as he has. He doesn't have a run longer than 17 yards, after runs of 46 and 47 yards in his first two seasons in Tampa, and rookie Rachaad White is slowly taking more and more reps at his expense.
On Sunday, White had more rushing yards. The snaps were still heavily in Fournette's favor, but that will continue to change if Fournette underperforms.
Fournette has almost 300 more yards than White on the season, but Auman expects that gap to narrow as the Bucs trust the rookie more and more. Fournette might end up as the team's leading rusher, but the momentum will likely be with White at the end of the season.
Auman also noted that Evans, the only receiver in NFL history to open his career with eight straight 1,000-yard seasons, is building on that. Last year, he passed Hall of Famer Randy Moss for the longest such streak, and he's in a good position to extend that streak to nine seasons in the next two months.
Evans has 617 yards right now in eight games -- he missed a game due to a suspension -- and has eight remaining, so he's on pace for 1,234, clearing the mark easily as long as he stays healthy. Four times in eight years, he hasn't gotten to 1,000 until the final game of the season -- he finished with 1,001 yards in 2017 and 1,006 yards in 2020 -- so he seems to like a little drama as it relates to reaching the milestone.
Evans needs only 82 receiving yards to reach 10,000 for his career; only nine players have done that before the end of their ninth NFL season. He already has all of the Bucs' career receiving records, and will be the first to pass 10,000 yards in rushing or receiving. ...
According to Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall, the kicking game has been superb, with Ryan Succop going 22 of 24 on field goals. Rookie punter Jake Camarda has been outstanding, too, consistently impacting field position. He backed the Rams up Sunday with three punts of 66 yards or more, including a 74-yarder that matched the Bucs franchise record set by Sean Landeta in 1997.
Injuries and Ali Marpet's retirement forced the Bucs to revamp the offensive line with young, unproven players who have struggled at times. In addition to ranking at the bottom of the league in rushing, the passing attack has been out of sync at times because opponents have been able to generate pressure to force Brady to get rid of the ball quicker than he'd like to avoid being sacked.
Center Ryan Jensen, a first-time Pro Bowl selection a year ago and the first player the Bucs re-signed in free agency after Brady unretired in March, has been sidelined since the first week of training camp with a knee injury. While the team hasn't officially ruled out the prospect of him returning at some point this season, there's been no indication he's anywhere near close to being ready to play, either.
After facing the Seahawks in the first NFL regular-season game played in Germany, the Bucs will have a week off before returning to action against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 27.
You can access complete stats for the Buccaneers Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker reported, Derrick Henry was rumbling his way through the Kansas City Chiefs' defense, and through the Titans' history books, during a first half that went exactly the way Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel dreamed it would Sunday night.
The second half was more like a nightmare.
After he had run for nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, the Chiefs sold out to stop him in the second, forcing Titans backup quarterback Malik Willis to try to beat them instead. And when he struggled to move Tennessee through the air, that gave Kansas City the opening it needed to tie the score late in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs proceeded to win the coin toss in overtime, moved swiftly downfield with the help of a couple of crucial plays, and Harrison Butker's go-ahead field goal proved to be the difference in a heart-stopping 20-17 victory.
"We didn't execute," Henry said. "They played better than we did in the second half."
Henry was held to 22 yards on seven carries in the second half. Willis was 2 of 9 for minus-2 yards through the air. And the Titans had 38 yards total offense and one first down over the final 30 minutes of regulation.
"There are no moral victories," Vrabel said. "We came here to win. That's all we were thinking about doing. Yeah, there's more that I could do, more that the coaches could do and the players."
The Titans in fact had one last chance after Butker's kick, but things went about as well as they did for Willis throughout the second half. Henry was stuffed on first down, then Willis was sacked on consecutive plays, before his throw on fourth down was batted down to send the Chiefs streaming off the bench in celebration.
Forgotten in the drama of the Chiefs' late comeback was Henry's latest spectacular performance.
After running for 219 yards and two touchdowns last week against Houston, the bruising running back moved past Earl Campbell and into first place in franchise history Sunday night with 74 career touchdown runs.
Henry also became the fifth running back since 1950 to have at least 17 games with 100 yards rushing and two TDs in their first seven seasons in the league. And the others to do it are good company: Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson, Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith and former MVP Shaun Alexander.
The problem on Sunday night was Henry didn't have any help.
After missing last week's game against the Texans, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was limited by his sore ankle Wednesday and Friday while missing Thursday's practice entirely. He tried to warm up before Sunday night's game, but it was clear by the way he was unwilling to put any pressure on the offending ankle that he wouldn't be able to go.
Willis got the nod for the second straight week. And it wasn't a whole lot better than his first career start, when he was 6 of 10 for 55 yards with an interception against the Texans.
He made a couple of nice throws early in the game, but when the Chiefs made the Titans one-dimensional in the second half, Willis failed to produce. He finished just 5 of 16 for 80 yards while adding 40 yards on the ground.
The Titans had 245 yards total offense, the fifth time they've been held to 255 or less this season.
"We were getting points on drives and we were finding ways to do it," Willis said, "whether it was in the run game or the pass game. We were just trying to find ways to win regardless, whatever it took."
Still, the Titans have a stingy defense and two-time NFL rushing champ Henry on his way toward leading the league for the third time in four seasons.
They also have a comfortable lead at the halfway point of the season, looking for a third straight AFC South title.
"There's no room for cushions," Vrabel said Monday.
Well, they have one despite snapping a five-game winning streak on Sunday night. The Titans (5-3) still control their division with Indianapolis (3-5-1) the closest team having just fired its coach Monday.
That's despite serious second-half offensive issues and a quarterback in Tannehill who has missed two straight games with a sprained right ankle. That's just part of the injury woes that have hit this franchise hard for a second straight season.
Yet the Titans already have swept Indianapolis and are 3-0 in the division. They've already won at Houston (1-6-1) with two left against the Jaguars (3-6), including the regular-season finale in Jacksonville. Tennessee also is 4-2 in the AFC.
Next up, the Titans will try to take advantage of a home schedule that features five of the final nine at home after five of the first eight, including the overtime loss to the Chiefs, came on the road. It won't be easy with a pair of Thursday night games, including a trip to Green Bay on Nov. 17 and a visit from Dallas on Dec. 29. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Henry has proven he's healthy and recovered from the broken foot that kept him from a chance at three-peating last season. He leads the NFL once again with 870 yards rushing and is second with nine rushing touchdowns.
He has become the franchise's top scorer in rushing TDs, passing Earl Campbell with two TDs in Kansas City, giving him 74 in 94 games. Henry set the franchise mark for combined TDs rushing and receiving a week ago in Houston, topping the mark previously held by Eddie George.
Henry is just the fifth NFL running back since 1950 with 17 or more games with at least 100 yards rushing and two or more rushing TDs in his first seven seasons, joining LaDainian Tomlinson, Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith and Shaun Alexander.
On the injury front. ... Tannehill's sprained right ankle has cost him two straight starts, snapping a 49-game start streak for this franchise. The QB told reporters on Wednesday he is "going to be dealing with pain tolerance for a while."
Treylon Burks is among 13 Titans currently on injured reserve along with fellow rookie receiver Kyle Philips. They also lost three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan one snap into their second game.
Burks was designated to return on Wednesday and was expected to begin practicing with the team. The move opens a 21-day window for the Titans to activate him and Burks will miss the rest of the year if he’s not back on the 53-man roster before it closes.
Burks went on injured reserve with a turf toe injury and he became eligible to return to the team this week.
The first-round pick had 10 catches for 129 yards in four games before going on injured reserve.
In addition to Burks' progress, Tannehill's status will be something to watch; I'll have more on the QB and Burks via Late-Breaking Update in coming days....
You can access complete stats for the Titans Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Will Levis, Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 8 November 2022
It's possible the Washington Commanders were one interception by Taylor Heinicke away from beating the Minnesota Vikings. They've also been one play away from other wins becoming losses.
At the midway point of the NFL season, they're 4-5 and still in the hunt for a playoff spot despite inconsistent play all over the field. The Commanders are a distant fourth in a surprisingly strong East Division, but they're in NFC wild-card contention with winnable games ahead.
"I like where the guys are: We're playing physical, we're running the ball physically," head coach Ron Rivera said Monday. "I think Taylor's brought a little bit of a spark. It's feast or famine at times with him. But he's done the things that you need to do to give yourselves an opportunity."
The opportunity is there -- after going to Philadelphia for a tough Monday night game at the unbeaten Eagles -- for Washington to make a run like it did two years ago under Rivera. The Commanders visit Houston and host Atlanta before games against the New York Giants on either side of their bye week and still have San Francisco and Cleveland later in the season.
Of course, things would feel a lot different if Washington didn't blow a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and lose to Minnesota. That snapped a three-game winning streak that was spurred by some Heinicke magic and stout defense.
"It's football," Heinicke said. "On top of the world one week and then you feel like everything's crashing down on you the next."
Heinicke is 2-1 with five touchdowns and three interceptions since taking over for injured starter Carson Wentz, who said earlier in the season that the sky wasn't falling on the Commanders. It's still not, but how Heinicke plays the next few weeks will go a long way toward determining if that forecast changes.
Rivera called Heinicke's play "a roller-coaster ride," which also describes Washington's season.
"I have a lot of respect for Taylor: the way he played today, the way he plays week in and week out," said Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who spent his first six pro seasons with Washington. "I think he's got a lot of grit and ability."
Yes, Heinicke can be a sparkplug.
But ESPN.com's John Keim reports the team has told him that sometimes he tries too hard to create that spark, which leads to issues. When Washington wins with him, fans embrace him and call for a contract extension (he's a pending free agent after the season). When they lose, they call for his backup (in this case, rookie Sam Howell).
It's the life of Heinicke.
Over the past two seasons, he's thrown 15 touchdowns and five interceptions in nine wins, and 10 touchdowns to 13 interceptions in nine losses. He's won seven of his last 11 starts and has a QBR of 61.2 in wins and 29.7 in losses.
Heinicke will make at least one more start -- against the Eagles on Monday night -- with Wentz still on injured reserve after breaking his right ring finger in an Oct. 13 game at the Chicago Bears. It's also uncertain how Rivera will handle who starts at quarterback.
A lot of his decision could be based on what happens versus the Eagles.
It's not as if Wentz, learning a new offense in his first year in Washington, was rolling either. Washington went 2-4 with him but the offense struggled, with Wentz tossing 10 touchdowns and six interceptions while also being sacked 23 times.
Heinicke's mobility has helped limit his sack total to six in three games, and he's been hit on just 30.6 percent of his throws, fifth highest over the past three games.
Washington's coaches have been pleased with his decision-making. But the mistakes are related more to accuracy.
Heinicke shakes off failures, though, allowing him to lead late drives for wins like against the Colts.
Remember: He's only started 19 games in his career (18 with Washington, one with Carolina), so there are areas he can improve upon with more experience.
There are tougher areas, however, that are more difficult to improve; he can't make himself bigger nor can he develop a rocket arm.
And he has a feel for who he is as a quarterback.
"I play my best when I do play it like it's my last playing game and that's what kind of got me to this point," Heinicke said. "So, you know, why change that now? I think that's when I play my best and that's kind of who I am, so I'm going to keep doing that."
We'll see how that works out for Heinicke and the Commanders in a tough matchup in Philadelphia Monday night. The Eagles are 10 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and it'll take a big effort from the Commanders to knock off a Super Bowl favorite. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno notes, running backs Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson Jr. combined for 80 yards rushing, but the entire Commanders running game has stalled a bit.
To win with Heinicke at quarterback, the offense needs to control the ball and the clock, and even this offensive line with its struggles should be able to pave the way.
On the injury front. ... Chase Young could return against the Eagles, a year to the day after he tore the ACL in his right knee. Rivera would only say it "just depends on how he's progressing and his conditioning," but Young's season debut could provide a significant boost.
Linebacker Cole Holcomb has missed the past two games with a foot injury, and rookie receiver Jahan Dotson has been out for more than a month with a hamstring injury.
You can access complete stats for the Commanders Week 9 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates