Team Notes week 15 2023

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<


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

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer David Brandt, the Arizona Cardinals haven't wanted to say it out loud, but it's clear the franchise is in the midst of a rebuild.

In a way, so is quarterback Kyler Murray.

The No. 1 overall pick in 2019 is navigating the most challenging 18 months of his football career, dealing with a disappointing 2022 season, a devastating knee injury and then a coaching change. On top of that, Cardinals first-year coach Jonathan Gannon and offensive coordinator Drew Petzing have at least partially changed some of Murray's core fundamentals -- particularly his footwork.

The early returns are promising: Murray and the Cardinals have a 2-2 record since his return from an ACL tear in his right knee and the quarterback has thrown for 864 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, along with running for 106 yards and three touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy still making big adjustments to the way he plays.

"I just think there's the feel aspect of it all," Murray said. "Something you can't really put your finger on, but when you've been in a system for so long and the guys have been in it, and we all kind of know what each other are thinking and then you get into a new one -- we've got to break old habits."

Brandt went on to suggest messing with Murray's mechanics is a bit of risk considering the quarterback was already successful without the changes. He was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019 and a Pro Bowl selection during his second and third seasons. In a way, it'd be like tinkering with a star shooter's jump shot in the NBA or an accomplished slugger's swing in MLB.

Petzing's biggest ask was that Murray start with his left foot forward when receiving the snap instead of his right. That might not sound like much, but it was a big switch from the way he had played -- and flourished -- for the past decade. He's also occasionally taking snaps directly under center instead of in the shotgun.

"I knew I'd be able to do it, but it felt a little goofy initially," Murray said of changing his footwork. "That's something I could do in my sleep as far as being right foot up and then now having to switch to left foot up, it's a little different."

For his first four seasons in the NFL, Murray's coach was Kliff Kingsbury, who was hand-picked because his quarterback-friendly Air Raid system was similar to what Murray had run for years, dating to his time in college at Oklahoma and even his high school days.

The Kingsbury-Murray combo had some good moments -- particularly when the Cardinals started the 2021 season with a 10-2 record -- but injuries and ineffective play ruined the potential storybook season. Last season started with high expectations, but quickly fell apart, and Murray's injury in December sent the franchise spiraling to a 4-13 record.

After the season, Kingsbury was fired and Gannon was hired.

The 40-year-old Gannon -- a defensive coordinator with the Eagles before he came to the desert -- brought Petzing and an entirely new offense to the Cardinals.

For his part, Gannon has always seemed smitten with Murray's attitude and potential.

"What I've learned is he's ultra-competitive and he wants to do everything that he can to help our team win," Gannon said. "And I appreciate that. The type of accountability that he has bleeds onto the rest of the team and our team's been great about it."

It's crucial for the Cardinals to figure out if Gannon and Murray are compatible over the next month as they embark on a sizable rebuild. Murray signed a $230.5 million, five-year deal before the '22 season that could keep the quarterback with the franchise through 2028.

The Cardinals (3-10) have been piling up draft capital through trades and have 11 picks in 2024, including two in the first round. Arizona figures to have a top-five selection, which would put them in play for some of this year's elite quarterback prospects, including USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye.

But if Murray is the Cardinals' man under center, they can target a playmaker at another position -- someone like Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

One key component is that Murray has bought into the new Cardinals' regime and appears willing to make the adjustments the new coaching staff wants.

Arizona's has four games remaining when players return. It's a tough stretch, including games against the 49ers this weekend and the Eagles (in Philadelphia in Week 17), who are among the NFL's best.

They also have games in Chicago (Week 16) and against Seattle (Week 18).

The games could provide a litmus test to see if Murray's the QB of the franchise's future.

Nothing is settled, but so far, so good.

"Me and JG hit it off as soon as he got here," Murray said. "I think we see things the same way. I think the competitiveness is there and he loves the game. I know he loves the game. He understands the game. We see eye-to-eye."

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

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As's Michael Rothstein noted, the Falcons were a half-minute away from being over the .500 mark and in control of the NFC South. Instead, veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell was lamenting missed opportunities, acknowledging the Falcons were still in a three-way tie for first place with New Orleans and Tampa Bay with four games to go -- but with their future far less certain.

"Just connecting with the guys, talking through things and figuring out how we can move on," Campbell said. "And get where we want to try and go still."

Where Atlanta is trying to go -- for the first time since 2017 -- is the postseason.

Campbell and the rest of the Falcons know what was lost Sunday after a last-second heave from quarterback Desmond Ridder to receiver Drake London was stopped 3 yards short of the end zone, sealing a wild final quarter that featured a combined three touchdowns, a field goal and two lead changes.

How a Ridder 6-yard touchdown run to give Atlanta a 25-22 lead with 3:23 left turned into a loss after Tampa Bay tight end Cade Otton beat Richie Grant on a route in the end zone with 31 seconds remaining.

How two missed field goals from Younghoe Koo -- a 52-yarder and 50-yarder -- in the first half might have altered things. How a first-half safety and an interception by Tampa Bay cornerback Carlton Davis on the Atlanta 8-yard line (which set up the Buccaneers' first touchdown) were costly.

How Atlanta had seven straight offensive possessions from the middle of the second quarter to the start of the fourth went as follows: Missed field goal, safety, missed field goal, punt, punt, punt, punt.

How their opportunity for breathing room is gone, compounded by close losses earlier this year to Tennessee, Washington, Arizona and Minnesota.

"Today, we let one slip away and that hurts because the margin for error is so much smaller now," Campbell said. "Because of the ones we let slip away earlier. But that's football."

Rothstein went on to note that away from the defensive line corner of the locker room, the feeling was similar, understanding how close Atlanta (6-7) was to having a clearer path to the postseason. Had Atlanta won Sunday, it would have had a 76 percent chance of winning the NFC South, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

Now, the Falcons have a 34 percent chance.

"We could have set ourselves up pretty, pretty well," London said. "And right now, we just have to go back into the lab and figure it out."

Afterward, head coach Arthur Smith tried to emphasize to his team -- and publicly in his postgame news conference -- that Atlanta is still alive. The Falcons remain firmly in the divisional race and are a likely wild-card contender, too.

The Falcons play a must-win game Sunday at the woeful Carolina Panthers (1-12), who have lost six in a row. Atlanta can't afford a slip-up against a division rival it beat 24-10 in the season opener.

Three of Atlanta's last four games are on the road.

There's a recognition of how much stronger the Falcons' position could have been had things gone a little bit differently Sunday.

Atlanta lost a chance to win three straight games in a season for the first time under Smith. To be over .500 this late in a season for the first time since 2017 and be in a position to win the NFC South for the first time since 2016, the year the Falcons reached the Super Bowl.

"Our spirit is not broken," Smith said. "We do have opportunities. This thing is going to [be], it'll be a wild adventure toward the end of the NFL season."

Other notes of interest. ... A year ago, the Falcons took London in the top 10 for games like this -- a career-high 172 yards on 10 catches and a two-point conversion which gave Atlanta a three-point lead late, which it eventually relinquished.

His previous highs were 125 receiving yards on nine targets in this season's Week 6 loss to the Washington Commanders.

London's 172 receiving yards make him the first Falcons player since wide receiver Julio Jones to record more than 170 receiving yards in a game. Jones had 173 receiving yards in the Falcons loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4 of the 2018 season.

London's 10 receptions also make him the first Falcons player since wide receiver Russell Gage to catch at least 10 passes in a game. Gage had 11 receptions in the Falcons loss to the Buccaneers in Week 13 of 2021.

Beyond London, the Falcons are getting little production from their wideouts.

KhaDarel Hodge had one reception for 18 yards, while Mack Hollins made one catch for 4 yards. That was it against the Buccaneers.

London leads the team with 56 catches for the season, but Atlanta has only two other wideouts with double-figure receptions -- Hollins (18) and Hodge (12). ...

At the conclusion of Sunday's slate of early-afternoon games, the Falcons were the only team in the NFL to score a touchdown of 20-plus air yards in each of the last three games.

Tight end Kyle Pitts had a 36-yard touchdown reception in the Buccaneers loss. Running back Bijan Robinson had a 20-yard touchdown reception in the New York Jets win in Week 13. Tight end MyCole Pruitt had a 26-yard reception in the New Orleans Saints win in Week 12.

Pitts' 36-yard touchdown reception was the longest of his career.

He has had four other touchdown receptions, and they were 2 (2021), 7 (2022), 2 (2022) and 9 (2023) yards long. So, this was his first double-digit touchdown reception in length. ...'s Nathan Jahnke points out Atlanta spent most of the game playing from behind and, in general, Pitts has played 66 percent of Atlanta's offensive snaps when behind and 48 percent when leading.

Going up against the Panthers next week it wouldn't be surprising if they are back to running all day for that game. ...

According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, Robinson played 77 percent of Atlanta's offensive snaps Sunday. He's now finished as an RB1 (top-12) in weekly PPR scoring in three of his last four games. ...

As noted above, one of the more reliable kickers in the NFL, Koo missed two field goals in the first half -- from 50 yards and 52 yards -- and considering the four-point margin could have been the difference between the division lead and the three-way tie Atlanta is now in.

This is only the second time in Koo's career where he has missed more than one field-goal attempt in a single game. The only other time was when he was a rookie for the Los Angeles Chargers. He missed two field-goal attempts in the Chargers loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2 of 2017. They were from 43 and 44 yards out. ...

On the injury front. ... Hollins returned to the Falcons after missing three straight games due to an ankle injury. He was used sparingly in the first half, but the ankle injury was still bothering him or potentially was re-aggravated.

He was ruled questionable to return and didn't play a snap in the second half.

QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Desmond Ridder, 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 Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Lamar Jackson doesn't like playing in the rain, but he loves playing in clutch moments.

While Tylan Wallace's game-winning 76-yard punt return for a touchdown stole the show in the Ravens' 37-31 overtime win versus the Los Angeles Rams at M&T Bank Stadium, Jackson's clutch drive near the end of the fourth quarter set the table.

The Ravens were trailing the Rams, 28-23, with 4 minutes, 41 seconds left when Jackson and the Baltimore offense took the field needing a touchdown.

Jackson completed six passes for 73 yards on the drive, capped by a 21-yard touchdown strike to rookie Zay Flowers on third-and-17.

"Lamar deserves so much credit. You forget Lamar sometimes. All these other things are happening, and we're not going to talk about Lamar Jackson who drove the offense," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

"[He] runs around, scrambles [and] finds guys downfield. He's a very unique player, and most of the time it works out really great just like any player. He's one of a kind. There's nobody like Lamar Jackson."

Despite the rainy conditions, Jackson went 24-of-43 for 316 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He took numerous deep shots, and the Flowers touchdown pass was his first deep touchdown pass of the season.

Before the play, wide receiver Nelson Agholor called the shot.

He told Jackson that Rams safety John Johnson III would follow him to the corner of the end zone if he ran across his face. Sure enough, he did, leaving Flowers open behind him.

"Somebody had to make a play, and we called a play for me, and I was able to make a play," Flowers said. "Lamar threw a great ball. Coach Monken [Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken] called a great play."

Jackson's touchdown throw was a display of his arm talent and nerves. Jackson had All-Pro Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald crashing down on him when he made the throw.

"It was Aaron Donald, that's a tough throw," Jackson said. "But I trust my guys [and] I believe my O-line, they did a heck of a job all day."

The Ravens haven't been in a lot of back-and-forth games this season. They lost one earlier this year, in similar rainy conditions at M&T Bank Stadium, to the Colts in overtime when the offense fumbled its way through a rough performance.

This time, Jackson had one interception and an early snap from Tyler Linderbaum zipped past Jackson for a safety.

But most importantly, they finished with a victory on a day when the Ravens' stout defense had some leaks.

"[Lamar] is real stoic. He wants to win. But he's calm and just gets it done," guard Kevin Zeitler said. "Any time you can run a two-minute drill in a critical time like that and get it done, it builds confidence in the team and proves you can do it."

The Ravens (10-3) won for the seventh time in eight games and moved to the top spot in the AFC. The Miami Dolphins (9-4) could have reclaimed the No. 1 seed by beating the Tennessee Titans on Monday night, but they came up short.

Meanwhile, it's fair to wonder if the deep passing game isn't the final piece of the Baltimore offense.

Jackson and the offense have found different ways to score, from their top-tier rushing attack to freeing up wide receivers and tight ends. On Sunday, they added another dimension, with Jackson connecting on deep balls to tight end Isaiah Likely and wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Flowers.

In all, Jackson threw nine deep ball attempts, connecting on the three.

Those home run shots could be the final piece to the Ravens' offense, according to's Kevin Patra.

"Jackson earned four passing plays of 20-plus yards, including three TDs," Patra wrote. "On a day in which the offense went 4 of 12 on third downs and 1 of 3 in the red zone, the big plays for Baltimore on offense and special teams were the difference."

"Jackson completed 3 of 9 deep passes for 121 yards (three touchdowns, interception), more than twice as many deep passing yards for Jackson as any other game this season," Next Gen Stats wrote. "Entering Week 14, Jackson was one of three qualified quarterbacks without a deep touchdown pass (Bryce Young and Zach Wilson were the others)."

With the deep passing attack beginning to click and the same rushing attack that's helped to bully their way to multiple wins this season, the Ravens' offense is still showing more development as we approach the postseason.

Beyond that, in challenging, wet conditions, Jackson was superb and produced almost 400 yards of total offense (with 70 yards rushing).

With that in mind, Baltimore Positive's Luke Jones wrote: "With endless chatter about needing to be able to go toe-to-toe with other top-shelf quarterbacks in January, Jackson -- who threw three touchdowns and eclipsed 300 passing yards for the second time this season -- answered the bell against Matthew Stafford, one of the league's few active quarterbacks with a Super Bowl title.

"Even if the Rams aren't the same team they were two years ago, this is a win from which Jackson and the Ravens should be able to draw confidence if facing a similar spot next month and beyond."

For the record. ... Jackson is now up to 2,934 yards passing on the season, and he's closing in on his career high of 3,127 from his MVP year of 2019. ...

The next three games for Baltimore are against teams -- Jacksonville, San Francisco and Miami -- that are in first place at the moment. The Ravens play on the road against the Jaguars on Sunday night. ...

Other notes of interest. ... This was exactly the kind of game Beckham (four catches, 97 yards, one touchdown) wanted against his former team. And this is exactly what the Ravens need from Beckham, especially with All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews (ankle) out of the lineup, perhaps for the season.

He displayed remarkable body control on his first catch, adjusting his body to snare a one-handed grab.

Then in the second quarter, Beckham made an extraordinary double-move to break wide open for a tumbling 46-yard touchdown catch.

After failing to score a touchdown until November, Beckham has three touchdowns in his last five games and looks healthy. That's another good sign for Baltimore moving forward. ...

As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason noted, Flowers has excelled in Andrews' absence. In three full game without the start tight end this season, Flowers has enjoyed a 33.1 percent target share per game and delivered an average of 20.3 PPR points per game. ...

In his second game since replacing Andrews, Likely recorded a season-high 83 yards receiving and caught a 54-yard touchdown pass, which was a career long. According to's Nathan Jahnke, Likely also scored the most fantasy points in his career in this game. ...

Are we back to a murky, three-man backfield committee in Baltimore?

Justice Hill led the Ravens backfield in snaps Sunday with 30. Keaton Mitchell was at 24 and Gus Edwards was at 19.

Mitchell (54 yard, nine carries) had a 27-yard run, giving him five straight games with at least one 20-yard carry.

As a result of the Ravens' reluctance to run the ball, Edwards finished with a season-low 15 yards rushing. ...

On the injury front. ... All-Pro returner Devin Duvernay suffered a back injury on Sunday and is being placed on injured reserve, sources told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. It will not require a procedure and he should be good for the playoffs.

Duvernay was a major part of the Ravens wide receiver earlier in the season but has largely been phased out of the offense over the last month. This allowed Wallace to be the returner on the game-winning touchdown.

Safety Kyle Hamilton went for an MRI after hurting his knee during Sunday's overtime win against the Rams and he could be out for a little while after receiving the results of the test on Monday. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Hamilton has been diagnosed with a sprained MCL. The report adds that Hamilton is considered week-to-week as a result of the injury.

The Ravens will be on the road to face the Jaguars and 49ers over the next two weeks.

The two games that will help determine whether the Ravens can secure the top seed in the AFC, so having Hamilton available would be a plus for Baltimore's bid. ...

Finally. ... A reunion is brewing in Baltimore.

The Ravens are signing rookie quarterback Malik Cunningham off the Patriots' practice squad and onto their roster, Cunningham told ESPN on Tuesday, reuniting him with former Louisville teammate Jackson.

Cunningham will take the roster spot that opened up when Duvernay went on IR.

He and Jackson were teammates at Louisville for one season in 2017, and are teammates again six years later.

Cunningham finished his collegiate career at Louisville ranked fourth in school history with 9,664 passing yards and third with 3,184 rushing yards.

He was signed as a rookie free agent by the Patriots in May and released in August, but he signed to the practice squad. On Oct. 14, he was signed to the active roster, but he was released 10 days later and signed again to the practice squad.

He played in one game, recording six snaps but not attempting a pass and being sacked once. The 6-1, 198-pound Cunningham also worked extensively at receiver with the Patriots.

The Ravens' addition of Cunningham could have more impact next year. With Tyler Huntley being an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Cunningham has a chance to become the long-term backup to Jackson.

QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon, J.K. Dobbins, Keaton Mitchell
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

After the Bills' 20-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, quarterback Josh Allen was asked what this game meant -- a necessary step that keeps the playoffs within reach -- following a week in which the team faced issues off the field with remarks coach Sean McDermott made in 2019 involving 9/11 becoming public, and as an investigation into the alleged assault of a pregnant woman by pass-rusher Von Miller continues.

Allen, speaking for the first time since McDermott's comments were published, shared his support for the only head coach he has played under as a professional.

"This week wasn't easy. It wasn't easy for Coach McDermott," Allen said. "You can question a lot of things about coaching style, you can question a lot of things about my decision-making, you can question a lot of things about this team, but to question his character and who he is as a man. ... He's one of the better humans on this planet, with how he carries himself, and we saw it for what it is."

According to's Alaina Getzenberg, Allen wasn't alone in sharing the sentiment.

When McDermott paused during a postgame speech in the locker room, as shared by the team after the game, multiple players shouted sentiments along the lines of "We got your back!"

General manager Brandon Beane later handed McDermott a game ball, saying, "Hey, we got this man's back. Tough f---ing week. We got your f---ing back."

"I couldn't be more proud of a group, I really couldn't at this point in the regular season," McDermott said. "To a person, they didn't flinch. They were focused, they supported one another, and they supported me. And I don't take that for granted at all. I'm just super proud of those guys and just a super resilient group."

As first reported by Go Long, during the 2019 training camp, McDermott was speaking with players about coming together and referenced the terrorists on 9/11 as an example. McDermott soon after apologized the day the comments were made in 2019, and he met with the team on Thursday to talk over the situation with players who were not on the team at the time.

"I think that's a bunch of bulls--- what they did to him. That was five years ago, my rookie year," defensive tackle Ed Oliver said. "[Whoever did the] leak or whatever, I think you're a coward, for one, because everything is supposed to stay in house. So, I got his back on everything. I know he's a good guy. I know he's a great guy actually."

The win keeps the Bills in the playoff hunt, but still in 11th place in a competitive AFC.

Allen finished the game completing 23 of 42 passes for 233 yards, one passing touchdown and one interception. He was sacked three times. He also rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries, including one rushing touchdown. It was Allen's ninth game this season with a passing and rushing touchdown, tying Kyler Murray (2020) for the most in a single season.

Allen had multiple key plays in the game, including a throw on third down early in the fourth quarter to running back Latavius Murray on which he was just 0.2 yards from the sideline when he released the ball, the closest distance to the sideline of any completion since 2018, per Next Gen Stats.

The Bills notched just the team's third win in nine one-score games this season, with a difficult stretch still to come, including a home game against the Dallas Cowboys up next.

Can the Bills build off this win in the crucial four-game stretch to come?

Sunday's game was far from perfect, with Buffalo struggling to make adjustments and the defense incurring more injuries to watch going forward. There's still a difficult road ahead for Buffalo, but closing out a must-win game in all three phases was a key step.

The Bills host Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, who led the league with 421 points entering Monday night's games. Dallas has been much better at home, though -- scoring 279 points in seven home games and 142 in six on the road. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Sunday started with a 14-0 surge out of the gate by the Bills.

James Cook was the go-to option early on where he was explosive in both the pass game and run game. He totaled 98 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the first half.

"He was awesome," Allen said. "He's been working hard, probably his best week of practice this week, been getting more comfortable with him catching passes out of the backfield and he had a lot of opportunities and he took advantage of that."

Cook's touchdown reception came on a great play design in the first quarter as he ran a wheel route out of the back field with three receivers lined up on the same side. Kansas City safety Mike Edwards bit on a fake screen to Trent Sherfield, leaving Cook uncovered up the seam.

"We ran this play all week at practice," Cook said. "So, the safety moves over. And go up the seam for the touchdown."

Cook's 64 receiving yards in the first quarter marked a career-high in receiving yards in a single game. Cook finished with 141 yards total yards.

The second-year back is playing well at the right time over the last month as he's topped 100-plus scrimmage yards in four consecutive games. He's the first Bills RB since LeSean McCoy (2016) to have a stretch of four or more games with over 100 total yards.

"He's growing, he's developing, it's a joy as a coach to watch a player continue to take steps in terms of his development," McDermott shared.

Cook credited his offensive line for opening up running lanes for him and the rest of the Buffalo RB room. The Bills have rushed for over 100 yards in four consecutive games.

"O-line. You know, they're blocking their tails off," he said. "And we're finding the holes, and we hitting it. ..."

Meanwhile, receiver Stefon Diggs, who had several drops and finished with four receptions on 11 targets for 24 yards, has struggled to produce at the expected level in recent weeks. This was his seventh straight game under 100 yards, which is uncharacteristic of the team's No. 1 wideout.

Allen, Diggs and interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady need to find ways to get that connection going again. ...

Dawson Knox, who missed the last five weeks of the season due to a wrist injury, returned to action in this one.

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, the injury allowed Dalton Kincaid to break out and become one of the league's best fantasy football tight ends.

Knox's return left fantasy managers concerned about Kincaid's playing time.

Luckily, Knox's return didn't significantly impact Kincaid's playing time. Kincaid played 77 percent of offensive snaps and 60 total snaps. That total marked a single-game high for the rookie.

Kincaid was targeted plenty, but he gained only 21 yards off five receptions. Knox was targeted three times and gained 36 yards, finishing second on the team in receiving yards.

Jahnke added: "Kincaid can safely remain in fantasy starting lineups going forward. ..."

It's worth noting that Kincaid suffered a shoulder injury and was in the X-ray room at one point, but he reportedly was fine after the game and McDermott said on Monday the rookie is day to day.

I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.

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

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

The Panthers have repeatedly said they believe Bryce Young has the mental toughness and fortitude to bounce back from tough times.

As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed suggested, they better be right.

Things can't get much worse for the No. 1 overall pick in his rookie season, and Sunday's 28-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints was yet another example that Young isn't progressing -- a concerning problem for an organization that banked its future on him being their quarterback for a long time.

Young turned in yet another dud on Sunday, completing just 13 of 36 passes for 137 yards as the Panthers offense failed to reach the end zone for the third time this season.

In 12 starts, Young has yet to surpass 250 yards passing and he has just as many interceptions (nine) as touchdown passes. In his past six starts, he's failed to throw for 200 yards, and the breakout game the team has been waiting for simply hasn't come.

But what are the Panthers to do?

Until they get more help around him on the offensive line and at the wide receiver and tight end positions, Young really has no chance.

So the Panthers (1-12) continue to trudge through a lost season, each week as disappointing as the last, their fans growing more disgruntled -- or even worse, apathetic.

Benching Young doesn't make much sense.

He needs as much experience as possible moving forward, so why not play him?

But whether or not the losing and the lack of success will leave scars on Young's psyche has to be of concern.

Young was sacked four times to bring his total on the season to 48, the fourth most through a player's first 12 games since 1970, behind David Carr (64), Jake Plummer (61) and Sam Howell (54).’s David Newton points out that Young has already taken the third-most sacks by a Carolina quarterback in a season (Steve Beuerlein was sacked 62 times in 2000 and 50 times in 1999) and has four more games to play.

Newton added, "That Young has missed only one game due to injury during Carolina's league-worst 1-12 start may be his biggest accomplishment."

Still, the impact of being sacked 48 times in 12 starts showed up multiple times on Sunday, including when he failed to plant his feet on a deep ball to Jonathan Mingo that should have been an easy touchdown.

"I missed a lot of things," Young said. "I thought we played well on the perimeter, we played well up front. I've got to continue to get better."

But can he?

As's Darin Gantt put it, "The Panthers have struggled to throw the ball all year. This was the day when it looked like even the simplest passes were a labor."

Mingo, who is growing in apparent trust with Young (he was targeted a team-high nine times) but had just two catches for 22 yards after two productive games, wasn't looking to criticize his QB.

"I don't know, it's not really my type of question now," Mingo replied. "I control what I can control. So, for me, I just handle my view because I'm not a critic; I'm not nobody to judge. I just go out there and just try to get open to make a play. So, if I make a mistake, I own up to it."

The only part that has consistently worked this year is when Young throws to 33-year-old Adam Thielen.

He was among the league's most productive receivers most of the year but had just four catches for 27 yards the previous two weeks combined. Sunday, he was back on the board with five catches for 74 yards, including a 32-yarder. But the deep game is not his deal, so when that's the priority, and he has all but 63 of the team's passing yards, it's not going well.

"I don't think there's one thing. It's a lot," Thielen said of the root of the problem. "I'm out there just like the rest of these guys out there doing everything I can in a play to try to win, get open, and make plays when they come. But things haven't clicked and haven't gone our way."

Asked if this is making Young stronger, Thielen turned philosophical.

"Yeah, I think life sometimes breaks you down to build you back up," he said. "So I'm excited to get back to work with him. And obviously, we've got a lot of confidence in what he can do.

"Now, we've got to go and make plays for him to take some pressure off him."

The Panthers have tried a number of different things to help Young over the past few weeks, including having him take snaps from under center instead of the shotgun.

But that's hasn't worked either.

"It's been a great learning experience for me, great for me to grow," Young said. "Obviously it adds a lot of dynamics to us offensively. Continuing to grow in it. I'm grateful for that."

Worth noting. ... The Panthers did run the ball effectively on Sunday, finishing with a season-best 204 yards on the ground on 39 carries. And yet they still couldn't punch the ball into the end zone.

The Panthers entered the game 29-3 in franchise history when they've run the ball for 200 or more yards in a game. They've never lost by such a large margin.

The previous team to rush for 200-plus yards and not score a TD on offense was the Rams in a 14-9 loss to Seahawks on Oct. 28. 2013.

Chuba Hubbard has run for 191 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games as he continues to hold off Miles Sanders for the starting job.

Sanders, however, was the more effective back on Sunday in terms of average yards per carry with 74 yards on 10 carries after a 48-yard jaunt. ...

This week, the Panthers return home after three straight games on the road to host the Atlanta Falcons. ...

A few final notes. ... Hubbard has tallied a career-high 644 rushing yards this season.

Thielen is now the fifth undrafted player in the common-draft era with at least 7,500 career receiving yards (7,509). He (619) also passed Danny Amendola (617) for fourth-most receptions by an undrafted player in the common-draft era.

With two field goals Sunday, kicker Eddy Pineiro tied Joey Slye for third all-time in Panthers history with 54 field goals. They both accomplished this feat in their first 30 games with the team.

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: Tommy Tremble, Stephen Sullivan, Ian Thomas, Hayden Hurst

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As's Courtney Cronin reminded readers, three weeks ago, the Bears squandered their chance at victory after blowing a 12-point lead to the Lions in the final 4:15 of a 31-26 loss. In Sunday's Week 14 rematch against their NFC North rival, the Bears built an identical 12-point lead in the final period and took down the top team in their division after holding the Lions scoreless in the second half.

The 28-13 win marked Chicago's first back-to-back victories over division opponents since the 2019 season. Sunday was also the first time Chicago won consecutive games under head coach Matt Eberflus.

The redemption the Bears earned at Soldier Field came via another dominant performance from Chicago's defense, which forced three turnovers and held Detroit's top-five offense to 13 points.

The Bears offense scored 18 second-half points.

"It's just like anything. You want to see the proof of it," Eberflus said. "To have a win like this, it's proof for those guys. It's proof for our staff. It's proof really for the Chicago Bears fans."

Chicago (5-8, 2-3) has won three of its last four games against the Panthers, Vikings and Lions after starting the season 2-7.

The Bears face two teams with losing records over the final four games -- the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons -- and aim to lean on the momentum they've built over the past month to reach their next milestone: doubling their 2022 win total (3).

"It's big time," wide receiver D.J. Moore said. "We should have won when we went there, and we had to get them back when they came to our house. To have this one is extra special. To have back-to-back is extra special, too. It hasn't been done. We're looking to stack more."

Quarterback Justin Fields completed 19 of 33 passes for 223 yards and a touchdown in his first home game since dislocating his thumb on Oct. 15. Fields also notched 12 rushing attempts for 58 yards and a touchdown.

According to ESPN Stats and Information research, Fields is averaging 90 rushing yards per game in his career against the Lions, the most by any quarterback against a single opponent in NFL history (minimum 5 games).

A creative play design from offensive coordinator Luke Getsy led Moore to record his first career rushing touchdown after he received a direct snap on the Bears' opening drive. For the rest of the first half, Chicago's offense struggled to move the ball and fell behind 13-10.

It wasn't until the end of the third quarter that a momentum-changing play would swing the game in the Bears' favor for good. Six plays after getting the ball at the 50-yard line, Chicago's offense stayed on the field on fourth-and-13 in an attempt to draw Detroit offsides.

Fields barked out a "dummy" protection adjustment with the Bears spread out on the Lions' 38-yard line. When Detroit defensive end Aidan Hutchinson jumped into the neutral zone, Bears center Lucas Patrick quickly snapped the ball to Fields, who connected with Moore for a touchdown.

"It usually doesn't work," tight end Cole Kmet said. "I gave wide receiver Darnell Mooney some weird sign and Mooney looked at me like 'What the hell?' I just knocked my head. Made a call or whatever. I can't believe they jumped, but they did. We took advantage."

Eberflus credited Fields with his execution of a play that the Bears have routinely repped but not often executed with such precision.

"It's Justin," Eberflus said. "It's the hard count. He did a really good job of hard counting and just a really good job there, and they got them to jump. His use of cadence. That's what it was."

Fields added: "It's not a challenge because we practice it multiple times a week. We're used to it. Might have happened like three times this week during practice and walk-throughs. We practice it. It happens every week, and the guys are ready for it, and we executed it. It ended up being a big play."

Unlike three weeks ago, Chicago remained in the drivers' seat by keeping the Lions out of the end zone in the third and fourth quarters after intercepting Goff twice and sacking the Detroit QB three times in a span of six plays late in the fourth quarter.

Chicago's nine interceptions since Week 10 are the most in the NFL in that span. From Weeks 1-9, the Bears totaled six interceptions.

The Bears will try to make it three in a row when they visit Cleveland on Sunday. ...

Other notes of interest. ... D'Onta Foreman was back for Chicago, and he led the backfield with a 56 percent snap share, per Next Gen Stats.

Roschon Johnson was at 27 percent, while Khalil Herbert was at 17 percent.

This was the first time since Week 1 that Foreman, Herbert and Johnson all were healthy and active to start and end the game.

Foreman returned to the role he had while Herbert was out, playing a clear majority of Chicago's early-down snaps. He ran the ball 11 times for 50 yards.

Johnson had surprisingly played ahead of Herbert throughout Week 12, but he was back to being the passing-down back.

As's Nathan Jahnke suggests, Foreman is the Bears' only back who needs to be on fantasy rosters given the touch distribution in this game and when Foreman has been healthy since the start of November. ...

Fields became the second-fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 2,000 rushing yards and 5,000 passing yards in his career after he recorded 58 yards on the ground Sunday.

Fields reached the milestone in just 36 games, behind only Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who accomplished the feat in 33 games. ...

With two scores against Detroit, Moore now has eight TDs, surpassing his previous career high of six touchdowns in a single season.

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason points out that Moore continues to destroy with Fields. He's averaged 21.3 PPR points per game with Fields this year and 9.8 without him.

Catching 5 passes for 66 yards, Kmet surpassed 500 receiving yards, marking the third consecutive season he's reached that mark.

With his performance Sunday, the fourth-year pro has recorded 199 receptions as a Bear, passing Greg Olsen for 5th all-time in receptions among tight ends in franchise history. The Notre Dame product is now one reception away from tying Emery Moorehead for 4th all-time. ...

According to Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman, one issue the team needs to work on: Conversions after touchdowns.

The Bears had some issues converting after reaching the end zone. Cairo Santos had an extra-point blocked for the second time this season after Fields' 38-yard touchdown pass to Moore on fourth-and-13 late in the third. Fields then threw an incomplete pass on a 2-point conversion attempt after running for an 11-yard TD early in the fourth.

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 Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

According to's Ben Baby, a little balance has gone a long way for the Cincinnati Bengals in a two-game winning streak that has rebuilt the team's playoff hopes.

Over the past two seasons, the Bengals have leaned on a pass-heavy approach with quarterback Joe Burrow. But with Burrow sidelined with a torn wrist ligament for the remainder of the season, Cincinnati has changed its approach with Jake Browning at quarterback.

A shift that has included more designed runs, screen plays and even more snaps under center has helped the offense thrive. They played a major role in the team's 34-14 win over the Indianapolis Colts to push the Bengals (7-6) over the .500 mark with four games remaining.

"I feel very comfortable with how everything is going -- (coach Zac Taylor) calling the game, feeling like we're staying a step ahead as far as run-pass, having everything kind of look the same, mixing in some screens," Browning said. "It makes my job easy."

Six days after Browning became the first undrafted player in the common era to throw for more than 350 yards and complete 85 percent or more of his passes, he was efficient against the Colts. In his third career start, he was 18-of-24 passing for 275 yards, three total touchdowns and one interception.

But the usage of the running backs, both on the ground and in the air, is what makes the past couple of weeks notable for the Bengals.

In 2022, when Burrow played all but the last game of the regular season, Cincinnati was fourth in the league in designed pass plays, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Between Weeks 5 and Week 10 of this season, when Burrow was fully healthy after he strained his right calf at the beginning of training camp, the Bengals were second in the NFL in designed pass plays at 70.4 percent.

Baby notes that number has dropped significantly the past two weeks with Browning -- a career practice squad player and backup -- behind center. Cincinnati is 20th in the league in that category after its Sunday win. In that span, the offense has yielded 34 points in back-to-back games and has scored touchdowns on 34.7 percent of their drives, per ESPN Stats and Information.

Running backs Joe Mixon and Chase Brown, a rookie, combined for 29 carries for 104 yards and a rushing touchdown. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said the balanced approach is what keeps defensive lines confused.

"I use the [phrase] 'Make them play us honest,'" Brown said. "When games are called the way they are and we're able to be physical at the line of scrimmage in the run game and take them out of certain coverages, you can't cover our playmakers one-on-one."

But Brown and Mixon were most effective on screen passes. Brown, a fifth-round pick out of Illinois, scored his first career touchdown with a 54-yard reception on a screen that gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. He finished with three catches for a team-high 80 yards. Mixon was behind him after he gained 45 of his 46 receiving yards on a screen.

Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin said the screens were among the most frustrating things for Indianapolis' defense on Sunday. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said the screens were a factor.

"It takes some relief off the quarterback and slows our pass rush," Buckner said as the Bengals did not surrender a sack for the first time since Week 3 of the 2021 season.

Over the past two weeks, opposing defenses have also had to face a Bengals team that has changed how it has lined up. During that span, Browning ranks 16th among qualifying quarterbacks in snaps under center. When Burrow's calf went back to full strength, Cincinnati lined up under center more often than previously in the season.

Still, Burrow ranked 27th in that category in the five weeks before his wrist injury.

"I think the more you can do, the more looks you present to the defense and the more that all those looks have multiple things you can run out of those formations or those sets, I think it makes it difficult," Browning said of the tendency shift. "I feel like we're doing a good job of that."

Even the wide receivers have benefited from the balanced offense. Browning credited the run game for loosening up the Jacksonville Jaguars defense for a 76-yard touchdown pass to Ja'Marr Chase in the Bengals' Week 13 win.

After the Week 14 victory over the Colts, wide receiver Tee Higgins said it's fun when the ground game is clicking.

"It's good to see our running backs with a big smile on their face the whole game," Higgins said. "As long as we complement each other, we'll be all right."

Is the Bengals' offense good enough to compete for a playoff berth?

According to Baby, it absolutely is.

Next up, the Bengals will try to continue playing well around Browning for a tough closing stretch that includes the Vikings (7-6) on Saturday, followed by the Steelers (7-6), at AFC West-leading Kansas City (8-5) and Cleveland (8-5).

The Vikings have allowed just 12 touchdowns in their last 10 games, the fewest in the NFL over that span. Opponents have reached the end zone once in the last 12 quarters. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Even an injury can't cramp Browning's style. A scant 24 days after Burrow fell on his wrist to end his season, Browning ran off the field on a second-down scramble and kept running into the Bengals locker room holding his right thumb in the first minute of the fourth quarter.

His right forearm had cramped and after an IV he was back in four plays. He never had to throw another pass, but he could have.

"I heard it was a cramp, so I didn't think anything too bad," Jonah Williams said. "I had a little PTSD with the quarterback grabbing their wrist area. I didn't love that that."

It turns out while Browning was keeping the Bengals' playoff hopes afloat, he wasn't hydrating.

"It's pretty dumb, but I just have to drink more water and electrolytes, I guess," Browning said. "I think sometimes when it's cold, you just aren't thirsty. So, yeah, that's probably the main take away from the game. Hydrate better."

Meanwhile, as Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason pointed out, Browning has scored 50.4 fantasy points over his last two games. That's more than Kenny Pickett's total over his last six (40.7). ...

Worth noting. ... No Cincinnati Bengal had more than four targets Sunday.

Tee Higgins didn't show up on the injury report this week, but's Nathan Jahnke contends the wideout still isn't playing as much as he was earlier this season when he was healthy. He was playing over 85 percent of Cincinnati's offensive snaps in his first three games this season before his first injury, and this was his second-straight game playing under 80 percent. ...

As for the backfield. ... Brown played 30 percent of Cincinnati's snaps against the Colts. Zachariason notes the rookie has now seen a 32 percent and 28 percent running back rush share over his last two games.

He was used more as a receiver Sunday, too, with a 12 percent target share.

While this is exciting for him, Jahnke stresses that Mixon is still the clear early-down and short-yardage back.

The Bengals' next three games are against the Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs. Those should each be competitive games where the Bengals are unlikely to have big leads and can run a lot.

Brown still is one of the better running back options off the waiver wire despite this because he might be able to take more snaps away from Mixon. ...

Irv Smith Jr. began the year as the starter but had the fewest offensive snaps of any Bengals tight end on Sunday.

In fact, Tanner Hudson put the Bengals ahead on Sunday in the third quarter with a short touchdown catch and netted two catches for 21 yards on the three targets.

Hudson's snap share has decreased after peaking 36 percent in Week 11, but he still found a way to make an impact on Sunday.

He had just 13 offensive snaps against the Colts. Drew Sample was on the field for 40 snaps. ...

Finally. ... Chase was on the team's injury report Tuesday. The star wideout was listed as a non-participant in practice due to an ankle injury. The Bengals were only holding a walkthrough on Tuesday, so the listing is an estimation of what he'd do at a normal practice.

That will make the rest of the week more telling about Chase's availability for Saturday's games. Reporters at the open portion of the walkthrough reported that Chase was present and in uniform, which may be a good sign about his chances of playing this week.

Linebacker Joe Bachie (oblique) was the only other player listed as out. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd (foot, ankle) and cornerback DJ Turner (ankle) were estimated to be limited participants.

QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Chase Brown, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
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 Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

A month ago, Joe Flacco wondered if he'd get a chance to play in the NFL again. Now, the 38-year-old is Cleveland's starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

On Sunday, Flacco led the Browns to a 31-27 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Afterward, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski committed to Flacco as his starter.

"Joe's been in big games," Stefanski said. "So feel comfortable with him leading the football team."

In his second straight start with the Browns, Flacco completed 26 of 45 passes for 311 yards.'s Jake Trotter reports the veteran signal caller also became the first Cleveland quarterback since Brian Sipe in 1980 to throw three touchdown passes of 30 yards or more in a single game, according to research by ESPN Stats and Information.

The last touchdown came in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-three from the Jacksonville 41-yard line. Flacco scrambled right to avoid the all-out Jaguars blitz and then found a wide-open David Bell, who scampered untouched for the score to put the Browns up 28-14 and in command.

"My gosh, that was exciting," Flacco said. "One of those plays where they're bringing pressure, and you have to kind of buy a little time and [Bell] did a great job feeling a little soft spot and then making it happen from there."

With Sunday's win, the Browns became just eighth team in NFL history -- and first since the 2015 Houston Texans -- to have four starting quarterbacks (Flacco, Deshaun Watson, PJ Walker, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson) each win a game in one season.

Flacco started last weekend's game at the Los Angeles Rams after Thompson-Robinson sustained a concussion the week before in a loss at the Denver Broncos. Thompson-Robinson exited concussion protocol and practiced Friday, and the Browns declined to announce who would start against the Jaguars until pregame warmups.

But after Flacco became just the fifth NFL quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw five touchdowns in his first two games with a new team, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Stefanski finally declared Flacco the permanent starter for the rest of the season.

"Obviously it feels good when it looks like people have confidence in you," Flacco said. "I know I've been in a bunch of locker rooms, but whenever you walk into a locker room, you still want to gain the respect of everybody, and you don't know if you quite have that until you can go out there and get a win and continue to do it day in and day out. You try to carry yourself the right way and you try to do all the right things, but that doesn't guarantee anything in terms of going out in the field on Sunday. So it feels awesome to go out there and get the win."

Flacco signed with the Browns on Nov. 20 following Watson's season-ending right shoulder injury.

Flacco was the Super Bowl MVP with the champion Baltimore Ravens during the 2012 season, and started four games with the New York Jets last year.

Flacco, however, went unsigned during the offseason, and he said he didn't receive a single contract offer until the Browns signed him to the practice squad. Until then, he admitted that he began to doubt if an opportunity to play again would come.

"It was a little scary. ... It wasn't like I turned anybody down in the offseason," he said. "Life puts you in certain situations and you don't know why, you just got to make the most of it."

Can Flacco propel the Browns to the playoffs?

With Sunday's win, the Browns moved to 8-5 and all alone for the 5 seed in the AFC wildcard picture. Cleveland also remains alive in the AFC North division race, though still trails the Ravens (10-3) by two games.

The Browns have not made the playoffs since 2020. Over the last three seasons, Cleveland has had only five games where its quarterback has passed for at least 250 yards and two touchdowns in a game; Flacco, in just two starts, is the only one with two such performances.

"Our offense -- I think you guys can see it and feel it a little bit -- we have the ability to really start to get over the hump," Flacco said. "We're not quite there yet, but we're going to work hard and we're going to continue to get better."

Next up, a home game Sunday against the Chicago Bears (5-8), who have won three of four and are coming off an impressive win over Detroit. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Flacco's 45 pass attempts Sunday are the most they have thrown in a game this season.

Meanwhile,'s Nathan Jahnke pointed out this week was the healthiest the Browns wide receiver room has been since they traded Donovan Peoples-Jones to the Detroit Lions.

Marquise Goodwin, who had missed the last four games due to a concussion returned. Amari Cooper was also questionable due to a rib injury and a concussion, but he played his normal amount of snaps.

Goodwin was just a rotational player while Cedric Tillman played the clear majority of snaps in three-receiver sets. Bell remained a rotational player and made his biggest impact of the season with the aforementioned 41-yard touchdown reception.

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that after seeing a 29 percent target share in Week 13, Elijah Moore, with Cooper back, had a 14 percent target share Sunday. Cooper had a 32.6 percent target share.

Stefanski found ways to involve multiple pass catchers and spread the ball around. The Browns had eight players with at least one reception. Tight end David Njoku led the group with 91 receiving yards on six receptions, and two touchdowns. Njoku put the Browns on the board on a 34-yard reception from Flacco that he ran into the end zone for the touchdown.

Njoku's two touchdowns marked his first multi-touchdown game of his career.

"Get him the ball while he's moving down the field," Flacco said of Njoku. "And he's a tough tackle. You can see his speed. I don't know what he ran or anything, but you can see his speed and strength, obviously, when he gets the ball in those types of situations, he's pretty special."

Cooper finished the day with 77 yards on seven receptions, while Moore had 42 yards on three catches.

"We have a lot of guys that we trust," Stefanski said. "There are guys that we know when the ball is in their hands, they light up and that's what we're trying to do. We've got some guys like Amari (Cooper) that are going to be getting a ton of attention from the defense. And that's a lot of what happened today. A lot of what happens in these games. As Amari gets more attention, it opens up opportunities for the other guys."

While Jahnke contends Cooper is likely the only Browns wide receiver with fantasy value given his target share despite the recent injuries, he acknowledges it will generally help the Browns offense to have more wide receiver options. ...

On the injury front. ... The hits keep coming for the Browns, who won't have starting right tackle Dawand Jones for the rest of the season. The massive Jones is scheduled for right knee surgery, ending his strong rookie year. ... CB Denzel Ward (shoulder) missed his third straight game, but Stefanski said he's "getting close." Ward practiced last week. ... S Juan Thornhill (calf) aggravated his injury in warmups.

Jerome Ford needed X-rays on his wrist due to an injury. The severity of his injury is unclear at this time.

I'll have more on Ford via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

Finally. ... PK Dustin Hopkins set a new Browns record with 31 made field goals in a single season. He also improved to 8 of 8 beyond 50 yards with a 55-yarder with 3:10 remaining Sunday.

QBs: Joe Flacco, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, 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 Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Head coach Mike McCarthy, who underwent an appendectomy Wednesday after complaining of pain upon arriving at team headquarters, directed the Cowboys to a 33-13 win against the Eagles that, thanks to a tiebreaker, has them in first place in the NFC East with a month to play.

His offense put up 394 yards. Dak Prescott threw two more touchdowns. The Cowboys ran for 138 yards on 32 carries. They converted 9 of 16 third-down chances and their only fourth-down opportunity. They were a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone.

"Really, I just wanted to do my part. I just wanted to make sure that I was prepared as I normally am," McCarthy said. "I was a little nervous about it. Because it's a long year, we're all creatures of habit, you go through these normal seven-day weeks, and when you miss time, [it's strange]. ... But the players did a great job. The coaches did a great job, and we didn't miss a beat. I think we demonstrated that."

McCarthy missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday but only one meeting -- the short-yardage and goal-line plan on Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said McCarthy was up to speed with everything despite not being at practice, thanks to phone calls and virtual meetings.

When McCarthy arrived at the offensive meeting Friday, 50 Cent's "Many Men" played in the room.

"It was pretty cool," All-Pro right guard Zack Martin said, recalling the moment. "It's obviously been a long week for him, knowing the implications of this game and dealing with that. It was great to go out there and get the win."

Prescott called Thursday's practice -- run by coordinators Schottenheimer, Dan Quinn and John Fassel -- one of the Cowboys' best of the season. He said the players wanted to keep McCarthy as stress-free as possible. Nobody acted as if there was a substitute teacher taking over.

"No different than any game day," Prescott said after the win. "Obviously understand he had surgery just the other day. He's a tough guy. I know I called him out earlier in the week with the opportunity to show it, but he definitely showed it. Yeah, felt normal. He called some great plays, had some great timing on plays."

McCarthy made sure he stayed a little safer than normal on the sideline.

When the defense is in action, he normally stands at the far end of the field, going over offensive calls with Schottenheimer and the assistants. He did have to throw the challenge flag in the second quarter after the officials initially said Rico Dowdle did not cross the plane of the end zone.

"Well, I wouldn't say I was moving quick," he joked, adding, "It must be a slow night."

Asked if he was sore after the game, McCarthy just gave a quick answer.

"I'm good."

Now that Dallas has the 33-13 win, here come three straight playoff contenders in the final four weeks.

First, it's a dreaded December game in Buffalo (7-6) on Sunday, then a trip to the team ahead of the Bills in the AFC East, division-leading Miami. Third, back home -- where Dallas has a 15-game winning streak -- against likely NFC North winner Detroit.

"We look at this as a gauntlet," McCarthy said. "I think it's a great schedule, in my view, because it gives us a chance to play playoff football. Every team we play is going to be battling for the playoffs. I think this lays up really good for us because we got to go on the road and win."

As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon noted, as good as the feeling was for Dallas after Prescott's career-best seventh consecutive game with at least two touchdown passes, the Cowboys (10-3) don't control their fate in trying to win the NFC East.

Despite consecutive losses that dropped them into a tie for the division lead, the Eagles will secure the home playoff game that goes with the NFC East title if the defending NFC champs win their remaining games. There won't be a winning record among the four opponents.

Owner Jerry Jones seems resigned to the idea of going on the road in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Last season, Dallas manhandled Tampa Bay before the offense sputtered in a loss at San Francisco.

"We're going to have to come up the backside possibly," Jones said, alluding to another second-place finish behind Philadelphia in the division. "But we can. I've seen it done before. I saw the Giants do it after we'd beaten them twice (in 2007), and they end up being Super Bowl champs."

There's one other thing to consider. It's a three-team race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and the first-round bye that goes with it. The Cowboys and Eagles are even with the 49ers, who hold the tiebreaker because they beat Dallas and Philadelphia.

At least the Cowboys can say they made a race of it. The alternative was Philadelphia all but clinching the division.

"We needed it. Let's not sugarcoat that," Prescott said. "But we've got to turn the page quick, especially in this league, and especially with where we've placed ourselves. ..."

Worth noting. ... The Cowboys had never played a December game in Buffalo until their most recent visit in 2015. The Bills won 16-6. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The versatility at receiver continues to show up, even in games without gaudy numbers.

CeeDee Lamb has a touchdown in five consecutive games, the first Dallas receiver to do that since Dez Bryant, the franchise leader in receiving TDs, 10 years ago. Tight end Jake Ferguson is becoming a trusted playmaker. Michael Gallup had a highlight-reel catch for 39 yards.

Ferguson finished with five receptions on eight targets for 72 yards to finish as the Cowboys' leading receiver, bringing his season receiving line up to 51/570/5 through 13 games.

The eight targets ties the tight end's highest total since these two division rivals met back in Week 9. ...

According to's Nathan Jahnke, the Cowboys relied heavily on two running backs rather than just Tony Pollard.

Pollard was the clear leader in snaps, as usual. He caught seven passes for 37 yards, tying his season-high in receptions.

Dowdle was much more involved in the run game than usual tonight.

There have been plenty of games where Dowdle ended up with significant carries, but nearly half of his carries before tonight came in the fourth quarter of blowouts. He ran the ball 11 times in the first three-quarters tonight while his previous high was six. This included a goal-line snap, where he scored a touchdown.

Pollard was the main back in the fourth quarter and ended with 16 carries for 59 yards.

The Cowboys have a rough schedule ahead, as they take on the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions. Jahnke believes it would be difficult to start Dowdle next week without knowing if this was a one-time thing based on the game plan, and the Dolphins and Lions are top-six teams against running backs this season. ...

One last note. ... Kicker Brandon Aubrey may never miss. He has made 30 straight field goal attempts to tie the team's record set by Dan Bailey. He hit field goals from 60 and 59 yards to become the first kicker in NFL history with two kicks in the same game from at least 59 yards. Not bad for a former soccer player.

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 Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Russell Wilson and the Broncos put themselves back in the AFC playoff race Sunday with a 24-7 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Wilson completed 21 of 33 passes for 224 yards for two touchdowns, including a 46-yard TD to Courtland Sutton in the third quarter.

Denver has won six of seven, and the Broncos are one of six teams in the AFC at 7-6 and fighting for one of the last two playoff spots. They are on the outside due to a 4-5 conference record, but three of their final four games are against AFC opponents.

"We're in a horse race. We're three quarters the way through and we have to finish last quarter strong," Wilson said after the Broncos snapped an 11-game road losing streak against AFC West foes.

The Wilson to Sutton combo continues to deliver.

Holding a 10-0 lead in the third quarter against the Chargers, the Broncos looked to challenge the Los Angeles secondary with a pass to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.

The Chargers' coverage took Jeudy away as an option, but stellar pass blocking from the Broncos' offensive line enabled Wilson to continue to look downfield and turn a broken play into a golden second chance. That's when the magic started.

Sutton ran his route downfield to his planned spot, but when Wilson started to scramble, Sutton thought to cut back toward his quarterback. Then, Sutton changed course and took off toward the end zone, where he corralled Wilson's deep pass with a single arm.

Sutton's 10th touchdown catch was his longest reception of the season and helped the Broncos take firm control of their divisional matchup against the Chargers, but his highlight-reel catches have been nothing new.

Among the highlights: his first one-handed touchdown of 2023 against the Chiefs in Week 6, a 23-yard fingertip snag in the second Kansas City matchup, an incredible toe-drag touchdown against the Bills in Week 10 on "Monday Night Football," the go-ahead score against Minnesota in prime time in Week 11 and a diving 45-yard touchdown catch versus the Texans in Week 13.

Jeudy said Sutton's spectacular catch hardly came as a surprise to him after the time they've spent together at practice and on game days.

"That ain't nothing new," Jeudy said. "That what he [does], day in and day out. You see the best in practice. I'm not surprised [by] him making that catch, because I always see him do that."

Sutton finished the afternoon with a team-high 62 receiving yards on three catches and exceeded 50 yards for the fifth consecutive contest.

Though he said he would have to wait until reviewing the play further before deciding where his 46-yard touchdown ranks among his greatest hits this season, Sutton intends to keep his signature spectacular catches coming in the final weeks of the regular season.

"I haven't seen [the play] all the way yet, but it happened so fast," Sutton said. "I think after I see it, I might be able to kind of put it in a spot, but I know there's more to be made, for sure."

Sutton has caught a touchdown in 10 of 13 games this season. He is now tied for second in receiving touchdowns, behind only Tyreek Hill. ...

Meanwhile, the big question is whether a defense that surrendered 164 points in a four-game span earlier this season really power the Broncos to a playoff spot?

According to's Jeff Legwold, it can if it keeps its current pace, a pace that stifled the Chargers on Sunday. Since Week 6 -- a 19-8 loss in Kansas City -- the Broncos (7-6 after Sunday's win) are 6-2, the defense has 18 takeaways and has allowed 12 touchdowns in those eight games combined.

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has cranked up the aggressiveness in the pass rush over that span -- six sacks from six different players Sunday as Los Angeles was limited to 171 yards through three quarters -- and the Broncos have, so far, made remarkable repairs.

Next up, the Broncos head to Detroit to play the Lions on Saturday night.

The Broncos cannot afford another slip-up, even against an NFC team in the Lions. Had they taken care of business a week ago at Houston, they'd be in a much more comfortable position in the playoff race. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, Wilson has now scored between 13 and 19 fantasy points in each of his last seven games. ...

Javonte Williams opened the scoring and recorded his first rushing touchdown since Dec. 26, 2021.

Lucas Krull recorded his first career catch at the end of the first half to set up a Denver field goal that put the Broncos up 10-0.

The former New Orleans Saint took several routes away from Adam Trautman for the third time this season.

According to's Nathan Jahnke, while Trautman didn't run as many routes as usual, he caught two passes for 19 yards and a touchdown, his second touchdown in the last three games.

If the Broncos want to continue utilizing Krull, they need to sign him to the 53-man roster rather than elevating him from the practice squad.

Meanwhile, Greg Dulcich is on injured reserve and hasn't had his practice window opened yet, but there is also a chance he will return this season as the Broncos' receiving tight end.

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 Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

The Detroit Lions have a short week before hosting the Denver Broncos in prime time on Saturday night.

Coming off Sunday's 28-13 loss at the Chicago Bears, the Lions (9-4) are still atop the NFC North but face a tough four-game schedule.

Along with the Broncos (7-6), who have won six of their past seven, they will face the Cowboys (10-3) at Dallas and the NFC North's Minnesota Vikings (7-6) twice in the past three games.

The Lions have lost two of their past three, but are still alive in the hunt for a playoff berth, their first since the 2016 season.

More than any penalties, turnovers or anything schematic, head coach Dan Campbell cited "discipline" as the main reason behind Sunday's loss at Chicago.

"You know what, I need to push it a little more. I just need to be a little more irritable," Campbell said. "Which I can do that."

Detroit dropped to 9-4 following a dismal second half in which it racked up just 76 yards of total offense while ending the game with eight penalties to Chicago's four.

As's Eric Woodyard noted, quarterback Jared Goff also had one of his worst games of the season, throwing two interceptions and being sacked four times against heavy pressure.

"Coaching point is discipline across the board, and that's why I bring that up. We've been a disciplined team and we just weren't enough today, and they were," Campbell said. "And ultimately, we played their game. We never really got to play our game."

Bears quarterback Justin Fields also continued to thrive on the ground against the Lions' defense with 12 carries for 58 rushing yards, in addition to 223 passing yards and a passing touchdown.

Against the Lions, Fields is now averaging 90.2 rushing yards per game for his career, the most by any quarterback versus a single opponent in NFL history (minimum four games played), according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

Edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson was emotional after the loss, citing defensive lapses and mental errors for some of the recent struggles. Since their bye in Week 9, the Lions' defense is allowing 29.8 points per game, which ranks second to last in the league over that five-game span.

"We've just got to bounce back and we will," Hutchinson said. "We'll grow from it."

The Lions' defense has struggled to find consistency, but Hutchinson was able to end his two-game drought with a sack of Fields at 6:14 in the second quarter. It was the 16th sack of his career and the most by a Lions player in 30 career games.

However, Hutchinson was flagged for an offsides penalty that resulted in a 38-yard passing touchdown by the Bears, as Fields found DJ Moore at 1:36 in the third quarter for a 19-13 lead.

"It's just a momentary lapse in judgement. I'm disgusted with it, with that play," Hutchinson said. "That play just changed the momentum of the game and that's on me."

The message from Campbell, with four regular-season games remaining, is to clean up mistakes.

"Look, I'm not going to change who I am. Sometimes I need to apply pressure in different areas. That's fine. I can do that," Campbell said. "But, hey, this is the league, man. We're still in December. That's what this is all about, you know.

"We got a pretty resilient team here. We'll bounce back, man. It was a loss, and it stings. Nobody feels worse about it than those guys do and the coaches. ... It's a hard pill to swallow. The guys we got, it only motivates you to move on and get a win."

Like Campbell, Goff is confident the Lions can correct those issues ahead of Saturday's home game against the Denver Broncos.

Goff had just 161 passing yards and struggled against pressure by the Bears, as they held him to 2-of-10 passing (for 40 yards, 2 interceptions) on throws more than 10 yards downfield, tied for his fewest completions in such situations in a game this season.

Third-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta have been the key cogs all season long in Detroit's passing game.

LaPorta entered Sunday's game against the Bears with 64 receptions for 679 yards and six touchdowns. He was the first tight end in NFL history to catch at least 60 passes for 675 yards and six touchdowns in his first 12 NFL games.

St. Brown had 87 catches on the year for 1,063 yards and six touchdowns. He entered Sunday sixth in receptions (288) in league history through a player's first three seasons and counting.

But credit Chicago's defense for taking two of Detroit's most consistent weapons out of the game Sunday.

St. Brown caught just three of his nine targets for 21 yards (7.0 average). LaPorta was thrown at six times and caught just two of those targets for 23 yards.

Detroit totaled just 267 yards of offense, well below the 400 they were averaging coming in.

They put themselves behind the sticks with some costly penalties and didn't push the ball down the field enough to help soften the Bears' defense over the middle and in the short and immediate parts of the field, where St. Brown and LaPorta do most of their damage.

Goff had just one pass play greater than 20 yards on the afternoon (27 yards to Josh Reynolds).

The Lions had only four passing plays that gained at least 13 yards.

Wide receiver Jameson Williams was targeted for one pass. It was incomplete on a deep route down the left sideline. Williams also had one carry for four yards.

It's the second time in two weeks a defense has been able to limit St. Brown's receptions. The Saints focused extra attention on him and allowed him to catch just two passes last week, though LaPorta made up for it with a big game (9 receptions for 140 yards).

That wasn't the case this week vs. Chicago and Detroit's passing game struggled as a result.

More worrisome, Detroit went three-and-out on its first three second-half drives, fumbled a snap, turned the ball over on downs twice and threw an interception. The Lions didn't earn their first first down of the second half until under nine minutes remaining in the game.

A rare dud for one of the most consistently good offenses all season long.

The loss also snapped Detroit's three-game winning streak over Chicago. The Lions remain atop the NFC North standings, but they're not satisfied with their overall play of late.

"It's a little reality check, like, 'OK, look in the mirror and fix it,'" Goff said. "We've got some time here in the next four games, so it starts with Denver to get it fixed and to get geared up for our ultimate goals, and yeah, it's a good gut punch that typically does our guys well."

They'll no-doubt be looking to bounce back Saturday night at home against a Denver defense that's 26th in points allowed and 30th in total defense. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Detroit was 1-for-5 on fourth down against the Bears Sunday. On the season, Detroit's gone for it on fourth down 32 times, which is second most behind only Carolina (36). The Lions have converted on 14 of those. Their fourth-down percentage of 43.8 percent ranks 24th.

According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, although he's only pulled in five passes over his last two games, St. Brown's target shares have been 24 percent and 26.5 percent.

In other words, nobody should be panicking here. ...

In a related note. ...Goff scored 20 or more standard fantasy points in three of his first six games this year. He's hit that mark once across his last seven.

Finally. ... According to's Nathan Jahnke, David Montgomery played a lot more than usual last week while Jahmyr Gibbs played a lot less. In this game, those trends were reversed, as the two returned to their normal roles in the offense.

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

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

The Green Bay Packers had seemingly righted their early-season problems with a three-game winning streak that put them squarely in playoff position.

They had an easy schedule over the final five games, and winning out seemed a possibility.

Tommy DeVito and the New York Giants spoiled all that Monday night by rallying for a 24-22 victory that left the Packers one of six NFC teams with a 6-7 record.

The playoffs are up for grabs again.

Next up is a date Sunday with the NFC South-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers, another team sitting fighting for a playoff spot.

While the Packers remain in the No. 7 seed -- the final spot -- in the NFC playoff picture, they're now one of six teams in the conference with a 6-7 record (including the Bucs) instead of being tied with the Minnesota Vikings (who currently own the No. 6 seed) with a 7-6 record. Of the Packers' four remaining opponents, the Vikings are the only team with a winning record.

But as coach Matt LaFleur pointed out after Monday night's loss, that might not matter if the Packers play like this again.

"I think our team learned a valuable lesson in terms [of], you don't play your best, it doesn't matter who you're playing, where you're playing 'em, when you're playing -- you're not going to win the game," LaFleur said.

As's Rob Demovsky suggested, perhaps this is what former Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had in mind when he cautioned last week on "The Pat McAfee Show" to not "crown" Jordan Love yet. While Rodgers has praised and supported Love at every turn, he warned that it could put too much pressure on Love if praise is heaped on him too early.

Sure enough, Love reverted to his early-season turnover phase by losing a fumble and throwing an interception.

While he closed the game strongly with a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Malik Heath that gave the Packers a 22-21 lead with 1:33 to play -- his fourth go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter of a game this season -- they might never have been in that situation had Love not turned it over on consecutive second-quarter possessions.

"Another game we didn't start out fast enough. Offensively, didn't put up any points right away," said Love, who finished 25-of-39 for 218 yards with one touchdown. "Obviously losing the turnover battle was critical in this game, didn't help us out. A lot of things to just look at the film and learn and grow from."

There were mistakes and miscues abound.

"You can look and nitpick each phase of the game," LaFleur said. "Special teams wasn't good enough. Offense wasn't good enough. Defense wasn't good enough. All three collectively, and when you're bad in all three phases, that's what happens. You lose the game."

They'll try to get back on track against the Buccaneers on Sunday in Green Bay. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to the team's official website, Malik Heath admits he got a little too relaxed on what should have been his first NFL touchdown Monday night.

The rookie receiver thought he'd shaken off Giants safety Jason Pinnock when Love targeted Heath on second-and-goal from New York 6-yard line, only for Pinnock to knock the ball out of his grasp at the last second.

Green Bay went right back to the undrafted rookie on the next play, dialing up an out to the pylon that Heath pulled in before falling into the side judge. It led to a few anxious moments, but the official stood back up and signaled touchdown.

The Giants ultimately prevailed 24-22 after a game-winning drive of their own, but Heath's redemptive score gave the Packers a shot -- pulling ahead by one point with 1 minute, 33 seconds remaining.

"It felt good," Heath said. "I gotta make that play. Short term memory. They called the (next) play for me and I made the play."

Heath and second-year receiver Samori Toure each saw a spike in offensive playing time with Christian Watson sidelined with the hamstring injury he sustained in last Sunday's win over Kansas City.

All seven of Heath's catches, totaling 79 yards, have come over Green Bay's last four contests. Against Detroit last month, the 6-2, 213-pound receiver caught four passes for 46 yards on just 11 offensive snaps.

Romeo Doubs was proud of how Heath responded to not catching the first pass from Love, a play in which the Packers quarterback climbed the pocket to find Heath.

"I salute him, man," Doubs said. "The very first one, it was in his hands. It was incomplete in a very critical situation. So it was up to not just me but all the other receivers to surround him in that huddle to keep his hopes up because that's what this league is about.

"The best foot forward in that situation is to give him his confidence back so he can continue to go out there and make plays like you saw. ..."

In addition to Watson, Green Bay finished without rookie receivers Dontayvion Wicks (ankle) and Jayden Reed (evaluated for a concussion).

Reed provided a spark for Green Bay early on, scoring a 16-yard touchdown off an end-around in the first quarter to give the Packers an early 7-0 lead. The rookie second-round pick finished with 65 total yards and a TD on 12 touches.

"That's what he does. He makes plays," said Heath of Reed. "He's an explosive player. He's gonna keep going. He cold. We're going to lean on him when we need him in situations we need him, and glad he gave us that spark."

Wicks served as Watson's direct replacement for most of this game, just as he did at the start of the season. According to's Nathan Jahnke, Wicks was even playing more than Watson typically would, given that he would often rotate with Watson in games.

The Packers' rookie class combined to catch 15 of Love's 25 passes for 117 yards.

Rookie tight end Tucker Kraft had four receptions for a career-high 64 yards, including a game-long 43-yard catch that put Anders Carlson in position for a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Aaron Jones (knee) missed his third consecutive game and sixth game of the season. As usual, A.J. Dillon was the primary replacement, with Patrick Taylor mixing in for passing situations.

Kenyan Drake was recently added to the Packers practice squad and was elevated to the active roster for this game. He wasn't involved on offense.

I'll have more on Jones, Watson, Reed and Wicks via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

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 Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As's DJ Bien-Aime noted, the hits keep coming for the Houston Texans, who lost rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and leading receiver Nico Collins during Sunday's 30-6 loss to the New York Jets.

Stroud, who entered the game as the NFL leader in passing yards, is in the concussion protocol after the back of his helmet smacked the turf when he was driven to the ground by Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams with 6:43 left in the game.

Stroud was on the ground for a few minutes, writhing in pain, as the Texans' training staff attended to him. He then walked to the sideline, and after going to the blue medical tent, he was escorted to the locker room for further evaluation and did not return.

Williams' hit on Stroud appeared to be late -- after he threw a 6-yard completion to John Metchie III -- but Texans coach DeMeco Ryans focused on the protection instead of the collision.

"On the hit with C.J., we have to block it better," Ryans said. "We can't allow them to get back to our quarterback. We have to block it better up front."

Williams took to social media after the game to say that he hoped Stroud was OK and wished him "nothing but the best."

According to Next Gen Stats, Stroud was pressured on 44 percent of his dropbacks, and was sacked four times and hit six other times.

The 2023 No. 2 draft pick, who had thrown for 3,540 yards entering the game, finished the game 10-for-23 for 91 yards, his lowest output of the season, with no touchdowns or interceptions.

"[The offensive line] wasn't good enough as a whole. Different things go into that," Texans right guard Shaq Mason told ESPN. "Ultimately, our job is to protect the quarterback, and we didn't do that well enough today."

Backup quarterback Davis Mills replaced Stroud and went 1-for-5 for 4 yards, as the Jets' defense continued to apply pressure. Mills was pressured on 50 percent of his dropbacks in his first game this season in which he appeared in multiple series.

"Super tough. I love that man," Mills said of Stroud. "He's been battling week in and week out for this team, and obviously, it's tough seeing him go down."

If Stroud has to miss any time, Mills will start in his absence. The third-year quarterback has 26 career starts (5-20-1 record) while throwing for 5,802 yards with 33 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.

Collins left with a calf injury on the first offensive drive of the game.

Collins caught a pass for 13 yards as his season total surpassed the 1,000-yard mark (1,004) for the first time in his career, but he went to the locker room shortly thereafter.

Ryans said that while the injury to Collins was impactful -- Houston had only 135 yards of total offense, a season low -- it wasn't why the Texans lost.

"It hurts when one of your best playmakers is not there," Ryans said. "This game just strictly came down -- credit to the Jets -- their players. They made plays and we didn't. You go out, and you play that way. ... You don't make plays. ... and you don't deserve to win the football game."

The Texans already had entered the game without their No. 2 and No. 3 weapons in receiving yards, with wide receiver Tank Dell (lower leg) and tight end Dalton Schultz (hamstring) both out.

Texans linebacker Blake Cashman and cornerback Tavierre Thomas suffered hamstring injuries during the game and also did not return.

Can the Texans overcome the rash of injuries to the offense?

It's tough for a team to try to overcome injuries to their starting quarterback, their top three targets and one of their best offensive linemen, but that's the situation the Texans find themselves in.

I'll obviously be following up on Stroud and Collins as the Texans begin preparing for their trip to Tennessee to take on the Titans this Sunday.

Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...

Also of interest. ... As's Nathan Jahnke suggested, Devin Singletary was the best part of the Texans offense, scoring their only touchdown.

Singletary was playing 80 percent of Houston's offensive snaps two weeks ago, but that rate dropped dramatically last week. Dameon Pierce was back to playing a slight majority of early-down snaps, including short-yardage and goal-line situations, while Dare Ogunbowale took over the third-down role.

Ogunbowale kept the third-down role this week, but Singletary was back to having the early-down role.

He took every snap on early downs on the first two drives before Pierce took over on the third drive. Singletary remained the primary early-down back the rest of the game, including taking a goal-line snap for a touchdown.

The Texans were playing from behind throughout the second half, which led to only 19 carries by the running backs in the game, but 13 went to Singletary.

The injury to Stroud could lead the Texans to become even more dependent on their running backs next week. ...

Meanwhile, Xavier Hutchinson was Collins' replacement and Houston stuck with the Brown, Woods and Hutchinson trio for nearly every play in 11 personnel in the first half.

John Metchie III played in Hutchinson's place in 11 personnel for the third quarter, and all four played significant 11 personnel snaps in the fourth quarter.

But a combination of the injuries at wide receiver and tight end, the Jets secondary along with the heavy rain led to a very quiet day for the Texans' passing game.

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason passed along the Next Gen Stats' routes run via X.

Woods: 27; Noah Brown: 26; Hutchinson: 23; and Metchie: 15.

Remember, Sunday's game is a more favorable matchup. Tennessee has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.

Even though Brown has been shut out the past two weeks, he caught 13 passes for 325 yards and a touchdown in his previous two healthy games. He could pay off in a big way against the Titans. ...

Finally. ... Kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn is expected to return to action this week.

Fairbairn has missed more than a month of game action with a lingering quad injury that landed him on injured reserve. He should be back for this week's game against Tennessee. As Rotoworld suggests, an injury-riddled Houston offense makes Fairbairn a very shaky fantasy option for the rest of the season although the Texans have the sixth most field goal attempts (29) in 2023.

QBs: C.J. Stroud, Case Keenum, Davis Mills
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 Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot framed it: "The Indianapolis Colts skirted around the edge during their four-game winning streak.

"On Sunday, they danced right off of it. ..."

Cincinnati exploited Indy's aggressive pass rush with three long screen passes, the Colts' ground game struggled again, and even the special teams unit that played so well one week earlier broke down in a 34-14 loss.

On Monday, the embarrassed Colts (7-6) were already back at work, searching for a quick fix.

"We opened Pandora's box (Sunday) for sure with the screen game," two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said after the Bengals used 54- and 46-yard passes to fuel their first two touchdown drives. "We've got to go to the tape, we've got to look at our fits, and how we can turn the screens back inside to the guys pursuing the ball. We've got to put that fire out quick."

Indy's most lopsided loss of the season did not significantly damage its playoff hopes.

The Colts (7-6) still sit in the AFC's seventh and final playoff spot, still trail AFC South-leading Jacksonville by one game and still can improve their postseason chances by protecting their home field Saturday against the low-scoring Pittsburgh Steelers.

But the Cincinnati game was alarming for a team that spent the previous month celebrating the different ways it used to win games.

The Colts returned two interceptions for touchdowns to topple Carolina and used a late interception and late field goal to put away the Patriots. It took a surprise fourth-and-1 call and a late strip-sack to beat the Buccaneers and two nifty pass plays late in overtime to rally against Tennessee.

On Sunday, they never had a chance to make a late, game-changing play.

They lost the turnover battle. They had a touchdown nullified by a penalty. Matt Gay missed a field goal and an extra point. And a defense that averaged 16.8 points allowed during the four wins yielded more than twice that against the Bengals and their backup quarterback, Jake Browning.

"We have a drive going, and a penalty moves us back. We have another drive going, and another penalty moves us back," head coach Shane Steichen said. "A lot of that stuff -- the punt, Ameer (Speed) runs into (returner Isaiah McKenzie). In that situation I was thinking, 'Geez, Louise.'"

The Colts are still in playoff contention. To stay there, they need to regain their edge.

"It was just one of those days," Steichen said. "I have full confidence that we'll get it cleaned up."

Sunday was just the second time this year Indy failed to score 20 or more points, and the first time it happened on American soil. It scored just 10 points in Germany, which was enough to beat New England.

There were positives for fantasy managers.

Michael Pittman Jr. has at least eight receptions in six straight games and fell 5 yards short of his third straight 100-yard games. Pittman needs 16 yards for his second 1,000-yard season and is five catches away from his first 100-reception season in a contract year.

Pittman has scored fewer than 10 PPR points just once this season. As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, like Puka Nacua, Pittman has hit at least a 20 percent target share in each game.

The ground game wasn't as good.

Indy's woes cannot be traced entirely to the absence of 2021 NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor. But losing Taylor to a right thumb injury hasn't helped. Indy has failed to rush for 80 or more yards four of its last six games after topping 125 yards six times in its first eight.

In a related note. ... Zack Moss hasn't hit a double-digit PPR point game without Taylor yet.

But Zachariason points out Moss' peripherals have been good: He saw 81 percent of Indy's running back rushes Sunday to go along with a 21 percent target share.

The Colts had four starters out against the Bengals -- Taylor, RT Braden Smith (knee), LB E.J. Speed (knee) and CB JuJu Brents (quad). It's not clear whether any of the four could return this week.

For what it's worth. ... Taylor is expected to play again at some point this season, Steichen told reporters Tuesday. Taylor has missed the past two games and his status is to be determined for Saturday's game against the Steelers.

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

The good news?

The Colts will face another backup quarterback on Saturday and, like the Bengals, the Steelers and Mitch Trubisky may try to slow Indy's pass rush with screens. Unlike the Bengals, though, the Steelers are scoring just 16.2 points per game. It's up to Indy's defense to help the team bounce back.

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

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Trevor Lawrence felt OK about one thing late Sunday.

Not about losing. Or about how the offense played. But the Jaguars' third-year quarterback said his right ankle felt OK following a long, physical game.

"I felt pretty good, all things considered," he said.

Lawrence, who has started 47 consecutive games since the Jaguars selected him No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, started and played the entire game Sunday with a high-ankle sprain six days after limping from the field in the fourth quarter of an overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

Lawrence, who did not practice Wednesday, practiced limited Thursday and Friday. The Jaguars announced he would start less than two hours before kickoff Sunday. He completed 28 of 50 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions.

"I didn't reinjure my ankle, or tweak or anything," Lawrence said. "That was a positive out of today. I guess that's the only one. I felt pretty good. It held up.

"I was able to move when needed. It was good."

The Jaguars, after falling behind 14-0 in the first half Sunday, rallied three times to within a touchdown -- 14-7, 21-7 and 28-21 -- but couldn't tie. They committed four turnovers, with both second-half turnovers -- a list fumble by wide receiver Parker Washington and an interception thrown by Lawrence -- leading to touchdowns that moved the Browns' lead to 14.

The Jaguars were playing without wide receiver Christian Kirk, their leading receiver in yards this season who was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury Friday. They also played much of the game with their fourth left tackle of the season: Blake Hance, who replaced Ezra Cleveland after Cleveland left with a first-half knee injury.

Cleveland was playing for injured Walker Little (hamstring), who had been starting for injured starter Cam Robinson (knee).

"There's no excuses," tight end Evan Engram said. "We have to find a way to look at this as a team, to figure it out and get it done. Everybody's level has to go up."

"It was not one of our cleaner games," Lawrence said. "We were just so inconsistent. It was hard to get in a rhythm. All the close plays you need to get some momentum back in games, seemed like all those we weren't able to make today.

"Walking off the field, I felt like we missed so many opportunities and left a lot out there. Really just shot ourselves in the foot, over and over. We gave them short fields a bunch. You can't play that way and win typically. We still had a shot and gave ourselves an opportunity, but it was too little too late at that point."

Meanwhile, Associated Press sports writer Mark Long made a fair point when he suggested Kirk was more important to Jacksonville's offense than anyone realized.

The Jaguars are 0-2 since Kirk injured his groin on the team's opening play last Monday against Cincinnati.

They had chances to beat the Bengals that night and plenty of opportunities to win at Cleveland, but Kirk's fellow receivers dropped the ball -- literally in some instances.

Calvin Ridley finished with four catches for 53 yards on a season-high 13 targets against the Browns. He had a notable miscommunication with Lawrence in the second quarter that led to an interception.

Zay Jones had five receptions for 29 yards on a career-high-tying 14 targets Sunday. He had a drop and looked a step slow while playing with a brace on his right knee.

Lawrence completed 9 of 27 passes for 82 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions, when targeting Ridley and Jones.

That might say a lot about Cleveland's cornerbacks, but it also shows how integral Kirk was to the team's system.

Kirk had 57 receptions for 787 yards and three touchdowns before landing on injured reserve. He's expected to have core-muscle surgery and miss several more games. He's the team's best route-runner and its most sure-handed receiver, a safety blanket of sorts for Lawrence, especially on third down.

"That's the thing about this league: No one really cares who you are missing," Lawrence said. "There are a lot of teams who are missing players at this point in the season, but 100 percent miss Christian. He's one of our best players. Makes a huge impact on this offense and this team.

"We have to find a way to still win games without him. That's not going to change in the next few weeks. We have to find a way, and I have all the confidence that we will."

Washington caught a touchdown pass for the second consecutive game while filling Kirk's spot in the slot. But he also fumbled on the opening drive of the third quarter, giving the Browns a short field that led to a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.

"Obviously, we miss Christian," coach Doug Pederson said. "He was a big part of the offense. But where we are in the season, this late, it's the next-man up mentality. So we've got to continue as coaches to prepare our players and get those guys ready to go regardless of who's in there."

Despite the back-to-back losses, the Jaguars have enjoyed their best stretch of red zone scoring this season. Jacksonville scored touchdowns on all four red zone possessions against the Browns and was 3 for 3 against the Bengals.

That gives them some hope heading into this weekend. The Jaguars need to beat AFC-best Baltimore (10-3) on Sunday night to have any shot at being the No. 1 seed in the conference. ...

A few final notes. ... Engram caught 11 passes (tying his career high) for 95 yards and two touchdowns on a day when the rest of the pass-catchers were inconsistent. Engram came into the game with 73 catches, which tied his career high and the single-season franchise record by a tight end. He is now on pace to become the first tight end in franchise history to catch 100.

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, last season, 75 percent of Engram's touchdowns occurred from Weeks 13-14. This season, all of Engram's touchdowns have occurred from Weeks 13-14. ...

Also according to Jahnke, Travis Etienne Jr. hasn't played as much in recent weeks due to injury. He was still limited all week due to his rib injury, but he played over 75 percent of Jacksonville's offensive snaps for the first time since Week 8.

Beyond the injuries outlined above. ... Receiver/returner Jamal Agnew (shoulder/ribs) could return from injured reserve this week.

I'll have more on Agnew, Etienne and Lawrence as developments warrant via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

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 Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As's Adam Teicher reported, head coach Andy Reid said the Kansas City Chiefs won't be giving up on wide receiver Kadarius Toney, even after he made a costly mistake late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills.

"The thing I know is he makes plays," the Chiefs' coach said Monday of Toney. "He makes plays when he has the ball in his hand and that's important. He's a young guy. He doesn't have. ... A ton of experience, but I think he's getting better every week.

"I don't see that as being a negative. I look at the things that he produced on, too."

Toney was penalized for lining up offside on a play when the Chiefs scored what would have been the go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Toney took a cross-field lateral from Travis Kelce, who had caught a pass from Patrick Mahomes, and completed what would have been a 49-yard touchdown.

The Chiefs instead eventually turned the ball over on downs on the drive and lost 20-17, their fourth defeat in the past six games.

Asked what his coaching advice to Toney would be this week, Reid said, "Normally he looks over to the sideline and just gets an OK [from the official]. On that one he just happened not to. Just make sure you check, make sure you check with the guy on the side just to see if you're aligned. ... He was 2 inches away from or an inch from being legal."

Toney similarly cost the Chiefs in their Week 1 loss to the Detroit Lions. He deflected an easily catchable Mahomes pass to a defender, who returned it for a touchdown. The Chiefs wound up losing by one point.

Toney's biggest play for the Chiefs this season is 18 yards. He did deliver two big plays in the fourth quarter of last season's Super Bowl, scoring one touchdown and returning a punt 65 yards to set up another.

Reid after the game said the penalty call was an "embarrassment" to the NFL because players like Toney are usually warned first for lining up offside before being penalized. Reid on Monday said he wasn't blaming the officials for the loss but was disappointed that they didn't communicate with him the way he said he's come to expect them to.

"I think I've got a good relationship with the officials, and I had no communication," Reid said. "That's really where I was coming from. I was disappointed in that part."

Reid also defended Mahomes, who yelled at the officials as the game ended and questioned the timing of the call in his postgame news conference.

"We put so much time and effort into it and both physical and mental effort," Reid said Monday. "For it to come down to something like that, that ends up being the frustration ... That type of situation is too great for really good football teams playing each other and you're down to a minute and a half or a minute, 50 seconds, all of a sudden, you're right there and have a big play. I think anybody would say that's a little bit frustrating.

"Do we need to line up right? Yeah, we do. We've got to take care of that and not put it in the official's hands."

Meanwhile, Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta contends it was easy to forget amid all the focus on the Toney situation that the Chiefs had put themselves in such a dire predicament.

It was also easy to once again cast blame on their wide receivers.

Skretta argues plenty of blame belongs to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, too.

He was whistled for a false start, miscommunicated with Mahomes on a pass that would have converted a third down in the second quarter, and finished with two catches for 22 yards in the latest disappointing performance by the Chiefs' most highly-paid wide receiver.

"There's some good things in there that we're getting better in some spots," Reid said Monday, "but we have to clean up some things, penalties and drops offensively, and obviously the scores early on the defensive side. We have to take care of that so we're not playing from behind, and some of that was also turnovers on the offensive side, too."

Yes, there was the interception thrown by Mahomes, but also the fumble by another Chiefs wide receiver, Rashee Rice.

Kansas City (8-5), which has lost four of six and now leads the AFC West by just a game over Denver, has survived mediocre play at wide receivers ever since Tyreek Hill was traded to the Dolphins.

But not even Mahomes has been able to make up for the poor play of his wide receiver group this season, as evidenced by just about any metric you choose: The quarterback is on pace to set career lows as a starter of 7.0 yards per attempt, 261.4 yards per game and a touchdown rate of just 2.7 percent.

The only career high that Mahomes could set? His interception rate of 2.3 percent.

The problems have been across the board, but Toney and Valdes-Scantling have been the biggest. Toney also dropped a pass that led to a pick-6 by Brian Branch in a season-opening loss to Detroit, and Valdes-Scantling dropped an easy pass late in a 21-17 loss to the Eagles that would have given Kansas City the lead.

The uncomfortable question that faces the Chiefs is this: If not them, then who? Rice has had a promising rookie season, fumbles and drops aside, while journeyman Justin Watson has been one of their most sure-handed wide receivers. But the Chiefs have not been able to find a third option, much less a fourth or fifth, who can consistently make plays.

"I feel like we're making progress," Rice insisted. "We're going to continue to make progress, and the more we make progress, the more we will be able to not have anyone else in control of the game besides us."

The Chiefs did not have any major injuries against Buffalo.

Now, they hope they can get RB Isiah Pacheco (shoulder), LT Donovan Smith (neck) and LB Drue Tranquill (concussion) back for the stretch run, which start Sunday in New England, where the Chiefs will take on the Patriots. ...

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

Meanwhile, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon split the workload in Pacheco's absence.

McKinnon played 28 snaps. Edwards-Helaire was at 30.

According to's Nathan Jahnke, Edwards-Helaire took most of Pacheco's role, accounting for the majority of snaps and carries on early downs.

The only reason the snap share was so close is because the Chiefs were losing and played 17 snaps in two-minute drills. Over half of McKinnon's snaps came during those situations.

McKinnon scored a 7-yard touchdown on a third down in the last two minutes of the first half. That touchdown meant McKinnon scored more fantasy points than Edwards-Helaire, but the early-down back received more opportunities throughout the game.

The Chiefs' next two games are against teams with losing records. If Pacheco misses more time, Jahnke believes Edwards-Helaire will likely be the guy to start.

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

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson noted, the Raiders' past three games showed Las Vegas' stagnant offense wasn't all Josh McDaniels' fault and at the same time almost entirely his doing.

Las Vegas' in-game coaching and preparation haven't improved and, in fact, have dramatically regressed during its three-game skid. That was clear during Sunday's hard-on-the-eyes 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in which both teams barely gained 200 yards.

But the current coaches are working with the players McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler -- both of whom were fired on Oct. 31 -- put in place. And there's only so much they can do with them.

Most glaring, the Raiders (5-8) don't have a franchise quarterback, and whether rookie Aidan O'Connell even starts Thursday night's home game against the Los Angeles Chargers is in question. According to's Paul Gutierrez, the rookie's unimpressive play answered itself. The Vikings had little respect for the quarterback's deep game, stacking the box all day and daring him to throw long. The Raiders' offense needed a spark, and O'Connell simply couldn't bring it.

Interim coach Antonio Pierce said Monday he'll decide later in the week whether to stay with O'Connell or go back to Jimmy Garoppolo, who's been intercepted on 5.4 percent of his passes -- easily the worst rate in the league.

"We're going through that process now," Pierce said in his Monday press conference. "We'll see how the week goes."

O'Connell has been starting since the Raiders fired former head coach Josh McDaniels at the start of Week 9.

Garoppolo completed 65.5 percent of his throws for 1,205 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions in six starts.

O'Connell has completed 63.8 percent of passes for 1,365 yards with four touchdowns and seven picks in seven appearances with six starts. Brian Hoyer is also on the roster, but it's unlikely Las Vegas would turn to the veteran backup.

Even though the Raiders play on Thursday, Pierce said the Raiders don't have to be too quick in making a QB decision.

"We're just going through the process," Pierce said. "We're not going to rush to make any decision and not do anything emotional based on what I read here or what anybody's telling me. I'll go off my gut."

Whatever the case, Las Vegas will need a player in next year's quarterback-rich draft, but that position isn't the only question mark.

Josh Jacobs, despite a recent surge, hasn't played at the level of last season, when he led the NFL in rushing. His future with Las Vegas always looked doubtful after this season, but Raiders coaches have been reluctant to give another running back much playing time. The draft or free agency probably will be the answer.

The Raiders' offensive line needs an infusion of talent, too, though having one of the league's top left tackles in Kolton Miller is a good place to start.

Same with Davante Adams at wide receiver, but the Raiders might want to seriously consider moving him in the offseason to acquire draft capital to rebuild the roster. Adams is wasting his talent in Las Vegas, and there are no signs of a quick turnaround at this point.

There's a lot that needs to be done to improve an offense that has reached 20 points just once this season, and that work will occur after the season.

Las Vegas' coaches, in the meantime, will have to make do with what they have -- which isn't a lot.

"Like I told the guys, the Raiders beat the Raiders last night," Pierce said Monday.

Hard to argue.

Late Tuesday afternoon, some 48 hours after being part of the lowest-scoring NFL game in 16 years, Adams described his frustration.

"You want to be a part of history," Adams said. "But never that type."

The veteran wideout continued: "I mean, it's embarrassing, too. Not that that's the main thing that drives it, but you walk off that field and you've got a lot of fans that pay their money to come to see you play and you go up and put up a goose egg. It almost looked worse that they only scored three [points], too.

"You've seen plenty of teams win, 20, 22-0, whatever, but when the other team wins by three and they only score three, it just looks horrible. So, hopefully we don't make any more history like that on this side."

How long did it take Adams to get over it, or is he still not over it?

"I mean, I'm moving past it," he said. "I'm not over it, but I'm past it, for sure.

"It's just, we couldn't really get a rhythm, couldn't establish really anything in the game. Once we did, we obviously turned the ball over and we just didn't make it easy on ourselves. So, that's what you're going to get if you can't convert third down. If you can't have explosive plays, it's going to look like that."

As Gutierrez understated, it has been an up (13 catches for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3) and down (1 catch for 11 yards at the Detroit Lions in Week 8, 53 yards receiving on 7 catches against the Vikings) season for Adams, who has had only one score since Week 3.

After hauling in 100 catches on 180 targets for 1,516 yards and a career-best 15.2 yards-per-catch average with an NFL-high 14 touchdowns last season, Adams is on pace for 99 catches on 167 targets for 1,134 yards (the 11.5 yards-per-catch average would be the second-lowest of his career) and just 5 touchdowns, which would tie for the third-fewest of his 10-year career.

This season, the Chargers have allowed the most passing yards by a team, with 3,705 yards. ...

Meanwhile, it would be easy to brush off the Raiders' defensive performance against Minnesota as a more of statement about the Vikings' porous offense, but Anderson sees this as a trend. The Raiders are ninth in the league in points allowed at 19.9 per game, a remarkable turnaround for a defense that last season was 26th after giving up a 24.6 average.

But the offensive line is struggling.

In fact, it's clear given the injuries to Miller and center Andre James that the coaches didn't trust the offensive line to hold up long enough for O'Connell to throw downfield. He probably didn't trust the protection, either. The Vikings sacked him four times and hit him on five other plays.

More broadly speaking, the team isn't able to take advantage of opportunities.

Las Vegas had its chance from the beginning to get what would've been crucial points on the scoreboard. The Raiders had a promising opening drive by reaching Minnesota's 42 before a holding call and a sack pushed the ball back to the Raiders' side of the 50.

Then, early in the second half, Hunter Renfrow caught a 38-yard pass to put the ball on the 11. Renfrow fumbled three plays later, and the Vikings recovered.

Worth noting, Thursday night's game might be an opportunity.

Backup quarterback Easton Stick will start for the Chargers when they visit the Raiders. We'll see if Vegas can leverage the situation. ...

On the injury front. ... Jacobs left Sunday's game with what was reported by the team as a knee injury. But he was listed as a non-participant in Monday's walkthrough with a quad injury and Pierce said after that session he didn't have an update.

That said, CBS Sports' Josina Anderson was told that the Raiders aren't currently planning to bring in another free agent RB, nor elevate one from the practice squad.

Still, Jacobs and DE Maxx Crosby (knee) also sat out Tuesday's walk-through.

The Raiders also will keep a close eye on Miller (shoulder) and James (ankle). DT Adam Butler (foot) and LB Kana'i Mauga (knee) also got hurt.

I'll have more on Jacobs and the quarterback situation in advance of Thursday night's game. Check the Late-Breaking Update section for more. ...

Worth noting. ... The Raiders played only six offensive snaps after Jacobs' injury.

According to's Nathan Jahnke, Ameer Abdullah took the snap immediately after the injury because it was a third down. He also took the third snap on the following drive and the two snaps in the last two minutes because they were clear passing situations.

Zamir White took the other two snaps. White would presumably take Jacobs' role if the 2019 first-rounder misses time.

Given how well running backs typically do against the Chargers and the possibility of White playing 15-20 snaps, Jahnke contends he is the top waiver-wire option of the week unless Jacobs is good to go. ...

Also of interest. ... While the totals haven't been great, Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that Adams has seen target shares of 52 percent, 34 percent, 22 percent, and 34.5 percent over his last four.

If he continues to get that level of opportunity, good things will happen.

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 Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Justin Herbert had surgery to repair his fractured right index finger Tuesday and will be placed on injured reserve, ending his 2023 season, the team announced.

Herbert suffered the injury in Los Angeles' 24-7 loss to the Broncos on Sunday on a hit from defensive end Zach Allen in the second quarter. Herbert completed a pass to tight end Donald Parham Jr. on the play, got up and looked at his right hand. He stayed in the game for the rest of the series before going to the locker room and not returning.

He finishes his fourth season with 3,134 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

On Monday, head coach Brandon Staley said the focus with Herbert returning from his injury would be on his future, and with a broken finger on his throwing hand, a return with four games left always appeared unlikely on a 5-8 Chargers team.

"Certainly, there's nothing more important than that, than his right hand. And his long-term future," Staley said. "He's 25 years old, and he's got a really, really bright future in front of him. So, like I said, every decision we make is going to be with that in mind."

Herbert had started 62 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak by a quarterback, behind only the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen (84). That streak will end when the Chargers play the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday, with Easton Stick starting for Los Angeles. Rookie quarterback Max Duggan will be the backup.

Stick, a fifth-round draft pick in 2019, replaced Herbert on Sunday when he left in the second quarter. Stick led the Chargers to their only touchdown on a drive in which he completed a 57-yard pass to Quentin Johnston before Austin Ekeler ran in for the score four plays later.

Stick finished the game with 13-of-24 passing for 179 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

"I have all the confidence in the world," safety Derwin James said of Stick on Monday. "He gives us a great look every week. When he got in the game, you've seen the throws that he was able to make and some of the plays he was able to make. I have all of the confidence in him. We're going to be behind him and have his back as a defense."

As's Kris Rhim notes, the Chargers still aren't mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and Keenan Allen said Sunday that players still haven't ruled out the postseason. Now, they will rely on Stick to spark an improbable turnaround.

"It's tough," Allen said. "When we ... practice, we're pretty much with [Herbert] the whole time, so having Stick in there, we know Stick can make those plays. We know he's got the knowledge for the game. He's been around for a long time. So the confidence was still high in Stick, but obviously, Herbo is our guy."

While Herbert's injury is obviously bad news, Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy reminded readers the truth is the offense was already struggling.

The Chargers have scored only three touchdowns in the last 14 quarters, another horrific statistic in a disappointing season for a team many thought would be an AFC contender.

"Yeah, we've got to get more touchdowns. That's not good, not good at all. You guys laugh. I'm not laughing. That's not good," Ekeler said after Sunday's game. "We're putting drives together. We have some splash plays here, but it's been broken.

"We've got to put a drive together, get down into the red zone and put a complete drive together."

The Chargers are ranked 17th in total offense. If the season ended this week, that would be their lowest ranking since they were 18th in 2014.

Reedy went on to explain there are many factors why the offense has struggled. The loss of center Corey Linsley after three games due to a heart issue has caused some pass protection issues on the offensive line. Over the last 10 games, Herbert and Stick have been pressured on 29.7 percent of their dropbacks, higher than the league average of 27.8 percent.

The other issues are things Staley and general manager Tom Telesco have long dealt with but haven't fixed.

The running game has largely been non-existent, averaging 96 yards per carry.

The receiving position continues to be hampered by depth problems due to injuries to Mike Williams and Josh Palmer. Alex Erickson, who spent training camp with the New York Jets, got his second start of the year Sunday.

All of those add up to a significant challenge awaiting Stick, whose one edge over Herbert is that he is a better runner, which might allow the Chargers to employ some run-pass option plays.

"There are going to be some things in the passing game that could change, based on Justin and Easton and that's just natural. Your quarterbacks aren't going to be the same," Staley said. "I think the fact that we have that dimension with his legs gives us that dual threat in the plan. We think that's important, just in general, but with him, maybe you can activate that even more."

Allen will help too.

Not only did the veteran set the Chargers single-season record with his league-leading 108th reception, but he became the quickest player in NFL history to reach 900 career receptions. Allen, who has 904 catches, did it in 139 games, four games faster than Antonio Brown. ...

Worth noting. ... The Chargers have lost their last two trips to Las Vegas and last swept the Raiders in 2018.

Also of interest. ... Before the game, there was plenty of talk of the team moving more toward a committee or going with the hot hand at running back.

Ekeler had been held under 3.6 yards per carry in all but two games this season and averaged just 1.3 yards per carry against the Patriots in Week 13.

Isaiah Spiller was inactive for each of the last five games as the team stuck with two active running backs. Spiller was active for this game, which was the first change.

Ekeler started the game as usual, with Joshua Kelley rotating in on the first drive. According to's Nathan Jahnke, Spiller started mixing in during the fourth drive.

Ekeler played only half of the snaps in the first quarter but took the backfield over by the second quarter. He played 23 of 34 snaps in the second and third quarters, with Spiller taking over as the backup and playing nine snaps in those two quarters. Kelley was only on the field twice in that time.

Ekeler finished the game by taking all 18 snaps in the fourth quarter.

The final tally: Ekeler finished 49 offensive snaps, going for 100 yards for scrimmage and a rushing touchdown; Spiller got 12 snaps; Kelley finished with seven snaps.

This was Ekeler's best game in a month. Given that, Jahnke believes the veteran can safely remain in fantasy starting lineups.

If anything, this might mean Spiller will be the handcuff going forward instead of Kelley. ...

Allen led wide receivers in snaps with 65 and finished the game with six receptions for 68 yards. Johnston played 60 offensive snaps and had the highest number of yards in a game so far with 91 on three receptions. Erickson played 45 snaps, his highest number since joining the team, while Jalen Guyton finished with 22.

Palmer had his practice window open up, but he was limited in practice all week and wasn't brought to the active roster. That will change this week as Palmer was activated on Tuesday.

His return could be bad news for Johnston and Guyton, who will now fall further down the pecking order for targets. ...

Gerald Everett led the tight end group with 46 snaps, adding five catches for 39 yards in Week 14. Nick Vannett and Donald Parham, Jr., played 15 snaps each, while Stephan Anderson, who was elevated from the practice squad, played two. ...

Finally. ... The Chargers released their second estimated injury report of the week on Tuesday and it looks the same as the one they put out on Monday.

Allen was listed as a non-participant due to a heel injury.

Defensive back Deane Leonard (ankle, heel) is the only other player that the Chargers said would be out of practice this week.

Everett (hip), guard Zion Johnson (ankle), defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (ankle), linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga (hamstring), defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia (knee), Parham (shoulder), and defensive lineman Nick Williams (shoulder) would have been limited had the Chargers done more than hold a walkthrough on Tuesday.

I'll have more on Allen, Everett and Parham -- as well as Palmer -- via Late-Breaking Update before Thursday night's game.

QBs: Easton Stick, Justin Herbert
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Even though the Rams' rainy Sunday in Baltimore ended with a heartbreaking overtime loss on a punt return touchdown aided by a highly questionable block, Los Angeles had already got something quite valuable out of its road trip.

As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham put it, "The Rams (6-7) have confirmation they can play with the best teams in the NFL, and this rebuilding club's unlikely run at a postseason spot has more heft than it did before they nearly beat the AFC North leaders."

"Playing the Ravens, that's definitely a top-tier playoff team, and I think we can be that, too," said receiver Demarcus Robinson, who has only played on playoff teams during his eight-year NFL career. "We just need to finish games like (Sunday). We can be the same type of tier."

The Rams' three-game winning streak ended painfully, with Tylan Wallace's punt return partly made possible because Baltimore's Charlie Kolar threw what sure looked like a block in the back on his Iowa State teammate and close friend, Rams special teamer Jacob Hummel.

Sean McVay reacted diplomatically to the non-call Monday after watching film.

"The way I handle it is, you look at the things that I think are all obvious to us, that we all see, but there was a lot of other opportunities with six missed tackles on that play," McVay said.

"Got to be better with the location (of the ball carrier). There's so many plays that take place throughout the course of a game, and there were a lot of instances where I was so proud of our team for the way that we competed, and I'm really excited about being able to move forward.

"I'm not going to waste my emotional energy on stuff that's in the past. There was other opportunities on that play to make plays (so) that's not a big conversation today."

McVay echoed Robinson's largely positive outlook after the loss because of his team's competitiveness against 10-win Baltimore.

The Rams were hoping simply to be competitive this season after a major offseason roster purge to clear salary cap dead money in preparation for 2024.

Yet Los Angeles is in the thick of the playoff race heading into Week 15, holding a legitimate chance to earn the sixth seed in the NFC with a strong finish.

The schedule is also favorable: The Rams' next three opponents all have losing records at a combined 14-24.

In addition, the passing attack is on point.

Matthew Stafford is putting together one of the best stretches of his 15-year career, throwing 10 TD passes with just one interception in the past three games. More importantly, the Rams are keeping Stafford healthy, although Baltimore's top-ranked pass rush sacked him twice and hit him hard on several occasions.

The final total of Cooper Kupp's career-worst streak of games with fewer than 50 yards receiving ended at six after the Super Bowl 56 MVP broke out with eight catches for 115 yards and a TD. McVay said Kupp's play is improving concurrently with his health.

Kupp scored 25.5 PPR points, by far his highest total since Week 6.

Meanwhile, Robinson tied Kupp with a team leading 10 targets Sunday, giving him 15 targets over the last two games.

In addition, as Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, rookie sensation Puka Nacua has still not finished a game this season with a target share below 20 percent.

Nacua and Kupp remain viable weekly starters with Robinson worth watching on the waiver wire -- especially if Tutu Atwell misses time with his concussion.

Meanwhile, Kyren Williams ran 25 times for the second time this season. As's Nathan Jahnke notes, Williams and Josh Jacobs are the only running backs with multiple 25-plus-carry games this year.

Next up, Washington (4-9) brings a four-game skid to SoFi Stadium on Sunday, and New Orleans (6-7) follows four days later. With back-to-back wins, the Rams would be in the thick of contention for a surprising playoff berth. ...

A few final items. ... Kicker Lucas Havrisik stepped up to the challenge after the Rams signed Mason Crosby last week. Havrisik made all three of his field-goal attempts in the rain in Baltimore, including a 51-yard kick that would have been good from 60-plus.

Havrisik bought himself time as the Rams released Crosby on Tuesday.

On the injury front. ... McVay on Monday said tight end Hunter Long suffered an MCL injury against the Ravens that will require season-ending surgery.

Offensive lineman Rob Havenstein has a groin strain and is day-to-day.

Atwell is in the concussion protocol, per McVay.

"Came in today, was feeling a little bit better, but we'll go through the necessary steps with that," McVay said. "Day at a time and (we'll) see how that affects his status for the week."

Additionally, wide receiver Ben Skowronek came in Monday with "an ankle and some back issues" that would potentially prevent him from practicing on Wednesday.'

Tight end Tyler Higbee missed Sunday's game with a neck injury. ...

I'll have more on Higbee and Atwell via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.

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 Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill played only 33 snaps in Monday night's 28-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans after suffering an ankle injury in the first quarter.

As's Marcel Louis-Jacques reported it, Hill was tackled out of bounds after catching a pass from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and immediately writhed in pain before leaving the field. He initially walked across the field from the Titans' sideline to the Dolphins' but ran the final 20 or so yards after hearing "MVP" chants from the home crowd.

The NFL's leader in receiving yards didn't play another snap until the Dolphins' second drive of the third quarter, inspired in part by a text from his wife.

"When it happened, like my first reaction was like, man, my ankle is gone," he said. "My adrenaline kicked in, I ran off the field, then I sat for a while and it got stiff and I was going through a lot of pain. Then I just made up in my mind, I came in at halftime, I texted my wife, I was like, 'This s--- hurt.' I need an ankle massage tonight, and she's like, 'You'd better get your ass back in that game, dawg.' I was like, 'All right.'

"So I just made up my mind that it's going to hurt. It's going to suck. Tonight and tomorrow morning. I just went back in the game on my own, without anybody saying, 'Reek, go.' It was like, no, f--- this, I've got to get out there and bring some energy and be that spark."

Louis-Jacques went on to note that Miami was outgained by the Titans 403 yards to 366 and largely struggled without Hill in the game. Miami played without starting offensive linemen Terron Armstead, Robert Hunt and Isaiah Wynn, who were inactive, and center Connor Williams, who left the game because of a knee injury in the first quarter and did not return.

After the game, head coach Mike McDaniel said he hadn't spoken with the training staff yet for an update on Williams, who was seen wearing a knee brace while standing on the sideline during the game.

"I know it would take a lot to keep him out," McDaniel said. "It's probably not the most positive."

While the Dolphins averaged 5.1 yards per carry, rushing for 158 yards on 31 attempts, they were far less successful throwing the ball.

Against Miami's decimated offensive line, the Titans attacked, pressuring Tagovailoa on 39 percent of his dropbacks Monday night. Tagovailoa completed just 4 of 11 passes for 27 yards when pressured and was sacked five times.

He finished with 240 scoreless yards, completing 23 of 33 passes and snapping a streak of 21 consecutive games with a passing touchdown.

"I think what they wanted game-plan-wise was to put a shell over our team, forcing us to run the ball, forcing us to beat them that way," Tagovailoa said. "But when you have someone like Tyreek go down, it does make it tough, but when you also have a couple of your key O-linemen go down, as well, it does hurt the guys up front and sort of the way we operate."

Despite playing a minimized role, Hill finished with 61 yards on four catches. Jaylen Waddle led the team in receiving yards with 79 on six catches.

Miami clearly looked off rhythm without Hill, but McDaniel blamed the loss more so on a lack of red zone production -- two touchdowns on five red zone trips -- rather than Hill's injury.

"There's a good amount of offense that goes through [Hill]. However. ... [Cedrick Wilson Jr.] made a couple plays," he said. "It wasn't the reason for the lack of first half -- or really first three quarter -- points. I think there were just critical times that we would be off a hair on first or second down and you're put in a third down situation, and our protection wasn't exactly what maybe we'd be used to on a play or two.

"Obviously a player of Tyreek's caliber, it hurts when he's not in. However, I think there was plenty of offense to be had and we've got a lot of guys that I trust to do that. I think that just bottom line, you have things like that happen in a game, you're going to lose and those are lessons that are learned usually one way, and that's the hard one."

At 9-4, the Dolphins still hold a two-game lead in the AFC East over their division rival Buffalo Bills and host the New York Jets on Sunday. With a win and a Bills loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Miami would set itself up for a division-clinching scenario in Week 16.

There is no guarantee that Hill plays against the Jets -- unless the decision is left up to him.

"That's never something that I would be thinking about," he said. "But if the trainers come to me, if they see something in the scans whenever I get these scans, they say, 'Hey, Reek, you can sit out,' I do it. But me being me, I don't want to sit out. I want to be able to help this team any way I can, and that's just who I am. I just don't want to miss any games."

More officially, McDaniel called Hill day-to-day as the team moves toward their Sunday afternoon matchup with New York. While his return to action on Monday seems promising, McDaniel said that it is "a little early to be confident" about any path things will take this week.

"It was a painful ankle. Until he flat out tells me there's no doubt he's going to play, you always have to plan for everything," McDaniel said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Hill has not missed a game since the 2020 season and his practice work as the week unfolds will provide some idea of how things will play out for the AFC East leaders.

I'll obviously be watching this one closely in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses. ...

Meanwhile, it was the second game back from a knee injury for De'Von Achane. The rookie Raheem Mostert received significant playing time.

As's Nathan Jahnke noted, last week, Mostert played significantly in the first half as the Dolphins gained a lead. And Achane played significantly in the second half as Miami closed out the game.

This week, Achane received more playing time in the first half, but not at Mostert's expense. More than half of Achane's first-half snaps were in a receiver alignment.

Mostert was the clear leader in carries, while Achane was more involved in the passing game -- a predictable split.

Miami's philosophy changed in the second half, with the team rarely using both on the field at the same time. Mostert was the clear leader in the second half, scoring two touchdowns late in the game.

While Achane averaged more yards per carry, he might need more playing time than just the last five minutes to put up huge fantasy numbers.

The Dolphins face the New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens over the next three weeks. The Jets have been relatively generous to opposing runners, the other two less so. ...

One last item here. ... The Dolphins are signing edge rusher Melvin Ingram after a workout on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that Ingram is signing with the team's practice squad.

The Dolphins could use depth at the position with Jaelen Phillips on season-ending injured reserve after tearing an Achilles. Ingram, 34, has played 145 games in 11 seasons with four different teams.

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 Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

According to's Kevin Seifert, the Vikings are optimistic about receiver Justin Jefferson's chances of making a quick recovery from the chest injury that sidelined him after 13 snaps Sunday during the team's 3-0 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Doctors ruled out any significant internal injuries during a quick trip to a local hospital and Jefferson returned to Minnesota with the team Sunday night. As a result, coach Kevin O'Connell said: "I consider Justin day-to-day with a good chance to hopefully be with us playing on Saturday in Cincinnati."

Jefferson had just returned from a seven-game absence caused by a right hamstring injury suffered in Week 5. After leaping to make his second catch of Sunday's game with 9:54 remaining in the second quarter, he absorbed a hard hit in the back from Raiders safety Marcus Epps.

"He's doing pretty well today," O'Connell said of Jefferson. "It's just a matter of continuing to monitor any potential things that could arise."

The Vikings named quarterback Nick Mullens their starter for Saturday's game at the Cincinnati Bengals, 'Connell said Tuesday.

Mullens, who entered the season as the Vikings' No. 2 quarterback, will become the fourth different starter in a seven-game stretch for a team that is in strong position for an NFC wild-card playoff spot.

He was on injured reserve because of a back injury when Kirk Cousins ruptured his right Achilles tendon in Week 8, forcing rookie Jaren Hall to make one start and newcomer Josh Dobbs to make four others.

But Mullens had recovered enough for the Vikings to activate him in Week 11, and he led their only scoring drive Sunday after replacing Dobbs in the fourth quarter of a 3-0 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

Mullens threw for more yards (83) in that stint than Dobbs had the entire game (63).

Mullens has made 17 NFL starts in four previous seasons, most recently in 2021 while with the Cleveland Browns.

He spent most of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, where he started eight games in 2018 and eight more in 2020. His record in those starts is 5-12.

Worth noting. ... O'Connell knows who his starting quarterback will be on Saturday at the Bengals. O'Connell doesn't know who the No. 2 quarterback will be.

Via Seifert, O'Connell told reporters on Tuesday that he hasn't decided between Dobbs or Hall for the backup quarterback spot in Cincinnati.

O'Connell said both will be in uniform for the Week 15 game. However, only will likely be the emergency third quarterback, able to play only if the other two are injured or ejected.

In other injury news, O'Connell said it is "up in the air" whether right tackle Brian O'Neill (left ankle) or running back Alexander Mattison (right ankle) would be able to practice and play this week. Right guard Ed Ingram, who missed the first game of his career Sunday because of a hip injury, has a good chance to return this week, O'Connell said.

Linebacker Jordan Hicks, who has made a quick recovery from compartment syndrome in his right leg, will have his 21-day practice window opened this week or next, O'Connell said.

From injuries affecting his offense to the close games the Vikings are continually playing to critical decisions on starting quarterbacks, O'Connell has had quite the second-year test after a 13-4 record in his rookie season.

He's also had plenty of staff management on his plate, with outside linebackers coach Mike Smith on personal leave all season, defensive line coach Chris Rumph departed for a college job at Clemson and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips getting arrested over the weekend on suspicion of drunken driving. O'Connell said on Sunday he will "continue to evaluate" Phillips' place on the team.

Still, the Vikings are still in control of a spot in the playoffs as they head into Saturday's game in Cincy. ...

As for Jefferson, who was limited Tuesday, Mattison, who sat out Tuesday, and the rest, I'll be following up on their progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Worth noting. ... Mattison played 21 of a possible 30 first-half snaps, while Ty Chandler played only seven.

After the injury, it was clearly Chandler for the rest of the game.

Kene Nwangwu took his place for three snaps in the middle of the half, while C.J. Ham continued to play some third-down snaps, as he's done in most weeks.

As's Nathan Jahnke suggests, even if the injury keeps Mattison out for one week, Chandler would still be among the top waiver wire targets at running back.

He is likely one of two running backs available who could see over 60 percent of offensive snaps. ...

As for the receiving rotation beyond Jefferson. ... At the start of the season, K.J. Osborn consistently played ahead of Jordan Addison in 12 and 21 personnel. On the first two drives of this game, Addison played ahead of Osborn. Brandon Powell didn't play a single snap on those first two drives.

After the injury, the Vikings' wide receiver rotation was mostly back to "normal," with Addison and Osborn playing in two-receiver sets and Powell joining for three-receiver sets.

Jalen Nailor frequently rotated in for Osborn over the rest of the game. This was the most Nailor has played in a game this season outside of Week 10 when more players were out with injuries.

Nailor caught two of his five targets for 13 yards, while Osborn caught four of seven targets for 15 yards.

Osborn also has a career-most five dropped passes this season, according to Sportradar data. He has 40 receptions for 433 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, as Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason pointed out, Addison hasn't scored more than 11 PPR points in a game since Week 8.

QBs: Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Josh Dobbs, 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: Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse, T.J. Hockenson

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Jimmy Golen framed it: "With all of Bill Belichick's accomplishments over two decades in New England, he's never pulled this off before.

"The six-time Super Bowl champion -- one of the greatest coaches in NFL history -- had his players rallying to his defense in an attempt to end a five-game losing streak and perhaps even save his job."

"I just feel good we could get it done for Bill and the rest of the coaches," safety Jabrill Peppers told ESPN following the 21-18 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. "I don't really like all the flak he's been getting. Because it's on us as players to go out and execute."

The Patriots (3-10) scored three first-half touchdowns -- as many as they'd had in the previous four games combined -- and held on for their first win since Week 7. In his second start since Mac Jones was benched, Bailey Zappe threw for a career-high three touchdowns, completing 19 of 28 passes for 240 yards.

"We've been through a lot these past couple of weeks," receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said. "For us, especially as an offense to go out and put points on the board, to help our defense out, (there's) so much relief."

Belichick, 71, has guided the Patriots to six NFL titles since arriving in New England in 2000, along with three other conference championships and 17 AFC East titles in 19 seasons for what is one of the greatest dynasties of the league's Super Bowl era. He has won 332 games (including playoffs), second on the NFL's all-time victory list behind Don Shula.

But Belichick's pursuit of the longtime Miami mentor had stalled as the Patriots skidded to the bottom of the AFC standings, and it is now likely he will try to catch Shula from another sideline next season. Asked Friday about Peppers expressing his support, Belichick said: "Yeah, well, that's great. But I would say the big thing for me is what I appreciate is what the players do every day."

"Obviously, a level of frustration with the overall season. But, on a week-to-week basis, you kind of put that aside and focus on the week that you have," he said.

The offense came to life after scoring a total of 13 points in the previous three games, including a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in which it didn't reach the red zone. Hunter Henry had a pair of touchdown receptions, including one highlight-reel catch to make it 21-3 midway through the second quarter.

Ezekiel Elliott ran for 68 yards and also caught seven passes for 72 yards.

With No. 1 running back Rhamondre Stevenson injured, Elliott had a season high of 22 carries and a touchdown catch. He also had his highest total for receptions and receiving yards while providing his high in total yards from scrimmage in more than two years.

Along the way, Elliott handled 100 percent of New England's running back rushes and saw a 30.8 percent target share.

Most importantly, Elliott chased down Mykal Walker after his third-quarter interception, pushing him out of bounds at the Patriots' 16 and preventing a likely touchdown.

The Steelers turned the ball over on downs after going for it on fourth-and-2 from the 8, meaning the seven points saved could have been the difference in the 21-18 score.

"Zeke made a big play on the interception, keep them out of the end zone. Ended up getting a defensive stop on it. That was a huge play," Belichick said.

In addition, Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that JuJu Smith-Schuster hit a season high 23 percent target share against Pittsburgh. He also scored a season high 13 PPR points.

Stevenson is unlikely to return this week while the receiving corps could see the return of Demario Douglas, who missed the game with a concussion, DeVante Parker, who was out with a knee injury, and Kayshon Boutte, who was out with a shoulder injury.

More their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

The victory put the Patriots two games behind -- or is it ahead of -- Carolina (1-11) in the race for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft. New England is tied for the second-worst record in the NFL with Arizona; the Patriots would pick before the Cardinals (3-10) because of an inferior strength of schedule.

The Patriots failed to fatten up on the cushy part of their schedule, going 1-4 against the Commanders, Colts, Giants, Chargers and Steelers.

Now come the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs, followed by the playoff-contending Broncos and Bills. The Kansas City game was flexed out of "Monday Night Football" to avoid a potential national TV blowout. ...

The Ravens are signing rookie quarterback Malik Cunningham off the Patriots' practice squad and onto their roster, Cunningham told ESPN on Tuesday, reuniting him with former Louisville teammate Lamar Jackson.

He was signed as a rookie free agent by the Patriots in May and released in August, but he signed to the practice squad. On Oct. 14, he was signed to the active roster, but he was released 10 days later and signed again to the practice squad.

He played in one game, recording six snaps but not attempting a pass and being sacked once. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Cunningham also worked extensively at receiver with the Patriots.

"I wanted to thank Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick for giving me opportunity to play with the Patriots," Cunningham said before boarding his flight to Baltimore. "I learned a lot from them.

"I want to be a coach one day, so I would take notes from Coach Belichick because he's one of the greatest of all time. I had great teammates in New England and built relationships that will last a lifetime. But I just feel like this is a good opportunity for me and I'm excited to be a Baltimore Raven."

While Cunningham was on the practice squad, Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien called Cunningham "probably one of the most improved practice squad players we have."

A Patriots teammate, offensive tackle Trent Brown, said in an Instagram story Tuesday after the news broke, "go flourish where your talent is respected."

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 Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

According to's Katherine Terrell, quarterback Derek Carr and starting center Erik McCoy said there's no issue between them after the two were caught on camera yelling at each other in the third quarter of the Saints' 28-6 win against the Carolina Panthers.

McCoy told reporters in the locker room after the game that he "lost his cool" and said a public fight deserved a public apology. McCoy apologized to Carr via reporters in the locker room and said they were both on the same page.

Carr did not elaborate on what caused the spat, saying both players had their reasons for being upset. He also said that it had already been resolved.

"We were both right for an aspect, we were both wrong for an aspect, but that's not the only time that's ever happened between a player or an offensive lineman or a center. That stuff happens," Carr said. "Those moments are going to happen, you can have conflict sometimes, confrontation. Always circle back. So we circled back, we looked at each other, we both smiled. We both already knew. But with all the cameras around that stuff gets caught sometimes. But it's no problem. It's all good."

Carr was sacked on third-and-2 with 3:43 left in the third quarter. The Saints, up 14-6 at the time and struggling on offense, elected to punt. McCoy was seen yelling at Carr as the offense walked off the field, and offensive lineman James Hurst inserted himself in between them, placing a hand on McCoy's arm.

McCoy walked to the bench with the other offensive linemen and slammed his helmet down, while Carr went the other way and sat down with the quarterbacks. A few players, including running back Alvin Kamara, came over to talk to McCoy.

Carr walked over and sat down with McCoy on the bench a few minutes later, and both resumed play as normal when the offense took the field again. Later in the fourth quarter, after the Saints had pulled away from the Panthers, Carr was seen standing next to the offensive linemen on the bench chatting and smiling.

"Me and Erik have no issue," Carr said. "In the moment, something happened. The reason doesn't matter. Everybody wants to know the why. It doesn't matter. We were both right, we were both wrong, at the same time, we both were like 'My bad.' ... and that was it."

Head coach Dennis Allen said the incident was just a moment of frustration caught on camera when things weren't going their way. Carr was 12-of-18 for 37 passing yards, no touchdowns and an interception when the spat occurred. He finished the game 18-of-26 for 119 yards, one interception and two touchdowns.

"I think if you're ever in a highly competitive environment, and things aren't going the way that you want it to go, yeah, there's sometimes that you get frustrated," Allen said. You lash out a little bit. I'm glad that both of them have the balls to at least stand up and fight, you know what I mean? ... My wife and I argue. It happens. So let's don't make too much of it."

Carr has left three games with injuries and has been caught on camera multiple times this season expressing moments of frustration. He left a Week 3 loss to the Green Bay Packers with a shoulder injury and did not finish a Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings after being placed in concussion protocol. Last week Carr left a loss to the Detroit Lions with another concussion, along with rib and shoulder injuries.

Carr said that he fractured a rib against the Lions and has three total fractured ribs, two of which occurred earlier this season in an unknown game.

"The other two, no one even knew, I played through them. The one was last week against Detroit," he said. [The other two weren't] in those two games. It was a different game."

This is not the first time this season that a similar issue has occurred. Carr was seen on video talking animatedly to Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael in a Week 6 loss to the Houston Texans. In the video, shot from the stands, Carr spoke briefly to Carmichael and gestured toward the end zone after Carmichael walked away.

Carr said later that he apologized to Carmichael later that day but explained he was frustrated when speaking to Carmichael but was not directing his frustration at him.

Carr was also seen on camera yelling toward wide receiver Chris Olave in a Week 7 primetime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars the following week. Carr said that his frustration was not directed at Olave, who did not run through the duration of the route, according to Allen.

"I have been showing my emotions a little too much on my sleeve," Carr said after that game. "I have got to kind of chill out and that's me holding myself accountable because that's not going to help anything."

The Saints (6-7) snapped a three-game losing streak with the win.

The Saints host the New York Giants on Sunday in the second of five straight games against teams that are currently below .500. Their three other opponents -- the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay and Atlanta -- are each 6-7. ...

According to Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel, the Saints did not appear to have any significant new injuries during Sunday's game, but had to play without hybrid quarterback Taysom Hill (foot and hand), running back Kendre Miller (ankle), receiver Rashid Shaheed (thigh) and rookie defensive end Isaiah Foskey (quadriceps).

I'll have more on Hill, Shaheed and Miller as developments warrant in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Lynn Bowden Jr. continued to serve as Shaheed's replacement on passing downs. Bowden tied for the team lead in receptions at four. ...

Hill's absence opened the door for more Jimmy Graham, who had two catches against Carolina and both mattered. The first was a leaping 12-yard grab over the middle while taking a heavy hit on third-and-9 in the fourth quarter of what was then a 14-6 game.

"That was a hell of a catch," Allen said. "For him to go up there like that and bring it in through contact is something we've missed a little bit -- and was nice to see."

Graham made the catch at the Panthers 7-yard line, setting up Chris Olave's touchdown reception.

Later, Graham caught his third touchdown pass of the season, which he celebrated by faking a now-forbidden dunk over the crossbar before playfully pulling his arm back. At 37, and after taking last year off from football entirely, the 6-foot-7 Graham is showing he can still be effective in the red zone.

"He's earned the right to get some more snaps," Allen said. ...

Rookie kicker Blake Grupe, who'd been listed as questionable last week with a right groin injury, hooked his only field goal attempt wide left from 29 yards out. It was his second miss from inside 30 yards this season. Grupe and Seattle's Jason Myers are the only NFL kickers with as many as seven missed field goal tries this season, but they are also two of just three NFL kickers who'd attempted as many as 31 total field goals entering Monday night's two games.

"He's a really talented young kicker," Allen said. "Sometimes with young players at any position you're going to have some ups and downs. ... Hopefully he'll continue to get better and we'll have more consistency. ..."

Finally. ... The Saints worked out four running backs Tuesday. They are signing one of them.

New Orleans intends to sign James Robinson, Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football reports, after Robinson beat out Jerrion Ealy, John Lovett and Ty Montgomery. It is unclear whether Robinson will join the 53-player roster or the practice squad.

The Packers cut Robinson from the practice squad last week. He played one game, with one carry for 2 yards and one reception for minus-2 yards on four snaps.

He split last season between the Jaguars and Jets and was with both the Patriots and Giants this offseason.

Robinson ran for 1,070 yards as an undrafted rookie in 2020 and had 767 yards in 14 games the following year before tearing his Achilles. He hasn't had the same kind of success since returning from that injury.

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 Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As's Jordan Raanan framed it, "There is no debate. The New York Giants are now Tommy DeVito's team down the stretch after he added a last-minute, game-winning drive to his résumé in a 24-22 decision over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night at MetLife Stadium. ..."

The undrafted rookie went 4-for-4 passing for 53 yards as the Giants drove 57 yards in seven plays in the final 1:33 to set up Randy Bullock's 37-yard field goal as time expired. It only added to the improbable story that is unfolding.

"You enjoy it when it's an outcome like this, right?" DeVito said. "I mean, I enjoy being on the field any play, no matter what play it is. So just try to enjoy it."

The Giants (5-8) are now just one game back of five teams for the final NFC wild-card spot, including the Packers (6-7).

This after starting a woeful 2-7 before turning to DeVito because of injuries to Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor.

New York is in this position because DeVito has won three of his four starts, including three straight. He is just the third undrafted rookie quarterback in the common draft era to win three of his first four career starts, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He joins Washington's Ed Rubbert (1987) and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Devlin Hodges (2019).

There is no question now that the Giants will stick with DeVito next week on the road versus the New Orleans Saints over a now-healthy Taylor. Head coach Brian Daboll wouldn't commit to that entering Monday night's game.

DeVito's clutch performance made it a no-brainer.

"Earned the right to play [Monday], and earned the right to play next week," Daboll said. "The kid's done a good job."

DeVito went 17-of-21 passing for 158 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions against the Packers. He also ran for 71 yards on 10 carries and completed 11 of his 12 passes in the second half, with the only incompletion being a throwaway.

Beyond that, he's generating excitement as a home-grown hero. The Giants and their fans seem to be feeding off DeVito's energy. His trademark pinched fingers celebration was all over the stadium and the Giants' postgame locker room. The craze is in full effect these days in the New York metropolitan area.

The Giants are relevant again with their third-string quarterback now the starter. They're rallying behind DeVito, who played collegiately at Syracuse and Illinois.

"That is rare for a rookie quarterback. With the confidence and swagger that he plays with, you can feel it through the stadium, you can feel it through the sideline," said Saquon Barkley, who rushed for a pair of touchdowns against Green Bay. "Happy we were able to get the win."

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan added, while the defense and DeVito have carried the Giants on their winning streak, the much-maligned offensive line stepped up against the Packers. After giving up 69 sacks in the first 12 games, the line did not allow one against Green Bay.

Led by Barkley and DeVito, New York rushed for 209 yards.

The only knock was two false starts, including one by backup center Sean Harlow on third-and-1 from the Giants 49 on a play with two extra linemen in to block.

The Giants had four scoring drives and 367 yards. The defense gave up two touchdowns, had two takeaways and two sacks. Special teams forced a fumble on a punt return that set up a touchdown and Randy Bullock hit a game-winning 37-yard field goal as time expired.

Wan'Dale Robinson had his best game as a Giant, catching six passes for 79 yards and running twice for 36. His 115 yards from scrimmage were a career high. The second-year receiver who missed most of last season with a major knee injury had a 32-yard run on an end-around to set up Barkley's 5-yard TD run. His 32-yard catch-and-run to the Green Bay 22-yard line late set up Bullock's big kick.

Better still, Daboll said the team seemingly came out of the game injury free. Defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence returned to the lineup after missing a game with a hamstring injury and was on a pitch count.

Backup slot receiver Parris Campbell (knee) popped up on the injury report on Saturday. He was initially deemed questionable but was inactive on Monday night, opening the door for Robinson to get increased playing time.

Sterling Shepard also played a limited role. He had played at least 30 percent of the offensive snaps over the last two weeks but didn't play a snap against the Packers. Darius Slayton rarely left the field, but he was barely involved in the passing game.

The Giants will face the Saints in New Orleans. A win would give New York a head-to-head tiebreaker at the end of the season if needed. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Darren Waller (hamstring) has been out since Week 8, but he said last week that he hopes to practice and play in Week 15. He added that he's been running routes, indicating his hamstring is close to full strength again.

After New York's win on Monday night, it's back in the playoff race, and Waller's presence would only help its mediocre passing game. Before his injury, Waller had posted his best game of the season (seven catches, 98 yards, TD), but he's ultimately struggled in his first Giants' season, recording just one TD and three games with more than 43 yards.

Still, he's one of the elite talents at a thin position, so if he's back in a favorable matchup against New Orleans, he'll be worth using in almost all formats. If he remains out another week, Daniel Bellinger will again start.

Darren Waller is expected to return to practice next week after spending time on injured reserve. There is no guarantee he will play next week.

That said, all three of the Giants' remaining games are against teams in the top 13 at allowing fantasy points to tight ends, so it's worth keeping him on the fantasy roster.

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: Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. framed it: "Well, that certainly came out of nowhere.

"Touchdowns, third down conversions and scoring in the red zone were all on display by a New York Jets offense that had struggled to do much of anything all season. ..."

And it was Zach Wilson who led the way in the Jets' 30-6 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, bouncing back from a benching and a tumultuous week by having perhaps the best game of his nearly three-year career.

"I feel like that pressure that he's been carrying just didn't seem to be there," said wide receiver Randall Cobb, who caught one of Wilson's two TD passes. "And it was nice to see him just playing loose and free and having fun and going out there and slinging it around."

Wilson, who was benched for two games, was 27 of 35 for 301 yards while setting career highs with a 75 percent completion rate and a 117.9 passer rating.

"He was awesome," head coach Robert Saleh said. "I felt like he was extremely decisive. He played fast. There were a lot of 'oh crap' moments where I felt like he stayed within the moment and made things work."

It didn't happen right away Sunday as the Jets and Texans were scoreless at halftime. Wilson came out throwing in the second half and New York scored touchdowns on consecutive drives, and were driving for a third when the quarterback fumbled while scrambling.'s Rich Cimini wrote, "Wilson was Aaron Rodgers-esque over the final 30 minutes in tough conditions."

How good was that second stanza?

After throwing for only 92 yards in the first half, Wilson was 18-for-21 for 209 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, his highest yardage in any half of his career.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett opened up the game plan, allowing Wilson to come out throwing. Wilson led touchdown drives on their first two second-half possessions, no small feat for the Jets.

Before Sunday, they had gone eight straight games without scoring more than one offensive touchdown. The team snapped a streak of 18 straight games without three offensive touchdowns, tied for the longest such streak since 2000, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

New York went 6 of 15 on third down and 3 for 3 in the red zone -- areas in which the Jets have been ranked last in the league most of the season.

"It felt great, man," left guard Laken Tomlinson said. "Being able to go out there and put up points on the board, it feels awesome just to have the offense be in a rhythm out there and everything Zach was doing."

During the run-up to the game, the coaches implored Wilson to play with a let-it-rip mentality. He did on that play.

"As a coach, you're always like, 'Don't throw those,'" Wilson said. "Sometimes they go the other way. So, for me, it's throw it when you believe it's there, trust in it. Sometimes bad plays are going to happen, but you're going to have to trust in those and let it rip. It's part of football."

He did a terrific job of getting the ball to the top playmakers, as Breece Hall finished with eight receptions and Garrett Wilson made nine catches for 108 yards.

"He balled," Garrett Wilson said of his quarterback. "He put it all out there, throwing dots in the rain."

The game plan helped.

After a relatively conservative first half, the coaches finally showed trust in Wilson. They called passes on the first five first-down plays in the third quarter. He rewarded their confidence by making a handful of tight-window throws, using his arm strength instead of checking down.

"From what I've seen, that's the best he's played," Cobb said. "He just went out and played his brand of ball, without feeling constrained. The pressure he's faced over the past two or three years -- he just went out there and put it aside and played phenomenal tonight."

Now the challenge is doing it again Sunday at Miami, who'll be coming off a short week after hosting Tennessee on Monday night.

The Jets (5-8) snapped a five-game losing streak, but the playoffs still seem unlikely.

So does a return by Rodgers, who has said his goal is to return on Dec. 24 against Washington -- if he's cleared by doctors and New York remains in the postseason hunt.

Saleh said only he has "no idea" if that remains a possibility.

"We're approaching it as if he's in rehab," the coach said. "And when the doctor gives us his doctor's note to clear him for the next stage, that's when we'll have those discussions."

For now, it remains Wilson's job. And perhaps a late-season surge could help the third-year QB play his way into the Jets' plans for next season.

"Anything can happen, especially in this sport," Saleh said. "It's like a New York minute, right? It swings from one pendulum to the next. He just needs to focus on week to week. ..."

Also of interest. ... Wilson now has 159 career catches, the most by a Jets player through his first two seasons. His 1,956 yards receiving are also the most in team history in a player's first two seasons.

This was Hall's best game in more than a month -- 126 total yards from scrimmage, including the aforementioned eight catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Worth noting. ... Dalvin Cook started over Hall for the first time all season, but the running back usage throughout the game was very similar to last week. As's Nathan Jahnke noted, Hall is the primary early-down and third-down back while Cook will continue to see 5-10 carries per game.

Meanwhile, it has been a rough first season with the Jets for the former Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard and his struggles continued Sunday when he played 48 snaps on offense. He wasn't targeted at all, but had a penalty. Lazard, expected to be the No. 2 wide receiver behind Wilson, has just 20 catches for 290 yards and one TD after signing a four-year, $44 million deal in the offseason.

Finally. ... Tight end C.J. Uzomah landed on injured reserve while Kenny Yeboah returned from injured reserve. Yeboah played more snaps than Uzomah had been playing, cutting into Tyler Conklin's playing time.

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 Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

The Philadelphia Eagles suffered their second consecutive blowout loss to an NFC contender, falling 33-13 in Dallas on Sunday night.

As's Kevin Patra reported, the dismal outings marked the second consecutive 20-plus point defeat after Philly getting pulverized by the San Francisco 49ers 42-19 in Week 13. It marked the first back-to-back losses by 20 or more points since Weeks 11-12, 2015, when Chip Kelly was the Eagles coach.

Quarterback Jalen Hurts went 18-of-27 passing for 197 yards and 30 rushing yards and generated his first game with zero touchdowns as the Eagles offense put up two measly field goals and fumbled three times in seven non-end-of-half drives.

The signal-caller believes the recent struggles are merely a cold, not a symptom of a more severe illness.

"It's something that we're going through, not necessarily stuck in," Hurts said via the team's official transcript. "We've to be able to learn from it and we will. There's and eagerness too just to continue to press on."

Philly hasn't played a complete game in weeks, and all season has seemed a tad off. The Eagles barely eked out wins in previous contests, needing comebacks to beat Buffalo and Kansas City following the bye week.

Nick Sirianni's club has overcome inconsistent play in one aspect or another to stack wins all season. At times, the defense has gotten lit up. At others, the offense turned it over or couldn't gain traction. Early in the season, the other side of the ball picked up the other. The past two weeks, both sides cratered.

"We've got to internalize that and we've got to make sure that the adversity that we're facing right now, we're able to get through and make sure we get better from it," Sirianni said.

It's not panic time in Philly, despite the embarrassment to a division rival. Philly still sits at 10-3, and while they lost the lead in the NFC East for now, they still control their future in the division.

Looking at the larger picture, the Eagles came through their toughest five-game stretch 3-2. The final two being blowouts stings, but it's not a terrible outcome given that they could have conceivably gone 0-5.

"I think the biggest thing for this team now is really find out who the dudes are," veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "I've been part of teams where the dudes in the locker room do something about it, and I've been on teams where it kind of crumbles. But now it's time to see the real leadership ... leaders on this team, myself included, step up and do something about it."

The Eagles face Seattle Monday night in prime time before finishing against the Giants, Cardinals and Giants again. ...

Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston suggested, ball security is an area of concern.

Three of the Eagles' top offensive players had fumbles -- Hurts on their opening drive, A.J. Brown to start the second half and DeVonta Smith in the fourth quarter.

"We are trying to make plays, man," Brown said. "Of course, we have to hold onto the ball. But we are trying to make plays. Holding onto the ball, of course we want to hold onto the ball. But that's the least of our worries. That's just me being honest."

Hurts has 15 turnovers this season, including five lost fumbles.

"They had good technique. On their rips, it seemed like they had really good technique in all three of their turnovers," Hurts said. "It's a testament to them. But we've got to be better on ball security as a runner. ..."

D'Andre Swift has cooled off after a strong start this season and was largely a nonfactor Sunday night. A normally potent ground attack has fallen off of late -- something that needs to be remedied before the postseason. ...

On a more positive note. ... Brown became the first player in Eagles history with 1,200 yards receiving in consecutive seasons, including a record 1,496 last season. He has 1,258 so far this season. Brown is the second player in Eagles history to have at least two seasons with 1,200 or more receiving yards, joining Mike Quick (1983 and 1985). With nine catches against the Cowboys, Brown now has a career-high 90 this season.

In addition, Dallas Goedert return from a three-game absence due to a forearm injury.

Goedert played over 90 percent of snaps at the beginning of the season, but in the middle stretches of the campaign, he played between 75 percent and 80 percent of snaps in most games. Against the Cowboys, he played even more than he did in the middle of the season.

He caught four passes for 30 yards and was one of just three Eagles to see more than one target.

As's Nathan Jahnke suggests, Goedert doesn't have the best schedule for fantasy tight ends going forward, but his talent alone is likely enough for him to be in fantasy starting lineups over the rest of the season.

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 Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

With quarterback Kenny Pickett sidelined another week as he recovers from ankle surgery, the Steelers will roll with Trubisky as their starter against the Colts this week.

As noted above, Trubisky struggled in his first start of the season last week, completing 22 of 35 passes for 190 yards with two touchdowns (one pass, one rush) and an interception in the loss to the New England Patriots.

On Monday, Tomlin noted that Trubisky improved in the second half of Thursday's game.

"Mitch picked up his play as the game wore on," Tomlin said. "I thought that that is a reasonable expectation, for him to be even better because of that experience, and because of the experience of having a full week's prep this week in preparation for the performance, in-helmet reps, full-speed reps, excited about that component of it."

In the first half, Trubisky completed 6 of 11 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown and threw a second-quarter interception that the Patriots turned into a TD two plays later. Trubisky also had a handful of near misses in the first half, including a first-quarter interception overturned for defensive pass interference.

In the second half, though, Trubisky completed 16 of 24 attempts for 129 yards with the rushing touchdown.

"It improved as the game wore on," Tomlin said of Trubisky's decision-making. "And I think with the full week's prep, I think it's reasonable to expect that to continue and continue at an increased rate."

Though Trubisky improved in the second half, the offense still struggled to move the ball. In the third quarter, an 11-play, seven-minute drive went only 32 yards and ended in a punt. Two other second-half possessions ended in turnovers on downs -- including one at New England's 8-yard line, when the offense couldn't capitalize on Mykal Walker's interception that had started the drive at the Patriots' 16.

After the final play of that drive, which ended with a pass short of the sticks to Jaylen Warren, wide receiver George Pickens slumped in visible frustration in the end zone.

As's Brooke Pryor noted, cameras also showed Pickens, who didn't talk to reporters after the game, yelling at teammates on the sideline during the game. Throughout the season, Pickens hasn't been shy about expressing his emotions and frustrations.

"It is a problem because it's not solution-oriented," Tomlin said when asked about Pickens' outbursts. "We're all frustrated, but we got to manage our frustrations in a professional, mature way and when it's not done that way it's not necessarily pushing us toward solutions."

With Pickett inactive, quarterback Mason Rudolph was active against the Patriots.

Though Rudolph will get more practice reps in preparing for the Colts, Tomlin dismissed the idea that Rudolph could be in contention to earn a start.

"He just hadn't had a lot of exposure in terms of in-helmet prep," Tomlin said. "And so, I don't know, what do you mean when you say a fair evaluation or shot? I don't know that we evaluate in-practice performance in that way this time of year.

"He'll get an opportunity to get some work, and we'll evaluate that work and evaluate his readiness, but we're not opening up competition and things of that nature. It's just not an environment for that as we work."

On defense, starting outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith are in the concussion protocol. Watt took a knee to the face on the first play Thursday but returned two plays later.

"I assume that he was," Tomlin said when asked if Watt was checked for a concussion. "But again, I'm managing the game. I leave that to the medical experts. They essentially tell me whether someone is out, whether they're subject to return or whether they're back. I got a report that [Watt] was subject to return and then I got a report that he was back and that was just my knowledge of the details of what transpired with him during the time that he was out in-game."

During the game, Watt switched visors to one with a darker tint, something Tomlin said he was "not aware of."

Watt reported concussion symptoms when he came to the practice facility Friday and then was placed in the protocol.

Also on the injury front, running back Najee Harris, linebacker Elandon Roberts and guard Isaac Seumalo didn't practice. Harris also missed practice time last week with the same knee issue he's listed with this week. He played as usual. ...

Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Will Graves suggested, play calling is still an issue here.

Graves wrote: "The brief honeymoon for interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan is over after a second straight underwhelming performance."

The Steelers telegraph far too many plays based solely on personnel usage and digging into their bag of tricks isn't working either. A tight-end pass -- yes, you read that right -- near the goal line by Connor Heyward was swatted out of harm's way and a double reverse to Warren lost 7 yards.

Beyond that, Pryor puts some of the onus on Tomlin.

"For the second game in a row," the Steelers came out flat against an opponent with an inferior record. After their loss to the Cardinals, some Steelers said they took their opponent too lightly. That wasn't the issue against the Patriots, Steelers players said Thursday.

"But the fact that they allowed one of the league's worst offenses to jump out to an 18-point first-half lead suggests a failure from the top down."

QBs: Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky, 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 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

According to's Nick Wagoner, after Brock Purdy had put the finishing touches on another career day Sunday afternoon, left tackle Trent Williams had something to say.

Speaking to the media roughly 40 minutes after the Niners had beaten the Seattle Seahawks 28-16 to improve to 10-3 on the season, Williams didn't need much prodding for what would soon turn into a short dissertation on the virtues of his quarterback.

Whether it was because Purdy had just lit up the Seahawks for a career-high 368 passing yards with two touchdowns and an interception, because Williams has grown tired of hearing Purdy's skeptics give credit to everyone but the second-year quarterback, or a combination of the two, Williams made it clear that Purdy is deserving of his status as front-runner for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.

"He literally can make every throw and you can't show a throw that he can't make," Williams said. "I get it. Everybody is slow to give him his props because nobody wants to be wrong [and say] 'Oh, he looks like a seventh-round pick now.' But no, I think this guy's made of the right stuff. Every time he approaches Sunday, you can tell this is the most important game in his life and he treats every week like that. His success is not a secret and it damn sure ain't got nothing to do with the system."

Thirteen games into his first full season as San Francisco's starter, Purdy continues building a case that backs up Williams' words.

For example. ... Purdy is averaging 9.9 yards per attempt this season, the most by any quarterback (minimum 300 attempts) in NFL history through a team's first 13 games by a comfortable margin over Randall Cunningham's 9.6 in 1998

On Sunday, Purdy became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to record four games with 300 passing yards and a 70 percent completion rate in either of a player's first or second seasons

Purdy's 70.4 percent completion rate Sunday was his seventh game in a row completing at least 70 percent of his passes, a feat accomplished by only three others and one shy of Joe Montana's record of eight

For the season, Purdy ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (3,553) and tied for second in touchdown passes (25) going into Sunday night's game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles

While the Niners share in the credit for their offensive success, Williams believes Purdy, the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, has been unfairly critiqued because of the talent he has around him rather than credited for how he has helped the offense reach another level.

Williams offered a reason for that.

"I know obviously with him being the Mr. Irrelevant, everybody is slow to give him his flowers because then what's that say about a lot of scouting departments if you let a guy like this slip to Mr. Irrelevant pick," Williams said. "I think a lot of people are slow to give him his props just because of his draft status and where he was drafted. If he was Zach Wilson, I think he'd probably be unanimous MVP, the next coming of Aaron Rodgers or somebody like that. But since he's a Mr. Irrelevant pick, and this is what, almost two years of him putting just unbelievable quarterback play on film and it's still guys saying, 'Hey, I think it's Deebo. I think it's Trent.' I think, yeah, that's not realistic."

One of the common criticisms of Purdy has been that he simply dumps the ball off to receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, tight end George Kittle or running back Christian McCaffrey, and they do the bulk of the work.

As Wagoner pointed out, there's truth in that as San Francisco leads the NFL in yards after the catch per reception at 6.9 and wrecked the Philadelphia Eagles with the short passing game last week.

But Purdy has added a deep ball element to San Francisco's offense that it previously lacked. That was on full display Sunday when Purdy set career highs for air yards per attempt (10.5) and air yards per completion (10.5). He hit Samuel for a 54-yard touchdown and Kittle for a 44-yard score on a day where the Niners had four plays that picked up at least 44 yards.

"We've got a lot of explosive guys, and when you're not just one-dimensional that way, you hope it's a matter of time," Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said.

Against the Seahawks, Purdy went 6-of-7 for 225 yards and two touchdowns on throws traveling 15-plus air yards. Over the past five games, Purdy is completing 73 percent of his throws of 15-plus air yards for 24.6 yards per attempt with six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Still, Purdy is quick to give the credit to those around him for that success.

"I'm a part of a special group," Purdy said. "Any one of our eligibles can get the ball in their hands and go do the rest, break tackles, breakaway speed. And you see it every game. So, to throw a 5-yard pass or a deep ball, it doesn't matter. We have got playmakers."

For the season, Purdy is seventh in the NFL in air yards per attempt (7.9) and ranks fourth in completions on throws traveling 10-plus air yards (79) and 15-plus air yards (51) and fifth in completions on throws traveling 20-plus air yards (24). Purdy ranks second in completion percentage on throws of 10-plus yards and first in completion percentage on 15-plus-yard and 20-plus-yard throws. He also has six passing touchdowns of 40-plus yards on the season, the most by a Niners quarterback since Steve Young had seven in 1998.

Including playoffs, Purdy is now 21 starts into his young career, and it's also been only 13 games since he returned from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Which is at least partially why Williams believes Purdy is just scratching the surface on a promising career.

"This is not something that's a flash," Williams said. "He is going to be doing this for a long time."

While Purdy may not be the unanimous MVP choice, he is one of the favorites with the second-best odds to Dallas' Dak Prescott to win the award, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

He also has the Niners (10-3) on their second five-game winning streak of the season in position to claim the top seed in the NFC and a first-round bye if they win their final four games.

San Francisco visits Arizona on Sunday with a chance to clinch the NFC West with a win. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Samuel had seven catches for 149 yards and a TD and also ran for a 1-yard score, giving him five TDs and 288 yards from scrimmage the past two weeks. Samuel is the second player in NFL history with at least 100 yards receiving, one TD catch and one TD run in back-to-back games. Timmy Brown did it for the Eagles in 1960.

Looking for something to complain about?

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that McCaffrey failed to score 20 PPR points for the first time since Week 6 today. His 3.7 percent target share was by far a season low.

Adding insult to injury in this one. ... Backup running back Elijah Mitchell didn't practice all week due to a knee injury and was inactive. This moved Jordan Mason up to the backup spot.

As’s Nathan Jahnke noted, Mason took one snap on the first drive to give McCaffrey a break after a 72-yard run that opened the drive. This allowed Mason to score a touchdown.

Most of his other snaps occurred in the last two minutes, with the game all but over.

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 Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

Drew Lock's takeaway after throwing two touchdown passes and two interceptions in his first start since 2021?

"That I can still play football," the quarterback said after the Seattle Seahawks' 28-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

As's Brady Henderson notes, whether Lock will need to play again next week remains to be seen. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll lauded Lock's performance and said starter Geno Smith is day-to-day because of the rib injury that kept him out against San Francisco.

The Seahawks won't know about Smith's availability for their Monday night matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles until game time.

Carroll said the extra day "certainly helps us" while making it clear that Smith -- who injured his groin in practice on Thursday -- couldn't play Sunday despite a strong will to do so. That became clear when Smith worked out pregame.

"He ran around a little bit and threw the ball but he couldn't go," Carroll said. "He couldn't go in one direction with any confidence. If he could have, he would have played for sure. He was absolutely of the mindset to go, and he came out early today and went through an extensive workout. He got a lot of stuff done under control, but ... he didn't have the ability to push in one direction. That's classic for a groin injury. So it just wasn't the right thing to do to just throw him out there under those circumstances.

"He didn't call it off. He made me call him off. He wanted to go."

Carroll said the Seahawks were "jolted" when Smith went down Thursday, though he described the injury as innocuous-looking in real time, with the quarterback taking an awkward step after stumbling over a defender.

"You would never have thought a guy would get hurt there, but he hit it wrong," Carroll said. "The good part of it, it wasn't a violent ... incident, so he'll come back. He can throw and he can move around. He just can't move around the way he needs to [in order] to play this game."

Making his first start since the Seahawks acquired him from the Denver Broncos in the Russell Wilson trade in March of 2022, Lock completed 22 of 31 passes for 269 yards. After the 49ers scored a quick touchdown to begin the game, Lock and the Seahawks answered with one of their own. He went 4-of-5 for 68 yards on their opening drive, capping it with a 31-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf on a back-shoulder throw in the end zone.

Lock's second touchdown throw came late in the third quarter to tight end Colby Parkinson, one of eight different receivers to whom he completed a pass.

"I thought he did a great job, right from the beginning," Carroll said. "The opening drive was beautiful. That's a really good sign for Drew that it wasn't too big for him in any way. He wasn't too nervous. He wasn't jittery at all. He came right down the field and threw a great ball to DK to get us in the end zone. And throughout, his calm on the sidelines, his ability to communicate about what was going on and how to adjust and the things that were coming up in the next sequence and the next series, he was on it. He was a real pro about it. So he did a really good job."

Lock, 27, didn't play a single regular-season snap last year after Smith beat him out for the starting job. He made two brief appearances this season because of injuries to Smith, going 4-of-12 for 66 yards and an interception. His last start before Sunday was in Week 18 of the 2021 season.

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

Meanwhile, the Seahawks' loss was their fifth straight to the 49ers dating back to the start of last season, including the wild-card round. They've now lost four straight games for the first time since Carroll took over in 2010, and they'll need to beat an Eagles team that entered Week 14 with the NFC's best record in order to avoid a five-game skid.

Losing four straight games is a first for Carroll in his Seattle tenure and dropped the Seahawks (6-7) below .500.

As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth reported, suffering another loss was irritating enough for Carroll. But the way it happened, with blown assignments and missed coverages on defense, seemed to leave the coach more flustered than usual.

"That was just really frustrating because this was a chance to beat these guys at their place. We had a shot to do that," Carroll said. "We moved the football well enough to get some points on the board. We were going to have to stop them all night long. We didn't get it done."

Seattle gave up 527 total yards to the 49ers and San Francisco averaged nearly a first down every snap. That the Niners scored only 28 points might be the most surprising aspect of the outcome.

Looking for positives?

The Seahawks had nine plays of 20 yards or more on offense, the most of any game this season. Seattle's previous high for 20-yard plays was six against Cincinnati, and the Seahawks had just two in their first meeting with San Francisco. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Metcalf again found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reason after his retaliation led to his ejection in the fourth quarter. Metcalf had reason to be upset after Fred Warner gave him an unnecessary hit from behind following an interception -- especially considering Metcalf's history of suffering a neck injury in college.

But his reaction led to an all-out scuffle, and he was deemed the instigator.

Metcalf has shown in the past his emotions can get the better of him and opponents have tried to create situations where he will react adversely, with Sunday the latest example.

Tyler Lockett led the Seahawks in receiving yards (89). This was his third-best game of the season in terms of receiving yards, but's Nathan Jahnke reminded readers it's now been over a calendar year since he's reached 100 receiving yards in a game. ...

Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that Kenneth Walker III returned this week and out-snapped Zach Charbonnet 32 to 22.

While the snap distribution looked normal, Jahnke notes the carry distribution was not.

Charbonnet ran nine times, while Walker ran eight times. Typically, Walker runs about twice as much as Charbonnet.

Charbonnet ran three times for 42 yards in the first quarter, while Walker managed just 2 yards on four carries. Charbonnet was then given every carry in the second quarter. Given the game script, the team ran only five times in the second half.

Walker ran 18 routes to Charbonnet's 8, something we weren't seeing much of pre-injury.

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 Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

As's Jenna Laine reported, with 1:16 to go in regulation trailing 25-22 in Week 14, quarterback Baker Mayfield heaved a 32-yard pass to wide receiver Chris Godwin on a third-and-10 before finding tight end Cade Otton in the end zone to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 29-25 Sunday.

The Bucs (6-7) sit in a three-way tie for first in the NFC South with four games to go -- two of them intradivisional play -- with a 35 percent chance of winning the division, according to ESPN's Football Power Index, and are +160 favorites to win the division, according to ESPN BET.

With the loss, the Falcons' chances of winning the division fell from 76 percent to 34 percent. A loss Sunday wouldn't have meant the Bucs couldn't win the division, but it would have dropped their chances to 2 percent.

"I've been bragging about his mettle all year," head coach Todd Bowles said of Mayfield's leadership, which was highlighted after the Falcons took the lead on a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Desmond Ridder and a 2-point conversion pass to Drake London with 3:30 left. "He's a guy that we rally around. He's a guy that puts us in position to win. He doesn't get rattled easy, and he came up with some plays."

Mayfield hadn't completed a pass of 5 or more air yards Sunday before that play against the Falcons' No. 8-ranked pass defense, but Mayfield found Godwin coming out of the slot on a corner route working against cornerback Dee Alford.

"He's just a competitor," Otton said of Mayfield. "He is kind of the identity we've taken as a team. We believe, we compete, we fight and we're going to make plays at the end of the day. Just having that belief throughout these games, every single play, it's going to put us in as good spot. ... We have a lot to clean up, but just that belief and fight gives us a chance."

Godwin spent the week trying to answer questions about why his production had fallen off after posting back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and it included not only a meeting with the coaching staff, but his wife, Mariah, taking to social media to share her frustrations. He came into the day with 606 yards and 53 receptions, both behind only Mike Evans on the team, and he had only one receiving touchdown on the year.

Godwin said he was happy to put the week behind him after recording five catches on 11 targets for a team-high 53 yards. The bounce-back performance was not surprising. In 13 career games against Atlanta, Godwin has 72 receptions for 998 yards and nine TDs.

But at one point he limped off the field gingerly with the training staff.

"You definitely need that grit. You need that intensity," Godwin said. "You need to be able to dig deep and make the plays when you need them. I think we have a lot of players on our team that have that in them. ... We put ourselves in a bit of a hole [on the season], but we're all determined to try and pull ourselves out of it."

Mayfield recognized a two-high safety look with man-coverage underneath and saw opportunity to hit Otton for the game winner in the corner of the end zone. Not even a holding penalty from Falcons safety Richie Grant could prevent the 11-yard score.

"All game they were trying to take away Mike, they were trying to take away Chris," Otton said. "So I knew there was going to be opportunity coming at some point, and I just wanted to be ready."

The catch was Otton's second of the game, and it was his fourth touchdown of the season.

"I saw the press and I just knew they weren't going to pay attention to Cade," said Mayfield, who threw his second go-ahead touchdown of the season after two in his first five years combined.

The stage had been set for this the past two weeks. Players and coaches have recognized the razor-thin margin of error. They couldn't afford any more hiccups. Last week's win over the Carolina Panthers set the tone for that as the Bucs are vying to hang their third consecutive NFC South banner.

"It's just a mentality to not be denied -- to be persistent in it and just to go after your goal," Mayfield said. "I just see nobody flinching. Nobody's wide-eyed. Everybody seems really calm, just ready for the next play."

Bowles also told his team he thought it would come down to the final two minutes, which is how they ended up on the losing side in Week 7 against the Falcons in Tampa after kicker Younghoe Koo nailed a 51-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Bucs 16-13.

"We came back this game," Bowles said. "I can't say enough about these guys fighting, the competitiveness they had coming in here. It was a huge win. It's going to be like that every week for the next four weeks."

Now that they're back on top of the NFC South, the challenge for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is to stay there.

The two-time defending division champions currently hold tiebreaker advantages over both rivals. Still, the margin for error down the stretch figures to be minimal.

This week, they travel to Green Bay, finishing a stretch of playing four of five games on the road. The Bucs will play two of their final three at home against Jacksonville (Dec. 24) and New Orleans (Dec. 31).

Other notes of interest. ... The lack of a consistent running game has been a problem most of the past two seasons -- until recently. The Bucs ran for a season-best 148 yards against the Falcons, the team's third straight outing with 125 or more on the ground.

Rachaad White rushed for a season-high 102 yards and finished with a career-best 135 yards from scrimmage on Sunday He also scored on a 31-yard reception.

White's 1,164 total yards from scrimmage ranks third among NFL running backs. San Francisco's Christian McCaffrey (1,461) and Jacksonville's Travis Etienne (1,189) are the only running backs with more. ...

Evans had 150-plus receiving yards last week but had just one catch for eight yards after a near-touchdown was ruled incomplete in the fourth quarter. This was his worst receiving game since 2020. It was the fifth time in his career he played and was held under 10 receiving yards. ...

On the injury front. ... Three defensive starters -- LB Devin White (foot), CB Jamel Dean (ankle/foot) and NT Vita Vea (toe) -- did not play against the Falcons. S Ryan Neal (hip/back) left Sunday in the second quarter. Bowles said it's too soon to speculate on their status for this week.

QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

The Tennessee Titans want rookie quarterback Will Levis to protect himself better and are emphasizing he should slide more, head coach Mike Vrabel said.

"We're still trying to work on that," Vrabel said Monday. "We showed him examples of quarterbacks sliding and using the rules to their advantage."

Levis failed to heed Vrabel's advice after a scramble late in Monday night's 28-27 win over the Miami Dolphins when he finished off a run by lowering his shoulder, creating a booming collision with Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

As's Turron Davenport noted, that came a week after Levis channeled his inner John Elway by diving at the end of a run and getting helicoptered when two Indianapolis Colts defenders hit him.

Levis often flashed this competitive style of play during his two seasons at Kentucky. He acknowledged it's a style that could get him hurt.

"I'm just playing ball," Levis said Monday. "Just instincts kicking in. Got to be smart using my body and maybe sliding here and there. I know I can use my legs, and I've got to use them when appropriate."

Davenport added Levis was spotted in the Titans' locker room with an ice pack on his right shoulder after the Dolphins game. It was the same shoulder that Levis lowered when he collided with Ramsey, though it wasn't clear if that was the reason he was icing it afterward.

Levis finished with 327 passing yards, making him the first rookie quarterback to pass for 300 or more yards on "Monday Night Football." It was his first 300-yard passing game and the first time he led the Titans on a come-from-behind fourth-quarter drive.

The Titans hope it's the first of many. That's why they want to make sure he protects himself going forward.

"I guess we'll have to show him examples of quarterbacks not sliding and getting the s--- knocked out of them," Vrabel said. "So, we're going to try the other way this week."

Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker put it, "Call it grit, work ethic, but the Titans just don't quit."

With two defensive starters in two-time Pro Bowl lineman Jeffery Simmons and cornerback Kristian Fulton out injured, Tennessee showed why it came into the game with the NFL's stingiest defense when backed up inside its 20.

The Titans held the NFL's top-touchdown scoring offense in that area without a touchdown until a pair of turnovers a minute apart late in what had been a tie game. Miami finished with two TDs on five trips inside the Tennessee 20 and only one on four goal-to-go chances.

Denico Autry also blocked a field goal late in the first half, and the Titans also forced Miami to settle for a pair of field goals.

Next up, the Titans wear their Oilers' throwback uniforms when they host the team that replaced them in Houston against the Texans. The Titans are a missed extra point last week from a three-game winning streak, and they play three of their final four games at home. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Derrick Henry truly owns the Houston Texans, as he rushed for 200-plus yards and multiple touchdowns in four-straight games against Houston before the Texans managed to hold him to just 126 yards in their last meeting last season. He has 10 touchdowns in his last five games against Houston. ...

Henry ranks 15th in NFL history for rushing TDs after running for two more against Miami. He trails Eric Dickerson and Curtis Martin, who are both tied at 90 for 13th. ...

Tyjae Spears carried the ball seven times for 29 yards against Dolphins, adding six catches for 89 yards.

As Rotoworld noted, Spears didn't do much on the ground but sparked multiple scoring drives with long receptions. A high-scoring affair was the perfect opportunity for Spears to deliver from a fantasy perspective and he did just that.

The Rotoworld report added: "If a hobbled Texans roster can hang a few points on the Titans next week, Spears will have a shot at returning RB3 value for the first round of the fantasy playoffs. ..."

Treylon Burks played 46 snaps as he works his way back from missing three games after being knocked briefly unconscious late in a loss Nov. 2 at Pittsburgh. But Burks caught one of three passes thrown to him for 1 yard, and he ran once for 5 yards. ...

Second-year receiver Kyle Philips was a healthy inactive last week. He was back to being active this week as a fifth wide receiver. He didn't receive nearly as many offensive snaps as usual, recording three snaps in the first half and none in the second.

Chigoziem Okonkwo received a noteworthy increase in offensive snaps with Josh Whyle out due to injury. He caught five passes for 46 yards as the Titans' third-most productive receiver.

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 Commanders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 December 2023

The Commanders are coming off their bye week before the final four games of the 2023 season with all eyes on Sam Howell.

Howell's future is unknown at this point, and with just 14 starts in two seasons, the former fifth-round pick is far from a finished product. There's been more good than bad from him in his first season as a starter, though, and he's making a solid case that he deserves to stay under center for years to come in Washington.

As the Commanders head into the final stretch of the season, one of Howell's best traits has been his stability.

From 2018-22, Washington started at least three quarterbacks in each season. The list included veterans like Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick as well as unproven players like Taylor Heinicke and Dwayne Haskins. In that time, no Washington quarterback threw for more than 3,500 yards.

Although he has been sacked 58 times this season -- more than any other quarterback by a wide margin and partly because of his own development -- Howell has been consistently available, which has been a rare occurrence for Washington's quarterbacks. Assuming Howell stays healthy for the entire season, he'll be the first Commanders signal-caller to do so since Kirk Cousins in 2017.

Howell does have some rough patches to his skill set. He takes too many sacks, and his anticipation on throws needs to improve. However, he also has impressive arm strength and pairs it with a knack for placing passes in areas where only his receiver can make a play. He's currently second in the league in passing yards with a completion rate of 65.8 percent.

Howell will need to prove himself against defenses like the San Francisco 49eres, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys to end the season on a good note, but he's already shown enough to indicate that he could have a long career.

Meanwhile, Brian Robinson Jr. showed promise during his rookie season, but with him missing the first four games recovering from multiple gunshot wounds, he felt like there was more that he could offer.

We're starting to see what Robinson meant by that.

Robinson has been the team's best offensive weapon in 2023. He's at 990 scrimmage yards, which is nearly 300 yards more than the next Washington player. The bulk of that comes from his improvements as a runner. He's been more patient with his blocking lanes, and he's combined that with a physical running style that often results in Robinson bowling through defenders.

Robinson's biggest growth has come as a pass-catcher. Robinson stressed that he could be more than just a power back in training camp, and he's backed that up by catching 80.6 percent of his targets for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Perhaps his best play came against the Atlanta Falcons, when he caught a screen pass and ran over a defender on his way to a 24-yard touchdown.

Like the rest of the team, Robinson still has plenty to prove, but he's shown that he can be a dynamic threat the Commanders can lean on going forward.

Robinson suffered a hamstring injury two weeks ago.

Head coach Ron Rivera was asked on Monday if Robinson was going to be able to practice this week.

"We'll see him tomorrow, and he will be re-evaluated, and we'll see. He should be ready to go for practice, I'm anticipating that. But we'll see everybody again tomorrow."

Well. ... Not quite everybody.

The Commanders are set to play out the rest of the season without linebacker Jamin Davis.

Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post reports that Davis will have surgery to address a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 13 against the Dolphins. The surgery will knock Davis out for the team's final four games.

Davis started all of the Commanders' first 13 games this season. He had 89 tackles, three sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles in those appearances.

The Commanders will have a decision to make this offseason about whether or not to pick up their fifth-year option on the 2021 first-round pick's contract.

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