Team Notes week 10 2021

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<

NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF

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

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

Chase Edmonds isn't expected to play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday.

A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Edmonds has a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss multiple games.

"I don't think he'll make it back in time for this game," Kingsbury said. "And we'll take it from there."

As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss reported, the injury happened on the first offensive play of Arizona's 31-17 win against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Edmonds ran for 3 yards and then limped off the field. He did not re-enter the game. Tests Monday confirmed the severity of the sprain.

The Cardinals have James Conner, who ran for 96 yards and had another 91 receiving yards Sunday -- as well as three touchdowns, as the primary running back, who will be complemented by Eno Benjamin.

Arizona also has Tavien Feaster on the practice squad as an option.

Kingsbury was not willing to go so far as to say Edmonds would go on injured reserve.

A trip to IR requires a player to miss at least three games; if Edmonds went on IR this week, he would get a month off, given that the Cardinals' bye is after the next two games.

In the meantime, Conner will be the focal point out of the backfield. Benjamin, who scored his first NFL touchdown Sunday on a 21-yard run, has made strides since essentially "redshirting" as a rookie in 2020.

"Just how far he's come, on and off the field," Kingsbury said of Benjamin. "Last year, he was trying to figure it out and I truly didn't know if he would make it. This year he's like a different person, the work ethic, the focus. Any time he touches the ball he has a chance to do something special. I think everyone is really proud of the progress he's made."

Depth at running back is now thin, however. Jonathan Ward is still dealing with a concussion, although Kingsbury said he wasn't sure if Ward might be available this week. The Cards also have Tavien Feaster on the practice squad. Kingsbury was non-committal to whether the Cardinals might add a running back to the roster.

"We're going to see how Ward progresses and take it from there," Kingsbury said.

Beyond Edmonds, the Cardinals are facing a battle of attrition.

Kingsbury wasn't sure if either of his three offensive stars who missed Sunday's game will be back this week against Carolina.

He "didn't have a feel" on the status of quarterback Kyler Murray, who missed Sunday's win over the 49ers with a sprained left ankle, as of "yet."

"I like the way he progressed through the week," Kingsbury said. "He definitely improved. We'll have to see how he looks when we get back out there on Wednesday. Hopefully he can operate and function and do his deal. I really don't have a feel for it right now."

But USA Today NFL insider Tyler Dragon reports that Murray is working hard to return this week.

Dragon reported on Tuesday that Murray's ankle is improving and he wants to be available Sunday, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told Dragon.

Meanwhile, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who missed the third game of his career Sunday because of a hamstring injury, is still day-to-day, Kingsbury said. Fellow receiver A.J. Green is still in the COVID-19 protocols and will have to test out of it before he can return. He needs to turn in two negative tests 24 hours apart.

"Hoping to get him back sooner than later," Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury said left guard Justin Pugh will be day-to-day with a calf injury that caused him to leave Sunday's game and that right guard Max Garcia "kind of battled through" an Achilles injury Sunday that caused him to leave the game, as well.

Long-snapper Aaron Brewer will likely miss a couple of weeks because of an undisclosed injury, Kingsbury said. Kingsbury and the Cardinals staff don't allow themselves to talk about the number of injuries piling up for an 8-1 team that owns the best record in the NFL.

"You look around the league, and everybody's dealing with it," Kingsbury said. "It's a battle of attrition once you hit the second part of the season, and what you've got is what you've got. You've just got to find a way, and that's been our approach. That's how we talk in those terms as a staff, and our guys responded to it."

The good news?

The Cardinals proved they could win -- and win big -- without Murray, Hopkins, Green and Edmonds. They dominated the Niners on both sides of the ball, but putting up 30 points for the seventh time this season wasn't expected with so many missing players.

As Weinfuss summed up: "Having this type of performance wasn't just a surprise -- it was a statement. ..."

Now they'll try to limit the injuries, get their stars healthy, and try to hold off the Packers and Rams for the top seed in the NFC playoff race.

That process starts Sunday against the Panthers. ...

For the record, Edmonds, Murray and Hopkins did not practice Wednesday. Rondale Moore (neck, concussion) also didn't practice Wednesday. Green remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

I'll be following up on all the injured players of interest via Late Breaking Update as the week progresses.

Finally. ... The Cardinals activated tight end Demetrius Harris from the COVID-19 reserve list, the team announced Wednesday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley
RBs: James Conner, Chase Edmonds, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Antoine Wesley, Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, DeAndre Hopkins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Darrell Daniels, Maxx Williams

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As Kris Rhim of the team's official website notes, with a minute left to go against the Saints, the Falcons were in a familiar position -- down late in the fourth quarter and in need of a game-winning drive from Matt Ryan.

But this game was different.

Not only because it was against the Falcons' biggest rival in the Saints, but another divisional loss would make the Falcons 0-3 in the NFC South and push their playoff hopes further away. And this time, the Falcons lost an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter and were down 25-24 with just over a minute remaining.

As Ryan dropped back at the Falcons 20-yard-line, he quickly looked to his right to find the player who has been the Falcons' most consistent threat all season, Cordarrelle Patterson.

Patterson planted his left foot faking out Saints defensive back Paulson Adebo, used his track speed to sprint by Adebo, and caught a perfectly placed ball from Ryan. Patterson tip-toed down the sidelines and moved upfield, gaining 64-yards before being forced out of bounds.

"It was a great play by CP," Ryan said. "You know the call we had on had multiple options across the board, but it's always gonna be man-to-man coverage with an opportunity for him on the sideline. He ran a great route, made a really good catch, and so as he's done the whole year, you know at different times he stepped up and made a huge play for us."

The catch set up a 29-yard field goal for Younghoe Koo, which silenced the Superdome in New Orleans and gave the Falcons a 27-25 win over the Saints.

Just three quarters before, the Falcons ran the same play to Patterson, and it worked. The routes placed side by side are almost identical. It was a third and nine; Patterson planted his left foot in the ground, blew by linebacker Kwon Alexander and reeled in a pass for 34 yards.

Arthur Smith often asks Ryan if he likes the play call he gives him, so when Ryan heard this call, he was all for it.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it," Ryan said. "Just keep going back to the same thing."

And when Patterson found out they were calling the play; his mindset was simple -- get open.

"I think I had 29, a rookie on me, just don't let him get a hand on me so I can get open just get where Matt can see me," Patterson said of his thought process during the play. "We ran that play, and coach said we gone come right back to it, so we did."

Patterson finished the game with six catches for 126 yards and 10 yards on the ground. Patterson's 126 yards were the second-most by a Falcons player this season, only to Kyle Pitts' 163 yards against the New York Jets. This game was also Patterson's most receiving yards in a game since his rookie season in Minnesota when he had 141 yards.

With 136 yards from scrimmage in the win, Patterson's total is at 737 this season, the most he has had in his career, and the Falcons still have nine games left to play. As Patterson continues his career year, his focus is on the team, and he knows they have to do a better job finishing games.

"We just gotta stop giving people heart attacks, man," Patterson said with a laugh. "We gotta go out and just finish it, you know? We was up 18. There's no way we shouldn't go out there and just finish it. Stuff happens; it's the NFL. We just gotta do better next week."

Can they sustain this type of cardiac play?

As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein put it, "Sometimes it becomes the identity of a team -- and after three games like this so far this season -- denoting three-quarters of the team's wins this season, it just might be. And considering what the team's past has largely been known for, perhaps that's not a bad start for Atlanta, as it tries to reconstruct the culture of the Falcons."

A road win over a 5-2 New Orleans team was impressive. Now the Falcons face another road test. Three of their next four games, including this week's visit to Dallas, are against teams with winning records. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Patterson's steady production as a receiver out of the backfield has helped the Falcons withstand the absence of No. 1 wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list last week as he is away from the team to focus on his mental health.

Ryan, meanwhile, is playing as if determined to silence doubters who felt he was past his prime at 36. Ryan played up to his "Matty Ice" nickname after the Falcons blew a 24-6 lead against the Saints. He has completed 69.4 percent of his passes, matching his best accuracy since his 2016 NFL MVP season.

On Wednesday, Ryan was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Patterson's 38 receptions and five TD catches lead the team, but Pitts' 546 yards receiving and 15.2 yards per catch are the best on the team. Pitts hasn't won every matchup this season, but he has been the big, athletic target the team expected to find with the No. 4 overall pick in this year's NFL draft. ...

Beyond that, as Associated Press sports writer Charles Odum points out, the Falcons rank near the bottom of the league with 80.4 yards rushing per game and 3.4 yards per carry.

Mike Davis was held to 13 yards on nine carries against New Orleans and was stopped on a fourth-down run in the second quarter. It was the latest evidence Atlanta can't rely on its running game for a tough yard. Davis fumbled after Patterson's big catch when Atlanta was only trying to burn the clock, but the Falcons recovered.

On the injury front. ... The Falcons lost cornerback Kendall Sheffield to a hamstring injury. Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (concussion) did not play. The Falcons had two outside linebackers leave the game: Steven Means (knee) and Adetokunbo Ogundeji (upper body).

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
RBs: Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Christian Blake, Chris Rowland, Calvin Ridley, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley wrote: "Remember when Lamar Jackson couldn't lead the Baltimore Ravens back from double-digit deficits?

"Jackson established himself as the NFL's new comeback king in guiding the Ravens to a 34-31 overtime win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. ..."

He is the first quarterback this season to deliver three double-digit comebacks, doing so against the Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts and Vikings. This comes after Jackson was 0-6 as a starter in his first three seasons -- including the playoffs -- when trailing by 10 or more points.

Since taking over as the Ravens' starter in the middle of the 2018 season, Jackson has won more games than any other quarterback with 31, and he has done so in dominant fashion for the most part. When Baltimore would fall behind early in games -- typically in the postseason -- it was as if Jackson and the Ravens were in a state of shock. They weren't used to being in the position to play catch-up, and their run-first offense wasn't conducive to big-time comebacks.

In 2021, the AFC North-leading Ravens (6-2) have become accustomed to trailing by double digits, and they're more built to storm back from deficits because of Jackson's improvement as a passer. With Baltimore's top two running backs -- J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards -- out for the season, the Ravens have relied on Jackson's arm more than ever.

For the season, Jackson has thrown for 2,209 yards, meaning he'd be on pace for his first 4,000-yard passing campaign even if there weren't an additional game on the schedule this year.

He passed for 2,757 yards all of last season.

"He sees the field so well. He gives every play the maximum opportunity to be successful, if that makes sense," head coach John Harbaugh said of his QB.

Still, Jackson and the Ravens have struggled to produce complete games. They're winning because they've been able to flip the switch offensively after halftime. Down 24-10 to the Vikings on Sunday, Jackson completed 79.1 percent of his passes in the second half (19-of-24 for 201 yards) after connecting on just 47 percent of his throws (8-of-17 for 65 yards) in the first half.

"I'd rather not be behind," Jackson said. "I'd rather just step on the gas and just keep going, just keep scoring. But our team, we're fighters. We believe in each other. We've got faith. We were just talking about that in [the locker room]. We've just got to keep it going. Hopefully, we won't be in any more overtime games."

This is the second time this season that Jackson rallied Baltimore from a 14-point hole in the second half (the 31-25 win over the Colts on Monday Night Football was the other). How amazing is that? In head coach John Harbaugh's first 13 seasons in Baltimore, the Ravens were 2-35 when down by at least two touchdowns.

In the locker room after Sunday's win, Harbaugh gave the game ball to "faith."

Veteran guard Kevin Zeitler, who has played for the Bengals, Browns and Giants, told his teammates that he has been on teams and you knew the game was over when you were down by 14 points.

"We had those gut punches, but the fact that our guys just stand back up strong and keep fighting, I think that's what makes it special," Harbaugh said.

It also helps to have one of the most special players in the game in Jackson.

On Sunday, Jackson became the first quarterback in NFL history with multiple games of 100 yards rushing and three touchdown passes.

Asked why Jackson is so successful at comebacks, Harbaugh said, "I think his poise -- he doesn't get flustered. He gives every play the maximum opportunity to be successful, if that makes sense. And then, he's just good. He's just really good."

Next up, the Ravens play at Miami on Thursday in their first road game since Oct. 3. Baltimore went 3-1 during its stretch of four straight home games. After facing the Dolphins, the Ravens play at Chicago.

Then comes a big seven-game stretch to close the season. That includes two games each against the Browns and Steelers, a rematch with Cincinnati and home games against the Packers and Rams.

For the record. ... Jackson ran 21 times for 120 yards against the Vikings and crossing the 100-yard mark gave him a record for NFL quarterbacks.

It was the 12th time -- regular season or postseason -- that Jackson has run for at least 100 yards in a game. That broke a tie with Michael Vick for the most 100-yard rushing games by a quarterback in NFL history.

"Of course, I respect [Vick's] game. That's cool," Jackson said. "I don't know what to say. That's pretty cool, though."

The Ravens posted 247 yards on the ground overall.

As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister suggests, Jackson's presence alone is enough to keep the Ravens near the top of the rushing rankings, but running backs Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, Le'Veon Bell and Ty'Son Williams have combined to average 4.3 yards a carry. That's almost a full yard less than the trio of Dobbins, Edwards and Mark Ingram averaged last season.

As a result, the team is leaning more heavily Jackson, who is on pace for a career high in carries.

Harbaugh shot down a question about whether it's sustainable for Jackson to be running the ball that much.

"No long-term sustainability observations. It's not even relevant," he said after Sunday's game. "Would you rather not run 21 times today and lose the game? It's crazy to even suggest that. ..."

Injuries have been an issue all along. ... As previously noted, the team lost Dobbins and Edwards before the season, and cornerback Marcus Peters went down then as well. Tackle Ronnie Stanley only played one game before going on injured reserve, and rookie receiver Rashod Bateman's debut was delayed because of groin problems.

Now Bateman is back but receiver Sammy Watkins has been out. Murray has also been sidelined recently.

The injuries have been a constant problem this season, and yet the Ravens are in good shape in the standings. Harbaugh will likely receive coach of the year consideration if Baltimore keeps winning despite all of these obstacles.

The Ravens activated tight end Nick Boyle from injured reserve to the active roster Monday and designated guard Ben Cleveland for return to practice, but they also put safety DeShon Elliott on IR.

"It seems like we're always dealing with something," defensive lineman Calais Campbell said.

Meanwhile, Harbaugh said he is optimistic Boyle will play Thursday night. He is officially listed as questionable.

Boyle dislocated his knee in Week 9 last season and further knee issues led to him being placed on the reserve list before the season opener this season.

Receivers Marquise Brown (back) and Watkins (thigh) both practiced fully on Wednesday; Watkins is listed as questionable. Brown has no injury designation.

Murray was unable to practice and is listed as doubtful.

I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of tomorrow night's kickoff.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, Ty'Son Williams
WRs: Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, James Proche, Miles Boykin
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg wrote, "It was considered the skippable game on the schedule. The second of an easy three-game stretch for the Buffalo Bills following their bye. Another road stadium filled with Bills fans set to enjoy an easy win on a pleasant Florida afternoon.

"Not so fast. ..."

Instead, the Bills' offense struggled mightily in a 9-6 loss to the Jaguars.

A week prior, Buffalo rebounded from a bad first two quarters against the Dolphins and put together a strong finish for a win. This time around, the Bills did not score a point in the second half.

"[I] just gotta be smart with the football and end every drive in a kick," quarterback Josh Allen said. "Understanding how our defense is playing, not giving them a short field and again, I gotta be better. You know, I played like s--- today."

A Bills offense that scored 30 or more points in five of the first six games and came into Week 9 leading the league in scoring offense put up just six points against a one-win Jaguars team that ranks 26th in scoring defense even after Sunday's game.

The Bills scored field goals on the first two drives and then punted on three possessions, had three turnovers, and had their final possession end on a loss of downs. No drive was longer than 48 yards.

What went wrong, and what does it mean going forward?

Getzenberg started with Allen's play.

Statistically, the QB won't look back fondly on this game. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked four times. He completed 31 of 47 passes for 264 yards. Allen had some bad moments, especially throwing the second interception of the third quarter as he fell to the ground.

Getzenberg went on to explain the Jaguars approached defending Allen the same way teams have played against Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Allen faced two-high safety coverages on 65 percent of his dropbacks -- by far the highest rate of his career -- which limited his options downfield. His average air yards per attempt was 6.1, his second lowest this season.

The Bills have lost the three games Allen has faced the most two-high safety coverage in his career: the Week 1 loss to the Steelers (58 percent), last season's regular-season loss to the Chiefs (55 percent), and Sunday. Allen's longest completion on Sunday was a 28-yarder to wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the fourth quarter.

"Two-high shells forcing us to throw underneath," Allen said when asked about a lack of early targets to Diggs. "I can do things different to get our guys going early on. We didn't do a good enough job of that today."

Diggs finished the game with six catches for 85 yards, with four of those catches coming in the second half. Receiver Cole Beasley was targeted often in the first half but had only one reception in the final two quarters. It's unclear whether the injury to his ribs that left him questionable coming into the game played a part.

Why did the Jaguars feel confident running that style of defense?

Partly because they knew the Bills couldn't run the ball.

"[Linebacker] Myles Jack told me yesterday, 'This is going to be the best game [they would play]. This game is meant for us to win,'" Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen said. "'They're talking about this team can throw the ball. They really don't run the ball that much. OK, they're working into our hands.'"

Zack Moss left early with a concussion, but he and Devin Singletary finished the game against the Jaguars with a combined total of nine carries for 22 yards.

The running game, outside of Allen's five carries for 50 yards, was ineffective and not a part of the game plan. Allen accounting for 50 of the team's 72 yards rushing continued a trend in which the quarterback has combined for 190 of Buffalo's 377 yards rushing over the past four games.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll called a pass on 84.6 percent of plays, the highest percentage in any game that neither team scored 10 points (since play designs were first tracked in 2006).

That has to change.

Even a pass-first offense like Buffalo's has to incorporate the run game to be effective. The inability to get the running backs involved has been a problem throughout the season.

"That's a huge issue right now for us. Gotta be able to run the football when it's handed off," head coach Sean McDermott said. "That's not good enough."

Buffalo was one of two teams not to gain a rushing first down by a running back in Week 9.

A breakout rusher isn't walking in the door tomorrow. As Getzenberg suggests, if this offense is going to take a step forward,

Daboll will have to get creative with how the backs are used.

Remember, Buffalo had spent the past season and a half on one of the great runs of sustained offensive production in franchise history.

Monday was about getting back on track.

"I feel like we've had good conversations this morning," McDermott said. "Those conversations will continue. I'm not done yet, to be honest with you, so I'm going to finish here and go back upstairs and go back to work in that area."

Allen was pressured often behind an offensive line missing a pair of starters in Spencer Brown (back) and Jon Feliciano (calf). The Jaguars racked up eight QB hits and four sacks. Allen was pressured on 17 dropbacks, matching a season high set during a Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh.

The line bounced back from that game against the Steelers, a similarly uncharacteristic outing on offense. Allen was pressured less than 10 times in six of the last seven games entering Sunday. The team could be getting reinforcements in the form of Brown, who is expected to practice this week.

The Bills won't have to wait long for an opportunity to right the ship.

They head to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to face a Jets defense that has allowed 251 points, the most of any team in the NFL with eight games played (Houston has allowed 258 points in nine games).

Remember, the Bills maintain their hold atop the AFC East, but their margin has dwindled to a half-game ahead of New England (5-4), a team they still face twice this season.

The one bright spot has been the improved play of a defense which, aside from the loss at Tennessee, has held up its end while covering over many of the offense's deficiencies.

Buffalo has held six of eight opponents to less than 300 yards offense, including Jacksonville, which finished with 218. ...

On the injury front. ... The Bills have been relatively injury free, and getting healthier with TE Dawson Knox (broken hand) and Brown expected to resume practicing after each missed two games. Feliciano, however, will miss at least two more games with a calf injury. The status of Moss and CB Taron Johnson is uncertain after both were sidelined by concussions Sunday.

In addition, The Bills will likely be without receiver Jake Kumerow this week. Buffalo placed Kumerow on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced on Tuesday.

Kumerow has been a heavy special teams contributor for Buffalo throughout the season, playing 65 percent of the club's snaps on the unit. He's recorded four tackles in 2021.

Kumerow's played 55 offensive snaps this season but doesn't have a reception on two targets. It's currently unclear whether or not Kumerow is vaccinated. But any of Kumerow's unvaccinated teammates -- like Beasley -- could be placed on the COVID-19 list for five days if they're determined to be a close contact.

I'll follow up on Moss and Beasley (ribs), who did not practice Wednesday, Knox, who was limited, and Kumerow as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Matt Breida, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Emmanuel Sanders, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As NFL.com's Jelani Scott framed it, "Not even the return of Christian McCaffrey could fix the Panthers offense."

Sure, the dynamic running back recorded 106 scrimmage yards, but it was essentially for naught following another underwhelming outing by quarterback Sam Darnold, who threw three interceptions including a pick-six in a 24-6 loss to New England on Sunday.

"I'm fully aware I didn't play my best football today," Darnold said after the game, per the team's official transcript.

Truth be told, Carolina has struggled to play its "best football" for well over a month, going 1-5 while getting outscored 153-102 over its last six games. Week 9 provided more examples of the same issues head coach Matt Rhule harped on a few weeks ago.

Against the Patriots, Darnold was off the mark and out-of-sorts all afternoon as his partnership with receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson continued to yield little results. Darnold finished 16-of-33 for 172 yards while failing to throw a touchdown pass for the third week in a row.

Things reached a critical point at the start of the third quarter when, on the third play of the half's first series, Darnold was intercepted by Pats cornerback J.C. Jackson for an 88-yard pick-six. Darnold followed that with INTs on consecutive red zone trips, all but stalling any hopes of a comeback.

A visibly frustrated Anderson, who was the target on the second INT, appeared to have words for the QB on the sideline after his third turnover.

"Robby is a competitor just like all of us," Darnold said of the exchange. "Obviously you want your teammates to be able to say, 'Hey, let's go. We have a lot of game left, let's tighten up, let's put some points on the board.' I mean it's nothing more than that, me and Robby are cool, so I'm not worried about that."

Outside of Zane Gonzalez's second-quarter conversions, there were no points to be had on this day for Carolina.

A bad sign ahead of a Week 10 clash with a Cardinals team that could be vulnerable if Kyler Murray (ankle) and DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) remain out.

But it gets worse.

Darnold has an incomplete fracture of his right shoulder blade and is likely to miss several weeks with the injury, a source confirmed to ESPN.com's David Newton.

Darnold apparently suffered the shoulder injury against the Falcons in Week 8 and played through it against the Patriots in Week 9 before tests this week revealed the extent of the injury.

Head coach Matt Rhule said Monday that Darnold reported soreness in his shoulder after the game and was sent for an MRI. Rhule also offered a timeline of four to six weeks.

Darnold, acquired by the Panthers in an offseason trade with the New York Jets, has thrown 10 interceptions in the past six games, five of them losses. He is tied with Joe Burrow for the NFL-lead with 11 interceptions this season.

P.J. Walker would replace Darnold as the team's starting quarterback, starting with Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Panthers announced Tuesday that they planned to sign veteran quarterback Matt Barkley off the Tennessee Titans' practice squad, pending a physical.

In nine games this season, Darnold has thrown for 1,986 with seven touchdowns and the 11 interceptions while completing 59.5 percent of his pass attempts. He also has five rushing touchdowns.

According to Newton, he only reason Walker wasn't already starting is he's just as prone to mistakes as Darnold.

In his only start last season, a 20-0 win over Detroit, he had two interceptions in the red zone.

Those mistakes are what has kept Walker from being more of a factor in this quarterback battle. They are what prompted Rhule to start Darnold on Sunday after Walker spent most of the week preparing to be the starter.

Rhule also confirmed that center Matt Paradis is done for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in the team's second offensive play in Sunday's game. Along with Paradis, the Panthers announced they have placed left tackle Cameron Erving on injured reserve with a calf injury, although that injury is not considered season-ending.

Pat Eflein will get the first-team reps at center this week and Dennis Daley is the likely replacement at left tackle.

Also, defensive end Brian Burns was expected to get an MRI on Monday on his right ankle, per Rhule.

The Panthers also announced they have cut running back Royce Freeman and linebacker Clay Johnston, leaving the roster at 50 players.

Meanwhile, the Panthers have a difficult remaining schedule beginning with a road trip to Arizona on Sunday. Carolina also has two games remaining against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one each against the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints. ...

A few final items of interest. ... McCaffrey played 49 percent of the snaps in his first game back from injury. He had 52 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards in his return.

Ameer Abdullah played 37 percent of the snaps behind McCaffrey at running back, followed by Chuba Hubbard (17 percent).

Moore caught three of seven targets for 32 yards and rushed twice for 14 yards against the Patriots.

He led the team in targets, but saw McCaffrey and Hubbard top him in receiving yardage. As CBSSports.com notes, although McCaffrey's return gives Moore notable competition for looks, those two are easily coordinator Joe Brady's best playmakers, which should keep Moore's value stable heading into Week 10 versus the Cardinals. ...

Carolina announced on Wednesday that receiver Brandon Zylstra and offensive lineman Deonte Brown have been designated to return from injured reserve. That means the Panthers now have 21 days to activate both players to the 53-man roster.

Zylstra is a key special teams player for Carolina, having appeared on the majority of the unit’s snaps this season. He also has eight catches for 139 yards with a touchdown.

Brown appeared in the Panthers’ Week 5 loss to Philadelphia, playing a handful of special teams snaps. The Panthers need some depth at offensive line after just placing Paradis and left tackle Ca Erving on injured reserve. Guard John Miller was also recently placed on IR.

Finally. ... Gonzalez has quietly solidified the team's kicking position, one that was in disarray after the team cut Joey Slye in the preseason. Gonzalez has made 12 straight field goals and is 15 of 17 overall on the season, including a career-long 57-yarder two weeks ago.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, P.J. Walker
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Ameer Abdullah, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Shi Smith, Brandon Zylstra, Alex Erickson, Terrace Marshall Jr.
TEs: Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Colin Thompson

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

The Chicago Bears battled all the way back until they were undone by their struggling defense in the waning moments of Monday night's 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When the Bears took over at their own 25 trailing the Steelers 26-20 with 2:52 remaining Monday night, Justin Fields and his teammates were supremely confident.

The rookie quarterback followed by engineering a 7-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Fields' 16-yard touchdown strike to Darnell Mooney that gave the Bears a 27-26 lead with just 1:46 to play.

After the two-minute warning, Fields completed a 39-yard pass down the right sideline to Allen Robinson -- who hurt his hamstring on the play -- and then followed with the touchdown pass to Mooney on the next snap.

"My mindset was just like, 'It's time, we're here,'" Fields said. "You can either be the guy who always gets put in that position and doesn't show up, or you can be that guy who shows up in the big moments. That was my mindset, and I was just calm and just focused on showing up."

The Steelers rallied to win on Chris Boswell's 40-yard field goal with :26 to play, but the late clutch drive was a big step forward for Fields' growth.

"The big picture for him is great," said head coach Matt Nagy. "When then they kicked that field goal, went up by six, there was a really pretty neat moment of just looking on the sideline and you could feel it from the players, like, 'OK, we fought back to get to this point where a touchdown wins it.'

"I looked over at Justin and he had this smile on his face like it was his time. The confidence that gives you as a coach when you see that, it was like he was almost hoping that this was going to be the situation. And then for him to follow through with that and make those plays that he made, it was a really good feeling on that sideline. And I think when you talk about the growth for him and for the offense and just our team in general, that's a moment.

"But in the end, we lost. When you're in that locker room right there, this is a team game, and that's what our guys care about. That's what we care about. We've got to figure it out."

Nagy's team just can't catch a break.

The Bears were the victim of several questionable calls Monday, including a brutal taunting penalty on Cassius Marsh, who was just signed off the practice squad. There was also an illegal low block on guard James Daniels that cost Chicago a touchdown.

The Bears are in serious trouble at 3-6. You can probably forget about the NFC North title. Even the wild card is in serious jeopardy.

Fields was good, but not great. Still, the late touchdown pass to Mooney is the defining moment in Fields' young career up to this point.

"I felt it was time," Fields said. "I was calm and ready to go."

Added Nagy: "That was big for Justin and the offense, but in the end, we lost. ..."

Indeed, as ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson noted, losers of four straight, Bears -- and Nagy -- are on the ropes.

Nagy wasn't interested in moral victories after Monday's loss.

"We have to go out and in," Nagy said. "It's encouraging to see the fight in the team, but ultimately, we have to win to turn it around."

The bye comes at a good time for the Bears, who have to regroup. Chicago still has Baltimore, Arizona and Green Bay coming up in the second half.

Other notes of interest. ... The Bears committed 12 penalties for 115 yards—both season highs—in Monday night's loss.

"Too many penalties," Nagy said. "What it does is it just pushes you back or it gives them free yards. It's a rhythm game and you want to stay in rhythm. You want to stay away from penalties and I feel like we need to be better there."

The costliest flag nullified Fields' apparent 1-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham that would have trimmed Pittsburgh's lead to 14-10 in the third quarter. The Bears instead settled for Cairo Santos' 22-yard field goal, closing the gap to 14-6.

Right guard James Daniels was penalized on the play for an illegal low block against defensive end T.J. Watt outside the tight end box. But it appeared that Daniels barely touched Watt.

Looking for positives?

A running game that entered Week 9 ranked fifth in the NFL with a stellar average of 136.6 yards was right on its average with 136 yards on 26 carries Monday night.

Starting running back David Montgomery returned after sitting out four games with a knee injury, rushing for 63 yards on 13 attempts. Rookie sixth-round pick Khalil Herbert, who ran for 344 yards in the four contests that Montgomery missed, added 13 yards on four carries.

The Bears have compiled their six highest rushing totals of the season in their last six games with 188, 143, 140, 143, 176 and 136 yards.

Part of that has been due to Fields' mobility.

After rushing for 103 yards last Sunday against the 49ers -- the most by a Bears quarterback since Bobby Douglass' 127 yards in a 1972 loss to the Raiders, Fields ran for 45 yards on eight carries Monday night.

Fields has now rushed for 288 yards and two touchdowns on 52 attempts this year, the fourth most yards by a quarterback behind the Ravens' Lamar Jackson (600), the Eagles' Jalen Hurts (494) and the Bills' Josh Allen (319).

In addition, the Bears' 27 points Monday night was their highest output of the season.

Their offense produced two touchdowns and two field goals, while the special teams scored its first TD of the season on DeAndre Houston-Carson's 25-yard return of a fumbled punt return. ...

Beyond that. ... The NFL's longest active field goal streak was snapped Monday night when Santos missed a 65-yard attempt well short as time expired.

It was his first miss since Sept. 27, 2020 in Atlanta.

Before missing the 65-yarder, Santos connected on field goals of 30 and 22 yards, extending his streak to 40 straight field goals. His streak is tied for the third longest in NFL history and the longest by a kicker who plays his home games outdoors.

The only kickers with longer streaks are the Colts' Adam Vinatieri (44 in 2015-16) and the Colts' Mike Vanderjagt (42 from 2002-04). The Vikings' Gary Anderson also made 40 in a row in 1997-98.

Santos is now 13-of-14 (92.9 percent) this year and 43-of-46 (93.5) in the last two seasons with the Bears. ...

And finally. ... The Bears will use the off week to get healthier. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack (foot), safety Eddie Jackson (hamstring), running back Damien Williams (knee), tight end J.P. Holtz (concussion), inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (ankle) and quarterback Nick Foles (illness) missed Monday night's game.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Justin Fields, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton
RBs: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Damien Williams, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Jesper Horsted, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Ben Baby framed it, "The Cincinnati Bengals spent the first seven weeks of the season upending preseason expectations and becoming an unlikely contender to win the AFC North.

"In the span of two weeks, all that progress was unspooled with a ripcord. ..."

One week after a massive upset loss to the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns smoked the Bengals in a 41-16 win at Paul Brown Stadium.

As Cincinnati enters its off week, the Bengals are facing an identity crisis. The past two weeks have shown that Cincinnati might not be as good as its early burst indicated. But this is still a team that trounced divisional foes Baltimore and Pittsburgh on the road.

What the Bengals witnessed on Sunday wasn't pretty. Cleveland outplayed Cincinnati on both sides of the ball in a game Bengals coach Zac Taylor said his team didn't deserve to win.

The Browns' offense scored on all three of its first-half possessions. Their defense hit Joe Burrow 12 times and ultimately forced three turnovers, including a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown that foreshadowed the rest of Cincinnati's day.

After their Week 7 win in Baltimore, Cincinnati positioned itself to have a hold on the top of the AFC North standings after five wins in its first seven games. That was before the Bengals (5-4) squandered an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead in an upset loss to the Jets in Week 8 and the Browns, as slight underdogs, handed Cincinnati its worst loss of the season.

"We just feel like we let an opportunity slip through our hands today," Taylor said.

Baby reminded readers that during the first seven weeks of the season, the Bengals capitalized on opportunities when presented. They shellacked the Steelers in Week 3 and beat the Ravens like the Browns smacked Cincinnati on Sunday.

Running back Joe Mixon said he didn't feel like the team became too complacent after the statement win over the Ravens. However, Mixon added that in the losses to the Jets and Browns (5-4), Cincinnati didn't start the game fast enough.

"We've got to play with more intensity," Mixon said. "Just got to play Bengals football. These last two games, we ain't been able to do that."

On top of that, many of the things that were clicking early in the season sputtered on Sunday. Burrow said he didn't play well, and rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase went from a record-breaking start to just six catches on 13 targets, with one of those missed connections a dropped touchdown in the end zone.

Perhaps most alarmingly, a defense that ranked as one of the best in the league has been uncharacteristically bad. Defensive end Sam Hubbard, who had a sack and three quarterback hits, said some of the same concepts that hurt the Bengals against the Jets were also successful for the Browns.

"This is a tough league," Hubbard said. "People are going to figure you out. We gotta adjust and make the plays when we're in the position to make the plays and get off the field."

Add it all together and it makes for a perplexing view of where the Bengals stand through nine games.

Cincinnati went from one of the hottest teams in the AFC to the bottom of the division standings. Throughout the postgame news conferences Sunday, Taylor and the players who spoke conveyed a sense of calm despite the recent struggles.

The final nine games will say volumes about where the franchise is headed.

Three weeks ago, Cincinnati seemed destined to end a playoff drought that stretches back to 2015. On Sunday, the Bengals had a chance to win their first three divisional games since that season.

Instead, the Bengals are on a two-game losing streak and are tasked with figuring out which type of team they will be when the season resumes against the Las Vegas Raiders in two weeks.

"When we play there, we gotta go out there and take it," Mixon said. "Because nothing's given."

As Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacy suggested, much is on the shoulders of Burrow. Not much was working well against the Browns, but overall the Bengals' offense still turns on the skill and creativity of Burrow, who remains among the NFL leaders in several passing categories.

He has been good at exploiting defenses, but his two interceptions Sunday were killers, especially the above-mentioned 99-yard pick-six by Denzel Ward in the first quarter.

Also, as noted above, a few weeks ago, Chase was making explosive plays and being talked about as a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. That chatter has died down. He caught just three passes for 32 yards in the Jets loss and followed that with his worst game as a pro against Cleveland.

He dropped a pass in the end zone, dropped another that might have carried him into the end zone, and lost a fumble the Browns turned into points.

On the injury front. ... CB Trae Waynes, who missed all of last season with a pectoral issue, went on injured reserve last month with a hamstring injury. ... G Xavier Su'a-Filo has been out with a knee injury for a month. ... LB Jordan Evans (knee) is on the injured list. ... S/KR Brandon Wilson and LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (foot) went out of Sunday's game and didn't return. Taylor said Wilson tore his ACL. There was no update available on Davis-Gaither. ... DE Cam Sample and WR Auden Tate were ruled out on Sunday. Tate has been dealing with a thigh injury.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Brandon Allen, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As NFL.com's Adam Maya noted, it’s been more than three years since the Browns made Baker Mayfield a No. 1 overall pick. It might have felt like they were making that choice again this week with the release of Odell Beckham Jr.

The decision to part ways with the former Pro Bowler could have caused another jolt to a Cleveland locker room that's experienced its fair share of them in recent years.

Mayfield, however, couldn't have been cooler Sunday, on the gridiron or in the postgame presser.

With the 4-4 Browns seemingly at a crossroads, their embattled QB put together perhaps his finest performance of the season in a 41-16 win over the Bengals. He was equally impressive in how he addressed Beckham's departure, which followed a tumultuous week involving the star wideout.

"I wish him well. I really do," Mayfield said. "My feelings haven't changed. I wish him well. From a personal standpoint, he's a good friend of mine. We still haven't talked but that doesn't change things. I wish him well. I wish him the best in his career."

In Cincinnati, Mayfield again proved to be fascinatingly better without OBJ at his disposal. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, with season highs in passer rating (132.6) and yards per completion (15.5).

It was part of a dominant and collective effort from the Browns, who finally looked like the title contender many projected them to be before the season. They hadn't played such a complete game since the 2020 campaign.

"This was a team win," Mayfield said. "I'm very, very proud of this group."

It's one that no longer includes Beckham's enormous talent. Cleveland, interestingly, has won at a higher clip when OBJ hasn't played -- since 2019, they're 14-15 with him and 9-5 without him. After ridding itself of an off-the-field distraction, on-field success is ultimately what matters most for the team, and its QB.

"We'll take wins any way we can get them," Mayfield said. "I came here to win, I've said it over and over again. That's why I was brought here, to change the culture, help change the culture, and continue to contribute towards that winning attitude. Our guys are bought in. They focused and did their job and that needs to be a week-to-week thing."

Now we need to find out if the Browns can rekindle their 2020 formula?

As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter reminded readers, this time last year in the same stadium, Cleveland turned its season around almost immediately after Beckham was lost for the year with a knee injury. Doing it again won't be easy. The remaining schedule is tougher. And Sunday, after all, was just one game. Still, the chemistry Cleveland flashed was strikingly similar to last year, when the Browns surged into the playoffs with opportunistic defense, an overpowering running game and the best version of Mayfield.

But they head into this week's game against the Patriots with a huge issue.

Starting running back Nick Chubb and rookie running back Demetric Felton have both tested positive for COVID-19.

Both running backs are reportedly vaccinated, so they may be able to play if they have two negative tests separated by 24 hours. But now three of Cleveland's four running backs on the 53-man roster have tested positive for the virus in the last two days. John Kelly was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday.

That makes D'Ernest Johnson the only available running back currently on the roster.

Kareem Hunt is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, but that won't happen.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters in his Wednesday press conference that Hunt is not ready to return to practice and won’t play in Week 10.

As for the others and their chances of gaining clearance before the weekend?

"We'll see in terms of their availability. We'll see how this week goes," Stefanski said. "If they're unable to make it back, Johnson, obviously, is our starter.”

Stefanski also noted that the Browns are in enhanced COVID protocols, which means the club is undergoing daily testing, all meetings are virtual, and masks must be worn indoors by all.

Chubb has 721 yards and six touchdowns this season, averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Coming off a 61-yard performance, Chubb ran all over the Bengals. He had 14 rushes for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the victory over Cincinnati. Whether showing his jaw-dropping breakaway speed on a 70-yard, game-sealing TD in the third quarter or fighting for tough yards inside, Chubb was nearly unstoppable.

Johnson started Cleveland's Thursday victory over Denver in Week 7, recording 146 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown.

Cleveland leads the league with rushing touchdowns, and the Browns are tied for the lead with 36 since the beginning of last season.

The Browns signed RB Brian Hill to their practice squad on Tuesday.

Stay tuned. ... I'll obviously be following the status of Chubb and Hunt closely in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...

Beyond that. ... According to Associated press sports writer Tom Withers, Mayfield's left shoulder (torn labrum, fracture) will be a constant point of concern. He's got to avoid taking a big hit or risk having it pop out again. ... Rookie LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (ankle) could also be back after missing three games. The Browns have missed his speed. ... RT Jack Conklin (elbow) went on IR over the weekend, but it's possible he'll be out beyond the three-game minimum. ... CB Greedy Williams (shoulder) is day to day. ...

Jarvis Landry (knee) did not practice Wednesday, but he often gets days off during the week; Mayfield (foot) was limited. I'll watch for more on both players as the week progresses.

Also of interest. ... Donovan Peoples-Jones caught two of three targets for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.

Peoples-Jones did most of his damage on a 60-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. With Beckham no longer in the picture, Peoples-Jones will be Mayfield's top option on the outside moving forward, though the Browns still have an assortment of running backs and tight ends to throw to, as well as Landry.

As CBSSports.com notes, with at least 70 receiving yards in each of his last three games played and three touchdowns in the last two, Peoples-Jones is establishing himself as a viable fantasy option at wide receiver heading into the team's trip to New England this weekend. ...

Right guard Wyatt Teller agreed to a four-year, $56.8 million contract extension with the team through the 2025 season on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Browns agreed to terms with guard Joel Bitonio on a contract extension, locking up their second big-time guard in two days.

Teller has developed into one of the NFL's best interior linemen during three seasons after coming over in a trade from Buffalo. The 6-4, 315-pounder was scheduled to become a free agent after this season.

The deal includes $28 million guaranteed, on Tuesday.

Teller has consistently rated among the league's top blockers over the past two seasons. In Sunday's win at Cincinnati, he delivered a key block -- leaving his feet to deliver the blow -- that sprung Chubb on a 70-yard touchdown run.

Teller was a second-team All-Pro Selection in 2020. He was drafted by the Bills in the fifth round in 2018 out of Virginia Tech.

Financial details on his extension aren't avaialable yet, but Bitonio, 30, has made 104 regular season starts, the second-most by any Browns player since the team's return in 1999. He hasn't missed a single snap since the start of the 2017 season, a stretch that's seen him clear the way for record-setting runs by Chubb and protect Mayfield, who set the rookie TD record in 2018 and was one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in 2020. ...

And finally. ... The Browns ultimately saved $3 million by negotiating with Odell Beckham, Jr., who was released by the club on Monday.

Albert Breer of SI.com reports, and Profootballtalk.com confirmed, that the Browns will owe Beckham only $4.25 million of the $7.25 million that he was due to earn over the balance of the season, pursuant to the terms of a settlement agreement.

Originally, the Browns and Beckham had planned to reduce the liability from $7.25 million to $4.25 million by moving $3 million to a roster bonus due this week. The Browns and Beckham decided to instead reduce his potential termination pay by $3 million, under the terms of the labor deal, which authorizes the such agreements.

And so Beckham will get $4.25 million from the Browns plus whatever his next team pays him, and he'll keep both amounts.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Case Keenum, Baker Mayfield, Nick Mullens, Kyle Lauletta
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, John Kelly
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, Anthony Schwartz
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Miller Forristall, Stephen Carlson

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Todd Archer understated, Dak Prescott's return to the lineup did not go as planned.

The Cowboys were "whupped," as the quarterback called it, in a 30-16 loss to the Broncos that did not feel as close as the final score indicated.

"We got beat. We got thumped in every aspect of the game, especially on offense," Prescott said.

Playing for the first time since suffering a right calf strain on Oct. 17 against the New England Patriots, Prescott completed 19 of 39 passes for 232 yards with two touchdowns -- both in the fourth quarter to Malik Turner when the outcome was already decided -- and an interception. He was sacked two times.

After the game, Prescott said his calf was not an issue.

"I mean, I did a lot of moving, did a lot of scrambling there getting outside of the pocket, no issues," Prescott said. "I didn't feel it. I'm fine."

Prescott was playing for the first time in 21 days. The Cowboys had their bye week after beating the Patriots, and the Cowboys held Prescott out of last week's win at the Minnesota Vikings, with backup Cooper Rush throwing for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said Prescott had a "tough, uphill day."

"I think it's like anything, the speed of the game is something you can't replace," McCarthy said.

Prescott took his normal turns in practice leading into the Broncos game after spending the week before the Vikings game focusing mostly on his rehab. He had a longer absence coming into the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of training camp, where he missed a significant amount of practice time and all four preseason games with a right latissimus strain.

"I mean obviously I wasn't as clean as I normally am or as I have been. It's tough to say and blame that," Prescott said. "I spent a lot of time off and came back in the first game [Tampa Bay] different, so I'm not going to sit there and blame two weeks when I had a great week of practice under my belt coming into this one.

"I just missed some throws and we weren't our normal selves in the passing game when we needed to be. We didn't execute."

Prescott entered the game completing a league-best 73.1 percent of his passes, and he threw at least three touchdown passes in four straight games entering Sunday. Through three quarters Sunday, he completed 6 of 19 passes for 79 yards.

Despite the lopsided score, McCarthy did not want to take Prescott out.

"Frankly, the fourth quarter was a conscious effort to keep him in there for the 2-minute work," McCarthy said. "It's something that if I was looking at all the situational work that we've done and the commitment that you put to each situation, we needed that work. So, I was happy to see us have some 2-minute production, just because I think that's something we can definitely carry forward out of this game."

For what it's worth, owner/general manager Jerry Jones wasn't all that keen on seeing his star quarterback in the game at that point.

Speaking on 105.3 The Fan, Jones said that while he would "not take issue," with Prescott being in the game, he also suggested it went against the Cowboys approach when he sat out with the calf.

"All I know is when he's in the game, don't think that he's not going to make every play like it's a Super Bowl play," Jones said. "So if you've got concern about what it would do to your season to have another injury. ... Then that's the time to do it, not expecting him (to take it easy)."

Prescott would have been upset if he was taken out.

"There was game left out there to be played," Prescott said. "It never crossed my mind that I was coming out of the game. I think if somebody would have tried to make that decision, I would have told them I wasn't. Yeah, we needed to get something going. We needed to get some energy, some momentum. We needed to show our fight, our resiliency, something that's won us a lot of games. When you're getting beat like that, you've got to show your character.

"I think that's where the path starts with all of us staying in the game and fighting to the end and trying to get some momentum or something going just to take from this game. Yeah, I never thought of coming out of that."

Whatever the case, as Archer wrote, "All of the good feelings the Cowboys generated in their six-game winning streak disappeared" in Sunday's loss.

The Cowboys had won their first four home games by an average of 17.3 points. Before their first scoring drive, they converted just once third down and failed on three fourth-down tries. This loss was as unexpected as last week's win at Minnesota with Cooper Rush at quarterback.

Is it just a blip or the start of a trend?

As Associated press sports writer Schuyler Dixon contends, one game doesn't change what offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has shown with perhaps the league's most diverse offense.

After Turner's two-TD showing, the Cowboys have six receivers and tight ends with multiple TD catches, and there's no arguing that Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb make up one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL.

That said, Dixon advised readers it appears Ezekiel Elliott will be battling a right knee issue all season. The biggest flare up so far came against Denver. Elliott limped off the field after one of his carries, came back for a 21-yard run on a screen pass and then went to the sideline again one play later. The two-time rushing champion was still playing late with the game out of reach.

"I saw him in the dressing room and I thought the way he finished the game, the way he was running, just his intensity, eases my mind on a going-forward basis," Jones said. "And the trainers didn't give any indication there was an issue going forward."

Tony Pollard has been solid as a complementary back and had a 40-yard touchdown run last season in the only game Elliott has missed because of injury in his career (calf).

However, Pollard was limited to 29 yards on the other 11 carries in that 41-33 victory over San Francisco.

Whatever the case, the top seed in the NFC is still in play. The Cowboys just have to forget a humbling day when they trailed 30-0 as double-digit favorites.

"I know the makeup of the players, I know the makeup of the staff, they'll respond the way that we'd hope they would respond," Jones said. "We've seen our team play a lot better than that."

NFC-leading Arizona (7-1) is the only team with fewer losses than the Cowboys (6-2) after Green Bay and the Los Angeles Rams both dropped to 7-2 on Sunday. Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay (6-2), which beat Dallas in the opener, is the other team in that group right now.

The next opponent is Atlanta at home Sunday.

Better still, reinforcements should be on the way with the eventual return of WR Michael Gallup (calf strain), DT Trysten Hill (2020 knee injury), DT Neville Gallimore (preseason elbow injury) and DE DeMarcus Lawrence (broken foot). Those players are likely to come back in that order.

Gallup and Lawrence have missed every game since the opener.

The Cowboys are hoping for the return soon of LT Tyron Smith, who missed the Denver game with an ankle injury. ... TE Blake Jarwin will be out at least two more games with a hip injury.

Stay tuned. ... I will be following up on Elliott, who McCarthy said would get a "veteran Wednesday" along with Cooper, and Gallup as developments warrant via Late Breaking Update as the week progresses.

Also worth watching. ... The Cowboys are likely to be in need of a kicker for Sunday's game with Greg Zuerlein being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday.

Zuerlein has tested positive, according to a source, and would need two negative tests separated by 24 hours while remaining symptom-free to be eligible to return. The Cowboys have not had a player return sooner than the 10-day period this season.

With Zuerlein's status up in the air, the Cowboys will have Lirim Hajrullahu and Brett Maher in for a workout on Wednesday, according to Archer.

The team signed Hajrullahu on Wednesday.

Hajrullahu kicked in a preseason game for the Cowboys with Zuerlein injured and made both PATs. He spent a quick stint on the Cowboys practice squad in September.

Zuerlein has made 14-of-18 field goal attempts this season and missed two of 23 PATs this season.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement, Ito Smith
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson, Malik Turner, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown, Michael Gallup
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Blake Jarwin, Sean McKeon

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold reminded readers, the Broncos have struggled to consistently find their lane this season.

But Sunday was perhaps the franchise's best win since Peyton Manning called it career six years ago, a 30-16 victory Sunday over the Cowboys in Dallas.

Facing injuries all of over the depth chart, the Broncos ran the ball effectively, and when the time was right, they put their foot on the gas for some big-play pop in big moments. The defense, meanwhile, kept one of the league's high-powered offenses without a point into the fourth quarter.

The Broncos need to become comfortable playing this kind of football.

"Our offense, we ran the ball well, we moved the ball," said head coach Vic Fangio. "We were getting first downs, which is critical when you're playing a team that good. You want to play keep-away, keep away as you're moving it and scoring."

Start with the Broncos' 190 rushing yards on offense, including rookie Javonte Williams' first career 100-yard game and 80 more from Melvin Gordon III.

The Broncos were patient with the run game overall and reaped the massive rewards.

The Broncos are now 4-0 -- including the win over the previously 6-1 Cowboys -- when they keep the ball enough to squeeze out at least 28 carries in a game; they're 1-4 when they have 23 or fewer. Not coincidentally, when they run the ball more, with more intent, they also create more big plays in the passing game and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater works under center far closer to 50 percent of the time.

On Sunday, the Broncos had two 40-yard pass plays, including Tim Patrick's 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It was the first time this season they had two 40-yard pass plays in the same game. Bridgewater averaged 13.1 yards per completion, which is where the league's most productive quarterbacks have been this season -- Joe Burrow came into Week 9 leading the league at 13.3 yards per completion for the year.

"We knew what we're capable of, we just haven't put it all together," Patrick said. "A complete team like that, it just gets you excited. Now that we've seen it, we know we just have to stick to the plan and continue to do it week in, week out."

The Cowboys stoked the Broncos' ire on their first two possessions of the game when Dallas tried to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Denver 38 and fourth-and-2 at the Denver 20, both in the first quarter. The Broncos' defense held both times and Denver turned the second one into its first score of the game.

"Disrespectful," Patrick said. "That s--- disrespectful. That's what happens when you try us."

"We take the field [after the fourth-down attempts], with a little anger, honestly ... because they're saying our offense is not going to score or something," Bridgewater said. "We talked about it."

The Broncos' task now, with Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) next before a much-needed bye, is repeating the effort against the Cowboys. Asked after Sunday's game if this is where the bar is for this team now, Fangio said simply: "We're 5-4; the bar is to get to 6-4," Fangio said. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Broncos were uncertain until five minutes before pregame warmups Sunday that Bridgewater would be available. As Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams noted, the Broncos had visions of Kendall Hinton dancing in their heads.

Denver was forced to use Hinton, a former college quarterback turned receiver, at quarterback in a game last season after its entire quarterbacks room was ineligible to play due to COVID-19 protocols.

On Sunday morning, backup quarterback Drew Lock tested positive for COVID-19.

"We had a scare in the morning," Broncos coach Vic Fangio admitted. "Thought it might've been Kendall Hinton, the sequel."

Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post reports Lock reported to the team he was a close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Lock tested negative Saturday, allowing him to fly with the team.

But Lock, who is vaccinated, tested positive before the game.

As a close contact of Lock, Bridgewater would have had to miss Sunday's game if he wasn't vaccinated. Still, he had to pass a COVID-19 test before being cleared.

"They tested me (Sunday) morning, and there was an error so I had to wait for results to come back," said Bridgewater, who wore a mask to his postgame news conference as a precaution. "I didn't have to get swabbed again."

Bridgewater went 19-of-28 for 249 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos' 30-16 upset of the Cowboys. ...

As noted above. ... Williams rushed for a career-high 111 yards on just 17 carries. The second-round pick blew past his previous best in rushing yards, a 64-yard output he set in Week 2. Williams is the first Broncos rookie with a 100-yard rushing game since Phillip Lindsay posted three in 2018.

Williams had five rushes of at least 10 yards against a Cowboys rushing defense that ranked sixth in the NFL entering Week 9. Williams' best play came early in the third quarter, as he fought through a slew of Cowboys defenders -- with a little help from offensive lineman Quinn Meinerz -- and then broke free for a 30-yard gain. ...

Patrick, who has 34 catches for 509 yards and three TDs and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, a fourth-round draft pick last year who's proving every bit as good as 2019 first-round TE Noah Fant, who's not as willing of a blocker, continue to provide the team with production beyond the expected output of bigger names like Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.

On the injury front. ... The Broncos finished Sunday with four backup O-linemen. RG Graham Glasgow broke his left leg on the last play of the first half.

With two more offensive linemen injured, can they protect Bridgewater?

Glasgow suffered his injury on the last play of the first half. Since medical personnel immediately put an air cast on his lower left leg, he could face a major injury. He was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Right tackle Bobby Massie also left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. The Broncos were already struggling mightily to protect Bridgewater almost any time they've opened the formation -- this will only make that more difficult, especially if left tackle Garett Bolles, who missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury, misses significant time.

The Broncos will have get the ball out of Bridgewater's hands more quickly, more often and do their best to keep him out of harm's way.

Plus, there's Okwuegbunam's knee injury, which he aggravated in Dallas, to contend with. Patrick is also dealing with a knee injury.

Neither Okwuegbunam nor Patrick were practicing Wednesday; I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

But one thing we know now: The Broncos activated Fant off the COVID-19 reserve list on Wednesday; he will be available to play this week. ...

Beyond that. ... The Broncos may have to do some more shuffling in their secondary after cornerback Pat Surtain II exited the game with a knee injury. The injury is not expected to be season-ending, but the Broncos would need to shift some players around if Surtain must miss time.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer, K.J. Hamler
TEs: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

Roy Williams was dealt by the Detroit Lions five losses into the 2008 season and the former receiver was not surprised they ended up becoming the NFL's first 0-16 team.

"The writing was on the wall," Williams recalled last week.

Some, including one current player, are saying the Lions may make history again by becoming the league's first 17-game loser.

"If this doesn't get better, we're going to be 0-17," Detroit safety Tracy Walker said following last Sunday's 44-6 loss to Philadelphia.

Only one thing is for sure: Detroit did not lose in Week 9.

That's right. ... The Lions (0-8) come of the bye to play at Pittsburgh on Nov. 14, when they hope to avoid being the NFL's only winless team.

Dan Campbell, in his first year as a coach for a franchise he played for from 2006-08, insisted he's not using the possibility of being 0-17 to motivate his players to avoid the dubious distinction.

"You can't think like that and we're not going to let them think like that," Campbell said. "All we've got to worry about is, 'How do we go into this game, for example, in two weeks and we beat Pittsburgh?'

"That has got to be our sole focus. You can't think of anything else."

The current Lions, even if they fall to 0-17, are not expected to make major changes because Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes are in their first year. It's not their fault that former general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia left behind a mess in the Motor City.

As Associated Press sports writer Larry Lage notes, when comparing the two teams, the 2008 team went through three starting quarterbacks and played two others at the pivotal position. The current squad has started quarterback Jared Goff in every game and his job appears to be safe.

Holmes acquired Goff and a pair of first-round picks from the Los Angeles Rams for Matthew Stafford, whom Detroit drafted No. 1 overall in 2009 after its winless season.

It also appears, so far, that the Lions respect Campbell and his assistants, unlike the 2008 team's relationship with its coaches.

"I'm in touch with people in the organization and they tell me that Dan still has the locker room on his side and that's the biggest thing," said Stanton, who has followed the team for decades as a Michigan native. "I do think they have good people in every part of the organization and that hasn't been the case for a long, long time. Maybe ever.

"The 2008 team was dumpster fire. Rod is such a great man and wanted to right the ship. But he lost the locker room and once you do that, you can never get it back."

Williams, who gave Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson his Megatron nickname in Detroit, was shipped out of town -- and he wasn't the only one.

"If you spoke out to the media, you got put on IR or traded: (Jon) Kitna, myself, (Mike) Furrey, (Shaun Rogers) Big Baby," Williams said. "Kitna went on IR with migraines."

Detroit's headaches do not include dysfunction -- yet. ...

Of course, there have been bright spots. ... Running back D'Andre Swift is coming off an OK performance last week against Philadelphia, but the second-year back out of Georgia has had an overall good start to the 2021 season, especially with his impact in the passing game.

Swift's 47 receptions rank 10th in the NFL and first among running backs. His 415 receiving yards are also tops among running backs. He's got five total touchdowns, which leads the Lions through eight games.

Swift is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, but he's at his most explosive in the open field, and the Lions have been using the passing game as an extension of their run game with Swift to get him in those spaces. He's explosive and elusive, and has shown off his power a couple of times this season by running over defenders.

Beyond that, Detroit's leading pass catcher through eight games, T.J. Hockenson's 48 receptions are tied with Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle for the eighth most in the NFL, and are just one behind Kansas City's Travis Kelce (49) for the NFL lead among tight ends. His 448 receiving yards are fifth most among tight ends behind only Kelce (560), Mark Andrews (516), Kyle Pitts (484) and Mike Gesicki (475).

Hockenson only has two touchdown catches and none since Week 2, so the Lions have to find ways to get their best receiving threat more opportunities in the red zone the second half of the season.

The Lions will have another quarterback on the practice field when they return from their bye this week.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that Tim Boyle will return to practice. Boyle injured his thumb in the team's final preseason game and went on injured reserve after having surgery on it.

Boyle can practice for the next 21 days before the window to activate him will close. He can be added to the active roster at any point in that span.

Boyle appeared in 11 games for the Packers over the last two seasons and completed three of the four passes he threw in those appearances. If activated, he'd join David Blough as backups to Jared Goff on the 53-man roster. ...

On the injury front. ... Jamaal Williams (thigh) didn't practice Wednesday. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

The Lions claimed WR Josh Reynolds off waivers, a source tells NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Reynolds asked for, and was granted, his release by the Titans earlier this week. ...

And finally. ... The Lions waived wide receiver Tyrell Williams from injured reserve with an injury settlement, Benjamin Raven of Live reports.

It's worth noting the receiver's departure doesn't open a roster spot since he was on injured reserve.

Williams signed a one-year deal worth $4 million as part of Lions general manager Brad Holmes' first free-agent class.

Williams entered the season as the team's top receiver, then suffered a brain injury in the opener, never returning to the active roster. He played 39 snaps with the Lions, catching two of three targets for 14 yards. Williams hadn't returned to practice since suffering the injury, meaning it could be a long road back through concussion protocol.

It's been a tough couple of years for Williams, with the 29-year-old missing all of last year, meaning he's played only one game since 2019.

In addition, veteran tight end Darren Fells asked for and received his release from Detroit Monday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, KhaDarel Hodge, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy, Quintez Cephus
TEs: Brock Wright, Jared Pinkney, T.J. Hockenson

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reported it, "Jordan Love started slowly, struggled against the blitz and managed just one touchdown in his first start as the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback. But coach Matt LaFleur took the blame for the 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. ..."

With Aaron Rodgers at home because of his positive COVID-19 test on Wednesday, the Chiefs threw myriad blitzes at the Packers' first-time starter -- most of them on third and fourth downs -- and they worked to a T.

"This one falls on me, squarely," LaFleur said. "Certainly, for us to be 2-for-12 on third down, obviously didn't have a good enough plan for some of the zero pressures that they brought on us.

"But I thought our guys battled. I thought Jordan, I was really proud of the way he played. He hung in there, he was taking hits and delivering the ball. I thought he did a really good job. But I think that, ultimately, I've got to be better and this one falls squarely on me."

The Packers were in danger of being shut out for the first time in LaFleur's tenure until Love finally put together a scoring drive, hitting Allen Lazard for a 20-yard touchdown with 4 minutes, 54 seconds remaining. He never got the ball back after that.

"Obviously, not good enough," Love said when asked to assess his performance. "I think we started off a little slow; I started off a little slow, personally. I think we got into a bit of a rhythm later. Obviously, it was too late. Just not good enough."

His final numbers: 19-of-34 passing for 190 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He was sacked only once, but the Chiefs had him running to avoid several more. Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo sent five or more pass-rushers on 51 percent of Love's dropbacks, the highest rate faced by a Packers quarterback since Week 15 of the 2017 season -- the first game after Rodgers returned from his broken collarbone -- according to research by ESPN Stats and Information.

Demovsky went on to note that Love completed just 6 of 17 passes for 30 yards against the blitz, and 20 of those came on the touchdown pass. He was blitzed on 69 percent of his third- and fourth-down dropbacks. More than once, the Chiefs sent seven defenders -- known as a "zero blitz" -- after Love.

"I think we started having a better answer in the end, but yeah, they were bringing the all-out, they were eating us up and we just weren't able to execute on those plays that we had against it," Love said. "I think all it took was maybe one big play against it, and it wouldn't have been coming as much. Obviously, we weren't able to execute it, so that's why they kept bringing it."

Love tried but never was able to get into a rhythm with wide receiver Davante Adams, who was targeted 14 times but had just six catches for 42 yards.

Love's interception came on a sideline route by Adams in the fourth quarter.

"It's something that takes time being able to build that chemistry," Love said. "Obviously, it's something him and Aaron have very well; they've been together for a while. So, the chemistry wasn't there yet, but it's something that I think it would progress as the game went on. We were talking through some things and just getting on the same page. I think it progressed as the game went on."

Running back Aaron Jones said Love showed "that he's going to continue to fight, he's going to keep grinding and he's a true leader."

"He took control of the huddle even when we were down 13-0, he's still in the huddle, 'Hey, we need a play -- come on, guys, let's lock in,'" Jones continued. "All the right things you want to hear from your quarterback, and you can tell in that game he never once got down on himself and just continued to play."

Love said he battled some early nerves, missing on his first two throws on the opening series (a three-and-out), but that he believes he showed he's a starting-caliber quarterback. He might not get another start this season, meaning it could be the Packers' only chance to evaluate him in a game setting before deciding if he could replace Rodgers after this season.

Love did not play at all as a rookie after the Packers traded up to take him in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. He played in mop-up duty in the season-opening loss to the Saints and then watched Rodgers rattle off seven straight wins before his positive COVID-19 test.

Love said he heard from Rodgers before the game, and his message was: "'Just go out there and ball out.' He was excited to watch me. Said just trust my feet, which I think was really good advice coming from him."

LaFleur said Rodgers will start this week against the Seahawks as long as he clears the protocols in time. The earliest he could return to the team is Saturday, the day before the game when the Packers have only a walk-through session. LaFleur said that's early enough.

"He's our starting quarterback," LaFleur said. "We just have to make sure he's well in-tune with our plan and he feels good about it, and that we Zoom him in for the meetings.

"We'll see where we're at toward the end of the week."

It makes sense.

Rodgers doesn't need much, if any, practice at this point in his career. And, as Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee put it, "When Rodgers has been on his game, the Packers have been unbeatable. When he's been ineffective or unavailable, the Packers haven't won."

Other than Sunday's loss, Green Bay's only other defeat came when Rodgers threw for just 133 yards with two interceptions and no touchdown passes in a 38-3 season-opening loss to New Orleans. In the Packers' seven wins, Rodgers has thrown a combined 17 touchdown passes with only one interception.

Rodgers' performance during that seven-game win streak has helped the Packers (7-2) grab a commanding 3 ½-game lead in the NFC North even after losing Sunday.

"There's a lot to like about this team in terms of just the adversity we've faced," LaFleur said Monday. "We've had a lot of different guys in and out of the lineup. We've had a lot of guys get some great experience out there, and I think that's going to pay dividends down the stretch."

As good as Rodgers has been, an improved defense also has played a major role in getting the Packers atop the division standings. The Packers are allowing 20 points per game, 321.2 yards per game and 5.3 yards per play in their first year with new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Last season, they gave up 23.1 points per play, 334 yards per game and 5.5 yards per play.

Green Bay ranks fifth in the league in total defense and sixth in scoring defense despite playing much of the season without injured outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith and cornerback Jaire Alexander, who both earned Pro Bowl honors last season.

Also working in their favor?

The Packers are at home for five of their last eight games, starting Sunday when they host the Seahawks (3-5). ...

For the record. ... During an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday, Rodgers said that he's feeling well after experiencing some symptoms of COVID-19 after his positive test last week. He said he's excited to get back to work with the team, but acknowledged that there's a "small possibility" that he won't be in the lineup against the Seahawks.

Rodgers said he has to go through some testing upon his return to the team to ensure that his heart responds well to a return to "physical exertion." He said he will be doing workouts on his own this week in advance of the Saturday return to the Packers' facility.

The Packers will have to activate Rodgers from the COVID-19 reserve list on Saturday afternoon for him to play on Sunday, so we'll know how all the testing went well ahead of kickoff.

I will obviously be following up on Rodgers via Late-Breaking Updates in coming days. ...

Elsewhere on the injury front. .. Green Bay officially activated left tackle David Bakhtiari off the physically unable to perform list, where he’s been all season.

That makes Bakhtiari eligible to play Sunday against the Seahawks, and they presumably wouldn’t have activated him if they weren’t planning to put him on the field.

Bakhtiari has been out since suffering a torn ACL in Week 16 last season. ...

Also of interest. ... The football world awaits word of where wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will sign as a free agent and there’s now word of contact with at least a couple of teams looking for an offensive jolt.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Packers have offered Beckham a contract for the rest of the season at the minimum salary for a veteran player. He adds that the number could go up, but notes that they won’t be able to pay him “a ton.”

Rodgers wasn’t shy about sharing his feelings about the effort the Packers have put into stocking the offense with weapons over the years. Signing Beckham would represent a big swing in the other direction, although money may prove to be a sticking point if other teams are willing and/or able to make more aggressive moves to secure his services.

Beckham, who officially hit the open market at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, has also reportedly been in contact with the Patriots. ...

Kicker Mason Crosby had a franchise-record streak of 27 consecutive successful field-goal attempts snapped last month at Cincinnati. Since making his first three field-goal tries in that Bengals game, Crosby has made just four of his last 10 attempts. The transition to a new holder, with Corey Bojorquez taking over for JK Scott, has played a role.

The laces have been pointing in the wrong direction on some of Crosby's recent misses. Green Bay also switched long snappers last week, with Steven Wirtel replacing Hunter Bradley.

And finally. ... The NFL has concluded its review into the Packers' COVID-19 protocols and fined the franchise $300,000 and Rodgers and Lazard $14,650 each for violations of the league and NFL Players Association protocols, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday night.

The team was also notified that future violations could be subject to more severe discipline, such as lowered or lost draft picks, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.

Rodgers and Lazard's fines are a result of attending a team-sanctioned Halloween party, Garafolo reported. As both are unvaccinated, they are prohibited from attending gatherings outside team facilities. Per the NFL/NFLPA protocol guidelines, gathering outside of the club facility in a group of more than three players is subject to a $14,650 fine.

The Packers' team fine was brought forth by the NFL's review determining the team should have penalized both players, Garafolo reported.

The review also found that there were a few instances in which Rodgers and Lazard were not wearing face coverings inside the team facility, which is a violation of protocol. However, the league found the team was otherwise compliant and there was no widespread or systematic mask-wearing violations, Garafolo reported.

The NFL announced Wednesday it was conducting a review into the Packers organization's COVID-19 protocol enforcement in the aftermath of Rodgers testing positive for the virus.

Lazard was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Oct. 26 as a close contact of Adams, who had a positive test for COVID-19. Lazard has since been activated.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Benkert, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Kylin Hill
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor, Randall Cobb
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Robert Tonyan

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

After the Texans lost their eighth straight game, coach David Culley made a point to talk to quarterback Tyrod Taylor to "keep him encouraged."

After all, the Texans had fallen to 1-8, losing 17-9 to the Miami Dolphins (2-7) in a game that the team was hopeful would get it back on track with Taylor's return.

Houston had struggled in the six starts rookie Davis Mills made when Taylor was on injured reserve with a left hamstring injury, and in the week leading up to Taylor's start, Culley talked about "the lift" he hoped the veteran quarterback would provide.

Instead, Taylor completed just 24 of 43 passes for 240 yards and three interceptions. He had a QBR of 13.1. It was just the second time in his 11-year NFL career that Taylor threw three interceptions in a game, and just the second time he threw more than one in a contest.

"He felt like going into that game that he knew that if he played well, we'd have a chance to win the game," Culley said. "And he didn't. And I just want to assure him that next time around, next time we go, when we go to Tennessee, that it's going to be better. That he's going to be better, and we're going to have a chance to win if he plays like he should."

After the game, Taylor said his "uncharacteristic" turnovers were "bad decisions," and that he needed to do better to give his team an opportunity to win the game.

"It's up to me to execute," Taylor said. "Obviously it's a team sport. But I'm the one that touched the ball every play, and I have to be better at executing."

Although Taylor was coming off an extended stay on injured reserve, he said he didn't think the time off was the reason for his poor play.

"We can sit here and give him an excuse that he hadn't played in six weeks, but he's been around," Culley said. "He's practiced. He's a veteran. We knew the situation going in. He knew the situation going in. He just didn't play very well."

But even though the Texans didn't get the game they expected, or needed, from Taylor, safety Justin Reid said even the defense could see the spark the veteran quarterback provided.

"You did feel it, though," Reid said. "With his leadership and his presence back, there was a better energy because he's a true leader on this team and guys follow behind him and follow behind his lead."

Now, as ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop notes, the Texans enter the bye week with a minus-130 point differential, which is the worst through nine games in team history. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, the Texans are the fifth team in the past 10 seasons to have been outscored by at least 130 points in the first nine games of a season.

Taylor said the Texans need to "regroup" during the bye week and "continue to keep pushing" to finish the season, even with the team's losing record.

Unfortunately for the Texans, when they return from their bye in Week 11, they face the Tennessee Titans (7-2), who have the best record in the AFC.

"[We] have to go out there and play the rest of the season," Taylor said. "Take it one game at a time. Take it one day at a time. As far as hope, it's not a lack of hope. If anything, guys are eager to get out there and turn it around. I think the bye week comes at a spot where we can regroup and prepare ourselves mentally and physically to get back on the field."

Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken notes, the Texans have plenty of areas that need help after getting just one win in nine games, but perhaps their biggest issue outside of problems at quarterback is an inability to run the ball.

Houston ranks 31st in yards rushing a game with just 75.8. The addition of Mark Ingram was supposed to help improve the team's ground game after the Texans were also the second-worst rushing team in the league last season. Instead, he failed to do much after a solid game in the opener and was traded to the Saints on Oct. 27, leaving David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead to carry the running game.

With Ingram gone, Lindsay is the team's leading rusher with 133 yards this season.

Johnson continues to underperform in his second season in Houston after arriving as part of the trade for star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The seven-year veteran started 12 games for the Texans last season but has been relegated to a backup this year behind Ingram and Lindsay.

When he has played, he's been largely ineffective and has just 119 yards rushing.

That might explain why the Texans claimed running back Royce Freeman off waivers from the Panthers on Tuesday.

In a corresponding move, the Texans placed running back Scottie Phillips on injured reserve with a leg injury. Phillips has 13 yards on six carries and two receptions for 9 yards in 2021.

Freeman played eight of nine games for the Panthers this season, with 21 carries for 77 yards and three catches for 15 yards. He saw action on 103 offensive snaps and 33 on special teams.

The Broncos drafted Freeman in the third round in 2018, and he spent three seasons in Denver. He was claimed off waivers by the Panthers Sept. 2 after being cut by the Broncos.

Freeman has rushed for 1,187 career yards and has added 69 catches for 409 yards. He has nine career touchdowns.

The Texans will need one of these players to step up to improve the ground game and take some pressure off Taylor if Houston is to improve offensively. ...

Looking for positives?

The Texans forced a season-high five turnovers Sunday to give them 14 this season, tied for 10th most in the league. Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, in his first year in Houston, made creating turnovers a priority this season after the Texans ranked last in the NFL in 2020 with just nine all year.

On the injury front. ... LT Laremy Tunsil has been out since having surgery on his left thumb on Oct. 14 but could return to practice next week as the Texans prepare for the Titans. ... LB Christian Kirksey was placed on the injured reserve Friday after also having thumb surgery and the earliest he could return is Dec. 5. ... C Justin Britt went on the injured reserve with a knee injury Oct. 30 and it's unclear how long he'll be out.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Davis Mills, Tyrod Taylor, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, Royce Freeman, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Danny Amendola, Davion Davis, Jordan Veasy
TEs: Brevin Jordan, Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Jeff Driskel

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Mike Wells suggested, Jonathan Taylor is continuing to show he's the second best running back in the NFL, behind Tennessee's Derrick Henry.

Indeed, Taylor bounced from media obligation to media obligation, the kind of thing superstar players do after nationally-televised primetime games, in the wake of another staggering performance in the Colts' 45-30 win over the New York Jets last Thursday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

In each one, the second-year running back took the spotlight being shined on him and held up a mirror to reflect it back on to his teammates.

And that even went for a former teammate of his. When Taylor heard he hit a top speed of 22 miles per hour on his 78-yard touchdown run -- the fastest speed a ball carrier has reached this season -- he gave a shoutout to Isaac Guerendo, a running back at Wisconsin who hit 23 miles per hour one summer in Madison.

"Ever since then I've been trying to turn and hit 23," Taylor said.

That's coming from a guy whose speed fellow running back Nyheim Hines described as "deceptive" and center Ryan Kelly said is "undervalued."

According to Colts.com's JJ Stankevitz, the kind of player Taylor has become in Year 2 is clear. His vision, toughness, acceleration, speed and patience again propelled him to a supernova performance, with 172 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns against the Jets in Week 9. He now owns the two longest running plays in the NFL this season (83 and 78 yards) and leads the league with 1,114 yards from scrimmage.

Now past the halfway point of the 2021 season, there's a very real chance for Taylor to compete for the NFL rushing title. He's averaging 5.9 yards per carry and is on pace to eclipse 250 carries this season; if he hits both of those numbers, he'd become just the sixth player in NFL history to do so.

"He's going crazy," Hines said.

But there's a reason Taylor is quick to credit teammates for his success.

Physical blocking on the perimeter delivered by guys like Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal and Ashton Dulin has been critical in helping him turn seven or eight yards into 70 or 80. The Colts have a mentality of "11 as one in the run game," Kelly said, emphasizing the need for every player on the field to do his job to churn out those morale-crushing explosive run plays.

Since the start of October, Taylor leads the NFL in both running plays of 10-plus yards and 20-plus yards; three of those 20-plus yard rushes have now gone for touchdowns.

"When he gets to the second level, I feel like it's going to the house," head coach Frank Reich said. "He's just fast, strong and elusive. Playing really good. Our receivers really work hard down the field so they're going to get him all the help he can have down there."

And it's not just the offensive line, tight ends and wide receivers -- quarterback Carson Wentz checked the Colts into some advantageous running plays last Thursday, properly reading the defense in front of him and calling for the ball to get in Taylor's hands. One of those run checks came on Taylor's 21-yard touchdown, his first of the game.

But let's go back to Taylor's speed.

When he needs to make a defensive back miss -- as he did with Jets safety Ashtyn Davis on his 78-yard touchdown Thursday -- his combination of size (226 pounds) and speed puts those last-line-of-defense opponents in extremely difficult positions.

"You look at him and he's a big back," Kelly said, "but his ability to run and create DB (missed tackles) and have to take really, really deep pursuit angles to get to him just adds more yards."

There is no limit, seemingly, on what Taylor can do, armed with his own skillset and an offense stocked with nasty, physical blockers from sideline to sideline.

"He can do it between tackles, he's physical, he's downhill, he can slash," Wentz said. "Then you get him out in space, nobody's catching him."

No doubt.

And, as Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot notes, even as Taylor delivers the highlights, Hines is the ideal complementary back. He had a nifty 34-yard TD run to start the scoring Thursday and finished with six carries for 74 yards while catching four passes for 34 yards. The Colts already rewarded Hines with a three-year contract extension.

With Hines chipping in with Indy finished with a league-high 260 yards rushing against a run defense that was ranked No. 7.

But Taylor clearly has kicked it into high gear.

The second-year man has now run for at least 100 yards in four of his last six games. He has at least one touchdown in each of those six outings and has two touchdowns in two of them.

Just wait until they start giving him 20 carries a game -- a number he's yet to reach so far.

Worth noting: Taylor missed a handful of play after taking a hard shot directly to his knee, but he returned and played without difficulty.

I'll be watching for more on that in coming days -- as well T.Y. Hilton, who was out with concussion. Reich told reporters on Monday that the veteran wideout remained in the concussion protocol as the week began, but he was on the practice field Wednesday. Health has been an issue as injuries have limited Hilton to just two games this season.

Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section in coming days for more on Taylor and Hilton. ...

Meanwhile, a second straight victory would put Indianapolis at .500 for the first time this season. The Colts have been playing better since their brutal five-game stretch to open the schedule. But to make the playoffs -- and win in the postseason -- they must start beating some playoff-caliber teams.

As Wells notes, that might be difficult as the Colts have yet to beat a team with winning record this season. They'll have several opportunities to do it because Buffalo and Tampa are their opponents in two of the next three games. With the defense struggling, the Colts may have to rely even more on the running game to keep the opposing offense on the sideline.

This week's opponent, the Jaguars only have two wins this season, but one of them was a shocking victory over the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Carson Wentz, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Deon Jackson
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

According to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco, it looks like the Jaguars will have three of their top offensive players on the field for Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

Head coach Urban Meyer said Monday that injured quarterback Trevor Lawrence (ankle) and running back James Robinson (heel) will be limited this week because of their injuries, but he expects both -- along with injured left tackle Cam Robinson (back) -- to play against the Colts.

"Trevor's good. I just saw him," Meyer said Monday afternoon. "He should be a go this week. Fergie [director of athletic training Jeff Ferguson] is saying a little limited. I don't believe that. Knowing Trevor, he'll be ready to go on Wednesday."

Lawrence was hurt with 3:16 remaining in the first half of the Jaguars' 9-6 victory over Buffalo. The injury at first appeared to be serious, as Lawrence was helped from the field into the locker room, but the quarterback returned before the half ended and played the remainder of the game.

Lawrence said after the game that X-rays on his ankle were negative and it felt progressively better, so he was able to return. Meyer said Monday Lawrence will not have to wear a protective boot on his right ankle.

James Robinson did not play against the Bills because of a bruised right heel his suffered in the Jaguars' Oct. 31 loss at Seattle. Robinson did not practice last Wednesday or Thursday, was limited Friday, and tested his foot out during pregame warmups before the team decided he couldn't play against Buffalo.

"I expect him to be limited a little bit early in the week but I'm hearing everything's real positive [for Sunday]," Meyer said. Robinson leads the Jaguars with 482 yards rushing and is tied for third on the team with 18 receptions.

Cam Robinson experienced some back tightness before Sunday's game against the Bills and was held out, giving rookie Walker Little his first start. Little had played just one offensive snap all season until Sunday. Robinson is playing the 2021 season on the franchise tag ($13.754 million).

The Bills game was the first game he's missed since he returned from a torn ACL in Week 3 of the 2019 season.

What's next?

Make no mistake: Beating the top team in the AFC despite missing both Robinsons -- especially after playing so poorly last week in Seattle -- is a major step forward in the rebuild for a franchise that can't seem to get out of its own way. The Jaguars didn't play great football - they had four drops, including one in the end zone, and kicker Matt Wright missed three field goals (two voided by penalty) -- but they made enough plays to get the upset.

It should be a major confidence builder for a young franchise. But it's just one step.

"It's no good unless we build on it," Meyer told his team following Sunday's win

Indeed, as Associated Press sports writer Mark Long suggests, the Jaguars need to better handle success. They followed their win in London with a stinker at Seattle.

The Jaguars (2-6) have two more dubious streaks they'd like to wipe out in the second half of the season: They haven't won a road game since December 2019 -- a 12-game skid that's currently the longest in the NFL -- and haven't won consecutive games since October of that same season.

They play at Indianapolis (4-5) on Sunday, a chance to prove Sunday's defensive masterpiece was more than a fluke.

Another victory would go a long way toward cementing Jacksonville's belief that the franchise is finally headed in the right direction after looking lost for the better part of the last four seasons -- and really the better part of the last two decades.

The Jaguars have won two of their last three games, a modest turnaround for a team that has endured its share of tumultuous times.

Jacksonville's stout run defense will be tested against Indianapolis, which ranks fifth in the NFL with 137.3 yards a game on the ground. The Colts ran for 260 yards in a 45-30 win against the New York Jets last week. The Jaguars are giving up 3.79 yards a carry, which ranks third in the league. ...

Stay tuned. I'll have more on Lawrence, who was limited Wednesday, and Robinson, who sat Wednesday out, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Jaguars.com's John Oehser, speed at receiver remains an issue. The Jaguars' lack of speed at receiver showed again Sunday. The leading receiver was receiver/returner Jamal Agnew with three receptions for 27 yards. This contributed to a difficult day passing, with Lawrence completing 15 of 26 passes for 118 yards.

Marvin Jones Jr. caught 3-of-5 targets for 21 yards and Laviska Shenault Jr. caught 4-of-4 targets for 24 yards. He also had a carry for minus-4 yards.

Shenault has struggled since taking over the 'X' receiving role previously held by D.J. Chark Jr.

Meanwhile, Dan Arnold caught 4-of-7 targets for 60 yards and the journeyman has fully joined the ranks of the fantasy relevant.

With 12 catches (on 17 targets) for 128 yards, the recently-acquired tight end has led Jacksonville in receiving over the last two games. He's clearly a solid fit for the offense and his 32 targets in the five games since he joined the team are an indication of that. ...

The Jaguars missed Robinson. The Jaguars were held to 79 yards on 27 carries.

Carlos Hyde carried the ball 21 times for 67 yards. If Robinson returns to the lineup this week, Hyde's role diminishes.

If Robinson misses another game, Hyde would once again be a viable option against the Colts.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Carlos Hyde, B.J. Emmons, James Robinson
WRs: Marvin Jones, Laquon Treadwell, Laviska Shenault, Tavon Austin, D.J. Chark, Jamal Agnew
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Chris Manhertz, Jacob Hollister, Luke Farrell, Dan Arnold

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta reported, Patrick Mahomes threw for his lowest passing total ever in a game that he completed.

The Chiefs never got backup running backs Darrel Williams or Derrick Gore going. Stars such as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were held in check.

So naturally, the Chiefs beat the Green Bay Packers with their defense.

Wait, what?

Yes, one of the league's worst defenses through the first eight weeks of the regular season was one of its best in Week 9, blitzing Aaron Rodgers' understudy Jordan Love relentlessly in a 13-7 victory Sunday. The Chiefs picked off a pass near their goal line, hit Love seven times and sacked him once, and stuffed Aaron Jones and Co. on the ground.

Green Bay finished 2 of 12 on third down and managed 301 yards as its seven-game win streak ended.

"It has been kind of rough all year to get in the flow, to get things going," Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said. "I said a few week ago that we were getting healthy. That was the No. 1 thing. Then you start getting into the flow with your whole group with those ones and I feel like that is what's been happening. The camaraderie in practice has been high. Guys are starting to respond better to the task at hand. We are just going out there and having fun again."

Now, as Skretta suggests, it's the Chiefs' high-flying offense that isn't having any fun.

Mahomes was just 20 of 37 for 166 yards and a touchdown in another lackluster performance. Williams and Gore combined to average 3.8 yards per carry. Hill and Kelce combined for nine catches but barely topped 100 yards together.

Just about the only bright spot was the fact that Kansas City didn't turn the ball over for a change.

"I think practice, especially these last few weeks, has been crisp. I think we just have to execute when it comes to game day," Mahomes said. "It's different on game day. You can practice as hard as you want and have great practices, but if you aren't going to go out there and execute on game days, it won't matter."

If there's a silver lining, it's that the Chiefs (5-4) have won the past two weeks despite their sputtering offense, putting them in a favorable spot in the AFC West heading to Las Vegas on Sunday night.

"We'll go through that process of continuing to keep that practice tempo up, continuing to work on things here and there, and hopefully it translates to the game," Mahomes said, "and we can find that same mojo that we had at the beginning of the season with the defense playing like they're playing now."

That said, ESPN.com's Adam Teicher advised readers not to assume the Chiefs have fixed their many issues and all is good for them on defense. They did a nice job of picking on the inexperienced Love and making him uncomfortable in the pocket.

After back-to-back home games, the Chiefs head to Las Vegas on Sunday night for a crucial AFC West game. The Raiders and Chargers are 5-3 while the Chiefs and Broncos are 5-4. It starts a streak where four of the next five games for Kansas City are against division foes.

We'll know the Chiefs have arrived defensively if they get similar results against Las Vegas' Derek Carr and Dallas' Dak Prescott in the next two weeks.

More than anything else, the Chiefs need some confidence on offense. That high-flying, daring bunch that led them to three straight AFC title games has been replaced by a timid, seemingly lost bunch of stars. Part of it is defenses that simply refuse to allow the deep ball, but part of it is the Chiefs' inability to adapt to the way teams are playing them.

At some point, believing head coach Andy Reid and Mahomes can get this offense back on track doesn't seem like a huge reach. ...

Speaking of Reid. ... He moved into a tie with Curly Lambeau for fifth on the career regular-season wins list. Reid's total includes 130 with the Eagles and 96 with the Chiefs. He can move into fifth place alone against the Raiders on Sunday, and then set his sights on Tom Landry (250).

Other notes of interest. ... Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson has seen his playing time dwindle over the past few weeks, and recently signed Josh Gordon played more snaps than him on Sunday.

Robinson had just one catch for 2 yards against Green Bay.

On the injury front. ... Right tackle Lucas Niang hurt his ribs early in the game. He already was starting in place of Mike Remmers, who was out with a knee injury, and that meant third-stringer Andrew Wylie had to finish the game. ... Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (knee) is eligible to come off injured reserve, but Reid was non-committal when asked about a timeline Monday.

"These next two weeks will be important for him," Reid said.

Turns out the next thee weeks will be important. Edwards-Helaire was officially designated to return from IR on Wednesday.

I'll be following up on Edwards-Helaire via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, Jerick McKinnon
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Josh Gordon
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez suggested, this was a different Derek Carr on the artificial turf in the Meadowlands for the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, polar opposite from the efficient and accurate quarterback we last saw two weeks ago before the bye.

Before former Raiders receiver Henry Ruggs III was involved in a fiery car crash that killed 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her dog and injured his girlfriend and himself early Tuesday morning and left Ruggs facing felony DUI with death and reckless driving charges that could lead to 46 years in prison.

An emotional Carr spoke on Wednesday of the need to compartmentalize emotions and do the job. And despite saying emotions had nothing to do with it, something was obviously off with Carr in the Raiders' 23-16 upset loss at the New York Giants.

"This one's on me," Carr said, downplaying the notion of emotions manifesting themselves on the field. "Please, just talk about me turning the ball over."

Carr threw two interceptions, including a pick-six early in the third quarter, and was strip-sacked while driving for a potential game-tying touchdown and PAT inside the Giants' 20-yard line with 37 seconds to play, sealing Las Vegas' fate. He also badly overthrew a wide-open Darren Waller in the end zone in the first half.

In fact, all three of Carr's turnovers against the Giants came in the second half. He entered the game with just five turnovers all season.

All this after completing 91.2 percent of his passes against the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks prior.

"You can't turn the ball over," Carr reiterated. "That's why we lost the game. We fight at the end, we get a touchdown, we win the game, we're talking about different stuff. Not certain emotions and all that kind of stuff. At the end of the day, we're football players. So we play football. You just can't turn it over.

"The second interception, Zay Jones ran a double move, I tried to fit it in before the safety (Xavier McKinney) got there. He got there. That had nothing to do with emotion. That was a decision that I made, and it didn't work out."

Gutierrez went on to suggest the Raiders (5-3) doing a pratfall coming out of the bye fits a certain narrative -- they are now 3-16 in their first game after the bye week since 2003.

But the issues need to be fixed, and quick, lest their season spiral out of control as it did the past two seasons.

In 2019, the Raiders were 6-4 before finishing 7-9. And in 2020, they were 6-3 before ending 8-8.

Up next, the seemingly resurgent Kansas City Chiefs on "Sunday Night Football" at Allegiant Stadium.

Carr's passer rating of 72.4 was the second lowest of the season (he had a 67.1 rating in a Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears), and he ended up throwing for 296 yards and a TD with the two INTs, completing 30 of 46 attempts. Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia was not sure "off" was the right word in describing Carr's game.

"I know there's some plays out there he'd love to have back," Bisaccia conceded, however.

"Certain throws go certain ways and sometimes they're a little high or low or a lot of guys make those catches. Again, we didn't execute on either end."

As such, Bisaccia also said he did not see any issues in the game regarding emotions, resilience, effort, attitude or poise.

Waller (seven catches for a game-high 92 yards), receiver Hunter Renfrow (seven catches, including a 2-yard TD) and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who had two sacks for the third time in four games, agreed.

"Incredibly tough what happened," Renfrow said. "It's just a tragedy. It was very sad. It was a tough week, but we have to come out and play better than we did. I think as we go forward, it's going to make us tighter. A lot of adversity this season, but I think just getting better every day is going to be the key to it."

The Raiders also went through the emotions of Jon Gruden's email investigation and ensuing resignation as head coach last month.

"Personally, it's blown me back a bit because Coach Gruden was somebody that risked a chance bringing me in, to give me a chance to play football again," said Waller, who battled addiction earlier in his career. "And Henry is somebody that everybody liked. Not just because he was the fastest person you ever seen run on the field, but he was a good person and a respectful person, somebody that you liked being around on a daily basis.

"It is shocking. It does hurt a little bit. But all we can do is the best we can to move forward and focus on football. Nobody asked for this, but at the same time, as far as training and resiliency and adversity, I feel like we're getting the best practice and training you could possibly get in that. So we've just got to keep moving forward."

From a pure football standpoint, the lack of a deep threat affected the Raiders' game plan in a big way. Safeties were able to cheat more than in the past. The Raiders addressed that with receiver DeSean Jackson, who said Sunday he was signing with the team.

But that news broke after the Raiders boarded their buses for the flight home. After Carr again said emotions had nothing to do with his performance.

"I try to be a model of consistency," Carr said. "Not for anybody else but so I can tell my kids the right way to do it. So, you go out and almost complete them all [against the Eagles], and it's like, 'Keep it up.'

"You go out there and you have a rough day [against the Giants], turning the ball over, it's ... I'm not going to change. I'm going to try to learn from those mistakes."

Meanwhile, the hits kept coming this week: Cornerback Damon Arnette was then cut on Monday in response to a social media post in which he was brandishing a gun and threatening to kill someone.

The departure of the two 2020 first-round picks coupled with the loss that looked similar to late-season collapses the past two seasons have put a dent into the optimism surrounding the Raiders.

"I understand the perception from the outside looking in because of this past week," general manager Mike Mayock said. "I get it. I understand it. But we couldn't feel further from that perception. We think the truth is we got a good, young core. I love the way Coach Bisaccia is working with these kids, they're all buying in. We had a bad day yesterday, but I can't wait to see how we get challenged this week, how we challenge these players and how we come out and play against Kansas City."

They clearly feel they're missing something with Ruggs out of the picture, however, so Jackson is coming to Vegas to try to boost the offense in the weeks to come.

Jackson, who turns 35 on Dec. 1, met with Raiders officials via Zoom on Saturday, a source confirmed to ESPN. A second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008 out of Cal, Jackson played for the Los Angeles Rams this season before asking for and being granted his release last week.

In seven games, with no starts, he caught eight passes for 221 yards, averaging 27.6 yards per catch, with a touchdown.

The three-time Pro Bowler had his best season in 2013, when he had career highs in catches (82), receiving yards (1,332) and TDs (9). He also led the NFL in average yards per catch four different times -- 2010 with Philadelphia (22.5), 2014 with Washington (20.9), 2016 with Washington (17.9) and 2018 with Tampa Bay (18.9). ...

Expect Jackson to have an immediate role. It'll be on him to make something of it.

That said, he's clearly a fit.

As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow notes, Carr is tied for the NFL lead with 23 completions that have traveled at least 20 yards downfield as his willingness to go deep has helped open up the offense. Carr's career high on deep completions was 29 set last year, and he had never had more than 15 through eight games before this season.

Jackson's 123 catches on deep balls are the most in the NFL since 2000. ...

Even with the addition of Jackson to the roster this week, the Las Vegas Raiders are continuing to kick the tires on possible additions to the roster at receiver.

Via Aaron Wilson of Sportstalk 790, the Raiders worked out Jaelen Strong, Jeff Badet, Gary Jennings and Marqise Lee.

In addition to the four receivers, the Raiders also looked at quarterback Kevin Hogan. Hogan has appeared in eight total games in the NFL with one start for the Cleveland Browns in 2017. He’s also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Football Team, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals.

Since receivers need someone to throw them passes, Hogan likely served that role for the purposes of the workouts.

A few final notes. ... The Raiders have vowed the past two seasons to improve their red-zone offense, without success. Las Vegas ranks 27th in converting red zone drives into TDs and those issues played a big role in the loss to the Giants. The Raiders got into the red zone six times but settled for one TD and three field goals.

Daniel Carlson missed a short kick and Carr lost a fumble on the final drive.

Josh Jacobs, the team's 2019 first-round running back, has been hampered by injuries again this season but hasn't provided the big plays he did as a rookie. Jacobs is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and doesn't have a run longer than 15 yards on the season.

He is coming off his most productive game of the season with 76 yards on 13 carries, which could bode well for the second half.

Remember, Sunday night's game against Kansas City is the start a difficult three-game stretch. After hosting the Chiefs, they have a home game against Cincinnati and a Thanksgiving Day game at Dallas. Las Vegas then must make back-to-back trips to Kansas City and Cleveland in December.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Peyton Barber, Jalen Richard, Kenyan Drake
WRs: Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, DeSean Jackson, Bryan Edwards, Dillon Stoner
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Daniel Helm, Nick Bowers, Derek Carrier, Matt Bushman

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

After two wins on the East Coast and four fourth-quarter comebacks, Brandon Staley isn't surprised the Los Angeles Chargers are 5-3 and tied atop the AFC West.

"I think we've earned exactly the record that we have right now. Our record is an accurate reflection of where we're at as a football team," the first-year coach said on Monday, the day after his squad rallied for a 27-24 victory at Philadelphia.

As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy reminded readers, the Chargers were 2-6 at the midway point last season due to blowing double-digit leads in four games. This season they are winning the close games with their fourth-quarter performances. Los Angeles' 77 points in the final 15 minutes is fifth and the Bolts are averaging a league-best 121 yards.

The tone was set during the Sept. 12 opener in Washington when the defense forced a turnover deep in WFT territory and Justin Herbert connected with Mike Williams for the go-ahead touchdown. Los Angeles also had a nearly six-minute drive at the end of the game with the lead to close it out.

"We've got a quarterback that can get the ball to playmakers, and to be able to come get these wins on the road, it is just showing what type of team we have," safety Derwin James said.

Reedy pointed out the win against the Eagles had some of the same traits, including a 15-play, 64-yard drive at the end of the game that led to Dustin Hopkins' winning field goal with 2 seconds remaining.

Herbert is tied for fifth in the league with 18 passing TDs. His 100.6 passer rating in the fourth quarter is third in the AFC, trailing Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Buffalo's Josh Allen.

Four of his five career fourth-quarter comeback wins have happened this season.

"None of the games in the NFL are going to be easy. That's kind of what we figured out the past couple of weeks. To battle through all of that adversity and come out on the other side. I think it's huge for us," Herbert said.

Los Angeles is home the next two weeks but faces challenging opponents in Minnesota and Pittsburgh. The Vikings are 3-5 but have the explosive Dalvin Cook, who is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The Steelers game figures to have ramifications for the playoff race because the all teams in the AFC North and West are tightly bunched.

Other notes of interest. ... Keenan Allen and Herbert's connection was on full display in Philadelphia.

Allen chipped away at the Eagles secondary for 104 receiving yards on the day and put up the 30th 100-yard receiving game of his career. He finished the game just three yards shy of hitting 8,000 career receiving yards.

Herbert, had a day of his own throwing for 356 yards and scored three total touchdowns, but after the game, discussed the performance Allen put together and his dependability on games days.

"I thought he was incredible," Herbert said. "You know, he's one of those guys you go to on third down and all season long, he's been super dependable. He's had such a great work ethic the past couple of weeks and it shows out there on the field."

Williams, meanwhile, is on pace for a career high in receptions and receiving yards.

The 2017 first-round draft pick, who is in the final year of his contract, has 37 catches and is eighth in the AFC with 575 yards. Williams was mainly used as a deep threat the past two seasons, but he already has 27 receptions within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage after having 26 all of last season, and 186 yards after catch.

Williams has been limited to six receptions in the past three games, but he did have a 49-yard catch against the Eagles to set up a third-quarter touchdown.

Thanks to Williams, Austin Ekeler among others, there have been six games this season when Herbert has had multiple passing TDs and a rushing score, tying Kyler Murray and Cam Newton for the most through a player's first two seasons in NFL history.

Herbert, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, also became the only player in NFL history to reach 600 completions through the first 25 starts of a career. Sunday was his 23rd start. ...

Tight ends accounted for 14 of the team's 27 points on Sunday. Jared Cook, Donald Parham Jr. and Stephen Anderson combined for 11 catches for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cook also added a reception on a successful two-point conversion attempt.

In just his second game in a Bolts uniform, kicker Dustin Hopkins was faced with the task of hitting a game-winning field goal. Hopkins, who had experience with kicking in Philadelphia when he played for the Eagles' NFC East rival Washington Football Team, nailed the attempt.

Hopkins, who missed an extra point in the third quarter of Sunday's game, discussed having the opportunity to go back on the field and redeem himself despite facing the pressure of late-game kicks.

"It's kind of a cool feeling that you could potentially be your very best in that moment," he said. "Also, after an opportunity that you didn't capitalize on early, it's kind of like you want that again, so it was nice to have the opportunity."

The kick resonated with Hopkins' teammates as Allen said there's "nothing better" than a walk-off field goal.

On the injury front. ... Justin Jackson missed this game with a quad injury; his status for this week is unclear. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...

Beyond that, ESPN.com's Shelley Smith wonders what will the Chargers do about their decimated secondary? Against the Eagles, the Chargers were without Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion) and Michael Davis (hamstring), and their absences were felt, as the Chargers were reduced to using practice-squad call-ups at corner.

They have to hope more practice reps will get the backups up to speed before next week. ...

And finally. ... Staley has lived up to his pregame promise of being aggressive on fourth-and-short. The Chargers lead the league with 11 successful fourth-down conversions and their 64.7 percent conversion rate is sixth in the league. They are also second in converting on third-and-long situations (plays with more than six yards to go), making 17 of 45.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, K.J. Hill, Josh Reed, Maurice Ffrench
TEs: Jared Cook, Stephen Anderson, Tre' McKitty, Donald Parham

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham notes, the Los Angeles Rams have hit the halfway point of the season as a clear NFC contender boasting a star-studded defense and a prolific passing offense.

Head coach Sean McVay's team also has plenty of potentially serious flaws in its high-risk, high-reward strategy of chasing a championship.

The Rams dropped to 7-2 on Sunday night with a 28-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans, snapping a four-game winning streak. Los Angeles was excellent in stretches and ended up dominating in total yardage, but Matthew Stafford's back-to-back interceptions in the second quarter put his team in an 11-point hole from which it couldn't escape, even with 42 minutes of clock time to do it.

"A few things went wrong at the perfectly imperfect time yesterday," NFL receiving leader Cooper Kupp said Monday.

That's the looming problem for the Rams, who are relying on everything to go right in several key areas.

Beacham went on to explain that, in the big picture, the Rams are in great shape, with more victories than all but one other NFL team. They're scoring 29 points per game with an offense averaging 399 yards per game, while their defense is moving up the league rankings with another huge boost expected when Von Miller makes his Rams debut, perhaps Monday night at San Francisco.

"But potential concerns are lurking everywhere just below the Rams' shiny surface," Beacham added.

The only team with eight wins happens to be in the Rams' division -- and Arizona already beat Los Angeles once, meaning the Rams could easily end up as a wild card playoff team.

Stafford's offense is producing splendidly, but it's relying heavily on good health and the continued effectiveness of almost exactly the same schemes and personnel McVay has been using all year.

Not only did McVay use "11 personnel" -- formations with three receivers, one tight end and one running back -- on all 74 offensive snaps against the Titans, eight of his 11 starters never left the field, while receiver Van Jefferson and tight end Tyler Higbee only missed five combined snaps.

Such unbending reliance on a single setup is almost unheard of in the modern NFL. Aside from making the Rams easier to scout, it also forces Los Angeles to rely heavily on its starters' continued health: If Kupp, Robert Woods or Jefferson gets hurt, Stafford will have to throw to untested rookie Ben Skowronek, an inexperienced veteran salvaged from the practice squad or some brand-new signee.

"I think you do want to be mindful of the workload on those guys when they're playing so many snaps," McVay said Monday. "There's pros and cons to both, and so we will look at that. I do think that mixing in some different personnel groupings from time to time certainly doesn't hurt, even if you are a majority 11-personnel outfit."

But McVay's disinterest in expanding his personnel groupings already cost him DeSean Jackson, who abandoned his hometown team last month after just seven games because he played on only about 22 percent of their offensive snaps. As Beacham suggests, just like general manager Les Snead's philosophy of trading draft picks for impact players, McVay's strategies are splendid when they're working.

The potential drawbacks of LA's brash, confident ways are still looming on the horizon -- but until they get closer, the Rams are in great shape.

Kyle Shanahan has owned McVay the past two seasons even while the Rams were significantly better than San Francisco in the standings, so this trip to face the underachieving Niners carries uncommon weight for McVay.

Los Angeles then gets its bye before a tough finish including trips to Green Bay, Arizona, Minnesota and Baltimore. ...

Meanwhile, Stafford has been everything the Rams wanted. He is the NFL's passing leader with 2,771 yards and second with 23 TD passes. Even after his clunker against Tennessee, Stafford's 111.0 passer rating is the second-best among quarterbacks with 100 attempts.

It's tempting to say Kupp is having the season of his life, but there's little reason to think he can't keep this up with Stafford. Kupp is the fifth receiver in NFL history to record at least 1,000 yards and 10 TDs in his team's first nine games, joining four Hall of Famers.

Of some concern?

The Rams' offensive line had been quite solid all season until the Titans beat them up. Stafford could have helped out on most of his five sacks by getting rid of the ball, but Tennessee also held the Rams 94 yards on the ground. The loss was a gut check for the unit on which everything else depends.

In addition, the Rams' 115 total penalty yards against Tennessee and the most they've ever racked up in McVay's 73 games. Discipline hasn't been a problem in Los Angeles for years, but this blip was concerning.

Meanwhile, on the injury front. ... McVay said Stafford is doing OK and is expected to make the start Monday night against the 49ers after tweaking his left ankle against the Titans.

"He came back in and competed well," McVay said, via the team's website. "He was sore today, but expect him to be able to take it a day at a time. But I think he'll be good to go."

Stafford injured his ankle in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-1 play. Stafford tried to roll left as Titans rusher Bud Dupree closed quickly on him. Stafford attempted a desperation pass to Jefferson and had his ankle roll as Dupree contacted him as the pass was released. Stafford briefly grabbed at his ankle before getting up and hobbling off the field.

McVay called the injury a "mild kind of ankle sprain." Stafford stayed in the game and led the Rams on an 18-play touchdown drive that closed the final deficit to 28-16.

Rookie receiver Jacob Harris, however, will miss the rest of the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament against the Titans. McVay announced Harris' diagnosis at the coach's news conference Monday.

Harris was injured in the second quarter while covering a punt return.

"Kind of unfortunate on that freak accident," McVay said, via Stu Jackson of the team website. "So, bummer for Jacob."

Harris will "go through some pre-hab" before surgery.

Harris is the third receiver the Rams have lost the past week. Rookie Tutu Atwell went on injured reserve last week after a season-ending shoulder injury against the Texans, and, as noted above, Jackson, who signed with the Raiders on Monday.

"It's a bummer," McVay said. "I hate that for Jacob, and you were hoping to kind of get him a little bit more involved. What that means as far as maybe we start mixing in some different personnel groupings, and Kendall Blanton played some snaps as of late, maybe you get into some different stuff like that, those are all things that we'll explore. But I do feel good about those top five."

Harris played all nine games, mostly on special teams, seeing action on 15 offensive snaps and 137 on special teams.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Sony Michel, Cam Akers, Jake Funk, Darrell Henderson, Javian Hawkins
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, Robert Woods, Landen Akers
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Kendall Blanton, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt, Jacob Harris

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Tim Reynolds framed it: "First, the bad news. The Miami Dolphins are 2-7. Only three teams in franchise history have had a worse record after nine games. And they're alone in last place in the AFC East.

"Now, the good news. They're on a one-game winning streak. ..."

Reynolds went on to suggest any victory, big or small, is worth celebrating for the Dolphins these days. They're heading into the second half of their season -- or the last 47 percent, technically, in this new 17-game NFL world -- with actual evidence that what they've been saying for nearly two months was indeed true, that continuing to work and believe can lead to the desired result.

"The work we're putting in is not going to waste," Dolphins safety Eric Rowe said. "That's the biggest thing, because once you start believing that all the hard work you are putting in is not going anywhere, then ultimately you stop working hard, and then you lose even worse."

A 17-9 win over Houston on Sunday won't merit anything close to inclusion in the Dolphins' greatest-victory archives. They turned the ball over five times and snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating a team that is now on an eight-game losing streak.

But it could be a springboard. Not to a playoff run, necessarily -- those odds are so long they're not even worth discussing -- but to figuring out who needs to be with the Dolphins in 2022 and beyond. Rowe was right; the longer the losing streak went, the higher the chance that Miami would see people simply trying to get through the rest of the schedule without necessarily caring as much as they should.

"Winning is always good," head coach Brian Flores said. "You know, that's why these guys prepare. They work hard. They give great effort. It's always good to win. It's hard to win in this league. Small margin for error."

No doubt about that.

The latest hurdle: The Dolphins have a short week to prepare for the Ravens. They're hoping it will be enough time for Tua Tagovailoa to make his next start.

Flores said the second-year quarterback's availability for Thursday Night Football will be a game-time decision. Tagovailoa, who's dealing with rib and finger injuries, was active for the Dolphins' Week 9 win over the Texans but ultimately sat behind Jacoby Brissett.

After Sunday's win, Flores said that Tagovailoa wasn't "able to make all the throws" when explaining why the 2020 first-round pick did not make the start against Houston. Despite that and despite the presence of Jake Dolegala on the practice squad, Flores said they were comfortable playing Tagovailoa with a more limited playbook if Brissett had been knocked out of the game.

"He was limited all week, but he's tough. He tried to go," Flores said, via the Miami Herald. "It really just became about how far could he throw? Would he be able to make all the throws we needed him to make? We thought it was enough to put him in the backup role and we felt like that was the best thing for the team. We would've had to change some things offensively if he had to go in."

As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques noted, in a spot start, Brissett mostly just managed the game -- in part because he didn't have much time to allow downfield routes to develop. Miami's run game once again struggled to get going, as it recorded fewer than 100 rushing yards for the seventh time this season.

Brissett finished Sunday's game 26-of-43 passing for 244 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked four times and also lost a fumble.

The Dolphins are 1-3 in games Brissett has started this season.

In five games, Tagovailoa has completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,040 yards with seven touchdowns and five picks this season.

Brissett has thrown 56 percent of the Dolphins' passes this season, but Tagovailoa is slightly better when it comes to passer rating, yard averages on completions and attempts, and completion percentage.

So the hope is Tua can return to provide some spark.

"He's making some progress," head coach Brian Flores said in his Tuesday press conference. "Still somewhat limited, so we're just going to take it day-to-day and see how he is today, tomorrow and probably take it right up to the day of the game."

Flores noted that Tagovailoa still has some discomfort in the finger, but the swelling is down and he's making progress. Still, the quarterback has some limitations.

"I know our training staff, our medical staff, they will do and have done everything to get him to help him, to get back as quickly as possible," Flores said. "Tua's doing everything to get back as quick as possible also. There's still time here. We're still 48 hours from the game, so there's still time. I would say, look, if the game was tonight, it would be Jacoby. So that's kind of where we're at."

Flores said if Tagovailoa can't start, he'd likely have the same role as the team's emergency backup against the ravens on Thursday.

Flores reiterated that this is a medical decision and that Brissett would again get the nod if Miami were playing Tuesday.

"No different than last week," Flores said. "Can Tua do everything we need him to do to have success in the game?"

Wideout Will Fuller, who's been sidelined since Week 4, is also on the mend. Flores said the prized offseason addition has yet to return because of a "significant" finger injury but he's "trending in the right direction."

"He has made a lot of progress," Flores said. "He got some favorable news last couple of days. Hopefully we can get him back out there quickly. He has been in and working."

Stay tuned. I'll have more on Tagovailoa, who is officially listed as questionable, via Late-Breaking Update in advance of tomorrow night's game. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Reynolds, a lack of explosive plays on offense is entering historic realms. The Dolphins are the third team since 1998 without a 50-yard pass or 25-yard rush in the season's first nine games. The other teams on that list are the 2015 Houston Texans ... and the 2019 Dolphins.

Entering Monday, the Dolphins also ranked last in yards per pass attempt and second-to-last in yards per carry.

Positives?

The list is short: It's tight end Mike Gesicki.

He put the flashy side on display Sunday in the win over Houston with a pair of one-handed grabs, but the reality is that Gesicki has been Miami's steadiest player in big moments. He's second on the team in receptions behind rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle and has accounted for more scrimmage yards in fourth quarters (243) than any two Dolphins combined.

Gesicki is the primary option late; Miami has nine plays of 20 or more yards in fourth quarters this season, with six of them being catches by Gesicki.

The free-agent-to-be is going to get paid this winter, and it would make no sense if Miami let him go elsewhere.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett
RBs: Duke Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown
WRs: Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Mack Hollins, Isaiah Ford, Will Fuller
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Hunter Long

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, head coach Mike Zimmer implored the Vikings' offense to get the ball in the hands of its playmakers after an embarrassing loss to Dallas.

That's exactly what offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak did in the first quarter with a bomb to Justin Jefferson and 90 first-half rushing yards for Dalvin Cook.

For the first time all season, Minnesota scored on its first two possessions.

But as Associated Press sports writer Brian Hall noted, much like the rest of the season, the early success couldn't sustain Minnesota.

Baltimore came back from a 14-point deficit twice and won 34-31 on Justin Tucker's field goal in overtime, an all too familiar feeling for the Vikings.

"Personally, it's very frustrating," Zimmer said of his team having good moments but being inconsistent and losing games. "And it's frustrating for the players. ... We fight like crazy and can't get it done in the end."

Midway through the season, the Vikings are 3-5. They somehow are just a game out of the playoff picture. Seven of their eight games have been decided by seven points or fewer.

Minnesota has held a lead in every game. The Vikings have scored on their first possession in seven straight games. They've scored first in five of their games.

"Seven out of the eight games have come down to the last play," Zimmer said. "I've got to figure out a way to teach them how to finish these games so we're on the other side of this thing as opposed to the way it came out yesterday. We're working on doing that and will continue to work hard and keep going from there."

Inevitably, after the fast starts, the offense bogs down.

According to SportsRadar, Minnesota is fourth in the NFL in first-quarter scoring. From the second quarter on, it's 24th in scoring.

"We know we have the guys, we know we have the quarterback, we know we have the skill-position guys, we know we have the offensive line, we know our coaches are busting their tails to do whatever it takes, but it's kind of getting old," receiver Adam Thielen said.

"It's getting old, the talk about that. I know the fans are done with it, us coming in here every single week and saying, 'We have the guys, we've just got to go out and execute.' So, I don't really know what to say, because that's the same thing each week."

Jefferson hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass on the first possession on Sunday. On the next drive, Cook rumbled for a season-high, 66-yard run and Cousins finished the drive with a dive over the top of the pile into the end zone.

The Vikings had 173 yards on the first two possessions. They had 145 yards the rest of the way.

"At this point, everybody knows, 'We got to go. We got to be aggressive. We got to put teams away,'" Thielen said. "We've had enough of the kind of hanging in games and losing them at the end."

That lack of aggression is reflected by Cousins averaging 6.8 intended air yards per attempt this season, essentially an average depth for his targets this season.

It's the third-lowest total among qualified quarterbacks this season.

Beyond that, the Vikings were going against a Ravens team that entered Week 9 with 1,200 yards allowed after catches in their first seven games (171.4), but Minnesota only mustered 71.4 against Baltimore.

The Ravens, meanwhile, totaled 144.9 yards after catches. Marquise Brown's 75.9 after catches exceeded the combined total receiving yards for Jefferson (69) and Thielen (six) on the day.

Jefferson totaled 13 yards after catches, and Thielen totaled 2.1.

Tight end Tyler Conklin led Minnesota with 31.4 yards after catches on his way to totaling 45 yards on five receptions.

Minnesota's hopes to get back into playoff contention start Sunday on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers.

It will take full game and likely multiple explosive plays by the offense to get it done. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Kene Nwangwu knew Sunday would be just his second NFL game, and he was hoping for his first opportunity to return a kickoff.

The Vikings rookie made quite the splash against the Ravens. He had a 23-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, which marked his first career touch.

The fourth-round pick later made perhaps the play of the day when he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 98 yards for a score.

Nwangwu's touchdown was the first for the Vikings since Cordarrelle Patterson had a kickoff return for a score against the Cardinals in 2016. He is the first Vikings rookie to return a kickoff for a score since Patterson against Green Bay in 2013. The one was Patterson's second of his rookie season.

"That's why we drafted [Nwangwu]," Zimmer said. "It was nice to see, and it looked like it was good blocking."

Nwangwu, who was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday, made another big play in the third quarter when he took a fake punt and veered past defenders for a gain of 9 to move the chains.

According to Next Gen Stats, Nwangwu traveled 115.9 yards on the play for the greatest distance of any ball carrier in the NFL in Week 9.

Nwangwu topped out at 20.6 miles per hour for the fifth-fastest speed by a ball carrier.

Cook also was among the top 20 in longest plays and fastest speeds by ball carriers this week.

Cook traversed 109.5 yards (fourth-longest) and reached 19.94 miles per hour (12th-fastest) during his 66-yard scamper. ...

And finally. ... A strange story emerged out of the blue on Tuesday night.

Cook allegedly abused a former girlfriend, causing a concussion, during an incident at his home last year, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported that the woman filed a lawsuit in Dakota County District Court, accusing Cook of assault, battery and false imprisonment.

However, Cook's attorney, Dave Valentini, said his client was assaulted by the woman after she broke into his residence, saying in a statement Tuesday night that she later tried to extort him of millions of dollars.

The Vikings also released a statement, saying they "recently received notification from Dalvin Cook's legal representative regarding a situation that occurred between Dalvin and a female acquaintance in November 2020 and led to an ongoing dispute between the parties. Upon learning of this, we immediately notified the NFL. We are in the process of gathering more information and will withhold further comment at this time."

In a separate statement, the league said it was notified by the Vikings of the matter and would decline further comment.

The woman, identified in the lawsuit as Gracelyn Trimble and a sergeant in the U.S. Army, flew to Minnesota to break up with Cook and get her belongings from his home when things turned violent, she alleged in the lawsuit.

She accused Cook of giving her "a concussion, leaving a scar on my face and taking me through hell," according to the Star Tribune. According to the suit, she used Mace on him, before going into his bedroom, grabbing his gun and calling a friend for help, leading the running back to attack her with a broomstick, she alleged in the suit.

When she returned to Florida after the incident, she told medical personnel she had been in an ATV accident after seeking treatment for the injuries.

Valentini, however, said in his statement Tuesday that the woman allegedly used a stolen garage door opener to enter his home illegally and then attacked him and a guest there, using Mace on him upon entering and forcing Cook and his guests to remain at the residence at gunpoint for hours.

Cook's lawyer alleged that Trimble has been attempting to extort money from Cook ever since.

No criminal charges were filed, and police were not contacted at the time of the incident.

I'll follow up as needed, but Zimmer told reporters on Wednesday he expects Cook to practice today and "hasn't heard anything" about anything happening to his availability.

The NFL is reviewing the situation.

"The matter will be reviewed under the personal conduct policy," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Profootballtalk.com via email. "We will continue to monitor developments but there's no change to his status as this is a civil complaint."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Dede Westbrook, Adam Thielen
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Chris Herndon, Brandon Dillon, Ben Ellefson, Irv Smith Jr.

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, head coach Bill Belichick flashed a couple of smiles. He handed out flattering compliments -- one going to a rookie. And he even cracked a joke.

When it comes to postgame news conferences, this was as happy as Belichick has been in some time, and why not? Backed by a strong defensive performance that helped overcome a slow offensive start, his Patriots had just thoroughly defeated the Panthers by a score of 24-6 in Carolina on Sunday.

Better yet, the Patriots have turned their season around with three straight wins, morphing from a 2-4 team that looked like it might be heading in the wrong direction to a 5-4 playoff contender in the wide-open AFC.

"I thought it was a good effort by our team -- players and coaches; they did a good job rallying from the trip out to California [last week where they beat the Los Angeles Chargers]," Belichick said. "They came out and played with good energy. We'll just keep trying to string these weeks together."

It was a notable pivot point in the big picture.

Furthermore, the Buffalo Bills' surprising 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday tightens the AFC East standings. The Bills (5-3) remain on top, but the Patriots are a half-game behind, with the New York Jets (2-6) and Miami Dolphins (2-7) further back in the pack.

The Patriots have two games remaining against the Bills -- a Monday night game Dec. 6 in Orchard Park, New York, and a home game Dec. 26.

The next challenge is a home game against the Cleveland Browns (5-4) next Sunday, with the Browns coming off an impressive 41-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

There are significant injury concerns for the Patriots, with running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson leaving Sunday's win with head injuries, which means they are presumably in the concussion protocol. That could threaten their availability for Sunday's game against the Browns.

But those concerns didn't overshadow Belichick's chipper mood after the game.

Three weeks ago, the Patriots were 2-4 and several players said they believed they were better than the record indicated.

They've since proved that to be the case.

There are still issues to work out, but it's put the Patriots in position to make it back to the playoffs after finishing 7-9 in 2020 and missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Rookie QB Mac Jones has been his toughest critic in his first NFL campaign, but his numbers put him at the top of his quarterback class. He currently leads all rookies in completion rate (68 percent), yards (2,135) and touchdowns (10).

His focus is on cutting out the mistakes, which includes seven interceptions.

"There is just reoccurring themes in terms of communication and I can do a better job with that. Part of it is just the inexperience, but there is no excuse for that," he said. "I have been here for quite a while now and I can figure out the looks that I am not used to seeing, and just go from there. But we have made progress every game I feel like."

Next up, the Patriots return home to host a Browns team in Week 10 that is coming off a 41-16 win at Cincinnati. ...

As for the injury issues. ... Boston Herald staffer Karen Guregian reports the Patriots are playing a waiting game with both Harris and Stevenson, who are both in concussion protocol.

Running backs coach Ivan Fears says there's a contingency plan if one or both can't go in Sunday's game against Cleveland, but it's too early to make that call.

"We're on a wait-and-see program. These protocols can take a few days to figure out what they're going to do with them," he said. "It's a big question mark. Definitely a big question mark."

The Patriots have created some room on the 53-man roster, as well as the practice squad. Currently, Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor are the only healthy backs on the roster.

"We'll have things in place," said Fears. "We're definitely talking about it and ready to move, based on what they tell us. But we'll have to wait and see, for sure."

Stevenson had a breakout game, of course, with 61 rushing yards on 10 carries, and a spectacular 41-yard pass catch, where he showed off his speed and ability to elude tackles.

"He did a nice job. The kind of stuff we expected from him. What I saw is what he's done in practice lately, and that's kind of impressive," said Fears of the rookie back. "He's growing up. He's figuring it out, what it's all about to be a pro player. It hasn't been easy for him, but he's figuring it out. And I'll tell you what, if he keeps coming, we're going to like what we see."

With Stevenson and Harris both in the protocol, Bolden, who has taken over as the third down back with James White out for the season, and Taylor figure to take on more responsibilities should the Patriots be down a back or two Sunday.

Fears described Bolden as being a life saver, and will challenge him more if the Patriots come up short.

Bolden had a lot of work against the Panthers, with eight carries for 54 yards, and a 28-yard gain among his two catches.

"He's been practicing this role for a long time. Being a core special teams guy, being a backup as a first and second down runner, and also being a backup as a third down back. You know, Brandon is an awfully talented guy," said Fears. "So we're very fortunate to have him in that role . . . But we're going to have to challenge him more and more to get it done, and keep it done if we're going to be successful."

Beyond that, N'Keal Harry missed last week's game with a knee injury; the severity of his issue isn't clear. Jonnu Smith (shoulder) and Nick Folk (left knee) continued playing through their respective injures against the Panthers.

For the record, neither Harris nor Stevenson practiced Wednesday; I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Smith was hoping he and fellow new addition Hunter Henry could form a formidable two-headed attack at tight end.

While Henry has found a groove recently (five TD catches over the past six games), Smith has struggled.

He has just 21 catches and one touchdown on 34 targets. Smith's yards per reception (9.2) and catch rate (61.8 percent) are also near career lows.

He's contributed in the run game, but it will be interesting to see what new ways offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels employs to get him involved in the second half of the year. ...

In minor roster-shuffling news, the Patriots placed quarterback Jarrett Stidham on the 53-man roster and signed James Ferentz to the practice squad a day after releasing him from the active roster, NFL Network's Mike Giardi reported. ...

And finally. ... Jones said he wasn't trying to injure Panthers defensive end Brian Burns on a play Sunday that one of Burns' teammates called "completely dirty."

Immediately after the game, Panthers edge rusher Haason Reddick said he witnessed it while it was unfolding, adding: "At first it felt like he was trying trip or kick Burns. And the next thing you know I saw him tugging on Burns' ankle. I thought it was completely dirty. Hopefully, it's something the league addresses."

The play came near the end of the first quarter, when Jones was hit hard and strip-sacked from the blind side. He then held Burns' right ankle as Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu recovered the fumble farther down the field. After the play, Burns limped off the field, but he later returned to the game before departing a second time in the fourth quarter.

"After I got hit pretty hard, I didn't really know what was going on. I thought he had the ball. It's my job to try to make the tackle. That was pretty much it," Jones said in his weekly interview on WEEI Radio.

"Obviously, when you get up and see the ball is actually down the field a little bit more -- it's just a bang-bang play. I didn't mean to hurt anybody or anything like that. I was just trying to tackle him and make the play, because I didn't really know what was going on."

No penalty was called on the play.

The NFL will review the play, as it does every play after games, and Jones could be subject to a fine under the league rules regarding player accountability.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Brandon Bolden, J.J. Taylor, James White
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kristian Wilkerson, N'Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

The New Orleans Saints were dreadful for the first 50 minutes Sunday in the Caesars Superdome.

So it might seem funny for the Saints to come away from their 27-25 loss to the Atlanta Falcons (4-4) thinking that both quarterback Trevor Siemian and barely used backup Taysom Hill left a favorable impression.

But as ESPN.com's Mike Triplett reported, the quarterback position was the least of the Saints' problems in their first game since Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

Triplett went on to suggest both Winston and Drew Brees himself would have struggled to overcome the sheer volume of self-sabotage in this one -- including way too many dropped passes and drive-killing penalties.

Triplett added that Siemian probably earned an extended look in the starting role after completing 25 of 41 passes for 249 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns while nearly rallying the Saints (5-3) back from a 24-6 deficit in the final 10 minutes.

Hill, meanwhile, definitely deserves to be more heavily involved going forward after he completed his only two pass attempts for 33 yards, ran the ball just one time all day for 4 yards and drew an encroachment penalty on fourth-and-1 -- all in the final 17 minutes.

Head coach Sean Payton has not given any indication yet on how long he plans to stick with Siemian in the starting role. However, he did stress after Sunday's game that he was not considering a QB change when he inserted Hill for three straight plays early in the fourth quarter.

"Look, we've got a package [of plays for Hill]. I thought he gave us some energy when he came in," said Payton, who suggested that Hill would have been on the field more if the Saints' offense hadn't stalled so many times early in the game. "He's part of the plan."

No matter who plays quarterback for the Saints going forward, however, Triplett contends they're going to need more help from their supporting cast than they got Sunday.

"[Siemian] played with poise, brought us back. I thought overall it was good," said Payton, who was particularly impressed with a few passing plays in which Siemian went beyond his primary read. "I thought we dropped a few balls -- more than our fair share. And we're third-and-long I don't know how many times with the penalties in the first half. Frustrating.

"We didn't do the things that winning teams do consistently in our league. We've gotta do a better job coaching -- that starts with me."

Siemian wasn't perfect. But the seventh-year veteran showed the same level of poise and comfort that he showed during last week's upset victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he replaced Winston in the second quarter.

And he was undone early by his pass-catchers -- which has been a problem all year for the Saints and their 31st-ranked passing offense. Tight end Adam Trautman and receivers Kenny Stills, Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway combined for four to six dropped passes, depending on your grading scale, before Trautman and Stills made amends with some terrific catches down the stretch.

The Saints' passing game has ranked near the bottom of the NFL all season, even when Winston was healthy. But the dropped passes against Atlanta contributed to the Saints being shut out in the first half and being down by 18 in the fourth quarter.

The Saints also doomed their own drives with eight offensive penalties -- and a rare missed pass protection by standout left tackle Terron Armstead that led to a sack-fumble early in the fourth quarter.

The offense certainly hasn't been helped by the fact that top receiver Michael Thomas won't play at all this season following a setback in his rehabilitation from offseason ankle surgery. Winston's injury further complicated matters.

As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel suggested, even if the Saints are good enough to contend for a fifth straight NFC South title, their record won't show it if they can't avoid mistakes that would seem avoidable at the NFL level.

"In our league, there is a weekly margin for error," Payton said. "The details matter so much that regardless each week of who the games (involve), there's really good players on each side."

The Saints' loss at home to the Falcons dropped them to 5-3, one game behind division- leading Tampa Bay (6-2), whom the Saints had defeated just one week earlier for what was then their third straight victory.

Next up, the Saints enter a period of the schedule that sees them facing three current division leaders -- Tennessee, Dallas and Buffalo -- in their next five contests.

Other notes of interest. ... Alvin Kamara carried the ball 13 times for 50 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. He also caught 4-of-7 targets for an additional 54 yards.

With newly-reacquired running mate Mark Ingram drawing 14 touches, Kamara's 17 opportunities were his fewest since Week 2 and the second-fewest on the season.

That he still found the end zone was obviously a plus.

If that diminished touch total is a concern, it's minor.

Kamara is more than capable of delivering in a timeshare and fantasy managers should continue rolling him out as a high-end RB1 against the Titans.

But he'll need to be healthy to do that. And we need to watch his status going forward to make sure he is.

This after the Saints hosted running backs Kerryon Johnson, Rodney Smith and Josh Adams for workouts Tuesday.

Adams was subsequently signed to the practice squad.

The visits fueled speculation about Kamara's status.

Kamara briefly left the team's Week 9 contest and went to the medical tent but did return to the game. He did not practice Wednesday due to a knee injury.

The Saints already added Ingram, although that was more likely due to Tony Jones Jr.'s injury and Ingram wanting to leave the Texans. Whatever the case, New Orleans bringing in three running backs makes this a situation worth watching.

The star running back has been one of the few bright spots in New Orleans' offense, with 530 rushing yards and 310 receiving yards through eight games. He has seven total touchdowns.

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

Also worth noting, Profootballtalk.com reports that there is "firm belief in some circles that Odell Beckham Jr. will end up with the Saints."

Beckham cleared waivers on Tuesday following his release by the Browns.

Finally. ... The quarterback position is, and likely will be, the Saints' biggest question in the aftermath of losing Winston for the rest of the season to injury. Just before the trade deadline, New Orleans tried to secure a familiar answer.

The Saints reached out to the Broncos to propose a swap for Teddy Bridgewater, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. The trusted veteran shined in place of Brees just two years ago, winning all five of his starts. Denver, which fielded inquiries from multiple teams about its QB1, wasn't interested in parting with him.

Bridgewater has been his usual steady self this season, posting career bests in completion percentage (70.4) and passer rating (100.6) while throwing 13 touchdowns and five interceptions.

"The Broncos never considered trading Teddy," Pelissero noted. "He is the starting quarterback of a team that's in the playoff hunt."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, Ian Book, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Marquez Callaway, Tre'quan Smith, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery, Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris
TEs: Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson, Garrett Griffin

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan notes, the Giants head into the Week 10 bye coming off their best win of the season.

Amazingly, at 3-6, this is their best record through nine games since 2016.

Progress, however slow it may be.

The defense (16 points allowed) is playing better and scored its first touchdown of the season on the first of safety Xavier McKinney's two interceptions. They've now allowed 20 points or less in three straight games.

The running game has awoken with Devontae Booker (99 yards on 21 carries) as the feature back. And, maybe most importantly for the future of the franchise, quarterback Daniel Jones is doing what is necessary under adverse conditions to win games.

Maybe this team has enough in them to make some sort of run in the second half of the season.

Will there be any significant changes over the off week?

Jason Garrett will remain the Giants' offensive play-caller when the team returns to action in Week 11.

Head coach Joe Judge said Monday that he isn't considering any play-calling changes at this time.

"No," Judge said on a conference call. "No, not at this moment we're not."

As New York Daily News staffer Pat Leonard noted, Garrett's offense has been decimated by injuries, and the offensive line can't pass protect. So it would not be reasonable to put the Giants' 19.9 points per game average squarely on the coordinator's shoulders.

But the Giants are in third place in the NFC East, and it's a constant slog to score points. They are ranked last in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage (44 percent) and 28th in touchdowns per game (1.9).

Leonard reminded readers that Judge fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo at last season's bye week, dismissing a coach Garrett had brought to the Giants from Dallas.

So it was legitimate to wonder Monday whether Judge was considering a change this season, with the defense improving but the offense still stuck in mud.

Garrett no doubt has added wrinkles recently, trying to be creative while also keeping Jones upright. In a win over the Panthers three weeks ago, Garrett moved Jones' pocket often, used the college option, and incorporated several read options.

In Sunday's win over the Raiders, he lined up Jones in a Wishbone pistol formation on one running play, targeted Evan Engram more down the field, and used six offensive linemen on 13 snaps, per NFL Next Gen Stats. And he has drawn up several Kadarius Toney pass plays in recent weeks and put him in the Wildcat on multiple occasions, too.

On the flip side, Sunday's trick plays to Toney were called in predictable situations and at predictable times, and they didn't fool Las Vegas' defense at all.

It's a constant evolution as Garrett, assistant Freddie Kitchens and others collaborate to create the best game plan each week.

But again, in Garrett's defense, Leonard reminded readers he's been working with limited personnel.

He basically can't call traditional drop-back passes right now because the line can't protect Jones.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas (left ankle, right foot) is the most costly missing piece, sidelined the past three games. Saquon Barkley (left ankle) has missed the last four.

Wideout Sterling Shepard (quad) is out for the foreseeable future. Receivers Kenny Golladay (hyperextended right knee) and Toney (right ankle, left thumb) are both banged up, despite being active Sunday.

Judge said he's "hopeful" after speaking with trainers that the Giants will have both Thomas and Barkley back for their next game, a Monday Night trip to Tampa on Nov. 22.

But a lot will depend on how Thomas looks on the field Tuesday and Wednesday with trainers and the team. And Judge wouldn't even divulge Barkley's specific injury.

It was reported as a low ankle sprain by NFL Network at first, but Barkley wasn't even on the practice field last Friday after being cleared from the COVID protocol.

"I think we have to give them an opportunity this week," Judge said. "Saquon's been out of the building for the better part of the week and that's unfortunate because it was something he was pushing for, to get back on the field for us. So we'll have to get him out there and check his conditioning and football movements and make sure he's good to get back on the field."

Remember: Prior to the false positive COVID-19 test, Barkley was believed to have a chance to get back against the Raiders.

Both Thomas and Barkley will be here in New Jersey throughout the bye week continuing to rehab, Judge said.

The second-year coach actually is practicing his team through Wednesday of the bye week and then giving them the weekend off.

The Giants must come back from the bye week playing as they did going in.

The test will be the first game. They go to Tampa to face Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Bucs. A win might dispel the feeling this is just another tease at the halfway point.

Worth noting. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan, there are no more questions about whether the Giants wasted the sixth-pick overall in the 2019 draft on Jones.

The third-year man has stepped up this year with both his running and throwing. He is the catalyst of the offense.

Playing behind a makeshift line and still lacking key weapons, he has hit 190 of 293 for 2,059 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He is also second in rushing with 258 yards -- a 5.2 yard average -- and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Graham Gano is the team's most consistent player, and has been for two seasons. He is 19 of 21 on field goals and hit all 12 of his extra points. He is 9 for 10 from more than 40 yards. Last season he hit 31 of 32 field goals.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jake Fromm, Brian Lewerke, Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

According to New York Post staff writer Greg Joyce, the Jets hope to get Zach Wilson back on the practice field this week for the first time since he suffered a knee injury in Week 7.

But the rookie quarterback will get a week to get fully healthy before he plays and Mike White will get the start against the Bills on Sunday.

"If [Wilson] is not fully healthy, it'd be irresponsible for us to throw him out there," head coach Robert Saleh said Monday. "We'll see how it looks, but we're not in any hurry to rush him back because of the fact that this is a two-to-four week injury [and] he's going into week three. There's a couple hurdles he has to pass yet."

Wilson apparently hasn't passed those hurdles and Saleh announced on Wednesday that White will make his second-straight start.

White, who stepped in for Wilson when the No. 2 pick sprained his PCL against the Patriots, delivered a spark to the Jets' offense before suffering his own injury -- a nerve contusion in his right forearm that didn't allow him to fully grip the football -- in the first quarter of Thursday's 45-30 loss to the Colts.

Saleh hopes to have all four quarterbacks -- Wilson, White, Josh Johnson and Joe Flacco -- as full participants in Wednesday's practice, but it's no surprise the Jets (2-6) are taking a conservative approach with Wilson.

The day after Wilson was injured, the Jets traded for Flacco, who anticipated playing in the short term until Wilson was ready to return. But White made his starting debut that week and completed 37 of 45 passes for 405 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while leading the Jets to an upset win over the Bengals. That earned him another start Thursday against the Colts, in which the former fifth-round pick was 7-for-11 for 95 yards and a touchdown before getting hurt.

"The fact that [White] has taken advantage -- one of the great things in this league is you do get these guys who sometimes come out of nowhere and they get their opportunity and they showcase who they are and they show they belong," Saleh said. "So I've got a great appreciation for what Mike is going through. I have a lot of respect for his opportunity."

Saleh preferred to focus more on White's feel-good story than what his emergence meant for the bigger picture, months after the Jets drafted Wilson in hopes that he would become their franchise quarterback.

"Now, does it mean anything for the future? I don't know," Saleh said. "I just know as it goes from day-to-day and game-to-game, I just think it's really cool that Mike's been able to take advantage of this opportunity and let's just see how he does."

Johnson, who has been active as a practice-squad elevation for the past two games, replaced White on Thursday and took advantage of his own opportunity. The 35-year-old completed 27 of 41 passes for 317 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, though the Jets' comeback fell short.

As for whether White could stake claim to more playing time with another big effort this week, regardless of Wilson's health?

"Can we go day-to-day on this one?" Saleh said with a grin. "We'll see."

For the record, Saleh said Flacco will be the Jets' backup quarterback this week. ...

Meanwhile, receiver Corey Davis (hip) and running back Tevin Coleman (hamstring) are expected to be back at practice this week, according to Saleh.

Davis has missed the last two games while Coleman has missed the last three.

"Really excited for Corey to get back in because I do feel like the offense is starting to hum a little bit in terms of the route running, the protection," Saleh said.

The Jets are thin at safety and tight end after Thursday's loss, with Marcus Maye (torn Achilles) lost for the season and Tyler Kroft (chest) headed to injured reserve.

Saleh pointed to practice-squad tight end Kenny Yeboah being able to help behind Trevon Wesco and Ryan Griffin, and also said the Jets had a tight end and safety coming in for workouts.

Meanwhile, receiver Denzel Mims, who has seen an uptick in playing time in recent games with Davis out of the lineup, may not be available against the Bills.

The Jets placed Mims on the COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday. If he's vaccinated, he'll be able to return in less than 10 days if he gets two negative test results 24 hours apart.

Mims has seven catches for 129 yards in six games this season. He was a healthy scratch for two games, which isn't where he hoped to be in his second NFL season after entering the league as a second-round pick.

Yes. ... I will be following up on all the above via Late-Breaking Update in coming days as the Jets begin preparing to host AFC East leading Buffalo. ...

Also of interest. ... The Jets believe that Elijah Moore is ready for takeoff.

In the 45-30 loss to the Colts, Moore led the Jets offense with seven receptions for 84 yards. His first two catches, from White, went for 26 yards to the Colts 19, then on the next play the final 19 yards for his first pro touchdown. He added his second TD, another 19-yarder but this one from Johnson, in the third quarter.

"It was a blessing. I can't do nothing but thank God," Moore said of the two scores, which made him the first Jets rookie with two receiving TDs in a game since Stephen Hill against the Bills in the 2012 season opener. Others to do it were Keyshawn Johnson in 1996, Rob Moore in '90, and RB Eddie Hunter in '87.

As for packaging this good night's work with Sunday's six catches on six targets for 67 yards in the win over the Bengals, Moore said, "There's more opportunity. I feel like the more games I play the more comfortable I get. ... Overall it's just a blessing."

According to NYJets.com's Randy Lange, Saleh was counting his blessings that Moore and fellow rookie Michael Carter, who gained 86 yards from scrimmage against the Colts, were helping his offense rebound from its earlier struggles to produce 64 points and 997 yards combined in the Jets' last two games.

"Yeah, Elijah has had back-to-back good games," Saleh said. "The offense in general, all of them, are playing at a high level. The offensive line is doing a good job of protecting -- that [Colts] line is not easy to block. The receivers are running routes at a high level, they're efficient, getting in and out of breaks, and the quarterbacks are doing a good job of getting them the football."

That, Moore said, is the plan, not for him alone but for his entire unit, to keep operating at an effective NFL level.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Moore said, "but that's how it's supposed to be. That's the way the offense is supposed to be run. We're supposed to put up a lot of numbers, a lot of yards, and get a lot of accolades for a lot of different players."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White
RBs: Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Austin Walter, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine
WRs: Braxton Berrios, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Corey Davis
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Kenny Yeboah, Tyler Kroft, Trevon Wesco

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

Head coach Nick Sirianni was effusive in his praise of quarterback Jalen Hurts on Sunday even in the wake of a 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

As ESPN.com's Tim McManus notes, Hurts wasn't asked to do a ton in the passing game -- he finished 11-of-17 for 162 yards -- but he added 62 yards on the ground and was at his best in crunch time, engineering a 10-play, 78-yard fourth-quarter drive, which he capped with a 28-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver DeVonta Smith.

The key play was a scramble on third-and-4. Hurts had his legs hit as he dove for the first-down marker, causing him to do a full front flip. He got up, unscathed, and the crowd went wild.

Sirianni said afterward that Hurts "made plays that I don't think any other quarterback in the NFL can make," lauding him for his performance down the stretch.

"We definitely have to build on this," Sirianni said. "There is no secret. Jalen has had good practices the last two weeks, played two good games in a row, so we just have to go back and have another week like we did last week, offensively, to put ourselves in position to win next week."

It's no coincidence that Hurts' back-to-back solid outings coincide with a shift in offensive approach.

Sirianni, after neglecting the running backs for multiple weeks, went run-heavy the past two weeks against the Chargers and Detroit Lions (a 44-6 win). Consider: In Weeks 1-7, the backs totaled 96 carries (13.7 per game) for 444 yards and three touchdowns. In Weeks 8 and 9, those numbers skyrocketed to 66 carries (33 per game) for 258 yards and six touchdowns.

Hurts was accounting for nearly 90 percent of the Eagles' offense in the early going, the most in the NFL. The past couple of weeks have been easy street in comparison. He has averaged 15.5 pass attempts over the past two games compared to 34.5 attempts per game over the first seven weeks.

McManus contends putting that much on Hurts to start was never fair or practical. He has only 13 starts in the NFL and is still very much learning on the job. While he has shown improvement throwing the ball, bumping his completion rate up from 52 percent last year to 61.5 percent in 2021, he still ranks 28th among quarterbacks in terms of accuracy.

But he remains plenty dangerous.

Hurts entered Sunday's game ranked fifth in red zone passer rating (116.8) and with the seventh-most total yards (3,289) by a quarterback in his first 12 career starts in NFL history, according to the Eagles. He is a strong leader and has a steady hand in big moments, as evidenced late in the game this past week.

Hurts isn't far along enough as a passer to drop back 45 times a game consistently, and this Eagles defense certainly can't be relied upon to hold down the fort when such an approach backfires. A steady dose of the ground game alleviates some of the burden from Hurts, opens up more running room for him when he decides to keep it (he's already second among quarterbacks in rushing yards with 494) and will more often than not keep games close, giving Hurts an opportunity to make some magic happen late.

McManus added the run game also feeds into one of Hurts' greatest strengths -- play-action passing.

With the Eagles featuring the run and Hurts lining up under center more in Weeks 8 and 9, he completed 83.3 percent of his play-action passes (20.5 percent above expected) and averaged 13 yards per attempt for a Raw QBR of 95.6, which ranks fourth. In weeks 1-7, he had a 66 percent completion rate in such scenarios and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt for a 26.3 Raw QBR, which ranked 29th.

"Clearly, I think we've taken steps throughout the year," Hurts said when asked about developing an offensive identity. "I think we've grown. I think we've communicated better. Coach to player, I think we've had better conversations and we've come to be on the same page on a more consistent basis. Going out there and it's showing."

The caveat to all of this is Philadelphia went run-heavy against two of the worst rush defenses in the NFL in the Chargers and Lions.

Expecting the Eagles to rush 40 times a game from here on out would be foolish. But there's more to it than just the opponents they've faced of late. The coaching staff recognized that it was putting too much on the shoulders of Hurts, and that to become a more efficient offense, they needed to lean on their sturdy offensive front and allow the likes of running backs Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell to get to work.

There will be more of that going forward, which should spell good things for Hurts and the offense over the last eight games.

The Eagles visit the Denver Broncos (5-4) on Sunday. The Broncos have won two in a row including a 30-16 rout at Dallas, after losing four in a row.

Other notes of interest. ... The Eagles elevated Howard from the practice squad for each of their last two games and doing so again would have forced the team to release him after Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

On Wednesday, they announced a roster move that will allow them to avoid that. The Eagles have signed Howard to the active roster.

Howard has run 29 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns in the last two weeks.

Sanders will miss his third game this week. He'll be eligible to come off IR next week. We'll see if he's ready to be designated as such and resume practicing then. ...

As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi notes, Smith, the team's first-round draft pick, now has 38 catches for 537 yards and two TDs. He had his second 100-yard receiving game against the Chargers.

Smith is starting to play up to expectations after the Eagles traded up to select him at No. 10 overall.

Smith (elbow) was limited in Wednesday's practice; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

The Eagles activated tight end Tyree Jackson from injured reserve ahead of Sunday's game.

While he didn't see any action, Jackson is worth watching.

Originally signed by the Buffalo Bills as a rookie free agent quarterback out of the University of Buffalo in 2019, Jackson spent the preseason with the Bills before being released. He tried his hand at quarterback in the XFL before signing a reserve/futures contract with the Eagles in 2021 and making the transition to tight end.

The 6-7, 249-pound Jackson was the surprise of training camp, using that massive frame to become a reliable target in the passing game.

"If he's going to look like he did during training camp, that's going to be a player for us. But he's got to show it in games," general manager Howie Roseman said last month about Jackson. "And this is an opportunity for him to come back and for us to see that. We don't think that's just a shot in the dark. We think this guy's got some traits."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell
WRs: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

Pat Freiermuth was talking about the entirety of the Pittsburgh Steelers roster. According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, the rookie tight end might as well have been talking about himself.

"We're relentless," Freiermuth said after a taut 29-27 win over Chicago boosted Pittsburgh to 5-3 as the season reaches its midway point. "We can play. We can feed off each other."

And perhaps just as importantly, they can rely on each other.

Pittsburgh has ripped off four straight victories following a 1-3 start and finds itself closer to the top of the topsy-turvy AFC than the bottom, heady territory considering how bleak things looked a month ago.

Yet rather than panic -- which head coach Mike Tomlin said repeatedly was never an option -- the Steelers dug in.

The offense stopped turning the ball over. The running game developed traction behind rookie Najee Harris. Freiermuth supplanted Eric Ebron as the starting tight end and immediately became one of Ben Roethlisberger's favorite targets.

The 6-5, 23-year-old hauled in two touchdowns against the Bears, the team's first multi-score game by a first-year tight end since Heath Miller did it in 2005. Freiermuth's production is emblematic of a rookie class tasked with keeping the Steelers competitive as the sunset draws near on Roethlisberger's remarkable career.

It's a lot of pressure, though Freiermuth and Harris hardly seemed bothered. They scored all three Pittsburgh touchdowns on Monday night and have become two of the most vital components of a unit that may be slowly but surely finding its way.

Whether the Steelers are legitimate contenders or simply the byproduct of a soft portion of their schedule -- only one of the victories during their current run came against a team with a winning record -- remains to be seen. Yet they are definitely in the mix. For now, they'll take it.

"I don't even know records of (other) teams," Roethlisberger said. "I don't have time to focus on anybody else but us. We talk about it every week, we dug ourselves a little hole. So we're just trying to get out of it. So, obviously, that's all I'm focused on is us."

While Pittsburgh's surge has helped take a bit of the pressure off the shoulders of its 39-year-old quarterback, plenty of work remains to be done. The line took a step back against the Bears, allowing three sacks and letting Roethlisberger get drilled a handful of other times.

The defense looked a step behind Chicago rookie quarterback Justin Fields late. The special teams -- outside of rock-solid kicker Chris Boswell -- are a mixed bag at best.

"I often say that good coaching is eliminating problems before they happen," Tomlin said. "Adequate coaching is eliminating problems quickly after they show themselves."

At the moment, Tomlin's staff and his team are both somewhere between "good" and "adequate." Considering what the alternative looked like five weeks ago, they'll take it.

"We're finding ways to win the game," Roethlisberger said. "Playing well enough. You know, not great."

Sunday's visit from the winless Lions (0-8) might be the last chance to fix things before the Steelers begin a daunting two-month sprint to the finish that includes two games against rival Baltimore as well matchups with Tennessee, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers.

Meanwhile, Graves contends that Roethlisberger seems to have figured out whatever mechanical issues were bothering him early on. While he's not exactly lighting it up -- his 90.0 rating is 21st, right between Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts and New England's Mac Jones -- he's also avoiding mistakes.

Roethlisberger hasn't thrown a pick since a loss to Green Bay on Oct. 3.

That said, Roethlisberger and Fields each had 63 passing yards at halftime, yet Fields was averaging 15.8 air yards per attempt, while Roethlisberger averaged 3.2.

Roethlisberger aired it out a little bit more in the second half with a 42-yard heave to James Washington -- underthrown but it got there.

As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor notes that Roethlisberger had a right shoulder injury that first popped up on the practice report Friday. Tomlin said they would manage the injury, and that seemed to mostly come in the form of short passes in the flat and designed runs for the wide receivers.

Roethlisberger finished the game completing 21 of 30 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. ...

Harris rushed 22 times for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. He also caught all three of his targets for 16 yards.

Harris opened the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run during the first quarter, helping his output on a night when he found little room to run. The rookie nonetheless got his usual heavy workload, accumulating at least 25 touches for the fourth straight game.

Although his efficiency isn't always there, Harris' consistent usage and penchant for finding the end zone should continue to make him a strong option; he'll also benefit from a favorable matchup versus the Lions this weekend. ...

One of the many twists during the fourth quarter of Monday night's game between the Steelers and Bears was a fumble by punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud.

McCloud was fighting for extra yards when Bears linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe knocked the ball from his grasp and defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson scooped it up for a touchdown. That score cut Pittsburgh's lead to 23-20 and the Bears would eventually take the lead before Boswell's field goal later in the quarter made the Steelers 29-27 winners.

In his postgame press conference, Tomlin said that "you definitely can't turn the ball over and give up scores in the kicking game." It was the second week in a row that McCloud has fumbled on a return and he also fumbled once on offense earlier this season, but the Steelers won't be looking for a new returner.

Tomlin said "yes" at his Tuesday press conference when asked if McCloud will remain the team's returner. He is averaging 8.8 yards per punt return and 23.8 yards per kickoff return so far this season. ...

On the injury front. ... Chase Claypool was in and out of Monday night's win while dealing with a toe injury and he's getting that injury looked at on Tuesday.

Tomlin said at his press conference that Claypool is having an MRI on the toe. The results of that test will determine Claypool's outlook for practice on Wednesday and this weekend's game against the Lions.

Claypool had three catches for 30 yards and two carries for 11 yards against Chicago.

Tomlin also said that the team anticipates Ebron working at Wednesday's practice. Ebron has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Watch the Late-Breaking Update section for more on Claypool, who didn't practice Wednesday, and Ebron, who was limited, in coming days. ...

After Boswell played without issue coming off a concussion, the Steelers released kicker Josh Lambo from the practice squad. ...

And finally. ... Tomlin reached a major milestone with the Steelers 29-27 win over the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field on Monday Night Football, recording his 150th career win, and the first one over the Chicago Bears.

The win puts him in 20th place overall in NFL history for wins by a head coach, moving out of a tie with Steelers Hall of Fame Coach Bill Cowher. He is also the 20th coach in league history to reach the 150-win mark.

"I'm just appreciative of the standards that's been set by those that have come before me," said Tomlin after the game. "All of us are here. That standard is inspirational for us. It inspires us, it challenges us. I'm just thankful to be a part of this thing that is the Pittsburgh Steelers. I work to do my job to uphold the standard."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud, James Washington, Cody White, JuJu Smith-Schuster
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Eric Ebron

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow noted, a season that began with talk of the 49ers returning to their 2019 form that took them to the Super Bowl has instead looked a lot more like Kyle Shanahan's other four seasons as coach.

Injuries to key players and sloppy play have left the Niners (3-5) mired in the bottom half of the standings looking up at contenders such as Arizona and the Rams following a 31-17 loss Sunday to a short-handed Cardinals team missing Kyler Murray and other key playmakers.

This isn't what the Niners expected after opening the season with back-to-back road wins.

"It is surprising because I think we do have the right people in the building, coaches and players," defensive end Nick Bosa said. "I don't think that's the issue at all. But obviously, we're not executing at the right times and it just shows how competitive the NFL is and how small the margin of error is."

The biggest move the 49ers made this offseason came when they traded three first-round picks to take Trey Lance third overall to be the quarterback of the future.

San Francisco opted to keep Jimmy Garoppolo with his high salary because Shanahan and general manager John Lynch believed Lance needed time to develop and that the roster was capable of getting back to the Super Bowl with a healthy Garoppolo.

That hasn't been the case so far as the defense has struggled at times with Sunday's loss to the Colt McCoy-led Cardinals the worst performance yet, and the offense hasn't hit its 2019 level of efficiency.

While Garoppolo is coming off his best back-to-back games of the season, it hasn't been good enough to overcome the other issues.

"I know that we can play a lot better football, that's for sure," Shanahan said. "I know we're a 3-5 team right now. I believe that we should be a better team than that record and I know that starts with me."

The 49ers host the Rams on Monday night. San Francisco still has road games remaining with Seattle and the Rams, as well as against Tennessee and Cincinnati.

According to 49erswebzone.com, we should look for a switch to Lance any time soon -- as in this week against the Rams.

Shanahan was asked if he would even consider making a switch at quarterback.

"Probably not," Shanahan said while letting out a mild laugh, "but definitely not thinking about those things right now. I'm thinking about this game and the rest of our team."

Shanahan added that he never considered putting Lance into the game to give the young quarterback some experience, even on the last drive with the win well out of reach.

Shanahan typically praises his Garoppolo after games.

This time, the coach sounded less enthusiastic about Garoppolo's performance.

"I thought Jimmy was alright," Shanahan said. "I thought that pick at the end, those last couple of plays were some bad plays right there, on that last drive when the game was out of hand. But Jimmy was alright."

Garoppolo finished the game 28-of-40 passing for 326 yards, two touchdowns, an interception, and a passer rating of 100.6. The Cardinals sacked him five times.

Apparently, Garoppolo didn't escape the game unscathed. He admitted that his "lower leg" was injured on the roughing-the-passer penalty in the second half.

"It'll be fine," Garoppolo said.

However, reporters noticed that the quarterback didn't look too comfortable during the post-game press conferences.

A knee sprain could wind up keeping Mohamed Sanu out for the foreseeable future. Shanahan didn't have a timetable on a possible return for the veteran receiver.

"He's going to be out for a while," Shanahan said. "We're still evaluating exactly what it is but I don't have that information yet. But it won't be anytime soon."

Sanu this season has 15 catches for 177 yards.

Trent Sherfield, Jauan Jennings and Travis Benjamin are the other receivers available behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

Right tackle Mike McGlinchey will miss the rest of the 2021 season after suffering a torn quadriceps, Shanahan said Monday. The injury will require surgery that will land McGlinchey on injured reserve, cutting short what was shaping up as a bounce-back season for the fourth-year pro.

Veteran Tom Compton replaced McGlinchey and struggled against an Arizona defense that finished with five sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, McGlinchey had given up two sacks and 13 pressures in 275 pass-blocking snaps. In 35 pass-blocking snaps on Sunday, Compton allowed a sack and four pressures.

Shanahan said postgame that rookie Jaylon Moore did not step in for McGlinchey because he's spent most of his time working at left tackle but acknowledged that if McGlinchey is out for an extended period, Moore would be in consideration to be the long-term replacement, along with Compton. ...

A few final notes. ... Samuel has developed into a top receiver after being used more as a gadget player his first two seasons. Samuel has 49 catches for 882 yards. He ranks second in the NFL in yards receiving and has the most for the Niners through eight games, besting Jerry Rice's record of 869 in 1989.

Elijah Mitchell carried the ball eight times for 36 yards and caught all five of his targets for 43 yards.

As CBSSports.com notes, the 49ers found themselves in a 17-0 hole early in the second quarter, forcing the team to all but abandon its running game, leading to the least productive day of the season on the ground for Mitchell. The rookie stayed involved in the offense, however, setting career highs in catches, targets and receiving yards.

Jeff Wilson Jr. was active for the first time all year Sunday but didn't see any touches.

It's possible Wilson finds a larger role in Week 10 against the Rams, but Mitchell appears to have a firm hold on the No. 1 job in the San Francisco backfield as long as he stays healthy.

All-Pro tight end George Kittle's return was a good one. Kittle finished the game with six receptions for 101 yards and his first touchdown in over a year. He also had a costly turnover, resulting in a scoring drive for Arizona, the first of the game.

Later, Aiyuk produced another turnover, also resulting in points for the Cardinals.

After claiming he had a little rust in his first week of practice, Kittle scored a 74.7 pass blocking and 82.5 receiving grade from Pro Football Focus.

His fumble and one recorded drop kept him from a higher score.

It was Kittle's first 100-yard receiving game since Week 6 last year against the Rams.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Trenton Cannon, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Jauan Jennings, Mohamed Sanu
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Tanner Hudson, Charlie Woerner

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

Russell Wilson has been cleared to play. The star QB was cleared by Dr. Steve Shin, who performed the surgery on the QB's right middle finger a month ago.

"I am absolutely amazed at his progress, so much so that I can now confidently clear him for full return to play without reservation," Shin said of Wilson in a statement.

Wilson had surgery on Oct. 8, a day after he banged his hand against Aaron Donald on a follow-through in the third quarter of the Seahawks' loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The surgery was to repair a tendon rupture (mallet finger) and a fracture dislocation. Wilson had a pin removed from his finger last week.

The injury landed Wilson on injured reserve and is the most significant of his career. It snapped Wilson's streak of 149 consecutive starts to begin his career. The Seahawks designated Wilson, along with wide receiver D'Wayne Eskridge and cornerback Nigel Warrior, to return from IR on Monday, clearing them to practice.

On Monday, Wilson tweeted out, "It's Time," along with video of his recovery.

The Seahawks face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday after going 1-2 without Wilson.

Monday marked 31 days since Wilson's Oct. 8 surgery. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Adam Schefter initially reported that the quarterback could return as early as four weeks after the surgery, meaning Wilson has been cleared on the early end of that timeline.

Wilson posted a picture last Monday, as the Seahawks entered their bye week, showing the pin removed from his finger. That was shortly after head coach Pete Carroll told reporters he did not know when that procedure would happen. Carroll said then that Wilson's finger would need a couple of days to heal after the pin came out before he could practice.

Wilson posted a video Tuesday showing him working out at his San Diego-area home and throwing short passes while wearing a glove on his right hand.

Even after watching him throw in the team's first practice of the week on Monday, Carroll wasn't quite ready to name Wilson the starter for Sunday's game against the Packers, but that is the plan assuming all goes well this week.

"We're going one day at a time here," Carroll said. "He's not out here to do anything but play; he's not coming back just to practice. So we'll see what happens as the week goes on—give us days to figure that out—but the intention is that if he's OK, he plays."

As for what Carroll needs to see between now and Sunday for Wilson to start, Carroll said, "Just watching how he recovers from the work. So often what we say—we've got to wait and see how the next day goes. In particular, in this case, he's already had days where he's thrown the ball more than he did today. They had a real great ramp up to it and all that, a really well-educated scheduled formula to get there, and this was not more than he's done, so he should be OK tomorrow and getting to Wednesday, but we'll see how it goes. We've just got to watch how he responds."

The Seahawks will have to activate Wilson off IR by Saturday in order for him to play Sunday. Barring a setback, Wilson should be back under center for the Seahawks when they travel to Green Bay.

Over Wilson's career, they are 4-0 at home versus the Packers in Seattle and 0-4 at Lambeau Field, including playoffs.

While Wilson, Eskridge and Warrior returned to practice on Monday, running back Chris Carson did not.

That was not, however, necessarily a sign of bad news for a player who was hoping to get back this week, as Carroll noted last week.

Carroll had said last week that Carson would have to go through more tests Monday to determine if he can get back this week, and while Carson, who has missed the past four games with a neck injury, wasn't on the field Monday, Carroll said the word from team doctors is that he should be able to go when the team returns to practice on Wednesday.

"What I was told today is that Wednesday he'll be on the field," Carroll said. "We'll see how that goes."

Yes we will. Carson was officially designated to return from IR on Wednesday.

I'll have more all involved via Late-Breaking Updates in coming days.

One last note here. ... ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reports that the Seahawks "have been in touch with Odell Beckham Jr.'s reps."

Beckham cleared waivers on Tuesday following his release by the Browns.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Adrian Peterson, Chris Carson, Alex Collins
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, D'Wayne Eskridge
TEs: Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall noted, Leonard Fournette is making the most of an opportunity to jumpstart his NFL career with what he affectionately calls "Last Chance U."

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only have been a good fit for the 26-year-old running back in his second season with the Super Bowl champions, Fournette is flourishing in a role he initially had difficulty accepting.

Winning consistently for the first time has helped. So has spending extra time on the practice field with Tom Brady.

There's nothing, though, that bolsters the confidence of a running back more than simply putting the ball in his hands enough to make a difference on game day.

Fournette has gone from primarily being used as a backup to Ronald Jones a year ago to handling a much heavier workload this season, when he has rushed for 439 yards on 101 attempts and caught 30 passes for 239 yards and scored four touchdowns during Tampa Bay's 7-2 start.

He's not the focal point of an offense featuring Brady, as well as receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown and tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. But the role is a lot closer to what he was accustomed to in Jacksonville for three seasons.

"He's fit in, he's found his niche," coach Bruce Arians said.

"I think that's just normal growth and understanding your situation," Arians added of Fournette's transition to the Bucs. "We've got way past that, so it's just showing up and practicing hard every day and getting better."

Fournette, who replaced an injured Jones to play a key role in Tampa Bay's playoff run last winter, said he couldn't be pleased about the way things have turned out since the Jaguars released him a week before last year's season opener.

"I'm very happy," Fournette said, adding it's probably the most fun he has had in the NFL since entering the league as the fourth overall pick of the 2017 draft, rushing for over 1,000 yards and helping the Jaguars reach the AFC championship game as a rookie.

"My coaches trust in me. ... The players, too," the running back said. "Last year kind of helped me, too. I still feel fresh. Not getting the ball a lot of times, and not getting too many bruises on my body, I feel good. I'm in good shape right now."

Entering this week's bye, the Bucs lead the NFL in passing. The re-emergence of Fournette and the running game has provided some much-needed balance on offense.

"He comes to work. He's a great player," Evans said. "We have a lot of great players on this team that when they have the ball and have their opportunities, they make the most of it. That's what he's been doing, and hopefully he can keep doing it."

Fournette is appreciative of the opportunity.

A two-time 1,000-yard rusher in three seasons in Jacksonville, he gradually fell out of favor with the Jaguars despite posting the best numbers of his career with 1,152 yards rushing and 76 receptions for 522 yards in 2019.

The Bucs are committed to getting him more involved in the passing game this season. Fournette has benefited from spending extra time on the practice field with Brady and other offensive players, working on pass routes and other facets of game plans.

"I always could catch. I just went to schools that ran the ball a lot," Fournette said.

"Me and Tom wanted to get together with a lot of the guys so we could get the run game on board. The first couple weeks we were all right, but we weren't where we wanted to be," Fournette added. "So, we spend an hour after work every Friday going over the runs for the whole week, seeing what we liked or what we were good at, and which runs we dislike. We try to work up from there and get better."

Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich noted a team culture nurtured in the Tampa Bay locker room allows players such as Fournette and Brown, another Brady playmaker taking advantage of a second chance with the Bucs, to come in and be successful.

"These guys love football. As long as you put guys together that love football, the football will speak for itself," Leftwich said.

"Our job really as coaches is to just figure out what they do well," Leftwich added, "keep asking them to do what they do well, and what they don't do so well let's try to improve on it. Let's try to get better at it."

Like Fournette, Brown joined the Bucs last season and contributed to the team's Super Bowl run.

"Me and A.B. had a talk, and I'm like: 'Man, this is really Last Chance U.' And we've got Richard Sherman here now. This is like his second chance," Fournette said.

"This organization is different. They take care of their people here. They understand their people. They understand their players, too. When you get that kind of love back, you'll work your tail off for anybody that's doing that for you."

Meanwhile, even with the Buccaneers coming off the bye, it appears Brown and Gronkowski may still need more time before they are healthy enough to return to action.

Arians gave an update on both players with the Bucs back at work on Monday.

Reporters noted that neither player took part in the team's practice session Monday and Arians said that Brown is still wearing a protective boot on the injured ankle that kept him out of the team's last two games. Brown did lose the boot on Wednesday, but didn't practice.

Gronkowski returned from injured ribs in Week 8, but was quickly back on the bench with a back injury. Arians didn't sound terribly optimistic about getting either player back for this Sunday's game against Washington and also said cornerback Carlton Davis isn't ready to return from a quad injury.

"You still have to worry a little bit about Gronk," Arians said, via PewterReport.com. "And I don't know if AB is going to make it back. And Carlton will stay on IR. We'll see how those other two guys [look]. If they're game ready. It's one thing to practice, it's another thing to throw them out there in the game."

Gronk did not practice Wednesday.

In addition, Godwin is dealing with a foot injury, per Arians. His status for Sunday is uncertain.

Wide receiver Scott Miller and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting were practicing on Monday. Both players have been designated to return from injured reserve and can be activated ahead of Sunday's game.

In addition, Patriots insider Greg Bedard reports the Patriots are "in on" signing free agent receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

I'll be following up on Gronk and Brown via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

A few final items here. ... Recently-released receiver Breshad Perriman cleared waivers and is going to sign with his former team, Tampa Bay, per his agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Perriman, who was previously with the Bears, will start off on practice squad but Bucs anticipate him being activated in near future.

The team also added some tight end insurance.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday morning that the Bucs are signing veteran tight end Darren Fells to the practice squad, with hopes of elevating him to the 53-man roster for Sunday's game in Washington, per agent Ron Slavin. The later confirmed his addition, along with that of Perriman.

Fells was granted his release from the Detroit Lions this week and cleared waivers. The 35-year-old has played in seven games this season -- five starts -- but caught just four of five targets for 43 yards (two of his receptions went for first downs), with a long of 24 yards.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mike Evans, Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden, Scott Miller, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker framed it: "The Tennessee Titans like to play physical football and call themselves resilient.

"It's also time to consider them contenders. ..."

Tennessee hits the midway point with the NFL's longest active winning streak at five games -- the past four over playoff teams from last season. The Titans also are the AFC's first team to seven wins, and their latest is the most impressive for a team trying to reach its first Super Bowl since January 2000.

Counted out after losing Derrick Henry to a broken right foot, the Titans (7-2) went on the road and thumped the Los Angeles Rams 28-16 in a game that wasn't that close thanks to a dominating defensive performance.

The Titans are off to their best start yet under head coach Mike Vrabel in his fourth season. His approach of doing whatever it takes to win has the Titans confident that whatever is asked of them will work.

"We can beat anybody," safety Kevin Byard said.

The Titans have played the toughest part of their schedule and are 4-1 on the road. They finish up the season with five games at home, starting Sunday hosting the New Orleans Saints (5-3). They'll get their bye Dec. 2 to rest up for a finishing stretch that has only one winning team in the final five games.

Linebacker Harold Landry III credited Byard for summing up how the Titans aren't out to prove people wrong, but prove themselves right.

"We know how talented we are in that locker room and the group of guys that we have man, and we just go to work every day and just prepare," Landry said. "Week in and week out, we come out here and play our brand of football."

A defense that was at or near the bottom of the NFL in several categories last season has taken a big leap in improvement. The Titans were last in allowing third down conversions in 2020 and now are 12th in that category. They're 14th in points allowed after being 26th last season.

After ranking 30th in sacks with only 19 last season, a trio already has topped that mark. Landry has matched his career high with nine sacks. Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, coming off his best game with three sacks and 10 quarterback pressures, has 5 1/2 sacks. Free agent signee Denico Autry has five sacks.

But the offense needs help.

Yes, the Titans rank sixth in scoring, but they have eight games left without the back-to-back rushing champ Henry.

Protecting Ryan Tannehill is a must. No quarterback has been sacked more than Tannehill with 27 through nine games.

Until the Titans prove they can run the ball more effectively with their committee approach featuring Adrian Peterson, opposing defenses will be targeting Tannehill. A.J. Brown, a 2020 Pro Bowl receiver, can help. He has had some key drops this season, including two on third downs against the Rams.

However, the offense cashed in when it needed to in Los Angeles, scoring touchdowns on all three of its red zone visits.

For what it's worth, Peterson's Titans debut wasn't quite a performance to write home about.

As Profootballtalk.com's Myles Simmons notes, Peterson, sporting No. 8, started Sunday's game for Tennessee. He played 19 snaps, taking 10 carries for 21 yards with a touchdown.

He also caught a 5-yard pass.

After the game, Peterson said he signed with the Titans because it was the ideal situation for him. He confirmed the report that he turned down a chance to be on Dancing with the Stars so he could continue to train for whenever an opportunity with a team came up.

"That came up maybe like a month-and-a-half, two months ago," Peterson said. "And I was still in the mind-frame of it's a long season, anything can happen. I could get a call at any time. So I didn't want to make that commitment and have to back down on it. So I just kind of rolled the dice, and was like, hey, I'm going to keep working out, keep my mind ready and focus on football. And when the opportunity presents itself, I'll be ready to go. And here I am."

Peterson called his first performance with Tennessee "OK," lamenting that he didn't reach the end zone on the wildcat run he had on second-and-goal from the 3-yard line in the second quarter.

"I think we left a lot out there as a running back group. I know I did as well," Peterson said. "But as we continue to get practice and get reps in, we will continue to build that chemistry with those guys up front."

Still, Peterson's touchdown was the 125th of his career, which is tied with Walter Payton for 11th all-time. Jim Brown is next on the list with 126. Peterson said he tries not to think about those things as they happen, but he has an appreciation for being on those all-time lists with the players who inspired him to be great.

"I try to just stay focused on just being the best teammate I can, and just grinding and putting in work," Peterson said. "And I know those things will come into play."

Looking ahead, the Titans' schedule eases tremendously with only trips to New England, Pittsburgh and Houston remaining.

The Saints are one of three teams currently with winning records left. The Titans still have two games against Houston (1-8) and host the Jaguars (2-6) and Miami (2-6).

One few final items here. ... Brown made a few plays and dropped a few passes on Sunday.

But Brown wasn't too pleased with some of cornerback Jalen Ramsey's words during the contest.

Ramsey intercepted a pass intended for Brown in the first quarter and at the end of the play was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Initially the foul was announced as unsportsmanlike conduct, but the officials had changed that designation.

That became important when Brown and Ramsey were both flagged for offsetting taunting penalties late in the second quarter. Vrabel said after the game he initially thought that was Ramsey's second foul for taunting and that the cornerback would be disqualified. But that wasn't the case.

Either way, Brown and Ramsey were jawing at one another. After the game, Brown was asked specifically about Ramsey's "chirping" and how he was able to compartmentalize and tune it out.

"I don't mind the chirping," Brown said. "But little things after the play, like the dirty stuff -- I'm not going for it. You know? I'm a man first and I'm here to play football. I'm not out here trying to fight nobody. But I'm not taking no sh-t, though."

Brown declined to say what kind of "dirty stuff" he experienced from Ramsey.

"I mean, as you saw the game -- I'm not going to get into all that," Brown said. "We got the 'dub' and I'm not about to make it about me and him. He knows me. He has my number if he wants to see me.

"That ain't a threat or anything. I'm just saying. He knows me, so if he wants to talk to me and get at me, he's got my number."

Brown caught just five of his 11 targets for 42 yards, though that was enough to lead the team in all of those categories.

Brown has 35 receptions for 509 yards with three touchdowns this year.

And last. ... The Titans are making a change at receiver.

According to multiple reports, Josh Reynolds asked for and has been granted his release.

In his fifth season, Reynolds signed a one-year deal with Tennessee in March. But between injuries and the emergence of other targets, Reynolds was not a consistent presence in the receivers rotation. He caught 10 passes for 90 yards in five games.

While he played 44 percent of Tennessee's offensive snaps against Kansas City in Week 7, he played just five snaps in Week 8.

He was then a healthy scratch in win over the Rams -- his former team -- on Sunday.

Reynolds has 123 career receptions for 1,540 yards with nine touchdowns. He set career highs with 52 receptions and 618 yards in 2020 for L.A.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Derrick Henry, D'Onta Foreman, Jeremy McNichols, Dontrell Hilliard, Khari Blasingame, Darrynton Evans, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Racey McMath, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cameron Batson
TEs: Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser

Washington Football Team

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 9 November 2021

Another close loss was enough to push Washington's season over the edge.

At 2-6 with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers up next and the Dallas Cowboys in control of the NFC East, Washington's hopes of a long-shot playoff bid seem out of reach. As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno suggests, it's all about the future now, and the only suspense over the next few months beyond where the team will draft in the first round is what the franchise's new name will be.

"The truth of matter is it gets darkest before it gets brightest," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We're going to have to go through this. ... We can do the best we can. We are going to play as hard as we can, and we'll see what happens. We're going to show up every Sunday and try and give our best and hopefully win some football games."

Rivera still wants to win, but the focus has shifted. He said after losing at Denver on Sunday that he and the staff will now re-evaluate every position of a team that is "still trying to search and find ourselves."

Washington finds itself tied for last in the division, and it'll be harder than last season to go on a run. A soft schedule helped Washington go from 2-7 to 7-9 and the playoffs -- and now a first-place schedule with Tom Brady's Buccaneers, Russell Wilson's Seattle Seahawks and Dak Prescott's Cowboys makes it quite the uphill climb.

"Last year's last year," running back J.D. McKissic said. "We've got to focus on this year. Right now, we just got to finish."

Not finishing is what has Washington in this mess.

With Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, the team has the worst red zone offense in the NFL at 45.5 percent, and the defense that was supposed to be among the league's best ranks 27th.

Injuries have certainly played a part. Initial starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick injured his right hip six passing attempts into the season opener, top free agent signing Curtis Samuel has been limited to two games by a groin injury, 2020 All-Pro right guard Brandon Scherff (knee) and tight end Logan Thomas (hamstring) have missed the past four and linebacker Jon Bostic is likely done for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Rivera is optimistic about getting some players back after the bye week and is eager to see what the team looks like then.

"Some of the things that we've done lately have really shown that we have the potential to get it going again," he said. "But finding who we are has got a lot to do with the guys that we haven't been able to use and play with, so I think coming out of this, we'll see how we respond to it."

The responses so far have come up empty. They only beat the Giants on a buzzer-beating field goal after New York's Dexter Lawrence jumped offside on the first attempt that missed and needed two touchdowns in the final four minutes to come back and win at Atlanta.

Rivera wondered aloud Sunday: "Where are we?" And his players made it clear that's still an open question.

"It's still searching for an identity for our offense," left tackle Charles Leno said. "Bye week came at the perfect time. Let's just go ahead and do some self-scout, figure out what we're good at, figure out what we need to get better at and eliminate the things that we're bad at and go from there."

Veteran safety Landon Collins -- who has been used mostly as a linebacker this season -- said he's "not letting the frustration set in." That's easier said than done, and how players handle that will go a long way toward determining who's around next season when Washington has a name and greater expectations.

"We're a young team that's learning how to mature and that's what we're at," Rivera said. "We're going to do the best we can to coach them up and we'll see what happens."

For Heinicke, it all comes full circle this week as he'll face the team that put him on the radar last season. Much like he was in that Wild-Card loss, Heinicke remains an outlier with a role.

That role has some value in the fantasy football world.

But it hasn't been great.

Meanwhile, Terry McLaurin comes off the bye with more catches, targets, yardage and receiving touchdowns than any other player in this offense. He has four games with double-digit targets, one game with double-digit catches, three 100-yard receiving days and one multiple touchdown outing.

Even without the consistency we'd like, the upside keeps McLaurin in the WR1 conversation going forward.

As far as the injury issues. ... All eyes will be on Antonio Gibson as practice play out this week. The second-year running back has been playing through a stress fracture in his shin. The injury led to uneven playing time and production in games leading up to the bye. Even though he was removed from the final injury report before the Week 8 loss to Denver, Gibson had fewer carries than Jaret Patterson and fewer targets than McKissic in that game.

After being designated to return from injured reserve, Thomas's injured hamstring felt sore coming out of Monday's workout, Rivera said on Wednesday. Thomas' status -- meaning whether he comes off IR -- will be determined by Friday. The tight end hasn't played since injuring a hamstring in Week 4. Ricky Seals-Jones has had a nice run as Washington's starting tight end over the four games Thomas missed.

Dyami Brown's status should also be monitored. The rookie receiver has seen more action than expected due to injuries at wideout for the team, but he was a knee injury he suffered against the Packers in Week sidelined him in Week 8.

Initial reports indicated the injury isn't serious. Even if he's available, however, there's no need to force Brown into your fantasy lineup against the Buccaneers in Week 10.

Curtis Samuel's availability remains up in the air.

So far this season, he's been on the field for 30 total snaps as a groin issue that's been lingering since June has limited him to just four catches (on five targets) for 19 yards in two games on the active game-day roster.

For the record, Gibson and Brown were limited in Wednesday's practice; Samuel remained on the sidelines.

Also. ... An MRI on Ryan Fitzpatrick's injured hip showed "some progress" but there's no updated timeline, Rivera said Wednesday. The QB had the MRI early this week..

I'll be following up on all involved here via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

And finally. ... The Football Team is making a change at kicker as they come off their bye week.

The team announced on Tuesday that they have signed Joey Slye. He will take the place of Chris Blewitt, who was waived in a corresponding move.

Washington cut Dustin Hopkins last month and gave the job to Blewitt, who blew his opportunity to become a long-term answer at the position by having three of his five field goal attempts blocked in two games with the team. He did make both extra points he tried in Washington.

Slye opened the season with the Texans as an injury replacement for Ka'imi Fairbairn and spent three games with the team. He also played three games for the 49ers when Robbie Gould was injured and has 11-of-13 on field goals and 9-of-12 on extra points.

Slye played for Washington coach Ron Rivera with the Panthers in 2019, so he's a familiar leg for the head coach to call on in Week 10 and beyond.<
DEPTH CHART
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, Jaret Patterson, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Adam Humphries, DeAndre Carter, Dyami Brown, Curtis Samuel
TEs: John Bates, Sammis Reyes, Ricky Seals-Jones, Logan Thomas