Team Notes week 12 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. ...

Please feel free to download Text-Only or MS Word formatted versions of this file as necessary.

Team Menu

Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

Colt McCoy led the Cardinals to a double-digit road win over a division rival on Sunday. So how did the veteran QB respond after the 23-13 triumph in Seattle that pushed the Cards to 9-2 and left the Seahawks sputtering in the NFC West cellar?

With a shrug.

"To be honest, it's my responsibility," he said, via the team's official website. "When your number is called, that's my role."

McCoy made his third straight start as the Cards rested Kyler Murray (ankle) for another week ahead of their bye. The QB shined in his first outing, struggled in the second, and was on fire once again Sunday.

"Good teams bounce back from (bad losses)," McCoy said. "I didn't know if I'd be part of that this week.

"I'm glad I was able to respond."

As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported, McCoy thrashed Seattle's defense, going 35-of-44 passing for 328 yards and two TDs with zero turnovers for a 112.9 passer rating. It marked the journeyman's highest passer rating and most passing yards with at least 15 pass attempts in a start since Week 13, 2014 (with Washington vs. Indianapolis).

Playing without DeAndre Hopkins once again, the veteran QB spread the ball around and utilized tight end Zach Ertz in the red zone.

Ertz had eight catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns, tying a career-high. It was undoubtedly Ertz's best performance as a Cardinal since his trade from Philadelphia in October.

Sunday marked his seventh career game with multiple TD catches, and first since December 2019 in a win over the New York Giants. Ertz now has four touchdown receptions in his last six games, including three in five games with the Cardinals.

"These past three weeks have been fun," Ertz said. "Everyone knew what a great mentor (McCoy)'s been for Kyler, but he's a great football player, and people should never take that for granted."

McCoy's two victories in three weeks are his most wins in a season as a starter since 2011.

"To not have those guys (Murray and Hopkins) in November at all play and (still) have the best record in football and be undefeated in the division, it says a lot about those coaches and players in that locker room, continuing to fight," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We've just got to keep getting better."

But they definitely need the bye.

According to Darren Urban of the team's official website, the expectation is Murray and Hopkins will be back for the next game, Dec. 5 in Chicago. That said, Kingsbury wasn't being definitive Monday -- his last time talking to the media until next week.

"That's what we're hoping," Kingsbury said of his top offensive duo. "With those two you're hoping for them to come back and play at a really high level. The bye comes at a great time for both. They should get a lot of time for rehab and feel good coming back. We need them to be who they are and play like they play immediately."

It's not just about healing the obvious cases, like running back Chase Edmonds or guard Justin Pugh.

They're hopeful Edmonds (ankle) can return in a few weeks.

Center Rodney Hudson hasn't missed time since missing games with a ribs injury, but he needs a break. Hudson's shotgun snaps the past two games haven't always been on point -- a couple were on the ground Sunday -- and Kingsbury acknowledged Hudson's health is playing a role.

"The bye is coming at a really good time for Rodney because he's been playing through a bunch of different injuries, basically, that he is toughing out," Kingsbury said. "I think he'll get rested up and healed and you'll see (the snaps) cleaned up pretty quickly."

The Cardinals, even with their gaudy record, have started seven different offensive lines in their past nine games. They've survived the loss of their top defensive lineman and still have myriad starters out on offense.

Kingsbury said the Cardinals did a lot of research this season how to handle the bye, studying other teams that have had success in their first game after. In his two previous seasons as coach, Kingsbury's Cardinals lost after the bye at home to the Rams, 34-7, and last year lost to the Dolphins at home, 34-31.

"They will definitely have time to get the time they need for Thanksgiving, get some downtime, rest and recoup," Kingsbury said, "but we will try to keep them locked in the beginning of the week with football."

The bye should help. But the way the Cardinals are playing, they probably could've made it work otherwise.

Indeed, it's difficult to find too many glaring flaws with the NFL's best record. As Associated Press sports writer David Brandt suggests, the run defense has been a little inconsistent but otherwise, the Cardinals simply need to get Murray and Hopkins back in the lineup.

One other thing -- while we're nitpicking. ... Kicker Matt Prater had a rough game in Seattle, making Sunday's win a little closer than it should have been. He missed on field goals from 39 and 36 yards and also missed an extra point. It didn't help that the team was using a new long snapper because of injuries. Prater's been very good this season before Sunday's struggles, so the Cardinals hope it's just a one-game aberration.

Meanwhile, Brandt pointed out the team has struggled in the game following the bye week during Kingsbury's first two years and they'll try to reverse that trend against the Bears.

A few final items. ... According to the NFL's transactions list the Cardinals cut running back Tavien Feaster and long snapper Beau Brinkley on Monday.

The team also made a move at quarterback.

Chris Streveler's time with the team ended Tuesday when it made official the signing of quarterback Trace McSorley off the Ravens' practice squad.

Streveler played 22 snaps two weeks ago against the Panthers after McCoy left with an injury. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 36 yards.

He played in Week 17 last season after Murray injured an ankle and went 11-of-16 for 105 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

McSorley appeared in three games with the Ravens after he entered the league with Baltimore as a sixth-round selection in 2019. He was on Baltimore's active roster in both 2019 and 2020 and was on the Ravens' practice squad this season.

The Ravens activated McSorley to the active roster Sunday against Chicago to serve as the backup to Tyler Huntley with Lamar Jackson out, but McSorley did not play.

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

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein put it, "The Falcons are in a bad place. They haven't scored a touchdown in more than 130 minutes of football and offensively there are problems. The offensive line is struggling to block. The running game is essentially nonexistent. Matt Ryan threw two interceptions and had his second straight subpar game.

"Yes, these losses were against good teams, but that also tells you where the Falcons are as a team."

Last Thursday night's 25-0 defeat was especially brutal for Ryan, who was shut out at home for the first time in his 14-year career, and bruised and battered far enough to be taken out of the game for mercy's sake.

"Lack of production," Ryan said afterward. "Whatever that is caused by, that's the most disappointing. I think our defense did a nice job keeping us in the game the entire night, even well into the fourth quarter, you know, making it a two-score game. We had chances. We've got to find a way. Whatever it is, whatever we have to do, we have to find a way to be more productive than we've been."

The Falcons offense was held to 165 total yards for the game and its issues started at the line of scrimmage. Ryan was sacked four times and sustained 12 QB hits by a Patriots defense that pinned its ears back all night. According to Next Gen Stats, Ryan was pressured on an astounding 50 percent of his drop backs (29.3 percent in Weeks 1-10) and went 1 of 4 for 6 passing yards and two interceptions versus the blitz.

"I thought they did a good job defensively of trying to create internal pressure and stress some of the things that we do," Ryan said. "We certainly have to be better than we were today but credit to them -- I thought they played well."

Falcons drives into the red zone. Adding insult to injury, Ryan received a gash on his left forearm on the same play but remained in the game. Furthering the insult, Younghoe Koo missed a 50-yard field goal after an illegal formation penalty negated his original make from 45 yards.

Of course, the Falcons were short-handed Thursday night with Cordarrelle Patterson inactive with a hamstring injury. As the Falcons leader in scrimmage yards (776) and total touchdowns (seven), Patterson's absence was felt on a team that didn't surpass 100 yards of offense until late in the third quarter.

"It's always tough when you don't have some of your guys out there," Ryan said. "CP's been such a big part of what we've done offensively, but we, the rest of the group, just didn't do enough to be as productive as we needed to be. It's always tough when guys are out but it's never an excuse -- you got to find a way to get the job done. It wasn't good enough on the offensive side of the ball."

Head coach Arthur Smith said the decision to have Patterson inactive came after the running back worked out before the game.

Smith said Patterson "is a guy who wants to play" but said he didn't think it was in Patterson's "best interest" to play.

"It wouldn't be good for him," Smith said, adding: "You've got to anticipate, you've got to have contingency plans."

No contingency plan resulted in points. The Falcons were held to 11 first downs and 165 total yards.

"We tried everything we could," Smith said. "Clearly it wasn't good enough. Credit to New England."

An Atlanta offense already missing top wide receiver Calvin Ridley and tight end Hayden Hurst had too few weapons to keep up with New England.

The Patriots focused their defensive efforts on rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, and the Falcons were unable to find consistent offense from such other players as running back Qadree Ollison, who was called up from the practice squad, and wide receiver Russell Gage.

The Falcons rushed for only 40 yards, including 34 by Ollison. Ryan completed 19 of 28 passes for only 153 yards with two interceptions. Ryan was sacked four times and suffered a toe injury in the first half he insisted did not affect his performance.

Pitts had three catches for 29 yards.

Smith, the first-year coach and former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, vowed he will find fixes for the slumping offense.

"We're going to get there," he said. "I promise you that. We're going to get out of this thing and continue to fight."

Smith said they have to evaluate everything during the team's mini-bye over the weekend, and while there aren't any easy answers, there need to be some answers. As Rothstein suggested, whether that's shaking up the interior of the offensive line or as simple as getting a healthy Patterson back, something has to shift -- otherwise Atlanta might not win many more games this season.

Next up, a game against the equally struggling Jaguars might help. ...

Ryan limped off the field with a toe injury in the first half but kept playing until the game was out of reach in the fourth. He downplayed the injury following the game. "The toe is fine," said Ryan. "I think it will be OK going forward. ... I don't think it impacted throwing and I thought I moved fine. So, I don't think it impacted it too much."

Smith on Friday also expressed optimism in Ryan's status, but added: "We'll have to see how the next four or five days progress."

Ridley is eligible to return from the non-football injury list this week, but unfortunately, it appears there's no update on the team's No. 1 wideout. Smith said there was no news on Ridley during Monday's media session.

It doesn't sound like Ridley is returning anytime soon, but I'll be following up on any news there in addition to Ryan and Patterson, who was expected back at practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Perhaps the only somewhat upbeat review from Smith about an offensive player regarded Ollison, who was called up from the practice squad for the game.

Ollison had a long run of 12 yards while leading the team with nine carries for 34 yards. Those are modest figures, but starter Mike Davis netted only 1 yard on three carries, so Ollison could have a role even if Patterson returns.

Smith told reporters on Wednesday that Ollison ran a pretty physical game last Thursday, and "he's earned the right for more carries."

One last note here. ... In case you missed it, down 19-0 with less than two minutes to play, the Falcons trotted out backup Josh Rosen in relief of the battered Ryan, but that didn't stop the bleeding. Rosen's third pass attempt was intercepted by Van Noy and taken 35 yards to the house for the game's final score.

Rosen was then relieved by third-stringer Feleipe Franks, who threw a pick to Adrian Phillips on his first attempt.

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

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

Tyler Huntley found out he was going to start at quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday when he received a text from Lamar Jackson on his way to board the bus to Soldier Field.

"Go do your thing today. I'm going to be watching."

A few hours later, Huntley showed the football world that the Ravens can win without the 2019 NFL MVP, rallying Baltimore to an improbable 16-13 victory over the Chicago Bears. Huntley became the fourth quarterback over the past 30 seasons to record a game-winning drive in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter in his first career start, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With Baltimore down 13-9, Huntley's 30-yard pass to Sammy Watkins set up the go-ahead, 3-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman with 22 seconds left in the game.

"I think if I was feeling the pressure, we probably wouldn't have won this game," Huntley said after the game. "You got to go with the flow about winning the game. We knew we had to go down there and score."

Jackson missed the third game of his four-year career because of congestion in his lungs, a source told ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley. The Ravens had believed Jackson would play after he fully participated in Friday's practice, but all of the symptoms returned on Saturday.

On the flight to Chicago, Jackson was curled up in a ball in his seat and was feeling so sick that he didn't realize the plane had landed. He didn't attend any meetings Saturday night.

The Ravens were hoping that Jackson would improve by Sunday morning, but head coach John Harbaugh said Jackson "felt worse."

Harbaugh doesn't believe this illness will sideline Jackson long term.

"He felt good today," Harbaugh said Monday. "I don't know how good. But he feels much better today, from what I was told. I haven't seen him."

Sidelined for only the third game of his four-year career, Jackson started to feel sick last Tuesday. He missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday before returning for a full practice Friday. But the symptoms came back Saturday.

Jackson has never missed back-to-back games.

Jackson was the first player to congratulate Huntley when he walked into the locker room.

With the Titans and Bills losing, the Ravens remain in the hunt for the AFC's top seed. Baltimore (7-3) moved within a half-game of Tennessee (8-3) for the top spot in the conference because it found a way to win without Jackson, who had accounted for 82.8 percent of its offense (3,086 of 3,727 yards) this season.

"A lot of times, when you think of the Baltimore Ravens, you think Lamar Jackson, because he's done so much for us," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "But man, it was really special to see [Huntley] step up, a couple of guys on defense step up. Just all around, it seems like we didn't really flinch."

Huntley, who went undrafted out of Utah in 2019, completed 26 of 36 passes (72 percent) even though the Bears came after him. He was blitzed on 28 of 44 dropbacks (64 percent), which is the highest blitz rate by a team this season.

"I know everyone around our facility, this organization knows how good that he is," Ravens tight end Mark Andrews said. "And when he gets his opportunity -- which he did [Sunday] -- that he was going to perform and shine. But it's awesome for the world to see. It's a coming-out party for him, and I can't be more excited about it."

The Ravens became the fourth team in the past 40 seasons to record five or more fourth-quarter comeback wins in their first 10 games. This time, it wasn't because of a magical play by Jackson. It was the heroics of Huntley, who watched 13 quarterbacks get drafted over him in 2020.

Huntley is going to frame his game ball with his jersey.

"Me sitting back where I was, waiting on the call for the draft or whatnot, it just felt like I would never get to this point," Huntley said. "I'm here. So, I'm blessed."

Meanwhile, Baltimore hosts Cleveland on Sunday night.

The Browns are in last place in the division -- but just 1 1/2 games behind the Ravens. Five of Baltimore's final seven games are against AFC North teams. ...

On the injury front. ... With Jackson expected back, attention turns to his top wideout, Marquise Brown, who was downgraded to out on Saturday after being listed as questionable the day before. Harbaugh said he was "hopeful" Brown would play against the Bears until it became obvious he couldn't.

"You're hopeful, and he didn't make it," Harbaugh said.

It was the first game Brown missed this season, but the Ravens will hope he makes more progress this week.

I'll have more on Brown and Jackson, both of whom were back on the practice field Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Latavius Murray (ankle) rushed 10 times for 32 yards and brought in both targets for one yard on Sunday.

As CBSSports.com suggested, Murray's return from a three-game absence was relatively uneventful, and he notably logged six fewer carries than backfield mate Devonta Freeman. It was also Freeman on the field for the Ravens' game-winning drive during which he scored the go-ahead touchdown from three yards out with 22 seconds remaining.

With Freeman playing well over the last few games, it's likely Murray remains a complementary option against the Browns. ...

As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister pointed out, Sammy Watkins has been limited by injury problems this year, but his 29-yard reception on third-and-12 set up the winning TD by Freeman. It was a nice rebound for Watkins. ...

In his first game since his season-ending knee injury in 2020, Nick Boyle played 32 snaps, blocked well, and reestablished himself as a presence in the tight end rotation. Boyle had a long road back from an injury that required two surgeries, but his presence will be a lift to Baltimore's offense with seven games left in the season.

"It's great to see him back," Harbaugh said. "What he's been through, he can explain it to you so much better, but I've seen him in here every day, through all the frustration and the agony and range of motion. He played well. He's only going to get better. The game moves fast. He's only going to get better and better as he gets more comfortable on that knee."

With Boyle back, the Ravens can use a more unique package with Boyle, Pat Ricard and Andrews.

"I hope that it becomes a monster people have to contend with," Harbaugh said.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley
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 23 November 2021

After a 41-15 loss to the Colts, the Bills will have to flush this game from their system and move on quickly. With their next game on Thanksgiving approaching fast, this team will have to regroup and come ready to fix their mistakes Monday morning.

The Bills play the Saints on Thursday night at 8:20 pm and according to head coach Sean McDermott, there's a positive and a negative to that quick turnaround.

"There's some bad to short turnarounds because you can't really get back on the practice field for all that much time," McDermott said. "Then there is some good to it so you can move on and move forward. I'm not really sure which one I like more, to be honest with you."

Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins agreed with McDermott that there are both upsides and downsides to playing on a short week after a loss like this. The team will not only have to recover mentally in a short amount of time but physically as well.

"Well, it's both ends," Dawkins said. "It's a disadvantage and it's an advantage because we don't have to have to let this one sit on us for a full week. We can flush it fast and keep it going naturally. But the best thing that we have to do is just recover as fast as possible and get our minds and our bodies ready for this Thursday night game."

After trailing early in the game against the Colts, the team couldn't find their footing, and the offense couldn't get in a rhythm.

As Dante Lasting of the team's official website notes, turnovers have been the Achilles heel for the offense in their losses this season. After the game, Josh Allen put the blame on himself and stated that he needs to do a better job of protecting the football.

With the short week, Allen explained how they can put an emphasis on fixing these issues while shifting focus to the Saints.

"We got to rely on each other, rely on our coaching staff, and rely on what they're telling us," Allen said. "Try to put together a game plan again. We've played in a few Thursday nights since I've been here. These are the ones that that come up on you quick and you got to find the game plan as quickly as possible, and it really just comes down to execution."

Dawson Knox took on some of the blame for the loss and noted that it wasn't all on Allen. Knox had a few drops today and said that those were unacceptable. He knows how hard Allen's job is and he knows when the ball comes his way, he has to catch it.

This team has battled through adversity before and come back from tough losses. Knox thinks that playing again on Thursday night will help with that.

"We've seen how resilient we are," Knox said. "We know that offense, defense, special teams, we got the parts that we need to succeed. You learn a lot from games like this. We're gonna get right back in the film room and get ready for Thursday, but I think it's good to have a game coming up quick so we can get that bad taste out of our mouth."

The Bills have been 2-2 since their bye week and after the loss to the Colts have their sights set on New Orleans.

Even with the recent struggles, McDermott isn't putting any extra emphasis or importance on the Thanksgiving game.

It's only important because it's the next one.

"It's a journey every season," McDermott said. "It's going to ebb and flow. Again, that to me, is part of the challenge, and I love that challenge, to be honest with you. Not that you want to lose but making those adjustments to get our team exactly where it needs to be and learning who you are as a team, and we continue to grow and move forward. We'll see where we are. We'll see where we are after Thursday night, and just looking at it one week at a time right now."

For what it's worth, the 26-point margin of defeat was Buffalo's worst home defeat since a 41-9 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4, 2018. That adds to the sense of urgency this week as they regroup before traveling to New Orleans. ...

On the injury front. ... Receiver Cole Beasley is playing through a rib injury, but he worked fully on Wednesday and avoided injury designation.

DT Start Lotulelei and RT Spencer Brown remain on the COVID-19 list. G Jon Feliciano (calf) is eligible to return from injured reserve this week; McDermott said Monday he'll see how Feliciano looks before a potential move. LB Tremaine Edmunds missed his second game in a row with a hamstring injury has worked fully all week and he also avoided injury designation. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Zack Moss carried the ball three times for five yards against the Colts. Devin Singletary carried the ball three times for 26 yards and caught 3-of-4 targets for an additional 26 yards. Matt Breida carried the ball five times for 51 yards and caught 1-of-2 targets for an additional 16 yards.

In the last two games, Breida has 12 touches, 117 scrimmage yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Although Singletary had the most snaps among the team's running backs against the Colts, Breida's usage over the last two weeks has made this a three-way split that relegates all involved to flex-level producers at best. ...

Stefon Diggs caught pulled in a pair touchdowns that saved fantasy managers on a bad day for Allen. Even if his volume is down slightly this season, Diggs has picked up the scoring pace and his overall value remains in the WR1 range.

Beasley's season of up-and-down target share became increasingly frustrating with targets ranging from a high of 13 (a number he's hit twice this season) to a low of two (three different times). The slot receiver has been playing through the previously mentioned rib injury, but the fluctuating workload has less to do with that than the volatile nature of Buffalo's offense and the number of options available to Allen.

Emmanuel Sanders caught 3-of-5 targets for 26 yards against the Colts. The lower-end totals this week belied the fact he was on the field for more snaps (44) than either Diggs (43) or Beasley (32). Adding to the concern, Sanders hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 5. With nine catches on 19 targets over the last four games, Sanders has certainly fallen down the ranks of fantasy options.

Meanwhile, Knox pulled in 6-of-10 targets for 80 yards. It was a notable uptick in workload after he was targeted just once in his Week 10 return from a hand injury. The targets, catches and yardage were all good for team highs on the day. All he needs is to regain his pre-injury touchdown equity to move back into the top-5 range at tight end.

Finally. ... As Alaina Getzenberg noted, it's fair to ask if the Bills have a serious problem on special teams.

Something has to get corrected, because the rain-soaked turf wasn't the cause of all the special teams woes. The worst play of the day -- on an afternoon with many rough moments -- was returner Isaiah McKenzie fumbling the football untouched on a kickoff return in the second quarter. The Colts recovered the football at the Bills' 2-yard line and took it in for a touchdown on the next play.

Kicker Tyler Bass also missed two field goals (from 57 and 49 yards) on a wet field.

Bass had made 16 straight field goal attempts entering the day, and it's the first time he has missed two field goals in a game since Week 7 of last year. Going forward, Bass will likely get things corrected, but this wasn't McKenzie's first time losing the football. For a team that places such importance on special teams, there have been too many clumsy plays this year.

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

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As NFL.com's Adam Maya suggested, Sunday is one that Cam Newton says he will always remember. It's the anniversary of an event that changed the course of his life. He experienced defeat in both instances, but that has never stopped Newton from relishing the moment.

Thirteen years to the day Newton was arrested for stealing a laptop while in college, the veteran quarterback made his highly-anticipated return to Carolina. Newton got the start, his first in just his second game since reuniting with the Panthers, but was unable to lead a last-minute scoring drive in a 27-21 loss to Washington.

"Today was a special day for me, for more reasons than one," Newton said. "It was my resurrection day. I'm not sure if a lot of people know. Nov. 21 is a very special day for me. I took a big L in my life. It was a big scar that ended up being my biggest star. I was incarcerated today, when I was at the University of Florida, and this day is always significance of where I came from."

Newton, of course, had been sitting at home just two weeks ago before receiving an unsuspecting call from head coach Matt Rhule about coming back to his old team in the wake of Sam Darnold's shoulder injury. A week after producing touchdowns on his first two touches in a win over the Cardinals, Newton sprinted to midfield following a 24-yard TD run in the first half.

"Was just going to enjoy the moment, still am going to enjoy the moment," he said of the play. "We just, I have to be better."

Newton did well enough to stay in for the entire game, which was not the original plan. Rhule said earlier in the week he intended to play both Newton and P.J. Walker, but opted to stick with the veteran following his fast start.

"I thought Cam was excellent," Rhule said.

But the 32-year-old QB didn't produce when his team needed him most Sunday.

The former MVP completed 21 of 27 passes for 189 yards and two TDs while rushing for 46 yards. With the Panthers trailing by seven early in the fourth, he dropped a pretty 27-yard pass to Christian McCaffrey between three defenders for the tying score. But with a chance to take the lead, Carolina turned the ball over on downs on its final two drives. The first series ended with McCaffrey hauling in a Newton pass one yard short of the sticks. The last one, and the game, were clinched by Newton taking a sack on fourth-and-3.

"You can't have the ball twice at the end of the game and not go down and score in the National Football League," Rhule said on Monday. "We have to convert more third downs. Is that Cam? No, it's everybody."

Carolina was 2 of 9 on third downs and 1 of 3 on fourth downs.

Rhule said after Sunday's game that Newton lacked a familiarity with running the two-minute offense because he had arrived 10 days earlier. But the coach also made it clear that Newton will need to be better moving forward.

"I don't like putting anything on one guy. When you are the quarterback there is a lot of responsibility on you," Rhule said. "Cam did a lot of good things. He ran the ball and executed the offense and he's learned a lot quickly. But all of these games are going to come down the last four minutes where we have to score a field goal and a touchdown. I put that on all of us, but at the end of the day as a quarterback we've got to get that done. I'm sure he would be the first to say that. We've got to win at the end of the game."

The Panthers were unable to win close games last season, one of the reasons they jettisoned quarterback Teddy Bridgewater following a 5-11 record.

Beyond that, Newton may have had shoulder issues in the past, but Rhule said Monday that had nothing to do with their play-calling, and that he doesn't see a problem with Newton's arm.

Playing his first full game, Newton completed 21-of-27 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. It was an efficient game (120.5 passer rating), and the 7.0 yards per pass attempt wasn't necessarily anemic.

In fact, it was the fifth-highest yards per attempt for the Panthers in a game this season, trailing the first four games of the year, when Darnold accounted for 7.97, 8.03, 8.94, and 7.72 yards per.

As Darin Gantt of the team's official website notes, they're averaging 6.3 yards per pass attempt on the year, which ranks 30th in the league, and they have just two pass plays of 25 yards or longer in the last five games (not counting a 10-yard pass to ?DJ Moore? Sunday which was followed by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty).

Gantt pointed out that offensive coordinator Joe Brady comes from a West Coast Offense background from his days with New Orleans, so horizontal passing (as opposed to deep vertical) is baked into the product to a certain degree. But Newton threw a few shots downfield, including that 27-yard touchdown pass to McCaffrey, which Rhule described as "elite."

"The deeper thing is more on Joe and me," Rhule said Monday. "There's no issue with Cam's arm. We threw four verticals on second and 20, hit the seam route to [Tommy Tremble, for 19 yards], threw the ball to Christian. ...

"Typically since we've been here, Joe's been more of an underneath passing game guy. We have to continue to push the deep passing game. I know that's a narrative right now (about Newton's arm strength); that's on us to push that aside. ..."

Meanwhile, McCaffrey had his third straight game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage against Washington, totaling 59 yards rushing and 60 yards receiving to become the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards. He did so in 57 games.

Rhule said he would have liked to use McCaffrey more in the running game, but the defense's inability to get off the field against Washington's Taylor Heinicke-led offense limited the amount of offensive plays (49) that Carolina ran.

McCaffrey played 90 percent of the snaps, racking up his 119 yards on 17 touches. ...

Newton and the offense will try to dial things in against before heading to Miami to face the Dolphins this weekend.

D.J. Moore caught five of seven targets for 50 yards and a touchdown in this one.

Moore started the scoring with a 10-yard touchdown during the first quarter, marking his first end-zone visit since Week 4. As CBSSports.com notes, after back-to-back games with under 35 receiving yards, Moore fared slightly better Sunday, but he still narrowly trailed McCaffrey in all major receiving categories.

Although his production has declined since a hot start to the season, Moore's touchdown Sunday and his established rapport with the new-yet-familiar Newton offer a couple reasons for optimism going forward, starting this weekend as the Panthers head to Miami on Sunday to face the Dolphins.

As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, aside from one ugly loss to the New York Giants, the Panthers have played fairly well on the road this season with a 3-2 record overall. Hopefully they can build on that this weekend. ...

On the injury front. ... The Panthers lost left tackle Dennis Daley to a glute injury on Sunday. Daley has been filling in for regular starter Cam Erving, who is on injured reserve with a calf injury. So Carolina is now down to rookie third-string left tackle Brady Christensen, a third-round draft pick out of BYU.

And finally. ... The Panthers had seven more penalties for 65 yards on Sunday and continue to lead the league with 81. Safety Juston Burris was twice flagged for unnecessary roughness -- including a blatant late hit on a sliding Heinicke -- costing his team 30 yards.

Rhule said the team's level of focus needs to be "significantly higher" and said "if we can make that step we will be a good team. But we won't be a good team until we make that step."

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

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

With a Thanksgiving game at Detroit, the Bears have a quick turnaround as they try to avoid matching the longest losing streak of head coach Matt Nagy's four seasons.

And they have major issues heading into this one.

Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton will start Thursday's game against the Lions. Rookie Justin Fields, though, remains at the top of the Bears' depth chart whenever he's healthy, Nagy said Tuesday.

Fields hurt his ribs in Sunday's loss to the Ravens. He was replaced by Dalton, who had taken only three snaps since Week 2, and completed 11-of-23 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 107.3.

Nagy was quicker to name Fields the starter than he was earlier this season, when he insisted that Dalton was atop his depth chart even after he suffered a bone bruise in his knee against the Bengals.

With Fields out Thursday, third-stringer Nick Foles figures to suit up for the first time since Dalton was hurt. Foles has yet to take a snap for the Bears this season.

Fields sitting Thursday isn't surprising; the benefit of giving him an extra 10 days to rest his ribs for the Dec. 5 game against the Cardinals outweighed rushing him back.

The Bears are 1-1 with Dalton as a starter and 2-2 in games he's appeared in.

In four games this season, Dalton has completed 48 of 73 passes (65.8 percent) for 471 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

The 34-year-old Dalton will be starting on Thanksgiving for just the second time in his 11-year career, but it will be the second straight year he's played on Turkey Day, as he was the starter for the Dallas Cowboys in a loss last season against the Washington Football Team.

The Bears (3-7) are aiming to end a five-game losing streak when they face the Lions (0-9-1), the last winless team in the NFL landscape.

They dropped six straight last year.

Chicago defeated Detroit, 24-14, in Week 4 with Fields starting and has won six of the last seven in the rivalry.

But after showing some promise against Pittsburgh, the Bears took a step backward against Baltimore. It was the fifth time this season they failed to reach the 20-point mark. The Bears ranked 29th in scoring and 31st in total offense through Sunday.

The Bears released their second injury report ahead of Thursday's game against the Detroit Lions, where there were a handful of starters sidelined during another walkthrough practice on Tuesday.

With a short turnaround against the Lions on Thanksgiving, there are several starters who might not be ready to play in time for Thursday.

Fields isn’t the only player the Bears won’t have in Thursday’s matchup.

Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle) and running back Damien Williams (calf) are also out for the Thanksgiving contest.

Hicks also missed last week’s game with the ankle issue. He was also unable to play a couple of games earlier in the season due to a groin issue. Williams has been out since Week 8.

Receiver Allen Robinson (hamstring) is doubtful after he was unable to participate in all three days of the practice week. Robinson hasn’t played since Week 9.

Defensive back Eddie Jackson (hamstring), defensive end Mario Edwards (ribs), defensive back Tashaun Gipson (chest), and receiver Marquise Goodwin (shoulder) are all questionable.

Receiver Darnell Mooney (foot) has no status and is expected to play.

I'll have more on Thursday's game and the injury situation via Late-Breaking Update early Thursday. ...

Meanwhile, a Pulitzer-prize winning Chicago reporter dropped a bomb on the Bears beat.

Mark Konkol, who previously worked for the Chicago Sun-Times, reports at Patch.com that the Bears have informed Nagy that he'll be fired after Thursday's game at Detroit.

A "top source with knowledge of the decision" told Konkol that Nagy was informed of his looming fate on Monday.

As Profootballtalk.com notes, Konkol does not cover the Bears, but there's no hesitation or equivocation in his report.

Nagy asked about the report that he's been told this will be his last game as head coach: "That is not accurate."

In more than a century of ownership, the family has never fired a head coach during a season.

Nagy would not answer repeated questions about whether he is assured of coaching the rest of the season.

Nagy goes into the Lions game with a 31-27 record, but he is 19-23 over the last three seasons. The team sits 3-7 and the offense -- Nagy's supposed specialty -- is 29th in scoring (16.3 points per game), 31st in yards per play (4.9), 30th in passer rating (75.1) and ninth in yards per rush (4.6).

They are one of four teams that has yet to score 30 points and are coming off an embarrassing 16-13 loss to the Ravens at home in a game that was littered with Nagy's poor decisions.

Nagy, who had the best record through 38 games (25-13) of any Bears coach since George Halas, went 12-4 in his debut season and won Coach of the Year. The Bears captured the NFC North for their first playoff berth since 2010, though the season ended on kicker Cody Parkey's double-doink as the Eagles knocked them out 16-15.

So Nagy is undoubtedly on the hot seat, given how disappointing this season has been in Chicago; but it seems unlikely his tenure will end this week.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Andy Dalton, Justin Fields, Nick Foles
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, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

The Cincinnati Bengals lost the first game after the bye week in each of the past five seasons.

That provided a little extra motivation for Sunday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Bengals (6-4) did enough things right and wore down the slumping Raiders (5-5) in the second half for a 32-13 win that snapped a two-game skid and jump-started their confidence heading into a rigorous seven-game stretch run.

Also worth noting is that the sixth win equaled the combined total in coach Zac Taylor's first two seasons in Cincinnati.

Knowing they would have to run the ball against the Raiders' strong pass defense, the Bengals gave the ball to Joe Mixon 30 times. Mixon -- and the offensive line -- just kept grinding and finally broke the Raiders with Mixon picking up 97 of his 123 yards in the second half. He ran for two touchdowns.

After averaging just 2.4 yards on 11 carries in the first half, he pushed it up to 6.5 on 19 carries in the second. The 30 carries were a season high.

"We were definitely fortunate enough to wear guys down," Mixon said, "and big runs started to come."

Mixon said he welcomes the heavy workload as part of a team he believes has all it needs to advance to the postseason.

"The weather turns and to be real, man, with the history of me being in Cincinnati, usually November and December become them games where they lean on me," Mixon said, via the team's website. "And I've been really doing big things and finishing very strong. I'm ready for it. I'm ready for whatever for whatever they throw me. I know sometimes, it might be more of the run. Sometimes, more of the pass.

"But I definitely look forward to playing November, December, because like I said, we have everything and every team that we need to get in the playoffs."

As Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacey noted, quarterback Joe Burrow struggled more than usual, completing 20 of 29 pass attempts for 148 yards. His best throw of the day was a 6-yard beauty to rookie wideout Ja'Marr Chase in the back left corner of the end zone that opened up a 22-13 lead for Cincinnati with five minutes left in the game.

Chase, an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate, leads all first-year players with eight TD catches.

Besides Chase's slick TD catch, Bengals receivers were lacking in big plays. Tyler Boyd had six catches for 49 yards, Chase had three for 32, and Tee Higgins had two for 15. The longest gainer was a 17-yard reception by Chase.

Burrow clearly wasn't sharp.

His 148 passing yards were a career low. He forced throws, fumbled on Cincinnati's first possession of the game and was bashed around by the Raiders' pass rushers. He was sacked three times.

The fourth-quarter scoring pass to Chase was his first TD toss in eight quarters.

After a sack near the end of the first half, he limped off the field favoring his surgically repaired left knee, but apparently is OK.

"Every game is going to be played with a different style," Taylor said. "We knew this was a game we were going to have to run the football. (Burrow) just wants to win, and he doesn't care what it looks like."

Bottom line?

The Bengals put themselves right back in the AFC North race. Five of their last seven games are at home, and they play all three AFC North rivals again, starting with the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday.

"I'm really proud of them to go out after a bye, get a big road win and come back and get ready for a big-time divisional game at our house," Taylor said.

Also of interest. ... Rookie Evan McPherson became the 13th player in NFL history to kick three field goals of at least 50 yards in a game, including a season-long 54-yarder to tie the score at 3 in the first quarter. His four field goals were the most in a game this season. He's made 11 of 14 attempts.

On Wednesday, McPherson was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

The defense limited the Raiders to 278 yards, the second time the Bengals held an opponent to fewer than 300 yards in a game.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
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 23 November 2021

Every bad throw, every body ache and every chance Baker Mayfield missed to put away the Lions pained him.

The boos directed at Cleveland's quarterback -- from some hard-to-please fans at home -- didn't help.

So when the final seconds ticked off in a 13-10 win that felt more like a loss, Mayfield didn't feel like celebrating.

"I feel like I let my teammates down," he said.

With a day to process what went wrong and get a grip on his emotions, Mayfield said frustration with his own performance -- not any booing or a litany of injuries -- caused him to head straight to the locker room following the game and not speak to the media.

Mayfield threw two interceptions against the Lions in a sloppy, penalty-filled affair for the Browns, who held on for dear life and kept their playoff hopes intact as they head into a critical three-week stretch.

After the Browns ran out the clock to escape the upset, Mayfield took off his helmet and didn't acknowledge teammates, coaches or anyone from Detroit's team as he gloomily walked off the field.

He declined postgame interviews, which are required by the NFL unless a player is getting medical treatment.

"I was frustrated, among other things," Mayfield said Monday on a Zoom call. "I mean I've never dodged any questions or hid -- so just frustrated, removed those emotions and all of that from it and decided it was best to wait."

Mayfield defended his decision to not discuss his uneven game.

"Not one part of that is not being accountable," he said, snapping at a question. "I'd be the first to tell you I played like (expletive), so it's not about accountable and I don't owe you guys any of that.

"I owe that to my teammates and I talked to them, so that's what matters."

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers noted, Mayfield had another uneven performance in a season in which he's trying to convince the Browns he's worthy of a long-term contract extension. The trouble is, with each two-interception, 50 percent completion game, he could be playing himself out of the job.

On Sunday, he went 15 of 29 for 176 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown.

But he wasn't good when it mattered most.

After completing a 37-yard pass to Ja'Marcus Bradley, who was pushed into playing because of injuries across Cleveland's wide receiving corps, Mayfield went 1 of 6 with an interception to end the game.

"It's some of the harder throws I can make and then some of the easy ones I've done time and time again just don't happen," he said. "That's very frustrating."

Mayfield overthrew a wide-open Jarvis Landry on Cleveland's second possession for his first pick, and then was booed after a pass in the fourth quarter was deflected and hauled in by cornerback A.J. Parker.

Mayfield dismissed the negative reaction from some in FirstEnergy Stadium.

"Those are probably the same fans that won't be quiet while we're on offense and trying to operate," he said. "So don't really care."

Health is an issue for the quarterback.

In addition to a fracture in his left shoulder, Mayfield has a bone bruise on his heel and a knee issue. He acknowledged the injuries are affecting him, but insists he didn't have any setbacks against the Lions.

"He doesn't feel 100 percent," said head coach Kevin Stefanski, who added that he never considered taking Mayfield out of the game against the Lions. "He's definitely battling."

For all their struggles, the 6-5 Browns can jump back into the AFC North race with back-to-back games coming up against the division-leading Ravens.

And despite the ongoing injuries, Mayfield said was set to practice Wednesday and play Sunday night in Baltimore.

"Big-picture-wise, everybody wants to act like the world's falling," Mayfield said. "No, we haven't played to our potential, and we know that more than anybody. ... So, we know what's at stake. And we know what we need to do."

The good news?

As Withers put it, "Like his favorite superhero, Batman, Nick Chubb arrived just in time to rescue the Browns."

A week after sitting out following a positive COVID-19 test, Chubb rushed for 130 yards, picking up 36 on Cleveland's final drive as the Browns exhausted the last 2:29 to put away the scrappy Lions.

Chubb played 42 snaps. D'Ernest Johnson spelled him and played 26 while Demetric Felton, who also missed last week's game, played 12.

The better news?

Running back Kareem Hunt and tackle Jack Conklin will return to practice this week as the Browns prepare for their primetime AFC North showdown with the Ravens.

Both players have been on the reserve/injured list and have missed the requisite number of games to be potentially eligible for Cleveland's Week 12 matchup in Baltimore.

The teamd announced on Wednesday that both Hunt and Conklin have been designated to return from injured reserve, opening a three-week window for their return.

Stefanski said he's hopeful one or both players will be available for the next big game on Cleveland's schedule.

"I do not know if I have a number for you, but yeah, I am hopeful," Stefanski said. "I think they are both progressing well."

Hunt is an invaluable offensive weapon.

"Kareem is kind of our Swiss Army knife," center JC Tretter said. "He can do it all, pass game, run game."

Hunt has been sidelined since he suffered a calf injury in the fourth quarter of Cleveland's Week 6 loss to the Cardinals. He was playing at an extremely high level before the injury and is still among the team leaders with 20 receptions for 161 yards despite missing the past five games.

He also amassed 361 rushing yards and five touchdowns while splitting carries with Chubb, giving the Browns' one of the NFL's best one-two punches out of the backfield.

Conklin has been sidelined for the past three games with an elbow injury he suffered in the Browns' Week 8 loss to the Steelers. The All-Pro right tackle also missed time earlier in the season with a knee injury. During his absence, Blake Hance, who is typically a guard, has filled his spot.

With Chubb working at full speed and with the hope that Hunt and Conklin are close to returning, ESPN.com's Jake Trotter believes re-establishing a running game that, when rolling with its full complement of players is among the best in the NFL, should help put Mayfield in more favorable situations.

Ultimately, though, Mayfield is going to have be sharper than he was Sunday, no matter the injuries. Getting back to taking better care of the ball would be a start.

Elsewhere on the injury front. ... The Browns were without two key wide receivers Sunday, as Anthony Schwartz (concussion) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) were both sidelined with injuries. That meant a big increase in snaps for Bradley, who has spent most of his time on the practice squad since joining the team in 2020.

Bradley, who caught two passes for 46 yards, led all WRs with 55 of a possible 74 snaps.

Landry played through the pain of a knee injury and was in and out of the game throughout the second half. Still, he finished with 48 snaps. Rashard Higgins had 53.

Stefanski said Landry (knee) and LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (ankle) should both be able to continue to play through their injuries.

Landry missed four games earlier in the season with a knee injury and has since battled through it. Owusu-Koramoah recently missed three games with an injury to his right ankle before returning to action Week 10 against the Patriots.

I'll have more on Hunt, Mayfield, Landry, Peoples-Jones and Schwartz (the latter three did not practice Wednesday) via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

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

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Todd Archer suggested, maybe the Denver Broncos did not have the blueprint on how to slow down the Cowboys offense. Maybe the Kansas City Chiefs did. For the second time in three games the Cowboys' offense struggled with a physical AFC West defense, losing 19-9 at Arrowhead Stadium.

As a result, the NFC East race is tightening up on Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, who could be without the quarterback's top two receivers in another game with the best pair of defensive ends sidelined on Thanksgiving.

A brighter medical outlook awaits in December if nobody else gets hurt, but the Las Vegas Raiders come first Thursday after Dallas (7-3) couldn't overcome injuries while failing to validate its status as a Super Bowl contender against two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City.

Of the Cowboys' 12 offensive drives, three ended in a turnover, three ended with a field goal, and none got into the end zone.

"Never discouraged, but pissed off, for sure," said Prescott, who ended the day 28-of-43 for just 216 yards and two interceptions. "I'm pissed when I don't play well or the team doesn't play well, or the offense doesn't play well. ... Especially when you have the chance to come out and play against a team that's been in the Super Bowl the last two years and really prove to ourselves and prove to one another what we're capable of."

Still, Prescott is bullish on his team going forward.

"We went through everything that we went through last year for moments like this, to be able to move forward and for other guys to step in and take advantage of their opportunity," said Prescott, who watched most of a 6-10 season in 2020 with a broken ankle. "That's where playmakers and guys get better. We're going to have to continue to do that with guys being out."

At receiver, that list is topped by Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown for now with Amari Cooper out for sure and CeeDee Lamb possibly joining him on the sideline.

Cooper won't play against his former team because of a positive COVID-19 test last week and the accompanying rules for unvaccinated players. The Cowboys gave the Raiders a first-round pick in a 2018 trade for Cooper. Assistant strength and conditioning coach Cedric Smith was added to COVID-19 protocols Monday.

Lamb was able to participate in meetings Monday before being held out of practice Monday and Tuesday.

But the plan was for Lamb to practice Wednesday, head coach Mike McCarthy said. This was a critical step in order for Lamb to be eligible to play Thursday and he did work on a limited basis before drawing a questionable designation on the official injury report.

Team believes he can, presuming he continues to progress without setback, McCarthy said.

It's also worth noting that running back Ezekiel Elliott is dealing with a knee injury that got a little worse with another awkward twist on a tackle Sunday, when division rivals Philadelphia and Washington each won a second consecutive game.

Elliott went on the practice report in Week 10 with a knee injury. He has had three limited practices and five full practices since but hasn't had a designation and hasn't missed a start.

"It's all right," Elliott said Tuesday, via David Helman of the team website. "I mean, it's sore, but it's been sore. I would say it doesn't feel any different than it did this time last week. So I mean, I warm up with [Cowboys director of rehab] Britt [Brown]. I'm going to continue to get my treatments, go see my PT, just do what I can to get ready for the game."

Elliott aggravated the injury Sunday when his right leg twisted underneath him as he was rolled over by Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay following a 2-yard reception in the first quarter. Elliott got up limping.

He played 46 of 67 offensive snaps.

"I'd say it's gotten better," Elliott said. "Obviously, if I land on it or I get twisted up and tangled, I'm going to get some pain there. But it's more temporary pain. It's kind of like how you stub your toe, and you have to walk it off. That's kind of what it's like.

"I just landed on it [against the Chiefs], twisted up a little bit. Just kind of had to walk it off, run it off, and it calmed down."

Elliott had a full practice Tuesday, and he will play Thursday.

"It's football. You get hurt," Elliott said. "You're not going to be 100 percent. I'm tough. I can play through it."

The Cowboys were optimistic about Tyron Smith returning against the Chiefs, which could mean the short week doesn't matter in trying to get the perennial Pro Bowler back in the lineup.

"If he is ready, he is ready. If he is not, he is not. Hopefully he will be ready to go on Thursday," McCarthy said.

Smith worked fully on Tuesday.

The Dallas running game is averaging 88 yards per game over the past four outings after a five-game run at 185 yards per game. Elliott's per-carry average is at 3.2 yards the past two games when it was at 4.5 through the first eight.

I'll be following up on Lamb via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday’s late-afternoon game. ...

Beyond that, star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is close to returning after being out since the opener with a broken foot, but the target date is more likely Dec. 2 at New Orleans. That's also the first week Randy Gregory (calf strain) is eligible to return from injured reserve.

As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon notes, rookie LB Micah Parsons hasn't had much trouble getting pressure on quarterbacks when lining up at defensive end, a necessity with Lawrence and Gregory out. He had two more sacks against Patrick Mahomes, including a forced fumble Dallas recovered.

With seven games remaining, Parsons has already tied DeMarcus Ware's rookie club record of eight sacks from 2005. ...

Meanwhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones walked a thin line Tuesday on the unvaccinated status of Cooper and how it impacted his team in game in which the team's offense sputtered.

"Amari Cooper is outstanding. He's one of the highest-character guys that you will ever be around in any area. He's outstanding in his introspect and how he does things," Jones said. "Nobody is saying he isn't outstanding, but this is a classic case of how it can impact a team. At the end of the day, this is team. You cannot win anything individually. ... The point is, it popped us. This did pop us."

Jones said Cooper likely would've been able to play against the Chiefs had he been vaccinated.

Asked directly if he was disappointed in Cooper, Jones said, "If I have a tone, I shouldn't. (But) the facts are, it is a 'we' thing when you walk into the locker room. And anybody is being counted on to pull his weight. Everybody expects that. They look around at each other. They understand their rights. They do, we do. Everybody understands our rights, and our options as it pertains to those rights."

Cooper is the team's second-leading receiver (44 catches, 583 yards, five TDs) behind Lamb.

If cleared through COVID-19 protocols, Cooper would be eligible to return to the Cowboys lineup for a Week 13 Thursday night road game against the New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys offense will carry on without him at least until then, but Jones did point out one silver lining -- Cooper's absence gives him a better opportunity to heal from a hamstring injury that has hampered the former first-round draft pick.

"He's getting a two-week rest on that ham," Jones said, "so that's something positive. ..."

For what it's worth. ... The next two games are the last in a seven-game stretch outside the NFC East, which also means division opponents are bunched up at the end. If the Cowboys can make their three-game lead in the loss column bigger, their focus can be more on the race for seeding in the NFC.

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

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

According to Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton, changes are coming to the Broncos. Just not anytime soon.

Someone else will be signing the paychecks next year. Someone new almost certainly will be under center in 2022. And in all likelihood somebody else will be calling the shots from the sideline, too.

So, what changes are in store in the short term with the Broncos (5-5) skidding into their bye following a ghastly 30-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on the heels of their biggest win since Super Bowl 50?

None.

The only switch coach Vic Fangio would welcome is a change in fortune for a team that's stumbled to a 17-25 record during his tenure while struggling to keep stars healthy, put up points, pile up takeaways or stop the run.

Fangio solitary signature win was a shocker at Dallas two weeks ago after Von Miller's departure, followed by an ugly loss to the Eagles at home that indelibly stamped both his and Teddy Bridgewater's tenure in Denver.

Special teams can be counted on for a major mishap, if not multiple meltdowns, every week.

Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon didn't celebrate the big win over the Cowboys because it was marred by two missed kicks, a 54-yard kickoff return and a blocked punt.

"You feel like you lost," McMahon said.

A blocked chip-shot field goal is what gave the Eagles momentum last week. So, with the bye week here, was Fangio finally willing to replace the man the radio shows call "Teflon Tom"?

"No," Fangio replied. "You know, both Tom and I have to do a better job of coaching special teams and we've got to give it to our players and coach them better, so we don't have those type of plays happen."

With Bridgewater's regrettable decision to allow Eagles cornerback Darius Slay to run right past him on his game-changing 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown, is there any thought of giving Drew Lock another look or even start No. 3 QB Brett Rypien?

"Teddy is our quarterback moving forward," Fangio retorted.

Melvin Gordon has fumbled twice in critical situations the past two home games. So, is it time to rely more on rookie Javonte Williams, whom Fangio even compared to Edgerrin James?

"I have great confidence in Melvin," Fangio replied. "Melvin's one of the top backs in this league."

With Baron Browning (back) the latest to join the injury epidemic at inside linebacker, might Fangio consider a change in scheme?

"No," he said, sticking with the theme. "We just have to coach the guys that we have playing for us. We have got to coach them better."

Fangio promised when he was hired there would be no "death by inches," pledging that attention to detail would halt the franchise's slide into mediocrity.

Yet, over the past two seasons the Broncos have lost nine of 13 games at Empower Field at Mile High and seven of those have been by double digits.

Never before in the franchise's 62-year history have there been that many home blowouts in a two-year span. Mike Shanahan, inducted into the team's Ring of Honor last month, had just five such losses in his 14-year run as Broncos coach.

Fangio is at a loss to explain all the ugly losses on his watch.

"Ultimately, we just have to coach better and then get our guys to play better," Fangio said.

Although the Broncos are just one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the bunched-up AFC West, they're done with the soft part of their schedule, having lost winnable games against the beat-up Steelers, the reeling Raiders, the injury-marred Browns and the free-falling Eagles. Every remaining opponent on their schedule has a better record save for winless Detroit, and the Broncos have five divisional games remaining, including two against the Chiefs, whom they've lost to 11 consecutive times.

"We have to try and fix all of our correctable errors and we have to do a better job of coaching these guys," Fangio said. "We've got to do a better job of calling the game -- me defensively, Pat (Shurmur) and Mike (Shula) offensively. We all have to be better. ..."

For what it's worth, Shurmur has cleared COVID-19 protocols and has returned to the team facility, Fangio announced Monday.

Shurmur tested positive for the virus Nov. 12, forcing him to miss the Nov. 14 loss to the Eagles. Shula called the plays, with help from the rest of the offensive staff, in Shurmur's absence.

Shurmur still was allowed to participate in meetings virtually.

Shurmur is vaccinated.

The Broncos, who had their off week this week, return to action Sunday against the Chargers.

Denver ranks 20th in total offense, with Bridgewater's 98.8 passer rating ranking 11th among qualifying quarterbacks. ...

Also of interest. ... The Denver Broncos locked down another wide receiver long-term.

The Broncos reached an agreement on a four-year extension for Courtland Sutton, per the receiver's agency. The pact is worth $60.8 million with $34.9 million guaranteed. The team later announced the extension.

Sutton, a second-round pick in 2018, was on the final year of his rookie contract.

Following a 1,112-yard season in 2019, the 26-year-old missed all but one game in 2020 after suffering an ACL tear. Sutton returned for the start of the 2021 season, starting all 10 games for Denver, compiling 43 catches for 617 yards and two touchdowns, including three games over the 90-yard mark.

Sutton's new contract comes days after the Broncos signed Tim Patrick on a three-year, $34.5 million extension as general manager George Paton continues to lock down the homegrown talent.

When Patrick's received opportunities over the years, he's capitalized at a high level. When Sutton missed almost the entirety of the 2020 season, Patrick caught 51 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns. And even with Sutton back in 2021, Patrick has not taken a step back; he has 37 receptions for 523 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games.

The Denver wideout corps is stocked with first-round pick Jerry Jeudy, Sutton, Patrick and K.J. Hamler all under contract for the next several seasons. Now Denver needs to figure out who will be throwing to the receivers in the future.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock
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 23 November 2021

According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Hogg, Dan Campbell knows he can't be picky.

With his team at 0-9-1 and seven games left, the Lions coach would happily take a win on any day at any NFL stadium.

Beating the Bears on Thursday, though, would be even better.

"When we get a win, it is going to be freaking outstanding, but yes, getting it on Thanksgiving in Detroit would make it that much more special," said Campbell, who played on the holiday for both the Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

"We're in the world of social media, where everyone has access to everything, but this is still huge. When I was growing up in Texas, we always watched the Lions and then we watched the Cowboys, and that's what everyone does."

It helps that, for one of the first times this year, the Lions seem to have a serious shot at victory. After going into their Week 9 bye giving up an average of 30.5 points per game, Detroit held the Steelers to 16 in a Nov. 14 tie, then allowed 13 in a three-point loss in Cleveland on Sunday.

A big part of that improvement has come from forcing five turnovers in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They had only gotten seven takeaways in their first eight games.

"That's big, because to play good defense, you have to get turnovers," Campbell said. (Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn) is a hell of a teacher, a hell of a coach and a hell of a motivator. As young as we are, teaching is a big part of our job, and he's really done a great job of developing our defensive talent."

The Lions have also discovered a running game, picking up 397 yards in the last two games after struggling to get anything going in the first eight weeks.

D'Andre Swift showed why he's the Lions' best offensive threat with a career-best 136 rushing yards, marking his second straight game of 100 or more, much to the delight of one of his key blockers.

"He's doing a fantastic job," fullback Jason Cabinda said. "There's not a whole lot more we can ask from that guy in terms of what he's doing for this team."

In the third quarter, Swift ran for a career-long 57-yard touchdown, which was the longest rushing touchdown by a Lions player since Jahvid Best had an 88-yarder against the Chicago Bears in Week 5 of 2011. The play was the lone bright spot on offense for the team.

Swift's 136-yard rushing performance for the Lions has increased his total to 555 yards through 10 games. That's 34 more than he had in his rookie season, when he played 13 games and missed six with injuries. A 1,000-yard season is in sight with seven games left. ...

Going with Tim Boyle over banged-up Jared Goff didn't help an anemic passing game.

Goff strained his oblique in Week 10, didn't practice last week and threw only lightly before Sunday's game. Boyle, making his first NFL start, went 15 for 23 for 77 yards -- an average of just 5.1 yards per completion -- and threw two interceptions.

Campbell said Tuesday he is "leaning toward" starting Goff against the Bears. This after Goff showed Monday he's much improved.

"We weren't just playing catch like out in the backyard since it's Thanksgiving week," Campbell said. "We tested him. It wasn't like, we didn't go 40 plays or 50 throws, but yet it was enough to see how he felt. Did he have some whip on the ball? What was his comfort level? It was enough to give him some reps today for sure."

Goff told reporters Tuesday he's feeling "better every day," adding on his status for Thursday, "We'll see. I don't know what (Campbell) has said, but I'd probably categorize it as a game-day decision. Feel good, though. Feel really good."

Campbell said of Goff's chances to play, "I think it's about 60 percent chance it's a 50-50," per Benjamin Raven of Mlive.com.

In the end, Wednesday's injury report says it's officially 50-50 as Goff was listed as questionable.

Despite the Lions' 0-9-1 record and Goff's ineffectiveness, Campbell has stuck with the quarterback for whom the Lions traded Matthew Stafford in the offseason.

Goff is the one significant question mark going into Thanksgiving -- although Jermar Jefferson (knee, ankle) is also ailing but he has been able to work on a limited basis this week; I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in advance of the early-afternoon game. ...

Meanwhile, in a related note. ... Lions wide receivers didn't get a lot of help from Boyle, but they only caught five passes for 30 yards against Cleveland. Detroit hasn't gotten a touchdown reception from a wide receiver since Kalif Raymond caught two against the Bears in a 24-14 loss on Oct. 4.

T.J. Hockenson (51), Amon-Ra St. Brown (18) and Brock Wright (12) combined to catch 11 passes for a net gain of 81 yards.

Two running backs had four catches for minus four yards. Swift had three catches for a net of zero yards. Godwin Igwebuike had one catch for a four-yard loss.

The question is whether the wraps will come off Thursday for whoever plays quarterback. ...

For the first time in his four-year career, Cabinda is being used as an offensive threat. The 25-year-old started his career as a linebacker for the Raiders in 2018, then spent 2019 as one of Detroit's best special teams players. Last season, he was converted to fullback, but only to block -- he carried once for no gain while playing every week.

He got his second career carry against the Steelers, gaining 2 yards, then delighted his teammates with a 21-yard run on Detroit's second drive against the Browns.

"It was huge for me to be able to break free there and pick up some yardage," he said. "I've been working hard on carrying the ball, but it was a boost to see it translate into the game."

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

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, Aaron Rodgers' first word -- more of a sound, really -- when he was asked about losing left tackle Elgton Jenkins served as an apt summary of all the injuries the Packers have sustained this season.

"Oof," Rodgers said while briefly shaking his head.

If the Packers' season has turned into a game of which injury will finally doom them, then meet the latest contestant. Jenkins suffered a season-ending torn left ACL during Sunday's 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Head coach Matt LaFleur confirmed the news.

It's not just that Jenkins was lost, but that there is still no timetable for preferred starting left tackle David Bakhtiari to finally play this season, if he plays at all in 2021. Bakhtiari's return from his Dec. 31 torn ACL has been delayed. Bakhtiari recently underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean up his knee, which was reconstructed in January following a season-ending ACL tear, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday.

The procedure means Bakhtiari won't be available to practice or play this week, but there is hope he'll be back in time for the Packers' stretch run to the postseason, per Pelissero and Garafolo.

The Packers likely would have moved Jenkins back to left guard, where he made the Pro Bowl last season, when Bakhtiari returned.

They finished Sunday's game with third-stringer Yosh Nijman at left tackle.

"Man, he's been so versatile for us," Rodgers said of Jenkins on Sunday before the severity of the injury was known. "He can play every position on the line; I think he's played at least four of them. So, definitely hate to see that happen ... but with Dave's status unknown, we have to rely on probably Yosh. He's played some good football for us. Proud of the way he stepped in.

"Hopefully, the news isn't so bad with Elgton."

While Nijman held up OK on Sunday and in his three starts earlier this season while Jenkins dealt with an ankle injury, it's the cumulative impact of the injuries that could be problematic. Opening-day starting center Josh Myers remains on injured reserve following knee surgery, meaning the Packers could be without three of their five preferred starters on the line.

This from an offensive line that committed five penalties (two false starts, two holds and one illegal hands to the face) against the Vikings.

If only the Packers' injuries were contained to that one position or even that one side of the ball, where they also played without running back Aaron Jones (knee) and receiver Allen Lazard (shoulder) on Sunday. And that doesn't include tight end Robert Tonyan, who was lost for the season to an ACL tear last month.

The defense surely could have used some combination of Rashan Gary (elbow), Za'Darius Smith (back) and Jaire Alexander (shoulder) against the Vikings. In all, that was eight of 22 preferred starters out by game's end on Sunday.

"This is the ultimate team sport, right?" LaFleur said. "We know for us to accomplish all our goals, we need all three phases firing at the highest level possible. ... Certainly that is good that you can find different ways to win games, but ultimately we need everybody peaking at the right time, and we haven't been able to do that consistently within a game."

"We've got some guys banged up right now, but we have a good football team where the next man can step in and play well," Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling said. "But obviously it's tough losing guys. We've had the injury bug kind of affecting us all year. It seems like every game we're losing a guy to something."

Meanwhile, Rodgers was in "a lot of pain" after aggravating a toe injury during the NFC North affair.

The QB said he sustained the injury at some point during the first half after getting stepped on, describing it as something "worse" than turf toe.

On Wednesday he clarified: It's a fractured pinky toe.

And he plans to continue playing through it, although he's hoping there are ways to alleviate the pain.

The original disclosure of Rodgers' toe injury came after the QB was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list ahead of last week's game, but there was no game status designation on the team's official injury report the past two weeks.

Rodgers never left the game outside of a kneel-down taken by rookie backup Jordan Love to run out the first half. LaFleur said Rodgers went to the locker room early before the half to get treatment on his toe.

Despite a "very, very painful" injury, Rodgers orchestrated a Packers comeback that nearly overcame a 13-point deficit late in the third quarter.

Rodgers completed 23 of 33 passes for four touchdowns and no interceptions in the losing effort.

Davante Adams had two catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns and Valdes-Scantling had four receptions for 123 yards, including a game-tying 75-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the game.

With Lazard sidelined, Equanimeous St. Brown stepped up and had two catches for 43 yards plus an 11-yard carry.

The Vikings defense hit Rodgers a total of four times, sacked him twice and forced a fumble which the QB recovered.

The Packers (8-3) host the Los Angeles Rams (7-3) in Week 12 before going into their bye in Week 13.

LaFleur said Rodgers will play versus the Rams even if he misses practice time, which seems likely.

"It's going to be another painful week next week," Rodgers said. "And then hopefully feel better over the bye."

It's worth noting A.J. Dillon rushed 11 times for 53 yards and caught all six targets for 44 more yards in Jones' absence against the Vikings.

The second-year back wasn't able to repeat the previous week's two-score performance in relief of Jones, but he was more efficient on the ground (4.8 yards per carry). If Jones sits out this week, not a reach considering his injury and the looming bye, Dillon could get another start against the Rams.

That said, LaFleur told reporters that Jones will be on the field at Wednesday's practice and they'll see where he is as the week goes on. Adams (ankle) is also working on a limited basis.

Needless to say, I'll have more on Rodgers, Jones and Lazard via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.

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

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken reported, the Houston Texans used another big defensive performance and a solid game by Tyrod Taylor to end the NFL's longest skid with an upset of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

After turning over the ball four times in their previous game, the Texans didn't have a turnover against Tennessee and forced five to get the 22-13 win over the AFC South leaders.

"When you do that. ... There's a pretty good chance you'll have a chance to win the ballgame," head coach David Culley said.

The Texans had four interceptions to tie a franchise record. Desmond King had two of the four picks to help Houston end an eight-game losing streak and get its first win since the opener on Sept. 12.

"We played together," King said. "We did our job creating turnovers. We got five of them (Sunday) and we just helped the team get over the hump."

The Texans also snapped a streak of 63 days without scoring a touchdown away from NRG Stadium after Taylor ran seven yards for the first touchdown of the game.

Entering the game, the Texans had not scored a touchdown on the road since Week 2. The four road games without scoring a touchdown was tied with five other squads for the longest such streak since the NFL merger in 1970.

"When you win, it's just the team morale is up," Taylor said, "and it's an opportunity for us to build and continue moving forward."

Taylor bounced back after struggling in his return from a six-game injury absence in Houston's previous game.

The veteran tied a career high by throwing three interceptions in a loss to Miami before the team's bye last week.

Against the Titans, he threw for 107 yards and ran for 28 yards and two scores to help the Texans to the win.

"It wasn't a perfect game ... so, there's still stuff to clean up, but we'll do that," Taylor said. "We spoke about in the locker room, it's a 1-0 mindset. We've got to continue to take it one week at a time."

Culley raved about Taylor's leadership and said his presence brings a confidence to his team that it missed when he was injured.

"When he goes out and he does what he did yesterday in taking care of the football and doing his job, good things happen and it goes all through the team," he said. "Not just our offense, but with the entire team."

As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop notes, Taylor gives the Texans the best chance to win.

Culley said it over and over while Taylor was injured and rookie quarterback Davis Mills was starting, but on Sunday, Taylor showed why Culley had so much confidence in him. Taylor became the third quarterback in Texans franchise history with multiple rushing touchdowns in a game, joining David Carr and Deshaun Watson.

It's easy to wonder how competitive the Texans would have been had Taylor not injured his left hamstring in Week 2.

After their big win, the Texans will look to improve Sunday against the Jets as they try to win consecutive games for the first time since beating New England on Nov. 22, 2020, before getting a win over the Lions last Thanksgiving. Sunday's game is the first of three straight at home. ...

Also according to Barshop, the win might have cost the Texans the No. 1 draft pick.

Houston entered the game a half-game back of the Lions for the worst record this season, but the big victory in Nashville firmly puts Detroit in the driver's seat. The second half of the Texans' schedule is far easier than the first half, and if Taylor can stay healthy, Houston looks like a team that could win a few more games.

The Texans have two more important games for draft position: This week against the New York Jets (2-8) and Week 15 in Jacksonville (2-8). ...

Meanwhile, the Texans have waived running back Phillip Lindsay. He was claimed off waivers by the Dolphins on Wednesday.

Lindsay ran for 130 yards and a touchdown in 50 attempts this season for a team that ranks 31st in Football Outsiders' rush DVOA.

Lindsay lost 3 yards on his only carry in the Texans' 22-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Lindsay was part of the group of veteran running backs whom Texans general manager Nick Caserio signed during the offseason. Houston traded Mark Ingram to the New Orleans Saints last month, leaving running backs David Johnson and Rex Burkhead on the roster. Houston has also added running back Royce Freeman.

The Texans had 83 yards rushing Sunday and rank last in the NFL by averaging just 76.5 yards rushing a game. Burkhead had his best game of the season against the Titans, running 18 times for 40 yards, but he'll need to do more than that if Houston hopes to get going on the ground.

Johnson continued his season-long struggles against the Titans, rushing 13 times for just 18 yards. ...

Brandin Cooks caught 2-of-3 targets for 18 yards against the Titans. The three targets were the fewest Cooks has seen all season and they came in a downpour with Taylor throwing just 24 times.

Assume some course correction will come this week, but given the low-volume passing game here, it's hard to view any of the team's receiving assets beyond Cooks as viable fantasy plays. ..

On a more positive note. ... Houston has 19 takeaways this season under new defensive coordinator Lovie Smith after ranking last in the NFL last season with just nine. Smith has focused on improving the Texans in this area all season and the 19 takeaways have Houston tied for fourth most in the NFL.

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

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As NFL.com's Michael Baca reported, Jonathan Taylor had too many touchdowns on Sunday to pick an outright favorite from his historic day.

The Colts running back scored five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) in the Colts' 41-15 statement win over the Buffalo Bills and happily punted on an answer.

"They were all my favorite," Taylor, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, said after the game. "Any time you get in the end zone it's a good day."

Becoming the first Colts player to ever score five TDs in one game, Taylor rushed for a season-high 185 yards and added three catches for 19 yards to his tremendous performance. Per NFL Research, he's the fifth player with 200-plus scrimmage yards and five-plus scrimmage TDs in a single game in the Super Bowl era, joining the likes of Jamaal Charles, Clinton Portis, Shaun Alexander and Jerry Rice.

While Taylor's numbers were impressive, whom he did it against makes his accomplishments all that more extraordinary.

Entering Sunday, the Bills defense allowed the fewest total yards and points per game than any team in the NFL. Buffalo had also given up just five total touchdowns to running backs all season until facing Taylor, who doubled that total on Sunday.

"The offensive line and I prepared tremendously throughout this week," Taylor said in the CBS postgame interview. "We knew it was going to be a tough challenge ... We had to accept that challenge. That's what we had to do coming into this game and that was half the battle."

By virtue of their stellar second-year RB, Indy's offensive line has helped boast an average of 147.9 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in the league. With plenty of two-tight end sets in coach Frank Reich's offense, the Colts are engineered be a running threat at all times and the offense is enjoying the manifestation of their blocking.

Said TE Mo Alie-Cox: "One play at the goal line I'm blocking and I turn my head and see him fly through the air like a [expletive] super hero."

In 11 games played, Taylor has 1,122 rushing yards (5.8 YPC) with 13 TDs on the ground and adds 32 receptions for 322 yards (two receiving TDs) to his breakout campaign. Taylor now leads the league in both rushing and TDs entering Week 12, and the 22-year-old not only understands the magnitude of what that means but what it takes to maintain that distinction through an entire season.

"Yeah, definitely, but it's a prove-it league," Taylor said. "You can go out there next week and stink it up, so you have to stay focused."

Nonetheless, the Colts sent a loud, clear message to the NFL on Sunday.

They're tested and playoff ready.

After starting 1-4, the Colts have scrapped their way back into the postseason conversation by winning five of six. And on a windy, rainy day in Buffalo, Indianapolis provided an emphatic answer to critics who questioned its ability to beat a legitimate contender by routing last year's AFC runner-ups 41-15 -- their first win in six games against 2020 playoff teams.

Now the playoff talk is no longer just idle chatter.

"If we're going to get where we want to go at the end of the year, we're going to have to put games away in the fourth quarter," Taylor said. "We're going to have to put points up. We're going to have to play great defense."

As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot notes, the Colts (6-5) have been fighting their way back by successfully doing both.

While Taylor provided the offensive punch -- and it should be noted he couldn't produce those numbers without a strong offensive line, which is playing at its traditionally high standard after a rash of early-season injuries, Indy's improving defense took care of the rest.

By forcing four turnovers and limiting Buffalo's high-powered offense to 221 yards and one touchdown through three quarters, the Bills' ground game never got started. It's a script coach Frank Reich, one of the league's top comeback artists, believes in whole-heartedly.

He saw it work when Indy rebounded from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs in 2018, and also when he led Buffalo to the greatest comeback in NFL history against Houston in the playoffs in January 1993.

And Reich senses it's working again with a team suddenly clicking on all cylinders.

"I could just feel from the guys, I could feel the energy, I could feel the focus. So, this didn't surprise me," he said. "When you can run the football, it makes a huge difference. You've still got to be able to make plays in the pass game and we made a couple today that were significant, but that's the way to run the football."

Indy has scored at least 30 points in five of its last six games, including 41 against the league's No. 2 scoring defense.

Next up, after beating one of last season's final four teams, the Colts face another with Tom Brady and defending world champion Tampa Bay coming to town. Brady has had much success in Indianapolis during his career, and Indy needs to replicate Sunday's performance to prove the Buffalo victory was no fluke. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Quarterback Carson Wentz completed 11-of-20 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown.

It may be a picky point after a completely dominant game, but the Colts have leaned so heavily on Taylor and receiver Michael Pittman Jr. recently the tight ends seem like a forgotten component in the passing game. That said, tight end Jack Doyle led the team in receiving with three receptions for 30 yards.

Expect Reich to make getting the tight ends more involved a focal point over the final six games.

A hip injury put kicker Rodrigo Blankenship on injured reserve following an overtime loss at Baltimore. Indy then signed Michael Badgley, who hasn't missed a kick in those six games. Reich made it clear last week he won't rush back Blankenship and intends, for now, to use Badgley.

And finally. ... For the second straight week, the Colts came out of the game relatively healthy.

T.Y. Hilton (toe) was limited in Wednesday's practice, but the biggest concern was three-time All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson, who left in the fourth quarter after aggravating an ankle injury. Reich said Nelson is considered day to day.

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

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Carson Wentz, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, 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 23 November 2021

In the closing moments of Sunday's 30-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Jacksonville, quarterback Trevor Lawrence stood with his arm around coach Urban Meyer's shoulder.

The rookie just wanted to let Meyer know that he's okay.

He's not happy that the offense is underperforming and the Jaguars (2-8) aren't winning, but he wanted to let Meyer know that he doesn't have to worry about him.

"I just told him I'm going to keep fighting," Lawrence said. "Like, it doesn't matter the situation. I'm always going to be me. You don't have to worry about me, so I'm going to keep being the same guy, going back every day and grinding. We've got a lot of guys like that.

"And there's not a magic pill, like this is what we need to do to fix it. We all just have to take ownership and be better. Until we do that, it's going to be the same thing. Got to keep going, keep going back to work, and it'll come, but it's definitely disappointing."

But as ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco contends, Meyer and the Jaguars should be worried about Lawrence.

Not because he hasn't thrown a touchdown pass or thrown for more than 200 yards since Halloween and hasn't completed at least 60 percent of his passes since Oct. 17. Those are concerning, yes, but they're symptoms of the bigger problems with the offenses: A lack of playmakers, a group of receivers that struggles to get separation and drops way too many passes (19) and the worst third-down conversion rate in the league.

Plus, running back James Robinson was already being impacted by heel and knee injuries, and now receiver Jamal Agnew suffered a severe hip injury against the 49ers that will end his season.

So now the Jaguars will be asking Lawrence to pretty much single-handedly carry an offense -- with its best offensive player limited and the team's only legitimate deep threat possibly done for the season -- for the next seven weeks.

"I'm not going to panic," Meyer said after the game. "That was a very poor display of football in so many areas, but [we have to] go back to work and try to beat the Falcons next week."

The thing is, there's nothing the Jaguars can do -- no player they could sign -- to make things better until the offseason. Lawrence is going to have to take an offense that is accounting for a league-low 14.7 points per game and has scored just four offensive TDs in their past four games and … somehow find a way to get something going.

It's possible to bust out of their offensive slump, but it will require someone to make a big play or two -- something the Jaguars haven't done much of since the bye. They've had just seven plays of 20 or more yards and only one -- a 66-yard touchdown run by Agnew -- longer than 28.

The Jaguars' longest play against San Francisco (5-5) was a 22-yard completion to Marvin Jones Jr., which came when the Jaguars trailed 30-3 late in the fourth quarter.

"Something definitely that's helped in the past is you just need a spark," Lawrence said. "You need guys to make plays. All of us. It's me, it's receivers, running backs, wideouts, O-line, it's just everybody. Someone make a play, get some momentum.

"We didn't make any big plays [Sunday], so we've got to be better. We could have used a few sparks. You saw we were starting to do that as the year went on, and then the past few games offensively haven't been great."

As DiRocco went on to suggest, it could be for a quarter or half or game at times over the next seven weeks. Lawrence could get hot, get a couple lucky breaks, take advantage of a short field because of a turnover -- but to consistently expect the offense to start pounding out yards and points, that's unrealistic.

So Meyer should absolutely worry about the unfair burden and pressure that they'll be placing on Lawrence the rest of the season. He knows there's nothing they can do about it now, but he also knows they'll get through this and believes better days are ahead soon.

At one point in October, Meyer said he'd like his team to reach 250 yards rushing and passing in the same game.

It was an unlikely, farfetched goal -- one Jacksonville has only once come remotely close to reaching in the Week Five loss to Tennessee. On that Sunday, the club had 256 yards passing and 198 yards rushing.

Against San Francisco, the Jaguars had just 200 total yards.

Lawrence finished 16-of-25 passing for 158 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, one of his lowest outputs of the season. He was also sacked three times, though he did have 23 yards on three carries.

No one should proclaim a player a bust after 10 games, and Lawrence has shown flashes of his potential. But as Associated Press sports writer Mark Long points out, Lawrence has completed only 58 percent of his passes for 2,141 yards with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions so far as a rookie.

As a result, Meyer is fielding questions about potential staff changes with nearly two months left in the season.

The Jaguars (2-8) are averaging 264.5 yards and 10.8 points over their last four games, a stretch of futility that has made Lawrence's development the main topic of conversation inside and outside the facility.

CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora, citing anonymous sourced, reported before Sunday's game that Jacksonville's coaches are at odds over how to use Lawrence, and added that staff changes are expected. The report said some coaches are pushing back on Meyer's preference to run more simplified run-pass options that helped Lawrence become so successful at Clemson.

Similar discussions came up earlier this season, when Meyer suggested "Trevor has got to become Trevor a little bit."

Veteran NFL offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell countered with "this is not Clemson where we are pulling the ball and running downhill inside and letting linebackers and safeties hit him."

Meyer insisted Sunday that there's no internal strife and no decisions have been made about coaching changes.

"I have high expectations," he said. "When someone's not performing well, yeah, we have hard conversations, but that's the game of football. …

"Do I have high expectations for position groups? Absolutely. Very high expectations. If it's not fulfilled, then we have to have a conversation about it."

Next up, the Jaguars get another chance to end its NFC skid at home against Atlanta next Sunday. The Falcons have been outscored 68-3 in consecutive losses to Dallas and New England. ...

On the injury front. ... Agnew has been placed on IR. He twisted his right hip/leg, an injury Meyer called "a hit square in the jaw. That's a problem." CB Shaquill Griffin (concussion), CB Tyson Campbell (shoulder), LT Cam Robinson (knee) and S Andre Cisco (groin) also are undergoing further evaluation.

Robinson, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, continues to deal with and play through the above-mentioned heel and knee issues; I'll likely have more on his progress again this week via Late-Breaking Update. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Laviska Shenault Jr. caught 5-of-5 targets for 50 yards against the 49ers. Working out of the slot instead of outside, where he's worked since D.J. Chark Jr.'s season-ending injury in Week 4, Shenault had his best outing since Week 6.

That role could become the norm going forward with Agnew's season over -- assuming they can get something out of Laquon Treadwell, Tavon Austin or John Brown. ...

Dan Arnold was held without a target or touch against the 49ers.

Remember, Arnold was targeted 25 times in the three previous games, turning those opportunities into 17 catches for 195 yards. Fantasy managers shouldn't let one dud scare them off; even the best players in the best offenses have down days. That said, Arnold is not necessarily the best of players and the Jaguars certainly don't have anything close to the best of offenses.

Continue playing Arnold for what he is: A high-end streaming option with the potential for high-volume against the Falcons in Week 12. ...

According to Greg Auman of the The Athletic, the Jaguars are signing Jaydon Mickens off the practice squad of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The move was confirmed by Mickens’ agent, David Canter.

Mickens appeared in 16 games for the Jaguars over the course of two seasons in 2016-17. Mickens largest roles have come as a kick and punt returner. For his career, Mickens has 63 total kickoff returns for 499 yards and a touchdown, which came during his time with the Jaguars in 2016.

With Agnew going on injured reserve, Mickens will be able to take over the return duties for the Jaguars.

As Profootballtalk.com notes, Mickens has spent the last three years with the Buccaneers. He’s appeared in 16 total games with the team. Mickens has 13 total receptions for 135 yards and two touchdowns, both of which came in 2016 with Jacksonville. ...

And finally. ... Jacksonville was penalized at least eight times for the fifth consecutive week, a troubling trend for Meyer. The Jaguars are tied for second in the NFL with 30 pre-snap flags, including a delay-of-game penalty Sunday because punter Logan Cooke didn't get on the field fast enough on one fourth down in the fourth quarter.

Cooke's strange miscue came after Lawrence was sacked on a third-and-25 play near midfield, setting up an obvious punting situation.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, Devine Ozigbo, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Laquon Treadwell, 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 23 November 2021

Patrick Mahomes has been trying to convince everyone that the Kansas City Chiefs' defense has been playing better.

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta suggested, it' hard to dispute it now.

What was one of the worst defenses in the NFL -- and maybe Chiefs history -- the first six weeks of the season showed just how stout it has become on Sunday. Kansas City held the NFL-leading Cowboys' offense to 276 yards, sacked Dak Prescott five times and picked him off twice, and kept Dallas out of the end zone entirely in a 19-9 victory.

"Ever since the second half of the Tennessee game those guys have been playing better," Mahomes said. "It got lost because the offense wasn't playing well that we were winning games because of the defense. To go up against an offense like that, that's put up so many yards and points, and to shut it down was something else."

Make no mistake: The Chiefs' offense still isn't playing consistently well.

Mahomes was held to 260 yards while throwing an interception and losing a fumble. The Chiefs went 4 of 12 on third downs and managed 370 yards of their own. The running game, even with the return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire from his injury, was frequently bottled up by the Cowboys on a chilly evening at Arrowhead Stadium.

So it was a good thing for AFC West-leading Kansas City (7-4) that the defense showed up again.

Chris Jones had 3 1/2 sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one, continuing his dominance since moving from the edge back to his more natural position at defensive tackle. Frank Clark added a sack and three quarterback hits as he begins to live up to his gaudy contract. Charvarius Ward and L'Jarius Sneed picked off passes, and Sneed had three passes defended, made a tackle for loss, and seemed to be everywhere the Cowboys tried to go Sunday night.

It was a far cry from the defense that gave up at least 430 yards and 30 points in four of the first five games.

"They've had to work for this," head coach Andy Reid said, "and I think when you have to really work for something and bear down, I think you enjoy it a little bit more and you're not resting on what happened before, but you've earned this right here with the knot in the stomach and the ups and downs. So, you earn every one of these.

"I think that's where we're at right now," Reid continued, "and they like each other. They're getting to know each other better and I think they like each other, so playing hard for one another."

The Chiefs finally get their long-awaited bye this week. Then they return to face three straight divisional opponents with the Broncos and Raiders first up at Arrowhead Stadium followed by the Chargers in Los Angeles.

It's a streak that should help to decide the AFC West race. ...

A few things of interest. .. According to Skretta, the Chiefs need to quit with the stupid penalties. Edwards-Helaire was nailed with taunting for pointing at a defender while scoring; defensive back Rashad Fenton got penalized for taunting after having his helmet ripped off along the Dallas sideline; and offensive lineman Trey Smith was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for jawing at the officials. ...

Travis Kelce hauled in five catches for 74 yards on Sunday -- all in the second half -- to move into fifth place all-time in terms of receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history. The All-Pro tight end now has 8,702 receiving yards for his career, passing both Rob Gronkowski (8,668) and Greg Olsen (8,683) on Sunday. Only Tony Gonzalez (15,127), Jason Witten (13,046), Antonio Gates (11,841) and Shannon Sharpe (10,060) recorded more receiving yards at the tight end position.

He also found the end zone early in Sunday's game, taking a direct snap and plunging ahead four yards for the second rushing touchdown of his career. ...

Edwards-Helaire put together a solid game in his return to action. The second-year tailback was back on the field following a five-game stint on injured r\Reserve, tallying 76 total yards (63 rushing, 13 receiving) and his first rushing touchdown of the season. His score -- a 1-yard rush early in the game -- gave the Chiefs a two-score lead that they never relinquished.

The folks at Pro Football Focus were impressed with him, too. Edwards-Helaire recorded the highest overall grade among all Chiefs' offensive players in the game and the second-highest grade of his career. ...

Tyreek Hill caught nine passes for 77 yards against Dallas while also chipping in a 33-yard rush early in the game, and with six games left in the regular season, he's only three grabs shy of matching his career high in receptions (87 in 2018 and 2020).

The All-Pro receiver currently ranks second in the NFL in receptions (84), third in receiving touchdowns (8) and fifth in receiving yards (932). Since 2017, only DeAndre Hopkins (6,008) and Kelce (5,840) have more receiving yards than Hill (5,730).

No other team has multiple players in the top 10 on that list. ...

Will we ever find a consistent WR2 here?

Mecole Hardman was only targeted three times with two catches for 25 yards. He had an easy catch bounce off his hands and was unable to use his natural speed to beat Dallas defensive backs in the passing game. Perhaps Byron Pringle needs a longer look? Or maybe Josh Gordon can break into the rotation. ...

Finally. ... With 17,352, Mahomes moved past Bill Kenney and into fourth place on the Chiefs' career passing yardage list. He needs 257 more to pass Alex Smith for third, then he can set his sights on Trent Green (21,459) and leader Len Dawson (28,507).

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, Josh Gordon, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

The Raiders slumped to their third straight loss on Sunday and the offense remains a major problem in Las Vegas.

Derek Carr turned the ball over twice in the 32-13 loss to the Bengals, which gives him six in the last three weeks, and the Raiders failed to gain 300 yards of offense for the second straight week. They've been outscored 96-43 over the span and Carr pointed the finger at himself while speaking to reporters after the game.

"I've just got to be better for us. ... Starts with me and ends with me. We're out of sync and not good enough on third down and red zone and it's my fault," Carr said, via Anthony Galaviz of the Fresno Bee.

Carr said this week that he is confident the team will avoid the poor second half play that sank their last two seasons.

As Profootballtalk.com suggested, Carr will have a harder time selling others on that opinion after Sunday's performance dropped them to 5-5 on the season.

It's pretty obvious, but as Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow put it, "The offense is stagnant, the defense got gassed and the sloppy play with penalties and turnovers once again proved costly."

According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, the Raiders offense in general, Carr in particular, is too tentative, too conservative early in games and it contributes mightily to a winded defense fading late.

Whatever the case, a season that had so much promise just a few weeks ago is spiraling out of control.

"We came out flat," Carr said. "It was terrible, there is no beating around it. Last couple of weeks we just take turns. Just really out of sync right now. Nobody is coming to save us, so we better figure it out."

The Raiders (5-5) appeared on the right track when they won their first two games under interim coach Rich Bisaccia to head into the bye week with a 5-2 record. But they haven't won since returning, getting outscored 96-43 in losses to the New York Giants, Kansas City and Cincinnati.

The recent slide started after speedy receiver Henry Ruggs III was released after charged with felonies in a fatal drunken driving crash that killed a 23-year-old woman.

Carr has struggled to push the ball downfield without Ruggs threatening the defense, and the offense has looked mostly stale after a promising first two games without coach Jon Gruden.

Coordinator Greg Olson, who took over as play caller after Gruden resigned over the publication of his old offensive emails, has been unable to come up with a winning formula the past three weeks. Carr has struggled as well with four interceptions and two fumbles.

The Raiders are running out of time to get things fixed if they are to make it to the playoffs for just the second time in the past 19 seasons.

"Being a Raider fan for a long time, 20 years of this crap is enough," Carr said. "I'm fed up. I just want to be part of the moment that changes. I want that so bad, that's what keeps driving me. I get pissed off and I get upset. I stand up here, and I've done this way too many times than I like to do it. ..."

Next up, the Raiders have to take on the Cowboys in Dallas.

Can they save their season in Dallas on Thanksgiving or is it over?

"Not as currently constructed," Gutierrez contends. "And not if Carr and the offense is just as stagnant for a fourth game in a row. In fact, it might be time to play Marcus Mariota to see if he can jumpstart things. Then again, you might lose Carr mentally by benching him. But would that be a bad thing?"

Other notes of interest. ... With Ruggs gone, Bryan Edwards and Zay Jones have failed to pick up the slack. Jones has three catches for 62 yards on nine targets the past three weeks, while Edwards has three catches for 88 yards and a TD on eight targets in that stretch.

Edwards wasn't targeted on Sunday. DeSean Jackson was signed to add the speed element but wasn't targeted in the passing game Sunday and had one carry for 4 yards.

The Raiders struggled to get the ball to their top playmaker last week but Darren Waller had seven catches for 116 yards on eight targets on Sunday. Only four of those targets came in the first three quarters when the game was close, so they could still do more work. ...

Heading into Thursday's game, the club has several players on its injury report, including kicker Daniel Carlson who did not participate in Monday's walk-through with a non-COVID illness. But it doesn't look like the Raiders will have any concerns for their specialists for Thursday's contest against the Cowboys.

Carlson was a full participant on Las Vegas' injury report Tuesday.

Carlson has made 86.4 percent of his field goals this season and 91 percent of his extra points this season while sending 54 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks.

Guard John Simpson was also a limited participant on the Raiders' estimated practice report after he missed Monday's walk-through with a ribs injury.

Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (ankle) and cornerback Keisean Nixon (ankle) remained non-participants while running back Jalen Richard (ribs) remained limited -- but he managed to avoid injury designation.

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (ribs), running back Kenyan Drake (knee), cornerback Brandon Facyson (finger/hamstring), receiver Dillon Stoner (Achilles), and center Andre James (thumb) were all full participants.

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

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

Brandon Staley has preached from the time he was hired as the Los Angeles Chargers coach in January that his team needed to thrive in the fourth quarter instead of collapsing.

So far, the Chargers are delivering.

As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy notes, Sunday night's 41-37 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was their fifth fourth-quarter comeback this season and improved their record to 5-3 in one-score games. Los Angeles was 40-63 since 2010 coming into the season in games decided by eight points or fewer.

"The games against the best competition come down to the end," Staley said. "When you've got to have it and you feel like you are ready for it, then I think you can thrive and execute better."

The Chargers have scored 94 points in the final 15 minutes, which is fourth in the league. They are also one of five teams with three or more touchdowns in the final two minutes of games.

Staley was proud of his team's resolve despite allowing 27 points in the fourth quarter, including 17 where the Steelers took over in Chargers territory.

Justin Herbert was also able to weather a fourth-quarter interception and connected with Mike Williams for the go-ahead TD.

"My coaches are like 'you gotta love it' where I am thinking why we can't just have a relaxing fourth quarter one of these days so I don't age 10 years every Sunday? I don't think it's gonna change," linebacker Joey Bosa said.

Perhaps more important for the Chargers is that the win gives them a good start in what is a crucial three-week stretch where they face contenders for AFC playoff spots. The next two against Denver (5-5) and Cincinnati (6-4) are on the road.

Los Angeles (6-4) is a half-game behind Kansas City (7-4). But the Chargers could move into a tie atop the AFC West with a victory over the Broncos.

Meanwhile, as Yahoo's Chris Cwik suggests, if running back Austin Ekeler is the reason you're celebrating a fantasy football win this week, you're in good company.

Ekeler likely led himself to a fantasy win with his four-touchdown game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

Ekeler scored a career-high four touchdowns and had his sixth 100-yard scrimmage game this season with 65 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving. The fifth-year running back is only the second player in team history to score a TD from scrimmage in each quarter during a game.

He also already has a career high for rushing yards in a season with 573 while averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

Ekeler, who plays fantasy football, revealed he has himself on at least one of his teams. He even knew how many points he scored in that fantasy league.

Through 10 games, Ekeler has already passed his previous career high in touchdowns in a single season. Ekeler already has 13 scores in 2021. His previous high of 11 came in 16 games during the 2019 season. Ekeler was going near the back end of the first round in most drafts. He's more than lived up to that draft slot after 10 games.

Also worth noting, Williams returned to the form he showed the first five weeks with five receptions for 97 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown where he took advantage of being left open when Pittsburgh was bringing a blitz and went 53 yards. Williams needs four receptions to surpass his career high of 49 set in 2019.

Keenan Allen has three straight games with eight or more catches for the fourth time in his career and is third in the league with 74 receptions.

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

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

According to Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham, Sean McVay's emotions were still running high Monday night when he boldly told reporters the Los Angeles Rams would "come back freaking swinging" from consecutive losses heading into their bye week.

"I almost said the wrong word there, and you guys would have been really bleeping everywhere," McVay said with a grin.

After a day to calm down, McVay's message about the suddenly reeling Rams (7-3) was more couched in his usual fluent coach-speak, even if the immediacy of the sentiment remained largely the same.

"They never end the season after 10 games, but we do have to fix some of these things with some urgency," McVay said. "Guys have to play better. But I think the first thing that I always want people to do in our organization is to look inward."

As Beacham went on to note, the Rams are still a Super Bowl contender simply by virtue of their record and their top-end talent. They have yet to prove they're better than other good teams with the same aspirations -- and their performances against Tennessee and San Francisco suggest they might not be what they want to be.

Los Angeles' first back-to-back losses of the season fortuitously occurred right before the Rams get several days off to heal, to study the playbook -- and for the coaches to figure out how to get more out of the wealth of talent at their disposal, particularly newcomers Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr.

"I know my confidence isn't lost," McVay said. "I don't think our players' is, but I think what you want to make sure is that you are demonstrating reasons to feel confidence. ... You don't just show up and say, 'Yeah, I feel confident.' You've got to actually have some work that goes behind that."

The Rams' losing streak has raised fundamental questions about this high-risk, high-reward roster's capability to handle the big challenges it will face down the stretch of the regular season. That stretch is awfully perilous, featuring three NFC West matchups -- the Rams are currently 1-2 in division play -- and road trips to Green Bay, Minnesota and Baltimore.

It's a tricky challenge for McVay and his assistants. While the Rams added major talent with their two splashy midseason deals, the acquisitions bolstered two areas where the Rams already were fairly strong while ignoring areas where this roster is visibly less impressive than it was in recent years.

That talent all revolves around Matthew Stafford, whose MVP-caliber season has turned abruptly in the past two weeks.

The veteran quarterback, who threw 22 touchdown passes against four interceptions in the first eight weeks, has thrown two TD passes with four interceptions, seven sacks and a declining completion percentage in the past two weeks.

More importantly, the Rams made just two touchdown drives in the past two weeks -- and one of those was in the meaningless final minute of their blowout loss to the Titans.

Stafford threw a pick-6 in the first half of both games, putting the Rams in a hole they couldn't escape. McVay is relying on his quarterback to provide a major upgrade in production this season, and Stafford is publicly unfazed by this bump.

"I've got a lot of belief in the guys in that locker room on all sides of the ball to come back and have the right attitude going into the next seven games," Stafford said. "We'll work the right way and be where we want to be."

Beckham appears to be determined to put his messy breakup with Cleveland behind him by making an impact for the Rams.

After making two catches on 15 snaps in San Francisco, Beckham said he planned to put in "two-a-days" in Thousand Oaks during the bye week because he already "had a baby hiatus" while leaving the Browns.

"It is going to be a tough road," Beckham said. "These moments don't divide you. They get you stronger and closer together, and I am happy to be here. Over the bye week, to be able to get into the playbook and really try to learn every single thing possible, I know it was quick, but I'm ready."

McVay was asked earlier this week to explain the effort to further incorporate Beckham into the offense.

"I think that's a work in progress," McVay told reporters. "I think it was important for everybody to be able to get away. Odell was doing a great job of kind of working on his own, getting himself physically ready to go, because there was still some stuff that he was working through just physically to get his body feeling overall the way that he wants to play at the level that we all know he's capable of. And so, there's some moving parts to that.

"What I didn't want to do is immerse him in some information and then you end up adjusting and changing. So, I think you want to be able to foundationally build it the right way, formations, all those kinds of things, and then you do need to be specific with the way that we implement the game plan. What does that look like, what positions will he play in, who does that also affect as a result of just some of the moving pieces, different personnel groupings, and things of that nature.

"So that's something that we started to really dive into [on Monday]. I know he was doing some stuff behind the scenes. But he's a smart, conscientious guy. I think the goal for us is making sure that we get a plan in alignment that provides clarity for all of our players, in particular Odell, just because he is new to the system. But there's a lot of similarities in terms of the verbiage and the vernacular that they were utilizing in Cleveland. And so that will help and it'll force us to be even that much more air tight with our game plan, which I think is a good, positive thing for us as coaches as well."

As Profootballtalk.com suggests, it sounds as if OBJ didn't get the crash course that maybe we thought he would upon arrival. It also sounds like he's getting it now, as a date with the Packers approaches.

For his debut in Week 10, the ESPN broadcasters explained that the Rams had to huddle when Beckham played because he doesn't know the offense well enough to have the plays called at the line of scrimmage. As the Rams fell behind and time became a precious commodity, that forced Beckham to the sidelines.

He ultimately was on the field in his first game with the Rams for 15 snaps, 27 percent of the total offensive plays. He had two catches for 18 yards.

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

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

It turns out everything changed at the trade deadline for the Dolphins after all.

Instead of swinging a deal for embattled Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson or shedding big names to acquire assets for the future, the Dolphins traded an old attitude for a new one. They were 1-7 that week, when coach Brian Flores told the team it was going to play a different way.

The Dolphins are 3-0 since.

As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques noted, the Dolphins were one of three teams not to record any plays of 50 or more yards during the first eight weeks of the season, during which they compiled a 1-7 record. But they have done so an NFL-leading three times since Week 9, including a 65-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to wide receiver Mack Hollins that ended a drought of five straight scoreless drives.

It was Miami's longest play of the season and the longest play of both Tagovailoa's and Hollins' careers -- and it wasn't even drawn up for Hollins.

"The first progression on that play was [tight end] Mike Gesicki, and when I came off of Mike, there were about three people, including the safety, that were on him," Tagovailoa said. "It turned out Mack was wide open, so I threw it down to him and he made the play. We came back to the sideline and realized how open he was."

Miami (4-7) scored on its opening drive, but Tagovailoa threw his sixth interception of the season on the third play of the following drive. He and the offense struggled to get things going from there, mustering just 85 yards on 24 plays over their next five series.

But Hollins' message to his quarterback after the long touchdown pass was simple -- three words: "I told you."

They knew the play would be there eventually, despite the lapse between scoring drives. That's been a microcosm of Miami's offense the past two weeks, when it has hit on plays of 52, 64 and 65 yards; take away those three plays, and its offense has averaged just 4.5 yards per play.

But catching your opponent sleeping is part of football, particularly in a league in which games often come down to a handful of plays. It's something the Dolphins kept in mind during Sunday's win.

"It was definitely a big sigh for us offensively," Tagovailoa said. "We really wanted to find our rhythm in the game. Obviously, the interception kind of stopped us, but I would say that's what I'm most proud of [regarding] our offense. We continued to put our heads down, continued to fight.

"We had some mishaps, but it didn't matter."

Here comes a dose of reality, though: The Baltimore Ravens and Jets, the teams Miami beat the past two weeks, entered their respective games against the Dolphins with the league's second-worst passing defense.

The "prayers" Tagovailoa threw up Sunday might fall on deaf ears next week against the Carolina Panthers, whose defense entered Week 11 allowing an NFL-best 174.2 passing yards per game and owns the fourth-best pass rush win rate.

The Dolphins aren't scoring a ton, just averaging 21 points in this winning streak, but it's been more than enough to get wins.

"I think it's just truly a series of things: good preparation in meetings, in walkthrough, in practice, execution in practice," Flores said. "That gives you a chance to execute in the game. We're seeing some of that."

By any measure, that's a good trade.

Now, heading into the stretch, Tua is healthy, he didn't lose his job at the trade deadline and has been laser-sharp since getting back on the field following Jacoby Brissett's injury midway through the Baltimore game. Tagovailoa has completed 76 percent of his passes in that span and his rating in the past two games (110.0) mirrors Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (110.2).

Jaylen Waddle caught eight passes for 65 yards in addition to scoring a rushing touchdown. The eight receptions give him 68 on the season, which is the most by any NFL rookie, fourth among all NFL players, and move him into third place in Dolphins rookie history.

Adding to the fun, the Dolphins might get wide receivers DeVante Parker and Will Fuller back from stints on injured reserve this week, though Flores said there's been no definitive decision on their availability yet. That said, the fact they weren't designated to return on Wednesday isn't a good sign...

In addition, Myles Gaskin's 89 rushing yards against the Jets were a season high for any Dolphins' ball carrier.

Gaskin has the four best rushing games for Miami this season (89 Sunday, 67 vs. Atlanta, 65 vs. Las Vegas, 49 vs. New England).

In a related note. ... The Dolphins claimed Phillip Lindsay, who was waived by the Texans Tuesday, on Wednesday.

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

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

The Vikings are 5-5 and right in the thick of the NFC's wild-card race. There's no time to waste being timid.

That's the message Mike Zimmer had for his quarterback after the Vikings emerged from a shootout victorious over the Green Bay Packers. Don't worry about making mistakes, Kirk Cousins -- just let it rip.

"I want (Cousins) to keep doing it like he's doing it," Zimmer said Monday, via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "He can't second-guess himself. If he throws an interception, that's life. But you keep going for the jugular. It's going to open up a lot of other areas in the running game. It's going to open up other players."

It certainly did Sunday, when Cousins completed 24 of 35 passes for 341 yards, three touchdowns and a sparkling 128.4 passer rating. It wasn't quite as good as Aaron Rodgers' 23-for-33, 385-yard, four-touchdown outing, but it was enough to help the Vikings win, 34-31.

Cousins' performance was also the first time an opposing quarterback had found any legitimate success against Green Bay's defense in the last month, and the difference is rather stark. In Weeks 8-10, opposing starting quarterbacks completed 56.4 percent of passes for 200.3 yards per game, a 1-4 TD-INT ratio and a passer rating of 59.7 against the Packers.

Now, before you go excusing those numbers as if they were posted by a band of signal-calling flunkies, prepare yourself for a bitter dose of reality. Those numbers were posted by Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. And Cousins shattered all of them in one game.

According to NFL.com's Nick Shook, what we saw here was the potential of Minnesota's offense.

It's a unit that has posted at least 30 points in half of its games and includes Justin Jefferson -- the No. 4 receiver in the NFL in yards (944), Adam Thielen, under-the-radar pass-catcher K.J. Osborn and sneaky-good tight end Tyler Conklin.

Dalvin Cook attracts the most attention as a constant threat out of the backfield as a runner and receiver and might most benefit from Cousins' increased aggression.

Cousins just needs to embrace letting it fly. Those "half-dozen throws there that were too aggressive," as Zimmer put it Monday, should become Cousins' comfort zone if the Vikings want to reach the postseason.

Cousins currently boasts a 21-2 TD-INT ratio, the best among qualified quarterbacks and the best in Vikings franchise history in a season. He's done it in a variety of fashions, spending almost an entire game throwing within 10 air yards (Week 3 vs. Seattle), and airing it out in others.

On Sunday, it was all about hitting his targets on intermediate passes, completing 7 of 7 such attempts for 165 yards and a touchdown, the most such completions without an incompletion in a game in the Next Gen era.

He's efficient and accurate. It's been crucial to the Vikings' success, as Minnesota has only played in one game not decided by one score this season (Week 3), and the Vikings have seen five of their games decided on the final play. Kicker Greg Joseph was the star of Sunday's final play, nailing a 29-yard field goal to send Minnesota's fans home happy.

After starting 1-3, the Vikings have won four of their last six. They'll meet another challenge in Week 12 from a team that is also hoping to reverse its early doubts with a strong finish that could include a playoff berth when Minnesota faces San Francisco.

"I mean, 6-5 isn't our goal," Zimmer said. "We don't want to be 6-5, we want to be 12-5 if we can. It's important that if we get another win, then we can hopefully stack a few together."

Meanwhile, Jefferson's performance on Sunday afternoon -- eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns -- continued to cement his status a one of the league's best.

"I heard him say the other day that he lives for games like this," Zimmer said.

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell suggests, the Vikings would be wise to let their lanky star continue to feast on those high stakes.

"He's very confident. I don't think any of this stuff bothers him. He thinks he's a great player, and he is a great player," Zimmer said. "He really doesn't have any prima donna in him as far as not working in practice or being late or anything like that. He just goes about his business. I think he just loves to go play and loves to practice, and I think he loves the limelight, too. I think he loves catching the ball and scoring touchdowns. Hopefully he can continue to do that."

In the five games the Vikings have won, Jefferson, who was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, has been targeted 54 times by Cousins and totaled 634 receiving yards.

In their five losses? Just 35 targets. Only 310 yards.

"I'm sure he gets frustrated, we all get frustrated, but he never shows it. He's just the same guy day in and day out," Thielen said. "He's always got a smile on his face, is always having fun, but he also knows when to lock in."

Offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak has deftly moved Jefferson around the formations, including in the backfield multiple times against the Packers. One of his touchdowns came on an option route he turned into a skinny post after lining up behind Cousins at the snap.

"It just stresses your defense in a lot of different ways, and then it adds a layer to that when you can move him around," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.

In the past two games, both wins, Cousins has sent 54 percent of his passes toward either Jefferson or Thielen. In the two games before that, both losses, the target rate was 40 percent.

Facing another strong defense at San Francisco this Sunday, Cousins must continue to strike the balance being turning the ball loose to his stars Jefferson and Thielen without doing so carelessly.

Zimmer clearly believes they've found that balance.

As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin notes, the Vikings beat the best team in the NFC by hanging on late and staying aggressive on offense. If they can beat San Francisco, the rest of their schedule is incredibly favorable for their chances of making it back to the postseason. ...

One last note here. ... The Vikings on Tuesday announced defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Tomlinson has started all 10 games for Minnesota this season. He has recorded 26 tackles, 1.5 sacks, a pass defended and a fumble recovery in his first season with the Vikings.

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

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

Led by a defense that is downright nasty, the New England Patriots are suddenly playing with the swagger of their Tom Brady years.

And the maturation of Mac Jones continued on the prime-time stage Thursday night.

As NFL.com's Grant Gordon noted, with that progress has come success and that was the case once more as the Patriots won their fifth straight game, downing the host Atlanta Falcons, 25-0, with Jones becoming just the third rookie quarterback in NFL history to win his first five starts on the road.

"It was a good team win and the defense stepped up and played really well," Jones said Thursday night. "The goal is to score one more point than the other team and we were lucky enough to do that. It's really hard to win in the NFL and you can't take anything for granted. You just have to watch the film and get better, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is scoring one more point than the other team."

The aforementioned five-game winning streak is the Patriots' first since beginning the season 8-0 in 2019, when Jones was a sophomore at Alabama backing up his current AFC East rival Tua Tagovailoa. Indeed, these are different times for the Patriots franchise in the post-Brady era, but with the rookie under center they have rediscovered their winning ways.

With his victorious showing on Thursday, Jones propelled himself into some rarefied rookie air. He improved to 5-0 as a starter on the road this season, becoming just the third rookie QB to do so, per NFL Research. The others were Dak Prescott and Ben Roethlisberger. Jones' seven wins in total are more than the rest of the 2021 NFL Draft's quarterback class combined (5-24 entering Week 11).

Still, the maturation of Mac continues and head coach Bill Belichick was far from glowing after the Jones-led offense produced just one touchdown and had to settle for four Nick Folk field goals.

"We had plenty of good plays, we just, we didn't get enough points because we had too many drive-stopping plays," Belichick said when asked about Jones' night. "You gotta avoid those plays in order to score in this league, we just didn't do a good enough job of it tonight.

"I don't think there were a lot bad plays out there, we just had too many negative plays that killed drives."

The Falcons defense has struggled all season with its pass rush, but defensive coordinator Dean Pees was able to cook up nine QB pressures and three sacks against Jones, showing him plenty of looks. It limited production, though it didn't seem to ever rattle the rookie all that much.

"They emptied the clip on what they were going to try to bring against us and they did a good job on the defensive side and we can do better," Jones said.

Having sputtered to a 2-4 record after an overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6, the Patriots' five-win response has gone hand-in-hand with Jones establishing himself not just as a solid rookie QB, but a dependable NFL signal-caller, regardless of his experience.

Now 7-4, the Patriots head into the Week 11 weekend as the AFC's No. 4 seed.

Gordon went on to note that Jones wasn't spectacular on Thursday night, and he really hasn't been all that much this season (four multi-TD games, one 300-yard game). But he's limiting mistakes, piloting scoring drives and doing what is called for to get victories, which is exactly what the Patriots want and need. He brought a winning pedigree from college and it's crossed over in his first NFL campaign.

On Thursday, Jones was 22 for 26 for 207 yards, a 19-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor, one interception and a 96.6 rating. Over the past two games, Jones has only a combined eight incompletions. Over the last five games, he has only two interceptions.

"I like the way he plays and I enjoy getting to play with him," Patriots center David Andrews said. "He did a great job tonight."

Lying in wait for Jones and the Patriots are the Titans in Week 12 and two showdowns with the first-place Buffalo Bills in a span of four weeks.

If the maturation and winning continue for Jones and the Pats through that gauntlet, the Patriots will emerge as legitimate AFC contenders -- if they aren't already.

Indeed, thanks in large part to a defense that's been on fire during the team's five-game winning streak, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, forcing takeaways and generally not letting anyone get into the end zone against them, the Patriots appear to be locked in on the postseason.

They'll try to keep that roll going against the Titans in Foxboro on Sunday. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Damien Harris carried the ball 10 times for 56 yards against the Falcons. Fantasy managers concerned that Rhamondre Stevenson might be a limiting factor were right to believe that as the rookie was on the field for 22 snaps to Harris' 25.

Stevenson also outtouched and outproduced Harris by a narrow margin.

While we don't have enough evidence to suggest that will be the norm, it can't be overlooked. ...

So far this season, Jonnu Smith has totaled 22 receptions for 210 yards and one touchdown, while adding four carries for 20 yards. The numbers pale in comparison Hunter Henry's 33 catches for 388 yards and seven touchdowns.

But "patience" has been a buzzword around the Patriots when it comes to the 6-3, 248-pound Smith.

"He's acclimated well," Belichick said Monday. "Unfortunately, he missed some time this spring, but from training camp on, he's taken a lot of reps."

Smith has played 47.8 percent of the team's offensive snaps, pairing with Henry (69 percent) to give the Patriots a much greater tight end presence than they had in 2020.

Still, it hasn't come without some notable struggles, with the low point coming in a Week 3 loss to the New Orleans Saints when Smith had multiple dropped passes and was the primary target on a pick-six. Smith took ownership of the performance in the ensuing days, which is one example of why some around the team say he has fit in.

"He's a high-character person who is a hard worker and a great teammate," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said.

Smith isn't pushing for more playing time, saying he's on board with whatever keeps the Patriots -- winners of their past five games -- on a roll.

"I'm not going in there asking for a role. I know they know what position to put us all in to help us get wins. That's the most important thing," he said. "I'm just trying to do my part, whatever that is, and do it 100 percent like I always did. Nothing different than my career; I'm not changing now."

Titans coach Mike Vrabel expects to get Smith's best on Sunday.

"He's a piece," he said. "We understand his skill set, his vertical speed. I saw them hand it off to him on a jet sweep, and they try to get him some catch-and-run opportunities."

We'll see if a revenge game is enough to get Smith rolling. ...

On the injury front. ... Smith (shoulder), Henry (neck) and Harris (neck) were among the Patriots limited in Wednesday's practice; I'll have more on all involved in via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

One last note here. ... New England won the special teams battle handily in Atlanta, which was crucial in a game that wasn't a blowout until the fourth quarter.

Start with the field goals -- Nick Folk calmly drilled a season-long 53-yarder to put the game out of reach at 16-0, and was four for four on the night, while Atlanta missed one from 50.

But the edge went deeper than that. The Patriots picked up a lot of hidden yardage through punter Jake Bailey, who launched a 60-yarder and, with his first three punts, pinned Atlanta on its own 4-yard line, its 14, and its 19. On its only appearance, the New England kickoff unit notched a tackle at the Atlanta 17. Save a missed PAT after the outcome was a given, it was a buttoned-up effort all around.

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

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett reported, the New Orleans Saints are spiraling in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

They have now lost three straight for the first time since 2016, with their offense and defense both having their worst stretches of the season. And Sunday's 40-29 flop at the Philadelphia Eagles was the ugliest of the three, since they trailed 33-7 heading into the fourth quarter.

Technically, the Saints (5-5) are still in line for the NFC's seventh playoff seed because of tiebreakers.

And they should get crucial players like running back Alvin Kamara and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk back from injuries soon.

But that won't happen this week.

In fact injuries are going to be an issue.

The Saints may be down two running backs against the Bills on Thanksgiving.

Kamara has missed the last two games with a knee injury. He was joined by Mark Ingram, who turned up with a knee injury of his own on Monday.

On Wednesday, Kamara was officially ruled out while Ingram and Armstead were listed as questionable.

Tony Jones Jr. and Dwayne Washington are the other backs on the 53-man roster in New Orleans. Josh Adams is on the practice squad and Taysom Hill has seen time in the backfield.

The only other change to the injury report was wide receiver Ty Montgomery (hand) moving from limited to full participation. He avoided injury designation.

The Saints previously announced that tight end Adam Trautman and tackle Landon Young have been placed on injured reserve and that they've reserved cornerback KeiVarae Russell. They signed cornerback Ken Crawley and wide receiver Devin White to the active roster to round out the day's moves.

So there we have it. ... I'll be following up on Ingram, who was listed as a limited participant Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in advance of tomorrow night's kickoff.

The good news for the Saints is there's ample evidence that a better version of this team exists. They trounced the Green Bay Packers on a neutral field in Week 1, beat the New England Patriots convincingly on the road in Week 3 and outlasted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 8 -- even after they lost quarterback Jameis Winston to a season-ending ACL tear in the second quarter.

And they'll get healthier in coming weeks.

But New Orleans' offense has struggled even when fully healthy -- including a nasty 27-25 loss at home to the hapless Atlanta Falcons just two weeks ago.

And as coach Sean Payton stressed, injuries weren't his team's only excuse in Philly.

"I don't really want to talk about the injuries," Payton said when asked how challenging the past two weeks have been. "I understand the question, it's a good question. But there were a lot of things we did today that weren't injury related.

"Obviously we didn't do the things necessary to win in our league -- pretty much in every phase."

The defense's performance in Philly was just as disturbing as the offense's, considering they are mostly healthy on that side of the ball.

New Orleans' defense has been downright dominant at times this year -- and needs to carry this team if it plans to have any chance in December and January. But the Saints have now allowed opponents to average 29.25 points over the past four weeks (27.5 if you take away Sunday's pick-six).

And for the second year in a row, New Orleans' No. 1-ranked run defense had no answer for Philly's dynamic rushing offense, led by quarterback Jalen Hurts' three rushing touchdowns. The Eagles ran for 242 yards after running for 246 against the Saints last December -- by far the two highest totals New Orleans has allowed in the past five years.

Buffalo's Josh Allen doesn't run quite like Hurts, but he is one of the league's most mobile quarterbacks. And the Saints will have a pivotal showdown against the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton later this season. So they'll need to get that dialed in quickly -- as in before Thursday night.

Beyond that, a theme in the last three Saints losses has been slow starts.

As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel pointed out, during the slide, the Saints have zero first-quarter points and just 13 second-quarter points. For the season, they've scored just 24 points in all first quarters combined.

Part of the reason for that, Payton said, is that New Orleans is trying to control the ball with the run, in contrast to many of the past 15 seasons when the Saints, with record-setting Drew Brees at QB, were among the NFL's top passing clubs.

"I mean, we're not coming out just airing the football around," Payton said. "This is a different type of team right now, the way we're built right now offensively."

Now at 5-5, the Saints remain very much in the playoff picture, but with several seemingly difficult matchups approaching, starting with a Thanksgiving night home game against a Buffalo squad that is expected to contend in the AFC, but has struggled itself lately.

"We can do it. I think we have the players," quarterback Trevor Siemian said. "We know exactly where we're at. We have to string some (wins) together, but it starts with this Thursday. It's one of those short weeks where a lot of times, maybe, you're like, 'I need some more time for my body.' But I think a lot of us are looking forward to playing again quickly.""

Meanwhile, with the season officially on the brink and with Buffalo this week and the Cowboys coming into New Orleans over the next two Thursday nights, things won't get easier.

The hope is that the magnitude of Sunday's flop was somewhat of an anomaly since they were without Kamara, Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk. But the Saints' passing offense has struggled even at full strength this year, and this was also a step back for the defense.

That being the case, are we getting closer to seeing Hill at quarterback?

According to Triplett, the Saints have to consider anything that will shake up this sagging offense.

For the third-straight week, Siemian finished strong in the fourth quarter after he struggled mightily early in the game. He completed 22 of 40 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns, with one TD run and his first two interceptions of the season.

Hill missed three games with a concussion this year and he didn't play any snaps against the Eagles on Sunday due to a foot injury. He has 20 carries for 104 yards and three touchdowns and four catches for 52 yards to go with 56 passing yards and an interception on the year.

In a related note. ... When Hill restructured his contract with the team earlier this year, four voidable years were added to the deal in order to create $7.75 million in cap space for the current season.

The move left the 2021 season as the last one that tied Hill to the Saints, but that's no longer the case. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Hill has agreed to a four-year extension with the team and that his payout will be tied to what position he plays in New Orleans.

Hill's deal will have a base value of $40 million if Hill remains in his current role, but he could earn up to $55 million more if he becomes the starting quarterback during that period.

There is $22.5 million in guaranteed money.

Other notes of interest. ... Tre'Quan Smith caught 5-of-8 targets for 64 yards against the Eagles. Smith ended up tied for the team lead in catches and targets while his 64 yards led the way among all Saints receivers. Some of those totals came with the Saints playing from behind.

Nonetheless, the role, workload and production have been solid two straight weeks now and he appears to be emerging as a viable play ahead of guys like Deonte Harris and Marquez Callaway.

Harris caught 2-of-5 targets for 11 yards against the Eagles.

Harris had finished with more than 50 receiving yards in four of his last seven outings prior to this week, since a nine-yard Week 2 performance. Callaway caught 1-of-4 targets for 26 yards and a touchdown. The score leaves Callaway with a touchdown catch in each of the last three games.

That's he's done it on just six catches (and 14 targets) is a concern.

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, Deonte Harris, Kenny Stills, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery, Michael Thomas
TEs: Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson, Garrett Griffin, Adam Trautman

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

The New York Giants parted ways with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett on Tuesday, ending his frustrating but brief run of one-plus seasons in charge of the club's offense.

The team officially announced the firing and that senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens, the former Cleveland Browns head coach, will take over play-calling duties.

"One of the things that motivated me to accept this position was the opportunity to help rebuild the Giants into a contending team," Garrett said, in part, in a statement he released. "We knew there would be many challenges. My expectations for our offense were much greater than what our results have been, and I accept full responsibility for that."

Garrett was hired by Giants coach Joe Judge ahead of the 2020 season after a nine-year run as the Dallas Cowboys' head coach.

"It's a great system he brings with great teaching that will allow our players to go out there and play aggressively," Judge said at the time of the hire.

That didn't come to fruition, however, as Giants offensive problems that pre-dated Garrett only continued in 2020 and through the first 11 weeks of this season. In Monday night's 30-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, things were no better as the Giants offense stumbled to the tune of 215 total yards and a 1-for-9 conversion rate on third down. Especially ugly was a third-and-2 failure in which three Giants receivers inexplicably took routes to the same spot on the field, resulting in a throwaway by quarterback Daniel Jones.

For Judge, the decision to move on from Garrett was simply about a lack of production.

"I'll make every decision based on what's best for the team long-term. I feel we have to be more productive as an offense," Judge said, via team transcript. "Generally speaking, the offense's job is to score points. I don't believe we're scoring enough points. It's my job as the head coach to make sure I give our players an opportunity to go out there and make plays."

The Giants (3-7) rank 25th in the NFL in scoring offense (18.9 points per game).

According to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread, Garrett's tenure as offensive coordinator can't be summarized without acknowledging a spate of injuries to key players who never allowed the unit a chance to flourish as a whole. That begins with star running back Saquon Barkley, whose injuries forced him to miss 19 of 26 games in the Garrett era.

Compounding Barkley's absence this season were injuries that caused missed action for left tackle Andrew Thomas, wideout Kenny Golladay, receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Evan Engram and receiver Darius Slayton.

But it goes beyond the offense.

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan suggested, all the hope Judge generated with a strong second-half finish to his rookie season is gone.

If there is any doubt, take another look at the Giants' embarrassing 30-10 loss to Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

The game was not competitive. Not even close. Pat Graham's defense was shredded by Brady and company. Garrett's offense was worse, turning in season lows in points, yards and time of possession as New York fell to 3-7 with seven games to play.

Instead of throwing his team under the bus, Judge pinned the blame on his coaching staff after the game before Garrett was fired Tuesday.

"This is simply a move to make sure that I make the best decision for the team," Judge said Tuesday. "Right now, we have to do things to be more productive on offense and score more points and we have to do something to change it up. And this is the time we decided to make it."

Judge said this "is not a snap decision" after Monday night, acknowledging, "I don't think there's ever an ideal time to make a change like this in a season."

While the move seemed imminent after Judge spoke on Monday night, it's hard to say whether changing play callers will help. The team on Sunday will have mostly the same players who will be working with elements of the old playbook.

"Ultimately, when you have to do something to help the team, it doesn't matter when it happens, you just have to go ahead and do it," Judge said.

"Ultimately, we felt this was the best time. There's not really ever an ideal time to make a change like this in a season. You know, you don't really want to have to do this, but you have to make whatever decision is best for the team."

That said, the Giants have to find a way to get the offense in gear.

The main problem is how to help the injury-decimated line. Jones does not have the time to throw deep passes, and sometimes he does not have the time to throw short ones. Maybe some different plays will open things up. Establishing a running game also would help.

Defensively, the Giants need to stop the Eagles' running game.

If things work out, the Giants will score more points and maybe win a few more games. If not, they'll continue to lose and the season will be over long before the final game is played in early January.

On the injury front. ... Tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) and wide receiver Kadarius Toney (quad) left the game. There was no update on their injuries on Tuesday. Shepard continues to miss time with a quad injury.

Rudolph, Toney and Shepard did not take part in Wednesday's walkthrough. Barkley (ankle) was limited in his practice estimation.

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

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Mike Glennon, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis
TEs: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

According to multiple reports, the New York Jets' quarterback carousel spun again Tuesday.

Rookie Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick, has been sidelined the past four games with a sprained knee but will return Sunday to start against the Houston Texans, ESPN's Rich Cimini and NFL Networks' Tom Pelissero reported citing league sources.

Meanwhile, sources told Adam Schefter that quarterback Mike White has tested positive for COVID-19 and that fellow quarterback Joe Flacco was deemed a close contact. Both were put on the COVID list.

Josh Johnson is being promoted from the practice squad to back up Wilson.

Wilson was cleared after medical evaluations on Monday, and sources told Cimini that the status of the other quarterbacks did not figure into the decision to start him.

Wilson will be the third different starter in as many games. Initially, he was replaced by White, who started three games before being benched in favor of Flacco, the starter in Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

When Wilson suffered a second-degree sprain of his right posterior cruciate ligament in Week 7, he was expected to miss two to four weeks because of the injury, according to the Jets.

A lot happened while he was recovering. White, in his first career start, electrified the team and fan base with a 405-yard passing performance in an upset of the Cincinnati Bengals. Head coach Robert Saleh sparked speculation by refusing to say Wilson would return to his role once he got healthy.

White lost his touch with a four-interception outing in Week 10, prompting Saleh to make a controversial change for the Miami game. The decision to start Flacco over White was met with sharp criticism, but Flacco did a creditable job in the loss -- 291 yards and two touchdowns.

Wilson has practiced the past two weeks on a limited basis, but the organization didn't want to put him on the field until he was 100 percent healthy.

"We're going to make sure we protect this young man," Saleh said Monday. "When he's fully healthy and he feels like there's no limitations with his ability to play where he's not thinking about the knee, we'll get him back out there."

Flacco, acquired in an Oct. 25 trade with the Eagles, said last week he's unvaccinated. According to NFL protocols, he must test negative for five days before being allowed to return to the facility. He also had to clear a five-day entry period at the time of the trade. It's unclear whether the Jets knew his vaccination status before sending a 2022 sixth-round pick to the Eagles.

White's vaccination status isn't known. If he's vaccinated, he can return after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. Regardless, the team is planning to use Johnson as their backup on Sunday.

Wilson is 1-5 as the starter, with four touchdown passes, nine interceptions and a 27.0 QBR, which ranks 31st out of 33 qualified passers.

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. reports, Wilson recently said sitting out and watching his teammates run the offense efficiently will help him.

"I would say it's almost just as beneficial as playing," Wilson said. "Maybe you don't feel it as much as far as just actually going through it, but we all think and see the same things. I understand why Mike made a certain decision on something that he did in a game or didn't."

And with seven games remaining for the 2-8 Jets, Wilson's development and progress will be the primary focus.

Which has been the plan all along.

General manager Joe Douglas has vowed to build success through the draft and free agency. And this is a rebuild in its infancy -- even though the Jets went through one just four years ago when they went 5-11 and drafted Sam Darnold with similar hopes for the future.

That all backfired in a hurry.

The personnel in the front office is different now, and so is much of that on the field.

It was another total reset and it starts with Douglas and Saleh, and goes to rookie quarterback Zach Wilson -- and on from there.

"This is an actual plan," Saleh insisted. "I feel like Joe is doing a phenomenal job with a really, really concise plan on how to build from the ground up. And there's a lot of exciting pieces on this team that are hidden in these losses. But when you sit back and watch it from our perspective and (with) the combination of veterans and youth, it's definitely going in the right direction.

"And eventually, while frustrating today, it's going to be awesome when this thing gets flipped."

The players are singing a similar refrain. And while they don't accept a tough loss -- filled with penalties, mistakes and missed opportunities -- such as their 24-17 defeat against Miami on Sunday, they see positive signs. At least that's what they're hanging on to as the losses pile up.

"Rome wasn't built in one day and this thing isn't going to get turned around in one day," said right tackle Morgan Moses, before adding: "We have a lot of great players in this building."

But sooner rather than later, they'll have to prove that on the field.

If they fall to the pathetic Houston Texans (2-8) Sunday on the road, where will they get a win?

They face the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8), but you can't win if you can't stop anybody. Right now, the Jets' defense, gutted by injuries, is a shell of its former self -- and its former self wasn't too good.

The offense still has issues, especially consistently producing in the red zone and converting scoring opportunities. But the Jets also have some legitimate playmakers. Rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore is a game-breaking-type weapon, and his role will only increase as Mike LaFleur's offense solidifies.

New York has visions of a Wilson-to-Moore combination causing opponents problems for years. ...

On the injury front. ... Rookie running back Michael Carter will miss at least two weeks because of a mild high ankle sprain.

Saleh said Carter could be sidelined anywhere from two to four weeks, although he didn't rule out the possibility of a longer timetable. Carter, the Jets' leading rusher, was injured Sunday.

Carter, a fourth-round draft pick, has emerged as the No. 1 back. He leads the team with 430 rushing yards on 111 carries, a 3.9 average. He also has been a factor in the passing game, with 32 catches for 308 yards. He leads the team with 738 yards from scrimmage.

"He's been getting better every week," Saleh said. "Every time he touches the ball, he makes someone miss. If the offensive line blocks for run for nothing, he's finding 3 yards. If they block for 5, he's finding 8, 9 and 10. He's so dynamic with the ball in his hands. ..."

With Carter out, Ty Johnson and Tevin Coleman will handle the backfield duties. ...

Also of interest. ... With kicker Matt Ammendola struggling lately, the Jets signed former Pitt kicker Alex Kessman to the practice squad.

Kessman was with the Los Angeles Chargers during the offseason after being signed as an undrafted free agent. ...

Ammendola missed two field goals against Miami. He's 11 of 16 on field goals, including 0 for 3 on kicks of 50 or more yards.

Saleh said the Jets would evaluate the position, along with every other spot, over the coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White
RBs: Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman, Austin Walter, Lamical Perine, Michael Carter
WRs: Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Keelan Cole
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco, Tyler Kroft

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, Jalen Hurts had his teammates buzzing following his game-sealing 24-yard touchdown run to beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, 40-29.

Right tackle Lane Johnson likened Hurts' Allen Iverson-esque cutback to a video game move, saying Hurts "hit that L1 juke." Tight end Dallas Goedert didn't get to see it live because he was busy blocking, and couldn't figure out how Hurts had gotten through all that traffic, but ran over to him after watching the replay to tell him "he's that dude."

Cornerback Avonte Maddox was one of many players giddy watching it unfold from the sideline.

"Oh, I always watch Jalen. I was looking at the Jumbotron and when I saw him make that move, I was like 'Oh, snap.' I was looking for the trainer so I could grab some tape to help that kid's ankles," Maddox said of Saints defensive end Carl Granderson, who fell helplessly to the ground when Hurts cut back inside on a dime. "[Hurts] is definitely dynamic. [No.] 1 is always a baller and it's exciting to watch him play."

McManus went on to remind readers that Hurts entered the season with the odds of holding onto the starting quarterback job beyond 2021 stacked against him.

There were mixed opinions about him inside the building before he was drafted in the second round in 2020. Doubts persisted about his viability as a long-term quarterback following four promising but uneven starts as a rookie. The Eagles explored trading for Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson prior to the trade deadline.

And with upwards of three first-round picks in April's draft, the heavy speculation has been that Philadelphia will use that capital to acquire the next franchise quarterback, whether by trading those assets for a veteran like Watson or Russell Wilson or using it to select a quarterback from this draft class.

That has served as the backdrop to this season, with each game seemingly serving as a referendum on Hurts' future.

Eleven games into this make-or-break campaign, Hurts has shifted those odds more toward his favor, building a compelling case for why he should remain under center for the Eagles past this season.

Sunday furthered his argument. Hurts ran for 69 yards and three touchdowns against the top-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, while adding 147 yards through the air on 13-of-24 passing. Those three rushing TDs are the most in a game by a quarterback in Eagles franchise history, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

It marked Hurts' fourth career game with multiple rushing touchdowns, which is tied with Cam Newton for the most such games by a quarterback in his first two seasons.

He has racked up 890 rush yards in his first 15 career starts. The only QB with more in his first 15 starts? Lamar Jackson with 1,193.

His running prowess has had a residual effect on the rest of the offense. Philadelphia has 870 rushing yards in its past four games, the team's most in a four-game span since 1950, despite playing the No. 1 and No. 6 rush defenses in the Saints and Denver Broncos the last two weeks.

Hurts, 23, is now on pace to finish with over 4,500 total yards with 32 touchdowns to eight interceptions in his first full season as a starter.

If there's an area of concern, it's his efficiency as a passer. Hurts entered Sunday's game with a completion rate of 62.2 percent, which ranked 29th in the NFL. Still, it's 10 percentage points higher than his rate as a rookie. He's shown development in that area, particularly as a pocket passer.

But make no mistake: Smash-mouth football is the winning formula for the Eagles.

Unfazed by the Saints' top-ranked run defense, which entered the game allowing just 72.9 yards rushing per game, the Eagles again relied on their offensive line to take control.

"We're going to continue to attack, continue to play our game," Hurts said. "I think identity is not 'we're a running team,' 'we're a passing team,' or 'we're a team that doesn't give up big explosive plays.' That's not what identity is. Identity is a mentality, it's an approach, it's the detail you put in day in and day out throughout the week.

"It's being physical, it's wanting it, it's effort. It's all of those things."

Miles Sanders returned after missing three games with an ankle injury and led the way against the Saints with 94 yards rushing. Jordan Howard had 63 before injuring his knee.

Philadelphia's rushing attack starts with Hurts, though. His dual-threat ability makes the offense tough to defend.

"Jalen is a special player who forces defenses to play different," rookie coach Nick Sirianni said. "We know we have been running the ball well and it's a little different when Jalen is in there. ... You want to make them stop what you do well first and that's definitely what our goal was going out there."

Next up, the Eagles visit the Giants on Sunday. New York has a shorter week after playing in Tampa Bay on Monday night. ...

On the injury front. ... It looks like the Eagles dodged a bullet with Howard's knee injury. They weren't quite so lucky with Davion Taylor's.

Howard, who got hurt at the end of a seven-yard run in the third quarter Sunday, will likely miss the Eagles' game against the Giants this weekend with a knee sprain but has a chance to play the following week against the Jets, Sirianni said Tuesday.

Howard, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher with the Bears, spent the first half of this season on the practice squad but has rushed 51 times for 274 yards and three touchdowns over the last four weeks. His 5.4 average is 6th-highest in the NFL among running backs with at least 50 carries (and 9th-highest overall).

"Most likely he'll be out this week, don't know that for sure yet," Sirianni said. "Has a chance to play next week."

Howard's injury means Sanders -- who returned Sunday after a three-game layoff with an ankle injury -- and Boston Scott will likely be the primary ball carriers. Sanders is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and Scott is at 4.8.

It also means rookie Kenneth Gainwell could be active again after being inactive for the first time this year for the Saints game Sunday.

Taylor also suffered a knee sprain. He has played well the last six weeks after replacing Eric Wilson in the starting lineup, but he was dealing with a knee issue coming into the game.

"Most likely he's going to be headed to I.R.," Sirianni said.

And finally. ... Kicker Jake Elliott was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week following his performance against the Saints. Elliott was a perfect 8 for 8 on kicks, as he converted all four of his point-after attempts and all four of his field goal tries, including one from 50 yards.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell
WRs: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor reported, after missing a week of practice on the reserve/COVID-19 list, Ben Roethlisberger did what he does best.

The Steelers (5-4-1) lost to the Los Angeles Chargers 41-37 on Sunday night, but Roethlisberger rebounded from a bout with the virus to turn in a signature performance.

He completed 28 of 44 attempts for 273 yards and 3 touchdowns and helped mount a fourth-quarter, 27-point comeback that fell just short. It marked the most points the Steelers have scored in the fourth quarter with Roethlisberger as their starting quarterback.

"Thankful for Ben coming back in the manner in which he did and getting on the moving train and contributing," coach Mike Tomlin said after the game.

It was the kind of game that's been a calling card throughout his career, returning from an injury or illness with a vengeance. A year ago, he missed a week of practice as a high-risk, close contact of a teammate who tested positive for COVID-19 and came back to throw for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals.

This time around, Roethlisberger was sidelined when he first started to feel symptoms of the virus eight days ago. He called head athletic trainer John Norwig the night before the Steelers were scheduled to host the Detroit Lions to tell him he wasn't feeling well and wouldn't report to the team hotel in order to prevent anyone else from getting sick. Norwig advised that he needed to take a COVID-19 test. By the time Roethlisberger returned home from being tested that night, he found out he was positive for the virus.

"I just assumed I had a little bug," he said, speaking for the first time since he landed in COVID-19 protocols. "That night was the worst night. Fever, not feeling well. By Sunday, I started to feel better. Then, by Monday, I knew I felt fine physically, but just because you feel fine, that doesn't mean you're going to be able to pass the test. Credit to the doctors and staff for helping get me out here."

Roethlisberger also credited his wife for managing him and their three kids while he was sick and unable to leave the house. While at home, he participated in virtual meetings with offensive coordinator Matt Canada and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan and stayed involved in the game plan.

"I think the MVP of the week is my wife because it was not easy for all the kids to be home, for me to be home, a grumpy husband that probably wants to be at football," Roethlisberger said. "I just had to be the backup substitute teacher. It was a lot of interesting time, me wearing a mask at home and trying to help with homework and still try to spend time on meetings and looking at the iPad and going over plays.

"It's tough not getting practice perspectives, watching practice from behind. I know I don't always participate in practice, but at least you're there and you can see it firsthand. It's different watching it on film at night. It's definitely a different process, but we got through it."

He tested every day and returned his first of two required negative COVID-19 tests Friday. Roethlisberger threw outside with his trainer after the first negative, and he also did a little cardio in his home gym as a part of the three-day ramp-up period prior to Sunday night's game.

After his second negative test on Saturday, Roethlisberger flew to L.A. separately from the team charter as an extra precaution.

Though he wasn't at practice all week, Roethlisberger's command of the offense was consistent, and most of his passes looked crisp and on-target. Diontae Johnson was the biggest beneficiary of Roethlisberger's return, hauling in seven receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. Chase Claypool, in his first game back from a toe injury, also benefitted with five catches for 93 yards.

"I saw the same thing as if he was at practice all week," Johnson said. "Consistency. It just felt good to have him back out there and get the offense back going. Not saying Mason [Rudolph] wasn't doing his job, but Ben and the offense were just playing well tonight. Just felt like we came up short. ..."

Meanwhile, the Steelers are hoping injured defensive stars T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden will be back when they travel to Cincinnati on Sunday.

All three sat out the Chargers. Watt is dealing with hip and knee injuries while Haden is nursing a sprained foot and Fitzpatrick is in the COVID-19 protocol.

Head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday there's a chance Watt, Fitzpatrick and Haden could be available at some point this week.

"Obviously, we could utilize assistance from those guys," Tomlin said. "We'll let their first availability happen, and then the quality of their practice and prep and things relative to their return be the consideration of how much we see them and things of that nature."

The Steelers allowed 533 yards in Los Angeles, the most they've given up in a game in eight years, including 53 on the game-winning touchdown pass from Justin Herbert to a wide-open Mike Williams with 2:09 remaining.

"With the configuration of the people that we had available to us on defense, we probably should've done some things differently," Tomlin said.

Pittsburgh faces another stiff test against the Bengals, who handed the Steelers a 24-10 loss at Heinz Field in September behind three touchdown passes by Joe Burrow, a game Pittsburgh played without Watt, who was nursing a groin injury.

Tight end Eric Ebron injured his knee against the Chargers on Sunday and didn't return. He ended up playing 32 of 69 offensive snaps.

Ebron is expected to miss "extended time" with his injury as he braces for potential knee surgery, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports.

Ebron is seeking a second opinion first.

He had three catches for 24 yards and a touchdown Sunday.

For the season, Ebron has 12 receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown. He is having his least productive season since his rookie season of 2014 when he made 25 catches for 248 yards and a touchdown.

Pittsburgh also placed wide receiver/kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud on the COVID-19 list. McCloud is the third player to go on the COVID-19 list in the past 10 days, joining Fitzpatrick and Roethlisberger.

Fitzpatrick went onto the list on Nov. 15, meaning there's a chance he will be able to leave the protocol in time to face Cincinnati. ...

One last note here. ... Offensive coordinator Matt Canada's red zone play-calling was baffling.

The Steelers scored touchdowns on just two of their five red zone trips Sunday night, settling for two field goals and leaving one trip completely empty handed. On the second drive, they got all the way to the Chargers' 2-yard line, and Najee Harris got one touch against the league's worst run defense.

Rather than attempting another field goal, the Steelers went for it on fourth-down with a pass to Pat Freiermuth that went for no gain.

In the fourth quarter, the Steelers had the ball at the Chargers' 3-yard line. Harris was targeted on the first play, but he didn't get a touch on the next three. The Chargers were whistled for a PI on fourth down, giving the Steelers a fresh set from the 1, and using an extra lineman, Pittsburgh crowd surfed Harris into the end zone on the first play.

Then, when the Steelers got the ball back in Chargers territory thanks to a Cam Sutton interception with less than four minutes on the clock, the Steelers threw the ball three times and had to settle for a field goal, taking just 19 seconds off the clock.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Cody White, Ray-Ray McCloud, JuJu Smith-Schuster
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Eric Ebron

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner framed it: "After an embarrassing loss to a watered-down version of the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago, the San Francisco 49ers had the look of a rudderless team headed for nowhere.

"Two weeks later, the Niners look like a team that is not only capable of making a push for the NFC playoffs but one that can make some noise if they get there. ..."

Sunday's 30-10 beatdown of the Jaguars follows Monday night's dominant 31-10 dispatching of the Los Angeles Rams.

Wagoner went on to suggest that from the outside, the first could easily be explained away by San Francisco's apparent hex over the Rams. The second would be excused by the Jaguars' overall ineptitude. Put together and into the proper context, those two victories suggest that the Niners have finally discovered themselves.

"At 5-5 with two wins in less than a week," Wagoner wrote, "these Niners aren't your 2-week-old neighbor's Niners."

"These past 14 days have, I don't want to say changed our team, but we're definitely moving in the right direction now," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "We have just got to keep going. There's a lot of football left to be played."

While it was way too soon to kick dirt on the Niners after that Nov. 7 loss to an Arizona team without quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Wagoner contends it was reasonable to wonder whether they had what was needed to right the ship and make a push for one of those seven postseason positions.

Instead, the 49ers have righted the ship and are moving in the direction of playing games into the middle of January.

How? There are plenty of ways in which the Niners have improved in their past two games but nowhere is it more important than the most obvious place: the turnover battle. San Francisco was minus-9 in takeaway differential in its first eight games, including minus-3 against Arizona.

In the past two weeks, the 49ers are plus-4, including a pair of fumble recoveries against the Jaguars.

And the offense has gone back to what it does best: Run the ball.

Against the Jaguars, the Niners opened the game with a drive that ate up a whopping 13:05, the longest drive by a team this season and the longest of any team in the past 20 years, according to ESPN Stats and Info. In consecutive weeks, San Francisco's offense has posted the two longest drives of the season (11:03 last week).

Is it a coincidence?

To some extent, yes, but the Niners are clearly fine with using the opening drive to assert physical dominance and rolling from there. The only problem on Sunday was it ended with a field goal instead of a touchdown. Either way, those kinds of drives set a tone that is difficult to overcome.

Meanwhile, the real test of the Niners' potential postseason hopes will come over the next seven weeks. The first, this week against the Minnesota Vikings, carries double importance.

According to Wagoner, if the playoffs started today, the Niners would be out, but a home win against Minnesota would allow the Niners to leap over the Vikings and give them a meaningful victory for potential tiebreakers down the line. San Francisco follows with games against teams on the further fringes of the NFC playoff picture after that, facing the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 5 and Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 19.

While all of that might be looking ahead a bit too far, the Niners have identified and, at least for now, corrected the issues that had them wobbling to a 3-5 start and making a run to the postseason will be dependent on whether the 49ers of the past two weeks continue to show up. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Trey Sermon was a third-round pick in April's draft. However, the San Francisco 49ers' sixth-round pick, Elijah Mitchell, is the team's starting running back and leading rusher.

Sermon had 10 carries during Sunday's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Before that, his last carry came in Week 5 against the Cardinals. Sermon moved up the depth chart because Mitchell was inactive due to rib and finger injuries.

Kyle Shanahan insists that Sermon is showing improvement.

On Monday, one day after the team's Week 11 win, the coach spoke with reporters and discussed the developing rookie running back.

"I think he's better now than when he was given the last opportunity," Shanahan said of Sermon. "I know I get these questions about Trey a lot. He's been doing it each week. He's been earning stuff and improving each week, but there is a pecking order with backs. You can only give so many guys the ball.

"Elijah has kind of solidified himself as our starter this year. Jeff Wilson has done it since he's been here. And [JaMycal Hasty] being on the bench, and then Elijah getting hurt this week, opened up an opportunity for him to get some reps again. And I thought he came in and showed what he's been showing in practice. He's been getting better, and I thought he did a good job helping us win on Sunday."

Wilson carried the ball 19 times for 50 yards in Jacksonville.

Sermon has recorded 167 rushing yards and a touchdown on 41 carries through eight game appearances and two starts this season.

As for Mitchell, he practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and his status is considered day-to-day. The coach won't commit to his availability this weekend against the Vikings.

"I'm not going to guess [on] this week," Shanahan said.

Hasty (ankle) was held out of Wednesday's practice.

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

The Niners once again relied on star receiver Deebo Samuel as a running back and he responded with seven carries for 79 yards and a TD. He has 115 yards rushing the past two weeks as he has been used as a traditional runner at times. He is third in the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,131 and has scored eight TDs.

In addition, as 49erswebzone.com's Marc Adams noted, Brandon Aiyuk has really turned things around. Through the 49ers' first six games, the second year receiver had caught only nine passes for 96 yards and one touchdown. Since his meeting with Shanahan, Aiyuk has caught 20 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Sunday was another strong outing. He had seven catches for 85 yards and one touchdown.

And finally. ... The 49ers signed receiver Devin Funchess to the practice squad.

Green Bay cut Funchess from injured reserve with an injury settlement on Aug. 27. He has remained a free agent since.

Funchess opted out of the 2020 season, so he has not played since 2019 when he saw action in one game with the Colts before breaking a collarbone.

The Panthers made Funchess a second-round choice in 2015. He has 164 receptions for 2,265 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns in five seasons.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, Trey Sermon, Trenton Cannon, JaMycal Hasty, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Jauan Jennings, Mohamed Sanu, Deebo Samuel
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Tanner Hudson, Charlie Woerner

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, whatever the messaging or the style of coaching that's been tried already this season, Pete Carroll knows it must change.

The Seahawks continued to rehash the same mistakes for another week, leaving Carroll and his team a mix of confused and frustrated sitting at 3-7 and seemingly on their way to the worst season since 2009.

"We have done things in a particular way with commitment based on the philosophy and approach and how we do things," Carroll said on Monday. "And when things aren't working out right, you have to be open to do whatever you've got to do. We have to do whatever we've got to do."

Seattle's season continued to spiral into unchartered territory with Sunday's 23-13 loss to Arizona where Russell Wilson was thoroughly outplayed by Cardinals backup QB Colt McCoy and dropped the Seahawks to 1-4 at home on the season.

The loss felt like a deathblow to the hopes that Wilson and Carroll could engineer a late-season turnaround and make something out of a year that began with hope and high expectations.

After all the tiebreakers are put in play, the Seahawks have the second-worst record in the NFC, ahead of only winless Detroit.

Seattle's offense is a sputtering mess that has left Wilson look less franchise and more feeble in his two games back from finger surgery. The Seahawks defense that had shown signs of progress regressed as McCoy took advantage of every coverage mistake made by Jordyn Brooks, Jamal Adams and others.

Carroll said many of the Seahawks veterans spoke up on Monday trying to give hope there could still be something accomplished this season.

"Well, it was interesting to hear when the guys had a chance to speak up a little bit," Carroll said. "Some of the leaders had an opportunity to make sure everybody is on the same page, just to reinforce that this is a team, we are playing together, we are going through the challenges that we are facing together, we need to do it in really good fashion, we need to be on it, we don't have a moment to waste, we have to maximize every opportunity to be our best, and on and on. It was really impressive. Where we are, we have a challenge that we are facing that we have to turn, and we want to turn this as fast as we can. All resources, obviously, are being tapped into. There will always be some subtle adjustments that we do to make some changes and get better. Really everybody was really accountable and did a nice job in owning it and being responsible for the change too.

"How positive can it be? I don't know after this, but the guys are really turning to do things right and get better this week."

Carroll later was asked whether it was unusual for players to speak up.

"We are calling on our guys a lot and we hear from our guys a lot," Carroll said. "Today, it was particularly clear, they are just trying to help out too. They are competing and trying to help out the other guys and younger players and do what they can to do their part. They are just battling too, and it was obvious and pretty impressive.

"The coaches give the guys a chance to say stuff, so they have an opportunity to speak their piece."

Seems those words should have come weeks ago.

"Where we are, we've got a challenge that we're facing that we've got to turn and we want to turn this thing as fast as we can," Carroll said.

Whether it's the inability of the offense to sustain drives or the defense not getting stops, nothing was working for the Seahawks on Sunday.

But the most glaring issue seems to be the disconnect between what Seattle's offense should be under offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and what it is under Wilson's direction.

Waldron was supposed to bring a Los Angeles Rams' style offense to Seattle using motion and short passes to create big play opportunities. But it hasn't translated into success and what is unclear is where the disconnect is happening.

Is it the plays being called by Waldron? Or is it Wilson's poor execution, making wrong decisions or changing plays?

As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson suggested, it's hard to fathom how a quarterback who's been so good for so long and an offense with so many weapons can be this ineffective.

Those questions won't be answered in the middle of a season.

But how the offense performs over the final seven games of the regular season and if the problems can be solved could determine the course of Seattle's offseason.

More immediately, the only way for Seattle to make something of this season means running the table the rest of the way, beginning with next Monday's game at Washington. Seattle could end up competing with Washington for one of the final playoff spots, if the Seahawks can make a dramatic turnaround.

But right now, that kind of turnaround seems unlikely to take place.

On the injury front. ... Seattle lost rookie starting cornerback Tre Brown to a patellar tendon in his left knee in Sunday's loss. Carroll said Brown is expected to need surgery. It's a big blow as Brown had played well since coming off injured reserve and provided stability to a position that was in flux. Brown and D.J. Reed appeared a solid duo for Seattle to build around moving forward.

Rashaad Penny suffered a hamstring strain on the first play of the game and while he returned briefly in the second half, he played just eight total snaps.

"We don't know how extensive it will be," Carroll said of Penny. "It's not a bad injury, but there's something there, so we've just got to make sure we take care of him and see what happens."

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

And finally. ... The neck injury that ultimately ended the season of running back Chris Carson will require a spinal fusion surgery, Carroll said on Monday.

Carroll said last week that Carson would not make it back to the team this season and would require surgery to address ongoing discomfort he had been experiencing in his neck since last appearing in a Week 4 game against the 49ers.

"It's going to be a little bit before he does [the surgery]," Carroll said Monday. "From what I understand, he has a disc issue that needs to be fused, so that's a surgery that can get him back somewhere late in the spring from what I have heard. We will see what happens with that."

The Seahawks have had multiple players that saw their careers abruptly ended by neck injuries over the last decade, including safety Kam Chancellor, defensive end Cliff Avril and wide receiver Ricardo Lockette.
However, Carroll said this injury doesn't fall in that same category of injury.

"It's going to be something that is very doable, and he will be able to return," Carroll said.

Carson re-signed with Seattle on a two-year deal last offseason after reaching free agency. He's posted two 1,000-yard seasons in his five years with the Seahawks.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas, Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, Chris Carson
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 23 November 2021

After enduring two straight losses for just the second time in his tenure with the Buccaneers, quarterback Tom Brady got back in the win column with a 30-10 victory over the New York Giants at home on Monday Night Football.

"Losing two straight sucks in the NFL," Brady told ESPN's Lisa Salters postgame, "just glad it's not three straight."

The Bucs improved to 7-3 to take a two-game lead in the NFC South, looking much more like themselves thanks to the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski.

It could have been Brady's first three-game losing streak since 2002 after suffering a demoralizing loss at Washington and a heartbreaker in New Orleans, with coach Bruce Arians calling players out this week for lacking passion.

But this game wasn't even close, to the point that Brady's night ended with more than six minutes left in regulation.

"Thanksgiving turkey's gonna taste a hell of a lot better," Arians said. "I don't drink wine or that would taste pretty good too."

Said receiver Mike Evans: "We were real desperate to get a win today. I'm happy we got it. We lost two in a row. A team of this caliber -- that's not acceptable. We wanted to win very bad, and we came out and we showed that."

Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, with Gronkowski hauling in seven catches on eight targets for 71 yards in his first real action since suffering cracked ribs and a punctured lung at the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3. His most impactful play was a 35-yard reception on third-and-3.

"Gronk always comes out with the big plays," Brady said. "He's just consistent, dependable -- he's been my teammate for a long time. It's a real privilege to play with such an incredible player and person."

Said Gronkowski: "It was just a joy to be back out there with the guys. I know what it's like to play every single game. And I was like the new guy -- fresh. I felt like they were counting on me a little bit to make some plays, which was good."

Brady's first touchdown came off play-action to an in-motion Chris Godwin, who slipped by two defenders for a 13-yard score. His second came in the third quarter on a 5-yard strike to Evans.

It was the 72nd career touchdown for Evans, breaking the all-time team record for touchdowns. Mike Alstott had 71 in his career.

Evans is one of only two active players in the league who owns a team's career touchdowns mark. His current teammate, Gronkowski, scored a franchise-record 80 touchdowns for the Patriots from 2010-18.

Brady's one interception came on a swing pass that bounced out of Evans' hands and into the hands of cornerback Adoree' Jackson.

Running back Ronald Jones tacked on a third touchdown on the ground, kicking out on a 6-yard run off a block from right guard Alex Cappa.

For what it's worth, the team's two-game skid seemed longer because surprising road losses to New Orleans and Washington were wrapped around the team's bye week.

"As Dorothy would say, there's no place like home," head coach Bruce Arians said, noting his team played smarter and with a sense of urgency and passion that was absent the previous two games.

"It's never been easy on the road," Arians added. "It's not just us. It's everybody."

The Bucs (7-3) will aim to reverse the trend when they visit the surging Indianapolis Colts (6-5) on Sunday.

Arians reiterated it's not difficult to figure out what his players need to do better to end the road woes. "We have to protect the football. Protect the football, eliminate the penalties and we'll be fine," the coach said.

"For us right now, it's being able to take this game, build off it and take it on the road," Arians added. "Hopefully, start winning on the road the rest of the way. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... The Bucs continue to lead the league in passing offense. But Brady could use more help from the running game. Leonard Fournette gained 35 yards on 10 attempts and Jones contributed 33 yards on eight attempts.

The team rushed for 94 overall, but 10-yard runs by Brady and Evans accounted for a big chunk of that. ...

On the injury front. ... Wide receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) and defensive tackle Vita Vea (knee) were inactive against the Giants, although it sounds like Vea may be able to return to the lineup this week.

"Vita should be ready to go. He was real, real close," Arians said. "With not having any practice last week, I didn't really want to put him out there."

Arians is only saying that Brown is making progress.

Brown was not on the field Wednesday, but we won't have real injury news on him until Thursday's practice, as Wednesday was really just a walkthrough on a short week. If he's practicing then, it's a good step in the right direction.

Also worth noting, Evans did not practice due to his back tightening up, which occurred in Monday's game. Godwin (foot) was limited.

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

Finally. ... The Buccaneers activated receiver Scott Miller from injured reserve. He hasn't played since Sept. 29.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Giovani Bernard, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Tyler Johnson, Jaelon Darden, Scott Miller, Breshad Perriman
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

The Tennessee Titans waived 2012 NFL MVP Adrian Peterson after three games in a flurry of roster moves Tuesday.

The Titans signed running back Dontrell Hilliard from the practice squad to replace Peterson. They also signed defensive back Buster Skrine and brought back outside linebacker john Simon.

They also placed defensive back Chris Jackson (foot) and wide receiver Marcus Johnson on injured reserve. Johnson hurt his right hamstring in the first quarter in last week's loss to the Texans, a week after he caught five passes for a season-high 100 yards receiving.

Along with an injury to 2020 Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown, that has left the Titans thin at wide receiver before visiting New England on Sunday.

Brown suffered hand and chest injuries, and the latter of the two ended his day.

X-rays on the Brown's chest injury suffered Sunday came back negative, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the situation. Brown was set to undergo more tests Monday, which means he's not yet clear of any potential legitimate injury, but the negative X-rays are at least good news for now.

Still, the injuries to Brown and Johnson are why the Titans signed receivers Golden Tate and Austin Mack to the practice squad along with defensive lineman Kevin Strong and running back Rodney Smith.

Brown has missed one game this season due to a hamstring injury suffered in Tennessee's Week 3 win over Indianapolis, sitting out of the Titans' Week 4 loss to the New York Jets. He's been available in every other game since then, even fighting off a bout of food poisoning he said he got from a Chipotle burrito ahead of Tennessee's Week 6 win over Buffalo.

Brown is producing at a slightly lesser rate than each of his first two professional seasons, averaging 13.4 yards per reception, but he's still tallied 46 catches for 615 yards and three scores.

Fullback Khari Blasingame also was cleared to return to practice, though he remains on injured reserve.

Peterson signed originally to the Titans practice squad Nov. 2 to help replace Derrick Henry and was promoted to the active roster two days before a win in Los Angeles over the Rams. Peterson started two games and had 27 carries for 82 yards and a 3.0-yard average per rushing attempt and one touchdown run.

His longest run of 16 yards came last week against Houston.

Hilliard has played in two games for Tennessee. He's coming off his best game yet with seven carries for 35 yards and eight catches for 47 yards against Houston.

The Titans added a bunch of experience in Nashville native Tate. He has played 160 games in 11 seasons with Seattle, Detroit, Philadelphia and the Giants. He has 695 receptions, 8,278 yards receiving and 46 TDs. He has posted three 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and he's also averaged 10.1 yards on 111 punt returns.

Mack played in 11 games with a start with the New York Giants last season. Smith played nine games the past two seasons with Carolina after going undrafted out of Minnesota. He set a school record with 5,441 career all-purpose yards, including 4,122 yards rushing.

Tennessee also released receiver Chris Rowland and defensive lineman Niles Scott from the practice squad to clear space.

The rash of changes come following the end of the Titans' six-game winning streak, although, as Associated Press sports writer Teresa Walker notes, the resilience, determination and fight shown through that stretch keeps them a contender even after a sloppy loss.

The Titans (8-3) have lots to clean up after a season-high five turnovers, four off interceptions by Ryan Tannehill, in a 22-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

The four interceptions were drive killers, and momentum stoppers.

After the game, Tannehill sacked himself.

Asked if there were communication issues with the receivers, Tannehill accepted the blame. "At the end of the day, it all falls squarely on me, and I have to be better," Tannehill said. "We shot ourselves in the foot all day, and it has to be better. And it starts with me."

Through 11 games this season, Tannehill has 13 touchdowns vs 12 interceptions. Tannehill threw just seven interceptions in 16 games last season with the Titans, and just six in 12 games in 2019.

"I expect better from myself," Tannehill said. "And I need to be better for this team."

They'll still have to prove they can beat a team the Titans are favored against, with two of their three losses to teams with a combined one win at the time they played. But this is a banged-up and battered team that has used an NFL-high 82 players, desperately in need of a bye that remains a week away.

And now the Titans are preparing to visit the surging Patriots (7-4).

That might be just the opponent to keep the Titans focused on the task at hand rather than limping into the bye. They play well against good teams, as evidenced by a 7-0 mark against 2020 playoff teams. Though New England didn't get there in its first season without Tom Brady on the roster since 1999.

Even after the loss to Houston, the Titans still have a bit of breathing room atop the AFC and the AFC South. The Patriots, though, are right behind the Baltimore Ravens (7-3) nipping at Tennessee's heels.

Head coach Mike Vrabel was clear that the Titans made plenty of unfortunate mistakes across the board Sunday.

"The fact that we were in that game fighting, swinging tells me a lot about our football team, our character," Vrabel said Monday. "Nobody wants to be in that position. We have to do everything we can to avoid being in that type of position. But proud of the effort. We just have to be better."

If they can survive Sunday's trip to New England, they can breathe a sigh of relief with the bye Dec. 2.

That will allow the Titans time for much-needed rest and recovery for the final five games, which will include a mini-bye after hosting San Francisco on Dec. 23. ...

Also of interest. ... The injuries to Brown and Johnson are just the latest at a position that's been hit hard by injuries.

Remember, Julio Jones is currently on IR, along with Racey McMath, and earlier this year the team lost receiver Cameron Batson for the season with an injury.

On Sunday, that forced rookie Dez Fitzpatrick into action, and he was needed to make plays. Fitzpatrick, the team's fourth-round draft pick who was recently promoted to the practice squad, caught three passes for 35 yards against the Texans, including one for an 18-yard touchdown. Late in the game, the Titans were trying to rally with Fitzpatrick, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers on the field.

"I know our team believes a lot in the next man up mentality, so I know I had to prepare all week like I was going to play as much as I did today," Fitzpatrick said. "When the opportunity was afforded to me today, I just took advantage of it. I still had a lot of mistakes out there that I'd like to have back, so I have to grow from this."

Westbrook-Ikhine had the best game of his career, catching seven of eight passes for 107 yards. He's the second receiver to post a 100-yard receiving game in as many weeks.

I will have more on Brown and Jeremy McNichols (concussion), neither of whom practiced Wednesday, and Foreman (triceps), who was limited Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.'

One last note. ... The Titans placed quarterback Logan Woodside on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

If vaccinated, he can return after two negative tests taken 24 hours apart but most players who have landed on the list have needed more time to clear protocols than the Titans have before their matchup with New England.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Jeremy McNichols, D'Onta Foreman, Dontrell Hilliard, Khari Blasingame, Darrynton Evans, Derrick Henry
WRs: Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Dez Fitzpatrick, Racey McMath, Julio Jones, A.J. Brown, Cameron Batson
TEs: Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser

Washington Football Team

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 23 November 2021

As Associated Press sport writer Stephen Whyno noted, Terry McLaurin has already been Washington's best skill position player for his three seasons in the NFL.

McLaurin has shown in back-to-back victories that he's still getting better. Making five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown in a win at the Carolina Panthers was more evidence of McLaurin's continued improvement and the impact he can make on a game.

"When you see him one on one, you give him a shot," quarterback Taylor Heinicke said. "He continues to make plays, and you just want to keep giving him shots."

McLaurin has progressed significantly making contested catches. After taking a big hit on Washington's final drive in an upset of defending champion Tampa Bay, he did so again against Carolina and caught a 12-yard TD pass from Heinicke.

According to Pro Football Focus, McLaurin's 23 contested catches are the most in the league this season and more than the total number on 14 other teams.

"Not a lot of people know that was probably one of my glaring weaknesses in my game, especially in college," McLaurin said. "The coaching staff expressed that to me. I started attempting to improve on that day in and day out. It was just an insatiable thing that I had to create if I wanted to play at this level."

McLaurin has at least three catches in each game this season and is up to 735 yards receiving and five touchdowns. He has become Heinicke's go-to target in just about every situation.

"He continues to make plays and I'm glad that he's on our team," Heinicke said.

McLaurin is still developing chemistry with Heinicke, the sixth QB he has caught passes from, along with Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. The Ohio State product's mentality remains the same: Try to make every catch to instill confidence.

"I just try to put myself in a position to make those plays," he said. "Be aggressive with my hands, trust them and come down with the play. It's exciting."

It helps that Heinicke has picked up the pace.

According to ESPN.com's John Keim, against the Panthers, Heinicke did what he does best: He extended a play, running to his left and flipping a sidearm toss as a defender tried to corral him, converting a pivotal fourth down late that led to the winning points.

It's one reason Washington has won two consecutive games, getting hot at the right time. It's what he did Sunday in helping Washington beat the Panthers.

His play is part of Washington's growing identity, a team fueled by a physical run game and a quarterback's will.

"Confidence," receiver DeAndre Carter said, when asked what's different about Heinicke's game.

The same could be said of the entire roster. Suddenly, a team left for dead at 2-6 is 4-6 heading into Monday Night Football at home against the Seattle Seahawks (3-7). Washington is following a similar script to 2020 when it started 2-7 en route to a 7-9 finish.

Four games ago, Heinicke threw an interception in the red zone and coaches believed he was trying to be too perfect with his pass. He listened and, against Tampa Bay, he led Carter and scored.

"It's the culmination of a lot of things, but I've played better by going out there and having fun, being myself," Heinicke said, "and let my personality come out and that rubs off on some other guys."

Ron Rivera saw what a mobile quarterback could do, having coached Newton for nine seasons in Carolina.

"When a guy like Taylor has that kind of ability, that can turn something into trouble [for the defense]," Rivera said. "It helps. He keeps his eyes downfield, he's trying to make plays."

But they want him to understand he must protect the ball. The past two games, Heinicke hasn't thrown an interception.

"That's extremely important if we want to keep this thing going down the stretch," McLaurin said.

Last year, Washington's surge was led, in part, by quarterback Alex Smith's leadership. As Keim noted, Heinicke is not the same kind of leader; he's not experienced enough.

However, Rivera likes the progress he has shown.

"After what he did last year, for the most part, guys have gravitated towards him because they felt with this guy that we have a chance," Rivera said. "I think now, you not only see [Heinicke] giving these guys hope and believe that we have a chance, but he is leading them. Very similar in style to the way that I thought Alex did. You see his growth and development."

Other notes of interest. ... Antonio Gibson bounced back after losing a fumble in the Carolina game, rushing for 76 of his 95 yards after halftime. But it's still a problem Washington would like to get under control, with Rivera and his staff stressing the message on ball protection.

"We don't want him worrying about the fumbling," Rivera said Monday. "We want him to worry about protecting it, carrying properly the way he needs to. That's what's important."

Rookie tight end John Bates is much more of a blocker than a pass catcher, but Washington has needed more out of him with Logan Thomas and Ricky Seals-Jones out with injury. Bates made a key catch on fourth down in the fourth quarter that Heinicke called the play of the day.

"I'm about to get blasted and I see him, and I know I have to give him a shot and he made a great play," Heinicke said. "He stepped up big."

Rookie receiver Dyami Brown was only on the field for 13 percent of Washington's offensive snaps against Carolina and didn't get targeted. After looking dynamic in training camp and the preseason, the third-round pick has fallen behind veteran DeAndre Carter and others on the depth chart.

Thomas (hamstring) and receiver Curtis Samuel (groin), who have been out, are candidates to return next week against Seattle.

Thomas has been on the injured reserve list since hurting his hamstring in a Week 4 win over the Falcons. He was officially designated for return on Wednesday and has 21 days to practice before Washington will have to activate him or shut him down for the season. He can be activated at any point in that window.

Thomas had 12 catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season.

Thomas and Samuel were on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice; Seals-Jones was not; I'll have more on all three via Late-Breaking Udpate.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Jaret Patterson
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, DeAndre Carter, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, Cam Sims
TEs: Logan Thomas, Ricky Seals-Jones, John Bates, Sammis Reyes