Team Notes week 13 2020

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 2 December 2020

ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss nailed it when he wrote after Sunday's game: "As goes Kyler Murray, so go the Arizona Cardinals. ..."

Also, so goes the fortunes of fantasy managers relying on the second-year signal caller's high-end production to propel them into the playoffs.

The problem was clear; Murray wasn't a factor running the ball for most of Sunday's game. He didn't go over 30 yards -- the line of demarcation between wins and losses for Arizona -- until the fourth quarter and finished with 31.

But that extra yard wasn't enough in a 20-17 loss to the New England Patriots, who kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired. The Cardinals sit at 6-5, which will make their playoff push much harder, especially with two games against the Los Angeles Rams coming up.

Heading into Sunday, Arizona was 1-8-1 when Murray rushed for 30 yards or less. He was at under 20 until early in the fourth, which was reflective of the Cardinals' performance.

Murray finished with 170 passing yards and the Cardinals came up 2 yards shy of 300 as a team. They lost to a Patriots team that managed just 179 yards.

Yet again, the Cardinals showed that Murray's effectiveness running the ball is a direct representation of how the offense plays. There were few scrambles and even fewer designed runs, perhaps a product of how the Patriots schemed for Murray, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury the past few weeks.

The Patriots had a game plan to defend Murray that worked. Their edge defenders were patient and stayed in their lanes -- a lesson for future teams that the Cardinals will have to combat if they hope to keep winning.

If the Cardinals are going to make a run to the playoffs, the rest of the offense needs to start picking up the slack when Murray isn't running as much or as well as he has at points this season. Murray's running can single-handedly dictate how a defense plays the Cardinals.

But some of that isn't all on the rest of the offense.

DeAndre Hopkins finished with a team-high 55 yards on five catches but wasn't targeted for minutes on end. The next best receiver for the Cardinals was UMass product Andy Isabella, who had 33 yards in his homecoming.

For the record, Murray was limited in practice for part of the week because of a right shoulder injury. After the game, he and head coach Kliff Kingsbury were both asked about how much the shoulder injury impacted the offensive approach.

Kingsbury said that Murray "really played an efficient game" and that he didn't think the injury was a factor. Murray agreed with Kingsbury on the injury front.

"I didn't adjust anything, like I said, if they play me, I have to hand the ball off," Murray said in his postgame press conference. "You know, thought I probably could have checked it down maybe a couple -- once or twice more than I did, you know, in the pass game. But other than that, there wasn't really any situations where you know, I shied away from a hit or anything like that. I mean, they hit me a couple times anyway, so I played with -- like I said, I wasn't going to play if I couldn't be myself."

The Cardinals have a crucial game for their playoff chances against the Rams in Week 13 and they'll likely need to generate more offense than they did this week in order to come up with a win....

Other notes of interest. ... Kenyan Drake rushed 22 times for 78 yards and two touchdowns while catching three of four targets for 15 yards in Sunday's loss.

As CBSSports.com notes, Drake capped Arizona's first drive with a one-yard score one play after being denied a touchdown by a stingy spot. His attempt at a second one-yard plunge on the final play of the first half was ruled just short of the goal line, but there was no doubt about Drake's one-yard touchdown to tie the score at 17 apiece in the fourth quarter.

The running back's efforts ultimately weren't enough on a quiet afternoon for Murray, but Drake now has three rushing touchdowns in his last two games. ...

The Cardinals do not travel to New England often. When they do, Larry Fitzgerald is there.

Not this time. Not when you're on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, where Fitz found himself this week.

"In my mind Larry is invincible," tackle D.J. Humphries said. "When I heard it was Fitz, it was definitely a bigger surprise. I can't think of the last time, I don't know the last time -- I don't know if anyone can, some of you (media) have been around a lot longer than I have -- we got on a plane and Larry wasn't on the plane with us."

The last time Fitzgerald didn't play in a game was 2014, when he missed back-to-back road trips to Seattle and Atlanta because of a knee injury. Both those games were losses (although to be fair, the Cards were also without starting QB Carson Palmer at that point in the season after Palmer's ACL tear.)

With Fitzgerald out, Isabella played 44-of-73 snaps (60 percent). According to Establish The Run's Adam Levitan, 33 of them out of them were out of the slot and the second-year man had six targets for an 18 percent target share. ...

Kingsbury said he's hopeful that Fitzgerald and safety Deionte Thompson, should return from reserve/COVID-19 for Sunday's game against the Rams; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest.

Receiver Trent Sherfield, who likely went on the list as a close contact of Fitzgerald's was removed from the COVID list Wednesday. ...

Penalties are an ongoing issue here. ... It wasn't necessarily the number of penalties for the league-leading Cardinals. It was the timing of them. Such as a false start by Dan Arnold on second-and-5 from the Patriots' 5 in the fourth quarter. Or a lowering the head flag on Isaiah Simmons that moved the Patriots from the Cardinals' 30 to their 15. Or a holding call on Markus Golden on third down that gave the Patriots an automatic first.

According to Weinfuss, it's an area the Cardinals need to fix if they want to play more consistent football.

It was a rough day for the special teams. Not only did Zane Gonzalez miss a field goal at the end, but a long kickoff return set up the Patriots' first TD and a long punt return set up a field goal (and it should've been a touchdown, but a penalty called it back.)

Kingsbury said he wasn't sure what went wrong on the Gonzalez kick, although it would seem there are some things the Cards have to sort out when it comes to the kicker. Does it change the thought process on fourth-and-1, even when a kick gives you a lead? Kingsbury has been faced with similar situations against the Dolphins and Patriots, with the same result.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Kyler Murray, Chris Streveler, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield
TEs: Dan Arnold, Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

The Falcons continue to look improved in coach Raheem Morris' interim regime with a 43-6 win over the Las Vegas Raiders at home.

The Falcons' defense played with a different spark in their best effort of the year. Foyesade Oluokun forced the first turnover with a strip sack of Derek Carr and the defense never looked back, collecting five turnovers and five sacks on the day.

The Falcons have to be happy with the effort going against a Raiders team that went down to the wire with the Chiefs just a week before.

Offensively, quarterback Matt Ryan completed 22 of 39 pass attempts for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

The Falcons started the season 0-5 but are 4-2 since Dan Quinn was fired. At this point, Raheem Morris' candidacy to permanently replace Quinn has to be seriously considered if the defense is able to keep playing at or near this level.

"Raheem Morris is ready to be a head coach again," NFL.com's Adam Maya wrote. "Whether that happens with Atlanta remains to be seen, but its latest performance gives Arthur Blank, who's also looking for a new general manager, even more to consider. The Falcons have looked like a completely different team since Morris took over -- or, they've been who we thought they'd be. The offense is explosive, but not one-dimensional, the defense is opportunistic and stingy against the pass. They exhibited all of that while routing the Raiders for their fourth win in six tries under Morris.

"Blank intimated his interim coach might have been too young when he was hired to run the Buccaneers at 32, his tenure ending after just three seasons and a 17-31 mark. Morris, now 44, has clearly learned some things along the way and has a team that began the season 0-5 not just competitive but beating potential playoff teams.

"Atlanta (4-7) is a long shot to be one this year, but Morris' chances of being an NFL head coach in 2021 should be better."

If nothing else, Sunday's win is more along the lines of what fans expected from Atlanta this season.

If the offense plays well when healthy, the decision becomes even easier.

But the offense was stagnant with Julio Jones and Todd Gurley both inactive, so that's something to take into account when evaluating the unit's performance Sunday.

"Whenever you're missing Julio, as great a player as he is, you have got to have people step up," Morris after the game. "We have guys who are very capable of doing."

Wide receiver Calvin Ridley led the way with six catches for 50 yards and a key 4-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

Four other receivers caught passes, including Brandon Powell, who had a 4-yard touchdown catch.

Russell Gage had three catches for 34 yards, including a 20-yard gainer.

Powell finished with two catches for 4 yards and Christian Blake has a catch for 17 yards.

"Those guys have been stepping up all year when they've been called upon and it's been really nice to see," Morris said.

Ridley suffered a foot/ankle injury but returned to the game. Olamide Zaccheaus, who had a catch for 11 yards, suffered a toe injury and did not return.

As AJC.com's D. Orlando Ledbetter noted, the Falcons know they can't replace Jones, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection, who's been slowed this season by a tricky left hamstring. He's missed two full games and major parts of two others. He played sparingly in the second half of the 24-9 loss against New Orleans on Nov. 22.

"Defenses feel his presence," Gage said of Jones. "We understand that when he's out there he's going to get double teamed so there's going to be a lot more one-on-one opportunities. Even though there were still opportunities with him not being out there, we can definitely still feel the difference by the defense and the way they game-plan."

Most of the Raiders' attention was on Ridley as they kept a safety over the top to cut down his deep routes. The Falcons adjusted and started hitting Ridley underneath.

"We put it all together," Gage said. "That was the biggest thing. We know the type of team we are and the type of team we want to be. Today, I really think we really came out and showed it. We dominated, executed, and that was the result, so I'm really proud of us."

As for the rushing attack minus Gurley?

"Our boys stepped up and did a great job," Gage said. "Ito Smith and Brian Hill did a great job in the run game. Really pressing their guys, running the ball hard and strong. It's definitely understood that we're going to play hard for TG and Julio."

The offensive line, which was maligned after giving up eight sacks and 11 quarterback hits in the loss to the Saints, only gave up one sack and eight quarterback hits to the Raiders.

"It was a big emphasis," Gage said. "It was understood that Matt Ryan got hit too many times. They knew that. Those are a great group of guys who want to see our offense be successful. So, I knew they were going to go out here and make adjustments and they did a great job today."

The Falcons' 43 points are the most points scored by the Falcons since Week 9 of the 2016 season, when they scored 43 against Tampa Bay.

The Falcons' 37-point margin of victory is the largest since Week 3 of the 2014 season against Tampa Bay (42).

With better protection, Ryan completed 22 of 39 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 75.3 passer rating.

"I think it's tough to replace that production when (Jones) is out," Ryan said. "I thought our guys did a nice job going out there competing. It made it even tougher when Olamide went out of the game too, but Christian Blake and Brandon Powell did a nice job of filling in.

"I appreciate their effort, professionalism and readiness at any moment to go in and play all kinds of positions for us."

The Falcons are hoping to get Jones and Gurley back for their rematch with the Saints this weekend.

Morris said both Gurley and Jones will practice on a limited basis on Wednesday.

"Hopefully, we'll get them going. We'll have to see where Julio goes. Obviously, we'll take it day by day with Julio," Morris said, via Ledbetter. "We'll get a chance to see those guys practice today and do what we can do."”

Gurley did not practice at all last week, but Jones was limited on Wednesday and Thursday before he didn’t participate on Friday.

Jones has played eight games this year, making 45 receptions for 677 yards with three touchdowns. Gurley is Atlanta's leading rusher, tallying 610 yards and nine touchdowns in 10

Ridley dealt with his ongoing foot injury during Sunday’s game, and he was also limited Wednesday.

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

Also, the Falcons announced on Tuesday that Zaccheaus has been placed on injured reserve. The Falcons also activated Laquon Treadwell from the reserve/COVID-19 list and added him to the 53-man roster.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Ito Smith, Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Brandon Powell, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

Due to continued COVID-19 concerns, the Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers football game was moved to 3:40 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBC.

The game will be ongoing as these Team Notes are posted.

With the rescheduling, two other games have likewise been moved as the Steelers will host the Washington Football Team on Monday at 5 p.m. ET in the teams' Week 13 contest, which was originally slated for Sunday, while the Ravens will host the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 8:05 p.m. ET on FOX/NFL Network/Amazon in a game that was first planned for Thursday.

This was the third time the Ravens-Steelers game -- originally scheduled for Thanksgiving night -- had to moved. Originally slated to be played on Thanksgiving night, it was postponed until Sunday and then moved a second time to Tuesday.

The league postponed the game for a third time to gain an extra day of COVID-19 testing results and to allow Ravens players time to train and avoid muscle strains, not because of who would or would not be available, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.

Ravens players recently conducted a players-only meeting in which they expressed concerns regarding playing on Tuesday as they've been adamant about wanting a day to practice, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported. Rapoport added that other notes to come from the meeting were that the Ravens want to play, but health and safety must come first. One source said: "Can't we have at least two days of negative tests after this outbreak before we are expected to get back on the field?"

The Ravens' facility reopened Monday night with the team conducting a walkthrough with another planned walkthrough Tuesday before flying to Pittsburgh, Pelissero reported. The Ravens later confirmed the news in a statement.

On Monday, the Ravens activated four players from the reserve/COVID-19 list, but also placed four players on the list.

Tight end Mark Andrews, outside linebacker Matt Judon and receiver Willie Snead were placed on the list Monday, along with cornerback Terrell Bonds, though Bonds was previously on season-ending injured reserve. While those four were added, outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson, guard D.J. Fluker and defensive linemen Broderick Washington and Iman Marshall were activated off the list.

On Tuesday, they activated nose tackle Brandon Williams, quarterback Trace McSorley and injured cornerbacks Tavon Young and Khalil Dorsey from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Since the Ravens' Week 11 game, 21 Ravens have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The Ravens have trimmed that number to 16 players, which marks the first time they have reduced the number of players on this list since the outbreak in Baltimore began on Nov. 22.

It's possible the Ravens will get down to 14 players before they play the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Wednesday afternoon. Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram were both eligible to come off the list after completing a 10-day quarantine.

However, neither was active for Thurday's game.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson will still be out.

So will Williams. Baltimore added the nose tackle and Fluker (back spasms) to the Week 12 injury report. Williams (ankle) was ruled out while Fluker is questionable.

Neither player was on this week's injury report since they were on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

I'll have a full recap of this game when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Trace McSorley, Robert Griffin III
RBs: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Mark Ingram
WRs: Marquise Brown, Dez Bryant, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Eric Tomlinson

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques suggested, a matchup between the NFL's third- and fourth-ranked passing offenses seems destined for a shootout, right?

In a normal year, maybe. Not in 2020, though.

The Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers dinked and dunked their way to 451 combined passing yards during Buffalo's 27-17 victory Sunday. The Bills didn't eclipse 100 passing yards until well into the third quarter. Buffalo spent its Week 11 bye taking a "deep dive" into its 27th-ranked rushing offense and sought to establish the run early against Los Angeles, feeding the ball equally to running backs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary while dialing up several designed runs for quarterback Josh Allen.

It resulted in what appeared to be a far more conservative game plan for the Bills than they've displayed during a resurgent offensive season.

Buffalo's 172 yards on the ground marked its second-highest rushing total of the season, thanks to 82 yards from Singletary on 11 carries. For most of the game, it was difficult to justify the game plan but both Singletary and Moss successfully broke off chunk gains late in the game against a fatigued Chargers defense.

The performance wasn't quite enough to pronounce Buffalo's rushing woes cured but proved once again that the Bills can win with a run-heavy script.

Allen simplified it afterward.

"We're 8-3," the Bills quarterback said. "That's what our goal was at the end of this game, whatever it takes. We got it done. Our defense played outstanding. Obviously, on the offensive side of the football, we can do a lot more to help us out."

Still, in a season where Buffalo has thrown the ball more than 61 percent of the time, they chose to run it 54.5 percent of the time with 30 run plays and 25 passes in the win.

Moss averaged 6.6 yards per carry while Singletary managed 7.5 yards per touch.

And though Allen rushed nine times himself with mostly designed carries, Buffalo's top two backs carried the load combining for 141 yards on 20 carries (7.0 avg.).

I think we took a step forward as far as in the run game," Singletary said. "I think it was pretty balanced. I think it helped us out a lot."

"That was big," said head coach Sean McDermott of the rushing effort in the second half. "Like all teams you identify the gap of where you are and where you want to be. And then you evolve during the game. We go from 50-some yards in the first half to a total of 172. I'm proud of the offensive line, the backs and (offensive coordinator Brian) Daboll and the way he handled it."

They'll look to carry that rushing momentum -- and add the passing game back in -- when they travel to Arizona, where the 49ers will be hosting them at State Farm Stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions that will keep them from playing their final two home games in Santa Clara. ...

Other notes of interest. ... With John Brown going on injured reserve late last week, his teammates knew his absence would last at least the next three games. They've had to play without the player they affectionately call 'Smoke' before, but coming down the back stretch of the season, his teammates on offense knew they had to pick up the slack.

Enter rookie Gabriel Davis.

Davis caught the team's first touchdown on a fake bubble screen that turned into an option pass from fellow receiver Cole Beasley.

"It was great. I knew it was going to work," Davis said. "We run a lot of those bubble screens, so as soon as I saw 35 shoot upfield I just knew the ball was coming to me and Cole was able to throw a dart. He said he threw it kind of hard to get it in there but, it was a softball. It was an easy catch and I'm glad we could make that connection."

Although Stefon Diggs again saw the most action with seven receptions Sunday, Davis led the team in receiving yards with 79 to go along with his scoring play. The yardage total was thanks mainly to a 44-yard grab that he made down the left sideline in the fourth quarter.

Very quietly Davis has moved into a tie with Diggs for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with four. He would've had two more this season had they not been negated by penalty against the Raiders and Patriots.

Add in that he also contributed in the run game as a capable blocker downfield and Davis' quarterback was pretty happy with his performance.

"He was fantastic," said Allen of Davis. "I don't expect anything less from him. He's a guy who's always willing to put the team first and do whatever it takes. And you saw that. He's just one of those guys who's obviously young but plays a lot older than he is. He does the right things on and off the field. He's going to be really good in this league for a long time."

Worth noting. ... Diggs did not record his first official catch -- or target -- until the Bills' opening drive of the third quarter. As Louis-Jacques put it, "Establishing the run is nice and all, when you can successfully establish it. But considering Buffalo owns the fourth-best passing offense in the league, it seemed odd not to use that."

Diggs' 89 receptions through the first 11 games is the highest in team history. His six receptions on Sunday helped him break the record previously held by Eric Moulds (76 in 2000).

With a rushing and passing touchdown Sunday, Allen added to his record for most career games in Bills history with at least one rushing and one passing touchdown. He now sits at 15 games. ...

The Bills have called wide receiver Jake Kumerow up from the practice squad on a temporary basis a few times this season and they'll have him up on the active roster for a longer stretch.

The team announced that they have signed Kumerow to the 53-man roster on Wednesday. As noted above, the Bills placed Brown on injured reserve before the win over the Chargers.

Kumerow was up for that game, but only played one offensive snap. He's played four offensive snaps and 49 special teams snaps in three appearances this season. Kumerow had 20 catches for 322 yards and two touchdowns in 19 games for the Packers the last two years.

The Bills also designated linebackers Matt Milano and Tyrel Dodson to return from injured reserve. ...

And finally. ... Tyler Bass was perfect for the second straight game, including a 43-yard field goal that all but put the game out of reach for the Chargers. His 2-for-2 performance came on the heels of an outing in Arizona in which he tallied three field goals of 50-plus yards.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm
RBs: Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones, Devonta Freeman, Zack Moss
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Reggie Gilliam

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As ESPN.com's David Newton framed it, "Teddy Bridgewater's return to Minnesota as a starting quarterback went much like the much of the season has for the Carolina Panthers.

"Good, but not good enough. ..."

The dramatic 28-27 loss to the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium all but ended any chance Carolina had at making a late run for the playoffs.

They are 4-8 after blowing a 24-13 fourth-quarter lead highlighted by defensive touchdowns on consecutive plays by rookie linebacker/safety Jeremy Chinn to start the second half.

But that was all erased with 46 seconds left when Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins found Chad Beebe for the winning touchdown pass.

Bridgewater still had a chance to be the hero, leading Carolina to the Minnesota 36 with six seconds left. However, Joey Slye's attempt at a game-winning 54-yard field goal never had a chance; he hooked it wide left.

"I think for myself, I think that's 100 percent in range, just based off what I've put on tape and what I've been able to do," Slye said of his third miss on a game-winning field goal this season, a much different kick than longshots against the Saints and Chiefs earlier this year.

"A 54-yarder is something that should be in my wheelhouse and should be somewhat of a kick that's a higher percentage for not only myself but for the team to view," Slye continued. "For me not to do what they sent me out there to do and what I feel comfortable hitting is frustrating for me.

"I want to put myself in a lot of those situations to put the team on my back and kind of wear that hat on my head and help us in different ways, and today I let the team down, so I'm pretty frustrated about that."

So while Chinn solidified himself as a top candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with fumble returns for touchdowns of 17 and 28 yards, the young defense wasn't good enough down the stretch to pull off the upset heading into the bye week.

And Bridgewater's homecoming was spoiled.

Bridgewater wasn't spectacular in his return to where his career started in 2014 and almost ended during the 2016 training camp when he suffered a dislocated left knee and torn ACL. He started 1-for-7 passing for 4 yards, including an interception in the red zone.

But he played more than well enough to win, proving that his sprained right knee that kept him out of last week's 20-0 victory against Detroit was sound with two scrambles for 12 yards. He rebounded from the slow start to complete 19 of 36 pass attempts for 267 yards and a touchdown.

He also missed an open D.J. Moore in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 3 with less than two minutes left that could have ended this one.

His day ended with him running off the field prior to Slye's miss with an undisclosed injury. Bridgewater said he "hurt something in my arm," but it didn't appear to be serious.

According to head coach Matt Rhule, there was some consideration of running another play with six seconds remaining if not for the apparent injury, as he wasn't going to put backup quarterback Phillip Walker into that position, electing to let Slye try a 54-yard field goal.

Bridgewater said he was physically fine, but the way the game ended will leave a different kind of mark.

Rhule didn't put the blame for the loss on a missed kick or pass or anything the players did.

"Instead of pointing fingers, I'd rather point the thumb back at me," he said. "I'm disappointed in myself and my staff tonight."

All in all, the Panthers will have plenty to think about over their off week. ... In Bridgewater's eight starts without Christian McCaffrey, he's averaged 15.6 completions to wide receivers in wins and 12.4 in losses. Wide receivers accounted for 13 receptions against the Vikings.

Wide receiver Robby Anderson scored his first touchdown since Week 1 on a 41-yard pass in the first half. Anderson now has nine career receiving touchdowns of 40-plus yards, ranking fourth in the NFL since 2016.

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel had a team-high five receptions for 72 yards, including one on third down. His 18 third-down conversions through the air and ground are second in the NFL behind the Chargers' Keenan Allen (22).

Moore injured his right ankle near the end of Sunday's loss, Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer reports.

On third-and-goal just after the two-minute warning, Moore landed awkwardly on his right leg after attempting to make a leaping grab in the end zone. He required assistance to get off the field and was unable to return, ending his day with four catches (on nine targets) for 61 yards.

Rhule told reporters on Monday that X-rays on Moore's ankle were negative. He's not sure about severity, but Moore has not been ruled out of Dec. 13 game vs. Broncos after the bye.

Expect McCaffrey back for that game as well. The star halfback returned to practice on a limited basis last week following. He's missed three games with a shoulder injury suffered in his first game back from a six-game absence due to high ankle sprain.

Mike Davis rushed 15 times for 55 yards and caught 3-of-6 targets for 24 yards against the Vikings with McCaffrey out again. As Rotoworld.com noted, Davis has been hot-and-cold in his eight games as the lead back with McCaffrey sidelined. He averaged out to a high-end RB2 in those starts, although he was a disappointment throughout November.

Davis' opportunities will obviously diminish upon McCaffrey's return.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Phillip Walker, Will Grier
RBs: Rodney Smith, Trenton Cannon, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Colin Thompson

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

A turnaround, a promising future and an NFC North crown were brought about with the 2018 Chicago Bears season and along with that haul came Matt Nagy being recognized as AP Coach of the Year.

Things change quickly in the NFL and on Sunday, following a lopsided 41-25 loss to the archrival Green Bay Packers that was the Bears' fifth defeat in a row, Nagy was fielding questions about his job security and stated he isn't concerned.

"No, I'm not," he said via the Chicago Sun-Times' Jason Lieser.

Chicago (5-6) began its season at 5-1, but many doubted the validity of its record as the offense struggled despite victories, which all came by single-score margins with four against teams currently under .500.

Nagy made the switch from former first-rounder Mitchell Trubisky during an eventual win to the Falcons, a comeback effort spurred by Nick Foles.

Foles' best showing was the relief appearance though and the offense sputtered about with Nagy eventually ceding offensive play-calling duties to Bill Lazor. After two games with Lazor calling plays, nothing has changed. There's been shuffling, but the results have remained the same.

With a bye week squeezed in between, the Bears lost to the Vikings in Week 10 and didn't have an offensive touchdown and fell to the Packers on Sunday night in a game that was essentially decided by halftime as the Packers raced out to a 27-3 lead. An offensive coach emanating from the Andy Reid coaching tree, Nagy has done little to quell the Bears' offensive ills as they entered Sunday ranked 31st in total offense. Following a 25-point effort with 351 total yards, maybe that ranking will improve a bit, but the vast majority of the Bears' offensive numbers came after the game was out of hand.

"We understand where we're at, and when you have games like this, you've gotta soul search," Nagy said. "You've gotta be able to stop the bleeding. There's a couple directions you can go.

"But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that. Obviously the last five weeks have been extremely difficult. It's not fun. We all want to win. But the one reason why I'm here is to fight and to lead, and that's what I think is most important during these times. When you go through these times, how do you respond? I think that's the test of true character."

Apparently Nagy's soul searching on Sunday night did not lead him to a place of Zen on Monday.

"I know this: We better wake our tails up," Nagy said on his Monday Zoom call. "Every freaking coach on the staff, every player, better wake up and start understanding where we're at. Have some personal pride. Have a freaking sense of urgency. Know where we're at. Have some pride into who we're playing for and why we do this and then go find a way to win as a team. That's my challenge to every single person in that building this week is that.

"Yesterday was flat-out embarrassing and our guys know it. I'm not telling you something they don't know. They know it. But we're going to step up and all coaches, all players, and we've got five games left. For us, it's our own personal challenge as to where we're at and how we're going to do this thing. But that performance yesterday is ridiculous and can't happen and obviously that starts with me."

It ends with Nagy as well and continued failures to stop the bleeding long enough to get a win aren't going to do much to recommend an extended stay for Nagy in his current job.

One thing Nagy needed to decide was his starting quarterback.

He did that on Wednesday when he announced Trubisky would continue to hold down that role.

Foles did not practice at all last week (although he's returning this week) and the Bears had lost their last four games with him in the lineup, so it's not like either choice provides overwhelming reason to think they'll push the team in the right direction.

Other notes of interest. ... Returning to action Sunday night after missing one game with a concussion, David Montgomery recorded his first 100-yard performance of the season, rushing for 103 yards on 11 carries.

Montgomery's 57-yard gain on the Bears' first possession was the longest run of his career, topping a 55-yarder Oct. 27, 2019 against the Chargers. Montgomery's 57-yard scamper Sunday night set up Cairo Santos' 27-yard field goal, which cut the deficit to 6-3.

Montgomery also caught five passes for 40 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown from Trubisky in the fourth quarter.

Allen Robinson caught two touchdown passes Sunday night for the first time this season and the fourth time in three years with the Bears, hauling in scoring passes of 1 and 6 yards from Trubisky.

Robinson led the Bears in receiving yards for the ninth straight game with 74 yards on eight receptions. In his last three contests against the Packers, he has caught 22 passes for 301 yards. Last year he had a pair of 100-yard outings versus Green Bay with 102 yards and 125 yards.

For what it's worth, Robinson is slated to become a free agent in March. The Bears may have a tough time keeping him.

Robinson's social media activity after the ugly loss to the Packers included liking several tweets in which people told him he should leave Chicago for teams that would better use his skills.

Robinson is in the final year of the three-year, $42 million contract he signed with the Bears in 2018. He'll be one of the top free agent wide receivers available in 2021.

Robinson's agent has urged the Bears to throw him the ball in the red zone.

The Bears may be only weeks away from a major house cleaning, and it's unclear who will even be calling the shots in Chicago next year. But it seems fair to say he wants to go somewhere with a better quarterback situation than Chicago currently has.

One last note here. ... Making his only attempt from 27 yards Sunday night, Cairo Santos has now connected on 15 straight field-goal tries and is 18-of-20 this season (90 percent). His last miss came in a Week 3 win in Atlanta.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles, Tyler Bray
RBs: David Montgomery, Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, Brandon Allen's task was always going to be daunting on Sunday against the New York Giants.

After spending the entire season as the emergency quarterback stashed on the practice squad, Allen was tabbed to be the Cincinnati Bengals' starter with rookie Joe Burrow out for the year with a left knee injury.

Things went about as expected in a 19-17 loss to the Giants (4-7) at Paul Brown Stadium. For the Bengals (2-8-1) to have a chance at winning another game in 2020, Cincinnati will need more production from its quarterback.

Allen was 17-of-29 for 136 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble in his fourth career start. The Bengals didn't score a touchdown or get into the red zone until late in the fourth quarter, when Allen connected with Tee Higgins to cut the lead to two.

Allen made three starts last season with the Broncos, with the most recent coming in Week 12 against Buffalo when he threw for 82 yards in a loss. Allen had a decent start to the game but eventually tapered off as the Bengals failed to sustain drives and keep their defense off the field.

When the outcome was in question, Cincinnati's best plays occurred when the offense wasn't on the field. Safety Brandon Wilson scored the Bengals' first touchdown on a 103-yard kickoff return, the longest in franchise history. Safety Vonn Bell also had an interception that set up a short field that eventually led to a field goal.

Sunday showed the Bengals can hang around with similar teams even without Burrow. But on a day when Cincinnati had a mere 155 total yards, it's clear the offense needs more from the quarterback spot in order to get second-year coach Zac Taylor some much-needed wins.

Still, Taylor is turning to Allen for next week's game at Miami.

"I thought he did enough for us. The guys around him have to step up too, now," Taylor said of the QB. "We had several drops (and) holding penalties when we would get a completion. (It felt like) we had only three possessions there in the first half. It felt like we hardly ever had the ball. In the second half, (we) just never had our rhythm. When we would get something positive, it seemed like something would send us back the other way on the same play. There were three drops, two holding penalties -- and there was a fumble on a positive play -- that all hurt us."

Allen saw the Bengals rush for just 40 yards on 15 carries. Allen was sacked twice, including the sack-strip by Jabaal Sheard with 49 seconds left to end it.

Despite all that, fresh in Taylor's mind are last week's crisp practices (FOX Sports reported Allen was 25 of 25 on Wednesday) and how he took them down the field in 1:21 for the one-yard touchdown pass to Higgins with 2:33 left.

"I've just been around Brandon and felt like he gave us a good chance (to win), and he did," Taylor said. "I feel like he's a good decision maker. Not everything was perfect, but again, we knew there were going to be some challenges. We needed the guys around him to lift him up and help him through this week, and we didn't get enough of that, to be quite honest. And there will be some things we need him to improve on, certainly. We need the whole unit to be more supportive around him."

Allen played much of the game with a glove on his left hand. He said the trainers called it "a mallet finger," which is defined by having a damaged tendon but he said it wasn't a problem. ...

Other notes of interest. ... For the second time in three weeks wide receiver A.J. Green went all the way and didn't have a catch. He had three contested targets in the Giants' suffocating zone that held Auden Tate to no catches on two targets and leading receiver Tyler Boyd to three catches for 15 yards. ...

Giovani Bernard carried eight times for 32 yards and caught two of three targets for 17 additional yards during Sunday's loss.

As CBSSports.com suggested, Bernard's average of 4.0 yards per carry looks respectable at first sight, but nearly half his production came on one carry as he was bottled up on most of his attempts. He received a few looks in the passing game as well but did little outside his long reception of 16 yards. Bernard, who has struggled to the tune of 50.3 scrimmage yards per game despite averaging 11.6 touches over the last three, will hope to get back on track against a Dolphins defense that has been easier to beat on the ground this season. ...

According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Bengals will be placing Tate on injured reserve. The wideout is expected to undergo shoulder surgery in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Burrow will undergo knee surgery this week, Taylor said Monday.

Burrow is on his way to the West Coast for the surgery, which will take place "the middle of this week." Taylor didn't have a timetable for Burrow's to return to Cincinnati.

The rookie took part in the quarterback meetings last week after his injury.

"I think he just likes being around the guys," Taylor said.

Burrow tore his ACL and MCL and had other structural damage in his knee after being injured in a Nov. 22 game against Washington.

"Joe's hanging in there," Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard said. "He's on his way to [the] West Coast to get the surgery and start his path to recovery. Mentally, he's staying up. My heart goes out to him as his surgery approaches and his recovery process begins."

Surgery now should put Burrow on track to return somewhere around the start of the 2021 season.

Burrow went 2-7-1 and threw for 2,688 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Brandon Allen, Ryan Finley, Joe Burrow
RBs: Giovani Bernard, Samaje Perine, Trayveon Williams, Joe Mixon
WRs: Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, A.J. Green, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, John Ross, Auden Tate
TEs: Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, C.J. Uzomah

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

Jarvis Landry has been patiently waiting to catch his first touchdown all season.

The zero in that column has been in the back of Landry's mind each week since he began his third season with the Browns. Cleveland had made it to Week 12, and although Landry was among one of the most important players on the team, he still had not found the end zone.

His contributions have come in other ways. He's one of the best run blockers in the Browns' receiving room, and he entered Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Browns' leading player in nearly every receiving category -- except touchdowns.

"It hurts my heart," Landry said with his eyes shut and a smile in a recent interview. "It hurts my heart so bad, but I am still focused. I have to make those plays, and it will come."

The play finally came in the Browns' 27-25 win Sunday over the Jaguars.

Cleveland was on Jacksonville's 5-yard line when Baker Mayfield dropped back for a quick throw to Landry, who was bumped off his slant route by the defensive back but still turned around and positioned himself to make a play. The ball was spotted at his back shoulder, and Landry torqued his body around just in time to make the catch for Cleveland's first touchdown of the afternoon.

The zero was gone.

"He just trusted and threw me the ball still," Landry said. "He made a play because any other quarterback probably would have just come off of me at that point, but he still stuck with me and threw it to me. I made the catch and touchdown."

Landry, however, was just getting started. His touchdown kicked off a big day for the Browns' passing offense that recorded 258 passing yards, the second-highest mark of the season, and two touchdowns.

Landry caught 143 of those yards. He set a season-high in that category and made eight receptions on 11 targets and, of course, finally secured that first touchdown. He was Mayfield's go-to receiver on a considerable chunk of the Browns' third-down passing plays -- six of his receptions went for first downs -- and pestered the Jaguars' secondary to help the Browns record their eighth win, a record that has only been reached by Cleveland three times in the expansion era of the franchise.

"Jarvis had an incredible day," Mayfield said. "There were a lot of tight windows and contested catches that he made. The guy is unbelievable."

Landry's big performance was a long-awaited reward that follows a season full of other difficult accomplishments and added adversity. In Week 4, he played in his 100th consecutive game -- he still has yet to miss and NFL game in his career -- and made his 600th reception in Week 10 against the Texans. He's played his last four games without best friend and receiving teammate Odell Beckham Jr., who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 7. He's also spent a large chunk of this season playing through a painful rib injury.

All of that, however, appears to be in the past.

Next up, is getting more consistent efforts out of Mayfield.

ESPN.com's Nick Trotter reported it was another up-and-down performance for Mayfield, who misfired on a couple of critical easy throws, yet also delivered key strikes into traffic.

In the first half, Mayfield overthrew a wide-open Rashard Higgins in the end zone, and Cleveland ultimately had to settle for a field goal. Higgins had a whopping 10.44 yards of separation from the nearest defender when the pass arrived. Then in the fourth quarter, his third-down attempt was behind Kareem Hunt on a would-be completion that could've salted away the game.

Hunt was stuffed on the next play, setting up Jacksonville's final drive.

Still, playing in decent weather conditions for the first time this month, Mayfield went a fourth-straight game without an interception.

He also completed 19 of 29 passes for 258 yards and a pair of impressive touchdown tosses (the one to Landry and one to Austin Hooper).

All in all, that was good enough Sunday.

Whatever the case, with a record of 8-3, the Browns are now assured of a .500 season, with still five games left to play.

Cleveland's 12 straight years finishing under .500 was tied for the second-longest in NFL history. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1983-1996) had a longer stretch of consecutive losing seasons.

Meanwhile, the Browns ran for 207 yards in Jacksonville, marking the fourth time this season they've run for 200 or better.

Nick Chubb, who had a season-high 144 rushing yards on Sunday, is averaging 102 yards per game. He's cleared the century mark in five of his seven games this season.

And despite being viewed as a between-the-tackles specialist. Chubb has 10 rushes of 20 yards or more, a total that leads the NFL.

Also, the Browns have not lost this season when Chubb or Hunt find the end zone. ...

Star defensive end Myles Garrett was activated from the COVID-19 list on Tuesday after missing two games with the virus.

Garrett sat out Cleveland's wins over Philadelphia and Jacksonville the past two weeks after testing positive on Nov. 20. He's been isolated at home and following league protocols, and head coach Kevin Stefanski said Garrett would return to work on Wednesday.

The Browns have been hit hard by the coronavirus, which has caused disruptions across the league.

Andy Janovich was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and Stefanski expects the fullback to return to action this week after being out with the virus. He'll know later this week on the status of defensive ends Porter Gustin, Joe Jackson and linebacker Sione Takitaki, who are also on the COVID list.

Cornerback Denzel Ward, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, is expected to miss his second straight game this week with a calf strain suffered against the Eagles.

Also, safety Ronnie Harrison was placed on IR Tuesday due to the shoulder injury he suffered while making a tackle against the Jaguars early in Sunday's game. It's another tough blow for Cleveland's banged-up defense and for Harrison.

And finally. ... Browns chief of staff Callie Brownson became the first woman to coach an NFL position group in a regular-season game as she filled in for tight ends coach Drew Petzing. Petzing's wife, Louisa, gave birth to the couple's first child Saturday.

"She's a great utility player for us and she can fill in anywhere," Stefanski said. "I'm proud of her and proud of her journey and it's going to continue here."

Brownson made NFL history one day after Vanderbilt soccer player Sarah Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game. Fuller handled a squib kickoff in Vandy's 41-0 loss at Missouri.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Marvin Hall, Derrick Willies, KhaDarel Hodge, Ja'Marcus Bradley, Odell Beckham
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Harrison Bryant

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon put it, "In a season of so much uncertainty, the Dallas Cowboys can count on one thing: being alone in last place in the NFL's worst division going into Week 13."

While the Cowboys will say there's still hope because no team in the NFC East will have more than one win than they do, the reality speaks much more loudly.

Start with an offensive line looking as if it will be permanently altered by injuries after battling them all season. And that's on an offense among the worst in the NFL since star quarterback Dak Prescott's season-ending ankle injury.

The Cowboys (3-8) were supposed to play Baltimore on Thursday after a 41-16 loss to Washington on Thanksgiving Day. Because of COVID-19 issues involving the Ravens, the game is tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 7. Things could change again if Baltimore and Pittsburgh don't play a twice-delayed game Tuesday night.

Whenever Dallas does return to the field, the idea of getting past Washington, the New York Giants and Philadelphia to win the NFC East and make the playoffs will be far-fetched.

The Cowboys have lost three straight division games, and five of six overall.

"I like to think there's a lot of football left," first-year coach Mike McCarthy said. "We all clearly have been part of this (injury) pattern and the pattern's been one way. And I'm hopeful and will be grateful when it turns the other way. I don't kind of just throw in the cards. I think you line up and play every hand to win and we'll do that against Baltimore."

Already without starting tackles Tyron Smith and La'el Collins almost the entire the season because of injuries, Dallas lost two replacements on the opening drive against Washington. Zack Martin, a four-time All-Pro right guard who moved to right tackle to help fortify the line, aggravated a calf injury and will miss multiple weeks, along with Cam Erving, who exited four plays earlier with a sprained knee. Barring further injury, two undrafted players in Brandon Knight and Terence Steele figure to be the starting tackles the rest of the way.

If you're looking for positives here. ... Sticking with the philosophy of drafting the best player on the team's board worked well. The Cowboys didn't expect receiver CeeDee Lamb to be there at No. 17. They grabbed him despite having greater needs elsewhere and feeling good about their top two pass-catchers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

Lamb was the first receiver in NFL history to catch at least five passes in each of his first six games.

In addition, TE Dalton Schultz has been a pleasant surprise after starter Blake Jarwin tore a knee ligament in the season opener at the Rams. While he's not near the receiving threat Jarwin is, Schultz has been a reliable short-yardage target for all the Dallas quarterbacks.

Problems that are becoming increasingly apparent?

McCarthy hired a known gambler in special teams coordinator John Fassel. Two fake punts have failed, perhaps none more spectacularly in the NFL this season than one against Washington on Thanksgiving.

Facing fourth-and-10 at their 24 and trailing by just four points early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys ran a pitch reverse with up-back Darian Thompson and receiver Cedrick Wilson, who had the option of throwing but didn't think punter Hunter Niswander was open. Wilson was dropped for a 1-yard loss, and the Cowboys gave up a touchdown on the next play to trigger a 21-point quarter by Washington.

Meanwhile, Dixon believes defensive coordinator Mike Nolan could be one and done in Dallas. While the Cowboys lost crucial time for implementing a new scheme when the pandemic eliminated in-person work during the offseason, the defensive ineptitude early in the season was jarring. The unit has been better in recent weeks, but it was probably too late.

Still, nothing has been a bigger problem than Prescott's season-ending ankle injury.

There is a 207-yard per game difference in passing yardage in the five games with Prescott and the six games without him.

The Cowboys were leading the NFL by more than 70 yards passing per game at 381 through five games. They're second to last at 174 since Week 6.

Given that shortfall, is it fair to say Amari Cooper is the only Dallas pass-catcher we should have in our lineups right now?

According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, that would be a safe guess.

Cooper had 112 yards against Washington and a 54-yard touchdown. The wide receiver does appear to have a good connection with quarterback Andy Dalton. He also benefits from Dallas having three of its final five games on the road, and he has more catches in away games than he had in all of last season.

Lamb has been targeted more under Dalton, but he did not fare well against Washington. The receiver who appears to have seen the biggest drop-off is Michael Gallup. With issues up front, getting the ball downfield will be an issue, and that's where Gallup has thrived.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Andy Dalton, Garrett Gilbert, Cooper Rush, Ben DiNucci, Dak Prescott
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
WRs: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Malik Turner
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell, Sean McKeon, Blake Jarwin

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

Just over 24 hours after the Denver Broncos pulled all three of their quarterbacks off the practice field because of COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, they opened a game with running back Phillip Lindsay taking a direct snap and spent most of the day with a practice squad wide receiver as their quarterback.

And then things went about as expected in a 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Empower Field at Mile High, as the Saints emptied the bench in the closing minutes.

Head coach Vic Fangio said after the game he was disappointed in the quarterbacks -- Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles -- who put the team and the league in a position where Denver had to play without a QB. Fangio revealed that his quarterbacks had gathered at the team facility on Tuesday, their off-day, to watch film.

It was a case of good intentions and bad execution.

"They got lax with their masks, I guess, and they got lax with their distancing, I guess," Fangio said. "We count on them to be the leaders of our team, the leaders of our offense, and those guys made a mistake."

The second-year head coach, who was fined in September for not wearing a face covering on the sidelines, pointed the finger at himself, as well.

"I haven't done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they're on their own," Fangio admitted. "That's on me."

The Broncos, now 4-7, removed Lock, Rypien and Bortles, who is on the team's practice squad, from Saturday's practice and told them to isolate after being designated as "high-risk" close contacts to quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

Lock issued an apology earlier in the day for his "mistake" in breaking the COVID-19 mask protocols in a quarterbacks meeting this past week and there will certainly be conversations in the weeks to come on why the game was played at all.

It all put the Broncos in the most uncomfortable of football positions.

As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold noted, Kendall Hinton, who finished 1-for-9 passing for 13 yards and two interceptions, was the Broncos quarterback for a big part of an unprecedented day. It was the Broncos' lowest output on offense -- 112 yards -- since they finished with 128 yards in an Oct. 12, 1992, loss at Washington.

The 23-year-old rookie had been with the Broncos in training camp before getting waived when rosters league wide went to 53 players in September. Since there were no preseason games this summer, Hinton's first game appearance of any kind for the Broncos was against the Saints.

He had been re-signed to the practice squad Nov. 4 and on Nov. 28, Saturday, he was promoted to emergency-pandemic-situation quarterback.

Hinton found out he'd be called up on Saturday afternoon and called his reaction to the news "pure excitement."

Less than 24 hours later, Hinton attempted his first pass since he faced Clemson in 2018 as a Wake Forest quarterback/wide receiver.

"I would not say this is how I planned it out in my dreams, but it usually doesn't work out how you want it," Hinton said, via the team's website. "So, just getting this opportunity and this experience has been amazing. Imagining myself playing quarterback in the NFL four years ago, it's completely different being in a completely different situation. But, it's an experience like none [other]."

The on-field results of all this weren't surprising.

Of course, the Broncos tried a little of everything, at least a little of everything that didn't included a forward pass. Lindsay and running back Melvin Gordon took direct snaps and there was a big helping of personnel groupings when Denver tried to use three wide receivers with two backs or two tight ends and two backs. It was all a bit of a slog as the Broncos didn't get their second first down until their first possession of the second half.

They punted seven times and scored their only points on a 58-yard field goal by Brandon McManus with 7 minutes, 7 seconds left in the third quarter.

The Broncos' defense was tested after repeated three-and-outs by the offense kept giving the ball to the Saints, often in relatively comfortable field position. Saints QB Taysom Hill had just 43 yards passing by the end of the third quarter, 78 for the game, as the Saints had run the ball 32 times by the end of the third quarter on the way to 229 yards rushing.

The 112 offensive yards the Saints allowed was the lowest total in franchise history.

Perhaps it was better that the interconference bout took place without fans in the stands. Saints coach Sean Payton's sympathies extended beyond the Broncos.

"This is a challenging year," Payton said. "I felt bad for the cardboard fans. It is what it is. ..."

For the record, Lock and the other QBs -- except Driskel -- all reportedly tested negative and since their close contact with Driskel was last Wednesday, they can return to the facility this week since their five days of required isolation are over. ...

Worth noting. ... Last year, Lock was activated from IR after recovering from a sprained right thumb he sustained in the preseason and was given a five-week audition during which he went 4-1. That small sample size convinced Elway that Lock was his guy and the Broncos spent the offseason building around their quarterback instead of searching for another one.

Now, as Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton suggested, Lock has an even bigger five-week test coming up, to prove he's worthy -- and trustworthy -- of leading the Broncos in 2021.

On the injury front. ... Lindsay was forced out in the second half with a knee injury. Fangio said Lindsay (knee) might return against the Chiefs this weekend but his status bears watching in coming days; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

According to NFL Network's James Palmer, defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, who came down with COVID symptoms on Oct. 31st, may return this Sunday against the Chiefs. It’s been a long battle for him. ...

And finally. ... Although Lock, Rypien and Bortles all tested negative again Tuesday and were cleared to return, the Broncos are bringing in a familiar face at the position. Kyle Shurmur, a quarterback who spent last year with the Chiefs but has been out of the NFL this year, is signing with the Broncos, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Shurmur is the son of Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

Shurmur gives them an insurance policy who has a little more experience at the position than Hinton.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Courtland Sutton
TEs: Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, Jake Butt, Albert Okwuegbunam

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

The Detroit Lions fired coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn last Saturday. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will serve as the Lions' interim coach.

Patricia's firing comes two days after the Lions suffered a blowout loss to the Houston Texans on Thanksgiving Day, which put the team's record at 4-7.

"On behalf of my family, I want to thank Bob and Matt for their hard work and their dedication to the Lions organization over the past several years," Lions owner Sheila Ford Hamp said during a Zoom call presser Saturday afternoon. "They're both very fine men, and we wish them nothing but the best in the rest of their careers. Obviously, this season has not gone the way we expected. We want to take the rest of this year to assess every aspect of our football operation, find the best individuals to lead and coach our team."

Ahead of the 2020 season, Lions ownership made it clear to Patricia and Quinn that the team needed to be playoff contenders this season. After losing four of their last five after Week 12, ownership materialized the writing on the wall.

Patricia amassed a 13-29-1 record in his two-plus seasons as Lions head coach. Patricia was hired by the Lions in 2018 after serving as the New England Patriots defensive coordinator for six years. Patricia succeeded Jim Caldwell, who was fired by the Lions after four seasons as coach. Caldwell had three winning seasons during his time in Detroit and made the playoffs twice.

Since Patricia's hiring, the Lions rank in the bottom 10 in scoring, total and pass defense, and they are tied for fewest takeaways (43) in the NFL since 2018. The Lions' .314 win percentage during Patricia's tenure ranked 27th in the NFL. Patricia has the worst career win percentage by any coach whose teams averaged 21-plus points per game in the Super Bowl era (minimum 40 games coached).

Quinn served as the Lions GM since 2016. The Lions were 31-43-1 during Quinn's tenure and have been sub-.500 in three straight seasons after going 9-7 in each of his first two seasons.

All five first-round picks by Quinn are still on the Lions' roster, but none of those five has ever reached a Pro Bowl or been an All-Pro. The only Pro Bowler Quinn drafted with the Lions is wide receiver Kenny Golladay, a third-round selection in 2017.

Hamp issued a statement Sunday evening to Detroit fans that she will do what it takes to bring a winning product to them.

"To our loyal fans, we know this has been a challenging year for everyone," the statement began. "Not having our fans around to support our team has been difficult for all of us. Football this season has looked, and felt, different, but it doesn't change the fact that we play for you. As I said in my opening press conference, I will do everything I can to put a winning team on the field for our fans and the City of Detroit."

Hamp took over leadership of the franchise following her mother, Martha Firestone Ford, stepping down in June.

Hamp gave the Lions fanbase a reminder that though this season may not be leading to the postseason, she's endeavoring to do all she can to get Detroit back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Meanwhile, looking ahead, Detroit Free Press staffer Dave Birkett suggested the easy thing to do for whoever is in charge of leading the next iteration of your Lions is to ride Matthew Stafford into the sunset of his career. But if this organization is serious about remaking itself into a perennial Super Bowl contender, Birkett believes having and executing a new long-term vision at the quarterback position is where it begins.

Stafford is the best quarterback most Lions fans have rooted for in their lifetime, and it's possible now is not the absolute time to move on.

That option, though, must at least be on the table as the franchise embarks on what could be an arduous rebuild.

Stafford's long-term future in Detroit has been a topic of endless discussion in recent years, mostly from media types pontificating about what the team should do. Few in the organization have seemed willing to embrace change at quarterback, for obvious reasons, and Stafford has genuinely enjoyed playing in Detroit.

Stafford, who turns 33 in February, has two years left on the contract extension he signed in 2017, and trading him, by Birkett's calculations, would leave the Lions with a dead money cap hit of $19.45 million.

That's not ideal in a shrinking salary cap environment, though it can be managed. But the bigger issue would be the void trading Stafford would leave -- one that, given how difficult it is to survive without a high-end QB in the NFL, can only rightfully be filled by finding a successor in the draft.

Moving on from Stafford would have been easier last year, when the Lions had the third pick of the draft and their choice of future stars Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. They passed on both, and now must wait their turn to attack the position.

Keeping Stafford and drafting a young quarterback might be the best option, a la the Green Bay Packers and Jordan Love last spring, though that would take a new coach capable of handling all the hard feelings it would cause.

For now, Stafford seems destined to go down as a quarterback good enough to get three coaches fired, and I don't write that to insinuate he was behind the undoings of Patricia, Jim Caldwell or Jim Schwartz.

Hamp called Stafford an "extremely talented young man" and "tough as nails" in her post-firing Zoom on Saturday, but she rightfully took a pass on hitching the organization's wagon to him long-term.

"Well, since I'm not the coach, I'm probably not the right person to ask that question to," she said. "We'll see what the new coach has to say. ..."

Meanwhile, the NFL released the early leaders for Pro Bowl voting at every position in the NFC last Wednesday, and T.J. Hockenson is currently the leading vote getter at the tight end position with 54,312 votes. Kansas City's Travis Kelce is the AFC's leading vote getter at tight end with 127,868 votes.

Last year's No. 8 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Hockenson has been very consistent in his second season. He leads the Lions in receptions (45) and receiving yards (530), and is tied for the team lead with five touchdown grabs after posting five receptions for 89 yards in Detroit's Thanksgiving Day loss to Houston. Thursday was the eighth game this season Hockenson has recorded at least four catches and his seventh game with at least 50 receiving yards.

He was the best tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft class coming out of Iowa. He had an up-and-down rookie campaign that ended prematurely due to an ankle injury. Hockenson was expected to take a big leap in production heading into this season, and that's come to fruition. He has 13 more catches, 163 more yards and three more touchdowns in 11 games this year than he had in 12 games as a rookie.

He's also become one of Stafford's favorite targets this year. His 68 targets are just one behind Marvin Jones Jr. for the team lead. His 530 receiving yards through the first 11 games of this season rank as the second most a Lions tight end (Brandon Pettigrew) has ever produced through the first 11 games of a season.

Hockenson is currently second among tight ends in receiving yards, third in receptions and fifth in touchdown receptions. His 29 catches resulting in a first down are the third most among tight ends, trailing only Kelce and Oakland's Darren Waller.

Simply put, Hockenson has quickly emerged as one of the bright young tight end talents in today's NFL. ...

No D'Andre Swift on Thanksgiving Day meant it was going to be the Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson show in the Lions backfield. Peterson provided the scoring with two one-yard TD runs, and Johnson did a little bit of everything. He had a crucial block on a 3rd and 9 conversion on Detroit's first scoring drive. He rushed for 46 yards and caught four passes for another 52 yards.

ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein believes the Lions should play Johnson over Peterson when Swift comes back, but it's entirely possible Detroit goes to its old rotation and makes Johnson the pass-protector again with the occasional rush or reception. Or maybe the coaching staff will wise up and give Johnson the ball more.

Swift should return with the long turnaround from last Thursday's game. He was able to practice in the days leading up to it and was listed as questionable before being declared inactive before the kickoff against Houston.

On Wednesday, Bevell said that Swift will practice again this week and, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, that he is optimistic that the rookie will be able to play against the Bears.

Golladay (hip) and Danny Amendola (hip) should also be closer -- although Golladay was not slated to practice Wednesday. Amendola was on the field.

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

One last note here. ... The Lions will be without two defensive starters for at least the next three weeks, as they’ve placed cornerback Desmond Trufant and defensive tackle Danny Shelton on injured reserve.

Trufant has battled hamstring injuries throughout the season and suffered another during the Thanksgiving loss to the Texans.

Shelton also exited last Thursday’s game with a knee injury, but was able to return and ended up playing 25 total defensive snaps.

As corresponding moves, the Lions activated tight end Hunter Bryant from IR.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Chase Daniel, Jared Goff, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Adrian Peterson, Kerryon Johnson, Jason Cabinda
WRs: Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, Quintez Cephus, Jamal Agnew, Kenny Golladay
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, the Chicago Bears entered Sunday night hanging their hat on defense, owning the ability to shut down opponents with relative ease, giving their offense at least a chance to win games. Aaron Rodgers took that hat, ripped it to shreds, stomped on it and tossed it in a dumpster of flames.

The quarterback took whatever he wanted Sunday night. Making off-balance hole-shots look easy, torturing Bears defensive backs with pinpoint accuracy, and generally making the 41-25 demolition look easy.

"This is as good as I've ever seen anybody play," head coach Matt LaFleur said, via The Athletic. "Just his ability to go out there and get us in the right looks and, shoot, even when I make a bad call, he definitely makes us look good. So that's a credit to him. In my eyes, he's an MVP player. No doubt about it. And I wouldn't want any other quarterback on our football team."

Rodgers' yardage stats weren't sky-high Sunday night -- 21-of-29 for 211 yards -- but his four TDs were massive, as was his 132.3 passer rating.

The Packers quarterback is certainly in the MVP conversation, though he would need Patrick Mahomes to slow down in December to swipe the award. Russell Wilson sits as the third man in the race for the MVP award.

Rodgers leads the NFL in passer rating (117.6) and ranks second in TD-INT ratio (33-4) in 2020 -- only Mahomes has a better TD-INT ratio (30-2).

The Packers average 31.7 points per game in 2020 (second-most in the NFL entering MNF), the most by Green Bay since 2011 (35.0; finished 15-1) when Rodgers won his first MVP award.

Rodgers and Mahomes are the sixth and seventh QBs to have 30-plus passing TDs and a 115 or better passer rating in the first 11 games of a season (Wilson can join on MNF). All five previous QBs to do so won NFL MVP, entering 2020 (including Rodgers, twice).

Rodgers has four straight games with a 70-plus completion percentage, the longest active streak in NFL, tying his single-season career-high streak, done in 2010 (won SB).

On Sunday night, Rodgers generated three TDs and no interceptions in the first half for the fourth time in 2020. No other player has done so more than twice in a first half this season. It marked the QB's 23rd career game with four or more passing TDs, 0 INT, and a 125 or better passer rating, tied for the most by any player since at least 1950, per NFL Research.

Bigger picture, when Rodgers threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night, hitting tight end Robert Tonyan for a 39-yard score, it put him over 50,000 passing yards for his career.

Rodgers entered with 49,835 passing yards.

It took him 6,436 attempts to get there, second-fewest in NFL history to the 6,361 attempts it took Ben Roethlisberger to eclipse 50,000 passing yards.

Rodgers is closing in on 10th place for the most passing yards in NFL history. John Elway holds that spot with 51,475.

Rodgers, though, has a long way to go to reach Drew Brees, who has the all-time record with 79,612 career passing yards.

The 16-year-pro credited his stalwart offensive line, which, even through injuries that required reshuffling, has kept the QB upright. Rodgers has been sacked just 11 times this season, putting him on pace for 16 for the year, which would be a career-low since he took over as a starter in 2008.

"For a soon-to-be 37-year-old, that's my dream," Rodgers said. "That's an amazing feeling to go home and not be feeling like an almost-37-year-old. I've been feeling really, really good all season, so I appreciate those boys up front."

Rodgers' MVP-caliber season was jumpstarted way back on draft night when the Packers selected his eventual replacement, Jordan Love, in the first round. Since that night, the QB has been on a spite tour, torching all in his path.

On Sunday night, that meant the Bears were in for a world of hurt.

"I see him pretty dialed in all the time, but obviously when you're executing at a different level, I think it's a little bit more obvious," wideout Davante Adams said. "But that's what he does. That's the way that he is. And especially this year, that's what we expect from him, and we're going to need (that) to make a push at this thing."

Sitting at 8-3, the Packers clinching the NFC North division seems a formality after Sunday night. The goal now becomes leapfrogging New Orleans for the top spot in the conference and making a deep postseason run into February, which has eluded Rodgers and the Packers since hoisting the Lombardi in 2010.

The quest continues when the Packers host the Eagles on Sunday. ...

In a related note. ... Rodgers, coming off the Week 11 OT loss to the Colts, has not lost consecutive starts since Weeks 11-13 of 2018. That's 32 straight starts without losing consecutive games, the second longest such streak of his career. Rodgers' longest is 39 straight from Week 7 of 2010 to Week 12 of 2012. ...

Also of interest. ... Positive signs for the Packers were plentiful Sunday night.

Receiver Allen Lazard got back in the end zone. Safety Darnell Savage got his first two interceptions of the season. Pass rusher Preston Smith had a big game with a scoop-and-score, plus a sack.

But to pinpoint the most important development from Green Bay's dominant victory over Chicago, look no further than the running game.

The Packers got the ground game back on track in a big way, and against a very good defensive front at that, even if the Bears were missing lineman Akiem Hicks.

Green Bay rushed for 182 yards, its most by far since Week 2, in a performance that makes one of the league's top-ranked offenses look even more formidable heading into the stretch run.

The Packers hadn't posted more than 111 rushing yards in a game since Week 2, but the success on the ground against the Bears made so much of the passing game look easy.

Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who had 17 carries each and combined for 163 rushing yards, did most of their damage between the tackles as the Packers controlled the line of scrimmage.

For the second game in a row, the Packers did some impressive work against one of the league's top defenses. A week ago, Green Bay scored 31 points at Indianapolis before putting up 34 on Chicago (the defense scored one TD). But last week didn't feel the same, and not just because 28 of the 31 points came in the first half.

The Packers didn't run the ball nearly as well (66 yards) against the Colts, which made their production less sustainable over the course of the game.

Run-pass balance is nice and keeps defenses honest. Run-pass production is invaluable and keeps defenses scared.

"When you have them both," LaFleur said, "that's what makes you really dangerous."

The Packers are really dangerous. ...

A few final items. ... Adams' touchdown catch on the opening drive was his 500th career reception. He became the fastest to that mark in Packers history, reaching it in his 95th career game. He beat Sterling Sharpe by one game and joined Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson and James Lofton in the Packers' 500 club. Adams also caught a touchdown pass in his sixth straight game (finishing with six catches for 61 yards), tied for the third-longest string in Packers history.

Only Don Hutson had longer streaks, with seven straight games in 1941-42 and 1943-44.

Tonyan caught all five of his targets for 67 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown. That was his seventh TD of the season, the most through 11 games by a Packers TE since Bubba Franks in 2001 (Franks finished with 9). ...

The Packers are releasing second-year wide receiver Darrius Shepherd.

Shepherd was an undrafted free agent out of North Dakota State in 2019. He made one catch in six games as a rookie and five receptions for 46 yards in 2020. He also served as a kick returner, averaging 18.7 yards on 20 career returns. His last catch came in Green Bay's victory over San Francisco in Week 9.

Green Bay's move presumably clears the way for wide receiver Tavon Austin to join the active roster. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported the Packers were signing the 2013 first-round pick on Monday. LaFleur is familiar with Austin from their time together in Los Angeles. ...

And finally. ... Center Corey Linsley is expected to miss 3-6 weeks, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.

An MRI confirmed Linsley has a sprained MCL in his left knee. That should allow Linsley to return ahead of the postseason.

As Profootballtalk.com suggested, that is better news than it initially appeared when Linsley was carted off the sideline late in the first quarter. He was injured on a 10-yard scramble by Rodgers.

He played only 21 snaps.

The week before Linsley played only 10 snaps before injuring his back.

Elgton Jenkins replaced Linsley each of the past two weeks, moving from left guard, with Jon Runyan Jr. entering the game at left guard.

Right guard Lucas Patrick departed Sunday's game with a toe injury. The Packers moved right tackle Billy Turner inside with Rick Wagner taking over at tackle.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Ervin
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

An 0-4 start to the season led the Texans to fire head coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien and two losses in their next three games led plenty of people to start looking to next year in Houston.

Wide receiver Will Fuller thinks that was premature. The Texans have won three of their last four behind sparkling play from quarterback Deshaun Watson, including Thursday's 41-25 win over the Lions, and Fuller thinks things are only going to get better from here.

"We're just getting started," Fuller said, via Aaron Reiss of TheAthletic.com. "Deshaun is playing great. He's our leader, and we're going to keep making it happen."

Except there's a major problem.

A suspension has ended Fuller's 2020 season.

The receiver has been suspended six games by the NFL for a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Fuller announced his suspension via Instagram, explaining he'd taken a medication he believed was permitted by the league's policy, but later learned it was not.

Fuller will miss the Texans' remaining five games this season, plus one more in 2021.

"As a result of this mistake, I have been suspended for six games for taking this prohibited medication," Fuller wrote in his post. "I want to sincerely apologize to the Texans organization and all of my fans for this mistake. I am looking forward to putting this all behind me and returning better than ever in 2021."

Fuller was in the midst of a career year, catching 53 passes for 879 yards and a career-high eight touchdowns through 11 games as part of a Texans offense that was increasingly reliant upon the passing game. He'd taken advantage of such a shift, as evidenced by his production, but it'll end there with this suspension.

Meanwhile, the Texans released veteran wide receiver Kenny Stills in a mutual parting last Friday.

Stills has a career-low 11 catches and 144 receiving yards with two touchdowns, and he played a season-low four offensive snaps versus New England last Sunday. Houston considered trading Stills at the deadline, but that didn't materialize. As the Texans continued their plans to go young at receiver, it became clear a fresh start would be best for both sides.

Stills; release, Fuller's suspension and the toe injury that has Randall Cobb on injured reserve and out at least two more weeks, leaves Houston with four receivers: Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee, Isaiah Coulter and Steven Mitchell, who is on the practice squad.

That's a problem.

Fuller and Cooks have been the focal point for Watson.

Fuller had his best game of the season -- in a year full of very impressive performances -- on Thanksgiving against the Lions, adding six catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns to his impressive 2020 totals. Through 11 games, Fuller has more receiving yards and touchdowns than DeAndre Hopkins had for the Texans at this point last season.

Cooks has 52 catches for 719 yards and three touchdowns and has been a consistent target for Watson after Houston acquired Cooks from the Los Angeles Rams for a second-round draft pick in April.

Since Cooks broke out in Week 5 against the Jaguars with eight catches for 161 yards, Watson is playing some of the best football of his career. In the six weeks after that game against Jacksonville, Watson has completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 1,750 yards, 16 total touchdowns and no turnovers.

So there are both short- and long-term implications here.

The long-term question is whether this suspension puts an end to Fuller's time in Houston.

Fuller is in the last year of his rookie deal and while he was finally nearing the expectation a team has of a first-round pick, his recurring injury issues and this suspension might spell an end to his Texans career. While there are questions in the running game and on the offensive line, committing to Fuller and Cooks long term would give Watson stability in the passing game.

"Those two guys, they are more of a 'let them go run and get it,'" Watson said of Cooks and Fuller. "Both of those guys are special, and I love playing with both of those guys."

Keeping Watson happy seems like a wise move for a franchise that's looking for a new general manager and head coach.

In terms of the more immediate future. ... Aaron Reiss of the Athletic expects Coutee to move into the starting lineup opposite Cooks with Coulter, who missed the first half of the season with a neck injury, offering up a decent size/speed combination.

The rookie fifth-round pick was quite productive in his final season at Rhode Island, producing a 72-1,039-8 line over 12 games, but he hasn't had a chance to showcase his skills with the Texans. Coulter should make his NFL debut this Sunday against the Colts.

In addition, Reiss believes tight end Jordan Akins will see more work out of the slot given the circumstances. ...

For the record, a second member of the Texans was also suspended for the final six games of the regular season for a violation of the performance-enhancing drugs policy.

Via James Palmer of NFL Network, cornerback Bradley Roby released a statement apologizing for allegedly unknowingly ingesting a banned substance.

"I apologize to my family, my teammates, the Houston Texans organization and the fans," Roby said. "A few months ago I unknowingly used a product that was contaminated with a banned substance by the NFL. I recognize that it is my job to know, and be responsible for, everything I put in my body. I will be suspended for 6 games ending my season. I will take the necessary steps in the future to prevent this from ever happening again. I look forward to rejoining my teammates next season in our goal to bring a championship to Houston."

With only five games left for the Texans this year, Roby's suspension will carry over to the first game of the 2021 regular season as well.

Roby started all 10 games he played in for Houston this season. Roby had 37 tackles with an interception, seven passes defended and a fumble recovery. ...

Meanwhile, Houston's running game continues to be the biggest weakness on the team. The Texans managed just 77 yards rushing on Thursday with 24 coming from Watson's scrambling. Houston has had 100 yards rushing just three times this season and ranks 31st in the NFL with 83.9 yards rushing a game.

Some help could be on the way.

David Johnson. is eligible to be designated for return from injured reserve, and the team is expected to launch his 21-day practice window to be activated.

According to Houston Chronicle staffer Aaron Wilson, because Johnson is feeling much better after absorbing a concussion on a hit from Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack in a Nov. 8 win at Jacksonville, he is expected to practice. If he clears the NFL concussion protocol, then he can be activated to help out a dismal running game.

"Well, he's made progress," interim coach Romeo Crennel said Monday. "This week, we'll see if we get to practice, we'll see what he can do and then hopefully he'll be well enough to help us out."

Since Johnson was placed on injured reserve,Duke Johnson has been the starter and has rushed for a combined 157 yards on 49 carries for an average of 3.2 yards per run.

Duke rushed for 37 yards on nine carries in Thursday's win over at Detroit and caught three passes for 43 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown.

"I think he showed Thursday that he has the ability to make some tough catches down the field," Crennel said. "That one he made down the field was an unbelievable catch. It was really a good catch. Receivers make those kind of catches. Duke has had that ability since I've worked with him.

"It's not just swing passes. He runs routes. He knows routes. He knows how to run vs. DBs and linebackers. He is a good help to us because of those abilities and that skill set."

The Texans will look for their third straight win on Sunday when they face AFC South foe Indianapolis in the first of two meetings in three weeks with the Colts.

The Colts rank fifth in the NFL in total defense and will be a test for Watson and an offense will be without a key fixture in Fuller.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Scottie Phillips, Buddy Howell, Dontrell Hilliard
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee, Chad Hansen, Isaiah Coulter, Damion Ratley, Randall Cobb, Steven Mitchell, Will Fuller
TEs: Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

The Colts never doubted Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner would help them stop the run. It's why they gave up a first-round draft pick to get him in a March trade and then immediately signed him to an $84 million contract extension when he arrived.

On Sunday, defending rushing champ Derrick Henry made it perfectly clear just how valuable Buckner's presence is. With Buckner sitting out, the NFL's defending rushing champ ran for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, finished with 178 yards and helped Tennessee seize control of the AFC South with a 45-26 rout on the Colts' home turf.

"You've got to stop the run, that's the main thing. In the first half we didn't do that," Darius Leonard said. "It doesn't matter who's up (playing) or not. We just didn't do a good enough job as a team."

Now it's up to Indy (7-4) to fight back.

The Colts face an uphill battle to get back in the division chase. Tennessee (8-3) has a one-game lead with five games left, a split in the two-game season series and currently holds the tiebreaking edge based on the teams' division records.

The Colts' defense started the day ranked second in the league. If it can get back to that standard, Indy can still make a run.

Without Buckner, Indy's top run-stuffer, or Denico Autry, who leads the Colts with six sacks, they weren't the same. Both players are on the COVID-19 list.

Starting linebacker Bobby Okereke also missed the game with an ankle injury and starting safety Khari Willis left in the second half with back and quad injuries.

The problem could be bigger than the absences, too. Indy has now given up 63 first-half points to Green Bay and Tennessee over the past two weeks, including 35 against Tennessee.

In addition, there are problems on offense.

Indy already came into the game missing two offensive starters or key pieces in center Ryan Kelly (neck) and running back Jonathan Taylor (Reserve/COVID-19 list), but then starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo left the game early on and was originally labeled as questionable to return with a knee injury before he was downgraded out for the rest of the contest.

Head coach Frank Reich said after the game that while they'll need to await further testing before making a decision at left tackle, Castonzo's injury is not preliminarily expected to be too serious.

"I don't think it's the worst-case scenario," Reich said of Castonzo. "That's all I know for right now. I'm not feeling like that's the case."

Reich also said Kelly is making good progress after sitting out Week 12 with a neck injury. Though Kelly was initially listed as questionable after missing all three days of practice, he was later downgraded to out. Indianapolis started fifth-round pick Danny Pinter in Kelly's stead.

"We're fairly optimistic, but we'll have to see how this week goes," Reich said, via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star.

A Pro Bowler in 2019, Kelly had played nearly every Colts offensive snap in 2020 before Sunday. He's started 61 games for Indianapolis since entering the league as a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2016.

Philip Rivers completed 13-of-25 passing attempts for 167 yards with a touchdown and an interception each in the third and fourth quarters, but just couldn't get into a consistent rhythm with his receivers down the field, either due to some off-target throws or simple drops out in space.

The nail in the coffin came with less than three minutes remaining in the ballgame.

Rivers connected with wide receiver T.Y. Hilton for a five-yard touchdown pass with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter, but the Colts, having cut the Titans' lead to 12, 38-26, were unable to get the two-point conversion.

Indy then lined up for an onside kick to try to capture some sort of late magic to get back into the ballgame. Rigoberto Sanchez's attempt was fielded on a dead sprint by Brown, however, who ran 42 yards untouched into the end zone to produce the final score of the ballgame.

The Colts' offense had 336 yards of total offense on the day. Rivers, in all, completed 24-of-42 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns to one interception for a QB rating of 84.9; running back Nyheim Hines had 95 total yards, with 29 on the ground and eight receptions for 66 yards through the air, while Hilton had his best performance of the season so far, with four receptions for 81 yards and that aforementioned late touchdown.

Jacoby Brissett had four rushes for three yards and two touchdowns. As Rotoworld.com suggested, "Brissett's role as goal line spoiler ruins the upside of the Colts' running backs."

For what it's worth, Hines passed Edgerrin James (149) for the second-most receptions by a Colts running back and the sixth-most by a Colts player in their first three seasons. ...

For the record, Taylor was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and practiced Wednesday.

Rivers opened the practice week as an observer rather than a participant.

Rivers did not practice as the team began on-field work ahead of Sunday’s game against the Texans. He hurt his toe in the team’s Week 11 win over the Packers and sat out practice early last week before returning on Friday. It sounds like this week will play out in a similar fashion.

Wide receiver Zach Pascal (knee) was a limited participant Wednesday.

I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed, but expect Rivers to be good to go again. ...

As noted above, Reich said that it was not a "worst-case scenario" and that the team would know more after tests. Those tests showed that Castonzo has a sprained MCL, but Reich said on Monday that it is too early to start thinking about how long that might keep Castonzo out of action.

"It's an MCL sprain, so the examination today is not at that level where we're not even talking about that decision about what week is possible," Reich said, via the team's website. "It's OK, it's not worst-case scenario. [It's] some degree of an MCL sprain; let's take a few days to figure out what degree and how many weeks that may be."

Le'Raven Clark replaced Castonzo on Sunday, but Reich didn't commit to Clark starting in place of Castonzo. He said the team will "look at all those combinations and what are the pros and cons to those conversations" before setting the line for Sunday's game against Houston. ...

The team's 2019 second-round pick Parris Campbell had an injury-riddled rookie year, and another injury will apparently sideline him for nearly all of his second season.

Zak Keefer of The Athletic reported Tuesday morning that the Colts believe Campbell will not play again in 2020 and it would take “a minor miracle” for him to return. The wide receiver suffered an MCL injury on just his second offensive snap in Week 2. Campbell had been a heavy contributor in Indianapolis’ season-opening loss to the Jaguars, making six receptions for 71 yards and taking a carry for nine yards.

Campbell has played just nine games since the Colts selected him at No. 59 overall. He’s recorded 24 catches for 198 yards and a touchdown as well as 50 rushing yards on six attempts. ...

And finally. ... Sanchez will miss an unspecified amount of time to have a cancerous tumor removed, the Colts punter announced on Instagram Monday.

Concerns about Sanchez's health emerged after he didn't handle his normal kickoff duties in Sunday's loss to Tennessee.

Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship kicked off, while Sanchez only punted against the Titans.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Michael Pittman Jr., Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, Parris Campbell
TEs: Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

The Jaguars fired general manager Dave Caldwell after a third consecutive season of double-digit losses.

Caldwell has been the Jaguars' GM since January 2013 and has presided over only one winning season. The Jaguars are 39-87 in his tenure and have lost 10 or more games in every season under Caldwell except 2017.

"I've met with Dave Caldwell to express my appreciation for his service to the Jacksonville Jaguars as our general manager. Dave was exceptionally committed and determined to bring a winner to Jacksonville, but unfortunately his efforts were not rewarded with the results our fans deserve and our organization expects," owner Shad Khan said in a statement. "Our football operation needs new leadership, and we will have it with a new general manager in 2021."

Head coach Doug Marrone and his staff will be safe through the rest of the season. Trent Baalke, the team's director of player personnel, will serve as the interim GM through the end of the season.

The Jaguars have lost 10 straight games after winning their season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Only the winless New York Jets have a worse record this season.

The Jaguars have lost 86 games with Caldwell as GM, which is tied with the Cleveland Browns for the most in the NFL in that span, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco notes, Caldwell had some success in the draft but not as much with his first-round picks. None of them from 2013-16 remain with the team. Former executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin, who was fired last December, had the final say on all football matters from 2017 and was ultimately responsible for the 2017-19 drafts.

Khan brought in Coughlin in January 2017 and gave him the final say on football decisions, but Coughlin and Caldwell worked closely together to try and build on the team's 2017 success.

The 2018 season quickly deteriorated into a disaster after a 3-1 start because of injuries to the offensive line, tight end, and Leonard Fournette, who also struggled to stay in shape and ended the season with major questions about his work ethic and maturity.

The Jaguars brought in Nick Foles in March 2019 and gave him a franchise-record $50.125 million guaranteed. Foles -- who had never played a complete season in which he entered the season as his team's unquestioned starter -- got hurt in the first half of the season opener. He struggled when he returned and was eventually benched for sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew.

The Jaguars were one of the league's worst teams in the second half of the season, losing five games in a row by more than 17 points -- the first time that's happened since the 1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Marrone spoke to the media for the first time since the move on Monday, offering a frank assessment of the Jaguars' current situation.

"We have an owner that wants a good product for our fans, wants to win, and we haven't done it," Marrone said. "When that happens, these types of decisions are going to be made. It's unfortunate. It's part of the profession. We have a good relationship."

Marrone has a 23-38 record in his five seasons as the Jaguars head coach, with Jacksonville currently at 1-10 in 2020. He added he's felt embarrassed when he's out in the community, but is trying to do the best job he can to win games.

"If you don't do that, I don't know how you can live with yourself," Marrone said.

Despite the club's record, Marrone seems to think the Jaguars job should be attractive to any G.M. candidate.

"There's a lot of positives about it," he said. "I think there's a foundation."

Indeed, amid all the gloom and despair, one bright light has shown through consistently: Undrafted rookie running back James Robinson.

The tailback has been a consistent force for a woebegone squad, consistently churning out yards despite sub-optimal situations. Sunday's narrow 27-25 loss to the Cleveland Browns was the latest reminder of the rookie's exploits. He generated 128 rushing yards and a TD on 22 carries (5.8 yards per carry average) and earned five catches for 31 yards.

In fact, Robinson is on the verge of making NFL history.

The Jags RB's 1,170 scrimmage yards through 11 games puts him 159 yards away from breaking Dominic Rhodes' record (1,328 in 2001) for most scrimmage yards by an undrafted rookie in the common draft era.

"He's a special talent. How he fell to out of the draft, I have no clue," veteran QB Mike Glennon said after his first start with Jacksonville. "We are lucky to have him because he's one of the better backs in the league."

Barring an injury, Robinson should set the undrafted rookie scrimmage yards recorded -- he's averaged 106.3 scrimmage yards per game in 11 contests. In 2018, Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay nearly bested Rhodes' record, falling just 50 yards shy after missing Week 17 due to an injury.

Robinson could also earn another undrafted rookie record with a big outing in December. After earning his sixth career game of 100-plus scrimmage yards on Sunday, Robinson is one shy of tying Clark Gaines for the most by an undrafted rookie in the common draft era.

"He's almost not human the way he, week in and week out, is able to perform and keep his body healthy," fellow rookie Collin Johnson said of Robinson, via John Oehser of the team's official website. "He's a great guy for our locker room and just a beast."

That beast has a chance to make history for undrafted players in the final five weeks.

What's striking about Robinson is his consistency. There's nothing fluky in his style. It's not that he reels off spectacular runs every game, but he finds holes and extra yards remarkably consistently.

The Jaguars clearly need and value what he brings. ...

Beyond all that, Oehser believes Glennon's a fine option for the rest of the season. He'll definitely start again this week, Marrone announced on Wednesday.

The journeyman started for the first time since 2017 Sunday and played well with 20-of-35 passing for 235 yards and two touchdowns. Marrone wasn't ready to name a starter for next Sunday, and he must decide between Glennon and Minshew to start in Minnesota.

But Glennon did nothing Sunday to make you think he can't start effectively over the last five games.

Also. ... Johnson has some potential. A fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, flashed in training camp and had been comparatively quiet since. He wasn't quiet Sunday, making four receptions for 96 yards and a 46-yard touchdown in his first career start.

Of course, the Jaguars entered the game without receivers D.J. Chark Jr. and Chris Conley. And defensive end Josh Allen, cornerbacks CJ Henderson, Sidney Jones IV, D.J. Hayden and Chris Claybrooks and safety Daniel Thomas. And guard Andrew Norwell.

The injury trend continued Sunday when rookie defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton sustained a knee injury late in the game. Marrone said afterward Hamilton's injury didn't look good. Not a lot has looked good for this team in terms of injuries lately.

I'll be watching for more on the situation at quarterback and wideout in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest developments.

And finally. ... The Jaguars announced Monday they have removed kicker Chase McLaughlin from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

McLaughlin went on the list Nov. 24.

He has appeared in two games for the Jaguars this season, making all three field goals tries and both extra point attempts.

The Jaguars signed McLaughlin off Minnesota's practice squad on Nov. 10. He became the team's sixth kicker this season, following Josh Lambo, Brandon Wright, Aldrick Rosas, Stephen Hauschka and Jon Brown.

Rosas kicked for the Jaguars in Sunday's loss to the Browns.

The Jaguars also announced they placed receiver Trey Quinn (hamstring) on the team's practice squad injured list. He had one return Sunday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Mike Glennon, Gardner Minshew, Jake Luton
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Devine Ozigbo, Ryquell Armstead, Chris Thompson, James Robinson
WRs: D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Chris Conley, Michael Walker, Dede Westbrook
TEs: Tyler Eifert, James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Josh Oliver

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As Profootballtalk.com put it, "Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill are connecting, it's just not fair."

That must have been how the Buccaneers felt today when Hill had more than 200 receiving yards before the first quarter was over. It appeared that the Chiefs' offense couldn't be stopped.

As the game progressed, the Buccaneers made adjustments and made the game close, but Mahomes still finished with 462 passing yards, while Hill had 269 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs won 27-24.

Hill scored on receptions of 75, 44 and 20 yards, back flipping into the end zone on his second TD, and finishing with 13 catches.

The Chiefs (10-1) won their sixth straight game and clinched their seventh 10-win season in eight years under head coach Andy Reid.

The reigning Super Bowl champions improved to 6-0 on the road and have won nine straight away from home going back to last year.

The Chiefs led 20-7 at halftime, with Hill having seven catches for 203 yards in the first quarter alone.

The speedy Hill is just the third player since 1980 with 200-plus receiving yards in a single quarter, and his 203 yards are the second-most in a first quarter since at least 1991.

For further context, only four players had tallied 200-plus receiving yards in a single game over the last two seasons entering Sunday's contest.

Hill surpassed that mark in the first 15 minutes of action.

Kansas City ran 42 plays to Tampa Bay's 22 in the first two quarters, outgaining the Bucs 377 yards to 131 with Mahomes throwing for 359 yards and Brady 117.

Mahomes also put up some incredible numbers throughout the first 30 minutes, tallying 359 passing yards and two scores. It marked the most first-half passing yards in a regular season game since at least 1991.

Additionally, Sunday's performance marked the fifth time a quarterback threw for 300-plus yards in the first half of a game since 2018.

Remarkably, Mahomes is responsible for three of those occurrences.

He also extended his touchdown streak to 21 consecutive games -- the longest active streak in the NFL -- while notching an NFL record fourth-consecutive game with 300-plus passing yards and 30-plus completions.

Mahomes is simply on another level.

He's not alone. ... Travis Kelce hauled in eight catches for 82 yards on Sunday, moving him just 22 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. When he reaches that milestone, Kelce will notch his fifth-straight 1,000-yard campaign -- extending the record he already owns for consecutive 1,000-yard seasons by a tight end.

In fact, before Kelce came along, the overall record for 1,000-yard career seasons by a tight end -- regardless of them occurring consecutively -- was just four.

Kelce is on the doorstep of that record, and he's about to do so in five straight seasons.

Sunday also marked the 100th start of Kelce's career.

Mahomes, Hill and Kelce are each compiling some incredible numbers.

Mahomes currently ranks first in passing yards (3,497) and second in passing touchdowns (30) and passer rating (115.5), making a real claim for this season's MVP award. Hill, meanwhile, currently leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns (13) and is second in receiving yards (1,021). For those wondering, Hill is just two receiving touchdowns shy of the franchise record.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Kelce ranks third in the NFL in receiving yards (978) and 10th in receiving touchdowns (7).

It's rare that any team has the top two players in any statistical category. Usually if you're going to lead the league in receiving yards, or rushing touchdowns, or punt returns or anything else, you have to be your team's go-to guy, and that means no one else on your team is going to be close.

But the Chiefs clearly don't represent the norm. ...

For the record, Kansas City racked up 543 net yards of offense against the Bucs -- the ninth-most in franchise history and the most since tallying 546 net yards against the Los Angeles Rams back in 2018.

The Chiefs lead the NFL with 4,684 net scrimmage yards this season.

The Chiefs play Denver next Sunday night, the lone home game during a stretch that'll see Kansas City play four of five on the road.

Kansas City has now won six straight games, marking the eighth-straight season that the Chiefs have put together a winning streak of at least five games. Since head coach Andy Reid arrived in Kansas City, the Chiefs have notched winning streaks of nine games (2013), five games (2014), 10 games (2015), five games (2016), five games (2017), five games (2018), six games (2019) and now six games in 2020.

Also of interest. ... As Rotoworld.com noted this week, Hill has commanded 35 percent of the Chiefs' targets over the team's past three games.

Sammy Watkins returned to the field for the first time since hurting his hamstring against the Raiders in Week 5. He only caught four passes for 38 yards, but the attention he demanded helped to allow Hill and Kelce to have big days.

Mecole Hardman has just four catches over the past two games and he dropped what would have been a walk-in touchdown pass. His drop rate of 12.8 percent is better only than Tampa Bay's Leonard Fournette among 154 qualifying players.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Le'Veon Bell, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez framed it, "No, the Las Vegas Raiders are not elite. They are not a playoff team. And they are not ready to take that next step. At least, not yet.

"Not when they get so thoroughly out-schemed, out-hustled and, well, out-played by a bad Atlanta Falcons team. And not with so much on the line. Not Sunday, at least. ..."

Getting embarrassed in Atlanta to the tune of a 43-6 score showed the Raiders were not ready on Sunday.

The question: Can they avoid the letdown that sunk their season last year -- a 34-3 loss at a terrible New York Jets team that dropped the Raiders' record to 6-5 en route to a 7-9 finish? The Raiders' record after the thumping they took in Atlanta? Yeah, 6-5. And guess where they play next week. ... Indeed, at the New York Jets.

So what went wrong?

For starters, the Raiders had a season-high 11 penalties for 141 yards. A week after they had eight penalties for 72 yards. Not good.

It was a game Derek Carr would rather forget. He lost three fumbles on strip sacks and threw a pick-six while completing 22-of-34 attempts for 215 yards and a season-low 70.1 passer rating. He was replaced by Nate Peterman in the fourth quarter, basically for his own safety.

As the Associated Press noted, Carr joined Peterman, Sam Darnold, Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick as the only QBs in the past five years to author a performance that included four-plus giveaways, one pick-six and no TD passes.

"Our fans and our organization deserve better than what we put on tape today," Carr said, via Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "That was a bunch of trash."

It didn't help that Carr's worst game came against a team that had allowed at least 300 yards passing seven times this season.

Carr finished with his lowest passer rating of the season at 70.1.

Carr now leads the NFL with 31 lost fumbles since he entered the league in 2014. Sunday was the first time a Raiders quarterback committed four giveaways since Matt McGloin threw four picks against the Chiefs in December 2013.

"I have to make the corrections," Carr said. "There were two or three throws where it was just like, 'I don't do that.' But I have to live with that all week. That's what I earned today."

For what it's worth, head coach Jon Gruden didn't feel any better rewatching the lopsided loss at Atlanta than he did when he saw it in person.

"You ever go to the dentist and have to have your teeth pulled out? It's pretty much like that," Gruden said Monday. "This was tough, man. ... There wasn't anything pleasant about watching the tape."

At 6-5, the Raiders are still in the thick of it in the AFC with what should be a get-right game against the 0-11 Jets.

But Carr can't have another clunker for the Raiders to make the postseason in their inaugural year in Las Vegas.

Also worth noting here. ... The Raiders are 1-18 on the road against AFC and NFC East teams the past 13 seasons, with the only win coming when they spent the week in Florida before playing Miami in 2017.

Looking for positives?

Passes to Hunter Renfrow. The second-year slot receiver is emerging as the Raiders' most dependable wide receiver. He matched a career high with seven catches on Sunday for 73 yards. He leads all Las Vegas wideouts with 38 catches for 509 yards this season.

In addition, Rotoworld.com notes that tight end Darren Waller leads all NFL tight ends this season with 19 red zone targets. ...

On the injury front. ... Running back Josh Jacobs had a tough day on Sunday.

Jacobs had seven carries for 27 yards, three catches for 17 yards, and lost a fumble during his team's 43-6 loss to the Falcons. Jacobs looked like he got hurt on that fumble and there's a report about his condition on Monday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Jacobs sprained his ankle during the game.

He will have tests on Monday and Rapoport adds that the current feeling is that the injury looked worse on the field than it turned out to be upon examination.

Gruden expressed optimism the team's leading rusher won't miss any time.

"I talked to Josh earlier this morning and he's confident he's going to be able to play (on Sunday)," Gruden said Monday looking ahead to Sunday's game. "I don't think he was 100 percent yesterday, but he tried to fight through it."

Jacobs has 206 carries for 782 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. He's also caught 27 passes for 175 yards.

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

Meanwhile, RT Trent Brown will return to practice from the COVID-19 list Wednesday but is unlikely to play the upcoming game. DE Clelin Ferrell and DB Lamarcus Joyner could play this week after missing two games on the COVID-19 list.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Devontae Booker, Jalen Richard
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Tyrell Williams
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

The Los Angeles Chargers added another chapter to their second-half woes on Sunday.

This time, they didn't blow a lead in a 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills. But the Chargers found various ways to squander numerous scoring opportunities in a loss that featured a handful of questionable decisions.

"I'm not saying that it's been perfect at all. But what happened today at the end of the game was miscommunication," quarterback Justin Herbert said.

The Chargers (3-8) scored three points -- Michael Badgley's 27-yard field goal -- on their final five possessions, including three that ended inside Buffalo's 30. And they wasted a defensive effort in which the Chargers forced the Bills to turn over the ball on each of their first three possessions of the fourth quarter.

The troubles were encapsulated on an empty final possession for Los Angeles after it had first-and-goal at the Buffalo 2 with 25 seconds left -- courtesy of Herbert's 55-yard pass to Tyron Johnson.

With no timeouts remaining, rather than spike the ball to stop the clock, Herbert handed off to Austin Ekeler, who was stopped at the 1.

The clock ran down to 6 seconds when Herbert threw an incompletion. After initially sending out the field goal unit, the Chargers changed course and ran another play with the game ending on Herbert being stopped for a 2-yard loss.

Head coach Anthony Lynn reiterated Herbert's comment, calling it a "complete miscommunication."

"You spike the ball or do a fake spike and throw a fade or whatever," Lynn said. "There's so many other things you could do, but that was screwed up and it looked bad.

"It was embarrassing to end the game like that."

And yet, the Chargers' inability to finish has been a yearlong issue for a team that has been outscored by a combined 168-122 in the second half. It is 2-5 when leading at halftime.

In fact, the issue isn't just this year.

The Chargers have had 20 games decided by one score since the start of the 2019 season, and they are 4-16 in those games.

That is the most one-score losses in the NFL in that span.

And this one highlighted the ongoing issue of clock management and poor decision-making.

It invites questions about Lynn's job security.

"It comes with the territory," Lynn said Monday, via Gilbert Manzano of the Southern Cal News Group. "I control what I can control and I don't worry about that. Of course, I like my job and I want to be here and I believe that I'm the right guy for the job and can turn this around. But that's not my decision."

Lynn is 29-30 since taking the job in 2017, including 8-19 since the start of the 2019 season.

Herbert blamed himself, saying he and the offense spoiled what had been a sturdy defensive effort -- led by Joey Bosa's career-high three sacks and forced fumble.

"Offensively, we underperformed," Herbert said. "Defense came up with big stops and turnovers. It's on us and the offense."

Herbert finished 31 of 51 for 316 yards and a touchdown. In upping his total to 3,015 yards passing, he joined Patrick Mahomes in becoming the NFL's second player to top 3,000 yards in his first 10 starts. He also joined Andrew Luck in 2012 in becoming the second rookie to have six 300-yard passing games.

With his 5-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen, Herbert has thrown at least one in each of his first 10 starts, one short of matching the NFL record set by Washington's Mark Rypien in 1988.

The touchdown pass was Herbert's 23rd of the season and Allen caught a TD pass for the fifth straight game.

Bosa upped his career total to 47 1/2 sacks, moving into fifth place on the team list and a half-sack ahead of Junior Seau. But he didn't feel like celebrating his personal milestone.

"If you lose, you can do more," Bosa said. "It (stinks). Really, really wanted to pull it out. Hard to feel excited after a tough game like that."

Other notes of interest. ... According to Lynn's pregame comments, Ekeler was going to be used sparingly. But either Ekeler was fitter and better able to participate, or Lynn changed his mind, as Ekeler had 25 touches.

In fact, he was the lone bright spot carrying the ball 14 times for 44 yards, and catching 11 balls on 16 targets for 85 yards.

It's clear how much he was missed, sitting out since Week 4 with a serious hamstring injury.

Kalen Ballage, who missed Sunday's game with ankle and calf injuries, could return this week; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Justin Herbert, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Kalen Ballage, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Tyron Johnson, Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore, Keenan Allen
TEs: Hunter Henry, Stephen Anderson, Virgil Green

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

Head coach Sean McVay didn't mince words after a 23-20 loss to the injury-plagued San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

"Our quarterback has got to take better care of the football," McVay said tersely after the game.

Jared Goff produced three turnovers against the 49ers in what has become a growing trend for the fifth-year quarterback over the past four games.

"We're not taking good enough care of the football and that's something that's got to change, otherwise I'm going to continue to sit up here and say this week in and week out," McVay said. "It just can't continue to happen."

The Rams had a total of four turnovers, including a lost fumble by running back Malcolm Brown on the Rams' opening drive.

"It comes down to us executing and ultimately myself executing and taking care of the football and throwing it where it needs to be thrown and being smart with it," said Goff, who has four seasons remaining on a $134 million extension that included $110 million guaranteed.

As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry notes, Goff has had three games with multiple turnovers since a Week 8 28-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins, when he threw two interceptions and was strip-sacked twice.

This season, Goff has thrown 10 interceptions and has lost four fumbles. His 14 turnovers rank as the second most in the NFL, tied with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, and a spot behind Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who has 18 turnovers.

"They're all different," Goff said about his giveaways. "At the end of the day, they need to be eliminated. I don't think there's one thing that needs to stop, it just needs to be a little bit smarter with the ball and better decision-making."

McVay didn't hesitate to provide a variety of suggestions to cure Goff's ball-security issues.

"It might be keeping two hands on the ball, it might be that if somebody is swarming around you that you can't just throw it away when you don't see where you're going, being able to trust your guys to separate," McVay said. "But overall, any time that you turn it over as many times as we did and he did, it's just got to be better. He's capable of it, but we just got to be able to get it done."

The Rams' defense produced three turnovers and a touchdown, but it wasn't enough to overcome the offensive woes as Goff completed 19 of 31 passes for 198 yards, with two interceptions. He had a 52.9 passer rating.

Goff has had an especially difficult time recently handling pressure, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He has thrown six interceptions under pressure this season -- including Sunday's third-quarter pick, which is tied with Wentz for the most in the NFL.

The defeat drops the Rams to 7-4 and served as their fourth straight loss to Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers, who improved to 5-6.

"We're not going to win many games when we take care of the football like that, so give them credit," McVay said. "But in a lot of instances we didn't do enough to win the football game, I don't care who you're playing."

Goff and the offense will try to rebound against the Cardinals in Arizona this weekend. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Despite playing more snaps than both Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown wasn't a notable factor in the offense. The veteran running back continued to see most of his playing time in passing situations and on third downs, and it was encouraging he remained involved in the offense after fumbling on the Rams' first possession.

However, as CBSSports.com notes, Brown's fantasy results have been lackluster each of the past two weeks with just six rushes for 24 yards and three receptions for 23 yards. With the Rams committed to utilizing all three of their running backs, Brown's upside currently appears tied to him finding the end zone. ...

Robert Woods caught seven of 12 targets for 80 yards and carried once for eight yards during Sunday's loss. Cooper Kupp caught two of five targets for 41 yards.

With Kupp struggling, it was Woods who led the team in targets, catches and receiving yards. He has now reached the 80-yard mark in three of his last four games and is back on pace to flirt with 1,000 yards for the season despite a few rough outings along the way.

Woods will look to continue his recent success Sunday against a Cardinals team he torched for 239 yards on 20 catches over two meetings last season.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford
RBs: Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, Raymond Calais, Xavier Jones, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

The Dolphins played it safe with rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, sitting him during Sunday's 20-3 win over the New York Jets due to a thumb injury suffered during last week's practice.

Tua being inactive came after head coach Brian Flores benched the rookie in the fourth quarter of the Week 11 loss to Denver. Ryan Fitzpatrick started Sunday's win -- his third straight victory as a starter -- and didn't light the world on fire, generating 257 passing yards and two TDs against a woeful Gang Green squad.

Flores insisted that Tagovailoa will be the starter in Week 13 if healthy.

"Yeah, if he's healthy, he's the guy," Flores said. "I don't know how many different ways we have to continue to say that. You keep asking, I'll keep answering the same way. Again, he's dealing with something with the hand. We'll take it day-to-day. He's a tough kid. He wants to be out there. Thankfully, we have other guys who stepped up. We can talk about Tua, but we had 52 other guys who went out there and played their butts off today in all three phases. We were able to get a division win on the road. We're excited to win. We'll enjoy the win and then turn the page and move on to the next opponent, the Bengals."

Tua struggled in his last start, leading to questions about whether the Dolphins' playoff hopes would be in better hands with Fitzpatrick under center. For his part, Flores has never publicly wavered on his decision to move to Tagovailoa.

"We'll see how he does in practice over the course of the week," Flores noted of Tua's injury. "He's a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well. We'll see how he does over the course of this week in practice."

According to Miami Herald staffer Adam Beasley, here’s a degree of optimism internally that Tagovailoa will be ready to return.

For his part, Fitzpatrick knows that Tua is the future, and he's ready to support his teammate, regardless of whether that means he'll once again be relegated to a backup role for a potential playoff team.

"I do think that's important and I think just in the quarterback room in general having each other's backs and supporting each other," FitzMagic said. "I think that's very important because it is such a tough position to play. I've now been put in a different role and when my number's called, I'm going to go out there and win games for this team. So Flo (Brian Flores) is the head coach and we listen and respect what he says and we go from there."

The Dolphins sit in the No. 6 seed after Sunday's games, but there is a razor-thin margin for error in a hotly contested AFC. Their Week 13 matchup against Cincinnati is the easiest left on the slate, as Miami finishes with Kansas City, New England, Las Vegas, and Buffalo, all teams in the hunt for a postseason bid.

The decision on Tua, and how it unfolds, will be an intriguing plot to the Dolphins' bid to return to the postseason for the first time since 2016, but, as Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine suggests, the way the Dolphins are playing defense, it doesn't matter who they have at quarterback.

Stingy defense is what has the Dolphins (7-4) in contention for their first AFC East title since 2008, and they're 11-point favorites Sunday at home against Cincinnati, even though they don't know who their QB will be. Only five AFC teams have more wins than the Dolphins, who trail division leader Buffalo (8-3) by one game.

Flores doesn't want his players thinking about any playoff race, however.

"You can't get to where you want to get without handling what's right in front of you," he said. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Dolphins have used eight running backs this year, and none has been able to get the ground game going.

They haven't had a 100-yard rusher in the past 29 games, and DeAndre Washington led them Sunday with 49 yards. To make matters worse, Matt Breida and Patrick Laird lost fumbles on consecutive run plays in the third quarter.

Miami's most memorable run was a 12-yard gain by the 38-year-old Fitzpatrick on a quarterback keeper.

"That one might have been in the game plan for Tua, not me," Fitzpatrick said. "When it came in as the play call, I laughed to myself, called it, and was very surprised. Maybe 10 years ago, I score on that thing."

Rookie running back/receiver Malcolm Perry (chest) left Sunday's game. Running back Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) didn't play. Myles Gaskin (knee), the Dolphins' leading rusher this year, could return this week after missing the past four games.

I'll have more on Tua, Gaskin, Ahmed and Perry via Late-Breaking Update in coming days; but here's how the week started:

Tua was wearing black tape around his left wrist and lower part of his left thumb as practice began Wednesday; Gaskin wore compression sleeve on his left leg Ahmed was present; Washington was not spotted.

Stay tuned. ...

Meanwhile, Davante Parker had a season-high 119 receiving yards on eight catches, and he flourishes when Fitzpatrick is throwing to him. As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe notes, their chemistry, particularly on tight-window throws that are 50/50 balls was a common thread Sunday.

It was Parker's 10th 100-yard game of his pro career and second of the season. Parker is clearly the Dolphins' best offensive weapon, and they need more big games from him down the stretch.

Fitzpatrick's second quarter TD pass to Mike Gesicki had 0.94 yards of separation at the arrival of the throw. Fitzpatrick has 13 TD passes into tight windows (less than 1 yard of separation) since the start of 2019, which ranks as most in the NFL over that span.

And finally. ... Jason Sanders is perfect on 50-plus yard field goals this season: 8-of-8, most in NFL. He has made 10 straight from 50-plus yards, dating back to last season. He is having a Pro Bowl worthy season, and he has been a big weapon for the Dolphins' inconsistent offense.

Sanders has made 12 FGs from 50-plus yards in his career, third-most in franchise history. His 85.7 career percentage from 50-plus yards is the best in the NFL since at least 1991.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Matt Breida, DeAndre Washington, Patrick Laird
WRs: DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden Jr., Malcolm Perry, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Preston Williams
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Adam Shaheen, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

Chad Beebe seized the chance to make up for the glaring mistake still fresh in his mind, one of many gaffes that nearly cost Minnesota the game.

After their awful start, the Vikings turned November into quite a redemption tour.

Beebe caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds left shortly after he muffed a punt that let Carolina pad its lead. Then Joey Slye's 54-yard field goal try went wide left with 1 second remaining, preserving the Vikings' 28-27 victory over the Panthers on Sunday.

"It's just having that never-give-up attitude. Our entire team kind of felt that way. We had plenty of time to drive down and score, and that's exactly what we did," said Beebe, who had three catches on the seven-play, 75-yard drive that Kirk Cousins directed in 65 seconds for the lead.

The Vikings (5-6) finished the month with their fourth win in five weeks out of their bye, moving within one game of the final NFC wild card spot.

"We made it thrilling there at the end," head coach Mike Zimmer said, "but we got it done."

Cousins went 34 for 45 for 307 yards and three scores while missing two of his top five targets, with NFL touchdown receptions leader Adam Thielen on the COVID-19 list and tight end Irv Smith Jr. sidelined by a groin injury.

The third quarter was rough. Cousins and Dalvin Cook each had fumbles recovered and returned for touchdowns by Panthers rookie Jeremy Chinn -- on consecutive plays from scrimmage after Dan Bailey's 53-yard field goal had given the Vikings the lead at the break.

The Vikings finally got a drive going after D.J. Wonnum blocked Slye's 28-yard field goal attempt, but illegal snap and illegal forward pass penalties led to settling for a short kick by Bailey. Slye matched that on the ensuing drive for the Panthers (4-8).

Trailing 24-13 at that point, Cousins looked flustered. He tripped over left guard Dakota Dozier's foot during a first-down dropback, resulting in a 6-yard sack. But Cousins was in control all along, as it turned out, leading an 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Justin Jefferson's second touchdown grab of the game with 5:38 to go. Olabisi Johnson's acrobatic catch for the 2-point conversion cut the deficit to one score.

After the Vikings forced a punt, Beebe dropped his fair catch. Myles Hartsfield recovered at the 9 shortly before the 2-minute warning. The Panthers played it safe with a pair of running plays, and Bridgewater threw errantly for an open D.J. Moore over the middle on third-and-goal from the 3. Panthers coach Matt Rhule called for the short kick that pushed the lead to six points.

Cousins then responded with the kind of late-game go-ahead drive that's been missing more than the Vikings would want during his three seasons.

"I've always felt we have a really good locker room with quality character guys who are just going to keep playing and not get down or give up or point fingers," Cousins said, "and a day like today, you get to see that character shine through. ..."

The Vikings will host Jacksonville Sunday.

Cook is not expected to miss any time due to the ankle injury he suffered Sunday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

To his credit, Cook trotted back out after sustaining the injury in the third quarter but struggled to generate much production, finishing with 61 yards on 18 carries. Alexander Mattison had two rushes for 6 yards, which included only one run after Cook got hurt.

It's evident that the Vikings' don't have a reliable replacement when Cook isn't available, and that's been an issue all season.]

Part of that evidence is his workload.

Cook has averaged 28.8 touches the past five games, giving him 248 for the season and putting him on pace for 361 this season. His career-high came last season when he had 303 touches in 14 games.

Zimmer said Monday that Cook was feeling “pretty good.”

But offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak seems to be a bit more concerned.

“You know what I think? He’s just beat up,” Kubiak said in a KFAN radio interview that aired Tuesday. “He’s been hit pretty hard the last couple of weeks, taken some poundings.

“We struggled to get the run game going (against the Panthers). It’s at that point of the season, so we’ve got to get him freshened up this week and get him back to being himself. But I think he’s just kind of beat up over the past couple of weeks.”

Meanwhile, Thielen was removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday and will be back for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars.

"I think he'll be ready to go," Zimmer said Wednesday, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.

With Thielen out, Jefferson saw a significant uptick in targets (13). But he received added attention from the Carolina defense after a bizarre decision to leave the star rookie one-on-one near the end zone on his first touchdown. Jefferson finished with seven catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns and was Cousins' replacement for Thielen in the red zone, an area where Thielen was expected to be sorely missed.

Usage increased elsewhere for the likes of Kyle Rudolph (seven catches, 68 yards), Johnson (seven catches, 74 yards) and Beebe (seven catches, 63 yards and a TD).

I'll have more on Cook, who was limited Wednesday, and Smith, who was held out to start the week, via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

For what it's worth, ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft reports that Jefferson's 181.8 PPR fantasy points are the seventh-most by any rookie wide receiver through his team's first 11 games (since 1950) 238.9 Bill Groman, 1960; 217.9 Billy Howton, 1952; 209.6 Harlon Hill, 1954; 199.3 Anquan Boldin, 2003; 182.9 Marques Colston, 2006; 181.9 Michael Thomas, 2016; 181.8 Jefferson, 2020; 181.1 Mike Evans, 2014; 175.5 Randy Moss, 1998; and 174.8 Kelvin Benjamin, 2014 (Chase Claypool has 155.1 points through 10 games).

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, Dalvin Cook, Jake Bargas
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Davion Davis, Dan Chisena
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, Kyle Rudolph

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

According to Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower, Cam Newton doesn't need a reminder about what the standard for success is in New England.

"Every game in Foxboro, Massachusetts by way of Boston, Massachusetts is a must win," Newton said on his weekly appearance on WEEI radio on Monday. "I don't know who gave anybody any type of inclination, but even a blind man can see, even an unconscious person can notice that every game is a must win."

The Patriots' hopes of extending their streak of 11 consecutive playoff berths remain a possibility following Sunday's 20-17 comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals.

But at 5-6 and in 10th place in the AFC, the Patriots still have work to do over their final five games to turn those hopes into a reality.

"Since Week 1 it's been a must win. If you don't believe that just listen to the radio show, just listen to ESPN, just watch Twitter, just look at social media, and the expectation is already set," Newton said.

Meeting that standard will probably mean grinding out wins like they did on Sunday after the offense took its latest step backward. Following three consecutive games with a quarterback rating of 99 or better and no turnovers, Newton posted a career-low 23.6 rating on Sunday, completing 9 of 18 passes for 84 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

Newton added nine rushes for 46 yards -- with his most important yards coming on a 14-yard run during the game-winning drive, a play that included a penalty on Cardinals rookie Isaiah Simmons for unnecessary roughness that added 15 yards. Newton appeared to be apologizing to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after the game for the fourth-quarter pick, but he made up for it with his play on the game-winning drive.

After the game, Belichick was asked whether the low output and Newton throwing for 84 yards made him consider making a change at quarterback.

Belichick pointed to the difference in the two results while passing on making any kind of gesture toward a change or guarantee about who will start in future games.

"Yeah, we just kind of keep working to get better," Belichick said. "Cam threw for 350 last week. The most important thing is we made the plays we needed to make to win. That's what the goal will be every week."

During a Monday morning appearance on WEEI, Newton was asked about that and called it "a culmination of everything." Newton said he "just knew I jeopardized the team in a way" because of the way he played while adding that apologies for his play in wins won't be a frequent occurrence.

"I'll be the first person to say I didn't play my best game yesterday," Newton said, via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. "But let's be totally clear: I don't play this game for statistic benefits. ... Individual accolades. I play this game to win. I'm not going to apologize for winning."

On Tuesday, McDaniels replied "absolutely" when asked if he still has faith in Newton as a passer.

"The best part about Cam is the only statistic he cares about is the one in the win column," McDaniels said, via Zach Cox of NESN.

That may be true.

But while Newton has completed a near career-high 66.9 percent of his passes, they've gone for just 1,984 yards. Plus, Newton has only four touchdown passes to nine interceptions.

Against the Cardinals, James White had two rushing scores, but it was the defense and special teams that had New England's biggest plays of the game.

That kind of complementary effort will need to continue as we head through December if Newton can't raise his level of play on a more consistent basis.

"Guys are going to keep fighting whether we're up or down," White said. "We're just going to keep fighting and try to find a way to win a football game. ... It's good to see that everybody just keeps competing no matter what the situation is."

And that means everybody.

The Patriots got production out of two players they elevated to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. Defensive tackle Akeem Spence and receiver Donte Moncrief, who returned kickoffs Sunday, both made game-changing impacts.

With the full-team effort, the Patriots improved to 5-6 with the victory, with their next three games on the road. It begins with a trip to Los Angeles to face the Chargers (3-8). That is followed by matchups with the Rams (7-4) and the Dolphins (7-4), who the Patriots beat to open the season. New England then concludes the season against AFC East-leading Buffalo (8-3) and the Jets (0-11).

The Chargers have had their struggles, but their defense isn't a pushover. Los Angeles enters the week allowing 342.9 yards per game, the fifth-fewest yards in the AFC.

The Patriots likely need to run the table to have a shot at post-season play. They'll need Newton to take better care of the football and pass for more than 85 yards to get there. ...

Other notes of interest. ... White usually does his most damage catching passes out of the backfield. But he assumed injured Rex Burkhead's role as the Patriots' go-to back in short yardage, scoring his first touchdowns of the season from the 7 and the 1 on Sunday.

"It's been a while for sure, so it did feel good to get in there," White said. ...

It's worth noting that Nick Folk's 22-yarder in the third quarter and a winning 50-yard field goal as time expired gave him a streak of 19-straight field goals without a miss. It is tied for the second-longest streak of his career. ...

And finally. ... Wide receiver Julian Edelman was already on injured reserve, and now he's been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, per Monday's transaction wire.

Edelman has been out for the last five games while recovering from a knee surgery. It's currently unknown whether he has tested positive or is a close contact of someone who has.

Belichick said during a Monday interview on WEEI that Edelman still could return from his knee procedure this season.

"He's got tremendous will and a great work ethic, and [he's] very competitive," Belichick said. "Football is very important to him, so it would take a lot for me to count him out, put it that way."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, Sony Michel, J.J. Taylor, Rex Burkhead
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N'Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Julian Edelman, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Devin Asiasi, Jordan Thomas, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As far as head coach Sean Payton is concerned, there were meaningful storylines coming out of New Orleans' lopsided victory at Denver that had nothing to do with the Broncos being forced to play without a true NFL quarterback.

Even though the Broncos went with a run-heavy offense out of necessity, the Saints opted to go that route as well.

Running back Latavius Murray pieced together a near-career day with 124 yards rushing and two touchdowns, boosting the Saints to the 31-3 victory for their eighth-straight win.

Murray's efforts included a 36-yard score in which he used a hesitation move and cutback to wrong-foot defenders along the line of scrimmage before bolting down the middle of the field.

It was Murray's most carries in a game this season and his first game of the current campaign with more than 100 yards rushing.

Quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Alvin Kamara also had significant contributions on the ground. Kamara added 11 carries for 54 yards and Hill had 10 carries for 44 yards with two touchdowns with the Saints totaling 229 yards rushing compared to their 63 net yards passing.

The run-heavy offense was by design, Payton said.

"Taysom played this thing just how I wanted him to play it," Payton said. "It doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective. The job is to win, and he did a good job of that."

Payton later added: "There's a few ways to lose a game like that and we weren't interested in one of those."

Hill said the offensive game plan "drastically changed" after the Broncos' quarterbacks were deemed ineligible for the game, saying that the Saints moved to a more conservative approach with the offensive play-calling.

"We weren't adding or taking away plays," Hill said. "But the way the game was going to be called and our first and second down calls changed dramatically."

Hill gave plenty of credit to the Saints offensive line -- which was down two starters due to injury (left guard Andrus Peat, concussion) and to coronavirus (left tackle Terron Armstead) -- for their performance in the run game.

The Saints hadn't reached 200 yards on the ground in a game since their 2018 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I can't say enough great things about the way our line played," Hill said. "Denver has a really good defense. They play assignment-sound defense. For us to be able to do that was really impressive."

The Broncos knew they had to stop the run to have any chance of keeping the game competitive -- and they couldn't. Denver started Kendall Hinton, a practice-squad wide receiver, at QB, and he completed one pass.

"If there was one thing that was going to happen, if you lost all your quarterbacks, it's that you were going to bow up defensively," Payton said of the Broncos. "So, look, I was proud of how we ran the football. I thought our guys up front, towards the end of the game, we won that battle pretty clearly."

The success of Payton's offense in Denver served as the latest example of the depth and adaptability New Orleans possesses as the Saints close in on a fourth straight playoff appearance. They've won eight straight -- the first four without receiver Michael Thomas, the 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year, and the past two without Brees, the NFL's all-time leading passer.

The Saints are winning with defense, too. Sure, New Orleans was expected to dominate Denver's severely limited offense. But the Broncos' three points matched what Tom Brady's Buccaneers scored against the Saints four games earlier. And Atlanta's Matt Ryan couldn't get the Falcons in the end zone at New Orleans two weeks ago, either.

The Saints have now allowed just one TD in four games and rank first overall defensively in the NFL.

"We've eliminated some of the big plays that were coming earlier in the year. And then most importantly, is third down and red zone defense has gradually gotten better," Payton said. "I'm pleased with how we're playing situational defense. Yesterday obviously was a uniquely different deal, but we're getting off the field on third down, and I think we're affecting the quarterback more than we were earlier in the year."

For what it's worth, Hill still threw the ball some, completing 9-of-16 passes for 78 yards with one interception. His top receiver on the day was Thomas, who caught four passes for 50 yards. Receiver Tre'Quan Smith, tight end Adam Trautman, receiver Emmanuel Sanders, Murray and Kamara all had one catch apiece.

Hill drew praise from Payton, but Brees' backup resembled a work in progress as a passer in Denver, taking a step back from his first start a week earlier. Hill was intercepted once, made another throw into double coverage that was nearly intercepted, took three sacks, did not throw for a touchdown and had a 43.2 passer rating.

Hill is still looking for his first career TD pass.

According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, it was a bit disturbing that Hill looked so hesitant throughout the game after he had looked surprisingly poised and polished in last week's debut win over the Falcons.

Hill's hesitance helped lead to three sacks, two delay-of-game penalties and some other aborted plays early in the game. He held the ball instead of throwing a screen pass at one point, which led to an illegal-man-downfield penalty. He missed way too high on one downfield throw to tight end Jared Cook before throwing a couple downfield strikes to Thomas later.

But again, the Saints didn't need Hill to take any chances. And his legs continued to be a big asset.

Also, the Saints have now won seven consecutive games won by the Saints when Brees has not been available. They went 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater in 2019 and are now 2-0 with Hill this season.

Now the Saints head into their second straight road game and meet the Falcons for the second time in three weeks when they visit Atlanta on Sunday. ...

On the injury front. ... Thomas (ankle) and Kamara (foot) were limited in Wednesday's practice -- as has become the norm in recent weeks; I'll follow up on both via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant, but expect them to play barring setbacks.

Receiver/return man Marquez Callaway suffered minor knee sprain against the Broncos and may miss a little time, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. Austin Carr fill in on punt returns after Callaway left the game in Denver.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway, Juwan Johnson, Tre'quan Smith
TEs: Jared Cook, Adam Trautman, Josh Hill

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan suggested, if the New York Giants are to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, they have to start beating teams with winning records.

The Giants (4-7) got back in the hunt for the title in the weak NFC East by beating Cincinnati 19-17 for their third straight win. While that might indicate a team is starting to peak, the level of competition has not been the best. The run has been against Washington, Philadelphia and the Bengals. All have losing records, and New York beat Washington twice.

The schedule gets tougher in the final five weeks. The next four games are against the NFC West-leading Seahawks in Seattle; Kyler Murray and the Cardinals (6-5); Cleveland (8-3) and Baltimore (6-4). Dallas (3-8) is the final game, but the Cowboys have owned the Giants in recent years.

Not only do the Giants need to win, they probably have to do some of it without quarterback Daniel Jones. He injured his right hamstring Sunday, and few players come right back from that type of injury.

Rookie coach Joe Judge said an MRI on Monday raised questions instead of providing answers.

Still, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Jones avoided a major injury.

He adds that Jones is thought to have an "outside chance" of playing against the Seahawks in Week 13. Jones is expected to test the hamstring later this week and that would likely determine whether he's on the field in Seattle.

Colt McCoy replaced Jones in Sunday's win and the Giants have Clayton Thorsen on the practice squad to back him up if needed.

Judge said Jones, who has started every game this season, has to show he can protect himself if he wants to play.

Jones, however, was not seen on the practice field to open the week on Wednesday with McCoy getting all the first-team work.

Teammates said they are confident how they are playing and with McCoy running the offense.

"I don't really care who we are playing," said receiver Sterling Shepard, the last player left on the roster from the '16 team. "We are focused on our abilities and what we can do."

But Jones' injury comes at perhaps the most inopportune time. The Giants are entering their toughest stretch of the season. They play in Seattle next Sunday in their first of four consecutive games against teams with a winning record. The Giants haven't beaten a team with a winning record this season.

Jones was playing some of the best football of his career prior to the injury. He was 16-of-26 passing for 213 yards before hurting his leg early in the third quarter. He would have done even more damage had it not been for a dropped deep pass by wide receiver Darius Slayton and a costly fumble by tight end Evan Engram in the first half.

Jones entered Sunday having completed 62.5 percent of his passes this season with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. But he hadn't committed a turnover in consecutive games for the first time in his career entering the matchup with the Bengals. He didn't commit a turnover in the first two-plus quarters against Cincinnati either.

McCoy did just enough to allow the Giants to escape with the victory.

Meanwhile, Thorson has never appeared in an NFL game. Thus, the Giants were bringing in Alex Tanney for a visit, according to multiple reports.

Tanney, who has appeared in two NFL games, was with the Giants in the offseason and previously spent time in Dallas with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.

Tuesday’s transaction wire brought word that another quarterback, Joe Webb, is also visiting with the team.

Stay tuned. I'll have more on Jones' status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, along with more on Shepard (toe, shoulder) and Slayton (shoulder, foot), both of whom were limited Wednesday. ...

Also worth noting. ... Wayne Gallman carried 24 times for 94 yards and a touchdown while losing three yards on three catches (five targets) during Sunday's win.

Gallman plunged into the end zone from a yard out in the first quarter to extend his touchdown streak to five games. He surpassed 20 carries for the first time and, although he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, he achieved a new season high in yardage thanks to the increased volume.

As CBSSports.com suggests, game flow permitting, Gallman should continue to play a large role on offense next Sunday against the Seahawks with Jones ailing.

And finally. ... Despite being isolated for more than a week after testing positive for COVID-19, Graham Gano kicked field goals of 49, 40, 39 and 32 yards. He has made 24 consecutive attempts and 25 of 26 this season.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy
RBs: Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris, Dion Lewis
WRs: Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Austin Mack, Cody Core, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis
TEs: Evan Engram, Levine Toilolo, Kaden Smith

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

Sam Darnold's return was supposed to be the big spark for the New York Jets. The offense showed some positive signs the past two games with Joe Flacco under center. But the team was excited to have Darnold back at quarterback and playing with his three starting wide receivers for the first time.

Well, the Jets scored a mere three points in a 20-3 loss to Miami and dropped to 0-11.

What's worse, Darnold and the offense looked much like the inept group that trudged through the first few months of the season.

So, for a team crawling perilously closer to 0-16, why not play Flacco if he's moving the offense and potentially putting them in better position to get that elusive first victory?

"It's easy to point at the quarterback all the time," head coach Adam Gase said Monday. "Sam needs to play. I want him to play, I want him to be out there. I feel like it wasn't all on him every drive. Were there some mistakes made? Yes. But it wasn't every drive that was his fault."

But Darnold was responsible for two drive-killing interceptions: first on the Jets' opening possession of the second half, and second late in the game with New York in desperation mode.

"I've just got to continue to learn and grow from it," Darnold said of his struggles. "That's all I can do."

The third-year quarterback is having a brutal season that has included being sidelined twice, each time for two games, with shoulder injuries.

He has just three touchdown passes and none in his last four games, spanning 19 quarters. Darnold has also been intercepted eight times, and his 64.0 quarterback rating ranks last in the NFL among players who have started four or more games.

Despite all that, it appears there's no scenario where benching Darnold will be an option over the last five games.

"Sam is the starter, and we need Sam to play as many snaps as possible," Gase said. "We're just going to keep working to get better every week, and I think he will. I think he's very competitive and he wants to do well and he's looking forward to this next game."

The evaluation period on Darnold would seem to be over this deep into his career. The Darnold-Gase union hasn't worked, and the coach's departure after the season seems a foregone conclusion. Darnold's status remains uncertain.

If the Jets don't win a game, they'll assure themselves of the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in April. That means Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be an option -- if he declares for the draft. That likely also means New York will move on from Darnold by possibly trading him in the offseason.

For now, though, it's Darnold's job the rest of the way -- win or lose.

"We don't pull out offensive linemen because they get beat one time or two or three or five times," Gase said. "We don't pull out receivers when they drop the ball. Guys have got to stay in there and play. That's football."

New York will try to avoid yet another dubious franchise milestone by dropping to 0-12 next Sunday when hosting the Las Vegas Raiders.

But if Gase is hoping for a reprieve, he's failing.

In 27 games, the offense -- his offense -- has shown no improvement. The Jets have been held under 20 points in 18 of those 27 games. That would have been acceptable in the 1940s but not the modern NFL.

"It's frustrating because I feel like we're right there," said Gase, stretching reality. "We've got to make one or two plays, especially this last game. It's right there for us. There's been multiple games like that."

Before Sunday's game, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that Gase would return to calling the team's offensive plays after handing the duties over to offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains a few weeks ago.

After the loss to Miami was in the books, Gase was asked about whether he was calling the plays during an extended exchange with reporters at his press conference. Gase denied that he'd taken back the role and that the team did "the same thing the last four games."

It was pointed out that Loggains "wasn't doing anything" on the sideline and didn't have a play sheet. Gase said he was relaying Loggains' calls while admitting that he does call some plays.

"He tells me," Gase said. "It's not hard. This is not hard. You go through it the drive before. 'Hey, these are the three plays.' I do the third downs."

Gase was then asked what happens after those three plays as a reporter pointed out that Loggains was talking to another assistant on the bench while the Jets had the ball in the second half.

"When we got down, then I was trying to do some of the two minute stuff," Gase said.

Whatever the case, in two games against Miami, Gase's previous team, the Jets were outscored 44-3.

As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini put it, "Just awful."

Cimini went on to note Gase's reliance on running back Frank Gore reached new heights -- or lows, depending on your perspective.

Without injured backup LaMical Perine, the 37-year-old Gore became the workhorse and the focal point of the Jets' offense, especially in the first half. What's wrong with that picture? Gore finished with 21 touches, including 18 carries for 74 yards.

Things look bleak for the Jets, but they do have a couple of young players who can help the rebuild. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (one sack, one forced fumble) continued his strong season, and rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims (four catches for 67 yards) turned in another encouraging performance.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Sam Darnold, Joe Flacco, James Morgan
RBs: Ty Johnson, Josh Adams, Lamical Perine, Frank Gore
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith, Chris Hogan
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi noted, even facing the league's worst defense couldn't help the Eagles figure out their offensive woes.

Carson Wentz had another rough game and his teammates didn't provide much support in a 23-17 loss to the Seahawks on Monday night.

The offensive line struggled again, receivers weren't open often enough and a couple times didn't run the right route.

All of it added up to a measly 250 total yards against a defense that came in allowing a league-high 434.9 yards, including a league-worst 343.7 yards passing.

"We just didn't make plays," Wentz said. "I don't think it was scheme. I didn't make enough plays. I didn't make enough good throws."

Wentz was 25 of 45 for 215 yards, two TDs and one interception. Following a week of speculation that rookie backup Jalen Hurts would get more playing time, it didn't happen.

Hurts played two snaps and threw one pass, a completion.

Head coach Doug Pederson was asked if there was a change in plans that led to Hurts remaining in a limited role.

"Not necessarily," Pederson said. "The plan was to use him when we could. The way the game started, we just didn't have many opportunities, too many three and outs. I don't think we got a first down until the second quarter. We just didn't -- we failed to execute. It just wasn't in the cards, I guess, so to speak, early in the football game. But no more, no less than what we would use him each week."

Pederson was then asked if using Hurts might have helped the team find some offensive rhythm.

Pederson said it wouldn't because the offense had "breakdowns across the board, and it doesn't really matter who is back there."

"It's not about one guy," the coach explained. "We had breakdowns across the board. It doesn't matter who was back there, the mistakes were gonna be made and it's something we have to fix."

The Eagles went three-and-out on their first five drives. They didn't get a first down until Wentz ran for 20 yards with under five minutes left in the first half.

"I can be better early," Wentz said. "Slow starts are frustrating."

Pederson defended going for fourth-and-4 from the Seahawks 15 down 11 points in the fourth quarter, saying the team needed to "stay aggressive." Wentz's pass went straight to Seattle's Quandre Diggs as Dallas Goedert turned the other way on the route.

"I'll take the blame," Goedert said. "I knew the ball was coming to me. I was trying to do too much."

Philadelphia used its 10th different offensive line combination after losing three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson for the season with an ankle injury. Three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks hasn't played this season following surgery on his Achilles.

Wentz was sacked six times and got hit numerous times.

After Monday night, Wentz has been sacked 46 times this year through 11 games. That puts him on pace for 67 sacks in a 16-game season.

David Carr earned a place in NFL infamy by setting the NFL record for sacks: Carr was sacked an all-time record 76 times in 2002, the first year the Texans franchise existed. He was then sacked 68 times in 2005.

Since Carr was sacked 68 times as Houston Texans quarterback in 2005, no quarterback has been sacked more than 63 times in a season.

Wentz is on his way.

"We have battled with a lot of injury, a lot of moving parts," Pederson said. "We haven't had the consistency and continuity you would like. We don't make excuses for it. We have to get better."

But Wentz is not.

After 11 games, Wentz has completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 2,541 yards with 16 touchdowns and a league-leading 15 interceptions. His passer rating is sitting at 73.4, well under the league average. And it's well under the rating of 98.3 from Wentz's last three seasons combined.

The Eagles (3-7-1) would be playing for draft positioning in most seasons with such a poor record but they're only a half-game behind the Giants (4-7) and Washington in the woeful NFC East.

"I'm frustrated. I hate losing," Wentz said. "But the crazy thing is this division is wide open and guys know that. We're looking ahead to next week, getting this thing turned around, getting going in the right direction and hopefully surprise some people. ..."

Worth noting. ... According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, the Eagles finished with -4 yards in the first quarter. They were the first team this season with negative yards in the first quarter, and it was the fewest yards by the Eagles in a first quarter over the past 20 seasons.

Also worth noting. ... Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie recently reiterated to Pederson that it's the coach's decision to make personnel changes if he thinks it's in the best interest of the team. That could be viewed as a green light of sorts if Pederson wants to make a change at the team's most important position.

After Monday's loss, the calls from the outside will only grow louder.

But there's more to it. ... A report last week said that Lurie did not attend the team's Week 11 loss to the Browns because of mounting frustration with how the team was playing.

The team said Lurie was being cautious ahead of seeing his mother over the Thanksgiving holiday, but the report from Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer indicated that Lurie has also "left various workouts early out of disgust."

Pederson was asked about Lurie's reported frustration during his Tuesday press conference.

Pederson said that "some of these questions might be for Mr. Lurie" and that the two men have continued to have a good relationship while meeting regularly.

"Those conversations are private," Pederson said. "I'm not going to get into that. This is not the time or the place to really get into those types of conversations."

Pederson also said that he has not "been reassured one way or the other" in response to a question about his job security and that he's "not going there mentally" while the team plays out the rest of the season.

One job Pederson might give up?

He's called offensive plays since taking the job in Philadelphia, but questions about whether he would consider a change have cropped up more than once this season.

The question was asked again during his Monday press conference.

Pederson said he takes pride in play calling, but that everything is "on the table" as the team tries to find a way to win more games.

For the moment, though, he said he doesn't feel he is "in a rut" when it comes to that aspect of his job.

Other notes of interest. ... According to Rotoworld.com's John Daigle, Miles Sanders' weekly share of backfield touches since returning from injury: 77.2 percent, 70.3 percent and 50 percent.

Boston Scott's in that time: 18.1 percent, 29.6 percent and 43.7 percent.

Also according to Daigle, Travis Fulgham's target share the three games -- prior to Monday night -- with Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert available: 25.9 percent, 13.5 percent and 20 percent.

Fulgham previously averaged double-digit targets and a 28.8 percent target share in three games prior.

On Monday night, Fulgham's target share dropped to 4.4 percent as he played behind Alshon Jeffery.

Those look like trends.

The Eagles got a pair of offensive players back on the active roster on Wednesday.

The team announced that tight end Zach Ertz has been activated from injured reserve and wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside has been taken off the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Ertz has missed the last five games with an ankle injury. He caught 24 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown in the first six games of the season.

Arcega-Whiteside has played in seven games this year and caught two passes for 45 yards.

The Eagles also announced that Johnson has been placed on injured reserve. Johnson announced last week that he will miss the rest of the year with an ankle injury.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Nate Sudfeld
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Corey Clement, Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins
WRs: Jalen Reagor, Travis Fulgham, Greg Ward, Alshon Jeffery, John Hightower, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

The Steelers Week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens and Week 13 game against the Washington Football Team have been rescheduled, the NFL announced on Monday evening.

The Steelers game against the Ravens will now be played on Wednesday, right about the time these Team Notes posted.

In addition, the Steelers game against the Washington Football Team, originally scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 6, has been changed to Monday, Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. Network broadcast information is still TBA.

The Steelers-Ravens game has now been rescheduled three times. It was originally scheduled to be played on Thanksgiving night, but was changed to Sunday, Nov. 29 after members of the Ravens organization, including players, tested positive for COVID-19. It was then rescheduled a second time for Tuesday, Dec. 1, prior to Monday's announcement.

"We're just taking it day by day, like I would imagine everyone is," said head coach Mike Tomlin in his media availability on Sunday about the team's preparations. "We had a great day (Sunday), had an opportunity to come and get our work in and had a normal Friday (schedule). Now we're pushing into our weekend itinerary, if you will.

"We're preparing for the schematics, meaning the structure of which (the Ravens) operate, the plays that they run, the personality that they have. I'm sure as they infuse players in, those things will be unchanging. We're comfortable with our level of preparedness and our ability to prepare based on those things."

Worth noting. ... The Steelers placed running back James Conner on the Reserve/COVID-19 List on Saturday.

Conner has 145 carries for 645 yards, a 4.4-yard average, with five touchdowns through 10 games. He also has 25 receptions for 145 yards.

On Friday the team placed defensive end Stephon Tuitt, defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs, and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

I'll have a recap of the Week 12 game against the Ravens when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland Jr., Jaylen Samuels, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry, Eric Ebron

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

As Associated press sports writer Josh Dubow noted, after a string of injuries to key players, several coronavirus cases and other bad breaks, the San Francisco 49ers somehow find themselves still in the NFC playoff race heading into December.

Now they must face a whole new challenge after Santa Clara County issued strict new coronavirus protocols that will force the Niners to become vagabonds the next three weeks by practicing and playing away from home.

The 49ers (5-6) got that news just before heading to Los Angeles over the weekend and they managed to push it aside enough to beat the Rams 23-20 to move within one game of the final playoff spot.

"I can't be more proud of our team," head coach Kyle Shanahan said after the game. "What they've gone through all year, but especially these last two weeks and especially these last 24 hours. I did have a lot of concern because some of the stuff all of us and our families have been dealing with. I can't tell you how proud I am of those guys, how they went out there and fought. Not all of it was perfect, but their heart and energy and everything was. I couldn't ask for any more from those guys."

The Niners have been forced to play significant time without stars such as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, 2019 All-Pro tight end George Kittle, edge rusher Nick Bosa, cornerback Richard Sherman, leading rusher Raheem Mostert, and starting receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

But with Sherman, Samuel and Mostert returning Sunday from injuries and all making big contributions, the Niners are hoping they can stay in contention long enough for a few more key players like Garoppolo and possibly even Kittle to return.

"I'm holding out hope for Jimmy for the last couple of weeks," Shanahan said, via Cam Inman of The Mercury News. "Same with Kittle. I think they're in a similar boat, but that I mean that's not guaranteed."

Garoppolo has been sidelined by a high-ankle sprain and Kittle a foot fracture. The 49ers lost their first two games after putting both players on injured reserve before defeating the Rams 23-20 after their bye week on Sunday.

"They're just starting to get into where they get on the field and not with us but on their own to do some stuff," Shanahan said.

But if they're going to stay in contention, they'll have to do it on the road with the team announcing Monday it will play the next two "home" games in Arizona at the Cardinals' stadium in response to a three-week ban of contact sport practices and games in Santa Clara County. Matt Maiocco of NBCSportsBayArea.com reports the 49ers will leave for Arizona on Wednesday. They will practice at a site near State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

They'll host the Bills there Monday night.

For the record, news of the shutdown surprised Shanahan.

"It was a very disappointing thing what we got yesterday," Shanahan said, via ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "For us to be find that out while we're getting on a plane. ... It was extremely disappointing."

Shanahan added the team was not warned ahead of time of the impending ban, finding out via social media and receiving little additional information from county officials on the reasoning behind the decision or how the 49ers' situation might negatively affect the county's COVID-19 issues, per Wagoner and The Athletic's David Lombardi.

"We've been working with them as a partner trying to figure it out," Shanahan said. "For everyone to find out without them telling us, it was extremely disappointing."

Mostert was particularly emotional, per reporters, discussing the uncertainty facing the team.

"Right now we don't have a home. Right now we don't know where we're gonna be," Mostert said.

The Niners will also need to find a new place to practice, and the players are prepared for a long stretch away from their families.

"No matter what we go through, we're a team and we truly believe that we're going to take care of each other and look after each other," Mostert said. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Making his first return to action since Week 6, Mostert registered 16 carries for 43 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown run, his second touchdown of the season and 11th of his

Making his first return to action since Week 7, Samuel finished the game with a career-high 11 receptions for 133 yards, marking his first 100-yard game of the season and fourth of his career.

According to Pro Football Focus, 83 of his 133 yards occurred after contact, the most by a receiver in a game this season.

Samuel forced seven missed tackles with his physical running style, according to PFF. ...

Nick Mullens had Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald in his face for much of the day, struggling to find any rhythm. Still, Mullens delivered when it mattered most, engineering a pair of late drives for the tying and winning field goals. Mullens finished 24-of-35 for 253 yards with no touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 77.4. By no means was it one of Mullens' better performances, but it was enough.

And finally. ... Also according to Inman, Aiyuk was set to come off reserve/COVID-19 reserve list Tuesday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: C.J. Beathard, Josh Rosen, Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens
RBs: Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, Austin Walter, JaMycal Hasty, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, River Cracraft, Trent Taylor, Jordan Matthews, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel
TEs: Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley, George Kittle, Charlie Woerner

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

DK Metcalf got extra motivation he didn't even need.

Metcalf caught 10 passes for 177 yards, Russell Wilson threw for 230 yards and a touchdown and the Seattle Seahawks beat the Eagles 23-17 on Monday night.

Before the game, Metcalf said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who coached Calvin Johnson in Detroit, compared him to the former Lions star.

"I'm getting a little respect, but you know I still got work to do. One of the defensive coaches came up to me and it kind of made me mad that he was like, 'You know, I was in Detroit with Megatron but you're not there yet,'" Metcalf said. "In my mind, I'm not trying to be Megatron. I'm trying to be me. So I had a little chip on my shoulder the whole game."

The Seahawks (8-3) moved one game ahead of the Rams in the NFC West. The Eagles (3-7-1) fell a half-game behind the Giants and Washington in the woeful NFC East.

Metcalf was on the board when the Eagles took JJ Arcega-Whiteside in the second round with the 57th pick in 2019. Arcega-Whiteside has 12 career catches and was a healthy inactive before landing on the COVID-19 list. Metcalf, who was the final pick of the second round, had the best game of his rookie year in Seattle's playoff win at Philadelphia last season and again showed why he's one of the best receivers in the NFL.

In fact, Metcalf has more catches for more yards in two games at Lincoln Financial Field than Arcega-Whiteside has in two seasons with the Eagles at this point.

And even if Metcalf isn't trying to be Calvin Johnson, he's actually on a superior statistical track at this stage in his career. Through the first 27 games of Metcalf's career, he has 116 catches for 1,939 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Johnson at the same stage had 95 catches for 1,662 yards and 11 touchdowns for the (then awful) Detroit Lions.

Whatever the case, Metcalf's 52-yard catch on third-and-13 set up Wilson's 1-yard TD pass to David Moore that gave the Seahawks a 7-0 lead.

"It's kind of like coming home, a place that had a chance to draft me but they didn't so I've got to make them pay," Metcalf said.

Cornerback Darius Slay, who followed Metcalf in coverage, called it the worst game of his career.

"I lost every 50-50 ball. I let the team down. I gotta play better," Slay said.

Chris Carson made it 14-0 when he bullied his way through Philadelphia's defense on a 16-yard run.

"You know me, I saw that end zone so my game is physical so I wanted to get it in," Carson said.

Wilson is 6-0 against the Eagles and the Seahawks have won seven in a row in the series.

The win also continued Wilson's dominance under the lights. He's 29-8-1 in prime-time games (defined as starting at 7 p.m. ET or later) for a .776 winning percentage. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, that's the best by any starting quarterback since 1950 with at least 20 starts. Steve Young (.767, 23-7) is second.

Wilson improved to 10-2 on Monday Night Football, for an .833 winning percentage that is also best in MNF history.

Wilson completed 22 of 31 attempts without a turnover. It was his second straight game without an interception or lost fumble after the worst turnover funk of his career.

Next up the Seahawks host the New York Giants (4-7) on Sunday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, Phillip Dorsett
TEs: Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Greg Olsen, Colby Parkinson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

According to Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall, Tampa Bay's bye week is coming at a good time.

The Buccaneers (7-5) have lost three of their past four games and will use the break to try to get healthier and set Tom Brady up for a strong stretch run that could produce the franchise's first playoff berth since 2007.

"First and foremost, get healthy and beat the virus," head coach Bruce Arians said of the team's objective for this week's open date.

"Every team that has come back from the bye has had a virus problem. We can't finish our season with eight, nine or 10 guys staying home," Arians added. "Every game is a big game -- 11-5 will do it. One at a time, but the first thing is to get healthy and beat the virus."

It also means getting the Brady-led offense, as well as one of the NFL's stingiest defenses, back on track after a tough four-week stretch.

The Bucs have gone 1-3 on the heels of a 6-2 start that was Tampa Bay's best since 2002.

Slow starts have been part of the problem, with opponents outscoring them 52-7 in the opening quarter of a road win over Carolina and home losses to the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams and reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Arians said some of the work has already begun.

"We evaluate each week, so it's not really anything to go back and look at because we already have all the self-scout, I call it. Some people call it analytics," the coach said. "I think we're getting better each and every week."

Nevertheless, there is enough inconsistency to be concerned.

Brady and the rest of the offense have not performed nearly as well against most of the stronger teams on the schedule through 12 games.

According to ESPN.com's Jenna Laine, the synergy needed to execute Arians' offense still isn't there consistently, even though there were glimmers of hope in the game. The high volume of deep shots -- and this is on play caller Byron Leftwich just as much as it's on Brady and his receivers for the execution -- look reckless and unnecessary for a QB who's made a living of carving up teams underneath.

Brady took a deep shot to Mike Evans on the opening drive on second-and-6 on a go route and missed, then put too much air under a third-down pass to Antonio Brown on their second possession. He did manage to hit Rob Gronkowski on a 29-yard completion, setting up a 37-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown by Ronald Jones in the second quarter.

Brady also found Gronkowski on a deep crossing route (24.2 air yards) for 48 yards to open up the second half, setting up a field goal, and found an outstretched Chris Godwin on a 44-yard deep pass.

But Brady was picked off by Bashaud Breeland on the very next play on a pass intended for Scott Miller on the sideline. Brady was picked off again by Tyrann Mathieu at the end of the third quarter on a pass intended for Evans. Brady has been intercepted seven times during a four-game span for the first time since 2011. His most during a four-game span is eight in 2002.

Brady did find Evans at the beginning of the fourth quarter for a 31-yard touchdown to make it 27-17, and again for 7 yards with just under five minutes to play to pull the Bucs within three.

The defense shoulders some of the responsibility, too, with Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Chiefs just the latest example.

Patrick Mahomes built a big lead in the opening quarter, with Tyreek Hill catching seven passes for 203 yards and touchdowns of 75 and 44 yards.

Kansas City still led by three scores entering the fourth quarter, when Brady cut into a 17-point deficit with a pair of TD passes to Evans.

"We have to start games faster defensively. That was a big emphasis all week, and even the night before the game in talking to them," Arians said. "I said the same thing offensively. We've got to convert those early third downs and get some scores like we did earlier in the season."

The good news?

As Laine pointed out, the Bucs are now finally through the meat of their schedule, with their four remaining opponents all below .500 with a combined 17-27 record (counting the Atlanta Falcons twice). They also got some help in the NFC with the Cardinals' loss to the Patriots, dropping them to 6-5.

The Bucs would be the sixth seed if the season ended today.

Also of interest. ... Jones has been an effective player -- when the Bucs have been able to get him involved in the offense. Falling behind early, as they did Sunday, limits his opportunity. Once again, though, he showed what type of impact he can have with 103 yards from scrimmage on 10 just touches.

He turned a short throw into a 37-yard TD on his only pass reception and had a 34-yard run on his way to rushing for 66 yards on nine attempts.

Jones had 20 touches combined over the last two weeks. On Monday, Arians said he thinks Jones' two-game total should be his weekly workload.

"I don't think there's any doubt. He needs to have 20 touches," Arians said.

Leonard Fournette played 33 snaps to Jones' 21 on Sunday and most of Fournette's playing time comes in passing situations. Fournette hasn't done much with the role -- 28 catches for 171 yards -- but Jones had a 37-yard touchdown catch while Fournette produced 10 yards on three catches against the Chiefs.

That timeshare will be worth watching coming out of the bye. ...

While Leftwich has said Miller's lack of playing time the past month is related to injuries rather than Brown's additional to the roster, the second-year wide receiver has just two catches for 14 yards in four games since Brown was activated following an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. Prior to Brown's arrival, he had 25 catches for 400 yards and two touchdowns. ...

The Buccaneers removed running back T.J. Logan and wide receiver Jaydon Mickens from the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced Monday.

Logan remains on injured reserve, having undergone season-ending surgery in August to repair a patellar tendon injury. He went on the COVID-19 list on Nov. 20.

Mickens returns to the active roster. He went on the COVID-19 reserve list Nov. 14.

He played nine games this season, making seven catches for 58 yards while averaging 6.6 yards on 15 punt returns and 24.1 yards on 12 kickoff returns. ...

And finally. ... According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, a Florida judge has scheduled a trial in the civil case against Brown for Dec. 6-17, 2021 -- over a year from now.

The NFL suspended Brown the first eight games of this season for two unrelated incidents, but left open the possibility of additional discipline if new evidence arises in the civil case, in which a woman accused Brown of rape and sexual assault. Brown has denied the allegations.

So barring further developments, it appears there will be no disruptions to Brown’s availability this season, nor the start of next season. He’ll be a free agent in March.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, C.J. Prosise
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scott Miller, Justin Watson, Tyler Johnson, Jaydon Mickens
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, Tanner Hudson, Antony Auclair, O.J. Howard

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

In what is arguably a bit of an understatement, ESPN.com's Turron Davenport notes that Derrick Henry and the offensive line set the tone in the Titans' 45-26 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis.

The victory gives the Titans (8-3) a one-game lead over the Colts (7-4) in the race for the AFC South title.

The Titans' 45 points were the most allowed by the Colts at home in franchise history. It was the biggest points total by the Titans since Week 13 of 2008, when they scored 47 in a win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

Henry finished with 178 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns.

Henry's success typically comes in the second half, but on Sunday most of Henry's damage came in the first half, when he scored three touchdowns and picked up 140 yards on the ground.

It's the second time in Henry's career that he gained more than 100 rushing yards and three touchdowns in one half. He did it in Week 17 against the Houston Texans last season. The only other players to do so multiple times are Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Henry is the only player who has gained 100 yards or more on the ground against the Colts' defense since 2019. Henry has now done it three times, including 103 yards in a Week 10 loss to Indianapolis and a 149-yard performance in a 31-17 Week 14 win over the Colts last year.

Since the start of the 2019 season, Henry has an NFL-high 13 games with at least 100 yards rushing. Henry's 178 rushing yards Sunday were the most he's ever had against the Colts.

Henry has two games in his career with 200 or more rushing yards, both coming against AFC South division rivals -- a 238-yard outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 14 of 2018 and a 211-yard performance against the Texans in the season finale last season.

Although Henry fell short of 200 yards and making it a sweep of AFC South opponents, his 178-yard game was the third time he had at least 175 yards and three rushing touchdowns. It ties him with Adrian Peterson for the third-most in NFL history behind Tomlinson (4) and Jim Brown (5).

Henry praised his offensive line, which opened some big holes. "They did a great job today, opening up holes, driving the guy back in front of them, playing well collectively," Henry said. "I just had to go out there and do my job. (They make) my job definitely a lot easier. I appreciate those guys."

Henry, who currently leads the NFL with 1,257 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, became the third player in franchise history to rush for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns in at least two consecutive seasons, joining Earl Campbell (1978-1981) and Chris Johnson (2009-2010).

Meanwhile, the Titans think they've taken two big steps in the right direction at the right time of the season. The next challenge is proving they can stay atop the AFC South and win this division for the first time since 2008.

"All we've done is taken a few steps to put ourselves in a position to continue to play meaningful games here in December," head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday.

The Titans stopped a skid of three losses in four games with a big overtime win at Baltimore. Ryan Tannehill said obviously the Titans went through a tough stretch but kept working to improve.

That approach won't change with Tennessee preparing to host Cleveland (8-3) on Sunday, the Titans' fifth straight opponent with a winning record.

"We want to keep improving as the season gets into the last stretch here, keep improving each and every week, and obviously be playing at our best when we head into December," Tannehill said. "So, that's our mindset -- go out and attack every week and find a way to come home with a win."

It's fair to point out that when Tannehill last addressed the workload of Henry, Tannehill said the then-recent reduction in Henry's touches had happened by design.

Asked by Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio after Sunday's win when and why the plans apparently changed, the QB was honest enough.

"I don't know," Tannehill said. "That's probably a question for Coach Vrabel or [offensive coordinator] Arthur [Smith], but Derrick's been rolling. As we get down the stretch here into games that really matter in January, we need Derrick to roll. I think obviously it's important for us to keep him going and that's what we're gonna do."

As Florio suggested, that's the best plan for the Titans. Henry is their identity, and everything else flows through him.

Indeed, their three losses came in the games during which he had his lowest rushing totals: 20 against the Steelers, 18 against the Bengals, and 19 against the Colts the first time around.

For what it's worth, Davenport offered up this as a bold prediction this week: "Henry will follow up his 178-yard rushing performance by picking up at least 150 yards on the ground for the third consecutive game. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... As TitansOnline.com's Jim Wyatt noted, A.J. Brown is fun to watch, and on Sunday he provided two more highlight-reel plays.

The electrifying Brown caught a short pass from Tannehill across the middle and turned it into a 69-yard touchdown catch.

"Whenever I've got the ball in my hands I am trying to score -- that is my mindset," said Brown, who finished the contest with four catches for 98 yards. "And (make sure) not get tackled inside the 10."

Later, Brown did something even more unique -- he fielded an onside kick and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown. "On the sideline, I was joking with Corey (Davis), saying I was going to crib this," Brown said with a smile. "But I was just trying to not get hit. ... They just told me to be aggressive. My mindset was to catch the ball and get out of the way, but it parted like the Red Sea."

And finally. ... Geoff Swaim caught all three of his targets for 30 yards against the Colts while Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser combined for zero catches on one target.

As Rotoworld.com noted, Swaim, who came out of nowhere to serve as Tennessee's top pass catching tight end against the Colts. It'll be interesting to see how much he dilutes the value of Smith down the stretch.

One last note here. ... Smith (knee) did not practice Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Senorise Perry, Darrynton Evans
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Kalif Raymond, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Cody Hollister, Adam Humphries
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt

Washington Football Team

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 December 2020

Anyone unaware of Antonio Gibson's burgeoning potential got a heaping helping along with their Thanksgiving turkey Thursday afternoon.

The Washington Football Team's rookie running back galloped all over the Dallas Cowboys in a 41-16 blowout win. Gibson rushed for 115 yards on 20 carries with three TDs. He added five catches for 21 yards, second-most for Washington on the day.

With a national audience tuning in for the annual Thanksgiving affair in Dallas, Gibson's star shined the brightest.

"Story of my life," Gibson said, via the Washington Post. "Every time the spotlight come on, it seems like God's always watching down on me. ... To be able to come out on national TV and do this is an amazing feeling."

The rookie has progressively improved, earning back-to-back weeks averaging 5.75 yards per carry or better. The 22-year-old was a combo receiver/ running back in college, known more for catching passes than running between the tackles.

Washington made him a third-round pick and viewed the Memphis product as a potential full-time RB. Thus far, Gibson is proving the club's evaluation prescient.

"He's still growing," head coach Ron Rivera said. "The thing about him is he's got so much potential and ability."

Teammates are in awe of how fast Gibson has adapted to his position in the NFL.

"He's very special," receiver Terry McLaurin said. "I don't think he knows how good he can be."

Gibson became the only rookie since at least 1948 with three rushing TDs on Thanksgiving, per NFL Research. He also became the first rookie in Washington history to have a rush TD in five straight games, and the first rookie overall to do so since the Browns' Nick Chubb in 2018.

The Thanksgiving performance marked Gibson's first career three-TD day. He became the league's first rookie since Jordan Howard in 2016 to run for three touchdowns in a game, and the first Washington player with three rushing TDs since Rob Kelley in Wek 11 of that same year.

Gibson's 11 rushing TDs this season pair him with Alfred Morris (13, in 2012) as the only rookies in franchise history with 10-plus rush TDs.

Thursday's breathtaking performance was capped by two fourth-quarter long TD runs, the first of which Gibson waved goodbye to the Cowboys' chances of a comeback.

As the weeks progress, Gibson is getting more and more comfortable in his position, and his production is proving he can be a foundational piece in Washington.

Indeed, Gibson was targeted a career-high seven times in the passing attack in Dallas.

According to ESPN.com's John Keim, what's becoming clear is that the more Gibson learns, the more Washington can keep him on the field on every down. His protection had been an issue, but he picked up one key blitz Thursday that led to a completion.

J.D. McKissic remains Washington's best pass-catching back with 46 receptions. He's a better, more diverse route runner -- Gibson's catches typically come on safety valves or swing routes -- and his quick cuts make him more dangerous in the open field.

With this backfield, a lot of it is game-specific, but it's safe to say Gibson's role will continue to grow.

Whatever the case, Thursday's win vaulted the Football Team into first place in the NFC East with five weeks to go. The slate gets tougher with the currently undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on tap in Week 13, but spearheaded by Gibson, McLaurin and the steady hand of QB Alex Smith, Washington believes it can keep hold of the division lead.

"Our record isn't the best; our conference isn't the best; but we're still in it," Gibson said. "That gives us hope. If we can make the playoffs, why not?"

Meanwhile, throughout the entire season, Rivera and multiple teammates have mentioned that Terry McLaurin is the example of a leader and model for other players to follow. The second-year wide receiver showed that to the nation during the Thanksgiving matchup with seven receptions for 92 yards.

McLaurin has 963 yards on 69 catches.

McLaurin's reliance and determination showed itself in the third quarter. After Smith threw an interception to Jaylon Smith, he was moments away from tying the game when McLaurin tracked him down at Washington's 4-yard line. Rivera said after the game that McLaurin's effort gave the defense a chance. Four plays after McLaurin's touchdown-saving play, Dallas was forced to settle for a field goal to pull within 20-16.

"I feel like everybody has to know what type of guy Terry is now," defensive end Chase Young said of McLaurin. "High character, he's going to give it everything he has every time he steps on the field. Terry's one of those guys that you just know is gonna go every time he touches the field -- every time -- and he doesn't stop until the whistle is blown. You saw that today. ..."

According to Keim and Washington Post staffer Nicki Jhabvala, running back Bryce Love (knee) is expected to stay on injured reserve. The 21-day window to activate him ends Wednesday and he hasn't practiced much last few weeks. The last game he played was exactly two years ago, in college.

He tore his ACL on the very last play.

Love will hope to return next year. ...

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner has shown in the past that he is not afraid to get creative with his play-calling, and that was on full display against the Cowboys. Not only did his offense put up at least 325 yards for the sixth straight game, but he also showed off two plays that helped keep the chains moving.

The first came on Washington's second drive of the first quarter; tight end Logan Thomas took a reverse handoff, dropped back and completed a 28-yard pass to McLaurin. That put Washington at Dallas' 36-yard line, which helped Gibson finish off the 75-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown.

The next play came on Washington's ensuing drive when it was trailing, 10-7. Smith took the snap and handed the ball off to McKissic between the running back's legs. Before the Cowboys knew what was happening, McKissic was already running for a six-yard gain. Washington was able to tie the score with a 23-yard field goal four plays later.

"Scott's got some innovation," Rivera said. "When you watch some of the things that we do, some of the things that we work on in practice, you can see the potential for big plays. Using the guys and getting them opportunities to use their skills -- that's huge. Doing what he did with Logan, that was big. Again, those are the things that we have players with specific skillsets, which we need to take advantage of."

And finally. ... Washington has a visit scheduled with quarterback Taylor Heinicke, according to the NFL’s wire.

Jhabvala reports the team intends to sign Heinicke to the practice squad as its “quarantine quarterback.”

The Broncos’ situation Sunday, when all four of their quarterbacks were on the COVID-19 list, has prompted some teams to consider keeping a quarterback separate from the other quarterbacks.

Heinicke has familiarity with Washington’s system. He played for Scott and Norv Turner first in Minnesota (2015-16) and then in Carolina (2018), where Rivera was head coach at the time.

Heinicke, originally an undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion, has played seven NFL games in two seasons with the Texans and Panthers. He has one touchdown and three interceptions.

He hasn’t played in an NFL game in almost two years.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Alex Smith, Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Javon Leake, Lamar Miller, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Isaiah Wright, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden
TEs: Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle