Team Notes Week 13 2017
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFFDirectly 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. ...
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Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
According to ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, if head coach Bruce Arians had any doubts whether he should start quarterback Blaine Gabbert the rest of the season, those should have been put to rest with about 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
That's when Gabbert completed as big-time of a throw as there is in the NFL, one that showed his progress throughout his rocky career and one that should plant him firmly as the Cardinals' starting quarterback for the rest of this season and beyond.
The play started with Gabbert under center on the Arizona 48. As the play-action developed, the pocket collapsed, forcing Gabbert to step up. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell was pursuing him from behind and Malik Jackson was closing in from the front. Gabbert tried to get set as quickly as possible and let a pass fly. As soon as the ball left his hand, Gabbert braced for a hit.
That pass, however, landed perfectly in the hands of Cardinals receiver Jaron Brown, who ran 6 more yards, completing the 52-yard touchdown that gave Arizona a seven-point edge, leading to the Cardinals' 27-24 win against the Jaguars on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"It was one of those deals where I just had to buy enough time to get that thing up and I tried to give him enough air because I had to cut it a little early," Gabbert said.
As Weinfuss suggested, "It was, to this point in his tumultuous career, Gabbert's defining throw. It put his arm strength, his mobility and his accuracy on full display."
But Weinfuss was quick to add its how Gabbert got to that play that will make it even more difficult for Arians to not stick with him.
On two of the three plays before the touchdown pass, Gabbert kept plays alive and gained yardage with his feet -- something Carson Palmer isn't known to do and something Drew Stanton can't do as well as Gabbert. He gained 13 yards on those two runs. And throughout the game, Gabbert evaded countless sacks -- something else Palmer and Stanton both struggle to do.
Gabbert said he doesn't think twice about taking off. That's just his game.
"I've got to make a guy miss, extend a play, get 2 yards on a first-and-10," he said. "It's better than taking a sack and being second-and-12. So anything I can do to make our guys' jobs easier, I'm going to do."
According to Weinfuss, that gives the Cardinals' offense a new dimension. It also gives it hope when plays break down.
And that's worth something.
Gabbert is 28 and in his prime as a quarterback. He already has begun to change the perception of him around the league, and Sunday's win just strengthened that.
Weinfuss went on to contend that Gabbert has shown in two starts that he needed to have the right combination of talent and coaching around him to flourish. He's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, which should force the Cardinals' hand at making him their answer at quarterback by signing him to a long-term deal.
They can still draft a quarterback, but spending a first-round pick on one may not be entirely necessary.
Meanwhile, With Gabbert continuing to play well -- he threw for 241 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while completing 57.9 percent of his passes -- the Cardinals don't have to concern themselves with Stanton's immediate future when -- or if -- his knee gets healthy.
Then there's Palmer.
If Gabbert leads Arizona to the brink of the playoffs, that'll put Palmer's future with the Cardinals in jeopardy.
But from what Gabbert's shown through two starts, and the upside he's displayed, he's made Arians' decision all the easier.
And the coach realizes it.
Asked Monday how comfortable he would be with Gabbert at quarterback should Palmer retire, Arians replied: "The way he's playing right now, I'd be very, very comfortable?"
And Arians labeled that scenario "a possibility" for the coming season. ...
Meanwhile, with the Cardinals set to host the second of three straight home games when the Los Angeles Rams come to town, there are concerns.
Chief among them, the Cardinals' offense struggled to complete drives with touchdowns. They had three drives that reached the Jacksonville 30 that ended with field goals instead of touchdowns. As Weinfuss suggested, by scoring touchdowns on one or two of those drives, Arizona could have put the game away early. Instead they were in a one-score game for the entire fourth quarter.
Other notes of interest. ... Rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones continued to build his fantasy value with another touchdown catch and 72 yards on four catches. He has had three touchdown catches in the past two games. General manager Steve Keim called Seals-Jones, a cousin of Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, a tight end "that we really haven't had in this offense in a long time, a mismatch tight end."
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Seals-Jones was only on the field for 17 plays, third among tight ends, but 12 of them were passing plays. As long as Gabbert remains at quarterback, Seals-Jones will continue to be a favorite target because of the rapport they built while working together on Arizona's scout team.
The line blocked well and enough receivers got involved to take the load off Larry Fitzgerald, who drew a lot of double coverage.
Brown's 52-yard touchdown reception on Sunday was just the second TD catch by a wide receiver allowed by the Jaguars this season and the first since the Texans' DeAndre Hopkins in Week 1. ...
The Cardinals rushed for 108 yards, which is tough to do against a Jaguars' defense that has been stellar all season. Adrian Peterson kept getting positive yardage, even when it wasn't there. The run blocking was better this week as well. Much better, actually. ...
Phil Dawson kicked four field goals, including a career-long 57-yarder with 1 second to play.
Dawson's 57-yard field goal was the longest game-winning field goal in franchise history and the third-longest overall. The kick was also Dawson's 40th in his career of 50 or more yards. He is now one of six kickers in history with at least that many, joining Sebastian Janikowski (55), Jason Hanson (52), John Kasay (42), Matt Prater (42) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen (40).
On Wednesdy, Dawson was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
Running back Kerwynn Williams suffered two cracked ribs against the Jaguars and could miss Sunday's game against the visiting Rams. If he can't go, look for J.J. Nelson to assume Williams' other duties as a returner on punt and kickoffs.
With Williams expected to miss time, running back Bronson Hill is being promoted to the 53-man roster.
John Brown missed the Jaguars game with a toe injury; it's possible he could miss more. He did not practice Wednesday. Peterson (neck) was also held out. I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Drew Stanton, Mike Glennon, Sam Bradford
RBs: Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler, Chad Williams
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure suggested, "It wasn't supposed to be this difficult.
"The Atlanta Falcons seemingly had everything working in their favor on a day in which their best player dominated."
But from a fantasy perspective, it's hard to complain.
Not when Julio Jones scored a pair of touchdowns in the first half, then surpassed 200 receiving yards in the fourth quarter.
So even though the Falcons couldn't breathe easily until Tevin Coleman dashed to the corner of the end zone on a 14-yard run with just under two minutes to play, securing a 34-20 victory, fantasy owners were just fine.
So while the Falcons (7-4) now have strung together three victories in a row as they march toward securing a playoff spot, head coach Dan Quinn would be the first to say his team has to do a better job of finishing after almost blowing a 27-6 lead.
That said, the Falcons should be able to survive any challenge with Jones playing at the level he played on Sunday. He had a season-high 253 receiving yards on 12 receptions with two touchdowns, doubling his touchdown total through the first 10 games. He also had a 15-yard run, with his 268 total yards a huge chunk of the Falcons' season-high 516 total yards. Going 11-of-14 on third down was another sign of the offense ascending to the same level it played at last season, at the right time.
Jones was targeted on 15 of his 33 routes against the Bucs.
He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his effort.
Jones talked about the defensive coverage by the Buccaneers, with their defensive coordinator being former Falcons head coach Mike Smith.
"I was just open," Jones said. "They were just playing quarters. They mixed a little man in. They didn't make any adjustments, so we just kept throwing the ball."
And let's not forget about fellow wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Jones in the second quarter that ignited the Falcons to a hot start. Sanu is now 6-for-6 for his career throwing passes while lining up in the Wildcat -- or 12 Gauge, as the team calls the formation.
"I wasn't confident in it when I saw him bobble that snap, but I knew when he ripped it down the field we had a pretty good chance at it," Quinn said of Sanu's touchdown toss. "He can throw it. He can punt it. He can kick it. And he can damn sure catch it."
"I knew it was in the game plan, but we never [practiced] it full-speed," Jones said. "It's just one of those things, like, 'Hey, we get this look, throw the ball.'"
Would Sanu have thrown the ball if Jones had been tripled-covered?
"My guy Sanu, I'm pretty sure he probably would have," Jones said. "Just to give me the opportunity because, you know, it's like my brother, and he's just going to give me an opportunity to make a play. ... Sanu, he can throw a great ball."
Matt Ryan doesn't have to look over his shoulder just yet, though the QB also marveled at Sanu's pass. On the play, Ryan split out wide right and lined up against Buccaneers cornerback and former Falcon Brent Grimes.
"If there's 10 guys out there, I was No. 11," Ryan said of what option he was. "I told [Sanu] I was open, though. I hear that enough from them, so throw it back at them."
Ryan, who completed 26-of-35 passes for 317 yards with a touchdown and passer rating of 111.2, made the key throws when needed. And Sanu pulled in a season-high eight catches on nine targets against the Buccaneers.
The Falcons still have to make up ground in the NFC South while entering the day behind both New Orleans and Carolina. The Panthers improved to 8-3 with a win over the New York Jets.
That said, injuries could catch up to them, especially a player the caliber of cornerback Desmond Trufant, who is in the concussion protocol along with Devonta Freeman. The veteran running back missed a second-straight game as he recovers from the second concussion this season (the first was in August).
But Jones was clearly healthy for the first time in weeks.
"I'm feeling better. A couple weeks ago I had an ankle injury and it has kind of been lingering, but I'm good," Jones said. "I'm striking and ready to go, and it's a credit to (offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian) too as well. Just dialing up plays and seeing early on, just taking advantage of what they were giving us on defense."
Other notes of interest. ... With Freeman out again, Tevin Coleman was the primary back. The speedy third-year man had more room to work against the Bucs. He had 43 yards on his first seven carries, including a 20-yard run. He had 43 yards on 20 carries when he was stymied by Seattle last week.
Coleman rushed 19 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Backup running back Terron Ward made up for what could have been a costly fumble by picking up some tough yards late.
By the way, Coleman went 2-for-2 this weekend, scoring a pair of touchdowns and becoming the father of twins. He now has a baby boy and girl, who were born Saturday.
"This weekend has been amazing," Coleman said after the game. "The [birth] of my two children, my twins. It's just amazing to get two balls for them. It's just an amazing thing."
This week, Freeman will return.
Quinn told a local radio station on Wednesday that Freeman has cleared the concussion protocol and is back to practicing today. Freeman returned in a limited role last week with a black no-contact jersey. He has suffered three concussions since 2015, including two this year.
I'll have more on that when Late-Breaking Updates commence, but I'll also remind you the Falcons' rushing attack faces a tough matchup against the Vikings.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Nick Williams
TEs: Austin Hooper, Eric Saubert, Logan Paulsen
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, the boos from the fans who remained at their hom stadium resonated loudly midway through the fourth quarter. One fan could be heard screaming, "Marty [Mornhinweg, offensive coordinator], you're fired."
Likely a fantasy owner.
The Ravens' defense sealed the 23-16 win against the Houston Texans on Monday night by forcing two turnovers in the fourth quarter. The Ravens' special teams produced three Justin Tucker field goals and a fake punt.
The biggest contribution from the Baltimore offense: No turnovers. When quarterback Joe Flacco is on the field, it's all about not losing the game.
As Hensley noted, this is why Flacco's biggest play came with his legs (25-yard run) instead of with his arm (longest completion was 24 yards). This is why the Ravens ran the ball on 14 of 19 plays in the fourth quarter, including a third-and-8 (which they converted), in a one-score game.
It's a mindset that has put Baltimore (6-5) in the driver's seat for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. It's just not a mentality that will put the Ravens where they ultimately want to be, at least by Flacco's thinking.
"If we believe we can win the Super Bowl with how we're playing right now, I'm all for it. I really am," Flacco said. "[But] we can all take a look at that and say it's probably not super-realistic. We need to go out there, we need to go get it and we need to be better on our side of the ball."
No arguments here.
The Ravens looked every bit like the 31st-ranked offense in the NFL. Flacco's 141 yards passing were the fewest for a winning quarterback in Week 12. In fact, punter Sam Koch had as many completions as Flacco on throws over 15 yards.
Head coach John Harbaugh believes Flacco was "exactly spot on" in saying the offense needs to take it to another level in order to succeed in the playoffs.
"We're just like everyone else in this league, we're trying to win the whole thing," Harbaugh said. "We're not there yet, but they don't play that game yet. So, the first step is the next step, and the next step is our next game. We have to be good enough to figure out how to win the next game and keep building off of that."
The Ravens' defense isn't asking the offense to be like Tom Brady or Carson Wentz. The way this Baltimore defense is keeping teams out of the end zone, it's only seeking a capable offense.
The Ravens really only need more than 20 points from Flacco and the offense, which is more than reasonable. Baltimore is 4-1 this season when eclipsing that mark and 2-4 when held to 20 points or fewer.
"It's never going to be: We're going to point the finger. It's human nature," safety Eric Weddle said. "Yeah, we want [the Ravens' offense] to do more, but at the end of the day, we've got to worry about our job."
This isn't the first time Flacco has been candid about the offensive struggles. He emphasized how Baltimore needed to be more aggressive coming out of the bye. Flacco, though, has only attempted nine passes over 15 yards (which ranks No. 25 in the NFL) in two games since those comments.
"There's a couple of shots for us to have out there and maybe make the game [go] our way," said Flacco, who was 0-for-3 on passes over 20 yards Monday night. "If you give yourself two shots, and you rely on hitting only those two, there's going to be games when you don't hit them."
Flacco then added, "By the end of the season, you don't want to have to just turn it on when you have to; you want to be doing it all the time."
Flacco is the only quarterback this season with more than 200 pass attempts who has thrown more interceptions (11) than touchdown passes (nine). His 5.3 yards per attempt is worst in the NFL. His passer rating of 74.2 is No. 31 in the league.
Some of the blame belongs to Flacco, who repeatedly threw behind and over receivers. Other problems were poor pass protection and receivers letting the ball go through their hands (like Wallace on that deep throw).
"We're not just trying to get in the playoffs. We want to get to the big game," said Flacco, who was the Super Bowl MVP five years ago. "You want to have all cylinders clicking -- special teams, offense and defense. You don't want to just go in with one or two of them. You want to have all of them, and you usually need all of them."
Baltimore's path to its first playoff berth since 2014 remains firmly in its grasp. The Ravens play three of their final five games at home and face only two teams with winning records.
But a little more offense would go a long way. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Alex Collins had 60 of Baltimore's 139 yards on the ground. Javorius Allen had a 10-yard touchdown run and Danny Woodhead had four receptions for 23 yards. The Ravens improved to 5-0 when they run for at least 135 yards in a game.
Breshad Perriman was active Monday night against Houston after he was a healthy scratch the previous game. Perriman was the team's first-round pick in 2015, but has been mostly inconsistent. Perriman was targeted twice, but did not have a reception. Perriman has just seven catches for 54 yards and has yet to score a touchdown.
RB/KR Michael Campanaro, who ranks second in the league in punt-return average, was inactive after not appearing on the injury report last week. Harbaugh confirmed Campanaro was a healthy scratch because the team wanted to activate other receivers that can get downfield.
"Nothing that 'Camp' did or didn't do. We're healthy now (at the receiver position), so we have to make some tough decisions," Harbaugh said.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan, Robert Griffin III
RBs: Terrance West, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Kenny Bell
TEs: Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak suggested, "The optimist would look at Tyrod Taylor's performance in the Buffalo Bills' 16-10 win Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs and say first-year coach Sean McDermott wisely corrected his decision to start rookie Nathan Peterman, and the move puts the Bills (6-5) back in favorable position for a playoff bid.
"The pessimist would look at Taylor's afternoon and conclude the Bills' offense has only returned to the problems that plagued it through the first nine games before the quarterback switch, and the unit will have little chance of keeping up with the New England Patriots' offense next Sunday at New Era Field. ..."
Although Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half of a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, it is debatable whether Taylor did enough himself to win Sunday's game at Arrowhead Stadium.
For the first time since last December, Taylor led the Bills on a touchdown drive in the first quarter, scoring on an 11-yard pass to rookie Zay Jones.
But that was the Bills' most productive drive of the game. The offense stalled five times in Chiefs territory and was unable to gain a first down late in the fourth quarter when the Bills could have sealed a victory.
As usual, it would be unfair to pin the offense's issues all on Taylor. He completed a respectable 65 percent of his passes for 183 yards and ran for 27 yards. He was working without top receiver Kelvin Benjamin, inactive because of a knee injury, and got little help from the rushing attack.
However, Rodak noted, a familiar feeling persisted with Taylor. He played it safe, held the ball too long and came up short when the Bills could have turned a close game into a more comfortable lead.
Which might be why McDermott wouldn't go as far as to say the win on Sunday showed he had a lapse in judgement going away from Taylor.
"I'm focused on the next game," McDermott said. "I thought we came out today offensively and did some good things. I told you last week that I did the right thing for this football team and I believe that. What's important now is what just happened this week and where we're going next week and that's what we're focused on."
This week is a home game against the New England Patriots. McDermott was asked if Taylor would now be his quarterback until his team is eliminated from the playoff race, and he balked at the chance to commit.
"Tyrod's our quarterback next week," McDermott said.
Moments later, Taylor was told about McDermott committing to him for only next week.
"One week at a time," Taylor said.
As the Buffalo News understated, "McDermott's handling of the quarterback position will continue to be a topic down the stretch. ..."
All that said, the Bills won't be a team that will get anywhere unless two things happen: The defense continues to play the way it did in Kansas City, and Taylor gets the stagnant offense jump-started. He threw for 183 yards and completed only two passes of at least 20 yards. In the second half, Buffalo had just four first downs and 69 net yards.
Taylor and the entire until have to get better. ...
Meanwhile, it turns out Benjamin has torn cartilage in his right knee.
The Bills revealed the exact nature of the injury on Monday when correcting a comment McDermott made earlier in the day.
McDermott said "No," when asked if Benjamin had a torn meniscus. A team spokesman, however, informed reporters about a half hour later that the player's meniscus was torn, while saying McDermott misunderstood the question.
A week earlier, McDermott would only say tests revealed there was no ligament damage to Benjamin's knee.
Benjamin did not travel with the team to Kansas City on Sunday.
He was hurt while being tackled after making a 20-yard catch on Buffalo's opening drive in a 54-24 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers a week earlier.
McDermott continues to list Benjamin as day to day, but the wideout was not on the field to start the week on Wednesday.
On a more positive note, Jones is starting to come around after a slow start. The second-round draft pick caught only three passes for 33 yards on 10 targets, but one of the receptions was an 11-yard touchdown in the first quarter, the only touchdown the Bills would score.
Jones caught only seven passes for 85 yards in his first six games and looked lost. But in the last four games (he sat out one with an ankle injury), he has 16 receptions for 186 yards and two scores.
"Tyrod tells me daily that he trusts me and has all the confidence in the world in me," Jones said. "As a young receiver, when a quarterback tells you that, that should get you going. ..."
Charles Clay had a 33-yard reception that set up a field goal, and he finished with four catches for 60 yards. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Clay has target totals of three, four and four over the last three games. He was on the field for just 65 percent of the plays today.
Jordan Matthews still can't get going in this offense as he had two catches for 15 yards. ...
LeSean McCoy had a rough time getting loose. He had one 14-yard gain, and then on his other 21 carries he gained just 35 yards. The Bills were never able to establish the ground game, though they did run 37 times that at least helped to win the time of possession battle as they had the ball for more than 33 minutes.
Backup Travaris Cadet produced 49 yards rushing and receiving, and it would seem like he has taken over that role, even when Mike Tolbert returns from the hamstring injury that sidelined him in Kansas City.
Kicker Stephen Hauschka finally missed a field goal from beyond 50 yards, ending his NFL-record streak of 13 consecutive successes from that range. Hauschka missed wide left on a 52-yard attempt in the second quarter, though he came back later in the quarter to nail a 56-yarder.
Hauschka has now made seven kicks from outside 50 yards this season, which breaks Dan Carpenter's team record of six set in 2014.
QBs: AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, Brandon Tate
TEs: Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
According to ESPN.com's David Newton, head coach Ron Rivera warned his players coming off their bye weekend about not overlooking the New York Jets on Sunday in anticipation of an NFC South showdown against New Orleans.
Rivera said he believed in "trap games."
The Panthers had one foot in the trap early in the fourth quarter.
In stepped middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and special teams to save quarterback Cam Newton and the offense from a disastrous day.
Kuechly returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown and then Kaelin Clay returned a punt 60 yards for another score to turn an early fourth-quarter deficit into a 35-27 victory at MetLife Stadium.
It wasn't pretty, but it was a much-needed win as the Panthers make their playoff push.
"It is big to win ugly, and when you can rely on a big play happening for your defense or on your special teams, that helps," Rivera said.
Most of the ugliness on this day came on offense.
Newton had one of his worst days of the season, overthrowing wide-open receivers and completing only 11 of 28 pass attempts for 168 yards two weeks after throwing four touchdowns in a 45-21 victory against Miami. He was particularly ineffective on third down, at one point going 1-for-7 on third-down passes.
The running game outside of a career-best 40-yard run by Christian McCaffrey and a 29-yard reverse by wide receiver Clay was almost non-existent after consecutive games of 200-plus yards.
The team also lost Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen for the second half when his foot that was broken in Week 2 became sore in his first game back after being activated from injured reserve. The long-term impact of that remains to be seen, although the initial prognosis was good.
Olsen went for X-rays after the game, which were negative, and more tests on Monday. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network subsequently reported that Monday's tests showed no serious issue for Olsen, although it's not clear yet what role he'll play against the Saints this week.
Carolina can't hope to stay with Drew Brees and the high-powered Saints if they have another performance like this in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And David Newton added they can't expect to be consistent offensively unless they get Jonathan Stewart and the running game on track.
They also can't depend on two non-offensive touchdowns to save the day. ...
For the record, the Panthers went to Olsen with a pass on their first drive, so they weren't about to waste time in getting him back involved in the offense. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses along with that of Devin Funchess, who injured a toe against the Jets.
Funchess says the toe is fine. He stubbed it a little early in the game, and it was the same one he broke in college so will continue to get treatment. He says it's not a turf toe situation.
That would be great.
Funchess has had seven catches in three different games this season. His seven receptions against the Jets gave him 108 receiving yards for his best mark of the season.
"He understands route progression," Rivera said. "He understands reading defenses."
Look for the Panthers to expand that part of the playbook to give Funchess some more opportunities. Cam Newton often went in the direction of since-traded wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin in lobs to the end zone when Benjamin could use his height to make plays. Rivera said Funchess is capable of providing a similar target for Newton.
Funchess' receiving total was notable because it gave the Panthers four different players to reach 100 receiving yards in a game this season. That's a first-time occurrence for the franchise.
Funchess wasn't seen on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice while Olsen was working with the team as they begin a week of practice ahead of Sunday's game against the Saints. Both were listed as non-participants.
In addition, McCaffrey, who took a big hit to his shoulder on Sunday, was also held out of practice Wednesday. "We'll see tomorrow," Rivera said when asked about the rookie's status.
Also on the injury front, Newton (right thumb, right shoulder) was limited -- as he has been most every week.
I'll be following up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Also of interest. ... Receiver Damiere Byrd is likely to be activated this week for the New Orleans game. He'll be eligible coming off injured reserve.
FB Alex Armah sat out the Jets game because of the game plan, Rivera said. The coach said Armah has done good things this season, but the Panthers chose to go with three tight ends for this game.
QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Torrey Smith, Brenton Bersin
TEs: Greg Olsen
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson framed it, "Even by Chicago Bears standards, Sunday's offensive ineptitude was an all-timer."
In fact, they came within a late Mitchell Trubisky scramble of setting a team record for lowest rushing total, and instead had the second lowest ever. The Bears finished with 6 rushing yards in their 31-3 loss to the Eagles. It was the fewest by any team since the Colts rushed for 1 yard in December 2014, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
And on average, the Eagles hit the Bears 1.3 yards into the backfield on designed run plays, the second-worst average before contact since 2009.
The Bears entered Week 12 ranked fifth in the NFL with 131.8 rushing yards per game.
"We didn't establish the running game at any point in the game," head coach John Fox said.
Added guard Kyle Long: "[We were] really s-----."
The Bears didn't establish anything on offense. They failed to convert a first down in the first half and finished the game with just eight.
Trubisky also had his worst day as a pro, completing 17 of 33 pass attempts for 147 yards, with two interceptions and a 38.3 passer rating.
"Eventually we are going to learn from one of these things [defeats], and we just have to keep working," Long said.
Their 140 yards of offense was the worst since Oct. 3, 2010 when they had 110 yards and lost 17-3 to the Giants in a Monday night game.
Against the Eagles, Fox had the Bears try a 54-yard field goal that Cairo Santos missed. It seemed a 3-7 team might instead want to try to pick up a fourth-and-3 from the 37-yard line instead of kick.
"We were just trying to get points," Fox said. "I believe at that time I think it could have made it 7-3. We were within our range that we chart before games. I thought we were with the wind. Unfortunately, we didn't execute like we wanted to.
"I believe it was fourth-and-3, it might have been a long 3. Sure, an option would have been to go for it. But you don't succeed there, you don't get points."
Trubisky took a step back in this effort, displaying almost none of the accuracy that general manager Ryan Pace, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and Fox have praised him for in the past.
As the Sports Xchange notes, his passing mechanics were poor and he held the ball too long at times before making decisions. Pass blocking held up better than might have been expected against a strong defense, and with guard Josh Sitton out early in the game with a concussion. Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman also suffered through a mediocre game, dropping a couple passes that could have made a difference, although he had four catches for 64 yards.
A 134-yard net day passing might hold up against some teams, but when it's accompanied by 6 rushing yards it only spells disaster.
Still Fox had little doubt he will see a different Trubisky this Sunday at Soldier Field than he saw in Philadelphia. Trubisky had a 38 passer rating and was off target throughout.
"I think it's when you do have a struggle that you really get stronger," Fox said. "He's a strong young man and I think he'll respond very well."
Trubisky seconded this.
"I think so; being pissed off can be a good motivator," Trubisky said. "But you still have to execute and do your job. It's good to play with emotion, but you can't let it get out of hand. Hopefully we just bounce back from that.
"I know I don't like getting embarrassed, and hopefully everyone else feels that same way. (We'll) use that as a motivator, come back this week, and go back to work and compete in practice. Play with a little emotion, play with a little passion, and hopefully that helps us going forward."
That said, fantasy owners shouldn't invest heavily in this offense although there's reason for some optimism going up against San Francisco this week.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Jordan Howard had his worst game of the season, totaling just 20 yards from scrimmage on nine touches. That number includes six rush yards on seven carries. Tarik Cohen was completely ineffective as well with -11 rush yards and eight receiving yards, netting -3 total yards in the game. ...
Josh Bellamy (concussion) was inactive Sunday against Philadelphia after suffering an injury against Detroit the previous week. He worked fully on Wednesday, however. Assume he's good to go until further notice. ...
Trubisky targeted Tre McBride six times in Sunday's loss to the Eagles and McBride caught only two passes for 20 yards.
The Bears waived McBride on Tuesday.
As Profootballtalk.com noted, McBride, whom the Bears claimed off waivers from the Titans on Sept. 3, has spent time on the team's practice squad as well as its active roster this season. He played in eight games, with three starts, making eight catches for 144 yards.
He had no career catches before this season, spending the past two seasons in Tennessee.
And finally. ... Not surprisingly, Fox's job status again is a hot topic. Although Sunday's embarrassing loss came to a red-hot Eagles team, it provided the Bears' embattled veteran coach with no refuge.
"Frankly I don't give a rip," Fox said Sunday after the game about his contract situation. "That's not why I do this. Whatever happens, the things I control I will work to control."
Fox is in the third year of a four-year deal and his assistants' contracts are up after this season. He was no less blunt about his situation on Monday.
"I don't do this as a job," Fox said. "I do this as a profession. So I don't really worry about job security, time and all that.
"It's obvious we're in a performance-based business; I get that part. I'll just try to control what I can control."
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Josh Bellamy, Markus Wheaton, Bennie Fowler, Taylor Gabriel, Dontrelle Inman, Kevin White
TEs: Dion Sims, Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
According to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell offensive coordinator Bill Lazor saw progress in the evolution of rookie running back Joe Mixon last week.
He saw more this week.
Mixon had his best game of his short career against the Browns on Sunday, running for a career-high 114 rushing yards and catching three passes for 51 yards in the Bengals' 30-16 win. With about three minutes left in the game, and the Bengals leading by a touchdown, Mixon sealed the game with an 11-yard score. He had 40 yards on that drive alone, almost totaling the Bengals' entire rushing total from the week before.
Mixon's big day was the first time the Bengals had a player rush for 100 yards since Jeremy Hill last season against the Browns on Oct. 23 and Dec. 11. Even Hill, who is on injured reserve, took notice, tweeting out Mixon's name with goat emoji next to it.
The Bengals came into Sunday's game trailing the rest of the league in rushing yards per game after putting up an abysmal series of numbers the past few weeks. They've rushed for only a combined 131 yards in the past three games and have not hit the 100-yard mark since the third week of the season, which was Lazor's first game as offensive coordinator.
Against the Browns, they finally look like they are getting back on track.
It would be easy to say the Bengals (5-6) simply picked on the winless Browns, but for all of their struggles, the Browns have actually been very good on run defense. Before Sunday, they ranked sixth in the league in rushing yards allowed, averaging only 91.7 yards a game.
Before this week, it probably didn't look like Mixon was making strides as a runner to the outside eye. He rushed for an average of 2.5 yards per carry against the Broncos. A large part of that could be placed on the offensive line. There have been many times this season that Mixon was tackled almost as soon as he was handed the ball, giving him little chance to attempt to find any sort of hole. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Mixon was averaging only 1.27 rushing yards before contact prior to this week, which ranked last out of 46 qualified rushers.
On Sunday, Mixon had 66 rush yards after first contact for an average of 2.9 yards per carry, his most in a game this season.
When Mixon was drafted, the idea was the Bengals could have a three-pronged attack at running back with Mixon, Hill and Giovani Bernard combining to confuse defenses with their threat to run or catch the ball. Although that plan didn't work out, it's clear the potential is there for Mixon.
Mixon has been handed the reins completely as the Bengals' lead back after Hill elected to have season-ending ankle surgery. Sunday was the first day he took that task and ran with it, giving the Bengals a preview of what the future could be if the offensive line continues to step up its level of play.
Cincinnati rushed for a season-high 152 yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
Dalton passed for 214 yards and was sacked just once on Sunday, allowing him to complete passes to seven different receivers. Dalton threw two touchdown passes, including the first of the season to Tyler Boyd. A.J. Green had five catches for 66 yards including one leaping, toe-tap on the sideline.
Dalton was able to get both running backs involved in the passing game with Mixon and Bernard combining for four catches for 66 yards.
And, the defense produced four sacks and 11 quarterback hits in a 30-16 victory.
But, as the Sports Xchange reminded readers, you can't ignore the fact that it was the Cleveland Browns they beat. Or, that the hapless in-state rival still managed to rush for 169 yards with quarterback DeShone Kizer having one of the best games of his career, passing for 268 yards and rushing for 39 yards and a touchdown.
The Bengals know they have to play better Monday night if they want to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have beaten the Bengals five straight times, and eight of the past nine.
"It's another game, but it's Pittsburgh, and they're leading our division," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "They beat us up there. They're coming here and it's a big football game for us because we don't get any more do-overs. ..."
One last note here. ... Rookie receiver John Ross was inactive for the eighth time in 11 games this season. The ninth overall pick in last year's draft is healthy, but Lewis and Lazor both agree he needs more practice time after being a late arrival to training camp and missing four games with a knee injury. Lewis called him out after he paused on a route against Tennessee.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Brian Hill, Thomas Jones
WRs: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Cody Core
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers noted, Josh Gordon's imminent return has the Browns buzzing.
Suddenly, there's a ray of hope in this dreary, dismal season.
With Gordon eligible to play on Sunday in Los Angeles for the first time in the regular season since 2014, coach Hue Jackson can barely contain his excitement in having the wide receiver back.
"My plans for him?" Jackson said Monday. "Oh boy, let me tell you, I have big plans for him."
Gordon's return has brought some badly needed optimism to the Browns (0-11), who are running out of time and games to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history.
A former All-Pro, Gordon, who led the league in yards receiving in 2013, is on track to make his long-awaited return against the Chargers on Sunday.
Gordon returned to practice last week after being suspended for two seasons and dazzled his teammates. Sources told Cleveland Plain Dealer staff writer Mary Kay Cabot that Gordon returned to the practice field on Wednesday and instantly became the best player on the roster, including No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett.
With the club set to travel on Friday, they're likely to activate him off the Commissioner's Exempt List before they leave, but he can still practice with the team all week.
And they seem eager to get what they can out of Gordon.
"I plan for him to play and play as much as he can handle," Jackson said. "He's a very talented player. He needs to get out there and play, but we have to see where he is and make sure how much can he handle, how much can he do."
Jackson noted that Gordon's return even gave the defense a lift.
"It helps tremendously," he said. "You can just see there was a different spirit in practice with him running around, there's different competition, the receiver vs. the corner.
"Josh is just a different talent and I think we all recognize that and appreciate that and I think his teammates see it and notice it and that's what it's all about. He's a really good player."
Jackson also admitted that he had closed the door on Gordon last year when he left the team on the eve of his comeback and checked himself back into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction.
"Let's be honest, what this young man's dealt with is a disease. All right?" Jackson said. "That's what it is. It happens and it affects a lot of people in this world. So I had to first educate myself and understand what he was going through, what he was dealing with. I hadn't had a lot exposure to him, other than what I knew.
"And then once I understood it better and watched him earn the right to be back in this building. .... I felt more comfortable."
Quarterback DeShone Kizer, who hasn't had much of a supporting cast this season, is also eager for Gordon to play. Kizer had several of his passes dropped on Sunday, including one in the end zone by Corey Coleman in the third quarter.
"Obviously, adding Josh is going to be awesome for us and we're going to see how he affects the game," said Kizer. "We expect him to come out and not skip a beat. He's been working his butt off and we look forward to having him out there with us."
Gordon, who's been suspended for 54 of the Browns' last 59 games, is grateful Jackson is giving him another chance.
"That just shows the humanity of it," he said. "People can make a turn. People can make a change at any given moment just depending on the situation and the variables in place."
One last note on Gordon. ... If the Browns do feed him on Sunday, it won't be the first time that's happened in his first game back from a league-mandated ban. As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper reminded readers, Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2014 season and then saw 16 targets while making eight catches for 120 yards in his debut appearance. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The offensive line dominated the Bengals' front seven on running plays most of the day. The Browns rushed for 169 yards on 31 carries a week after rushing for only 50 yards on 18 carries against the Jaguars. The better the Browns run the ball, the better Kizer is as a quarterback.
Running back Isaiah Crowell broke tackles and finished with a season-high 95 yards. Coincidentally, he has to average 95 yards in each of his last five games to reach 1,000 for the season.
Duke Johnson caught four passes to give him 50 for the season. He is the first Browns player with at least 50 catches in three seasons since Braylon Edwards did in from 2006-2008.
Kizer had a good game against the Bengals, with no interceptions and 268 yards passing. That Coleman dropped a perfect throw between defenders wasn't Kizer's fault. Overall, Kizer looked good in the pocket.
The biggest problem, according to ESPN.com's Pat McManamon, the offense didn't get in the end zone until the fourth quarter, and by that time, the Browns were down 14. On a day when Kizer threw well and the two running backs both averaged more than 5 yards per carry, the Browns scored one touchdown and lost by 14.
Also according to McManamon, Bryce Treggs put his future with the Browns in doubt with an absurd and illogical taunting penalty in the first half that helped the Bengals continue a field-goal drive. Treggs is playing because the Browns can't count on Kenny Britt, but a player puts his future in question when he acts that immaturely.
Especially when Treggs has only five catches this season and eight in his career. It was a foolish mistake by a player on a struggling team. ...
The absence of David Njoku in the red zone was odd. The Browns were in the scoring zone four times, but did not throw to Njoku until the fourth quarter. His size and strength should provide mismatches. He was flagged for offensive interference early and after that was barely visible in the offense. Positives? Njoku went out for passes on 57 percent of the team's plays. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Britt was only on the field for 25 percent.
Zane Gonzalez missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt, but might have saved his job by making kicks of 21 and 39 yards after the miss.
Wide receiver Sammie Coates (knee/ankle) did not participate in Wednesday's practice; he missed last week's game with the same injuries. ...
And finally. ... The Browns are only the second team in NFL history to start back-to-back seasons 0-11. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did it in 1976 and 1977 as an expansion team. SO it's worth noting the Chargers are the only team the Browns beat last season.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Matt Dayes
WRs: Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Jeff Janis, Bryce Treggs
TEs: Darren Fells, David Njoku, Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer framed it, "The Dallas Cowboys knew life was going to be difficult without Ezekiel Elliott. They didn't know it was going to be impossible."
Archer went on to note that for the first time in franchise history, the Cowboys have failed to score at least 10 points in three straight games. In the last three games with Elliott, the Cowboys scored 101 points in wins against the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs.
In their past three games they have scored 22 points.
The most recent team with that kind of disparity was the 1998 Green Bay Packers, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
How bad is it?
As the Sports Xchange notes, not even the 2001 team had that sort of drought when the Cowboys averaged 15.4 points game (30th in the league) and rolled through a quartet of quarterbacks - Ryan Leaf, Anthony Wright, Quincy Carter and Clint Stoerner.
Or the 2002 team that averaged 13.6 points a game (31st in the league) with Carter and Chad Hutchinson at quarterback.
Or just two years ago when the Cowboys averaged 17.2 points a game (31st in the league) with backup quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore combining to go 1-11 in place of an injured Tony Romo.
"I'm surprised," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "We all know it shouldn't be. Zeke's important. Zeke makes it better, but to a man around here we'd all say it shouldn't be to this degree at all. So we've got to adjust again."
But how? Where? And to what?
The Cowboys have gone three straight games without more than 250 yards on offense. They had just two games with fewer than 277 yards offense in the first eight games with Elliott.
A year ago Dak Prescott put up numbers that were better than or rivaled what Ben Roethlisberger did as a rookie in 2004. Now he is in the category with Zach Mettenberger.
According to Elias research, Prescott is one of four quarterbacks in the past 10 years to start three straight games and fail to score more than 10 points in a game. The others are JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn and Mettenberger.
"We're in a funk or whatever you want to call it," Prescott said. "It's not fun to be in. We just have to figure ways to get out of it, me individually and this offense collectively."
The run game has not been as prolific as it was with Elliott, but it has not been terrible. The Cowboys are averaging 99 yards a game on the ground without Elliott.
The passing game is a mess. In the two games without Tyron Smith, the issue was pass protection. With Smith back in the lineup, Prescott was sacked just twice, but he threw for just 179 yards on 20-of-27 passing. He was intercepted twice, including one that was returned 90 yards for a touchdown.
On the season, Prescott has been intercepted nine times. In the past two games, he has more interceptions (five) than he had all of 2016. He also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I don't know how many it is, five or six turnovers in two games?" Prescott said. "I've gone seasons without that many. It's definitely frustrating."
Prescott said there are throws to be made, but there did not look to be many clean looks for him to make big plays. Terrance Williams had a 38-yard catch in the fourth quarter, but that was the only pass play of more than 20 yards in the game. In the loss to the Eagles, the Cowboys didn't have any pass plays of 20 yards or more.
"I think more than anything it was just the entire offense," head coach Jason Garrett said. "We weren't able to sustain things throughout the ballgame. We ran the ball fairly well early on in the game. We got some success but we weren't able to convert those third downs to keep those drives alive. Everybody's got a piece of it."
Garrett shot down the notion of taking control of play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, and vowed to remain true to his coaching convictions.
"Certainly, we're always looking at ourselves and things that we can do better, but our convictions as a coaching staff, or as a football team, really won't change," Garrett said on a conference call Friday.
"You're looking for different ways to implement things. You self-scout. You do a lot of different things week by week to give your team the best chance possible. But the core convictions about how you win ball games? They remain intact."
Still, in the middle of a three-game losing streak in which the Cowboys have been outscored 92-22, Garrett is looking at making changes.
The Cowboys made a flurry of roster moves Sunday, releasing running back Darren McFadden and kicker Mike Nugent, and adding free-agent defensive lineman Datone Jones and running back Trey Williams from the practice squad.
But that won't be it.
"We certainly want to create some competition on our team," Garrett said.
McFadden was inactive the past two games, despite the fact that Elliott has been serving his suspension and the Cowboys spent the offseason preparing McFadden to be their starting back, if not part of a rotation, once discipline for Elliott was finalized through various legal battles.
McFadden was inactive for the first eight games of the season, then played just one snap in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons, losing 2 yards on his lone carry. He was inactive for losses to the Eagles and Chargers as the Cowboys opted to go with just two tailbacks, Alfred Morris and Rod Smith, to replace Elliott.
Last week, McFadden said he was "surprised as hell" that he was inactive against the Eagles. He said the situation has been frustrating and he would use the offseason to decide whether he wants to continue to play.
McFadden subsequently announced his retirement. McFadden posted on Twitter on Tuesday that he made the decision "not with sadness or without further opportunity, but with a couple of days to reflect on how I feel and where I am at this stage in life. ..."
Nugent had signed with them when kicker Dan Bailey was sidelined with a groin injury. Bailey returned to kick Thursday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Meanwhile, as NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich pointed out, Smith and Morris each logged nine carries against Los Angeles, but Smith was the Dallas back who found the end zone. He totaled 48 yards from scrimmage while Morris had 49.
Franciscovich added: "It will be hard to trust either back next week against the Redskins, but if you're rolling the dice, Morris provides volume upside while Smith is more of a risky flex type."
Also. ... Dez Bryant has not had a 100-yard receiving game all season. He had just three catches for 37 yards against the Chargers.
On the injury front. ... The Cowboys listed right guard Zack Martin as questionable to play on Thursday night, but it seems his status could be closer to probable.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Martin has been cleared from the concussion protocol. He was injured against the Chargers.
Martin has never missed a game since the Cowboys drafted him with the 16th overall pick of the 2014 draft. Wednesday’s clearance should keep that streak intact against the Redskins.
Two other Cowboys offensive linemen are listed as questionable. Smith and right tackle La'el Collins both played in last week’s loss after drawing the same designation. Collins (back) did not practice Wednesday while Smith (back/groin) and wide receiver Ryan Switzer (ankle) were both limited. ...
And finally. ... Jason Witten broke the record for most receiving yards on Thanksgiving on a four-yard reception against the Los Angeles Chargers late in the second quarter. Witten entered the day having played 14 Thanksgiving games and recording 809 receiving yards, just 25 yards behind the Detroit Lions' Herman Moore, who had 834 receiving yards in 10 games.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Alfred Morris, Rod Smith
WRs: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson, Allen Hurns, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown
TEs: Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
The Broncos emerged from their latest loss in need of yet another change at quarterback, the prospect of the longest starting streak among D-linemen coming to a halt, losing one of their defensive tone-setters to a neck injury and a top cornerback facing possible punishment from the league -- but not his coach -- for fighting.
Trevor Siemian emerged from the revolving door of Broncos quarterbacks as the starter again following Paxton Lynch's dismal 2017 debut that ended with him in a walking boot and crying on the sideline.
Head coach Vance Joseph said Lynch will miss two to four weeks with a high right ankle sprain he sustained Sunday in Denver's 21-14 loss at Oakland.
So, Siemian gets his starting job back Sunday when the Broncos (3-8) visit the Miami Dolphins (4-7).
Nose tackle Domata Peko is facing the prospect of missing a game for the first time since 2009. His 123-game streak is in jeopardy because of a sprained left MCL that Joseph said will sideline him a week or two.
"That's for normal people," said Peko, holding out hope because he's a fast healer. "I'm doing everything I can. I'm going straight from here to the doctor's office to get some rehab going."
The Broncos were waiting on MRI results after defensive end Derek Wolfe left the game with a neck injury.
"Our concern is for his health and well-being. If it's not right, we'll shut him down," Joseph said. "We're going to be smart with that being a neck."
Cornerback Aqib Talib won't face discipline from Joseph after his fight with Michael Crabtree got him ejected after playing just five snaps, but the league jumped in with a two-game suspension. Talib is appealing the punishment.
Joseph said he'd prefer his players walk away from altercations but understands once punches are thrown, "you can't blame a man for defending himself."
Talib's replacement, rookie Brendan Langley, surrendered a touchdown pass and a critical third-down completion that kept Denver from getting a shot at tying the game.
"It obviously hurt us down the stretch," Joseph said.
Talib watched the game from the visitor's locker room.
"We definitely had a chance at the end," Talib said. "Things didn't go our way at the end. That's kind of been the story of our season."
Along with the quarterback carousel.
Lynch was promoted to starter last week after Brock Osweiler threw too many incompletions in relief of Siemian, who threw too many interceptions.
He took all the starters' snaps with new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in charge but his debut lasted just three quarters before he retreated to the sideline with his second significant injury of the season and having thrown for just 41 yards. He cried on the bench a week after running back C.J. Anderson sobbed in the locker room following his fourth-quarter fumble that led to a loss to the Bengals.
Lynch said he rolled his ankle earlier in the game, possibly on one of the two sacks he took on the team's first possession of the second half. He stayed in but pulled up on the next drive after throwing a third-down pass to Demaryius Thomas.
"I can't remember the exact play, but I think somebody rolled up on it," Lynch said. "I didn't think anything of it. A couple of plays throughout the game it kept bothering me, but I just thought I could keep playing, keep playing, keep playing, and then that play got to the point where it started to scare me a little bit."
The former first-round draft pick threw an end zone interception early on and in Joseph's words, "it went downhill for him after that," with four sacks, a paltry passer rating of 38.4, by far the worst among his three NFL starts, and yet another injury to go with the sprained throwing shoulder that sidelined him for the first two months.
The Broncos trailed 21-0 when Siemian replaced him.
Siemian, who was inactive two weeks ago and didn't take any snaps with the starters as the backup last week, completed 11 of 21 passes for 149 yards, two TDs and a 107.0 passer rating.
"That speaks to Trevor as a person to bounce back through adversity and come back and play a decent football game in the fourth quarter for us," Joseph said. "I was excited to watch him go on two long drives and give us two touchdowns."
With his team mired in its longest skid in a half century, Joseph demurred when asked if he feels he's on the hot seat himself.
"It's pressure every week whether you're a coordinator or a head coach. It's not different. You want to win the football games and we haven't done that," Joseph said. "The pressure is accurate. I understand that and it's expected when you're not winning football games. I'm OK with that."
For what it's worth, Denver needed a consistent ground attack to take the pressure off Lynch and never found it. Lynch accounted for the Broncos' two longest runs of the day carries of 11 and 9 yards as the Broncos finished with just 3.5 yards per carry on 17 attempts.
Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles combined for just 26 yards on 12 attempts.
Booker's eight touches led the way, but he only totaled 33 yards from scrimmage. Anderson recorded 12 yards on five rush attempts. Things could improve against the Dolphins this week, but fantasy owners would be wise to avoid all three backs if at all possible. ...
Thomas (eight) and Emmanuel Sanders (six) led the team in targets, but Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler were the wideouts catching touchdown passes. It was Latimer's first touchdown reception since Nov. 22, 2014, at Chicago.
QBs: Case Keenum, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly
RBs: Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor
TEs: Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein noted, Golden Tate was streaking down the field, having beaten his man on a deep route. Matthew Stafford let the ball go. So often over the past two seasons, this connection would have been completed.
The Lions would have scored. Another improbable comeback might have taken place. But the throw was off. Way off. Sailed almost 10 yards in front of Tate. The next play, Stafford was intercepted by Xavier Rhodes off a tipped ball. The offense's last chance to pull out a surprising win was foiled.
Last Thursday was that type of day for Stafford, the heartbeat of the Detroit offense.
Not surprising that, as the quarterback, everything goes through him. On days where he's on or able to find a rhythm, few quarterbacks in the league are better. On days he isn't, like in the 30-23 loss to Minnesota that all but eliminated the Lions' division title hopes, it becomes a problem.
The throw to Tate at the end was just the most obvious example. Stafford said his day had a few of them.
"That one's there. A couple to [Darren Fells] in the red zone," Stafford said of the misses. "It wasn't just that last drive. There were a couple throughout the day where we ended up getting threes that could have been sevens, and if they are sevens, we are sitting in a better place at the end of the game."
That's been a problem for the Lions at points throughout the year -- finishing off drives, scoring touchdowns instead of leaving it on the reliable foot of Matt Prater. And on games where Stafford is pinpoint accurate and upright, the Lions typically get enough scoring chances to win games.
But on days where he struggles -- and he was missing throws prior to the ankle injury he suffered on a great throw to Marvin Jones in double coverage that resulted in a touchdown, the offense doesn't have much else to rely on with a sub-par run game.
And as Rothstein pointed out, there wasn't anything specific Minnesota was doing to Stafford -- other than being the aggressive Vikings defense that has consistently hit Stafford over the past four seasons facing them -- that was causing Stafford's issues. At least until the ankle injury.
"Obviously that's a good football team we're facing," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "It's not like we're playing against air, so they give you some problems. But no, nothing out of the ordinary."
Rothstein added the Lions saw some of the best and worst of Stafford in this one.
The worst in those off-target passes that could have been completions and drive-extenders, passes that over the past three seasons he's typically completed. It resulted in his worst completion percentage since Week 6 in New Orleans, where the Lions' offense struggled until they were being blown out.
The best in that throw to Jones and his ability to stay in the game after the ankle injury. That showed his toughness, and it's a quality that has earned him respect within the Lions' locker room. They know he's going to do whatever he can to stay in the game, to find his receivers, to push through whatever pain he may have.
The Lions are at the point now where they believe if Stafford is on the field, injured or healthy, limping or running, he's going to be the quarterback they have come to rely on. But Stafford was 3-of-6 for 7 yards and an interception over Detroit's final two drives of the game after going 17-of-29 for 243 yards and two touchdowns before the injury.
The bottom line? When Stafford is struggling offensively, the Lions don't have much else to go on to win.
"Didn't play well enough to win it," Stafford said. "Left too many points out there. Missed a couple throws here and there that probably could have changed the game.
"So never fun to have that happen. ..."
For what it's worth, during a Monday appearance on WJR-AM, Stafford said his ankle was "feeling better" and that he didn't expect to miss any more time because of the injury.
"Obviously stuck around in town this weekend, got a bunch of treatment on it. We'll see," Stafford said. "[Caldwell] will put out that report on Wednesday or whatever it is for practice and all that kind of stuff, but it's getting better and hopefully it'll continue to get better."
Stafford's known as one of the most durable quarterbacks (he hasn't missed a game since 2010, when he needed shoulder surgery), and if he's able to practice this week, it shouldn't be a surprise to see him play Sunday against the Ravens.
For the record, Stafford and Dwayne Washington (hip) worked fully on Wednesday; Ameer Abdullah (neck) was held out.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Worth noting. ... The Lions don't face another team with a winning record all season, but three of their final five games are on the road and at least one, a Christmas Eve trip to Cincinnati, will be played in cold weather. Of more immediate concern is the Ravens defense they'll face in Baltimore this weekend. ...
Also of interest. ... Stafford threw for 250 yards to pass Peyton Manning for the most yards by a quarterback before the age of 30 in NFL history. Stafford, who turns 30 on Feb. 7, now has 33,313 yards passing.
Jones had one of his better days as a Lion with six catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Despite seeing plenty of Xavier Rhodes on Thursday, Jones benefited from a team-high nine targets. In addition, Tate got back on track in the volume department with right targets, but the production still was not there. He only managed to haul in short passes, bringing down four for just seven yards.
Both remain worthy fantasy starts on a weekly basis.
Kenny Golladay caught two passes for gains of 20 and 41 yards, but tight end Darren Fells couldn't hang onto two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the Lions have no real running game to speak of, and they barely even tried to run the ball Thursday. Tate had the team's biggest gain of 10 yards, while running backs Abdullah and Theo Riddick combined for just 34 yards on 11 carries.
As the Sports Xchange notes, Abdullah and Stafford fumbled a handoff, and Corey Robinson, who was pressed into duty at left guard after center Travis Swanson left with a knee injury, looked ill-equipped to play from his very first snap. Fantasy owners investing in this rushing attack are well aware of the minimal upside.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock, Matt Cassel
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Tion Green, Zach Zenner
WRs: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Jared Abbrederis, TJ Jones
TEs: Luke Willson, Michael Roberts, Levine Toilolo
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
The math is not in the Green Bay Packers' favor when it comes to extending the team's streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances.
And a possible return by star quarterback Aaron Rodgers may not even help.
In the wake of Sunday night's last-second, 31-28 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers returned to work Monday at 5-6.
Eight teams in the NFC have better records, and three more (Dallas, Arizona and Washington) have the same record. That leaves Green Bay two games out of the final wild card spot and likely needing to win its final five games, starting this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to have reason for hope.
The Packers were 4-1 when Rodgers broke his collarbone early in a 23-10 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 15. They've now lost five of their last six, leaving little to no margin for error.
"Six losses. I mean, it is what it is," McCarthy said Monday evening. "You can sit there and you can jump around and look at schedules and all that. I'm sure that's fun for the fans (to look at) all the potential scenarios and all that. But at the end of the day, if you don't get to 10 wins, to me there's nothing else to talk about. We're at five. We've got to get to six, and that's what really it's all about."
That would mean winning the next two games without Rodgers, who was placed on injured reserve Oct. 20. According to NFL rules, he could return to practice as early as Saturday, and the first game he'd be eligible to play in would be Dec. 17 at Carolina once the Packers designate him for possible return.
Rodgers threw passes before Sunday night's game at Heinz Field but has yet to have an X-ray on this surgically repaired collarbone to see how much it has healed. Rodgers said last month that he would return only if the bone was fully healed and if it "made sense" for him to come back, meaning the Packers were still in playoff contention.
Asked whether Rodgers would practice Saturday, McCarthy replied, "We'll see. ... The A-No. 1 priority is to get him healthy. Practice is not something we're really focused on right now."
McCarthy called Rodgers' appearance at Heinz Field "a great opportunity" to get some work in and take another step in his rehabilitation.
"Everything that they're doing is calculated between the training (staff), the strength and conditioning (staff) and Aaron. As you would imagine, he's going at it 120 miles an hour," McCarthy said. "And so far, so good.
"There's a plan laid out for Aaron, just like the other guys on IR. ... We'll see what the end of the week brings."
In the meantime, Brett Hundley will continue to start.
And surprisingly, Hundley's performance -- 17-of-26 passing for 245 yards and three touchdowns (one more than he had in his previous six games combined this season) for a passer rating of 134.3 -- was perhaps the best thing the Packers could take away from the loss in Pittsburgh.
Although Hundley's record dropped to 1-6 in games he's finished since Rodgers was hurt in Week 6, there was more to like in this game than even in his lone victory over the hapless Chicago Bears.
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky notes, Hundley went throw for throw with Ben Roethlisberger, whose passer rating was nearly 30 points lower than that of the Packers' neophyte quarterback. That it came after Hundley's worst showing -- the four-turnover disaster in last week's shutout loss to the Baltimore Ravens -- made it even more convincing.
"Offense scored 28 points against an 8-2 team," defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. "Hundley had himself a phenomenal day. The O-line blocked. They ran the ball well. They caught everything. We just have to make sure we're where we're supposed to be every play on our side of the ball.
"He played lights out. He played lights out."
For the first time since he took over, Hundley threw a touchdown pass to someone other than Davante Adams. Hundley found a wide-open Randall Cobb for a 39-yard touchdown in the first quarter, then set up a screen to Jamaal Williams for a 54-yard catch-and-run score later in the first. And, of course, he went back to his favorite target on Adams' 55-yard stutter-and-go touchdown in the third quarter.
But perhaps Hundley's most impressive showing came after the Steelers took a 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter. He led a 12-play, 77-yard game-tying drive during which he completed passes to four different receivers, including a fourth-and-6 conversation to Jordy Nelson and a short throw to Nelson on third-and-1 that saw the receiver reach for a much-needed first down.
"He played great," Nelson said of Hundley. "He made plays. The game doesn't get too big for him. He's doing a great job, especially handling everything he's handling."
Still, Hundley needs to prove he can win on a consistent basis.
"He doesn't need to prove anything to me, but he's been working," Nelson said. "We know he can make the throws. It's us on the outside trying to make the plays for him, giving him protection and just playing football, doing our jobs. Nothing too crazy. It's just playing simple football and making plays."
Sunday night was a step in the right direction -- and one that is of interest to fantasy owners. But Hundley knows his next step is not only to play well, but to begin winning more games.
One last note here. ... Williams had just 66 rushing yards on 21 carries (3.1 average), but did have a rushing and receiving touchdown. With Aaron Jones (knee) expected to miss at least one more week and with Ty Montgomery's status uncertain due to his latest rib injury, Williams remains locked in as the team's primary back. And as we saw in Pittsburgh, that's worth something.
For the record, neither Montgomery nor Jones practiced Wednesday; I'll continue to follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays, Ty Montgomery
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
For most of the season, the Texans have been able to hold their heads above water, doing just enough to stay in the playoff race in the struggling AFC.
Houston overcame season-ending injuries to star rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus and rookie running back D'Onta Foreman. But even though the Texans, like all NFL teams, repeat the "next man up" mantra after every defeat, it was evident in their 23-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens that the injury woes are becoming too much to overcome.
A week ago, quarterback Tom Savage played the best game of his NFL career, throwing two touchdowns in the Texans' victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Later in the week, the quarterback stressed the importance of doing it again and stacking good games.
On Monday night, Savage struggled, going 21-of-37 for 252 yards with two interceptions and a fumble. Five plays after the first of his two interceptions, the Ravens took the lead for good in the second quarter.
"I'm really frustrated, to be honest with you," Savage said. "There's really no words for it. I don't want to go out there and throw picks. It's not my goal in those games. I'm going out there and trying to make a play.
"It's called the NFL. You're not going to win games turning the ball over."
Savage now has 12 turnovers this season, with seven lost fumbles and five interceptions, and the Texans are minus-eight in the giveaway/takeaway category.
"He can't turn it over," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "I thought he did some good things, but we turned it over too many times on offense.
"You're not going to win any games when you turn it over and you don't get any takeaways. You're not going to win any games."
Still, O'Brien said he is not considering a quarterback change. ... Unless Savage doesn't stop turning over the ball.
"No, not right now," O'Brien said Tuesday.
O'Brien added a "but" to his answer, saying Savage can't keep killing the Texans with his giveaways.
"It has to get corrected, because if not, we're going to have to go in a different direction," O'Brien said. "We're going to sit down and study it and try to make the correction."
O'Brien didn't mince words. He called Savage's two interceptions "poor decisions" and said wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, whom Savage targeted 10 times, should have had 20 targets. The Ravens couldn't stop Hopkins, who had seven catches for 125 yards.
The receiver had seven catches for 125 yards on a team-leading 10 targets, and he drew another three pass-interference penalties totaling 50 yards. In Monday's loss, Hopkins had his fourth game this season with at least 100 receiving yards.
"[Hopkins is] a great player," O'Brien said. "He was battling. He was a playmaker, and he's a great competitor."
Monday's loss was the Texans' first game since Foreman tore his Achilles, and in his place, running back Alfred Blue ran for 15 yards on eight carries. Foreman had the best game of his young career before getting injured, scoring his first two NFL touchdowns.
Savage -- and seven Baltimore penalties for 89 yards -- got the Texans down the field several times, but the Texans were 1-of-4 in the red zone, settling for field goals on three drives that got to the Baltimore 7, 13 and 13.
"You can't kick field goals down there," O'Brien said. "We've got to score touchdowns. We've got to do a better job [in the red zone]."
At 4-7 after the loss, the Texans are looking at a long road to the playoffs, with two 6-5 teams and three 5-6 teams likely competing for the final AFC wild-card spot.
For the record. ... T.J. Yates signed as Savage's backup Oct. 28 after Deshaun Watson went on injured reserve. Yates went 4-3 in his seven starts in two different stints with the Texans, his only career starts.
Other notes of interest. ... The Texans rushed for only 66 yards on 25 carries, including 51 yards for starter Lamar Miller. Foreman's presence was missed in the lineup.
Will Fuller (cracked ribs) missed the game and is a question mark for the next game.
And finally. ... Middle linebacker Brian Cushing returned to NRG Stadium on Tuesday as his 10-game suspension for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy ended.
The Texans were granted a one-week roster exemption that expires Dec. 4. He can be activated at any time.
Whether he will return to play this week is still being determined. The former Pro-Bowl selection and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year is in outstanding shape and fully healthy, according to the Sports Xchange.
Cushing met O'Brien on Tuesday. O'Brien suggested that the Texans are in no rush to get Cushing back on the field and will evaluate his conditioning levels and readiness to play again.
QBs: T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Andre Ellington, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, DeAndrew White
TEs: Stephen Anderson, Evan Baylis, MyCole Pruitt
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells noted this week, despite having 10 straight games with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, the Colts lack both an identity and consistent players on offense. An argument could be made the offense has regressed in recent weeks after looking like it was coming along. The issue has been in the second half of games.
The Colts have found a way to get away with their flaws in the first half of many of their games. It's in the second half when their opponents have made adjustments and figured out ways to stop them.
After Sunday's 20-16 loss to the Titans, the Colts have lost five games in which they have led in the fourth quarter this season. They've lost six games when they've led in the second half.
"I don't have a word for it," Colts tight end Jack Doyle said. "It's tough. Just stinks."
The Colts are ranked 31st in the NFL in second-half total offense (135.2) and points (6.7) and they're dead last in the league in red zone efficiency over the final 30 minutes of the game, according to ESPN Stats and Information. In the first half, they're 20th in yards and red zone efficiency and 17th in points.
Indianapolis, which is 3-8, has been outscored 182-71 in the second half of games this season.
Brissett isn't running away from the possibility he's a culprit.
"Just focusing towards the end of the game and just taking care of our job, just staying on course with what we've been doing the whole game," Brissett said. "We kind of get away from ourselves a little bit. We panic, but I've got to do a better job of calming everybody down."
Brissett also has to make quicker decisions with the ball because too often he's holding it too long, which in turn leads to a higher number of sacks. You can argue that half of Tennessee's eight sacks on Sunday were due to Brissett's poor decision-making.
"You understand, as a quarterback, I've got to be able to step up and be that leader," Brissett said.
Indeed, the biggest problem against the Titans was the inability of the Indianapolis offense to take advantage of its opportunities, especially in the red zone.
"It's killing us. You're one out of four. You've got opportunities. You've got to score. You've got to score touchdowns in this league. You've got to put touchdowns on the board. (You) let people hang around and (you) see what happens," head coach Chuck Pagano conceded.
Pagano said Monday that he and his coaching staff are trying to come up with a common denominator for why the Colts can't finish out games.
"I'm sick for these players and the coaches and the fans. It just rips your guts out to see the guys have to go through this. But you come back in and you go to work," he voiced.
His trust in Brissett remains solid despite the team's 3-8 record.
"Love the dude. He gives you a chance," Pagano said, adding that all of the sacks (47) given up by his offense are due to mistakes in several areas.
"Spread the wealth. It's all 11 guys (on offense). Got to do their job. ..."
Indeed, as Wells suggested, the easy response would be to say that things will be back to normal for the Colts once Andrew Luck returns next season. But it's not that simple for them anymore. Not only does Luck need to get back from his shoulder injury, the Colts need better talent around him because they can't rely on him to carry the franchise.
So much emphasis has been put on general manager Chris Ballard's desire to improve the team's defense that the offense, minus the offensive line, has been overlooked in this process when the reality is that group needs some improvement too.
Wells went on to point out the smart teams are taking receiver T.Y. Hilton out of the game (the Titans held him to 15 yards on two catches), leaving the mixture of Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers and Kamar Aiken to pick up the slack at receiver. There's been more failure than success out of those three.
"Flashes won't cut it," Wells wrote. "Consistency is what's needed."
Doyle was the only player to have more than three receptions against the Titans. He finished with 94 yards after catching seven of eight targets. It was a bounce back from a poor showing against Pittsburgh the week before. But as NFL.com's Matt Harmon reminded readers, prior to that game, Doyle had target totals of 11, seven, 14 and nine.
Harmon added, "[Doyle] remains a steady presence at the ever-rocky tight end position. ..."
As for the rushing attack. ... The Colts have constantly struggled to establish a running game. It won't be surprising if finding some running backs, especially with Frank Gore being 34 years old, is also on Ballard's offseason to-do list.
What about Marlon Mack?
On Sunday, Mack had to take advantage of the snaps he was given to show that he can be the Colts' primary running back as soon as next season. But his inability to handle the ball cost the Colts -- and likely his chances -- at a time in the second half when they had an opportunity to extend their lead over the Titans.
The Titans turned Mack's mistake into a touchdown and erased what was at the time a 10-point deficit.
"It's definitely a hard pill to swallow, going out there and messing up you definitely feel like it's on you," Mack said. "So it's definitely a hard pill to swallow."
Mack became Gore's primary backup when veteran Robert Turbin was lost for the season with an elbow injury in Week 6. If Mack, a rookie out of the University of South Florida, could take full advantage of the opportunity, he'd be in position to replace the 34-year-old Gore next season.
That means he must block on passing downs, not turn the ball over and learn how to run in between the tackles. But all those things continue to be an issue for Mack, which makes his ability to be a primary back a question mark.
"I'm just trying to finish the season and trying to do the best I can do out there," Mack said. "
Meanwhile, from a fantasy perspective, Gore continues to grind away. He finished with 62 yards and a touchdown against the Titans, marking his highest-scoring fantasy outing of the 2017 season. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich pointed out, Gore has received no fewer than 16 carries in each of his last four games and will be a volume play this week against the Jaguars. ...
Tight end Darrell Daniels (hamstring) was a pregame inactive against the Titans. Daniels did not practice last week. He remains listed as day-to-day.
And finally. ... The Colts claimed tight end Ross Travis off waivers from the Chiefs and waived wide receiver Matt Hazel.
Travis, 25, signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He spent his first season on the practice squad before making the 53-player roster in 2016 and 2017.
He has played in 17 career games, with eight receptions for 58 yards. That includes five catches for 43 yards this season.
The Chiefs waived him Monday.
Hazel has spent time on the Colts' active roster and practice squad this season. Indianapolis claimed him off waivers from Washington on September 3. He played in three games this season, catching one pass for one yard. Hazel has appeared in eight career games in his time with Indianapolis (2017), Washington (2016), Buffalo (2016) and Miami (2014-15).
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien
RBs: Marlon Mack, Christine Michael, Matt Jones, Robert Turbin
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken
TEs: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Ross Travis, Jason Vander Laan
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco framed it, "The Jacksonville Jaguars defense is arguably the NFL's best, but it will take more than that to reach the playoffs. The offense -- and especially quarterback Blake Bortles -- needs to start carrying more of the load.
"Scoring one or two touchdowns a week isn't good enough. Neither is what Bortles has done when the Jaguars needed him most. ..."
For example, the Jaguars managed two offensive touchdowns in Sunday's 27-24 loss to Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium, but that's significantly better than what it had done the three previous weeks. One offensive touchdown against Cincinnati, San Diego, and Cleveland. The Jaguars scored two on special teams and one on defense over that same span.
When the other two areas of the team are matching you touchdown for touchdown, it's a major problem.
The Jaguars (6-4) managed just 219 yards. That's one week after they totaled just 184 against the Browns.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars looked like anything but the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing team on Sunday against the Cardinals. When a team's quarterback is the leading rusher and is the furthest thing from a Michael Vick clone, you know something is wrong.
Such was the case with the Jaguars who had Bortles account for 62 of the team's 91 rushing yards. Granted, Bortles looked good in turning in 28- and 17-yard runs, the latter finishing in the end zone, one of two rushing TDs by Bortles. The yards on the ground by Bortles were not part of the game plan, but it may be incorporated going forward.
"It wasn't a big part of the plan coming in," Bortles said. "But we saw how they were playing us early and it became a big part of our run game. We were able to do some stuff and we did a good job of blocking it up and making some plays."
Too bad that last statement didn't apply when Jaguars running backs had their chance. There were few if any sizeable holes for the backs however as evidenced by the combined 29 yards in 16 attempts by the Jaguars three running backs. As Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said afterward, "It's not Blake's job to be a running back."
Leonard Fournette, who had 111 yards rushing against the Browns, gained just 25 on 12 carries against Arizona.
Running back T.J. Yeldon, who appears to have surpassed Chris Ivory for the backup spot behind Fournette, gained 10 yards on three carries.
"We lead the league in rushing. For Blake to be the leading rusher, that's something we got to work on, look at the film and get corrections," Yeldon said.
What's even more concerning is Bortles' inability to get it done when the game is on the line.
Bortles hit on less than 60 percent of his passes for less than 200 yards, no touchdowns and one very costly interception that led to Arizona kicking the winning field goal. That came two weeks after he threw two interceptions in the final minute of regulation before the Jaguars were able to pull out an overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Bortles was under pressure from the Cardinals defensive front all game that led to three sacks, the second time in three games he's been dropped that many times.
Marqise Lee's dropped ball with 33 seconds remaining enabled Arizona to save its last timeout for the next play. Had Lee caught the ball, the Jaguars could have run the clock out and forced overtime.
The Jaguars are dealing with injuries to key players. Receiver Allen Robinson (torn ACL) is out for the season. Wide receiver Allen Hurns (ankle) has missed two games and likely will miss more (he was not on the practice field Wednesday). Right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee) and left guard Patrick Omameh (quad) have missed the past two games and it's unclear when they may return.
Those are significant losses, but every team is dealing with injuries at this point in the season. Winning in the NFL, especially late in the season, is as much about overcoming injuries as it is playmakers. That's what the Jaguars are facing now, and as coach Doug Marrone has said repeatedly, nobody will feel sorry for them because they've got guys hurt.
The Jaguars are still tied for the lead in the AFC South, but Bortles and the rest of the offense need to start producing -- a distinct possibility going up against the Colts this week. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Lee, who leads the team in receptions (now with 44) for 551 yards, was targeted just twice and had one catch for 13 yards in Sunday's game while going up against Cardinals shutdown corner Patrick Peterson. As noted above, the other ball sent his way was a critical drop. ...
Rookie receiver Dede Westbrook saw his most extensive action since being activated from injured reserve a week earlier, as he caught six of the 10 passes sent his way for a total of 41 yards. He still played as the third receiver behind Lee and Keelan Cole but NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes that Westbrook was on the field for 74 percent of the plays. "At some point," Harmon added, "this speedster will hit a big play. ..."
RB/KR Corey Grant had a 68-yard kickoff return (a career best) and now has three plays of 50 yards or more this season. Grant has run 58 and 56 yards from punt formation this year.
Josh Lambo converted on his 10th field goal in 11 tries since joining the Jaguars prior to Week 6. His latest conversion was from 43 yards.
QBs: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Brandon Allen
RBs: Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant
WRs: Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Max McCaffrey, Jaelen Strong, Marqise Lee
TEs: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ben Koyack, Niles Paul
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
Tyreek Hill thought everything was back to normal after a midseason swoon when the second-year wide receiver saw the Chiefs dancing and prancing through practice this week.
Alex Smith thought the same thing the way his team responded to an ugly loss to the Giants.
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta notes, they were both dreadfully wrong.
Now, the same Chiefs team that beat the Patriots and Eagles on the way to a 5-0 start, and that just six weeks ago was considered a Super Bowl contender, has dropped five of its past six games.
And with the Los Angeles Chargers getting hot, the Chiefs' lead in the AFC West has been trimmed to one game.
"Yeah, a little frustrated," said Smith, whose interception to Tre'Davious White with about a minute left Sunday sealed a 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills that was every bit as ugly as the rest.
"Everyone is trying to figure out and do their job," Smith said. "Help get us going."
Problem is nobody seems to know where to start.
Smith began the season throwing 18 touchdown passes without a pick, but has since thrown four picks and only one touchdown pass.
Kareem Hunt was the league's top rusher for several weeks, but was held to just 17 yards on 11 carries by the Bills, including zero yards before contact. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Hunt has been held to fewer than 50 rushing yards before contact in each of his last seven games after gaining more than 50 in each of his first four games this season.
And a group of wide receivers missing Chris Conley to a season-ending injury has looked abysmal against mediocre defenses.
Even star tight end Travis Kelce, the one sure thing in the Chiefs' offense lately, only had three catches for 39 yards against Buffalo -- dropping a ball along the way.
"Listen," head coach Andy Reid said, "Everybody's got a piece."
Especially the coaching staff.
The Chiefs were creative and exciting and nearly unstoppable through the first five games, getting the ball to their playmakers in unique ways. They utilized Hunt in the open field, threw Hill the ball in space and scored at a rate that fans in Kansas City were unaccustomed to seeing.
Reid was living up to his reputation as a "quarterback whisperer," and young offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was making everybody forget about his predecessor, current Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
But that midseason swoon has turned out to be an epic collapse, and the Chiefs are now faced with a trip to the New York Jets on Sunday that could be crucial to turning their season back around.
"We have to go back to working on those small little things, you know? Continue to bring energy," Hill said, sitting in front of his locker. "I think the defense is going to continue to play great. We just have to use the defense's energy to fuel us."
The defense tried to pick up the Chiefs' popgun offense on Sunday, holding LeSean McCoy to 49 yards rushing and the Bills to 268 yards total.
But even that performance, stingy as it was, left something to be desired: The Chiefs didn't force a turnover that could have given them some momentum.
Meanwhile, it should come as no surprise that the calls for Patrick Mahomes to take over for Smith at quarterback are on the rise.
Smith was 23-of-36 for 199 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. But the interception to close out the day was the play on everybody's mind afterward.
Still, Reid said after Sunday's loss that he wasn't thinking about making a quarterback change heading into Week 13.
A night's sleep and a chance to review the latest tape didn't do anything to change his mind.
Reid said at a Monday press conference that Smith "is my guy" and said that the problems with the offense can't be solved by making a change at one position.
"Without getting philosophical, and I'm not sitting here with a crystal ball or projecting things like that, that's not how I roll," Reid said. "We've all got a responsibility to do our job at all positions, starting with me, and that's not getting done the right way. Right? It's not one guy, and that has to be understood. It's not one person. We've all got to pull together as a football team, in this case, an offensive football team, right now, and get that taken care of as a team. Not one guy. And that's about as clear as I can be."
Reid said the Bills "brought five, played zone behind them and pressed on the outside" during Sunday's game and that the team has to do a better job of beating that kind of defense. The best way to do that is going to come via the air, something the Chiefs were able to do in the early weeks of the season far more often than they have while losing five of their last six games.
Plenty of people doubt Smith will be able to do that, but Reid is either not one of them or unconvinced that Mahomes will fare any better.
But could he fare any worse?
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher noted, the Chiefs haven't had the lead in either of their past two games, one against an opponent that had allowed 82 points in its previous two games (Giants) and another that had lost its previous two by 67 points (Bills).
The Chiefs even had more than eight minutes of bonus time in overtime to claim a lead against the Giants. The Chiefs led for 5:37 in their previous game against the Cowboys. They had the lead for more than 50 minutes in three of their six victories.
The Chiefs have one touchdown in their past nine quarters, that coming in Sunday's loss to the Bills. This doesn't even count a partial quarter of overtime against the Giants. The Chiefs scored 11 touchdowns in their first nine quarters of the season.
The Chiefs had six drives consisting of three plays and a punt on Sunday against the Bills, including their first five possessions.
The Chiefs had a four game-stretch earlier in the season -- including wins against the Eagles, Chargers, Redskins and Texans -- in which they had a total of five three-and-outs.
The question now is how fantasy owners handle the team's top skill players heading into this week's game against the Jets?
While the volume is still decent enough for Hunt, the production obviously is not. In addition, Hunt found himself on the bench during the team's final drive in favor of backup Charcandrick West, who seems to be more trusted in the passing attack. Consider Hunt a flex play at best until he proves otherwise.
Hill is still being heavily targeted, but the overall lack of big play by the offense are an issue for him as well as Kelce. That said, most fantasy owners will struggle to find options that are bigger parts of better offenses. Consider that when making line-up decisions involving either. ...
A few final notes. ... Receiver Albert Wilson played 79 percent of the team's offensive snaps in his return from a sprained knee. Wilson caught three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.
According to the Sports Xchange, tight end Ross Travis found himself on the waiver wire Monday. Travis recorded five catches for 43 yards with a fumble and a dropped pass. The move leaves the Chiefs with two tight ends on the active roster, Kelce and backup Demetrius Harris.
And finally. ... Cornerback Darrelle Revis appears likely to make his Chiefs debut next week against his former teammates, the Jets. Reid said Revis moved around well during his two days of practice with the team last week.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Tyler Bray
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, Kerwynn Williams, Damien Williams, Akeem Hunt
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, De'Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon reminded readers, Keenan Allen looked a little overweight to new head coach Anthony Lynn coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for all but one game in 2016.
The fifth-year receiver didn't look heavy to the five Dallas defenders he evaded on a nifty catch-and-run touchdown that helped the Chargers boost their playoff hopes in a 28-6 victory over the Cowboys last Thursday.
Now Allen can start looking at a career best in yards receiving for a season after getting his most in a game -- 172 including that 42-yard score. He also had 11 catches a week after getting 12 grabs for 159 yards and two touchdowns in a 54-24 victory over Buffalo.
Allen, who had career highs of 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, is at 927 yards with four scores after getting two of the three highest yardage totals of his career in consecutive weeks.
For those without calculators sitting in front of them. Allen, in his last two games, has hauled in 23 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
"I felt Keenan's been good all along," Lynn said after Allen's fourth 100-yard game of the season. "He's got his weight down, he's catching balls, run after catch is good. The more reps you get, sometimes the better you get. I've been impressed with Keenan coming out of the gate."
On the third-quarter touchdown, Allen caught a pass along the sideline, escaped cornerback Orlando Scandrick's arms and made safety Jeff Heath miss. After slipping between safeties Xavier Woods and Byron Jones, Allen cut inside cornerback Anthony Brown to put the Chargers up 22-6.
"I used to be a running back," said Allen, who has back-to-back 100-yard games for the fourth time in his career. "I had to get up the field really fast. After that, it was a matter of making those guys miss."
Allen's big day in Dallas came as Philip Rivers had his ninth career 400-yard game, throwing for 434 yards and three touchdowns in his first Thanksgiving appearance in his 14th season. The 434-yard effort was the fourth-best of his career. It was the third game he had thrown for plus-400 yards and three touchdowns.
Rivers became just the second QB in NFL history to throw for 400 yards on the road on Thanksgiving. He improved his career record to 3-0 against the Cowboys. The only active QB with a better record against Dallas is Tom Brady (4-0).
Rivers was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.
The Chargers didn't punt against the Cowboys and gained more than 500 yards for the first time since Oct. 18, 2015.
For what it's worth, the rest of the season sets up nicely for the Chargers, starting with the winless Cleveland Browns visiting the StubHub Center this Sunday. Los Angeles is smack dab in the middle of AFC wild-card conversation.
"I think it's fitting today to be thankful we're still right there," Rivers said. "Each game is going to be bigger and bigger. It will be a fun December if we do what we're supposed to do the next few weeks."
Meanwhile, a potentially season-ending ACL right knee injury was ruled out for rookie receiver Mike Williams, Lynn said.
As of right now, I've just been told ACL has definitely been ruled out, which was very good news to me," Lynn said last Friday. "I think we can deal with the rest, and a lot of it may depend on pain tolerance as well."
Williams left Thursday's game against the Dallas Cowboys on a cart in the first quarter with a knee injury and missed the remainder of his team's 28-6 win.
Williams was a limited participant in practice all week because of the knee injury and moved gingerly during pregame warm-ups. Williams was seen leaving the locker room on crutches after the game with a brace on his right leg.
Selected No. 7 overall in this year's draft, Williams missed offseason work and training camp with a lower back disc herniation suffered on the first day of rookie minicamp in May.
After four months of rest and rehabilitation, Williams returned to the field for a Week 6 contest on the road against the Oakland Raiders in October.
Williams has nine receptions for 84 yards in six games played. He had no receptions Thursday.
In addition, Nick Novak came back to make a 22-yard field goal after leaving with a back injury, but left for good after missing an extra point. He had an earlier 35-yard miss. Lynn decided against going for 2, and punter Drew Kaser made one of three PAT attempts.
Novak was listed on the injury report, but was a full practice participant all week.
"He kicked half the reps that he normally kicks and he was fine," Lynn said. "I know we need a healthy kicker and if he can get back to healthy, we'd love to have him. But if not, we'll see."
The official word on both is "day-to-day" (though the Chargers added free agent PK Travis Coon to their practice squad on Tuesday). I'll be following up on their status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Chargers can throw it, but they sure couldn't run it on Thursday. Luckily, they got off the run and it was more of what Rivers could do than Melvin Gordon and Co. Run-blocking suffered and the Chargers managed but 81 yards. It took Gordon 21 carries to get 65 yards.
There's still work to be done here, but Gordon's 24 total touches are the kind of volume we're looking for in a fantasy back and Gordon faces a Cleveland defense that just allowed Joe Mixon a career-best day.
Austin Ekeler racked up 70 total yards on nine touches. He's been productive enough, but volume is a concern. The same could be said for tight end Hunter Henry, who caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in Dallas. But as NFL.com's Matt Harmon suggests, the problem is that he still saw just five targets. Henry doesn't have a game with more than five targets since Week 6.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver
WRs: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Geremy Davis
TEs: Antonio Gates, Sean McGrath
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
Stop and consider this: Coming off 10 straight losing seasons and a 4-12 showing in their first year back in L.A., the Rams currently are the No. 3 seed in the NFC. They lead their division by a game, with an offense that is averaging nearly 30 points per game and a defense that is giving up less than 19.
On Sunday, the Rams were without leading receiver Robert Woods, but Jared Goff still managed to throw for 354 yards and complete at least one pass to eight teammates. In fact, he completed 28-of-43 passes and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 96.5.
Goff's 354 yards is the second-highest single-game output of his career and the fourth time that he has posted 300-plus yards.
The Rams gave up a 74-yard touchdown run to Alvin Kamara, but allowed only 3.1 yards per carry on every other attempt. They faced a team that had won eight consecutive games, and they prevailed.
"Huge," Goff called the win, his team's biggest this season.
"Everything goes along with it," he said. "It's an NFC team; a team that's won eight in a row. We're coming off a loss, they're coming off eight wins. We're playing at home, in front of our fans. Drew Brees, a Hall of Famer. I mean, all that stuff goes together. It makes it a big win, and one that we're definitely going to hang our hat on and be happy about."
As ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez suggested this week, Goff endured one of the toughest seasons imaginable for a rookie in 2016, but he began 2017 with hope. The 23-year-old quarterback knew all about what Sean McVay did to help launch Kirk Cousins' career in Washington and felt confident he could do the same as his new head coach.
Matt LaFleur, who spent the past two years with Matt Ryan, joined the team as the offensive coordinator. Greg Olson, with 12 years as an offensive coordinator, became his position coach. And Goff felt confident that the right staff was being placed around him.
Then came the players. Andrew Whitworth became the new left tackle, John Sullivan the center. Woods was signed in free agency, Sammy Watkins came over in a trade, Cooper Kupp and Gerald Everett were drafted. And Goff started to believe the Rams might be a lot better than the pundits realized.
But he couldn't be certain until the games took place.
"And there's some games this year where we kind of realized that we can play with anybody," Goff said. "This is for sure one of them."
This was a game when the Rams showed they can beat playoff-caliber opponents. They won on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys earlier in the year, but those teams have proven not to be as dynamic and well-rounded as the Saints. The Rams have yet to lose twice in a row.
They dropped a tough one seven days earlier, on the road against a Minnesota Vikings team that is tied for the NFL's second-best record. And they bounced back.
McVay wasn't ready to make any proclamations.
Another game looms Sunday, this one against the Arizona Cardinals. Tougher ones, at home against the first-place Philadelphia Eagles and on the road against the division-rival Seattle Seahawks, will follow. McVay called this the biggest win of the year, but only "because it was the most recent."
"It sounds monotonous," McVay said, "but the biggest thing is we got to 8-3."
Eight wins didn't mean all that much to most Rams. Their goals are so much higher, their belief now so much greater. But Todd Gurley was conscious of how different it might feel for the team's longer-tenured veterans.
"The guys that have been here multiple years and have seen the bad," Gurley said. "I'm just happy for guys like that to be able to go through this time and be able to enjoy these wins."
Of course, there are more tests coming. Up ahead for the Rams are the Cardinals in Arizona followed by a home game against the Eagles on Dec. 10. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Kupp rebounded from a bad outing against the Vikings - he had a critical fumble at the goal line and let a key pass slip through his hands - with a career-high eight catches for 116 yards.
Kupp set a season-high with 11 targets and went over 100 yards for the first time all season.
Watkins knew he had to step up in the absence of Woods, who is out for two weeks with a shoulder injury. Watkins was brought in to be the Rams' top wideout, and while his presence has allowed Woods more room to operate, it was time for Watkins to become an even bigger part of the attack.
Watkins did exactly that with four catches for 82 yards.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, Watkins collected 37 percent of Goff's intended air yards. Thinning out the Rams passing game helps out Watkins' volume projection. Just remember; He draws Cardinals shutdown corner Patrick Peterson this week.
Rookie receiver Josh Reynolds made his first NFL start and registered his first touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Goff.
Gurley rushed 17 times for 74 yards and had four receptions for 54 yards. Gurley totaled 21 touches for 128 yards from scrimmage. Gurley had one reception for a 31-yard gain.
Entering Week 12, Gurley led all running backs in the NFL with six 25-plus-yard receptions. He now has seven 25-plus-yard receptions for the season which leads the NFL at his position. He is followed by Washington's Chris Thompson with five and Cleveland's Duke Johnson with four.
The last Rams running back to post seven 25-plus-yard receptions in a single season was Marshall Faulk in 1999.
In other words, there's no reason not to have Gurley locked in as your RB1 for the duration of the season. ...
A few final items. ... Pharoh Cooper registered two long kickoff returns of 40 yards. It was his fourth 40-plus-yard kickoff return this season. The Rams have scored on all three if the four possessions following a 40-plus-yard return from Cooper this season.
Greg Zuerlein converted four-of-five field-goal attempts. He missed a 63-yard attempt as the second quarter expired. Zuerlein (129) passed Faulk (128 in 2001) for fifth on the all-time single-season point total list. He needs two points to pass David Ray (130 in 1973) for fourth and three points to pass Jeff Wilkins (131 in 2006) for third most.
And finally. ... Lance Dunbar (knee) and Malcolm Brown (knee) were both inactive last week. It's not clear if either will return this week. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar
WRs: Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
In case you haven't been following along at home, the Dolphins' outlook is bleak with a month still to go in Adam Gase's second season as coach.
The team's five-game losing streak is their longest since 2011, near the end of the Tony Sparano era. Gase's pilloried predecessor, Joe Philbin, never endured such a dismal stretch.
But Gase said the Dolphins (4-7) have the talent to win and can still turn things around, beginning Sunday against woeful Denver (3-8).
"I like the guys we have on the roster," Gase said Monday. "There are a lot of things we can do better, but these guys have done a good job of sticking together through a little bit of adversity. Things haven't always gone as we've planned."
A 35-17 loss Sunday at New England wasn't part of the plan, and it accelerated a brutal stretch for the Dolphins. They've been outscored 177-82 during the losing streak, and by 115 points this season -- second-worst in the NFL ahead of only winless Cleveland.
To compound the misery, injuries continue to mount. Running back Damien Williams was carted off the field Sunday and is expected to miss Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, and possibly more time, after dislocating his shoulder Sunday, a league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Kenyan Drake is now the only healthy running back on the roster.
Defensive end William Hayes will likely miss the rest of the season with a back injury that sidelined him against the Patriots, Gase said.
Quarterback Jay Cutler, who sat out because of a concussion, has been fully cleared and will as the starter this week Gase announced on Wednesday.
"He'll be all right," Gase told Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post. "We'll get a good week of practice. We need to make sure we get the ball out on time."
Matt Moore replaced him at New England and lost his fourth start in a row, including the final two games of the 2016 season.
Overall, Miami played hard Sunday and gave New England problems. For example, the Dolphins had eight hits on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and made the future Hall of Famer uncomfortable at times. Miami's defense recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. It also intercepted Brady in the first half.
But Moore's shaky play, which included two interceptions, prevented it from being a closer game.
As ESPN.com's James Walker noted, Moore had a Cutler-like moment before halftime when the Dolphins were driving, and he threw an ill-timed interception in the end zone. That took much-needed points off the board. Moore's pass protection also was bad, as Miami's offensive line allowed seven sacks to New England.
In addition, DeVante Parker (one reception, five yards vs. New England) continues to fade into oblivion. Parker, possibly the biggest disappointment on the offense, was the target on both of Moore's interceptions. The most painful interception appeared to be a miscommunication in the end zone right before halftime.
Moore appeared to throw a back-shoulder pass to Parker's outside, while Parker was looking inside. Parker has 35 receptions for 409 yards and one touchdown this season.
Jarvis Landry (eight receptions, 70 yards) was a frequent target against New England but didn't make any big plays.
This was an ugly display and it explains why Gase's lineup shuffling, often by necessity, has failed to brake the skid. It's a big change from last season, when the overachieving Dolphins made their young coach a rising star.
He was mostly successful as an assistant, too, especially with Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but noted this isn't his first exposure to losing.
"Don't forget about my first five years, in Detroit" in 2003-07, Gase said. "They weren't really that fun."
Now he's 14-14 as a head coach and trying to keep Miami afloat, mindful players sometimes lose interest when a season goes sour.
"I've been through it before," he said. "I've seen guys when they quit and don't practice hard and really don't care. And you see those guys get eliminated from the NFL very quickly.
"I see our guys' energy level and the way they try to execute. Guys are trying to do things right."
Trying's not always enough, however. And as Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine pointed out, regard for the Dolphins is so low they opened as underdogs this week, even though they're at home against a Broncos team mired in a seven-game losing streak, their longest since 1967.
Then, Miami will host Brady and the Patriots as they face them for the second time in three weeks.
Miami might not be favored again this season and it could be time to start evaluating for next season.
The biggest concerns for Miami are on offense, where they have sunk to 30th in total offense (285.5 yards per game), 22nd in passing offense (206.6 yards per game) and 29th in rushing offense (79.2 yards per game).
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill returns from a season-ending knee injury, soothing concerns at that position. But unless he can work some type of Brady-esque magic, the Dolphins will largely have to remake an offense that was supposed to carry the team in 2017.
There was even talk this offense could average 25 points per game. It's averaging 15.8 points per game, 30th in the NFL.
Miami, barring a miracle, has five games to evaluate its players for 2018. And once you get past all the chatter about never giving up until it's over, that will be the bottom line of the next five weeks. ...
A few final notes here. ... Running back Senorise Perry (concussion) remains a question mark for Sunday's game against Denver. Perry was injured on a kickoff return against New England.
With Williams and Perry ailing, it's worth noting that after visiting the Giants on Monday, RB Jeremy Langford visited the Dolphins Tuesday, according to ESPN.com's Field Yates.
QBs: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Brock Osweiler, Brandon Doughty
RBs: Frank Gore, Kenyan Drake
WRs: DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Anthony Fasano, MarQueis Gray, Gavin Escobar
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
According to the Sports Xchange, people confused that head coach Mike Zimmer won't come out and name Case Keenum as his starting quarterback for the rest of the season just don't get it.
Keenum is playing the best football of his life. Perhaps that's because he's playing like he has to fight, claw and scratch to win the job back every single week.
In fact, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio pointed, out, Zimmer, who once worked for Bill Parcells and still relies on him for advice, deliberately is keeping Keenum in limbo, because Zimmer believes that Keenum plays better when he thinks he's on a short leash.
Plenty of quarterbacks don't; Keenum unquestionably does.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph visited PFT Live last Friday and he didn't dismiss Florio's theory.
"Well, that's one of [Zimmer's] styles," Rudolph said. "You know, he does that, not only with Case but with everyone on our team. He truly believes that we play better as a team when we have that chip on our shoulder, when we have that edge. When people are against us, when people count us out. So I wouldn't be surprised if your theory is correct."
Whatever's going on, it ain't broke and Zimmer ain't fixing it.
The Vikings are riding a seven-game winning streak and are 9-2 after all but wrapping up their second NFC North title in three years with a 30-23 win at Detroit on Thanksgiving.
Detroit fell to 6-4, three games out with five to play, while the Packers are four out and becoming more unlikely to bring quarterback Aaron Rodgers back this season.
Zimmer was asked Friday if Keenum has earned the starting job ahead of the now-healthy Teddy Bridgewater for the rest of the season.
"He'll be the starter next week, yeah," said Zimmer, referring to the Dec. 3 game in Atlanta.
Keenum has posted three straight games with a passer rating above 100. He's thrown eight touchdown passes and turned the ball over twice in those three games. And the offense had surpassed 400 yards in three straight games for the first time since Brett Favre was the quarterback in 2009.
"I thought Case played pretty well (Thursday)," Zimmer said. "He made some big plays not only with his feet, but with some of the throws he made. We protected well. The couple of sacks, kind of held the ball too long."
For the most part, Zimmer praises Keenum publicly. But he does drop in some criticisms while refusing to commit to him for the rest of the season.
Say what you want, but it's working. ...
Meanwhile, as Minneapolis Star-Tribune staffer Andrew Krammer suggested, if the Vikings continue the current red-zone hot streak (12 touchdowns in 12 possessions), they'll need to start getting even more creative with their group celebrations. After Keenum's 9-yard touchdown run against the Lions, the offense sat in a circle and mimed a Thanksgiving dinner.
Receiver Stefon Diggs jumped in the middle with the football.
"I forgot the turkey, so I had to go get it," Diggs said. "Just us being our usual little creative selves."
Running back Latavius Murray, who had a season-long 46-yard run on Thursday, likes the reputation the Vikings are getting.
"We've been deemed one of the better celebration teams, so why not keep it up?" Murray said.
From a fantasy perspective, the more they have to celebrate, the happier we'll all be. ...
In general, last Thursday was a strange, choppy outing for the running game. There was one perfect drive and a lot of not-so-perfect drives.
The drive to open the second half was four plays - all runs - for 75 yards and a touchdown. Murray had 48 of his 84 yards and his 2-yard TD run on that drive. But after that, the Vikings managed only 10 yards on 14 carries.
That inability to run the ball helped the Lions get back into the game.
Receiver Adam Thielen had his 11th game with at least five catches. He had eight for 89 yards, making him the first Vikings receiver to reach 1,000 in a season since Sidney Rice in 2009. Thielen has 1,005 yards on 70 catches. He has five more games to try and join former Broncos receiver Rod Smith as the only undrafted Division II players to have 1,200 yards and 90 catches in a season.
Also, Rudolph popped up for a big game with a pair of touchdowns. Ironically, as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Rudolph did this on just four targets, his lowest total since October 1st.
With the two wide receivers enjoying breakout seasons, Rudolph hasn't had the same week-to-week target ceiling that he did last year. But he remains a viable weekly fantasy play.
QBs: Kirk Cousins
RBs: Latavius Murray, Mack Brown, C.J. Ham
WRs: Kendall Wright, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Tavarres King, Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Blake Bell
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
Tom Brady took eight hits in Sunday's victory over the Miami Dolphins. That was an alarmingly high total for the team, but head coach Bill Belichick didn't think twice about keeping Brady in the game late in the fourth quarter with the team leading 35-17.
In fact, Belichick scoffed at the suggestion that he should have pulled his star quarterback in a testy response at his postgame news conference.
"It's easy for you to sit there and say the game is out of hand," Belichick said. "But if you watch games in the National Football League, a lot can change in a hurry. The only time I think the game is in hand [is] when they're not going to have enough possessions to get the points they need. Sorry, we just see that one totally differently."
Brady remained in the game when the Patriots took over with 4 minutes, 58 seconds remaining and had the 18-point lead. He handed the ball off three times.
When asked about pulling Brady, Belichick first said, "What? On the kneel-downs? What difference does it make?"
Brady, who tossed four touchdown passes as the Patriots won their seventh straight, had come on for three kneel-downs to run out the clock.
As for the eight hits he took, Brady called it an "aggressive game" while noting the Dolphins have "an aggressive defense."
"I definitely took some shots," he said. "They're a tough D-line. They've obviously made a lot of investments in that group and those guys play really hard. They got some good shots on me, but I'll be back at it and ready to go Wednesday."
Brady was asked on Monday if he felt any of the Dolphins' hits crossed the line.
"I don't think so," Brady said on the program. "I think it's just kind of over the course of the play. That's kind of how they play. They play physical, they play aggressive, and sometimes they get called and sometimes they don't. If the refs call it, they call it. If they don't, they don't. I always kind of lobby the refs all game to try to get a couple, but we really didn't get any yesterday."
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, the eight quarterback hits tied a season high against Brady, as the Texans also had eight in a Week 3 game. The Panthers (7), Chiefs (6), Buccaneers (6), Saints (5), Chargers (5) and Broncos (5) had the other high totals against Brady.
Not surprisingly, Brady was not present at Wednesday's practice and his weekly press conference was moved from Wednesday to Friday. He also sat out last Wednesday before playing as usual. I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update, but expect him to play until you hear otherwise. ...
Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski had joked last Friday that he wanted some of Brady's biscuits from Thanksgiving Day, but Brady told him they were so good that there simply weren't any left.
So Brady fed Gronkowski something even better Sunday: a steady diet of touchdown passes.
Gronkowski (five receptions, 82 yards) caught two touchdown passes from Brady and broke the Patriots' record for multiple-touchdown games in a career with 16.
Gronkowski entered the day tied with wide receiver Randy Moss.
"I guess those were the biscuits," Gronkowski said after the game. "I guess he wasn't making any more, so he made up for it. But I still want those biscuits."
After Gronkowski's second scoring play, a 15-yard grab early in the third quarter, the Patriots came as close to having a choreographed celebration as they've had all season.
Gronkowski pointed in the direction of receiver Danny Amendola in the end zone, and with Amendola swiping his left foot across the turf as if to clear a clean spot for Gronkowski, the excitable tight end spiked the football into the end zone with force.
Gronkowski's effort also included impressive blocking at the line of scrimmage, especially as the Patriots were closing out the game in the fourth quarter. Running back Dion Lewis' 25-yard run on third-and-1 came over the left side, where Gronkowski was handling rookie defensive end Charles Harris. Gronkowski pumped his right fist at the tail end of the play.
Two snaps later, receiver Brandin Cooks surged into the end zone on a 5-yard scoring play with Gronkowski easily clearing out an overmatched defensive back to the sideline to create the open path.
Cooks jumped on his back after the score and, pretending he had a whip, made it appear he was riding Gronkowski as if he were a race horse.
That sparked a smile from Gronkowski after the game.
"It wasn't planned or anything. We got yelled at," he revealed. "We're not allowed to talk about celebrations, but I kind of want to talk about it -- but I kind of don't because I'll get in trouble, so I don't know what to do. It just happened on the spot. We'll keep it there."
Brady and Gronkowski have now combined for 74 career touchdowns, which is the second-highest total for any quarterback/tight end connection behind Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates (85). Gronkowski also moved himself into the top 10 all time for receiving yards by a tight end.
This Sunday, Gronkowski returns to his western New York roots for the Patriots' road game against the Buffalo Bills, their closest contender in the AFC East. Gronkowski has 46 catches for 701 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
"He's played hard all season [and] done a great job for our team," Brady said. ...
Other notes of interest. .. Lewis eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game for the first time in his career, totaling 112 yards on 15 carries (7.5 avg.) as his sharp cuts gave the Dolphins' defense fits. Said fellow running back Rex Burkhead: "He did a tremendous job, making guys miss, finishing runs, and really just giving this offense a spark of energy. It's fun to watch."
While Lewis was the workhorse, it was Burkhead who emerged as the best fantasy option out of the New England backfield as he found the end zone twice and totaled 53 yards from scrimmage.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich wrote, "There's clearly room for both of these backs to be relevant in fantasy and they should both thrive again against Buffalo. ..."
Tight end Martellus Bennett's return to the Patriots ended after two games and 24 snaps. The team announced Monday that he was placed on injured reserve.
Bennett had a shoulder injury when the Patriots claimed him on waivers from the Green Bay Packers on Nov. 9. He had intended to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery when the Packers waived him, but he signed with the Patriots instead. Bennett played through the shoulder injury in a Nov. 12 win over the Denver Broncos, playing seven snaps and recording three catches for 38 yards. A hamstring injury for Bennett was disclosed on the team's participation report after that game, and he attempted to play through that as well.
He was on the field for 17 snaps in a Nov. 19 win over the Oakland Raiders (3 catches for 15 yards).
Bennett had been a limited participant in practice on Nov. 22, but then didn't practice the next two days and was inactive against the Dolphins.
The Patriots were carrying four tight ends including Bennett, Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen and rookie Jacob Hollister.
Chris Hogan (shoulder) missed his third straight game as he's yet to return to the practice field since suffering the injury in the pre-bye Week 8 win over the Chargers. With Brady and Hogan sitting out Wednesday -- and with Amendola (knee) limited, once again, I'll be watching for more in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest. ...
And finally. ... Mike Gillislee was a healthy scratch against Miami, the third straight week that he's been the odd man out at the running back position. This comes after Gillislee played each of the first eight games of the year including a pair of starts.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, James White, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
WRs: Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Slater
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Troy Niklas, Dwayne Allen
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett put it, "Alvin Kamara was as dazzling as ever in his Hollywood debut. But one-man shows don't play as well in the NFL as they do in L.A. ..."
That's why the rookie's 188 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns didn't amount to much as the New Orleans Saints' eight-game win streak was snapped in a 26-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
But from a fantasy perspective?
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, it doesn't matter that Mark Ingram led the Saints backfield in touches, this game was all about Kamara, who has been on fire for the last six weeks or so. As a result, he's a frontrunner for fantasy player of the year.
As for the rest of the team?
Both the offense (3-of-13 on third downs) and defense (354 passing yards allowed to Jared Goff) gave lackluster performances in Los Angeles. New Orleans trailed 26-13 before a late touchdown made the game briefly interesting until the Rams recovered an onside kick.
The Saints (8-3) were probably overdue for a dud -- especially in a game without either of their injured starting cornerbacks. But this one proved costly as they now find themselves in a dogfight for the NFC South.
The Saints, Panthers (8-3) and Atlanta Falcons (7-4) are now all separated by just one game. New Orleans holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Carolina for now, but it must double down this week with the Panthers coming into the Superdome on Sunday.
Then the Saints have to play Atlanta twice in the next three weeks after that.
Worse yet for the Saints, they have now lost head-to-head tiebreakers against the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings (9-2) and the NFC West-leading Rams (8-3).
So the path to the postseason still feels like an uphill climb for a team that has been one of the NFL's best over the past two months.
The Saints' two biggest problems Sunday were the lack of a deep passing game by Drew Brees and Co. and the inability for New Orleans' defense to stop the Rams' downfield passing game.
Brees completed just 22 of 32 passes for 246 yards -- and 101 of those went to Kamara, who did a lot of the damage after the catch while breaking a ridiculous amount of tackles (and hurdling one of them) throughout a day that played out like a highlight reel.
Kamara had a 74-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, a 15-yard scoring catch in the fourth and catches of 33, 21 and 17 yards. He broke somewhere between four and six tackles on the 21-yard catch.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Kamara is now the first player in the NFL since Herschel Walker in 1986 with more than 500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in his first 11 career games.
Franciscovich stated the obvious when he wrote: "Keep him locked into your lineups even in a tough matchup against the Panthers in Week 13."
I'll go ahead and further state the obvious by suggesting you'll all be doing the same with Ingram, Michael Thomas and most likely Brees.
But we might want to temper expectations.
Thomas didn't score a touchdown, but as NFL.com's Matt Harmon suggested, it's important to keep perspective. Thomas has failed to reach eight targets in just one game, has eclipsed 50 yards in all but two games and has at least five catches in all but one game. Harmon added, "The production hasn't been near his ceiling but he has a great floor."
Meanwhile, Ted Ginn set a season-high with 11 targets against the Rams. He has 12 in the previous three games combined. He has suddenly become a steady producer for the Saints this year, with 50-plus yards in all but one game since Week 6.
And finally. ... Coby Fleener was on the receiving end of a bone-crushing hit in the fourth quarter. Fleener suffered a concussion. He finished the game with one catch for 8 yards on two targets. I'll be following up on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Drew Brees, Tom Savage
RBs: Mark Ingram, Jonathan Williams, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, TommyLee Lewis
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
For the first time in more than 13 years, the Giants are changing starting quarterbacks.
Head coach Ben McAdoo announced Wednesday that Geno Smith will start in place of Eli Manning when the Giants face the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday. Rookie Davis Webb will also play, if not this week, then sometime before the end of the season.
"Geno will start this week," McAdoo said. "Over the last five games, we will take a look at Geno, and we will also give Davis an opportunity."
Manning has started 210 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest streak by a quarterback in NFL history, behind Brett Favre's 297. He has started every Giants game since Nov. 21, 2004, when he took over for veteran Kurt Warner in the 10th game of his rookie season. Manning has also started 12 postseason games, and twice led the Giants to Super Bowl victories.
Manning was given the option of starting against the Raiders to keep the streak alive, but declined.
"Coach McAdoo told me I could continue to start while Geno and Davis are given an opportunity to play," Manning said. "My feeling is that if you are going to play the other guys, play them. Starting just to keep the streak going and knowing you won't finish the game and have a chance to win it is pointless to me, and it tarnishes the streak. Like I always have, I will be ready to play if and when I am needed. I will help Geno and Davis prepare to play as well as they possibly can."
The Giants are 2-9 and currently have 19 players on injured reserve. The list includes starting wide receivers Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall, plus Dwayne Harris. In addition, Sterling Shepard has missed four games with injuries. Manning has been throwing to an inexperienced group of wideouts that includes Roger Lewis, Tavarres King and Travis Rudolph, plus rookie tight end Evan Engram.
Injuries have also hit the offensive line, where the Giants have started eight different combinations, second in the NFL behind Green Bay's nine. Center Weston Richburg's season ended after four games, and right guard D.J. Fluker was placed on I.R. yesterday. Ereck Flowers and John Jerry are the only two linemen to start every game, and, Flowers is the only one to start every game at the same position.
"This is not the way it should be, but unfortunately, it's where we are," McAdoo said. "Our number one priority every week is to go win a game, but we owe it to the organization to get an evaluation of everybody on the roster, and that includes at the quarterback position. I'll say it again, I have the utmost respect for Eli and everything he has done for this organization throughout his career. He is the consummate professional. He doesn't like the position we are in, and neither do any of us. Eli has had to deal with a lot this season. Through it all, he has done everything we have asked of him in getting that unit ready to play. He has been steady, just like he has always been.
"This is not a statement about anything other than we are 2-9, and we have to do what is best for the organization moving forward, and that means evaluating every position," general manager Jerry Reese said. "I told Eli this morning that an organization could not ask for any more in a franchise quarterback. He has been that and more. Nobody knows what the future holds, but right now, this is what we think is best for the franchise."
Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP who holds almost all of the franchise's major passing records. This season, he has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. He will turn 37 on Jan. 3 and is aware of the organization's desire in a difficult season to assess its other quarterbacks.
"I have said it many times, I want to play, I want to compete, I want to be out there for my teammates to help them prepare to win," Manning said. "I understand that there are tough decisions that have to be made in the best interest of the organization, especially as a season like this winds down. This is one of those tough, uncomfortable decisions."
Smith joined the Giants as a free agent on March 20 after four years with the Jets. He has played in 33 regular-season games with 30 starts, including 29 starts in his first two seasons. His last start was on Oct. 23, 2016 vs. Baltimore. He completed four of eight passes for 95 yards before suffering a torn ACL in the second quarter that ended his season.
Smith's career statistics include 501 completions in 866 pass attempts (57.9%) for 5,962 yards, 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions for a passer rating of 72.4. He also had 135 rushing attempts for 647 yards (4.8-yard average) and seven touchdowns. Smith's record as a starter is 12-18.
Webb was the Giants' third-round draft choice this year, from the University of California. He was inactive for each of the first 11 games this season. ...
Meanwhile, Engram was once again held in check with the Redskins limiting him to three receptions on seven pass targets for 18 yards and no touchdowns.
Nestled within Engram's poor production were three dropped passes, which, per Pro Football Focus, give him nine drops for the season that leads NFL tight ends.
"Are they a concern?" Engram said after the game about his sudden case of the dropsies. "Tonight, yeah. A big concern. I just got to be better. There's no excuses for it. I just got to make some plays, just got to be better."
McAdoo hinted that the rookie might have been pressing to make plays, especially in his quest to build on last week's winning effort in which Engram only caught one of his pass targets.
"Our margin for error is small with the way things are right now. We know that going in, but it doesn't mean we can't go out there and press," McAdoo said.
While it's too soon to give up on Engram, who has done a nice job otherwise as a receiver and as a blocker, the key moving forward will be for the coaching staff to help him break through the proverbial rookie wall and to adjust to how defenses are playing him now.
Orleans Darkwa gave it his best shot, but he ended up rushing for a season low 2.7 yards per carry. In addition, Wayne Gallman out-snapped Darkwa by a count of 21-18 finishing with 43 total yards on 11 touches.
Neither is a reliable play at this point. ...
On the injury front. ... Shepard was back on the practice field Wednesday and worked fully. Sounds like he's ready to return, but I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Cornerback Janoris Jenkins injured his left ankle on his pick-six, but was able to return to the game. Afterward, he was spotted with his foot in a walking boot and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Jenkins could undergo season-ending surgery. Whatever the case, Jenkins was placed on season-ending IR on Wednesday.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb
RBs: Orleans Darkwa, Jonathan Stewart, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Travis Rudolph, Ed Eagan
TEs: Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As SNY.tv's Ralph Vacchiano put it, "The future will have to wait. Again. ..."
Despite another dispiriting loss, and with the playoffs just about out of reach, head coach Todd Bowles has again resisted making a quarterback change. Rather than turn to 26-year-old backup Bryce Petty or 22-year-old Christian Hackenberg, Bowles said he is again sticking with his regular starter: 38-year-old Josh McCown.
"He's playing well right now," Bowles said Monday on a conference call with the media. "Josh is our quarterback."
That is not likely to change any time soon, as multiple team sources have told Vacchiano over the last few weeks.
The Jets are adamant that they will not make a quarterback change while the team is still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff race (they're two games back with five to go), and those sources told Vacchiano that barring an injury to McCown, the Jets have no plans currently in place to insert Petty or Hackenberg into a game at all this year.
Surely, there could be a change if McCown's play slips. However, the Jets have been generally pleased with McCown's overall play, including his 19-of-36, 307-yard, three-touchdown performance in Sunday's 35-27 loss to the Carolina Panthers. That game, of course, included a terrible fumble that Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly returned for a touchdown to give the Panthers a late lead.
Interestingly, there was some concern on Sunday that McCown was injured. After the game, a video on social media showed him signing autographs with what appeared to be a black cast on his left (non-throwing) wrist. But on Monday, McCown insisted it wasn't a cast -- just some sort of wrap -- and that "everything is good."
What was not good, of course, was his fumble, which was still bothering him on Monday afternoon. "I wish I would've held onto that ball and just ate it," he said. It came as he was being sacked and it looked as if he was trying to throw or just shovel the ball away. Instead, it slipped out of his hands before he could even start his throwing motion by bringing his arm back.
Indeed, as the Sports Xchange notes, there's a reason McCown has been on 10 different teams in a 15-year career. Most days, he can't get the job done in crunch time, and that's why his career record is 22-49.
McCown now has seven fourth-quarter turnovers (four interceptions, three fumbles) and his poor fourth-quarter play is starting to permeate other areas of the team like punt coverage.
As for Sunday's fumble, McCown realizes how important it was.
"Looking back at the tape, it was a lot tighter around me than I thought," McCown said. "Trust me, the next time I want to be better at that and I don't want that to happen. It's frustrating. It makes me sick."
The good news for McCown is there will be a "next time" when he starts for the Jets on Sunday afternoon against the Kansas City Chiefs.
And that will be continuing good news for this primary downfield weapon, Robby Anderson.
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini noted, Anderson sparked a controversy by lobbying for Pro Bowl votes on TV during the game, resulting in a rebuke from Bowles. But the truth is, Anderson belongs in the Pro Bowl conversation, especially after his six-catch, 146-yard, two-touchdown performance.
He has scored in five straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. Among wide receivers, he's 13th in receiving yards (714), tied for fourth in touchdowns (seven) and fourth in average yards per catch (17.4).
Meanwhile, maintaining his reputation as a Panthers killer, Jermaine Kearse finished with seven catches for a season-high 105 yards and a touchdown.
There's something about Carolina blue that brings out the best in Kearse, who racked up 14 catches, 239 yards and three touchdown in two playoff games against them while playing for the Seattle Seahawks.
For the record, McCown went 2-of-3 with two TD passes of 30 or more yards against the Panthers. Carolina had allowed opponents to go 2-of-18 with one touchdown on such passes entering the day.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, McCown now has five TDs on such throws this season, matching the Eagles' Carson Wentz and the Chiefs' Alex Smith for the most in the NFL.
On the not so good side of the ledger, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has developed a case of the end-zone yips.
Seferian-Jenkins cost his team a touchdown with a blatant drop in the first quarter, and he failed to secure a catchable ball in the fourth quarter. The latter was ruled a touchdown on the field, but it was overturned by replay, an all-too-familiar feeling for Seferian-Jenkins. On Oct. 15, he fumbled away a touchdown against the New England Patriots. That, too, was a controversial replay review. ...
Worth noting. ... The rushing attack had a decent day, with 109 yards on 26 carries (4.2 per carry).
McCown had the longest run of the day, a 22-yard scramble on third-and-10 to set up his touchdown to Kearse in the fourth quarter. Matt Forte returned from a one-game absence and had an unassuming 26 yards on 10 carries. Bilal Powell had nine rushes for 34 yards and Elijah McGuire had five for 21.
Not great fantasy numbers for anyone, but not terrible in the aggregate.
Still, fantasy owners should expect more of the same from that unit going forward.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
RBs: Matt Forte, Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Thomas Rawls
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Neal Sterling, Andre Roberts, Terrelle Pryor, Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart
TEs: Eric Tomlinson, Will Tye, Jordan Leggett
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib were suspended two games each without pay on Monday for fighting during the recent game between the two teams.
NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan announced the suspensions a day after the two players brawled during Oakland's 21-14 victory.
Both players appealed their suspensions, which were reduced to one game each on Tuesday.
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow reminded readers, the fight was a continuation of a dispute that started last season when Talib ripped Crabtree's chain off during the season finale. Crabtree missed the first meeting against Denver this season with a chest injury and appeared poised to settle the score Sunday.
On the play before the brawl, Denver corner Chris Harris Jr. said Crabtree sucker-punched him in the stomach on a running play. That was confirmed by the league.
He then aggressively blocked Talib on a running play and drove him to the ground on the Broncos' sideline on the following play, starting the brawl.
"Your actions triggered a melee and endangered various sideline and league personnel, including one of our game officials who was injured trying to maintain control of the situation," Runyan said in his letter to Crabtree. "Finally, during the ensuing altercation, you grabbed and twisted that same opponent's facemask and threw a punch at him. Such actions have no place in this game, engender ill will between teams, and lead to further confrontations."
Talib once again ripped Crabtree's chain off his neck. He also took Crabtree's helmet off and threw it, as well as exchanging punches with Crabtree.
"You deliberately ripped your opponent's chain from his neck just as you did last year when you played against him," Runyan wrote in his letter to Talib. "Then, when the two of you went to the ground after a subsequent play, you aggressively removed his helmet and threw it in his direction, endangering him and various sideline personnel in the near vicinity. Finally, once you were momentarily separated from your opponent, you again engaged him and threw a punch."
Both players are now eligible to return on Dec. 5. Crabtree will miss Sunday's game against the Chiefs.
Crabtree is tied for the team lead with 42 catches and has 502 yards receiving and a team-high six touchdowns.
Head coach Jack Del Rio disagreed with the ruling, pointing to a fight earlier this season between Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green that led to no suspensions.
"Hard to understand the reasoning for this," Del Rio wrote on his Twitter account, "based on most recent ruling w/ altercation."
The Raiders also could be without their other starting receiver in Amari Cooper, who departed after taking a shot to the head from safety Darian Stewart, appeared to be knocked unconscious for a time, and is in the league's concussion protocol.
Earlier, Cooper had caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr the first time as a Raider he's had touchdowns in back-to-back games.
Del Rio added Monday at his weekly press conference that Cooper had also tweaked an ankle.
Both receivers gained more than 1,000 yards receiving a year ago, and although less productive this year, it would put the Raiders in a bind to be without both.
The Raiders managed to get by against the Broncos with help from Cordarrelle Patterson (three catches, 72 yards, Johnny Holton (two for 53) and Seth Roberts (two for 26).
"They came up with some big plays in the game and did a nice job throughout the day," Del Rio said.
In the end, it was an extremely efficient game from Carr (18 of 24, 253 yards, two touchdowns). Nine different receivers caught passes; no one had more than three. Carr's 54-yard lob to Patterson iced the game after the Broncos had come within seven points. ....
I'll obviously be following up on Cooper's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, the win left the Raiders in charge of their own destiny in the AFC West. Although a game back of Kansas City (6-5) and behind the L.A. Chargers (5-6) in terms of seeding, the Raiders have road games remaining with both and own a previous win over the Chiefs.
Given the road ahead, however, Del Rio is trying to avoid discussion of the big picture. But getting the Giants at home has to be a positive. ...
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez noted, on a day full of muck and mire and rain that called for a heavy dose of Beast Mode, Marshawn Lynch had a season-high 26 carries, for 67 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run. He also had a 26-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass on a third and 12 in the fourth quarter to help close the game.
Indeed, intent on working the clock and controlling Von Miller and the line of scrimmage, the Raiders ran it 37 times but gained just 104 yards. ...
In need of short-term help at wide receiver, the team will promote Isaac Whitney from the practice squad, via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Whitney is expected to play.
Whitney, who caught 11 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns in his two-year career at USC, signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in May. Oakland waived him after the preseason and then signed him to its practice squad.
The Raiders also designated cornerback Antonio Hamilton to return from injured reserve, via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
That means the season officially has ended for kicker Sebastian Janikowski who will remain on injured reserve as the Raiders have used both designations for return.
QBs: Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook
RBs: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton
TEs: Jared Cook, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi pointed out this week, Carson Wentz is doing things only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have done.
The second-year quarterback has the Eagles (10-1) on the verge of securing an NFC East title with five games remaining. He leads the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and has thrown just five interceptions.
Wentz is the third QB in NFL history to have at least 25 TD passes and five or fewer interceptions through his team's first 11 games, joining Brady (2007, 2015, 2017) and Rodgers (2011, 2014).
And, he's still learning.
"I think he can get incrementally better," head coach Doug Pederson said Monday. "There's still things that show up on tape where he can make a better decision. He makes a lot of great decisions, don't get me wrong there.
"But I think he can continue to get better and continue to help this football team win games. We wanted to see that incremental increase with Carson in his development and his growth and that's what you're seeing. Is there room for improvement? Yes, yes, there is, and he's going to continue to even get better.
Wentz threw three TD passes in Philadelphia's latest rout, 31-3 over the Chicago Bears. He's five TD passes away from breaking Sonny Jurgensen's single-season team record set in 1961.
The Eagles have won nine straight games, including four in a row by 23 points and the past three by exactly 28.
They're 10-1 for just the third time in franchise history. They did it in 1949 and went on to win the NFL championship. They also did it in 1980 and 2004, and lost the Super Bowl both seasons.
"I never really think too much about that," Wentz said of the team's impressive start.
"I always have high expectations, so nothing really surprises me. I would be more surprised if we weren't where we're at, to be honest. I just knew we had a good team coming into the year. I knew the brotherhood we have, the chemistry we have, and the players we have.
"It starts with coach putting guys in the right positions. I wouldn't really say I am surprised, but at the same time this is a lot of fun and we have to enjoy it while we can."
Wentz has been at his best inside the red zone. All three of his TD passes on Sunday came inside the 20-yard line. He's also making big plays on the ground.
Against Chicago, Wentz spun away from a blitzer coming at his blindside and raced 16 yards for a first down on third-and-9.
"The difference between who we played last year and what he was (Sunday), the margin is crazy," said Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who faced Wentz in Week 2 in 2016.
"He is just so much better than he was. Kudos to him and all the work he put in during the offseason and in-season. He is a solid quarterback in this league and he is having a great year."
Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery outgained the Bears all by himself in the first half and finished with five catches for 52 yards and a score. That TD -- his seventh of the season -- also happened to trigger a $250,000 bonus in his contract.
From a personal standpoint, it doesn't get much better than succeeding and cashing in against a former team.
But Jeffery has been more focused on team achievement this season. He downplayed the matchup against Chicago, where he spent the first five seasons of his career, saying it was just another game on the schedule. On pace to finish with about 60 catches and 900 yards entering Week 12 -- a far cry from the 85-catch, near-1,300 yard campaign he had in his best years with the Bears -- Jeffery stated that "winning championships" is what matters to him.
And the Eagles are wining.
They can clinch the NFC East with a Dallas loss or tie against the Washington Redskins on Thursday night. If Dallas wins, The Eagles will clinch by beating the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night.
Wentz seems to have at least one highlight-reel play per game and his developing chemistry with Jeffery will only help the Eagles down the stretch. Jeffery has 15 catches for 203 yards with four touchdowns over the past three games. Five of his seven TDs have come over his past four outings.
Personally and team-wise, it's all starting to come together for Jeffery, and just in time for a critical two-game West Coast trip to face Seattle and the L.A. Rams. ...
Worth noting. ... Jeffery was limited by a sore foot Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As the Sports Xchange notes, Jay Ajayi arrived in Philadelphia with a reputation as a selfish player. So, when he was less than cheerful after getting just five carries against the Bears, a lot of people took it to mean he was unhappy with his workload in his third game as an Eagle.
Asked several times about his performance, which included a 30-yard run in which he fumbled just short of the goal line, he gave similar versions of "I just run the plays the coaches call."
But Pederson insisted Monday that Ajayi had no problem with the way he was used in the lopsided win. He said he was just frustrated about his fumble, which was recovered by teammate Nelson Agholor for a touchdown.
"He's fine," said Pederson. "He's so excited to be here obviously. He's on a winning football team and contributes any way he wants to."
The Eagles have a running back-by-committee system, rotating Ajayi with LeGarrette Blount and rookie Corey Clement.
In three games with the Eagles, Ajayi has played 52 of 211 snaps, or 24.6 percent. He's rushed for 194 yards on just 20 carries, which figures out to an impressive 9.7 yards per carry. He has three runs of 30-plus yards.
But Blount still is getting more snaps and more carries. He has played 39.3 percent of the snaps and has 37 carries since Ajayi arrived.
In addition, since acquiring Ajayi at the trade deadline, the Eagles have averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
A big part of the reason for that, however, is the fact that all three of the games have been blowouts, and Pederson doesn't want to waste Ajayi in garbage time.
This backfield is going to be difficult for fantasy owners to cash in on down the stretch, unless somebody truly rises to a featured role. ...
Tight end Zach Ertz, who had been held to six catches for 42 yards in the Eagles' previous two games, had 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets against the Bears. The 12 targets tied a season-high. He has seven touchdown catches, all of them in the red zone.
QBs: Nick Foles
RBs: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Mike Wallace, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers have an unofficial rule for practices or games: If you question whether Antonio Brown made the sideline catch, don't question it anymore. Don't even challenge it.
"He's the best in the world on the sideline," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "If it's even close, I'm not betting against him."
Teammates weren't surprised in the slightest by Brown's 23-yard, toe-tapping catch with 13 seconds left, which helped set up the winning field goal in a 31-28 win over the Green Bay Packers. Roethlisberger saw the officials standing in amazement, like, 'Did he really do it?' even though Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell already knew the play was secured.
They feel spoiled, in a way, because Brown keeps shattering his own expectations.
After 169 yards Sunday, Brown's 1,195 receiving yards are the most of his career through the first 11 games of the season. He's on pace for a fifth straight 100-catch season, which never has been done in NFL history.
At least one teammate, Darrius Heyward-Bey, is telling reporters that Brown might be the greatest of all time. Brown, flanked by three of his children at the podium, deflected such comparisons, saying he's got a long way to go to catch players such as Jerry Rice.
But he has mastered the art of improvising with Roethlisberger, who said his primary goal on the final drive with 17 seconds left and two timeouts was simple: Find AB.
"Ben made a great throw, put it only where I could get it," Brown said. "I was just grateful we could make that catch in the perfect amount of time."
Brown also caught a 14-yarder around the same sideline spot to secure a 53-yard field goal attempt for Chris Boswell, which he made as time expired. Roethlisberger said he had missed Brown on a sideline throw from the previous drive, so he made sure to put it on him this time.
On the 23-yard catch, Brown was outstretched with his left foot down and his right toe dragging as he snatched the ball.
'They don't call him Tony Toe Tap for no reason," wide receiver Martavis Bryant said.
"I'm not surprised or amazed," said Roethlisberger, who finished with 351 passing yards and connected on 10 first downs with Brown. "He's just special."
Roethlisberger was 10-of-12 for 169 yards, two scores and 10 first downs when throwing to Brown.
Bell has seen crazier catches from Brown in practices, but even he had to chuckle at what he saw earlier in the game: Packers covering Brown with what he calls a "double vice" package, with defensive backs inside and outside of him.
After all that, Brown still outdid his one-handed helmet touchdown catch from the week before.
"I literally had to laugh in the backfield, like, wow, that's how much they respect AB," Bell said. "Never ceases to surprise me."
When asked what his secret is, Brown said there is none, just "hard work, dedication."
And the ability to save the day for the Steelers on an off night.
Meanwhile, Bell posted his 38th career game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage, and Brown added his ninth and 10th touchdowns in his last four prime-time games. And Bryant quieted the boos with a 17-yard touchdown.
But the Steelers generally didn't have enough help from the supporting cast in a second straight game Roethlisberger where was throwing the ball with authority.
They missed the sure hands of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who missed action with a hamstring injury. I'll be following up on the rookie wideout's status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. The same goes for tight end Vance McDonald, who missed Sunday night's game with an ankle injury. ...
Beyond all that, the Pittsburgh Steelers are 9-2 and tied atop the AFC along with the Patriots. They have the inside track on a first-round playoff bye and play host to the Patriots Dec. 17, a game that likely will decide the No. 1 seed in the conference. They take on AFC North rival Cincinnati on the road this coming Monday. ...
A few final notes. ... Roethlisberger threw for 351 yards Sunday, his 30th game with at least 350 passing yards in a game. Only Drew Brees (57), Tom Brady (42) and Peyton Manning (35) have more.
Brown caught two touchdowns for his 14th multi-touchdown game of his career, one shy of tying Hines Ward, who has the most multi-touchdown catch games in franchise history.
Bell went over 150 scrimmage yards for the 15th time in his career, extending his franchise record. The previous record was held by Franco Harris, who had 12 such games.
Bryant caught his second touchdown pass of the season. His previous one came in the second game of the season against the Vikings.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Terrell Watson, Stevan Ridley
WRs: Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown
TEs: Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, Vance McDonald
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
Jimmy Garoppolo is scheduled to take the first-team practice snaps at practice Wednesday and make his first start for the 49ers on Sunday.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan, who met with the quarterbacks on Tuesday, made the announcement that Garoppolo will start against the Chicago Bears.
Rookie C.J. Beathard, who started the 49ers' previous five games, sustained a knee contusion and hip strain late in Sunday's game upon taking a low hit from Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. It is uncertain whether Beathard will be fully cleared to practice this week.
On Monday, Shanahan said he wanted his starting quarterback to be identified before Wednesday's practice because both players needed as much preparation time as possible.
"One is a rookie quarterback and the other one basically is also, with him just being here," Shanahan said. "To give those guys the best chance to be successful, you want to give them all the reps, which still isn't enough reps. Any time you split those evenly, it's kind of a disservice to both."
Garoppolo arrived at 49ers headquarters on Oct. 31 after the team acquired him in a trade with the New England Patriots for a second-round draft pick.
Garoppolo made just two starts in his three and a half seasons with the Patriots. On Sunday, he entered for the final three plays of the 49ers' 24-13 loss to Seattle. He scrambled for four yards, converted a fourth-down pass to Aldrick Robinson and threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Louis Murphy after rolling left.
After the game, Shanahan said Garoppolo's three snaps, including his impressive touchdown throw, wouldn't factor in his decision.
"Those plays have nothing to do with anything. That's just running around and made a great play, but those have no bearing on it at all," he said.
Garoppolo was acquired from the Patriots before the trade deadline Oct. 31, and San Francisco is grooming him to start next season.
The four-year veteran is slated for free agency after the season, but Shanahan said the 49ers are willing to give him the franchise tag to ensure he stays in 2018.
"When you're making a long-term decision on someone for your organization, for you to pay him the amount of money that you do for quarterbacks, that's a big deal," Shanahan said. "... So I think knowing how the franchise tag works and stuff is what made it kind of a no-brainer to make that trade. Hey, you have this opportunity to get such a good player, what's the negative? Well, you don't want to lose him in six weeks or eight weeks. Well, if you have the franchise tag, you don't have to ever worry about losing him."
It will be just the third start of Garoppolo's NFL career. He started two games last year for the Patriots in place of the suspended Tom Brady, but he was injured in the second of those two games and didn't start again. Outside those two games he has played sparingly but well, with a 67.7 percent completion rate and six touchdowns and no interceptions in his NFL career.
On Sunday the 49ers will get a good look at the player they already invested a second-round draft pick in, and will likely invest $25 million in with next year's franchise tag. ...
Meanwhile, given how much the 49ers struggled offensively in the first meeting with Seattle, it shouldn't be a surprise that similar issues popped up again Sunday.
The lack of protection, the inability to pop many explosive plays and a costly interception were part of another rough offensive showing. And some of those offensive struggles began to show up late in the game as the defense was unable to continue to keep Seattle out of the end zone.
In two full games against Seattle this season, the 49ers didn't score a touchdown until the last play of this game.
Running back Carlos Hyde had nowhere to run in the first half, but the Niners stuck to the run and he did find a little room in the third quarter. Still, Hyde was unable to duplicate his strong outing from the teams' first meeting.
He finished with 47 yards on 16 carries, adding another 21 yards on seven receptions -- despite a whopping 13 targets. The running back has target totals of eight, nine, 11, three and 13 over his last five games.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, "Hyde's opportunity makes him a must-play every week, as he stays on the field even in negative game scripts, but unless he's scoring, which he's only done in two games all year, you can't expect big fantasy production."
As for the receiving corps. ... Marquise Goodwin has target totals of eight, two and six over his last three games played. He's topped 60 yards in each of those contests.
Louis Murphy will go down in 49ers history as the guy who caught Garoppolo's first touchdown pass for the team. It came as time expired on a 10-yard hook-up in Sunday's loss to Seattle. The TD catch was Murphy's first of the season and first since October of 2014 as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Murphy now has 11 career TD receptions.
Tight end George Kittle returned from a one-game absence to catch one pass for 14 yards in Sunday's loss. Kittle had missed the Week 10 win over the New York Giants because of a sprained ankle.
Shanahan said OL Eric Magnuson (foot) and RB Raheem Mostert (knee) will be placed on season-ending injured reserve. Mostert led the team with eight tackles on special teams and handled kick return duties. Magnuson was injured early in the loss to the Seahawks and played through it.
RT Trent Brown is expected to return to practice this week in hopes he can return to the lineup for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears. Brown sat out the Week 12 loss to Seattle with a shoulder injury that occurred at practice last Thursday.
And finally. ... As Profootballtalk.com reminded readers on Wednesday, when the Buccaneers drafted running back Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round of this year’s draft, there were some who wondered if a good showing this summer could put him in contention for a role with the team while Doug Martin was suspended to open the year.
McNichols didn’t have a good showing, though, and he was cut when the team made the move to 53 players in early September. He will get a chance to play in the NFL this season, however.
The 49ers promoted McNichols to their active roster on Wednesday and he’ll get a look over the final five weeks of the season. It may not be a big one as he’s taking the place of Raheem Mostert, who was placed on injured reserve and ran the ball six times this season while playing behind Hyde and Matt Breida.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner noted, although his name hasn't been mentioned as often as others in the race for league MVP, quarterback Russell Wilson has proven time and again just how much he makes Seattle's offense go.
In addition to his passing prowess, Wilson also is the focal point of Seattle's running game.
Entering this week, Wilson was the Seahawks' leading rusher with 376 yards on the ground, making him the only quarterback in the league to lead his team in that category. Seattle's most productive running back was Chris Carson, who has gained 208 yards on the ground and has been injured since Week 4.
Of course, Wilson's running ability hasn't been limited to yards gained on the ground. His escapability allowed him to maneuver in the pocket and make plays with his arm, something he has continued to do at a high level for the Seahawks.
Through the first 10 games of the season, Wilson was 10th in the league with a passer rating of 96.0, second in passing yards (2,801) and owned a 3-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, which also ranked in the top 10.
In the first meeting with San Francisco, points were at a premium as the Niners were able to pressure Wilson consistently. But ultimately it was Wilson's ability to escape and make a timely throw for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave Seattle a 12-9 victory in Week 2.
The Niners (1-9) didn't have speedy rookie linebacker Reuben Foster in that meeting because of an ankle injury; his ability to help contain Wilson figured to be imperative for the Niners to have a chance to end Seattle's reign of dominance against San Francisco.
On Sunday, Wilson again proved a thorn in the Niners' side.
Despite seemingly constant pressure, the 49ers just couldn't bring Wilson down. They hit him six times but registered no sacks. Time and again, Wilson was in a defender's grasp only to shake loose and get rid of the ball. His final numbers weren't eye-popping as he finished 20-of-34 for 228 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 86.4, but they were good enough for another victory.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Graham, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Friday, scored his eighth touchdown through seven games in to set a single-season record for a Seahawks tight end.
The touchdown occurred early in the fourth quarter when Wilson threw a 1-yard strike to Graham in the red zone.
According to the Seahawks official Twitter account, Graham now has the most touchdowns by a tight end in franchise history. The record was formerly held by Jerramy Stevens, who had a total of 15 touchdowns in his five seasons with the Seahawks. ...
Paul Richardson has hit seven-plus targets in five games this season, including Week 12. The former 2014 second-round pick continues to make vertical plays and pops up in scoring position.
Doug Baldwin was held to 25 yards. After a stretch of hot games, NFL.com's Matt Harmon suggests a letdown for the inconsistent Baldwin was to be expected. ...
Of course, fantasy owners hoping one of Seattle's running backs might step up, were once again disappointed.
They managed to put together a few decent runs against the 49ers, but in totality they still struggled. The Seahawks averaged just 3.0 yards per carry on 30 attempts.
Eddie Lacy was limited to 46 yards on 17 carries. J.D. McKissic saw eight touches for 46 total yards. Wilson ran for the team's only touchdown.
Mike Davis is expected to return to the lineup this week after missing Sunday's game due to a groin strain, but feel free not to play any member of the team's backfield when they take on the Eagles this weekend.
But could hope be on the way?
A return to the roster this season for running back Chris Carson has not yet been ruled out.
Carson is progressing well after surgery in October to repair a serious high-ankle sprain and small fracture in the upper part of his lower leg.
"He has made tremendous progress," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We don't want to rush him on anything or expectations-wise for you guys either, but he has had a great recovery. So we'll see what happens. He's running, changing directions, starting to do some more aggressive stuff this week."
Carson was injured when Indianapolis linebacker Jon Bostic landed on the back of his leg making a tackle. Carson subsequently got bent backward over Bostic with his leg pinned beneath the Colts defender. His healing has been encouraging and there's enough time remaining in the season for Carson to have a chance to return.
"Each staging of it depends on how he responds to it," Carroll said. "This week will be really important and we'll have a lot of information more going forward. There's a chance, so we'll hold out hope for him. I know he's dying to play and he's done everything you can possibly do. He just handled the rehab to this point well beyond expectations so we'll see what that means."
Carson has spent eight weeks on injured reserve and is eligible to return at any time if he's able. Seattle has not used either of their return designations for players on injured reserve. Carson, running back C.J. Prosise (ankle, eligible in January), fullback Tre Madden (calf, eligible in January) and tackle Rees Odhiambo (fingers/hands, eligible in January) are the only other likely candidates to return. ...
Tight end Luke Willson has yet to return to practice after suffering a concussion in Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Carroll told USA Today that Willson, who is still in the league’s concussion protocol for head injuries, is making strides in his return to the field, but said it is too early to determine if he’ll play this week.
“He’s got to get through this next day, but he looks really good, feels really good,” Carroll said on Wednesday. “So he’s got a real good chance to play. ...”
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Carroll officially confirmed on Monday that defensive end Cliff Avril and strong safety Kam Chancellor will not return this season.
Both players have been sidelined due to neck injuries sustained in games this season. Avril has been on injured reserve since mid-October while Chancellor currently remains on the active roster. Carroll said that Chancellor doesn't require any surgery at this point in time and that the decision for his season to come to an end was made collectively between the doctors, trainers and Chancellor.
Avril is expected to have surgery on Tuesday to address a disk injury in his neck.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis
RBs: J.D. McKissic, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy, Tre Madden
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, Tanner McEvoy, Amara Darboh
TEs: Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
Jameis Winston, who has missed three games with a shoulder injury, will get a chance to restart his season in Green Bay Sunday.
After undergoing an MRI on his right (throwing) shoulder Monday, Winston returned to the practice field Wednesday. Head coach Dirk Koetter confirmed that Winston will be the starter after that initial session of the week ended.
The Bucs have gone 2-1 since Winston's absence behind backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, beating the Jets and Dolphins before suffering a 34-20 loss at Atlanta Sunday.
Winston was 2-2 as a starter before he suffered a sprained AC joint in his shoulder in the first half at Arizona in Week 5. He went 0-4 after the injury before doctors decided to shut him down and allow the shoulder to heal.
Winston hasn't thrown a pass since the Bucs' Nov. 5 loss at New Orleans.
Since the injury, Winston has undergone weekly MRIs to measure his progress. He visited Dr. James Andrew in Pensacola, Florida, three weeks ago.
Koetter said it's too early to know how Winston may have benefitted from the rest.
"Let's see. I mean, I haven't seen him throw yet and I haven't even talked to Jameis since he had this workout, but we'll see," Koetter said.
Winston may have benefited from watching Fitzpatrick play. The 34-year-old veteran protected the football with three touchdown passes and no interceptions during his three starts and did a good job of spreading the football around.
"Ryan did fine," Koetter said following the loss to the Falcons. "He hung in there. Again, he didn't turn the ball over and when you don't turn the ball over in the NFL, you're going to have a chance and we did."
Actually, Fitzpatrick was bad in the first half against Atlanta, but gave his team a chance to win. He rallied the Bucs from a 27-6 deficit to make it 27-20 with the football on the Falcons 18-yard line. But they were unable to convert on fourth-and-1. Ryan passed for 283 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. ...
Remember, the league is investigating Winston for an alleged assault inside an Uber ride in March 2016. The driver claims that Winston was sitting in the passenger seat and leaned over, grabbing her crotch. Winston denies the allegations, saying that he was not the only passenger in the vehicle and he believes the driver was confused as to his position in the vehicle. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Bucs rushed for 94 yards and averaged a more robust 4.1 yards per attempt, but they couldn't sustain much of a ground game. The highlight was two Peyton Barber touchdown runs. The Bucs only had three rushing touchdowns coming into the game, tied for 28th in the NFL.
Koetter joked about Barber's initial scoring play.
"I could've gotten that first touchdown -- it was blocked perfect," Koetter said.
"The second one was a terrific effort by Peyton for a 1-yard run," the coach continued. "I thought all four of our running backs contributed in a big way. Peyton did his part. But again, that second one -- the 1-yard run -- was a fantastic run by him."
Doug Martin had a good first quarter before he was forced to leave the game with a concussion. He remained in the concussion on Wednesday and must clear that before he can play again. I'll be following up on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Remember, that injury left a committee of Jacquizz Rodgers, Barber and Charles Sims to carry the load. Rodgers led in touches but it was Barber who found the end zone twice on just five carries in the second half.
As for the receiving corps, NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted the volume was once again there for Mike Evans but the production did not follow. This has become the norm as Evans has just two games under 60 yards this season but still hasn't passed the 100-yard mark.
Cameron Brate has just one catch in each of his last four games. Feel free to move on.
And finally. ... The Bucs put right tackle Demar Dotson and center Ali Marpet on injured reserve Wednesday morning, making Winston's job that much harder upon his return.
In addition, the team waived tight end Luke Stocker on Tuesday.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims
WRs: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Bernard Reedy
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As Nashville Tennessean staffer Jason Wolf noted, DeMarco Murray had his worst rushing performance in a Titans uniform for the second consecutive week, as Tennessee rallied for a 20-16 victory against the Colts on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Murray finished with nine rushing yards on 12 carries and scored the go-ahead touchdown from the 1-yard line with about six minutes to play.
"You guys probably could have walked in on that," Murray said to reporters in the postgame locker room, acknowledging his struggles.
Murray, 29, hasn't been the same player as he was last season, when he led the AFC in rushing yards and was named to his third Pro Bowl. Murray has 452 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 129 carries this season. He rushed for just 10 yards on eight carries in the Titans' previous game, a 40-17 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
But Murray said he's not concerned about his stats.
"Not at all," Murray said. "I've done a lot of great individual things in my career, playing in this league, and (winning), that's why we all play, why we coach. That's all I'm worried about. I'm not worried about stats. Obviously, you want to play better and obviously you've got pride about yourself and things of that nature, but, hey, most importantly, we got the win. We'll all watch film and. ... We'll make corrections and that's it."
The Titans escaped from Indianapolis with a share of first place in the AFC South in large part because they turned to second-year pro Derrick Henry down the stretch.
The Titans had three rushing yards on 13 carries through three quarters.
Henry rushed for 79 yards on 10 carries in the fourth.
"Some of the things that worked, we kept calling," Henry said. "We had the momentum. It was working. The offensive line did a great job, everybody was doing a good job blocking. So if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Just keep running it."
Head coach Mike Mularkey said he couldn't pinpoint why Henry found success while Murray struggled.
"No, no rhyme or reason," Mularkey said. "Some of the runs we put him in (are) specifically designed for him; some (are) designed for DeMarco. But no, he's hit some big runs and we've blocked them pretty well, too."
Murray said he was pleased to see the running game come to life in the fourth quarter, with Henry taking yards in chunks.
"We were able to change some things up and he came in and gave us a lot of sparks throughout the course of the second half," Murray said about Henry, "and we needed it. I wouldn't say 'down and out,' but we were struggling a little bit, and for him to come in and give us a spark. ... It was great."
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich wrote, "Murray remains the 'lead' back, but his snap count was identical to Henry's on Sunday, each back played 29 snaps. Murray is probably the smarter play against Houston next week, but he's trending in the wrong direction."
That is true. Also true is the inability to trust either from a fantasy perspective. ...
While Sunday's rally in Indy might qualify as an "ugly" win for a team that has given up 27 more points than it has scored this season, it is hardly the first one of those this year. There was a 12-9 win at winless Cleveland and home squeakers over the Ravens and Bengals that also fit into that category.
But Mularkey isn't about to apologize for winning.
"It says a lot about our team, about our locker room," Mularkey said of winning despite not clicking at times. "I've used this word many a time: resilient, a close group, never waver regardless of the score, what time of the game it is. We think we can win until the final buzzer. That's just the way we are, that's this team. It says a lot about our guys in that locker room."
Mularkey remains hopeful that the Titans, who have just nine touchdown passes by Marcus Mariota and the limited production from Murray, still have their best football in front of them as the season heads into the final five weeks.
"You've got to play your best football," Mularkey said. "We're trying to play our best football, for 60 minutes, that's key. I promise you they're trying to do that. That's what we've got to do, especially this time of year. This is when you've got to start kicking it in and playing your best and knowing that if you don't, you still can win."
Asked if seeing only flashes of the team's potential was frustrating to him, Mularkey said he sees it actually as an encouraging sign.
"I think it's encouraging. You know what you're capable of doing, you see it first-hand. We've seen it every game, at some point in every game," Mularkey said.
That said, Mariota had two more interceptions Sunday and now has six in his past two games and a career-high 12 picks for the season.
On a more positive note, tight end Delanie Walker finally caught his first touchdown pass of the season, a two-yard toss from Mariota in the third quarter. After scoring, Walker's end-zone celebration involved giving CPR to the football. Maybe that was a sign of reviving the Titans' moribund offense that had struggled up until that point.
"To be honest, I just thought of it at that moment. I don't even know where it came from," Walker said.
With Rishard Matthews sidelined by a hamstring injury, Walker led the way with five targets and three players followed with four. One of those players was Corey Davis, who has not eclipsed 50 yards since his return from injury. Mularkey also told reporters that Davis needs to do a better job of blocking in the run game. ...
For what it's worth, the Sports Xchange reports that Matthews was not that close to being able to play against Indy. He is listed as day-to-day and I'll be following up on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry, David Fluellen
WRs: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Eric Weems, Michael Campanaro, Corey Davis
TEs: Delanie Walker, Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith, Phillip Supernaw
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 28 November 2017
As the Associated Press suggested, inconsistency is one of the few consistencies on the Redskins' offense.
Another is Kirk Cousins.
While 27 players have shuffled around him this season, Cousins is not only surviving but thriving and keeping the offense on track.
Quarterback is one of just three offensive positions at which Washington has had the same starter for all 11 games, and Cousins' play is a major reason why the team is still in the playoff race going into its game Thursday night at the Dallas Cowboys.
"Kirk being as good as he is and playing at the level he's been playing at, it's made everybody around him better," said left tackle Trent Williams, who has missed three of five games with a right knee injury.
"So even if we do have a center that just joined the team two weeks ago, as long as Kirk is at the helm and he's running the offense it's supposed to be ran, it makes everybody's job easier."
Injuries got to the point that Cousins met teammates in the locker room hours before a game, and he has had 11 offensive linemen protecting him. He has completed passes to 15 players.
All that and Cousins is already over the 3,000-yard mark, is on pace to surpass 4,000 for the third consecutive season and has 19 touchdowns with six interceptions.
"Could be a new center, could be a new wideout, could be a new running back, whatever it is -- we've just had a lot of new pieces," head coach Jay Gruden said.
"He's done a nice job of taking care of his business, but I think his comfort level in the offense is starting to show where it doesn't really matter who he's playing with, he's going to be successful."
Cousins, 29, is in his third full year as an NFL starter and credits that experience for his ability to adapt.
Everyone knew there would be a significant adjustment with the departures of receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, but this got ridiculous with season-ending injuries to Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley and Terrelle Pryor and two linemen plus a hamstring strain that has sidelined tight end Jordan Reed four games.
So Cousins began leaning on Jamison Crowder and Vernon Davis as his favorite targets and developed more trust with second-year wideout Josh Doctson.
From week to week, Cousins has rarely had the same players around him.
"Sure, my thought process as I drop back is going to certainly factor in personnel and what guys have been there before and done that and how many reps we have banked in a certain play or experience and where are we a little newer," Cousins said.
"Sometimes we have to trust it. We have to go and just play and believe that, however new this player is, he's got to make the play and he's got a jersey and a number and he can do it."
When Cousins played behind a makeshift line, he got throws off quicker or scrambled more.
When Thompson broke his right fibula in New Orleans, Cousins integrated newly signed running back Byron Marshall into the mix and mitigated what looked like a season-crushing injury.
"The great quarterbacks do it without their guys," said right tackle Morgan Moses, who joins Cousins and Davis as the only three offensive players to start each game.
"Kirk's doing a good job of making due with what he has. That's what makes him a great quarterback. He's winning. You might not know who's out there, but he's making plays with them."
Crowder considers Cousins' preparation the key to this consistency.
Knowing how much of a perfectionist Cousins is in practices and games, rookie running back Samaje Perine couldn't help but laugh about what the QB is doing differently with such a varying supporting cast.
"He's not doing anything special. He's just being Kirk Cousins," Perine said.
"When you really look at it, he hasn't done anything different with all the pieces that's missing and all the changing bodies. He's just been doing the same thing he's always been doing, which is being a leader and making sure everybody's on their Ps and Qs. ..."
And even though he got off to a slow start this season, Cousins currently resides as QB4 on our year-to-date Player Performance Rankings and the Redskins don't play a team with a winning record the rest of the season. The Redskins face the Chargers (5-6), Arizona Cardinals (4-6), Denver Broncos (3-7) and have another game with the Giants (2-9).
Meanwhile, Reed will miss a fifth-straight game with his injured hamstring. He was officially ruled out on Wednesday.
Reed did not practice on Monday or Tuesday because of his hamstring injury and, though he has worked with the athletic trainers, he has not done any running. "We're going to take off that part of it here for a couple days, see where he's at," Gruden said on Sunday.
Remember, the coach said last Friday that he wasn't sure if Reed would miss another week -- or possibly four.
Now it's at least one more.
According to ESPN.com's John Keim, Reed's status complicates Washington's game plan; he's a focal point for the offense so when he's healthy, they craft a strategy around him in the passing game. It also hurts defenses. Cousins said he was told the New Orleans Saints had two game plans before facing them: One with Reed in the game and another one without.
If the Cowboys do the same, this week's will be without. ...
Other notes of interest. ... More encouraging signs for the Redskins, who had Perine reach 100 rushing yards for the second straight week. Perine had 117 last Sunday against New Orleans. Washington stuck with the run and wore down the New York front seven. Perine is the first Redskins running back with back-to-back 100-yard outings since 2013. ...
Against the Giants, Cousins threw touchdown passes to Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon wrote: "Crowder has officially turned his season around. After a painfully slow start, Crowder has target totals of 13, 11, eight and 10 over his last four games played. With over 70 yards in each of those contests, and seven-plus catches in three of four, he's now having the steady season that many imagined when he was pegged as a popular breakout candidate during fantasy drafts. ..."
Doctson, meanwhile, remains a touchdown-dependent prospect. His season-high in targets is seven and he had just four on Thursday night. ...
Also worth noting. ... The Redskins were without three of their original offensive line starters last Thursday, including left tackle Trent Williams (right knee). Left guard Shawn Lauvao (stinger) and center Spencer Long (torn quadriceps tendon) are on injured reserve. And backup center Chase Roullier (broken hand) was also out.
Williams needs surgery at some point and was in too much pain to play during a short week. The hope is the rest allows him to return against Dallas Thursday. He is officially listed as questionable. along with tackles Morgan Moses (knee/ankles) and Ty Nsekhe (core muscle) and guard Brandon Scherff (knee). Roullier has been ruled out.
QBs: Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Brian Quick
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle