Team Notes week 3 2016
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 21 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss framed it, "The Arizona Cardinals looked like the team they are supposed to be, often at the expense of Jameis Winston."
This after Carson Palmer threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns, and the Cardinals intercepted Winston four times in a 40-7 rout of the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Marcus Cooper, acquired for a conditional draft pick in a trade with Kansas City on Sept. 2, had two interceptions, returning the second 60 yards for a score. Winston also fumbled the ball away once.
Palmer completed 18 of 31 passes with no interceptions before sitting out most of the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals lost at home to a depleted New England team in their season opener and bounced back in a big way.
"There was too much holding your breath (against the Patriots)," head coach Bruce Arians said. "I thought we cut it loose today."
As NFL.com notes, Fitzgerald set the pace early with his touchdown and continued a hot start to the season with a six-catch, 81-yard afternoon. The Cards put the game away late in the first half when Palmer (18-for-31, 301 yards, 3 TD) led a five-play touchdown drive from their own 26 in just 45 seconds, capped off by a 51-yard bomb to Jaron Brown.
It was the return of trademark Arians, back after a week's hiatus: Pummeling the enemy while his guard is down.
The Buccaneers held Johnson him 45 yards rushing in 12 attempts, but he caught three passes for 98 yards. The longest came on a check-down from Palmer, a play that went for 58 yards.
"I don't think you can find a weakness in his game," Palmer said.
As Weinfuss notes, the season is two weeks old but Johnson has made plays in each of them that have left defenders gasping for air. Against New England, it was a mesmerizing and athletic 45-yard run. Sunday it was the long catch-and-run.
According to Pro Football Focus' "Elusive Rating" rankings, Johnson is much more slippery than any other back in the league.
Arizona drafted Johnson because his versatility fit the scheme perfectly, Arians said. Arians is an offensive tactician who has found ways to utilize Johnson and the mismatches he can create.
And fantasy owners should expect that to continue going forward.
Meanwhile, Sunday was the sixth game under Arians that the Cardinals scored 40 or more points.
And the coach wasn't satisfied.
"The score doesn't indicate, I don't think, how poorly we played offensively," Arians said. "We can get a hell of a lot better. Communication was not very good in the beginning of the game -- way too many mental errors, especially by a couple young players."
Later, Arians singled out Johnson, saying his mental errors prevented the Cardinals from accumulating another "100, 120 yards and two touchdowns."
"We should have had 50 [points], you know?" Arians said.
As Weinfuss explained, Arians was programmed to never let up on offense since he began playing football. That's how he was coached and he hasn't changed now that he's a coach. In Arizona, it has become his calling card.
The Cardinals have scored 1,239 points since Arians took over in 2013. They've scored 51.8 percent of their points in the second half -- more than the league average -- and 27.3 percent in the fourth quarter, which fell just shy of the NFL average.
Again, good news for fantasy owners. ...
Worth noting, Palmer does not have a turnover after two games and once again spread his passes around by completing throws to seven different receivers. Unlike Week 1, there weren't any real bizarre passes because of misreads or wrong route running, as Palmer's targets were far more in unison with him this time around. ...
Except John Brown, who only pulled in one of his three targets on Sunday for 14 yards. Through two games, Brown has only been targeted seven times (with two catches). Local reports have suggested Brown is just getting back up to speed after missing time with a concussion in August. Whatever the case, his role is becoming problematic. We'll see if he can pick up the pace this week.
One last Arians-related item here. ... With the win over Tampa Bay on Sunday, the coach moved into a tie for fourth place on the Cardinals' career victory list with 35 wins, joining Charlie Winner (1966-70) and Jimmy Conzelman (1940-42, 46-48). Ken Whisenhunt is first with 49 wins, which he compiled from 2007 to 2012.
QBs: Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams, J.J. Nelson, Kendall Wright
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Holmes, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure reported it, the Falcons "finally found something that works in the red zone: If all else fails, just throw a pass that deflects off one player high in the air and is caught by another for a touchdown."
McClure went on to concede that's probably not exactly how offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan drew it up, but wide receiver Justin Hardy's 8-yard touchdown off a deflected Matt Ryan pass that bounced off the hands of running back Tevin Coleman proved to be a crucial score in the Falcons' 35-28 road win Sunday over the Oakland Raiders.
Red zone ineffectiveness was one of the biggest issues the Falcons needed to clean up going into the season. It lingered in a 31-24 season-opening loss the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as the Falcons went 1-4 in the red zone.
Then a major breakthrough occurred Sunday, but only after another rocky start. The Falcons began 0-3 on touchdowns in the red zone, including Raiders cornerback David Amerson's interception of Ryan on a poorly thrown ball to Jacob Tamme. The other two trips resulted in field goals of 21 and 20 yards by Matt Bryant.
The Falcons didn't implode, however. They found their offensive rhythm using the no-huddle and getting the tight ends more involved than usual. The first red zone breakthrough was Ryan's 14-yard touchdown pass to Tamme down the middle. A two-point conversion on Ryan's keeper followed, and the Falcons started to gather steam.
The Hardy score was his first career touchdown. Coleman followed with a 13-yard touchdown run in the red zone that proved to be the deciding score.
Meanwhile, much was made about Ryan and his athletic compatibility with Shanahan's offense.
After Ryan looked pedestrian at times in 2015 while tossing 16 interceptions, it was openly discussed if he was a good fit for all of the bootlegs, waggles and rollouts in the outside zone scheme.
But as the Sports Xchange notes, Ryan will go into New Orleans next week as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league after guiding the Falcons to scores on six of their last seven possessions against Oakland.
"I thought we did a great job offensively getting in to a rhythm," Ryan said. "We didn't do a whole lot in the first quarter, but once we kind of found our stride, we kept going and played really well. (We) did a better job in the red zone (3 of 6).
Ryan extended his streak of games with 200-plus yards passing to 41 consecutive games. ...
Of great fantasy interest heading into this week's game against the Saints is the running back rotation.
The Falcons hadn't rushed for more than 100 yards over the past six games dating to last season. Against Oakland, Atlanta rushed for 139 yards on 29 carries.
As Pro Football Focus noted, after being the third-most-targeted running back last season, Devonta Freeman has apparently taken a back seat in the Falcons' passing game to Tevin Coleman, who caught both of his Week 2 targets.
PFF's Jeff Ratcliffe went on to point out the snap distribution between the two backs was again a nearly 50-50 split with Freeman on the field for 36 snaps and Coleman playing 30 snaps. It was also very close in touches with Freeman getting the slight edge 17 to 14.
While the touch and snap distributions are concerning for Freeman owners, Ratcliffe added that Freeman was the better runner on Sunday and remains in the RB2 conversation.
Other notes of interest. ... The Falcons opened the game in the no-huddle offense and ran it for 16 plays in the first half.
"Some weeks it's an advantage for us; this week we felt like it was," said Ryan, who has been proficient in the no-huddle since his rookie year. "They've got some big guys on that defensive front. We did a great job with the tempo it was effective for us. I thought we ran the ball extremely well out of no-huddle and also we hit some big shots down the field. Going sideline to sideline with all the key plays that we did, I really thought it was effective for us."
The Falcons will attempt to keep the tight ends involved against the Saints. The Falcons used their 13 personnel one back and three tight ends often against the Raiders. Tamme, Levine Toilolo and rookie Austin Hooper helped to power the run game and caught 10 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown against the Raiders.
"Those guys got in there, did a good job for us," Ryan said. "Levine and Austin made some really good plays. Jacob did a great job for us. I thought that was a good matchup."
On the injury front. ... Julio Jones did not finish Sunday's win due to a calf strain. Head coach Dan Quinn said Jones had an MRI after someone fell on his calf. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the injury is not considered to be serious. Jones exited the locker room under his own power.
Jones played 49 of 64 offensive snaps. He finished with a team-high 106 receiving yards on five catches, including a 21-yard touchdown reception from Ryan in the second quarter.
Jones entered Sunday's game coming off an ankle injury suffered in the season-opening loss to the Buccaneers. It was the same left ankle he initially injured in the third preseason game.
"You're never going to be 100 percent anymore," Jones told McClure after the ankle injury. "I've played through things. It's nothing that's going to hold me back from going out there and producing or doing what I do."
Jones also had a foot injury at the start of training camp. In the past, he has overcome multiple right foot fractures.
Jones will be limited upon returning to practice Thursday.
The good news? As McClure suggested, this week's schedule should allow Jones a little more time to heal, with the Falcons heading to New Orleans next Monday night.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley notes, for a good part of the last two years, Dennis Pitta thought his career ended in Cleveland, where he was carried off the field in 2014 after fracturing his right hip for the second time.
In Sunday's 25-20 comeback win, Pitta turned the same stadium into the place where he let the league know that he had truly returned.
Consistently getting open in the middle of the field, Pitta caught nine passes for 102 yards. In just his second game back after a nearly two-year absence, he produced his second-most receiving yards of his career.
Pitta jumpstarted the second-biggest comeback in Ravens history with a 30-yard catch in the second quarter, which set up Baltimore's first touchdown of the game. He then caught a 28-yard pass that led to the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter.
This was a much different scene than September 2014, when Pitta fell to the ground without being hit and was carted off the field in Cleveland.
"I wasn't thinking about my hip going into this game," Pitta said after his first game in Cleveland since the injury. "I would be doing myself a disservice to be thinking about it. I feel fortunate to come out of the game healthy. I took some shots in the game. My body held up, and I'm feeling good."
Hensley went on to suggest the chemistry between Pitta and quarterback Joe Flacco is remarkable considering they haven't been on the field together much. Pitta didn't play all of last year, and he missed a month of training camp with a fractured finger. When Pitta practiced during the spring, Flacco was sidelined while recovering from knee surgery.
Still, two weeks into the season, it was just like old times. Flacco threw to Pitta five times on third downs, completing four passes (all led to first downs). No one else on the Ravens caught more than two throws on third down.
The Ravens are fortunate to have him. Benjamin Watson, the team's first free-agent signing, suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the third preseason game. Darren Waller and Nick Boyle are both currently suspended.
The Ravens' other tight ends -- Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams -- have combined for two catches for 27 yards. Comparatively, Pitta has a team-leading 12 receptions for 141 yards through the first two weeks of the season.
"He's a playmaker. Having a tight end that can be a third-down playmaker is really important and valuable," head coach John Harbaugh said. "You can't coach that. Hopefully, that is just going to get better."
For the record, Flacco struggled early, throwing an off-kilter pass that was picked off by Joe Haden as Baltimore was held scoreless over their first four drives.
Flacco bounced back before the half, though, with a six-play, 75-yard scoring march capped by a seven-yard touchdown strike to Mike Wallace. The Ravens stole momentum with three straight scoring drives to end the second quarter and to open the third as Flacco threw for 302 yards, two scores and a pair of picks.
Wallace finished with two touchdowns.
Flacco has looked solid after enduring a season-ending knee injury in 2015. When the Browns opened a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, Flacco didn't flinch and helped Baltimore score 25 consecutive points. ...
Also worth noting. ... Baltimore emerged from a game without any major injuries for the second consecutive week. Last season, the Ravens placed 20 players on injured reserve, which played a key role in their 5-11 finish.
"We didn't have anything serious coming out of that game and we're really grateful for that," Harbaugh said. "Guys getting into the recovery room should help us."
The Ravens believe they will be back in the playoff hunt this season if they can keep their key players on the field.
The Ravens face another road test in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will be desperate to pick up their first win of the season. ...
A few final items. ... As the Sports Xchange notes, RB Javorius Allen was a healthy scratch for the second straight week. This was a bit of a surprise because the Ravens are still looking for a spark in their running game. Allen, a fourth-round pick from USC in 2015, took over the starting job last season when Justin Forsett went down with a season-ending injury. However, Terrance West overtook Allen on the depth chart and has outplayed Forsett in the opening two games this season.
Against the Browns, Forsett was on the field for 41 of 75 offensive snaps. West got 21.
Steve Smith caught three passes for 64 yards against Cleveland. With that performance, he moved into the top 10 all-time for receiving yards with 14,105. Smith appears fully recovered from a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in 2015 and has already played a key role in the offense.
And finally. ... Justin Tucker is showing the Ravens they made a wise investment when they signed him to a contract extension just prior to the season. Tucker made three field goals, including a 52-yarder, against the Browns. He also made a pair of field goals in the opener against Buffalo.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Joe Flacco
RBs: Gus Edwards, Ty Montgomery, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
The Bills, winless after their loss last Thursday night to the Jets, have the Cardinals coming to town this Sunday. The big storyline this week will be how Anthony Lynn, thrust suddenly into a play-calling role after the Bills fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman last Friday, adjusts the offense to make coach Rex Ryan and ownership happier.
First: Let the playmakers make plays. ... Ryan made it plain that the main reason the change was made at offensive coordinator was due to the inability of the team's most dynamic playmakers to have a major impact on the outcome of the game. Chief among them Sammy Watkins, who though dealing with a foot issue, has played the majority of the first two games.
The problem is he hasn't been utilized nearly enough. Whether he needs to be lined up in different places to create more favorable matchups and keep defenses from easily keying on him, or he has to be isolated more effectively, the bottom line is Watkins must be the biggest part of the game plan in the passing game every single week.
Charles Clay has been called a mismatch at the tight end position, but game changing plays have been few and far between for him as well. Even in the red zone where Clay could be a major threat he has been underutilized. That has to change.
Using LeSean McCoy in different ways, like splitting him out or putting him in a split backfield with Reggie Bush are all options that Lynn will need to consider moving forward to keep opposing defenses off balance.
"I think Sammy Watkins is an elite receiver," said Ryan. "I think we have an elite running back, I know we do in Shady McCoy. I think we have an outstanding offensive line and oh by the way an outstanding tight end. We have a lot of weapons."
Second: Maximizing Tyrod Taylor's play-making ability. ... According to Brown, Roman did an admirable job with Taylor as a first-year starter in 2015. He finished the year as the seventh-rated passer in the league and had a better than 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio, but signs of progress have yet to manifest themselves in 2016.
Lynn will have to pick and choose the kinds of play concepts that he believes will be most beneficial to revealing the unique playmaking capabilities Taylor has to strike more fear into defensive coordinators and put them on their heels.
Third: Improved balance on offense. ... Buffalo was a run heavy team in 2015. No other team ran more than the Bills, and they made it work last season as they were the top rushing team in football. As much as that made sense with a first-year starter at quarterback last season, it's clear that Ryan feels his offense has now become too predictable.
"I want to be multiple. I want to be able to throw the football," said Ryan. "Ground and pound was something that followed me forever based on my first year (as head coach in New York). We had a rookie quarterback, some good backs, good offensive line, and we weren't exactly the greatest receiving corps. So I just thought it made sense, but that tag has followed me forever.
"I do want to be able to run the football on a consistent basis. I want to be multiple in the running game, but I also want to be able to use the entire arsenal. The quick game, the intermediate game and the deep passing game."
And finally: Lynn needs to switch up the tempo ... Brown explained that Buffalo through most of last season and the first two games this season has not demonstrated an ability to change the tempo on opposing defenses. Whether it's quick snapping after a big play or jumping into a no huddle at an unexpected time, the Bills offense has not made use of tempo change as a weapon.
Meanwhile, even though Ryan claims the decision to fire Roman was his alone, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that owners Terry and Kim Pegula met with offensive players (like Taylor) on Friday morning. Per the report, Ryan was not present for the meetings - and he wasn't happy about it when he learned that the owners had met with his players.
Moving forward, there can be no doubt that Ryan is on the hot seat. ...
As for last week, Taylor threw two beautiful deep touchdown passes of 84 and 71 yards, but otherwise was barely adequate for a second week in a row. McCoy was once again pretty mundane as he rushed for 59 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 31 yards. McCoy has not been productive or explosive in either game.
Watkins was questionable before the game with a sore foot, and as the Sports Xchange suggested, he was certainly questionable afterwards in regards to his production. Two catches for 20 yards and just five targets.
Clay continues to be a disappointment. He had five catches for 27 yards which again meant he provided very little threat to the opposing defense. Wideout Marquise Goodwin had a tremendous 84-yard touchdown reception where he blew right past Darrelle Revis, his first TD since his rookie 2013 season. Fellow wideout Greg Salas, who was targeted just once in the opener and didn't catch a ball, had a 71-yard touchdown, and caught four passes for 89 yards. ...
On the injury front. ... Watkins said he felt "fine" following Thursday's game. "Now it's just really time to go out there and play fast, and forget about the foot."
Nonetheless, Ryan said Watkins, Clay (knee) and offensive lineman Cordy Glenn (ankle) all will not practice Wednesday.
Joe Buscaglia of WKBW reported on Monday that Goodwin has been cleared from the concussion protocol.
QBs: Josh Allen, Derek Anderson, Matt Barkley
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Marcus Murphy, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Deonte Thompson, Isaiah McKenzie, Brandon Reilly
TEs: Charles Clay, Jason Croom, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As NFL.com framed it on Monday, "The blueprint is still the same. If you're not getting to Cam Newton, you're not beating the Carolina Panthers."
Their offense has so many elements -- power, speed, touch, finesse -- that they cannot go down as long as Newton is upright. This was proven time and time again Sunday afternoon, but no more significantly than at the seven-minute mark in the fourth quarter when Kelvin Benjamin bodied his defender and hauled in a 27-yard catch on a third-and-10.
Benjamin makes a good product better.
Their big-bodied pass catchers (Greg Olsen and Devin Funchess included) are going to be a nightmare all season long in single coverage, especially with the boom-or-bust stylings of Ted Ginn operating in the background.
But Benjamin is the standout.
The 2014 first-round pick out of Florida State had seven catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's home opener. Funchess had two catches for 19 yards and a touchdown -- a 16-yarder with just over three minutes remaining -- after having one catch for 9 yards in the opening loss at Denver. He's had more catches (four) out of bounds in two games than in.
"It says he's back,' wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl said of Benjamin. "He's such a big target, he's strong. He does such a good job of getting leverage on guys, of just attacking the ball. He's a big target.
"He's got a good feel for the game. He's an instinctive player and he understands where the windows are and how to get his body in position to make those plays.'
He's easily going to be Cam Newton's favorite target outside of Olsen, whose 78-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave Carolina a 14-10 lead it wouldn't relinquish.
Benjamin's performance has been a reminder of just how impressive Newton was in winning the league MVP title without him.
And as ESPN.com's David Newton pointed out, it's been a reminder of why offensive coordinator Mike Shula said earlier in the week that he felt better about the offense than he did two weeks earlier.
With Benjamin, Cam Newton has a true No. 1 receiver that he didn't have last season when throwing a career-best 35 touchdowns. With Benjamin, Newton doesn't have to be perfect like he often had to be a year ago.
Newton wasn't perfect on this day, throwing an interception on the game's second play that led to a San Francisco field goal and fumbling in the fourth quarter to set up another. He also showed that on an average day he could put up big numbers. His four touchdown passes gave him 122 for his career, breaking the team record previously held by Jake Delhomme.
Newton's offensive line also did a much better job of keeping him clean. He didn't get hit running or passing until there was 7:03 left in the second quarter.
In the opener, Newton was hit 17 times, the second most of his career. Four of those were helmet-to-helmet shots that put the focus on the officiating and how the league and Panthers handled the concussion protocol.
On this day, the focus was on Newton throwing to his favorite wide receiver target
"Special,' Newton said of Benjamin. "He helps me a lot. Extremely special. ..."
On the injury front. ... Head coach Ron Rivera told reporters Monday that veteran running back Jonathan Stewart will miss Sunday's game against the Vikings with the hamstring injury he suffered against the 49ers.
Stewart was scheduled to undergo an MRI, but Rivera made it clear that the back could be out "at least a week or two," meaning he's no sure thing for the team's Week 4 tilt against the Atlanta Falcons, either.
Stewart left Sunday's game in the first quarter and never returned, leaving Fozzy Whittaker and versatile fullback Mike Tolbert to carry the load. Look for Carolina to also activate Cameron Artis-Payne this week.
Whittaker, who ran for 100 yards on 16 carries in the win, could start against the Vikings. But he's been mostly used as a third-down back since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Texas in 2012. He has nearly had as many yards receiving (279) as he has rushing (332) coming into the season. And at 5-10 and 205 pounds, there is some question whether Whittaker will be able to handle the pounding that comes with being an every-down back in the league.
Prior to Sunday he'd never carried the ball more than nine times in a game. So expect Cameron Artis-Payne to get the between the tackles work.
"He's a stout inside runner," Rivera said of the second-year man. "He's more plant that leg and drive straight ahead where Fozzy is a little bit more niftier, a little bit better lateral movement."
"I have a tremendous amount of faith in who CAP can be for us. And knowing that you have a good change-of-pace guy in Fozzy, and you've got a guy that can come in and play situational football for you in Mike Tolbert - I think that's a good combination."
As BlackandBlueReview.com's Bill Voth noted, Artis-Payne was inactive for seven straight weeks as a rookie last season until a foot injury shelved Stewart for the final three games of the regular season. The distribution of touches over those games?
Artis-Payne: 33 carries, 5 receptions; Tolbert: 17 carries, 3 receptions; Whittaker (missed Week 17): 7 carries, 4 receptions.
Meanwhile, the Panthers' 46 points and 529 yards against San Francisco were each their third-highest totals in the regular season. Imagine if they hadn't turned it over four times.
Still, the offense will be tested this week by a tough Minnesota defense.
QBs: Cam Newton, Taylor Heinicke
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Cameron Artis-Payne, Travaris Cadet
WRs: Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith, Jarius Wright, Damiere Byrd
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As the Associated Press framed the story: "It was bad enough that the quarterback on the other side made him look like the rookie. ..."
That it happened on Monday night might have made it sting even more for Jay Cutler. And that was even before the Eagles added injury to insult, forcing him out of the game with a bad thumb on his throwing hand late in the third quarter of a 29-14 loss to the Eagles.
Cutler couldn't pinpoint when his thumb began to hurt, but acknowledged "trouble" gripping the ball from early on in the game. In fact, Chicago Sun-Times staffer Adam L. Jahns reports that Cutler actuall suffered his injury in the season opener against the Texans.
The injury was aggravated as he tried to plant his right hand and break his fall on a strip-sack by Philadelphia's Destiny Vaeao in the third quarter.
Even though he played two more offensive series after the fumble, Cutler watched Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham step in front of an underthrown pass intended for Alshon Jeffery another 10 yards up the field and decided to exit and begin treatment in the locker room.
"I couldn't get as much on it as I wanted," he said about the interception. "I knew that I was putting the team, especially the offense, in jeopardy at that point. My day was done."
But first, Cutler had to endure a dressing down on the sideline from injured teammate Pernell McPhee.
"He's a passionate guy," Cutler said, shrugging off the brief spat. "No one likes to lose in that type of fashion."
The bigger concern: McPhee is about to find out what life without Cutler looks like.
Cutler's injured thumb, which he sustained Monday night in a loss to the Eagles, will likely keep him out for an extended period of time, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday. The team and Cutler are now deciding whether surgery is the best course of action. One source told Jahns it's an injury that typically results in a three- to four-week absence.
Brian Hoyer went 9-of-12 for 78 yards in relief on Monday.
The Bears' season already had the feel of a lost one, with the team in the midst of a lengthy rebuild across the board. Cutler was never a truly dependable option but now the team turns toward a veteran backup with no developmental rookie on the roster.
Hoyer has worked magic in short stints before and appeared comfortable in Dowell Loggains' offense over limited action on Monday night. But what is the best-case scenario here?
Cutler, 33, is signed through 2021 though it's never too early to start thinking about life after. The Bears (0-2) are tumbling toward a high draft pick and have an offense peppered with young stars -- the type of players who could eventually form the bedrock of a playoff-caliber roster. Unfortunately, that day is still a long way in the distance.
But as NFL.com's Chris Wesseling notes, the Bears' issues on offense go beyond Cutler.
Outside of deep threat Jeffery and apparently rejuvenated slot receiver Eddie Royal, there's nothing on which this offense can hang its hat. The offensive line struggles to keep heat off their quarterbacks and ball security issues continue to haunt.
Still exceedingly raw as a route runner, second-year receiver Kevin White is limited to manufactured touches such as slants, bubble screens and reverses.
Another question: Did the Bears overestimate their backfield talent when they decided to let Matt Forte walk in free agency?
Forte is averaging 132 yards per game in New York, while all Chicago backs have combined to average less than half of that figure. Although Jeremy Langford appeared to have lead-back duties nailed down in August, he coughed up a costly fumble in a full-blown committee attack. Ka'Deem Carey was featured just as heavily on the Bears' first three drives, only to go down with a hamstring strain.
Rookie power back Jordan Howard was perhaps the most impressive of the trio, albeit on just three carries.
After two games, Chicago's defense has concerns of its own.
A secondary short on talent and experience lost cornerback Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos to concussions. Promising nose tackle Eddie Goldman was carted off with an ankle injury that left him in wearing a protective boot after the game. While the inside linebacker duo of Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan has played up to expectations, Pernell McPhee's early season absence has been felt acutely.
The front seven can't generate a pass rush without blitzing.
And Chicago's 0-2 start could be even worse than it looks. In addition to Cutler, thee knee injury outside linebacker Lamarr Houston suffered is significant with Houston being lost for the season to a torn ACL and defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (high ankle sprain) is out about four weeks, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported. Safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Bryce Callahan both suffered concussions. The team already was struggling with a patchwork offensive line.
Adding to the woes, Trevathan suffered a thumb injury that will require surgery, which will take place Wednesday, head coach John Fox said Tuesday. The injury and procedure will not end Trevathan's season, Fox added.
Trevathan recorded 11 tackles (7 solo, 4 assisted) and a sack in a Week 1 loss to Houston and registered four tackles in limited action Monday in the loss to the Eagles, including this shot on rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. The linebacker signed a four-year, $28 million contract with the Bears in the offseason.
"It's tough," head coach John Fox conceded. "If it was easy anybody could do it. ... Right now all our focus very quickly will go to Dallas to go on the road Sunday night. And we have a lot of proving to do."
Some of it will no doubt begin with Cutler.
One more issue arose Wednesday; Jeffery was limited by a sore knee on Wednesday. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
One last note here. ... The team announced on Wednesday that have promoted running back Raheem Mostert from the practice squad. They waived fullback Paul Lasike on Tuesday.
Mostert saw action in 11 games last year and served as a kickoff returner for Cleveland, Baltimore and Miami. Deonte Thompson has been the Bears chief returner in the first two weeks of the season.
QBs: Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Javon Wims
TEs: Trey Burton, Ben Braunecker, Daniel Brown, Adam Shaheen
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As the Associated Press pointed out on Monday, the Bengals are looking up at the standings, something they haven't had to do for two years.
And the defending AFC North champions have some significant issues to fix in order to make up ground.
They couldn't run the ball again during a 24-16 defeat in Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Bengals' third loss in a row to their Ohio River rival.
This one left them playing catch-up, something they haven't had to do. Last season, they led the division the whole way after an 8-0 start.
Two games in, Cincinnati (1-1) trails both the Steelers (2-0) and the Ravens (2-0) with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos - also 2-0 - coming to town for the Bengals' home opener on Sunday.
One of their most glaring problems in the first two games was their inability to run. They managed only 57 yards - a 3.0 average per carry - during a 22-20 win at the Jets in their season opener.
Andy Dalton was able to get them through it, completing all but three of his passes in the last three quarters.
They were even worse on Sunday in Pittsburgh in the rain, managing only 46 yards for a 2.6-yard average. Through the first two games, their top running backs haven't even combined on 100 yards total.
They get to the line and go nowhere.
"I've got to break more tackles," Bernard said on Monday. "I've got to make that guy miss. As a running back, you always try to not let that first one tackle me. I haven't done that."
Their inability to run was most glaring in the third quarter, when they drove for a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Hill lost 2 yards on a run up the middle, and Dalton threw a couple of incompletions, forcing Cincinnati to settle for a field goal.
Dalton got sacked a career-high seven times in the opener. He was sacked only once in Pittsburgh, but the running game was no better.
"One of those things got fixed this week," offensive coordinator Ken Zampese said Monday, referring to the sacks. "This coming week, we'll get the other one handled."
That must change if the Bengals are going to get on track. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Dalton completed 31 of 54 pass attempts for 366 yards and a touchdown. But, after torching Darrelle Revis and the Jets for 180 yards last week, A.J. Green had only two catches for 38 yards on Sunday.
Tyler Boyd's return home to Pittsburgh was a success in many respects. He had six catches for 78 yards, including a 29-yard reception. But, in the end, it was his late fumble that ended the Bengals' comeback bid in a 24-16 loss to the Steelers. Or, did it?
Replay seemed to indicate that the ball was still in Boyd's possession when his knee hit the turf. But, the officials upheld the call on the field of a fumble, which was recovered by the Steelers.
"When it first happened, I wasn't sure," Boyd said. "It all happened so quick, but after I saw (the replay), my knee was obviously down (and) I still had possession of the ball clearly."
Head coach Marvin Lewis said he was told by even the officials on the sideline that Boyd's knee was down, but the call was not overturned.
"They didn't see it that way, overall, that's what matters," Lewis said. ...
Dalton appears on Wednesday's injury report with a hip issue, but he worked fully.
And finally. ... According to the Sports Xchange, tight tend Tyler Eifert, for what's believed to be the first time since undergoing ankle surgery, ran routes and caught passes at Heinz Field prior to Sunday's game against the Steelers. Eifert worked out with backup QB Jeff Driskel. During open practices, Eifert has been only running and jogging to this point. Most recent projections had Eifert 2-3 weeks from returning, but he is expected to run routes in his first team practice Wednesday so I'll be watching for more.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are still working Tyler Kroft back in after he tweaked a knee in Week 1. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kroft wen from 12 percent of the snaps in the opener to a 50/50 split with C.J. C.J. Uzoma against the Steelers. Enquirer staffer Paul Dehner Jr. expects Kroft to start this week. Both men caught three passes against Pittsburgh.
QBs: Jeff Driskel, Tom Savage
RBs: Joe Mixon, Mark Walton, Giovani Bernard
WRs: Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Cody Core, Josh Malone
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Kroft, Tyler Eifert, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
The Browns are down another starting quarterback. ... According to multiple reports, Josh McCown will miss at least one game with a "deep sprain" in his left shoulder, forcing Cleveland to play rookie Cody Kessler this week - the team's third starting quarterback in three games this season and 26th since 1999.
McCown stayed in Sunday's 25-20 loss to Baltimore despite getting hurt in the first quarter and taking several hard shots.
The 37-year-old was filling in for Robert Griffin III, who broke a bone in his left shoulder in the season opener and will miss at least eight games - and maybe more.
Browns coach Hue Jackson was evasive about the extent of McCown's injury. He said the 37-year-old will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.
In the meantime, Kessler, a third-round pick from USC, will start against the Dolphins. Jackson said the team will look to add a veteran to its roster, but the job for now belongs to Kessler, who struggled during training camp and the exhibition season.
"We'll find out a lot about him this weekend," Jackson said.
As the Associated press notes, the Browns are the first team since the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs to start three QBs in the first three weeks.
Kessler was a surprise pick by the Browns, who also lost starting center Cam Erving (bruised lung) and rookie defensive end Carl Nassib (broken hand) against the Ravens.
Erving was released from the hospital following an overnight stay. Nassib will undergo surgery, but Jackson said it's possible the former Penn State standout may be able to play in the future with a protective cast.
With Erving out, John Greco will slide over from right guard to center. There's also a chance the Browns will add a veteran center.
McCown became emotional in his postgame news conference while addressing his reasons for not coming out of the game. McCown's two sons, who are both playing quarterback in middle school, were in attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The 14-year veteran landed hard several times on his shoulder and he couldn't lift his left arm as he entered the trainer's room following his news conference. The pained expression on his face hinted at the severity of his injury.
Kessler is next on the depth chart. He twice warmed up on the sideline Sunday, but McCown stayed on the field, exhibiting toughness that wasn't lost on his coaches or teammates.
When the Browns selected Kessler in the draft, Jackson tried to ease any anxiety Cleveland fans had over the pick by saying, "trust me" about taking Kessler.
Sill, Cleveland earmarked this season as one to condition and play their rookie haul from this year's draft, so Kessler was not part of that plan. All along, Jackson seemed to intimate that he'd need about a year before stepping in to take starter's minutes. That plan goes out the window now. ...
Adding to the frustration, after operating as what NFL.com's Marc Sessler characterized as "a dead-on-arrival offense" in the opener, the Browns came out firing with McCown at the helm.
The 37-year-old passer engineered 20 points in the first quarter alone -- including two touchdown passes to rookie wideout Corey Coleman -- for a Cleveland team that generated just 10 points in Week 1.
Credit Jackson with a string of play calls that featured a rash of exotic shifts, multiple looks and vertical shots downfield.
Coleman's early explosion was paired with a wild performance from running back Isaiah Crowell, who surpassed the 100-yard mark in mere minutes thanks to a fantastic 85-yard touchdown blast through Baltimore's defense.
Jackson has shown plenty of confidence in the third-year undrafted runner and it paid off on Sunday. You're not going to see that every week from Crowell, but Coleman, with five catches for 104 yards and the two touchdowns against the Ravens, looks like a star-in-the-making for Cleveland. ...
One other note on Crowell. ... According to Pro Football Focus, he has posted a position-high four runs of 15-plus yards through the first two weeks of the season. Only Melvin Gordon and Fozzy Whittaker have three runs of 15-plus yards so far this season. In total, 136 of Crowell's 195 yards have come on breakaway runs.
As PFF's Jeff Ratcliffe pointed out, "While many fantasy players had high hopes for Duke Johnson this season, Crowell has out-touched Johnson 33 to 13 and is clearly the better fantasy option in the Cleveland backfield."
One last QB-related item here. ... According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Charlie Whitehurst is signing with the Browns. The only other quarterback in the building is practice squad quarterback Kevin Hogan.
And finally. ... A warrant has been authorized for Josh Gordon after Gordon failed to answer several subpoenas in a child paternity case.
The complaint against Gordon was first filed in July 2015. The warrant was issued by a Cuyahoga Countty judge Aug. 31 after Gordon didn't respond to subpoenas sent to several different addresses in Los Angeles and Cleveland, Cleveland.com reported. Gordon has not delivered a DNA sample a court ordered him to submit last September, the warrant says.
The NFL conditionally reinstated Gordon from indefinite suspension in July, allowing him to participate in training camp and the preseason. He's been allowed to participate in meetings during his four-game suspension to start the 2016 season. Gordon is eligible to return to the Browns after two more games, on Oct. 3, and assuming he's fully reinstated he'll be able to play Oct. 9 vs. the Patriots.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, Breshad Perriman, Derrick Willies
TEs: David Njoku, Darren Fells, Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
From the last game of the 2013 season through the end of last season, Dallas went 1-13 when Romo was unavailable. With fourth-round draft pick Prescott suddenly elevated to the starting QB spot when Romo hurt his back late in the preseason, the Cowboys will take a 1-1 record into next week's game against the Chicago Bears.
Prescott also became the first rookie quarterback to win for the Cowboys since Drew Henson in 2004 and the first rookie to start and finish a game with a win since Chad Hutchinson on Thanksgiving Day in 2002.
Prescott was 22 for 30 for 292 yards plus a 6-yard scamper for a touchdown in a 27-23 victory at the Washington Redskins on Sunday. That followed a one-point loss to the New York Giants in Week 1.
"You see him do the right thing - and good things - when he's under pressure," owner Jerry Jones said. "He's like a sponge. ... He has an overachiever attitude about soaking it up."
The best sign for the future, according to teammates, was the way Prescott was calm during the 10-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter that led to the go-ahead points on former Redskins running back Alfred Morris' 4-yard TD run.
"He treated it like it was the first play of the game," receiver Dez Bryant said. "It says a lot about him as a person. He was ready for this game. He is built for this kind of stuff."
Meanwhile, it appears that Bryant isn't the only one who is going to become more and more involved in Dallas' offense - after one catch for 8 yards in Week 1, he had seven for 102 yards against Washington - but it looks as if Cole Beasley could be Prescott's No. 2 target going forward , rather than Terrance Williams.
Through two games, Beasley has 13 receptions for 140 yards; Williams has three catches for 34 yards, with zero targets Sunday.
Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott set a career high with 83 rushing yards on 21 carries, including an impressive 21-yard tote and a TD plunge.
But as NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, two fumbles overshadowed Elliott's workhorse game.
The first came on a strip in Washington territory (a brilliant play by corner Josh Norman) that led to a Redskins go-ahead field goal. Before Dallas' eventual game-winning touchdown, Elliott fumbled again, but Doug Free dove on the ball, saving the rookie from potential disaster.
For all the good Elliott did Sunday, the focus after the win was on the fumbles.
"It really doesn't matter what I did," Elliott told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I had those two fumbles, and that's what was important."
The Cowboys benched the rookie after the second fumble. Morris played the final 6:56 and earned the game-winning touchdown versus his former team.
The Dallas brass all said they believe the fumbling issue for Elliott won't be a problem moving forward.
"Obviously you have to protect the football," head coach Jason Garrett said. "That's line one in football, and certainly line one for a running back. He'll learn from the experiences."
Added team V.P. Stephen Jones: "Obviously he's got to fix (the fumbles) and he will. But it doesn't take an expert to see he has a lot of skills out there and he's going to continue to get better."
Elliott remains the Cowboys' best ground weapon, but Sunday's benching proves he might have a shorter leash than initially thought. Morris could start eating into the rookie's carries, especially if the fumbling doesn't prove to be merely a one-game fluke. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Injured quarterback Tony Romo is healthy enough to travel with the Cowboys and serve as a pseudo coach on the sidelines for Prescott.
But there is still no timeline on when Romo may return to playing after sustaining a compression fracture in his lower back last month.
"We still don't have a specific timeline on him," Stephen Jones said. "Obviously think he's making progress."
Romo injured his back during the third preseason game on Aug. 25 at Seattle, and is expected to miss eight-to-10 weeks. The eight-week mark would be Oct. 20, and the thought process has been that Romo could return following the bye week for the Oct. 30 game against Philadelphia.
That is why the Cowboys opted not to put Romo on short-term injured reserve, as that route would have made him ineligible to play until the Nov. 6 game at Cleveland.
Jerry Jones said Romo had a "really good" exam with the team doctors before Sunday's game against the Redskins, and is in the part of the process in which Romo dictates how much he can tolerate in rehab.
The big question: If Prescott continues to impress, could the Cowboys be more patient with Romo?
"Not necessarily. Not necessarily," Jerry Jones said. "Tony's situation when he's back will be about whether he's functional. We're a better team. We play better [with Romo]."
Still, Jones likes the number of snaps and live action Prescott has gotten with Romo injured, and has nothing but good things to say about the rookie out of Mississippi State.
"We're getting to not only play winning football with Dak, we're developing him," Jones said. "What's he gotten - 265-270 snaps against some of the greatest competition there is if you want to play that position. There can be quarterbacks in the league three years that can end up being top quarterbacks and don't get to face that real live stuff. ..."
One last note here: Defensive Randy Gregory withdrew appeal of his 10-game suspension for multiple violations of NFL's Substance Abuse policy and now will be suspended through week 14, league sources ESPN. Gregory is first eligible to return in week 15.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith
WRs: Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Instead, the Broncos looked at a battered Colts secondary, which was down two cornerbacks coming into the day and saw two more players leave, and they turned the kid loose en route to a 34-20 victory.
Head coach Gary Kubiak looked over the matchups and opened up the offense as Siemian threw the ball 33 times, including 25 attempts in the first half. It was a contrast to the season opener, when, against the Carolina Panthers on a prime-time stage, Siemian attempted 26 passes and threw for 178 yards as part of a game plan that protected him in his first game as a starter.
Sunday's efforts confirmed what Kubiak said when he surprised much of the football world by picking the 24-year-old as his starter: That he chose Siemian because the QB showed he was ready for the job. Siemian has now won games against Cam Newton and Andrew Luck to open his career.
The Broncos piled up 294 yards by halftime -- Siemian had 215 of his passing yards in the first half -- and the game was a clear vote of confidence for the guy who won the job because of how he handled a high-pressure competition to replace Peyton Manning under center.
Although he did not test the Colts deep, Siemian nibbled away for 8.1 yards per attempt, with 13 of his 22 completions moving the chains. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas overcame an early drop with a 44-yard catch-and-run on a bubble screen for the Broncos' longest play of the day; he finished with 90 yards on five receptions. Siemian also involved tight end Virgil Green, who grabbed three passes for 46 yards before leaving with a calf injury.
C.J. Anderson ground his way for 74 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, but the most encouraging development of the day was the play of Devontae Booker, who overcame a fumble and a missed blitz pickup against Carolina to average 5.1 yards on his nine carries against the Colts.
Anderson said after the game that he opted to stay on the sideline when he could have gone back in because Booker had found a rhythm and he didn't want to disrupt it.
With 31 runs against 34 pass plays, the Broncos have already found balance.
One issue: The Broncos have made a habit of finishing drives with field goals rather than touchdowns, something that put them in a 13-13 game in the third quarter Sunday, despite their holding a more than 2-to-1 advantage in yardage.
But the Broncos lived the close-game life with Manning and Brock Osweiler at quarterback in 2015, and with the same kind of opportunistic, dominant defense in tow this time, they have decided Siemian can play that way too. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Green was seen wearing a walking boot in the locker room after leaving Sunday's game during the fourth quarter because of a calf injury. He is considered "day to day," Kubiak said but the veteran tight end was not practicing Wednesday. If he misses any time, the Broncos will be compromised at the position, as John Phillips is the only other healthy tight end who has seen any time this season.
Second-year tight end Jeff Heuerman was inactive Sunday after practicing all week. The 2015 third-round pick has yet to take a regular-season snap because of last year's torn ACL and this year's hamstring problems. He has not seen any game action of any time since Aug. 11, six days before he suffered a hamstring injury in practice, but Kubiak said he could have played Sunday if he was active.
Meanwhile, the Broncos' offseason prepared them for life without DeMarcus Ware.
His back issues nudged Shane Ray onto the first team for the entirety of offseason and training-camp work, and with Ware now expected to miss four to five weeks following surgery to repair a fractured forearm, Ray will see extended action.
Ware suffered the injury on a third-quarter collision with Von Miller as the edge rushers met at Andrew Luck. Ray immediately stepped in and played a career-high 45 snaps in the game, and was in the right spot to recover the football when Miller stripped it from Luck with 1:48 remaining in Sunday's game.
With Ray, Shaquil Barrett and veteran Dekoda Watson around, Miller said he didn't feel any extra pressure to make a play just because Ware wasn't on the field.
"It was the same type of mentality," Miller said. "All those guys are great rushers and it was just time for those guys to play a little bit more. Throughout the game, we're trying to find series to get those guys in there and make plays, give us a rest and to get them acclimated to the game. They're a great tandem. They're a great team. Shaq, Shane and Dekoda, and whenever they got the opportunity to get in there, they took full advantage of it."
And the injury could have a silver lining: It preserves Ware's health. With a month on the sideline, Ware should be healthy for the stretch run and could play with no restrictions because of his back issues.
And of course, Vonn Miller has made good on his vow to pick up where he left off in a five-sack postseason that ended with a Super Bowl 50 ring and MVP trophy. With four sacks through two games, he is the league leader in that statistic.
Stiff challenges lurk in the next three weeks, with the Bengals, Buccaneers and suddenly explosive Falcons on the docket. But as the Sports Xchange suggests, if Miller can continue attacking off the edge as he has in recent games, the Broncos should be able to keep winning as they have the last two seasons: with a defense that made yet another game-sealing play in the final moments.
QBs: Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, Andre Holmes, Jordan Taylor, Jordan Leslie, Carlos Henderson
TEs: Matt LaCosse
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
The Lions have one of the top 10 rushing attacks in the NFL, but they will be without their best running back for this week's showdown with the Green Bay Packers -- and beyond.
Ameer Abdullah is heading to injured reserve after injuring his left foot during the second quarter of Sunday's 16-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans, keeping him out of the lineup for at least eight weeks and pushing Theo Riddick up the depth chart.
Abdullah injured the foot on a 24-yard run where he broke multiple tackles. At the end of the run, he hobbled off the field and went almost directly into the team's locker room. He did not return.
Riddick will likely replace Abdullah in the starting lineup Sunday and will be backed up by rookie Dwayne Washington.
The 5-foot-9, 201-pound Riddick had a career-high 11 carries for 37 yards against the Titans and caught four passes for 28 yards. In the season-opening win at Indianapolis, he matched a career high with seven rushing attempts and had 108 yards of offense and two scores.
Washington is a 6-1, 223-pound powerful runner, giving Detroit a compliment to Riddick's ability to juke defenders and run past them. Washington, a seventh-round pick from Washington, has carried the ball six times for 32 yards and a score. He earned a spot Stevan Ridley was expected to have this season.
"He was productive obviously on the carries that he had and I think he's coming along," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Washington. "I think without question he's certainly capable of giving us some unique production in his way because he's a little different type of back. But I think he'll be alright."
The Lions signed wide receiver Aaron Dobson to take Abdullah's roster spot. The New England Patriots, with current Detroit general manager Bob Quinn, drafted Dobson in the second round three years ago. He had 53 catches for 698 yards and four touchdowns from 2013 to 2015 with the Patriots.
Detroit also added depth at running back by signing George Winn to its practice.
The team also worked out veteran running back Joique Bell on Tuesday.
The obvious advantage to bringing Bell in is that he already knows the offense: Bell played for the Lions from 2012 to 2015. Last year he was second on the team with 311 rushing yards and sixth on the team with 286 receiving yards.
The Lions cut Bell this offseason and he hasn't signed anywhere since. The fact that the team hasn't made a quick signing suggests there's a reason nobody else has been interest. ...
In other injury news. ... Caldwell declined to provide injury updates on defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle) and linebackers Kyle Van Noy (calf) and Antwione Williams (thigh), all of whom left Sunday's game with injuries.
Caldwell wouldn't rule out the possibility that Levy will miss the rest of the season with a quadriceps injury that kept him out of Sunday's game.
"We'll see," Caldwell said.
Levy has played in two of a possible 18 games since he signed a four-year contract extension with the Lions last year. He missed most of last season with a hip injury, and opened training camp this year on the non-football injury list after hurting his knee over the summer.
The Lions have a workout planned for several free-agent linebackers and likely will need to make a roster move at the position.
Other notes of interest. ... Caldwell was hired as the head coach three years ago, he promised the Detroit Lions would be a more disciplined team.
The Lions routinely ranked as one of the most penalized teams in the NFL under former coach Jim Schwartz, and for parts of Caldwell's first two seasons the team improved in that respect.
But two games into this season, the Lions are back to shooting themselves in the foot with wild bouts of undisciplined play. In Sunday's 16-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Lions committed 17 penalties for 138 yards and had three touchdowns nullified by flags.
Caldwell called his team's penalty problems "ridiculous," though he insisted they weren't due to a lack of composure.
"All I know is there were way too many," Caldwell said. "Whether or not it's a composure issue, composure issue is when you get personal fouls and guys are out of control and there are fights and things of that nature. These were technical issues, I think, that we had a bunch of issues with. A lot of different guys."
Eleven different Lions were flagged Sunday, and Eric Ebron, Anquan Boldin, Laken Tomlinson, Darius Slay and Brandon Copeland all drew two penalties apiece. (The Lions' last penalty was an intentional delay of game penalty on a punt.)
Ebron had a holding penalty that wiped out a touchdown run by Ameer Abdullah and was called for offensive pass interference in the end zone to negate his own touchdown catch. Tomlinson had a holding penalty that took a touchdown off the board.
The Lions took issue with Ebron's questionable pass interference flag, as well as a non-call on Titans defensive tackle Jerrell Casey for hitting quarterback Matthew Stafford below the knees, and Caldwell said he planned to send video to the league of several plays.
Still, Caldwell and several players said it's imperative that the Lions, who lead the NFL with 26 penalties (25 of them accepted) through two weeks, clean up their play heading into a crucial two-game road stretch against NFC North opponents the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
"We're trying to build a team that's steady and playing well the majority of the time," Stafford said. "We didn't do it (Sunday). We hurt ourselves. All that stuff is correctable. The penalties and missed assignments, drops, whatever it was, it's correctable stuff. We can get it taken care of and we will. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... As NFL.com's Edward Lewis noted, Stafford had thrown 212 passes without an interception before tossing the game-losing pick to Perrish Cox. The Lions quarterback has looked strong since Jim Bob Cooter took over the offense last season, but he struggled Sunday.
Stafford missed opportunities for several big plays in the second half, including overthrowing Golden Tate for what could have been a score late in the second half. He finished the game just 22 of 40 for 260 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one incredibly awkward slide.
The Lions signed wide receiver Aaron Dobson, who probably won't be of great interest to fantasys owners, but who provides the team with depth.
And finally. ... The Lions released suspended tight end Andrew Quarless before he played a single game for them.
Detroit signed Quarless in August, but he was suspended the first two games of the season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. When they signed Quarless, the Lions said they were aware of the suspension. When Detroit made that move, Ebron was recovering from an injury, but he's healthy and playing now.
Quarless was with Green Bay for the last six seasons. He's caught 89 passes, including a career-high 32 in 2013.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Kerryon Johnson
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Brandon Powell
TEs: Michael Roberts, Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Sunday night's 17-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings was a reoccurring nightmare for Rodgers. The Packers QB went 20-of-36 passing with a touchdown, an interception and three fumbles (one lost). Green Bay's best plays of the night were pass interference calls on corner Trae Waynes. Even that didn't work in the end, as the second-year cornerback jumped a wayward throw to snag what ended up as the clinching pick.
"We're not going to overreact," Rodgers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It's been two weeks. We haven't quite found our rhythm yet, but we had some guys working in who hadn't worked a lot together so we trust the process and believe we can get this thing turned around.
"We have kind of an awkward schedule here. We have a game next week at home, a bye and then three at home. We have to find our rhythm here as we head back home."
We should give credit to Mike Zimmer's defense. The Vikings' defensive front is athletic, fast and deep.
Yet, Sunday's sub-par performance wasn't an aberration for Green Bay. It's the continuation of Rodgers' 2015 struggles. The quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 300 yards in 11 games; eight of those contests he's tossed fewer than 250 yards (including both games in 2016). He's gone 14 straight contests with a passer rating below 100. Last year Rodgers threw for a career-low 6.7 yards per attempt. He's worse through two games this season, at 5.9.
We spent all last season noting how much Jordy Nelson's injury impacted Rodgers. Nelson looks healthy enough, yet Rodgers' problems continue.
"The rhythm in the passing game is not what we wanted," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "That starts with me. We'll go back and look at the first two weeks and evaluate everything. We will improve."
The turnovers and carelessness with the ball in the pocket from Rodgers also need to improve. While the Vikings' defense provided pressure, there were times the quarterback saw ghosts in the pocket. Per Pro Football Focus, Rodgers was under pressure on 11 dropbacks, ran once, was sacked five times and threw five incompletions. His mechanics and footwork called to mind last season's problems. Not setting his feet can lead to some brilliant plays, but even for an All-Pro like Rodgers, it leads to inconsistency over time.
As noted above, the return of Nelson has not ignited the vertical passing game. For nearly three quarters, Rodgers attempted to find Davante Adams, not Nelson, deep outside the numbers to gain chunk yardage at least five times, but only succeeded when Adams drew two pass interference calls; the wideout also committed one O.P.I.
Green Bay's offense moved better in the second half when Rodgers distributed the ball via intermediate routes to new tight end Jared Cook and Swiss army man Randall Cobb. Nelson's 39-yard grab in the fourth quarter to set up Green Bay's final score was too little, too late as Minnesota learned its lesson and took away the deep ball on ensuing drives.
"It's Week 2, there's always a lot of work to do," Rodgers said. "We're close at times. We just need to figure out what our identity is. That's created throughout the season. We're trying some different things.
"We had some success with two-tight end stuff at times. We just didn't have enough success on third down and we turned the ball over too much."
Still, as Patra noted, the Packers have the talent to make this two-game stretch of ugliness forgettable by season's end. Then again, the struggles haven't exactly been a two-game anomaly for McCarthy's offense.
For what it's worth, McCarthy said the improvements that are needed on offense started right away Monday, when the players came back to work for video review of the game.
"Mindset is important, so we're going to stay on the balls of our feet and punch like hell," McCarthy said.
"Our perimeter players, we need to get them more opportunities, too," McCarthy said.
Green Bay hosts another NFC North rival, the Detroit Lions -- who have been hit with a handful of injuries to key defensive players, in its home opener Sunday.
One last note here. ... Free agent running back C.J. Spiller is visiting Green Bay on Tuesday, reported ESPN's Adam Caplan.
The Packers have an open roster spot and a need for backfield depth after recently waiving third running back Jhurell Pressley.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, J'mon Moore, Jake Kumerow, Trevor Davis
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As the Sports Xchange reported it, the juggling act was an impressive one as rookie wide receiver Will Fuller accelerated away from Chiefs Pro-Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters.
The football ricocheted a few times off his fingertips, but the former Notre Dame star kept his eye on each carom and finally snagged it with both hands as Chiefs safety Eric Berry and Peters dragged him down after a 53-yard catch.
"I don't know what happened," Fuller said Monday as he began preparation for Thursday night's road game against the New England Patriots. "I looked it all the way in and then bobbled it a little bit. Just happy I focused and completed the catch."
It was another impressive display from the Texans first-round draft pick during a 19-12 victory Sunday over the Chiefs during which Fuller caught four passes for 104 yards while being targeted seven times.
Although it's been just two games, Fuller has provided an immediate deep threat and formed a dangerous receiving tandem with Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The arrival of Fuller has created a more dynamic passing game as he's averaged 23.4 yards per reception.
"He's a terrific player," Texans owner Bob McNair said. "He's going to do nothing but get better. We are blessed with some good, young receivers. It's going to be fun watching them."
Fuller has ascended to the point where he's a regular part of the Texans' game plan every week and a constant downfield presence who is relied upon by quarterback Brock Osweiler.
"It means a lot, actually," Fuller said. "Just going to continue to work hard, continue to keep trying to get these 100-yard games and help my team win. It hits me good. It means the coaches trust me, Brock trusts me to keep throwing the ball my way."
Worth noting, through the first two weeks of the season, Fuller leads all wide receivers with 10 deep-ball targets that have traveled at least 20 yards down field. According to Pro Football Focus, that accounts for 55.6 percent of his targets for the season. As PFF's Jeff Ratcliff points out, Fuller has only caught two of those passes, but the good news is that Osweiler keeps taking shots to Fuller.
"He's a volatile fantasy option," Ratcliffe added, "but Fuller will continue to have big weekly upside. ..."
Also worth noting, Fuller's success doesn't come as a surprise in NFL circles. Drafted 21st overall, Fuller caught 62 passes for 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns last season for the Fighting Irish as he declared early for the draft following his junior season.
"I felt like he a really impressive player coming out," New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said during a conference call. "Based on where we were selecting in the draft we didn't think there was really any shot that he would get anywhere close to us and he didn't.
"We didn't spend an inordinate amount of time on him, but you know, we knew enough to know that he was a good player and he wasn't going to last long on the board. Very good vertical threat, can get behind the defense, can run after the catch."
When informed of Belichick's compliments, Fuller didn't have much of a reaction. Nor is he surprised by his impact so far.
"I'm having a little success right now, so just continue to do my job and hopefully more success comes my way," Fuller said. "I've been a ball player my whole life. I'm just going to continue to work hard."
Fuller has already caught nine passes for 211 yards and one touchdown. He's on pace to finish the season with 72 catches for 1,688 yards and eight touchdowns.
Fuller became the first rookie in club history to begin his career with back-to-back 100-yard games. Hopkins also added 113 yards -- first time the Texans had multiple 100-yard receivers since the 2013 season.
"I think it says everything about his work ethic," Osweiler said. "You don't just randomly have back-to-back 100-yard games in the National Football League. As the Xchange suggests, that takes somebody who works extremely hard and somebody who is constantly getting better at their craft. ...
Meanwhile, with the short week heading into Thursday night, ESPN.com's Sara Barshop, the biggest storyline this week will be how Osweiler responds after his two-interception performance.
The offense scored only one touchdown, and it was held to an interception and three field goals in four trips to the red zone on Sunday. The defense, which did not allow a touchdown, picked up the offense against the Chiefs, but it does not want to rely on that Thursday against the Patriots. ...
New running back Lamar Miller rushed for 83 yards on 25 carries. He averaged just 3.3 yards per carry, but gained 45 yards on 12 carries in the fourth quarter.
On the injury front. ... Osweiler was one of 15 Texans to appear on the team's initial injury report injury report. Not practicing were tackle Duane Brown (knee), linebacker Brian Cushing (knee), and receiver Braxton Miller (hamstring). Limited in practice were defensive end J.J. Watt (back), guard Jeff Allen (calf), cornerback A.J. Bouye (shoulder), tackle Chris Clark (elbow, ankle), linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (foot), cornerback Kevin Johnson (thumb), punter Shane Lechler (back), tackle Derek Newton (knee), and running back Jay Prosch (back).
Full participants were Osweiler, defensive end Christian Covington (groin), and linebacker John Simon (wrist).
Miller left Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter and had an MRI on Monday. He told reporter that he's hoping to get back "as soon as possible." But that won't be this week. He was officially ruled out on Wednesday.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, D'Onta Foreman
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas, Keke Coutee, Sammie Coates, DeAndre Carter
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Heading into Sunday's home game with the San Diego Chargers, the Colts find themselves in familiar territory.
On the heels of a 34-20 road loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, the Colts are off to an 0-2 start for the third straight season. In 2014, they responded by winning five straight.
In 2015, they responded by winning three straight.
But injuries have severely limited the Indianapolis defense this year, and things didn't get much better over the course of the Denver game. The Colts lost the services of a couple more players in that game.
And the offense, which looked so impressive in the season-opening home loss to Detroit, had an up-and-down day against arguably the NFL's best defensive unit.
Head coach Chuck Pagano knows that this week's matchup with the Chargers is crucial.
"We just have to keep grinding," Pagano said. "It's only two games. This is the third year in a row (the Colts have started 0-2). But we've got a good locker room with great character guys. These guys will come back and work hard just like always.
"We have 14 games left. It's a long, long season. We're beat up. We've got to get some guys back. We lost some more guys (against the Broncos) but nobody is going to feel sorry for us."
Work ethic isn't the issue in the Colts, according to the Colts coach. Consistency on both sides of the ball and getting healthy on defense are the important issues right now.
Also worth noting, Indianapolis has been close in each of its first two games. Even with the injury issues, the Colts have been in position in the fourth quarter to win both.
"0-2 wasn't the plan. But it's where we at. We've got the guys to get it turned around," Pagano said.
That starts with Andrew Luck.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes, Luck was near flawless in Week 1 against Detroit. But then he ran into a Denver defense that excelled at mixing up its coverage, gave very tight passing lanes, blanketed his receivers and consistently pressured the quarterback.
The end result was Luck going 21-of-40 for 197 yards with a touchdown, an interception, a fumble and he was sacked five times. Luck's accuracy was off the mark -- too high or too far -- on several throws in the first half that would have kept drives alive.
In addition, as NFL.com's Chris Wesseling pointed out, Luck is 6-4 with one of the NFL's highest releases. It's telling that he had a series of passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, as Denver's defensive front consistently pushed the Colts' offensive line back.
"I don't think I threw it that well, first or second half, really," Luck said. "We had a chance sort of at the end of the game and we made just enough plays to hang in there against a very good team. We didn't make the plays when it counted, though."
According to Wells, the biggest difference in Luck's individual performance from Week 1 to Week 2 was his ability to get the ball down the field.
The Lions didn't have Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge pursuing Luck like the Broncos were able to do. That meant Luck wasn't able to hold the ball in the pocket as long. He was hit 11 times on Sunday.
He was 2-of-8 with an interception, which was returned for a touchdown, on passing attempts of more than 10 yards. The 25 percent completion rate on that distance tied for the worst of Luck's career, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
That statistic was significantly worse than in Week 1 when Luck was 12-of-18 for 276 yards and a touchdown when attempting passes longer than 10 yards.
"I never want to take credit away from a defense," Luck said. "If you're playing against air, it's simple, it's easy: boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I didn't throw the ball well, they played good defense, so a lot of factors to it."
As important as it is for Luck to deliver the ball to the right spots, it's also vital that his receivers win their matchups. That wasn't the case for T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett. Luck was a combined 5-of-16 for 71 yards when attempting passes to those two against the Broncos.
With the cornerback trio of Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby tying up Indy's receivers, Luck was too often forced to hold the ball and use his legs to bail out of trouble. Losing Donte Moncrief to a first-half injury didn't matter, as the undersized duo of Hilton and Dorsett have trouble winning at the catch point versus physical cornerbacks.
Which will be a problem going forward with Moncrief slated to miss the next four to six weeks with a fractured shoulder blade. The injury will not require surgery, Pagano told reporters in announcing the news on Wednesday morning.
Hilton and Dorsett both undersized speedsters, so Moncrief provided Luck with a reliable, big-framed receiver capable of winning at the catch point.
With Moncrief out of the lineup, the Colts signed former Cowboys draft pick Devin Street off the Patriots' practice squad. Street will likely vie with Quan Bray and undrafted rookie Chester Rogers for snaps behind Hilton and Dorsett.
Bray, Rogers and Street have combined for eight catches in the NFL. Street had seven receptions with Dallas from 2014-15.
In addition, the Colts held Luck out of practice Wednesday due to a sore shoulder.
Luck told reporters he's sore from last week's game in Denver but expects to play Sunday.
Injuries limited Luck to seven games last year. He was a limited participant in practice before the season opener two weeks ago, also due to a shoulder issue.
On a more positive note, the Colts got three of their injured defensive backs back on the practice field Wednesday, including cornerback Vontae Davis.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, Davis has been out since hurting his ankle last month and initial reports were that he'd miss the entire month of September before he'd be healthy enough to play. The next few days should determine whether he'll beat that estimate and make it into the lineup for the third week of the season.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson also returned to practice, although he did so in a non-contact jersey as he continues to make his way back from a concussion. Safety T.J. Green rounded out the trio of defensive backs hitting the practice field. The rookie missed last week's game with a knee injury. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As the Sports Xchange notes, the Colts did have a rushing touchdown, thanks to Robert Turbin's 5-yard run in the third quarter. Frank Gore led Indianapolis with 44 yards rushing in 13 carries. As a team, the Colts could only manage 83 total yards on the ground, and 21 of those yards came courtesy of a scramble run by Luck on third-and-long.
And finally. ... Kicker Adam Vinatieri increased his streak of consecutive field goals made to 29, which is the third-longest streak in team history. Vinatieri also passed Jason Hanson for the fourth-most field goal attempts in NFL history.
QBs: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Dontrelle Inman, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal
TEs: Eric Ebron, Mo Alie-Cox, Ryan Hewitt
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco put it, "One week after nearly beating the Packers, the Jaguars turned in an embarrassing performance in a loss to San Diego. It was a complete meltdown on offense and defense, and a bit of a surprising performance considering how much the players talked all week about the franchise making progress."
The Jaguars are now 1-12 in September under head coach Gus Bradley, who is 12-38 in three-plus seasons.
Owner Shad Khan said a winning record in 2016 is "everybody's reasonable expectation" but an 0-2 start with Baltimore up next makes it even harder for that to become a possibility.
Indeed, just two weeks into the 2016 season it feels like all the optimism the team had generated from free agency and the draft is gone.
The heat on Bradley high now gets cranked up even higher. General manager Dave Caldwell said before the season that the Jaguars were good enough in Year 4 of the rebuild that they could beat every team on their schedule.
"The previous years I felt like we had to be perfect just to be in to a game late into a game, where here we can overcome a bad play, a fumble, a backed-up situation, a deficit," Caldwell said two weeks ago. "Offensively we can score quickly and defensively I think we can hold the fort down.
"... That's the biggest thing: We have a chance."
That wasn't the case on Sunday against the Chargers.
Of course, as the Sports Xchange noted, you didn't need to look at the scoreboard on Sunday to know the Jaguars were in trouble. One look at the in-game stat sheet would have confirmed that.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Jaguars best receiver, Allen Robinson, had just three passes thrown in his direction. He was able to grab just one of those for a meager 10 yards. Robinson did manage to make two more catches in the final 15 minutes to finish with three grabs, good for 54 yards.
But after two games, Robinson is still looking for his first touchdown catch after hauling in 14 such passes a year ago. That was part of an 80-catch, 1,400-yard season that earned him his first trip to the Pro Bowl. But with Green Bay and San Diego often double covering Robinson, Robinson has had trouble breaking free like he did so often last year.
"It's what we're going to see every week," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. "Guys won't leave him one-on-one with anybody and they'll have help for the most part. We have to find ways to get him the ball."
It's been a tough start for Robinson, the Jaguars No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft.
"It's frustrating because we're a good team," Robinson said. "Sometimes you need things like this to look back and reflect on things we need to improve on. This will open up everyone's eyes."
Meanwhile, having Blake Bortles pass for 300 yards sounds like a good thing. Not so for the Jaguars. Bortles hit the 300-yard plateau for the ninth time in his short NFL career when he threw for 329 yards against San Diego on Sunday. It was the same total he had the previous year against the Chargers in a 31-25 loss.
This year it wasn't that close, a 38-14 whipping administered by the Chargers.
Those two losses have something in common with the other seven Bortles' 300-yard games they all resulted in Jaguar defeats. Most have been close losses, including two-, three, four-, five-, six- and seven-point defeats. Two other games resulted in 11-point losses.
Sunday's 24-point setback to the Chargers was the only game in which the Jaguars were not competitive. Bortles didn't help his own cause by committing three turnovers (two interceptions and a lost fumble).
"Three turnovers in the first half all completely my fault," Bortles said. "It's hard to win when you play like that. It's hard to win when you don't play well at the quarterback position. I can speak and say the majority of the locker room, if not all of it, is sick and tired of this feeling. It's up to us to do something about it."
One thing that might help would be a more effective rushing attack.
But the Jaguars probably came close to an NFL record by running the ball eight times for the entire game. Statistics will call it 11 runs but only because Bortles took off on scrambles three times. Granted the average per carry was better than their meager Week 1 1.9 yards per attempt, but only because Bortles gained 34 yards on his three scrambles.
T.J. Yeldon had seven carries for 28 yards (4.0 average), but that had little effect on the scheme of things. For the second week in a row, the Jaguars will finish with one of the poorest team rushing efforts of the day.
Chris Ivory, who has missed the first two games with an undisclosed medical issue, will return to practice on Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis, after sitting out the past two weeks.
Ivory was admitted to a local hospital with an undisclosed illness ahead of Jacksonville's Week 1 matchup with the Packers. The tailback stayed for two days before being released on Tuesday. The team said at the time that his stay was not due to his lingering calf injury. Ivory was subseqeuently ruled out of the Jags' Week 2 game.
Through two games, the Jaguars' run game sans Ivory ranks 30th in the league with 117 yards and is tied for 28th in the league with only 37 rushing attempts.
As NFL.com suggested, the Jaguars don't have faith in Yeldon being an every-down back (and why would they?), as he was only forced into that role due to Ivory's absence.
I'll be watching for more on Ivory's progress in coming days and report back via Late-Breaking Update. ...
The kicking game wasn't immune from issues in this one either. Jason Myers had his streak of 16 consecutive made field goals snapped when he missed a 54-yard attempt on Sunday against San Diego. It was the third longest streak in Jaguars history.
One last note here. ... The Jaguars announced on Monday that LT Kelvin Beachum would be discharged from a San Diego hospital and return to Jacksonville. He will remain in the NFL's concussion protocol.
If Beachum can't go this Sunday against Baltimore, the Jaguars will likely move guard Luke Joeckel back to tackle where he was a three-year starter until this year, and bring in either Chris Reed or Tyler Shatley to play the left guard spot.
QBs: Cody Kessler, Blake Bortles
RBs: Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon, Leonard Fournette
WRs: Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, D.J. Chark, Rashad Greene, Keelan Cole
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack, Niles Paul
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
The Kansas City Chiefs thought they could have one of the NFL's highest scoring offenses, but ESPN.com's Adam Teicher suggests they might have to rethink that in light of their 19-12 loss to the Texans Sunday.
The 1-1 Chiefs have played eight quarters (plus a few minutes of overtime) this season, the extra time coming in the season opener against the San Diego Chargers. They have been unproductive offensively for most of that time. Only their big fourth quarter and overtime against the Chargers prevented them from starting the season 0-2.
The Chiefs have managed only a measly field goal in each first half. They had only one first half with as little as a field goal last season.
Life on the edge may have suited the Chiefs last week, when they rallied from a 24-3, third-quarter deficit to win. It was a problem for them against the Texans. They committed three turnovers, allowed four sacks and managed just four field goals.
They also dropped some passes and had some costly penalties.
"All of those things led to (Houston) points," head coach Andy Reid said. "We take care of those things and we're a pretty good football team.'
Last year's formula for the Chiefs was to win with a strong defense and an efficient offense that didn't mess everything up. They made it work in winning their final 10 regular-season games.
The Chiefs may not be so fortunate this year. With top pass-rusher Justin Houston sidelined by a knee injury, their defense hasn't pressured the opposing quarterback as consistently as it did last year.
The Chiefs had hoped they could lean more on their offense this year. They were able to last week against the Chargers because of one glorious quarter. But that's about all the Chiefs have accomplished offensively this season.
"I'm not denying the ability is there,' Reid said. "We have a chance to be a pretty good football team, but we've got to learn from this here.'
Perhaps the Chiefs can fix all that ails them offensively in time for next Sunday's game against the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium. But that's a long list, and realistically it may be some time before they're the offensive team they think they can be.
That's if it happens at all.
One thing that might get the Chiefs off to a faster start against the New York Jets this Sunday?
The return of four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles, their biggest difference-maker on offense.
Charles has been practicing for several weeks after surgery to repair his torn right ACL last season, but he has been inactive for the first two games.
Reid said that Charles told him last week that he wasn't quite ready to get on the field, but there is a chance he could play against the Jets.
"I thought he practiced better last week," Reid said. "I wouldn't rule it out. I just don't have enough information to put that out there (that he will play)."
As for how Charles looks these days in practice, Reid told the Kansas City Star, "Yeah, he can still scoot."
When asked if Charles might be on a pitch count when he returns, Reid did not rule it out.
"I think we would have the flexibility, definitely, to do that with the backs that we have," Reid said.
As Star beat man Terez Paylor suggested, it might be hard to predict how much Charles will be used initially. Since his injury last year, replacements Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have combined for a respectable 4.6 yards-per-carry average. This season, that number has swelled to 6.2 yards per carry on 30 combined attempts.
But neither of those running backs gives the Chiefs the same kind of game-breaking threat as Charles, someone who can take any pass or handoff to the end zone.
Asked what would convince Reid to play Charles, who was once again working with the scout team on Wednesday, this Sunday, the coach replied: "You make sure he's safe. You surely don't want to take a step backward. He's a pretty good player and you can rush yourselves, but we're not playing tiddlywinks here. It's a violent sport. You want to make sure he's fully recovered."
Or at least recovered enough to help an offense out of its doldrums.
The Chiefs are averaging just 116 yards total offense in the first half of their first two games, and managed just a pair of field goals. They're averaging 236 yards and 16.5 points in the second half.
The biggest reason for the big difference is that Kansas City has had no choice but to ditch its conservative play-calling and open things up.
He met the challenge against San Diego. He came up short against Houston.
Indeed, a week after Smith turned in his most notable performance as Chiefs quarterback, he followed with an afternoon at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Kansas City struggled throwing the ball and produced just one big play a 34-yard play from Smith to Ware. The Chiefs had 186 net passing yards but no touchdowns, and they allowed their quarterback to be sacked four times.
Smith completed just 54 percent of his passes for an average of 5.0 yards per attempt.
On a slightly more positive note. .. Rookie receiver Tyreek Hill continued to receive more opportunities and the speedy and quick rookie continues to produce. Hill finished Sunday's game against Houston with 153 all-purpose yards on 10 chances. Almost all of that came from the return game, with a 30-yard kickoff return and a 32-yard punt return. He also had two tackles on special teams.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Matthew McGloin
RBs: Damien Williams, Charcandrick West, Anthony Sherman, Spencer Ware
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, De'Anthony Thomas
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez noted, six days after a demoralizing loss to open their season, the Rams got the win they so badly needed -- the win this city has been waiting 22 years to experience -- on an emotional Sunday afternoon from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Led by a stout defense, an efficient quarterback and a flawless kicker, the Rams edged the vaunted division-rival Seattle Seahawks 9-3 in their highly anticipated home opener.
The Rams sold 91,046 tickets for their first game at the Coliseum since 1979. The Red Hot Chili Peppers performed a pregame concert, CeeLo Green sang the national anthem, LeBron James and Magic Johnson were in attendance and the Rams provided a performance worthy of all the pomp and circumstance.
They limited the Seahawks -- the team many have picked to win the Super Bowl this season -- to 306 yards from scrimmage and one field goal, notching their third straight victory against Seattle.
Case Keenum went 17-of-35 for 130 yards and two interceptions in a 28-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California, on Monday Night Football, prompting incessant debate over whether No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff should immediately displace him as the starting quarterback.
With Goff on the sideline in Week 2, after being promoted from an inactive third-stringer to the primary backup, Keenum went 18-of-30 for 239 yards and zero turnovers against Seattle. He connected with Lance Kendricks on a 44-yard strike down the middle of the field, with Tavon Austin for 27 yards on a crossing route and with Kenny Britt for 36 yards up the sideline with a play-action pass, helping Greg Zuerlein connect on field goals from 39, 28 and 47 yards.
But the story was the defense, particularly the star-studded defensive line.
"Those guys are special, man," Rams cornerback Coty Sensabaugh said. "Those guys are real special."
The Rams' front four repeatedly got to Russell Wilson, producing nine quarterback hits after amassing only one on Monday. Robert Quinn closed out the first half with a fumble-producing sack in enemy territory and had
While the defense was up to the challenge, the offense needs work.
And moving forward, a tough schedule against teams that can put points on the board at a high rate, the Rams can't sustain without being able to cross the goal line.
And in order to put more points on the board, they'll need to get star running back Todd Gurley going. Gurley, who finished third in rushing yards as a rookie last season, rushed for only 47 yards in Week 1 and 51 yards in Week 2.
Said Gurley: "It's whatever. It's football. You're not going to have a great game every game."
It would help if his teamamtes were great on occasion. They realize this.
"I want touchdowns and we got down there. I think we had a penalty, maybe a negative run, just negative plays in the red zone. It is not good," Keenum said. "When we get down there, yards are precious in the red zone, just executing. We had a chance on that third down to (Britt). I underthrew him. I think we had a good play on and just missed. Some of those other ones and just converting third downs and staying positive in the red zone. We got down close to field-goal range a couple of times, obviously helped with the field position battle, but if you're going to be successful in this league, there are a lot of really good offenses, you have to score points."
That the Rams are 1-1 without a touchdown is a positive.
But they realize that can't possibly last.
"Anybody that knows this game would be concerned about not scoring touchdowns, now come on," said head coach Jeff Fisher. "I don't mean to be disrespectful, but we need to score some touchdowns. But I'll take this win, winning and then some. So if we take anything away from this week, that's what we got to do. We got to keep working on it someway somehow, whether it's special teams or defense, but I'll take a touchdown next week. That would be cool."
Keenum and Austin are trying to create chemistry. Without a legitimate downfield threat, however, it's difficult. Austin is a player who operates in space, but space doesn't happen without teammates who can stretch the field.
But Keenum keeps chipping away and he threw for a respectable 8.1 yards per pass, making good use of Britt and tight end Lance Kendricks. Nobody should mistake Keenum for a bona fide NFL starter, but as long as Fisher dreams of kicking three field goals per game, he's got his man.
"We need more production out of our offense," Fisher said. "All things point to the quarterback position, but I'm expecting Case to continue to get better in this offense, and we're going to win games and score points."
Asked if a change at quarterback would ultimately be dictated more by Keenum's play or Goff's practices, Fisher said: "It will be based on a lot of different things. When he's under center, you'll know."
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen
RBs: Todd Gurley, John Kelly, Justin Davis
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Pharoh Cooper, Cooper Kupp
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
In Week 1, the Miami Dolphins almost closed out a win in Seattle. In Week 2, they almost pulled off a great comeback in New England.
They're 0-2 anyway.
Led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins mounted a valiant comeback effort by cutting its deficit to seven points. The Dolphins' hopes were kept alive when Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, one of the most reliable in the NFL, missed wide right from 39 yards.
The Dolphins' hopes for a small miracle were dashed with two seconds left when Tannehill's pass in the end zone, intended for wide receiver DeVante Parker, was intercepted.
So a day after Miami wide receiver Jarvis Landry said "almost" can't be good enough, head coach Adam Gase agreed - even showing some frustration with the notion.
"We put ourselves in that position, whether it be offense, defense or special teams," Gase said. "So we have to clean some things up. If we get on the details of things, that's going to give us our best opportunity to win a game."
That's going to be even harder this week since Miami suffered a valuable loss when oft-injured running back Arian Foster, who was listed on Wednesday's injury report with a hamstring ailment, left the game in the second quarter with a groin injury.
"He's going to be day-to-day right now," Gase said. "We haven't really made any decisions on whether or not we're going to try to get him out at practice on Wednesday. I think we're just going to get through today, see where he's at tomorrow and then when we get to Wednesday just kind of evaluate what's best for us."
Source tell ESPN's Dan Graziano the Dolphins are "cautiously optimistic" about Foster and haven't ruled him out for Sunday. They want to see how much he can practice this week, though they may not have a good idea about his status until Thursday or Friday. So if he doesn't practice Wednesday, that doesn't necessarily mean much.
But NFL Network's Ian Rapoport advised his Twitter followers on Wednesday that Foster (who in fact was not at practice Wednesday), is "viewed as a long shot" to play Sunday. Parker (hamstring) was limited Wednesday.
Safe to say I'll be tracking Foster (and Parker) closely in the Late-Breaking Updates section in coming days. ...
Remember: The Dolphins have only rushed for 134 yards in two games. Things figure to get worse without Foster, who hasn't played an entire season since 2012.
Foster, no stranger to the training room and/or rehabilitation, is clearly Miami's most complete back. But if he has to miss a game or two, the Dolphins are in serious trouble. They have only two players who have rushed for 134 yards in two games.
While Foster (16 carries, 47 yards, 2.9 yards per carry) hasn't been tearing it up, things will probably get worse the more the Dolphins dig into the bench.
For the season, the Dolphins are averaging 3.7 yards per carry. More alarming is Tannehill is the leading rusher with 52 yards on 11 carries.
Ajayi, making his season debut against New England on Sunday after being left home for last week's game at Seattle, ended with five carries for 13 yards and four receptions for 31 yards for a total of 44 yards of offense. Ajayi also lost a fumble. But apparently he thought he had a decent showing.
"Besides the fumble," he said, "I think I did pretty well."
Landry had a season-best 10 receptions for 137 yards on Sunday against New England. Landry also lost a fumble, however. Still, he's having a good season with 17 receptions for 196 yards, 11.5 yards per reception. Landry, who became the first Miami receiver to have more than 100 receptions and 1,000 yards in the same season last year, still hasn't found the end zone, though, in 2016.
Parker had eight receptions for 106 yards against New England on Sunday in his season debut. Parker, who had 26 receptions for 494 yards and three TDs last season, isn't yet stretching the field as he did a year ago when he averaged 19 yards per reception. But he's at 13.3 yards per reception after one game.
Jordan Cameron had somewhat of a breakout game against New England with five receptions for 49 yards and 1 TD. As the Sports Xchange noted, the TD was a spectacular grab as Cameron, who has been disappointing in his one-plus seasons with Miami, caught the ball between two defenders and took a shot in the end zone to complete the play.
Tannehill was good in the up-tempo offense in the second half on Sunday against New England. Of course, Miami had no choice if it wanted to catch New England after trailing 31-3 in the third quarter. Still, Tannehill (48 of 74, 575 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 86.3 passer rating) was sharp at times for the second consecutive week.
But Tannehill, such as the offense, needs to find a way to starter faster. Perhaps the Browns' defense will help in that regard.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, David Fales, Luke Falk
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, Kalen Ballage, Senorise Perry
WRs: Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant, DeVante Parker, Leonte Carroo, Brice Butler, Isaiah Ford, Albert Wilson
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Nick O'Leary, A.J. Derby, MarQueis Gray
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Sam Bradford was seen shaking his left hand in pain for much of the game.
The Vikings took their lumps in a 17-14 victory Sunday night, and much of it had to do with a leaky offensive line that had a hard time protecting their top playmakers.
Peterson managed just 19 yards on 12 carries and found little room to run before leaving in the third quarter with his injured right knee.
Peterson told Josina Anderson of ESPN that he will have surgery to repair his torn meniscus on Thursday. Peterson said he's "doing it with faith and optimism."
As Profootballtalk.com suggests, a torn meniscus is nowhere near as serious an injury as some of the other knee injuries NFL players (including Peterson) have suffered, but Peterson is expecting to miss multiple games. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network suggests Peterson could be out until December -- which would put him in play for any post-season action the Vikings might see, without being of great help to fantasy owners.
Of course, fantasy owners who invested in his this summer would contend that Peterson was already not of great help.
Indeed, the 31-year-old tailback was off to a very rough start this season before he suffered the injury, with just 50 yards on 31 carries, an average of 1.6 yards a carry.
Now fantasy owners will have to figure out the division of workload between running backs Matt Asiata or Jerick McKinnon -- although results for them will likely be the same as they were for Peterson if the holes aren't there.
That said, in 2014, with Peterson sidelined almost the entire season in the wake of child abuse charges, Asiata and then-rookie McKinnon stepped in and played well. Asiata had a team-high 570 yards and 10 touchdowns, nine of them rushing, while McKinnon had 538 yards rushing with a 4.8 average. Asiata is the team's best pass-blocking back, while McKinnon is the best pass-catching back.
"I have a lot of confidence in those guys," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "We're not going to be the only team in the league to have to deal with injuries this season. We just have to find a way to get it done."
The rest of us will now try to do the same. Zimmer did throw us a bone, telling reporters on Wednesday that McKinnon will start. The coach also suggested that Peterson's ability to return -- whether it takes until December or not -- won't be determined until the surgery is performed on Thursday. ...
One other related item here, Zimmer announced on Wednesday that the team signed Ronnie Hillman for depth at running back. ...
The Vikings couldn't have asked for much more out of Sam Bradford in his Minnesota debut. Playing just two weeks after being acquired from Philadelphia in an emergency trade following the season-ending knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater, Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns. His 286 passing yards were the most by a Vikings quarterback in his first game.
The previous record of 250 had stood since Fran Tarkenton threw for 250 yards in the first game in franchise history back in 1961.
Bradford was sacked four times and was hit many more by an aggressive, blitzing Packers defense. The quarterback was left with a swollen and discolored non-throwing hand that required X-rays after the game.
"He's as talented as they come and we've got to protect him a little bit better and not see him on the ground so often," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "But we'll get there."
The Vikings revamped their offensive line in the offseason, signing Boone from the San Francisco 49ers and right tackle Andre Smith from the Cincinnati Bengals, and moving Brandon Fusco from left guard to right guard. They also fired offensive line coach Jeff Davidson and hired former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, hoping he could bring some intensity and fire to a group that, in Zimmer's eyes, lacked both last season.
Making matters worse, Zimmer told reporters on Wednesday that starting left tackle Matt Kalil (hip) has been placed on Injured Reserve. That's another significant injury.
That unit clearly needs to pick up the pace. ...
Meanwhile, Diggs has been a huge plus for Minnesota.
His 182 receiving yards on nine targets were the most yards by any Bradford receiver in any game, per NFL Network research. The wideout's yardage was also the most productive outing from a wide receiver of this young season. In addition. Pro Football Focus notes that Diggs is the league leader in yards per route run.
Yards per route run is a metric PFF uses to see how efficient receivers are on a per-route basis. It's a category that's always dominated by the league's elite receivers.
Diggs paces the league with a monster 4.25 yards per route run after his second straight 100-yard performance. Through the first two games, Diggs has 285 yards and a score on 16 catches and currently sits second among receivers in PPR scoring.
As PFF's Jeff Ratcliffe suggests, while he's a likely candidate for regression, he's going to continue to benefit from being the clear top receiving target in the Vikings offense. Diggs should now be considered a WR2.
Diggs' 182 yards receiving was the eighth-most in franchise history. He's the third Vikings receiver to open a season with two consecutive 100-yard games, joining Gene Washington in 1969 and Cris Carter in 1997. Diggs' 285 receiving yards are second-most through two games behind Gene Washington's 324 in 1969.
Diggs was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Green Bay. ...
According to the Sports Xchange, Rudolph's three catches moved him into fourth place in career catches among Vikings tight ends. He moved ahead of Jermaine Wiggins with 189 catches. Only Steve Jordan (498), Visanthe Shiancoe (208) and Jim Kleinsasser (192) are ahead of him.
Peterson became only the eighth running back in NFL history to surpass 3,000-yard rushing in the month of September. He has 3,017. Emmitt Smith is No. 1 with 4,085.
By the way. ... The Vikings' defense is no joke. Minnesota sacked Rodgers four times, two of which effectively ended Packers drives in the fourth quarter. The Vikings also forced four Packers fumbles, but recovered only one of them. After Minnesota caused a Marcus Mariota meltdown in Week 1 and punched the Packers in Week 2, there's no doubt that Zimmer has a championship-level defense on his hands.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, Brandon Zylstra, Aldrick Robinson, Chad Beebe
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As the Associated Press noted, Jacoby Brissett inherited a 21-point lead - and good field position - when he made his NFL debut.
If he makes his first career start against the Houston Texans on Thursday night, things will be a bit more difficult.
The Patriots' third-stringer was forced into action on Sunday when Jimmy Garoppolo injured his throwing shoulder in the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins.
With starter Tom Brady serving a four-game suspension for his role in the "Deflategate" scandal, Brissett would be the No. 1 QB against Houston if Garoppolo can't return from his right shoulder injury in time.
A 23-year-old rookie who was a third-round pick in this year's draft, Brissett completed 6 of 9 passes for 92 yards against the Dolphins.
The Patriots relied heavily on the run late in the game, though they were also trying to nurse a lead that grew to 24-0 before Brissett even completed his first NFL pass.
"It wasn't an easy situation, but he did a good job with it," head coach Bill Belichick said on Monday.
Brissett's promotion is certainly short-lived: Either Garoppolo gets better quickly and finishes off Brady's suspension as the starter, or Brissett handles things until Week 5, when Brady is eligible to return.
Neither Belichick nor offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels would comment on their plans.
Belichick had zero interest in discussing Garoppolo's shoulder injury during his press conference on Tuesday, reminding the assembled media that he's not a doctor. He said that the medical staff would make their call on Garoppolo's status and that he'll do "what's best for the football team.
He didn't say if Garoppolo, who took part in Tuesday's walkthrough practice on a limited basis, might be a game-time decision.
"Could be, sure," Belichick said, via WEEI.com. "It would depend on the situation. It would depend on a lot of things. It's possible. Sure."
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Patriots worked out FA QB T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree on Tuesday, but they left without contracts. That lends some credence to the notion the Pats are comfortable with the Brissett/Garoppolo combo.
In addition, Ed Werder of ESPN reported Tuesday that the Patriots "still believe" Garoppolo may be able to tolerate the pain in his shoulder well enough to play, although as Profootballtalk.com pointed out, it seems like just the thing you'd say if you prefer your opponent know as little about your plans as possible.
Texans coach Bill O'Brien has first-hand knowledge of Belichick's way of doing business, although the lack of direct insight this week probably means a couple more long nights in the office covering all bases.
Meanwhile, Brissett knows he needs to be ready.
"The quarterback - he's going to prepare for the game the same way, regardless of whether he's going to start the game or not," Belichick said. "You could take a defensive back and say. ... 'We're only going to use you in this situation.' But you can't do that with a quarterback."
Against Miami, Brissett presided over a three-and-out just before the half, but led New England to a touchdown on its first possession of the second, completing all four pass attempts on the drive, for 73 yards.
"Jacoby's a rookie that doesn't have any game experience, and yet when he went into the game. ... He had good poise and composure and managed the situation well initially," McDaniels said.
"And then (we) had an opportunity to talk at halftime about some things that we wanted to do in the second half and I thought he took advantage of his opportunities."
Worth noting, receiver Julian Edelman appears to the other option at QB should something happen to Brissett and if Garoppolo can't hit the field.
Asked after Sunday's win if he was prepared to handle the quarterback duties if Brissett was injured, Edelman made sure not to reveal the emergency plan. Remember, when the Patriots selected Edelman in the seventh round of the 2009 draft, he was coming off a stellar career at Kent State in which he played quarterback and finished his career with 4,997 yards passing and 2,664 yards rushing.
Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) missed his second straight game to an injury that dates back to preseason joint practice action against the Bears. The All-Pro tight end did not play in the preseason, either. He told reporters on Tuesday that he's improving on a daily basis, but it seems like a reach to expect him to be ready given the short turnaround this week. Gronkowski explained that he wore full pads during Tuesdya's session to get used to the weight of them, noting it is part of the rehab/conditioning process.
Gronkowski, who was limited Tuesday, made it clear his return will be a coaches' decision. That said, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald believes Gronk could return Thursdaynight.
Safe to say the official verdict is unlikely before Thursday night. Watch the Late-Breaking News section for more. ...
With Gronk out again, Martellus Bennett was on the field for every snap as he totaled five catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. Belichick said, "He obviously made some big plays for us. I think probably the best thing he did was block. We were running outside quite a bit, running to the edge, and he did a real good job on that."
Running back LeGarrette Blount tied a career high with 29 rushes against the Dolphins, churning out 123 yards (4.2 average) with one touchdown. The big back picked up the slack in the second half with QB Jimmy Garoppolo knocked from the game, picking up 92 yards on 15 attempts after halftime with Jacoby Brissett under center protecting what had been a 31-3 lead at the break.
When the day finished, Blount ranked third in the NFL with 193 yards rushing.
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee) missed the Week 2 battle with the Dolphins due to the injury suffered early in the opening-day win over the Cardinals. Though he played all but three snaps on defense in that Sunday night win in Arizona, Hightower did not practice at all last week.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, James Develin
WRs: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Following Sunday's loss, the Saints are 0-2 for a third straight year, and the previous two campaigns didn't turn out well; New Orleans went 7-9 and missed the playoffs each time.
While the Saints' margin for error is thinning, they haven't been losing by much. The Raiders needed a late 2-point conversion to pull out a 35-34 victory in the Superdome in Week 1 and the New York Giants hit a field goal as time expired to beat visiting New Orleans 16-13 on Sunday.
As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel noted, the Saints' much-maligned, injury riddled defense looked its best in a while, producing three turnovers in New York while keep quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants' offense out of the end zone. But this time, New Orleans' normally prolific offense sputtered and the Saints were sunken by a blocked field goal attempt that the Giants returned for a touchdown.
While the defense has been the team's weakness, Drew Brees and the Saints' offense were a disappointment. The unit, which led the NFL with 507 yards in Week 1, finished with 288 at New York.
Brees passed for one TD, down from four a week earlier. He still has not thrown an interception, making him the only QB since at least as far back as 1960 to be on an 0-2 team despite passing for five TDs without an interception during the first two weeks of the season.
Brees spread the ball around, connecting with nine different receivers for his 29 completions, but no one had monster days. The Giants did a good job clamping down on the Saints' big guns Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead and kept them from getting deep for the most part. Cooks caught seven balls for 68 yards with a long of 18, while Snead had 54 yards on five catches with a 17-yard TD as his long for the day.
Heading into training camp, head coach Sean Payton emphasized the importance of trying to win preseason games to cultivate a competitive edge. He also said it would be important for his relatively young team to get off to a fast start in the regular season. Instead, the Saints haven't yet won any preseason or regular season games.
"There is only one way to work yourself out of it, and it's coming back and having a better week of preparation," Payton said Monday. "I was encouraged with a lot of things that I saw on tape and yet discouraged in some areas. And in these days after here, we have to be brutally honest with ourselves, not only with the players but the coaches as well. We have to be better."
We suspect they will be better. At least offensively. That should start with a generous Falcons defense coming to the Super Dome this coming Monday. ...
Worth noting. ... Following a tough three-point loss, Brees wasn't in the mood to celebrate another major milestone in his 16-year career. But with an 8-yard pass to tight end Coby Fleener in the second quarter, Brees moved ahead of Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino and into third place for career passing yards.
Brees needed just 36 yards going into the game with the Giants to get past Marino, who had an NFL-record 61,361 yards when he retired in 1999.
With 263 yards against the Giants, Brees now has 61,589 yards and trails only Peyton Manning (71,940) and Brett Favre (71,838). The 37-year-old Brees would likely need at about 21/2 seasons to break Manning's mark.
Brees said he intends to play with the Saints beyond the 2017 season, when his recently-extended contract is scheduled to expire
Other notes of interest. ... Mark Ingram is off to a quiet start this season, but ESPN.com's Mike Triplett believes that has more to do with the Saints ignoring their run game than it does with Ingram's role or performance. Fortunately, Triplett believes fantasy owners should be optimistic that better days are ahead for Ingram.
Ingram's role is intact as the Saints' leading runner and every-down back. Nothing has changed in that department. And he has looked fine when he's touched the ball (21 carries for 88 yards, six catches for 46 yards, zero touchdowns). The more valid concern is that the Saints have always been quick to abandon the run. And that has definitely been the case so far this year, even in two close games.
The Saints' 35 rushing attempts rank 31st in the NFL. They only ran the ball three times in the second half on Sunday.
However, that was even too far out of whack for Payton, who insisted on his weekly WWL Radio show that, "13 rushing attempts is not really how we want to play."
A few final items. ... Tight end Josh Hill was sidelined for Sunday's game by a high-ankle sprain and his return is not known.
WLB Dannell Ellerbe missed his second consecutive game Sunday with a quadriceps injury and it's not known when he'll return.
Travaris Cadet was the primary kickoff return man in place of Murphy.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Tre'quan Smith, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Erik Swoope, Dan Arnold
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
According to ESPN.com senior writer Ian O'Connor, general manager Jerry Reese summons Eli Manning into his office every summer to share ideas on the 16 regular-season games to come. It is not an equal-time exercise. The GM does most of the talking, and the quarterback does most of the listening.
Some years, Reese challenges Manning to carry the team or take more chances downfield or be more careful with the ball. This year? Reese told ESPN.com on Sunday that he sat down with his franchise player and told him it was their shared responsibility, above all, to make sure their rookie head coach doesn't fall flat on his face.
"I told Tom Coughlin when I first got the job [in 2007] that failure wasn't an option for me," Reese said. "So I told Eli, 'Failure can't be an option for Ben McAdoo. It's on you and me to make sure he doesn't fail. We have to make sure he's here long after we're gone. We have to make sure his young kids graduate high school here.'"
In order to help achieve that goal, Reese spent $200 million in the offseason on a defense that allowed last season's New Orleans Saints to score 52 points.
Meanwhile, Manning showed up for work Sunday against his hometown team -- those same Saints -- to make his 196th consecutive start (postseason included), the third-longest streak in NFL history.
"I try to put in a lot of dedication and work to stay healthy," Eli said Sunday of his durability. "I don't know if it's my greatest trait, but I definitely like being out there for my teammates."
Manning didn't throw a touchdown pass in this 16-13 victory over New Orleans; in fact, the Giants' only touchdown came on Janoris Jenkins' 65-yard return of a blocked field goal. But the quarterback did complete 32 of 41 passes for 368 yards, and he made two crucial third-down completions to set up the winning chip-shot field goal as time expired.
Manning found rookie Sterling Shepard in the tightest of windows before the two-minute warning, and he overcame Odell Beckham's drop of should-have-been touchdown pass on the final drive to give Victor Cruz a chance to make a 34-yard catch to the Saints' 2-yard line.
Now, with Washington 0-2 and with Dallas and Philadelphia relying on rookie quarterbacks, Manning makes the Giants the favorites to win the NFC East. He isn't getting ahead of himself ("It's only Week 2," he said), but past performance suggests he has a chance to join his brother Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and Ben Roethlisberger as the only quarterbacks to win Super Bowls for two different coaches.
Better still, that high-priced defense might help him.
In back-to-back games, New York held opponents to 20 or fewer points, the most recent being the highly potent New Orleans Saints. Sunday's 16-13 victory gives the Giants six straight wins in games where they held the opposition to fewer than 20 points. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Cruz has made a huge impact on both Giants wins to start the season. The veteran wideout came down with a 50/50 ball from Eli Manning with less than two minutes to play, a 34-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal by Josh Brown as time expired. Cruz is more than just a feel-good story -- he remains a weapon in this offense. Consider him an early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.
Before the season, Beckham made a rather bold prediction about Shepard.
"He's going to be the (NFL) Rookie of the Year."
Well, two games into the season, and Beckham isn't backing down from that prediction. Considering how good Shepard has played so far he has caught 11 of 12 pass targets for a team leading 160 yards and a touchdown it's hard to blame Beckham for having such high expectations.
"He is a weapon in the slot, he's a smart young player, and he works at it," said McAdoo of Shepard. "The quarterback is developing trust in him."
As the Sports Xchange notes, Shepard, who finished Week 2 with a team-leading 117 yards on eight receptions (out of eight pass targets), has been the consummate professional since joining the Giants as their second-round draft pick out of the University of Oklahoma. ...
In a realted note. ... According to Britt McHenry of ESPN.com (via Profootballtalk.com), Redskins CB Josh Norman will follow Beckham on Sunday, unless Beckham lines up in the slot. That's a clear departure from the approach the Redskins used in Week 1 against Pittsburgh, and stubbornly defended thereafter. (Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer points out that Norman followed Beckham during the notorious December 2015 game between the Panthers and Giants, which featured multiple incidents between Norman and Beckham and, eventually, a one-game suspension for Beckham.
Why the change in philosophy by Washington, which had planned to keep Norman on one side of the defensive formation?
"We're going to let him earn the $75 million," an unnamed team source told McHenry.
And finally. ... Rashad Jennings (hand) will be limited to start the week in practice, per McAdoo. Jennings, who was on the field Wednesday, was held to 27 yards on 13 carries Sunday.
Jennings had a cast on his left thumb on Tuesday but told reporters it's coming off -- although he stressed hee can play with it if necessary. Jennings seems confident he'll play Sunday against the Redskins.
Overall, New York's running game continues to struggle. It averaged 2.0 yards per carry with a long of nine yards against the New Orleans. Not being able to run the ball with any consistency as had a trickle-down effect on the offense's rhythm and is something that the coaching staff is going to have to figure out how to fix moving forward.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Russell Shepard, Jawill Davis, Bennie Fowler, Corey Coleman
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr., Brandon Marshall is just happy to be walking, and without a limp.
The veteran wide receiver will be even more thrilled if his sore left knee is healed enough for him to play Sunday at Kansas City.
"My belief and the school I come from is: Don't rule me out until Sunday," Marshall said Monday. "I need all the way up until pregame warmups to see if I'm good to go. Hopefully, I'll be granted that wish. But maybe I'll get out there Wednesday, Thursday. You never know with these things."
Marshall's knee twisted awkwardly under him after a catch last Thursday night at Buffalo and he left the game briefly before returning. But not before some scary thoughts ran through the 32-year-old receiver's head.
"I not only thought my knee was messed up, I thought my foot and everything was pretty much gone," he said. "It felt that way for a couple of minutes. I knew I was OK when I was able to get back on the field."
The fact he returned to the game was stunning, especially since replays of the injury had many speculating that it could be serious.
"Anything better than having surgery is a blessing," Marshall said. "I smile and I keep looking at that picture and that play, and I'm just so thankful that I'm still able to be in this locker room preparing with the guys.
"It's a blessing, I'm going into Year 11, and I just didn't want it to end that way. Anything other than surgery is going to keep a smile on my face."
Neither Marshall nor head coach Todd Bowles were certain if the receiver will be able to play, with Bowles saying that the team's first official injury report of the week comes out Wednesday. Bowles did deny a report that Marshall has an injured medial collateral ligament, but wouldn't clarify the nature of the injury.
Marshall did not practice Monday, as expected, but said that the knee feels "stable." He didn't need an MRI, and doctors think the knee is fine structurally.
Marshall said he'll rely on Bowles and the doctors to determine whether he'll be able to play, but made it clear that he'd be out there against the Chiefs if the decision were left to him.
"I've always prided myself on being tough and being out there no matter what's going on, and being relentless with my rehab," he said. "If I take any time off, I may not have a job."
While that's a bit of an exaggeration, considering he set franchise records last season with 109 catches and 1,502 yards receiving, Marshall is using the play of his teammates as motivation.
"I hear Quincy in the background saying, 'I'm taking your spot,'" Marshall joked. "And I hear Decker saying, 'I'm the guy.' So I can't take any time off. ... I'm really like the third receiver, the way they're playing."
Bowles said the Jets wouldn't necessarily worry about a reoccurrence or lingering of the injury when determining Marshall's availability.
"I'll be able to tell whether he will be healthy enough to play," Bowles said, "or whether he's not going to be able to play."
In other injuries, Decker has a sore shoulder that kept him out of practice. Bowles said the injury occurred against the Bills, and wasn't sure if it would keep Decker sidelined beyond Monday. Decker was certain it won't be an issue. "I'm fine. ... I'm definitely playing," he said of this week's game against the Chiefs.
Marshall and Decker were held out of practice Wednesday; I'll be watching for more as the week progresses. ..
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Rich Cimini advised readers it's too early to raise a red flag, but the Jets should be mindful of Matt Forte's workload. He already has 52 rushing attempts, which puts him on a pace for 416. That happens to be the NFL's single-season record, set in 2006 by Larry Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Johnson was only 26 years old at the time; Forte is 30 -- big difference.
Cimini went on to suggest the Jets should've learned a lesson last season. They ran Chris Ivory early and often, and it was apparent late in the year that he was running on fumes. This year, they don't have as much depth as 2015, so they should be extra cautious. Cimini further noted Bilal Powell is a capable running back, but the only body after him is rookie Troymaine Pope, an undrafted free agent whom they acquired on waivers from the Seattle Seahawks.
The plan was to make Khiry Robinson the No. 3, but he re-fractured his leg in the final preseason game.
Forte, who averaged 17 carries per game over the last three years with the Chicago Bears, is known for his durability. He certainly looks fresh, perhaps because he missed a chunk of training camp due to a hamstring injury. But, again, the Jets to be smart about this.
Bowles said "there will be some fluctuations, here and there" with Forte's workload, but he added, "As long as he's healthy, we're not going to hold him back."
Although he was limited by a sore knee on Wednesday, the message to Forte owners isn't hard to figure out: Play him until you can't. ...
Also worth noting. ... Forte moved past Hall of Famer Walter Payton into sole possession of ninth place for receptions by a running back on Thursday, when Forte had two catches for nine yards in the Jets 37-31 win over the Bills. Forte now has 496 catches, He entered the game tied with Payton for 10th on the all-time list. Next up are Earnest Byner and Herschel Walker, each of whom finished their careers with 512 catches. ...
A couple notes on Ryan Fitzpatrick's huge game against the Bills: He was named AFC offensive player of the week after going 24-of-34 passing for 374 yards and a touchdown. He also broke a personal slump against the Bills, having lost eight of his nine last games against Rex Ryan defenses.
In addition, his completion percentage to wide receivers (77.8) was the best by a Jets quarterback in the last 10 seasons (minimum: 25 attempts), according to ESPN Stats & Information. It topped Brett Favre's 76.0 mark in Week 3 of the 2008 season.
Fitzpatrick has talked about topping last year's career-best season. This won't hurt.
QBs: Josh McCown, Sam Darnold
RBs: Isaiah Crowell, Elijah McGuire, Trenton Cannon
WRs: Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, Andre Roberts
TEs: Chris Herndon, Jordan Leggett, Eric Tomlinson
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, when asked why Latavius Murray was not used more in the Raiders' 35-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, head coach Jack Del Rio shot back with: "Is that a fantasy question?"
What if it was?
Whatever the case, Murray, who ended up averaging 7.1 yards per carry against the Falcons, was not on the field on a crucial fourth-and-2 situation at midfield late in the game. Instead, undrafted rookie Jalen Richard got the call and he was stopped as the Raiders turned the ball over on downs.
Yet, the hard manner in which the 6-3, 225-pound Murray has been running through two games has been a pleasant surprise for the Raiders (1-1), as exhibited in his 1-yard touchdown run in New Orleans in which he ran over Saints linebacker James Laurinaitis and the 1-yard TD plunge he had against the Falcons.
"I'm a big guy," Murray told 95.7 The Game on Monday, "so I have to use that to my advantage. Majority of the time I'm as big, or I could be possibly bigger than the linebackers that I'm going against. So I need to win that battle, I need to win that matchup when I'm going one-on-one and get in the end zone.
"When I'm able to do that and make it a guaranteed touchdown, so to speak, then I'll get more of those opportunities."
Murray played a complete game against the Falcons, rushing for 57 yards and a TD on eight carries and catching six passes on six targets for 44 yards. In all, he went over 2,000 career yards from scrimmage.
And per Pro Football Focus, Murray forced four missed tackles on those eight carries on Sunday, and two more on his receptions. PFF has Murray as the highest-graded halfback in the NFL at 81.1 overall while averaging 6.6 yards after contact, which also ranks fourth in the league.
"I've just been trying to run the way I know I can run and do more, obviously, than I need to and it's not always going to be pretty," Murray said. "(It is) just a matter of me trying to be the best I can be. Yesterday, I had some great blocking but I made some plays, also, caught the ball well.
"This offense is dangerous; I've been in position to make plays and so I'm very happy, I guess, with what, as an offense, we've been able to do."
Indeed, the Raiders played well enough on offense with 155 yards rushing and 299 yards passing from quarterback Derek Carr, but a fourth-and-2 failure in the fourth quarter while trailing 28-21 was crucial.
Instead of using one of the bigger power backs, the Raiders ran 5-8, 204-pound Jalen Richard up the middle and he was stopped a yard shy.
Even Richard admitted afterward he was looking toward the sideline, expecting to come out. Del Rio admitted that's probably what should have happened.
"That's something we asked as a staff. Do we have the right guy in there for that situation?" Del Rio said. "We like them all, but we've got a couple of hammerheads that might have been better, between (fullback) Jamize Olawale and Latavius Murray. We came out of there saying, 'We'd like to have that one back.'"
Carr was 34 of 45 for 299 yards, three touchdowns, a two-point conversion pass and no interceptions. The only sack was on a scramble out of bounds for no gain. Carr took the short passes the Falcons were allowing and didn't force the ball deep.
Not a smooth looking offense, but effective enough to keep the Raiders in the game. He was off-target on at least two throws that made catch-and-run impossible.
Defense, of course, has been a major problem.
And in the wake of back-to-back games where the Oakland defense gave up 1,035 yards and 69 points, Del Rio hinted that some changes were in order, although he stopped short of saying he'll run the defense himself.
"There's not going to be any proclamation made today," Del Rio said Monday at his weekly press conference. "I think for us, it's about us. It's a collective effort. We all share in it so I'm not going to throw any one person under the bus. It's not any one person that's at fault here. Collectively, as a group, we have to pick it up. We have to do our share."
Following the 35-28 loss in their home opener against the Atlanta Falcons, Del Rio said he had taken over defensive play calling late in the game from defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
Oakland was helpless to stop an Atlanta offense which shredded the Raiders pass defense and also ran effectively, averaging a gaudy 8.3 yards per snap.
The Falcons finished with 528 yards of offense, 396 yards passing from Matt Ryan and 139 rushing.
Coming after giving up more than 500 yards total and 423 yards passing to Drew Brees in an opener that the Raiders won 35-34, it was difficult for edge player Khalil Mack to comprehend.
"A thousand yards," Mack said, shaking his head. "Wow. Being the leader of this defense, that hurts."
From a fantasy perspective, a defense so bad the offense must work overtime to keep up with the opposition is good. But for those expecting all the talent the Raiders have on paper to translate to a strong fantasy defense are obviously not pleased with the current state of affairs.
QBs: Derek Carr, AJ McCarron
RBs: Doug Martin, C.J. Anderson, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Marcell Ateman, Seth Roberts, Keon Hatcher
TEs: Jared Cook, Derek Carrier, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Carson Wentz took some hard hits, showed poise in the pocket and led the Philadelphia Eagles to another victory.
They're about to find out how they stack up against a playoff contender. But they're doing just fine so far.
Wentz followed up an impressive NFL debut with another solid performance, throwing for 190 yards and a touchdown, and the Eagles beat the Chicago Bears 29-14 on Monday night.
"It was a cool stage, Monday Night Football," Wentz said. "Everything's sweet. But again, it was a football game and we came out with a win."
As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling suggested, fans of the Browns and Rams can't be blamed for watching Wentz with a twinge of envy, as the draft's No. 2 overall pick completed all six of his attempts while orchestrating the no-huddle offense and making pre-snap adjustments on the Eagles' opening drive.
While it's worth noting that Wentz has yet to be tested against a quality secondary, Wesseling notes that the rookie has checked the requisite boxes through two NFL starts: The ability to throw with power as well as touch, plus athleticism to make plays on the move, pocket toughness to stand in against pressure, audibling to the run in advantageous situations and recognizing the blitz to hit his hot read. His numbers would have looked better if not for a Jordan Matthews drop at the pylon on a deep throw.
An impressive 20-yard strike while taking a hit from linebacker Jerrell Freeman might have been his best play of the night had it not been nullified by a holding penalty.
In a testament to the Eagles' coaching staff, Wesseling further notes that Wentz's delivery has been shortened and his footwork streamlined since the beginning of training camp.
Whereas top draft pick Jared Goff landed with a Rams coaching staff featuring a defensive guru (Jeff Fisher), an offensive coordinator with a background in tight ends and the offensive line (Rob Boras), and a quarterbacks coach in just his second season as an NFL coach (Chris Weinke), Wentz has a host of former quarterbacks in his ear. Head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich boast a combined 26 years of NFL quarterbacking experience to go with a dozen more years as offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach.
Wentz's position coach, John DeFelippo, is credited with developing Derek Carr with the Raiders in 2014.
So even if it's a bit surprising that Wentz followed up a strong performance against Cleveland by completing 21 of 34 passes and playing turnover-free ball for the second straight game.
But it's one thing to do it against the rebuilding Browns and Bears. The schedule gets a little tougher next week when the Eagles host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Still, the Eagles are clearly exceeding expectations. Which, as ESPN.com's Tim McManus notes, isn't that huge an accomplishment given the low bar involved.
The Eagles know this.
"I want people to think we're awful for the whole year," Jordan Matthews said. "Don't worry about us at all, and don't even game plan. Just forget about it."
But we're quickly catching on.
The offense has yet to commit a turnover under Wentz's stewardship. (Pederson knocked on the wooden podium postgame when a reporter brought this point up.) Per Elias Sports, he is the first rookie quarterback to start and win his first two games of the season with zero turnovers since the merger.
The Eagles aren't getting much from their run game, but their defense sure is chipping in.
After holding Cleveland to 10 points, that group gave up only one of Chicago's two touchdowns.
"They're playing well together as a team," Pederson said. "The communication is great. The defensive line is rolling off the ball, getting pressure, making the (opposing) quarterback move off one spot, having to relocate his feet, putting the quarterback in different throwing positions.
"Then the back end is doing a really nice job in coverage. They're just playing together as a unit."
The Eagles defense generated three takeaways against Chicago, is ranked fourth in yards allowed, and has only yielded 17 points over two games.
A few final notes this week. ... The Eagles went with a committee attack at running back, with Darren Sproles starting the game out of the no-huddle formation. Kenjon Barner and rookie Wendell Smallwood also saw plenty of action, while Ryan Mathews contributed one 30-yard scamper and a pair of short-yardage touchdowns on his eight carries.
In addition, an asset as a receiver, H-back Trey Burton proved to be more than capable as a stand-in for injured tight end Zach Ertz. Prior to leaving with muscle cramps in the fourth quarter, Burton hauled in five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. He would have added a second score if not for a diving deflection by cornerback Deiondre' Hall.
Pederson told reporters on Tuesday that Ertz (ribs) will be a game-time decision against the Steelers this weekend. That seems like a reach given his injury and the physical nature of his position, but I'll be following up in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld, Carson Wentz
RBs: Josh Adams, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Golden Tate, Shelton Gibson, Mack Hollins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown was held to just four catches for 39 yards against the Bengals. It was the first time Brown was held to 40 yards or fewer in a game since last October when he had three receptions for 24 yards against the Arizona Cardinals.
That performance came when Ben Roethlisberger was injured and Michael Vick and Landry Jones were Brown's quarterbacks. The previous time Brown was held below 40 yards with Roethlisberger at quarterback was the regular-season finale of the 2012 season, when he had three catches for 22 yards in a 24-10 victory against Cleveland.
"Obviously, they were trying to take away A.B. as much as they could," tight end Jesse James said. "So that opens us up one-one-one on safeties, on linebackers and that's how we were able to work it."
James finished with three receptions for 29 yards and has already matched the entire output of his rookie season (eight catches) in just two weeks.
Meanwhile, if Ladarius Green was healthy, Grimble may be out of work.
Yet he's doing more than simply occupying a roster spot. He's thriving. The player never known for having the best hands found himself lined up in one-on-one coverage in the second quarter on Sunday, beat his man to the inside, caught the ball at the 5, stepped out of a tackle and had remembered to get the ball over the goal line before his knees touched the ground.
Johnson even chipped in rare 5-yard reception on a day Pittsburgh's tight ends proved to be more valuable to fantasy owners than Brown. Johnson's real value, however, lies in the running game and in his leadership. He spent five years in Pittsburgh from 2009-13 as a backup to now-retired Heath Miller and has given the young guys around him someone to lean on.
Individually, none of them has Miller or Green's unique skill set. Collectively, though, they believe they can be just as effective.
"It means a lot to our group as a tight end group to be able to make plays when we're counted on," James said. "It shows that we're proving ourselves."
For the record, Green, who has dealt with an ankle injury and headaches since he signed in March, was placed on the physically unable to perform list before the season started and must sit out the first six games. Green is optimistic he'll be able to play against the New England Patriots Oct. 23 -- the first game he would be eligible to play.
"It's a good possibility," Green said in the locker room Monday afternoon. "We'll see. I don't want to jinx it, but the rehab is going good. My ankle feels good running."
As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ray Fittipaldo suggests, even if Green is activated to the active roster after six weeks, it might be a stretch for him to play against the Patriots. He hasn't practiced with the Steelers and won't be allowed to practice until Oct. 17, the day after the Steelers visit the Miami Dolphins.
The more likely scenario would be for Green to return to practice if he is deemed healthy and then have the coaches determine his game availability on a week-to-week basis. ...
Also according to Fittipaldo, Wheaton said it was head coach Mike Tomlin's decision not to play him Sunday against the Bengals. Wheaton sat out a second consecutive game with a shoulder injury that has bothered him since training camp.
"I feel good," Wheaton said Monday. "It was coach's call."
Wheaton appeared to be on track to returning to the lineup last week. He was a full participant Wednesday and Thursday, but he was limited in practice Friday and ran routes for the scout team.
Wheaton said he did not have a setback with his shoulder and indicated he is just trying to get back up to speed. He said he took reps with the scout team to get extra work.
"I've missed a lot of football," Wheaton said. "I just have to keep working, do extra work when I can. Just go from there. ..."
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The intermittent rain was a big factor in a game that featured at least eight drops and several blatant misfires. Roethlisberger did much of his damage during stretches in which the rain subsided. He stared at his throwing hand with annoyance after overthrowing Brown on one third down. Brown had one bad drop and was on the receiving end of a couple of errant Roethlisberger throws.
Credit goes to the Bengals' secondary for minimizing his damage, though.
In four games since the start of last season, Brown has averaged six receptions, 73 yards and 0.25 touchdowns versus Cincinnati compared to 8.6 catches, 119 yards and 0.8 touchdown versus the rest of the league.
Still, Brown topped double-digit targets. According to Pro Football Focus, that's 10 or more targets in 33 of the last 36 games for Brown. The three games where he didn't top double-digits were with either Michael Vick or Landry Jones under center. While Sunday's output wasn't ideal, fantasy owners need not panic. As PFF's Jeff Ratcliffe put it: "Brown is still the king of volume and remains the top fantasy option every week."
Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes against the Bengals and extended his streak of touchdown passes in home games to 39. That ties him with Dan Marino. Only two other players in NFL history have longer streaks. Tom Brady threw touchdown passes in 47 consecutive home games and Drew Brees holds the record with 55.
DeAngelo Williams became the 13th active player with at least 10,000 yards from scrimmage. After rushing for 94 yards and gaining 38 receiving yards he has 10,044 for his career. Williams has posted at least 100 yards from scrimmage in 39 career regular-season games, including eight in 18 games with the Steelers.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Jaylen Samuels, Stevan Ridley, James Conner
WRs: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ryan Switzer
TEs: Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
San Diego ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
And the hits just keep on coming. ... Versatile running back Danny Woodhead went on season-ending injured reserve Monday with a torn ACL in his right knee, the second Chargers playmaker to be lost in as many weeks.
Woodhead was hurt when he was tackled after a catch in the first quarter of a 38-14 victory against Jacksonville on Sunday.
Woodhead also missed most of the 2014 season with a broken ankle.
Head coach Mike McCoy said the loss of Woodhead is similar to the loss of wide receiver Keenan Allen to the same injury a week earlier in a season-opening loss at Kansas City.
"He does everything the way you want it to be done and he is even a better person," McCoy said of the diminutive receiving back. "It is a shame that this happened. I promise you one thing Danny will be back, better than ever."
Woodhead, at 5 feet 8, always played with a chip on his shoulder. And McCoy said that was made him so productive.
"He treats every day as his last day," McCoy said. "He is a great example of what it means to be a pro."
Woodhead led the Chargers last season with 80 catches for 755 yards and six scores, while rushing for 336 yards and three scores.
Also Monday, safety Jahleel Addae was undergoing surgery for a broken left collarbone.
To make room on the roster, the Chargers waived wide receiver-kick returner Isaiah Burse.
McCluster has played six NFL seasons with Kansas City and Tennessee. He was a Pro Bowler in 2013.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams noted, despite the decreasing number of playmakers, quarterback Philip Rivers still found ways to move the chains in San Diego's 38-14 win over the Jaguars.
Yes, it's early. But through two games, the Chargers are No. 2 in scoring (32.5 points per game), No. 3 in rushing offense (152.5 yards per game) and No. 13 in total offense (372.5 yards per game).
Rivers is completing 70 percent of his passes, with five touchdowns and no interceptions through two games. Rivers' 120.3 passer rating is No. 3 in the NFL.
Whisenhunt said his group's flexibility, with Rivers leading the way, makes the offense run efficiently week to week.
"He gives us flexibility in what we can do," Whisenhunt said of Rivers. "This game is about creating matchups, and getting guys in spots where they can win. And he has an uncanny or special ability to diagnose those things."
Rivers once again owned the Jaguars, completing 17 of 24 passes for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
Two of those scoring strikes went to Travis Benjamin, who exploded for 115 yards on six catches. As Pro Football Focus notes, Benjamin led the Chargers receivers in targets with six, and ranked third among wide receivers for the week with 0.88 fantasy points per opportunity.
Williams also got into the action with his catch-and-run touchdown, but Benjamin was clearly Rivers' top target. He's a back-end WR2 with upside going forward.
Tight end Antonio Gates moved forward in his chase of the all-time touchdown receiving record for tight ends with a 2-yard touchdown catch to finish the scoring in the first half. With 105 career touchdown receptions, Gates inched closer to Tony Gonzalez's record 111 TDs.
And second-year pro Tyrell Williams produced another big play, this one a 44-yard touchdown catch which showcased his speed and bullish running ability, as the Western Oregon product broke a couple tackles to fight his way into the end zone. Williams received an assist from a hustling Orlando Franklin, with the guard nudging him into the end zone on the play.
And finally. ... Running back Melvin Gordon continued his bounce-back year by scoring his third touchdown of the season on a 3-yard plunge on San Diego's opening drive.
Gordon finished with 102 yards on 24 carries, eclipsing his previous high of 88 rushing yards last season against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It's the first time Gordon rushed for more than 100 yards in his NFL career.
Rivers said he has noticed a more focused and aggressive running style from Gordon in his second season. Unlike last year, Rivers said that Gordon is taking what the defense is giving him.
"He's starting to see it," Rivers said. "He's running confident, and that's the way he ran [Sunday]. He made a couple cuts where he started to bounce it, and then he saw it bouncing over the top and said, 'Alright, I'm going to take my 3 [yards].'
"There were a handful of very smart runs. There weren't pretty or ones anyone is talking about, but they were smart runs, and then he made some of the big ones as well."
With Woodhead gone, Gordon said he's ready for the challenge of helping cover for the loss.
"When you see one of the leaders of the team go down, that's kind of heartbreaking," Gordon said. "We just always seem to get that [injury] bug every year. Guys are dropping like flies, and we just got to figure something out.
"But you play in this league, and you understand stuff happens. It's a beast of a game, and you just have to be ready. Guys just got to step up and make it happen."
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith, Cardale Jones
RBs: Justin Jackson, Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Geremy Davis
TEs: Virgil Green, Antonio Gates
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner framed it, "The San Francisco 49ers' best offense against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was a good defense. But when the defense wasn't offering prime scoring opportunities with takeaways, the 49ers' offense looked all too familiar."
The result was a bit routine, as San Francisco fell 46-27 and dropped to 1-1 on the season. The Niners managed to hang with the Panthers for extended periods of Sunday's game at Bank of America Stadium, even jumping out to a 10-7 first-half lead after turning a pair of takeaways into points and making a late charge to pull within seven in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, it was the 49ers' offense -- or lack thereof -- that did them in.
Aside from what seems to be a vastly improved offensive line, the Niners' offense bore a striking resemblance to the group that finished at the bottom of the NFL in scoring and yardage a year ago.
That anemic offensive performance erased any lead and whatever momentum the 49ers had in short order. Twenty of the Niners' 27 points came on the heels of Carolina turnovers. For a frame of reference, those four scoring drives covered 67 yards while the Panthers had one drive that went 78 yards on one play.
After Blaine Gabbert capped a 59-yard scoring drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass to receiver Torrey Smith, the erratic, inconsistent Gabbert returned. While Gabbert was missing open targets at key moments, the running game found no room to run, sputtering to just 65 yards on 26 attempts. All told, the 49ers finished with just 302 yards on 64 plays, an average of just 4.7 yards per play, and 75 of those yards came on a touchdown pass to tight end Vance McDonald in the fourth quarter.
On the five possessions immediately following Gabbert's touchdown pass to Smith, the 49ers' offense managed just 42 yards, two first downs, zero points and five punts. It was a string of drives eerily similar to those of a year ago, when the Niners finished 31st in yards per game (297.6) and last in offensive points per game (14.5).
To be sure, the 49ers' defense was far from perfect against the Panthers, but it also didn't have much of a chance without an offense capable of much help. San Francisco pitched a shutout last week against the Los Angeles Rams, but the 49ers also put together four scoring drives in that game that actually offered promise of an improved unit.
Sunday offered no such hope as Gabbert's inability to consistently make accurate throws was compounded by his two interceptions, a costly Carlos Hyde fumble that resulted in a Carolina defensive touchdown and the aforementioned nonexistent running game. The Niners deserve credit for continuing to battle and getting within a score in the fourth quarter, but there are no moral victories in the NFL.
Usually, four takeaways put you in position to win. Against the Panthers, it was just the latest reminder of how far the 49ers' offense has to go.
Still, Chip Kelly is sticking with Gabbert through thick and thin.
"He's our starter and I've got a lot of confidence in Blaine," Kelly said Monday. "So, we're not thinking or talking about not having Blaine in there. It's about everybody on offense playing better right now."
Time will tell what the 49ers coach decides if and when backup Colin Kaepernick gets back to his ideal playing weight and finds a groove following surgeries on his non-throwing left shoulder, left knee and right thumb.
Kaepernick continues to regain his strength with an aim of returning to his previous playing weight of about 225 pounds, though Kelly isn't sure how close he is to that number right now. Kaepernick wasn't able to lift weights for much of his time rehabbing from the three surgeries.
"It's not something that's going to happen overnight," Kelly said. "He's not going to get to 225 in a week. If you are, it's not going to be a good 225. It's about building himself back up, and you can see kind of where he's comfortable in terms of being able to play. It's something that he's working extremely hard at. It's just, you can't force that issue."
Hyde not only went nowhere Sunday (14 rushes, 34 yards), but he also fumbled the ball right into the hands of Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, who ran for a touchdown to erase an early 49ers lead.
"That's terrible," Hyde said. "It's unacceptable."
Predictably, Kelly said a poor rushing effort (26 carries, 65 yards) wasn't entirely Hyde's fault.
"You've got to loosen them up a little bit with the passing game," he said. "If you're starting to get some edge pressure, which we did, we needed to get the ball distributed outside a little bit better. Throw the ball a little bit more."
A few final notes. ... McDonald recorded the longest touchdown reception by a tight end in 49ers history when he hauled in the above-mentioned 75-yarder at Carolina. It was McDonald's second TD catch of the season.
Smith's touchdown catch was the 35th of his career.
QBs: Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Jeff Wilson, Alfred Morris, Kyle Juszczyk, Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garcon, Dante Pettis , Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
In case you haven't been following along at home, the Seahawks scored just 15 total points in their first two games of the regular season.
As the Sports Xchange notes, the run game is not producing the typical success associated with Seattle teams over the years, and hobbled quarterback Russell Wilson isn't playing as effectively as usual either.
For a team that averaged 28 points a game over the final eight regular-season games of 2015, the offensive struggles to open the season are unexpected.
"I never could have thought that we would go the first couple weeks and not score but one touchdown," head coach Pete Carroll said. "I'm just surprised at that. We're better than that."
A 9-3 loss to the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday marked the first time since Week 7 of the 2012 season against the San Francisco 49ers that the Seahawks did not score a touchdown. It was the first time since a 6-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2011 that Seattle could manage only three points in a game.
Carroll said Monday that his focus is on the team not striking a proper balance in its run-pass ratio, struggles on third down and losing the field-position battle.
Seattle couldn't find any success on the ground in the first half. The Rams held the Seahawks to just 14 yards on 14 attempts. That put the game firmly in the hands of Wilson, who was playing with an ankle sprain that limited his ability to move.
The Seahawks converted just four of 13 chances on third down. Only one conversion came on a distance of greater than 6 yards. Nine of Seattle's 13 third-down chances were of at least 7 yards.
Regardless of the reasons, 7.5 points per game isn't sustainable for a successful football team. Seattle knows the offense has to be more productive for the team to reach its intended destination.
Some specific areas in desperate need of improvement: The Seahawks gained only 27 yards before contact on 21 designed rushes in Los Angeles, an average of 1.29 yards before contact. In the Wilson era, the Seahawks have averaged nearly twice that -- 2.45 yards before contact on designed runs.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Seahawks were hit at the line or in the backfield on 13 of their 21 designed rushes on Sunday (62 percent of their runs), their second-highest percentage under Wilson. Thomas Rawls was hit at the line or in the backfield on six of his seven rushes. He had minus-12 yards before contact on his seven rushes. He averaged 3.0 yards before contact per run last season.
The Seahawks are averaging 2.6 yards per rush between the tackles through two games. Last season, they ranked fifth in the NFL, averaging 4.5.
The other issue is that the Seahawks are struggling with teams choosing not to send extra pressure. The strategy has taken away deep passes from Wilson.
His average throw distance has been 2.5 yards shorter this season against four-or-fewer rushers. Wilson had 14 touchdown passes against blitzes last season, tied for third-most in the NFL. Wilson also has not been able to run as he usually does. He led all quarterbacks in rushing yards outside the tackles last season, but has only 12 through 2 games, all in Week 1.
Then again, the problem could be as simple as "they faced the Rams."
Wilson was playing with a high ankle sprain, and the Rams always play them tough. The Seahawks ended the game having failed to score a point on their final eight possessions.
Wilson made it through the game and completed 22 of 35 passes for 253 yards. He was sacked twice and hit eight times.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have other injuries to worry about. Tyler Lockett left the game in the second quarter because of a knee injury, then returned with two minutes left. Rawls suffered a leg injury and did not return. Right guard J'Marcus Webb was playing with an ankle injury, and he was on the field only because the Seahawks are without first-round pick Germain Ifedi, who has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain.
Receiver Doug Baldwin played the entire game, but hurt his knee in the first half and told reporters after the game that he would have an MRI to see if there was any serious damage. Baldwin appears to have avoided that outcome. The wideout texted ESPN's Josina Anderson to say "I'm good" after having the test on his knee.
Carroll said, via Curtis Crabtree of Profootballtalk.com and 950 KJR, Baldwin "seems to feel OK" during his media session on Monday.
TE Nick Vannett was able to run well last week as he recovers from a high ankle sprain. He may be able to return to action this week.
Baldwin, Lockett and Rawls were all limited Wednesday.
It also remains to be seen if Rawls will hold onto his starting assignment even if healthy. The injury apparently is bad enough to get the Seahawks to explore other options.
As NFL.com's Marc Sessler noted, Rawls has the faith of this coaching staff, but was held to minus-seven yards on seven totes before leaving the game with a leg injury. Christine Michael looked like the better runner -- not hard to do today -- heating up when allowed to roll as the unquestioned lead dog in the second half and plowing for nearly all of his 60 yards at 6.0 yards per rush over the final 30 minutes.
And finally. ... The Seahawks were stripped of a fifth-round draft pick in 2017, a week of offseason practices and were fined $400,000 by the NFL for excessive contact in offseason practices.
Carroll also was $200,000 for the violation.
Per the league, Seahawks' players "engaged in excessive on-field physical contact" during their OTA practice on June 6 a session that was not open to media.
Carroll said Monday the team stopped using helmets for most of the offseason program in an attempt to lessen the contact during offseason work. Despite the precautions, a collision in practice led to the league reviewing tape from the practice and issuing the penalties.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Brett Hundley
RBs: Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Jaron Brown
TEs: Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine noted, the Buccaneers were doomed by four turnovers against the Cardinals. Jameis Winston threw four interceptions and fumbled the ball, setting up three scoring drives and 16 points for the Cardinals in the 40-7 loss.
The first pick, on first-and-10 from the Arizona 49 in the first quarter, was on a pass intended for Mike Evans, who ran a post route deep into the end zone and was one-on-one with Patrick Peterson, who raced step-for-step with him.
"I wanted to make him as uncomfortable as possible," Peterson said of Winston after the game. "I wanted to quick-jam Evans and play off so he couldn't get a clean beat on me."
It was clear on the play that Evans wasn't able to get much separation on the route, but he still had a chance to catch it if the ball was thrown better.
The second interception came in the second quarter. On second-and-9 from the Tampa Bay 26, Winston attempted to hit Vincent Jackson, who was coming from the slot, running a bench (out) route to the left sideline. The ball was thrown a bit behind Jackson, who appeared to be out of sync with his quarterback for the second straight week, and picked off by Marcus Cooper.
"The ball was behind him," head coach Dirk Koetter said of Jackson. "That was a bad throw. The ball missed him behind."
Another miscue came on the fumble. Running back Charles Sims inadvertently knocked the ball from Winston's hand as he was about to pass. Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson recovered it, setting up a Cardinals touchdown.
"I just dropped the ball," Winston said after the game. "I've got to get the ball out quicker. I can't allow that to happen."
Koetter emphasized timing throughout the week in practice because of the Cardinals' pass rush, knowing that Winston would have to get rid of the ball very quickly.
In the third quarter, Winston was picked off by Cooper again on a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Josh Mauro, with Cooper returning it 60 yards for a touchdown. It came on a screen pass intended for Sims, who was thrust into a much bigger role after starting running back Doug Martin went down with a hamstring injury in the first quarter.
The final pick, from former Bucs safety D.J. Swearinger, came when Winston attempted to find Evans in the end zone on a Hail Mary pass attempt from the 50 in the final seconds.
While it's easy to point the finger at Winston for the mistakes, it also looked like the offense, as a whole, wasn't on the same page, or that something isn't working with him and Jackson. Last week, No. 83 ran the wrong route against the Atlanta Falcons. Winston denied that there were communication issues and shouldered the blame. He did acknowledge that their communication could be better, however.
"It can always be better," Winston said. "I need to get on his level. I've got to step up my game. Vincent is Vincent. I'm the young guy. I have to get him the ball. If the ball is not getting to him, whether he's doing something or I'm doing something, it's my fault. I'm the quarterback -- the ball is in my hands."
The offense was able to produce one scoring drive and would have put three on the board if it wasn't for a missed 45-yard field goal attempt by Roberto Aguayo. On the first drive of the third quarter, Winston hit Evans with beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the far end zone. It was the second straight week in which the two hooked up for a deep touchdown pass, showing that their extra attention to that area over the summer is starting to pay off.
Laine went on to point out there is still a need for improvement, though, and that was only magnified with a tough Cardinals pass rush. Winston was 6-of-18 for 70 yards targeting Evans, with nine off-target throws. By comparison, he was 5-of-7 for 99 yards and a TD targeting Evans in Week 1 against Atlanta.
He completed only 51.9 percent of his passes and had a career-high 16 off-target throws, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Against the Falcons, he had only four off-target throws in his 32 attempts.
He was 13-of-33 for 159 yards (39 percent), a touchdown and three interceptions on passes thrown more than 5 yards downfield. It was the second-worst completion percentage of his career on such throws.
On passes thrown more than 15 yards downfield, he was 2-of-13 for 34 yards (15.3 percent), a touchdown and two interceptions, the worst completion percentage of his career on passes for 15-plus yards.
Against the blitz, Winston was 14-of-29 for 165 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It should be noted that against the Cardinals, he had more passing attempts against a blitz than any other game in his career.
In addition, the absence of Martin contributed heavily to Tampa Bay's struggles on offense.
The running back left in the second quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. Tampa was not able to establish any semblance of a running game following his exit, forcing Winston to attempt desperate passes to Evans and company.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Martin will miss about three weeks because of the injury. That would keep him out for home games against the Rams and Broncos in the next two weeks and the Buccaneers are on the road in Carolina in Week 5. There's a bye after that, so Martin would go five weeks between games if he misses the next three.
Sims would be the lead back in Martin's absence.
The Buccaneers announced they promoted wide receiver Freddie Martino from their practice squad, waiving linebacker Josh Keyes to make the roster spot. Martino's promotion suggests there is concern about Shorts.
Martino was with the Falcons in 2014 (when Koetter was offensive coordinator there) and was signed by the Bucs in May. He spent last year on the Eagles practice squad, and tied for the Bucs team lead in receptions this year during the preseason. ...
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Justin Watson, Freddie Martino
TEs: Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Alan Cross
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Having shown they can rally in the fourth quarter and pull out a victory, the Titans now face a new task of trying to win back-to-back games.
That's a big challenge for a franchise that last won consecutive games to wrap up the 2013 season.
The Titans hope their fourth-quarter comeback for a 16-15 win in Detroit is a sign that this franchise finally is turning around after a league-worst five wins combined since then.
"I think it can be a turning point," tight end Delanie Walker said Monday. "We always talked about finishing and previous years we lose games like this. (In Detroit), we finally finished, and I think ... we can build off that and turn this thing."
The Titans trailed 15-3 entering the fourth quarter and came up with only their fourth comeback since 1999 when trailing by 10 or more points going into the final 15 minutes. The Titans rallied from 21 points down to beat the Giants on Nov. 26, 2006, 11 against Philadelphia on Sept. 8, 2002, and from 10 down at Jacksonville on Sept. 26, 1999.
Two of those comebacks came in seasons where the Titans (1-1) reached the playoffs, and the big rally against the Giants helped Tennessee finish 8-8 after starting 0-5.
"It's a relief to come in with a good mood and not go home yelling at the walls after the game," linebacker Avery Williamson said. "So it's definitely a good feeling and glad for this team to get that confidence builder. I feel like we're definitely going to build off that."
The Titans rallied thanks to a defense that held Detroit to two field goals and a touchdown - the only TD they've given up through two games. So far this season Tennessee has allowed just six field goals and the lone TD.
Marcus Mariota, who threw two TD passes, also leads the NFL with a 131.8 passer rating in the fourth quarter. He was a perfect 9 of 9 for 74 yards on the game-winning drive - his third in 14 starts. His 9-yard TD pass to Andre Johnson with 1:13 left marked the first time since Nov. 24, 2013, at Oakland that the Titans scored to win in the final two minutes.
"I just tried to give him a chance," Mariota said. "And he made a huge play."
Said Johnson: "He put it in a good place. The defender was running underneath me. He put enough air on the ball where I could go up and make a play on it. It was a great throw by him."
Johnson said he didn't get many plays in the game, but has embraced a role that still allows him a big moment.
"At a crucial time in the game my number was called," he said. "That's a thing you look for, just having your number called and being given an opportunity."
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, the Titans know their play wasn't pretty with 12 penalties for 83 yards, not counting a Mariota interception. Still, veteran cornerback Jason McCourty said they've seen too many games slip through their hands and are just happy to have their first win of the season.
"Man for me, year eight, an ugly win - I have no idea what that looks like," McCourty said. "A win is a win no matter how you come across it."
Head coach Mike Mularkey earned a game ball for his first win since being given the job in January, and Mularkey promptly gave it to first-year general manager Jon Robinson for all his work revamping the roster. Their next test comes Sunday when the Oakland Raiders (1-1) visit, a crucial home game before Tennessee hits the road for two games.
Mularkey said he was glad the Titans finally got to enjoy the thrill of victory.
"We've had enough of the agony of defeat," Mularkey said.
Mularkey said wide receiver Kendall Wright (left hamstring) will test themselves Tuesday with the Titans hoping both can practice Wednesday. Wright has yet to play at all this year.
Backup quarterback Matt Cassel came in to take the knee to run out the clock. The Titans didn't need Mariota, who was dealing with cramps, for that. Earlier, he had a trainer massaging his calves after a touchdown pass to Walker. The quarterback blamed himself for not drinking enough water.
Mariota finished 25-of-33 for 238 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Walker, who was held to three catches in the opener by the Vikings, had a bigger contribution against the Lions. Walker had six receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.
DeMarco Murray is not only helping revitalize the Titans running game with 89 yards on 12 carries Sunday, but also had a big contribution in the passing game as well for the second straight game. Murray had seven catches Sunday and leads the Titans with 12 receptions this year, including two touchdowns. Murray finished with 145 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Titans running back since Nov. 3, 2013, when Chris Johnson had 170 at St. Louis.
Derrick Henry is beginning to be a presence in the running game and the offense. Henry had nine carries for 40 yards against the Lions and also caught a 9-yard pass.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen
WRs: Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Luke Stocker
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 21 September 2016
Despite losing twice at home, and facing all sorts of problem areas, head coach Jay Gruden wants everyone to "stay positive" and "understand we still have 14 games left" and believe that "all our goals are still reachable."
If those phrases make him sound as if he's living in denial, there is no denying this: A loss next Sunday at the New York Giants (2-0) would leave Washington in a big hole in the NFC East, three games out of first place just three games into the season.
"To be 0-2 at home - losing to the Cowboys, losing to the Steelers - is kind of a shock to everybody," Gruden said Monday. "We expected great things this year. We still do."
As the Associated Press notes, a year after winning their division behind a career season from Kirk Cousins, the Redskins have reason to wonder what is going on with the QB . He has one touchdown pass and three interceptions, including an end-zone pick on third-and-goal from the 6 in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
"He's not going to be perfect every week, that's for sure. And no quarterbacks are. It's just a matter of handling his business, going into work the next day and continuing to get better," Gruden said. "Keep his head up and stay confident, stay poised."
Gruden continued: "Sometimes he puts a lot on himself. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He wants to be great, there's no question about it. And sometimes, if he feels like he's not playing to the standards that we all have set for him, he feels like he's letting everybody down."
There have been problems in the red zone. And on third downs. Cousins' passer rating of 78.5 ranks 27th in the league.
"It wasn't good enough, obviously," Cousins acknowledged. "I need to play better."
His teammates would agree.
Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, reports that multiple offensive players have begun to complain about Cousins, pointing to a lack of decisiveness, erratic play, and confusion.
Florio asked the source whether the players who are griping would prefer Colt McCoy. Said the source, "At least he'd play with poise."
I suspect this is not something a win or two can't fix.
In addition, there are reasons beyond the obvious that help explain Cousins' struggles.
No quarterback has thrown more often than Cousins' 89 attempts through two games (Jacksonville's Blake Bortles has the same number), and Washington has run the ball a grand total of 29 times, a division of labor that might not serve the Redskins well against the Giants' revamped defense .
"We're not happy with the run-pass balance. Based on the numbers, we're obviously not a 'run-first' team. I'd be standing up here looking like a fool if I said we're a 'pound the rock'-type team right now,'" Gruden said. "First two games, the proof is in the pudding, the numbers."
As the Sports Xchange notes, general manager Scot McCloughan likes to say how much he values a powerful running game. It's how he constructed his rosters in San Francisco and Seattle as an executive. But that's not what he has in place now. That 89 to 29 pass to run ratio is astounding.
McCloughan might blanch at it, but then again what is the coaching staff supposed to do? The talent level at tight end and wide receiver far outpaces what's at running back.
In addition to sounding an optimistic tone Monday, Gruden did say there is plenty his players and coaching staff needed to improve - on offense and defense.
"We've just got to do a better job communicating on defense, making sure we're in the right spot, getting the calls out to the defensive backs, linebackers, defensive line. Offensively, making sure we know exactly where to go with the ball, when to go to it, and just do a better job of letting the players know what we're trying to accomplish with each play call, both (on) offense and defense," the coach said. "The players have got to understand what we're doing and do it to the best of their ability."
Still, as ESPN.com's John Keim put it, "If the Redskins are going to climb out of an 0-2 hole, then Cousins has to lead them."
He had a strong finish in 2015, helping the Redskins make the playoffs -- even as the defense continued to have some issues. Not a whole lot has changed in that area. The Redskins already face an absolutely must-win game after only two weeks. In order to turn this around, Cousins must play better.
A few final notes here. ... DeSean Jackson didn't practice on Wednesday because of knee and ankle injuries. Gruden said that Jackson got hurt sometime in the third quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Cowboys.
As you'd expect, Jackson's status for this week's game came up for discussion but an answer didn't come. Gruden said during his press conference that he has no idea about whether Jackson will be able to play at this point in the week.
The team will practice twice more before setting injury designations for the game on Friday, but it would seem unlikely that Jackson will be on the field if he isn't feeling well enough to work on Thursday or Friday.
Tight end Niles Paul caught a 17-yard pass against the Cowboys on Sunday. It was his first reception since Week 17 of the 2014 season, Paul missed all of last year with a fractured and dislocated left ankle.
TE Vernon Davis played in his 150th career game on Sunday against Dallas.
Rookie receiver Josh Doctson had one reception for 57 yards against the Cowboys. It was the longest reception by a Redskins rookie wide receiver since 2001. He was targeted on four other occasions, with most of those coming in the red zone on fade routes.
QBs: Josh Johnson, Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Kapri Bibbs, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson
WRs: Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Michael Floyd, Cam Sims, Trey Quinn
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Jordan Reed