Team Notes week 8 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 26 October 2016
In the aftermath of a strange game loaded with "what if" scenarios, head coach Bruce Arians was asked if there was anything he learned about his team.
"Oh yeah," he said after reviewing video of the game. "I think we're a very good football team. I'm very confident of that. ... Mentally our football team is very, very resilient. It's a long journey to the end."
And was Sunday night's 6-6 tie with the Seattle Seahawks one of the more bizarre games he's experienced?
"It was a different one for sure," Arians said at his Monday news conference. "I've only been doing it for about 40-some years, but that's in the top five."
Chandler Catanzaro's missed 24-yard field goal try in overtime was only the last of a series of missed opportunities.
A blocked punt set up the only Seattle score of regulation. The Cardinals failed on a fourth-and-one try at the Seahawks 19-yard line, time ran out before the Cardinals could get off a field goal try in the final seconds of the first half, and David Johnson came within inches of scoring what would have been the game-winning touchdown in OT.
Michael Floyd dropped a pass deep in Seattle territory.
And that's not to mention Bobby Wagner's amazing block of Catanzaro's 39-yard field goal try.
"I don't know how many plays we had," quarterback Carson Palmer said after the game. "It felt like 100, but we're a tired football team right now. ... We've got to bounce back. We've got a big game next week."
Actually, Arizona ran 95 plays in the game, the most in franchise history. The Cardinals ran 94 plays against Washington in 1994.
Johnson touched the ball on 41 of those plays, 33 as a ball carrier and eight as a receiver. The second-year running back had 171 yards from scrimmage -- 113 rushing, 58 receiving. He leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 1,004.
The Cardinals had the ball a whopping 46 minutes, 21 seconds, the second-most in NFL history. The New York Jets had the ball for 47:08 against Cleveland in 2010.
Still, Arizona managed just two field goals.
Arians praised the Cardinals defense.
"One of the best defensive performances I've seen since I've been here," he said.
Until the overtime, the only time the Seahawks were in Arizona territory was after the blocked punt.
The Cardinals haven't allowed a touchdown in the last two games.
And this wasn't the only Sunday night missed field goal that has plagued the Cardinals.
A bad snap helped lead to Catanzaro's missed field goal that would have beaten New England in the season opener.
Arians said he still fully supports Catanzaro. ...
"The kicker just needs to kick it through the two poles and we'd be 5-2," he said.
For the seventh straight week, Johnson eclipsed 100-plus scrimmage yards. Johnson didn't display the trademark burst that he has in prime-time games past, instead acting as the Cardinals' sacrificial battering ram.
He's collected 100-plus scrimmage yards in every single game this season and ranks second in rushing yards with 681.
With Palmer still struggling to move the ball, the Cardinals seem to be leaning on their best player more and more each game. We'll see if that continues against the Panthers in Week 8.
Arizona sits at 3-3-1 heading to Carolina and a stadium filled with bad memories. The Cardinals lost playoff games their last two trips there, most recently a blowout defeat in last season's NFC championship game.
Also worth noting: Six of the Cardinals' final nine games are away from home. Those dates include visits to Minnesota, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle and Los Angeles, which beat Arizona at home in Week 4. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Receiver Jaron Brown has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and will undergo season-ending surgery, Arians said on Monday.
Brown, who suffered the injury in the first half of Arizona's 6-6 tie with Seattle, becomes the sixth key player to land on injured reserve this season, joining running back Chris Johnson (groin), safety Tyvon Branch (groin), right guard Evan Mathis (ankle), tight end Troy Niklas (wrist) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (knee).
John Brown, who missed Sunday night's game due to leg pain the team feels was brought on by sickle-cell trait, should be able to practice on Wednesday.
Arians said most of the muscle fatigue and pain Brown has been dealing with is now gone and that the receiver will receive protocol treatment in the form of fluids and oxygen during the next two days in hopes of having him ready to return in time for Sunday's game at the Carolina Panthers.
"The biggest thing is he can practice full once he goes, but then it's a matter of rehydration and an oxygen issue right after practice," Arians said.
In addition, Floyd was held out of Wednesday's practice with a sore hamstring.
Dobson, a second-round pick in 2013, was cut by the Patriots in September and had two brief stints with the Lions this season. He visited the Colts last week.
Krause played in two games last year for the Eagles. He's had brief stints with the Chargers and Buccaneers this season.
The Cardinals also worked out quarterback Mike Bercovici.
And finally. ... Four offensive linemen and Palmer took all 95 snaps. OG Mike Iupati, who missed a play, took 94. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald took 93.
"Well, physically, it's going to be very hard to practice very hard on Wednesday, especially with 95 snaps offensive and as physical as the game was," Arians said. "Defensively, we didn't play that much but we won't hit on Wednesday for sure, just to get back physically."
While Arians draws up revised practice plans, the players will spend the next couple of days treating their bodies with massages, cold tubs, hot tubs and other treatments.
QBs: Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Kerwynn Williams, Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson, Chad Williams
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas, Ricky Seals-Jones
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Everyone will focus on the fourth-and-1 play in overtime the Atlanta Falcons failed to convert, the one where running back Devonta Freeman was dropped for a 1-yard loss by San Diego Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman.
But according to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, the Falcons' problems in Sunday's 33-30 overtime loss were much bigger than one play.
The game shouldn't have even lasted beyond regulation, and not because Matt Bryant's 58-yard field goal fell just short. The defense was the Falcons' downfall, and it needs major fixing moving forward.
In all, the Falcons surrendered 426 yards. They allowed Rivers to pass for 371 yards and a touchdown. And Chargers receivers gained many more yards after the catch.
Dan Quinn is a defensive-minded coach, so surely the performance by his defense has to be offensive. And there's not much time correct matters with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coming to the Georgia Dome next week and Carson Palmer and the Cardinals a few weeks away.
The Falcons are now 4-3. Although they are still atop the NFC South, they don't have as much cushion after this loss.
Of course, the offense had its issues, too. Matt Ryan threw an interception that led to a late score. There were too many pre-snap penalties and too much pressure allowed on Ryan. And, again, the fourth-down gamble backfired.
But if the Falcons continue to falter on defense and give up explosive plays, this season could implode just like last year.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have used running backs Freeman and Tevin Coleman to help power the league's top-ranked offense through the team's 4-3 start to the season.
Coleman was having a strong game against San Diego on Sunday when he suffered a hamstring strain and is in danger of missing some action with the Falcons set to play host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
The Falcons will find out within the next couple of days how much time Coleman may have to miss after he left in the second half against the Chargers.
"He strained his hamstring so for him, how long, I think I will have a better idea in the next 48 hours to see how significant a strain that he has," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "He's dealt with these strains before and he is a fast healer so we'll see how long he will be out."
A hamstring injury slowed Coleman during training camp in 2015, his rookie season.
Coleman (175 snaps) and Freeman (218) have shared time. Coleman leads the Falcons in rushing touchdowns (five) and is second to Freeman with 234 yards on 59 rushing attempts. Coleman leads the duo in receiving with 19 catches for 330 yards and a score.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the hamstring isn't believed to be serious, but the Falcons have a quick turnaround after Sunday for a divisional game on Thursday night in Week 9 and that could be a factor in their decision.
The early indications are Coleman will sit this week out.
If that's the case, Freeman, who stands eighth in the league in rushing with 508 yards on 105 carries, would be in for an even bigger workload against the league's top run-stopping defense, the Packers. In addition, the team promoted Terron Ward from the practice squad on Tuesday.
"Fortunately for us," Quinn told reporters, Ward is here, and he's somebody that's got game experience in the system and somebody that we can totally rely on."
Ward played 114 offensive snaps in 2015 and rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 29 attempts and had nine catches for 73 yards.
The Falcons also signed free-agent running back Stevan Ridley to the active roster. The team released linebacker A.J. Hawk and offensive lineman Mike Person.
Ridley was originally drafted in the third round (73rd overall) by the New England Patriots during the 2011 NFL Draft. The former LSU Tiger has seen action in 61 career games – 52 with New England. He has recorded 2,907 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns during his five year career.
I'll be following up on Coleman's status via Late-Breaking Update throughout the week, but the roster moves suggest those early reports that Coleman won't go this week were accurate. It might also explain their cautious approach with Freeman, who was limited by a sore hip on Wendesday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Ryan completed 22 of 34 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown with an interception against the Chargers. He has a league-leading 2,348 yards through seven games.
The last time Ryan failed to reach 200 passing yards was Nov. 10, 2013, in a 33-10 loss to the Seahawks. Ryan completed 23 of 36 passes for 172 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions that day.
Buoyed by Julio Jones and Coleman, the Falcons exploded for three touchdowns in one quarter for the second consecutive week.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Week 7 was only the second time this year that Jones handled over 40 percent of the team targets, which of course, was his Week 4 outing against the Panthers. With Jones dominating the targets, Freeman was the only other pass-catcher to eclipse 20 yards on the day.
Sunday was the second straight game -- fourth time this season -- Jones has eclipsed the 100-yard mark. This is the 32nd time in his career he's reached the 100-yard mark, and this is the second time this season he's reached 100 receiving yards in the first half -- eighth time in his career. He currently leads the league with 830 receiving yards.
Tight end Jacob Tamme recorded his third touchdown reception of the season in the second quarter against the Chargers.
Receiver Taylor Gabriel sat out Sunday's game with a concussion he suffered against Seattle the week before. He remains in the concussion protocol. Quinn didn't have an update on Monday.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy, Nick Williams, Andre Roberts
TEs: Austin Hooper, Eric Saubert, Levine Toilolo
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Joe Flacco gutted it out by playing with a sore right shoulder. Unfortunately for the Ravens, it was equally painful watching him do it.
In a 24-16 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, Flacco's two interceptions in the second half sealed what the Ravens had never done in nine seasons under head coach John Harbaugh -- lose four straight games.
"Mistakes are frustrating and they hurt because we obviously gave the game away there," Flacco said. "The more frustrating thing is the fact that we can't consistently do things well. We're not good right now."
Flacco was picked off twice on three passes after he had gone a franchise-record 176 passes without being intercepted. Now Flacco is on another streak: 11 quarters without throwing a touchdown pass.
For the fourth straight week, Flacco had the ball in his hands to win the game in the final two minutes. For the fourth straight week, he failed to do so, as the season continues to unravel.
How bad was Flacco in the second half? He was 10-of-22 for 48 yards passing. That's a rating of 14.6.
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, Flacco said you can't blame the ineffectiveness on his injury.
"I didn't feel it today," he said. "My arm felt great."
Flacco didn't show any effects early, averaging 13.3 yards per completion in the first half. He completed 68 percent of his throws (15 of 22) and threw a 53-yard strike to wide receiver Mike Wallace.
After halftime, Flacco only connected on 45 percent of his passes and threw his first interceptions in four games.
"When you're playing this kind of football, you can't make mistakes in the second half and down the stretch of games because you're not going to give yourself the best opportunity to win," Flacco said.
Head coach John Harbaugh said he really didn't know whether Flacco's shoulder affected the quarterback's performance.
Flacco suffered his shoulder injury a week ago against the New York Giants. He believes it happened on a deep pass to Wallace, when he got hit from his left side and landed on his arm with it extended out.
After missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, he returned for a full practice Friday.
Flacco dealt with a similar type of injury nine years ago at Delaware.
"It was just a little bit of a sore arm, basically what this is now," Flacco said.
Flacco doesn't believe this injury will linger the rest of the season. He is going to rehab and try to strengthen the shoulder during this week's bye.
"The fact that we have a bye week this week, hopefully I can get over it," he said.
Meanwhile, heading into what will be a rough bye week, the Ravens (3-4) can say all of their mistakes can be corrected in the final nine games, and they remain in striking distance of the AFC North lead. But there's much work to do. Baltimore's offense is what continues to hold back this team. The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Marc Trestman. They got rid of running back Justin Forsett. But they keep sputtering.
Some of it is due to injuries. Wide receiver Steve Smith (ankle) missed his second straight game, and left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) has been sidelined the past four weeks. This has decreased the margin for error for the Ravens, who keep hurting themselves with penalties (Terrance West's 51-yard run was negated by Alex Lewis' holding penalty) and turnovers.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, With Smith out, this looked like a good spot for Breshad Perriman to start to build some momentum against a slower secondary. Perriman caught just one pass, despite playing 74 percent of the team snaps. Kamar Aiken played behind the former first-round pick, but garnered one more target and was more efficient with his chances.
All in all, the only receiver that has some consistency in his value is Wallace. The veteran receiver has over 20 targets the last two weeks and is making plays all over the field.
Ravens' six rushing yards were their fewest in franchise history. It was eight fewer than any other game.
Lorenzo Taliaferro was activated from the physically unable to perform list to the 53-man roster prior to the game against the Jets. Taliaferro had three receptions for 10 yards and one run for no gain. He also played on special teams. In addition, Harbaugh told reporters on Monday he wants rookie Kenneth Dixon to have more involvement going forward.
All of the Ravens' scoring came from special teams: three long field goals by Justin Tucker and a touchdown by rookie Chris Moore on a fumble recovery. This marked the fourth time in seven games that Baltimore was held to fewer than 20 points.
"We're not in a good place," tight end Dennis Pitta said. "It's never too late, but we have to put it together and put it together fast."
But as Profootballtalk.com notes, bye weeks are great times to hit reset, and the Ravens got the ball rolling with a two hours 20 minute team meeting on Monday.
"We have great relationships, and I do like and love our guys. I told one of the guys in the meeting today, ‘I love you, but I despise you right now on that play.' And guys get it," Harbaugh said told Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.
Going over an ugly loss to the Jets is one thing, and fixing the mistakes from that one could take plenty of time. But the fact it was a fourth straight loss is the bigger concern, and Monday's meeting featured players talking about the direction of the season as well.
It'll be interesting to see how they respond to the current circumstances when they return in Week 9.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan
RBs: Terrance West, Javorius Allen, Danny Woodhead
WRs: Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Kenny Bell
TEs: Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, Gavin Escobar
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
ESPN.com's Mike Rodak nailed it when he asked these two questions following Sunday's 28-25 loss to the Miami Dolphins: "Why was LeSean McCoy playing on an injured hamstring, and does he risk missing time over the Buffalo Bills' upcoming critical stretch of their schedule?"
The answer to the first of those questions is of particular interest. ...
Anthony Lynn, now the Bills' offensive coordinator, served as running backs coach last season, when McCoy tried to play through a hamstring injury against the Dolphins, was ineffective and then missed his team's next two games.
That experience as McCoy's position coach influenced Lynn's thinking last week, when McCoy, on the heels of an MVP-caliber performance against the San Francisco 49ers, tweaked his hamstring in Wednesday's practice.
"I don't want to do what we did last year," Lynn told reporters on Thursday. "I don't want him playing 85 percent, reinjuring the hamstring, and then this thing lingers all year."
As much as Lynn wanted to avoid the situation, history is repeating itself. McCoy tried to play anyhow, was ineffective and decided to sit out the final 20 minutes of game action after he felt "a little pain" in the muscle.
Now, with or without McCoy, the Bills have perhaps their most important game of the season looming. Sunday's meeting with the New England Patriots, who are 6-1 after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, has big implications for the AFC East and the Bills' playoff chances.
Rodak added, "McCoy isn't the linchpin to the Bills' chances to beat the Patriots or make the playoffs, but he's close to it."
Before Sunday, he was playing at a level that would have put him in the discussion to be NFL MVP, and not having McCoy against the Patriots could make a huge difference. With that in mind, the smartest move for the Bills would have been to sit McCoy against the Dolphins and hope to have him fully ready for the Patriots.
"You might be right for the team," McCoy said after the game. "Seriously, you might be right. For the team, that might have been the best thing. It's hard to say that, and as a player if you feel good, there's no reason you shouldn't play."
Lynn made his thoughts on the matter known in Thursday's news conference, but clearly, the offensive coordinator's belief that McCoy should be fully healthy before playing wasn't shared by everyone -- including the star running back.
"I passed all my tests, all the tests they gave me," McCoy said. "I felt amazing."
After replacing McCoy in the third quarter, Mike Gillislee gained 20 yards on one run. Had he played the entire game, the Bills' offense might have scored enough points to keep Miami at bay. An effective running game would have helped to keep the Dolphins' Jay Ajayi -- who ran for 214 yards -- off the field.
Instead, the Bills attempted to squeeze a game out of McCoy that just wasn't going to be there. On a day they could have rested their potential NFL MVP candidate, the Bills might have put him at risk of not being effective -- or not playing at all -- in their franchise's biggest game in years next Sunday against New England.
Head coach Rex Ryan said that McCoy was cleared to play in the game and that he wouldn't have played if the team didn't think he was 100 percent.
McCoy said he doesn't think the injury is a "major" one and feels hopeful he'll be ready for next Sunday's date with the Patriots. Based on the way the offense performed without McCoy having a big game, that would be as great for the Bills as it might be unlikely given how things went with McCoy's hamstring this week.
Worth noting: One source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that McCoy "will be the same position this week, probably questionable" for Sunday.
McCoy did not practice Wednesday while Gillislee was limited due to a foot injury.
It's safe to say I'll have more on McCoy (and Gillislee) -- on a daily basis -- in the Late-Breaking Updates section throughout the week. ...
With McCoy out of commission, Buffalo's running game faltered, but it wasn't all the fault of McCoy or fellow backs Gillislee and Reggie Bush. The line was dominated.
In addition, Tyrod Taylor had another uneven day as he completed just 14 of 28 passes for 221 yards and rushed for 35 yards. He also took four sacks, though he did play turnover-free.
With Robert Woods (foot) out, Justin Hunter got his first start for the Bills, but he caught only two passes for 25 yards. Marquise Goodwin caught four passes for 93 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown. But he suffered what is believed to be a concussion late in the game.
Tight end Charles Clay managed only two catches for 29 yards on five targets in his second game back in Miami since leaving the Dolphins prior to last season.
Brandon Tate caught two passes for 31 yards, but his biggest contributions came on special teams. Tate had a 30-yard punt return, a 25-yard kickoff return, and he downed a punt at the 1-yard-line.
Bush played a season-high 18 snaps and scored on a 1-yard run. He also caught a two-point conversion pass and had a 13-yard pass that converted a third down.
Woods, who worked on a limited basis Wednesday, was inactive because of a foot injury that prevented him from practicing all last week. Goodwin did not practice Wednesday.
I'll be following up on their status -- along with the running backs -- in coming days.
The Bills have promoted rookie wide receiver Ed Eagan from the practice squad.
Eagan, an undrafted rookie, spent the offseason with the Cowboys and Browns.
Finally. ... Ryan told reporters on Wednesday that Sammy Watkins, on IR, is out of a walking boot. Watkins is eligible to return to practice Nov. 11.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Deonte Thompson, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, Brandon Tate
TEs: Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed, the bye week has provided the struggling Panthers with a new sense of hope -- and a few more healthy bodies on the field as well.
Head coach Ron Rivera expressed confidence Monday the Panthers (1-5) can rebound from a sloppy, mistake-filled start to the season and make the playoffs despite the odds being stacked against them. Since the NFL went to a 12-game season in 1990, 90 of 91 teams that have started 1-5 failed to qualify for the postseason.
"Oh yeah, absolutely," Rivera said when asked if he still feels good about his team's chances of making the playoffs for a fourth straight season. "Why not? We have 10 games to go and you never know. If we can take care of our business and do our job. ..."
Rivera said he was pleased with the energy level at practice as the players returned from a five-day break and began preparing for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals -- a rematch of last year's NFC championship game.
The two-time NFL Coach of the Year told his players before they left last week he wanted them to "get away from football" and come back with a renewed focus. Quarterback Cam Newton danced on the field before drills and players hammed it up in the locker room after practice.
"A lot of guys talking, joking around and talking (stuff) to each other," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short said. "That's what we need -- keep each other fired up to bring out the best in each other."
Even Rivera heeded some of his own advice, taking a break to attend a chili cook-off and a Carrie Underwood concert on Sunday.
"We have some work to do but if we approach it with that kind of attitude (we had today), I think things can start to go the direction we think we can," Rivera said.
The good news for the struggling Panthers is they seem to be getting healthier.
Starting cornerbacks James Bradberry and Robert McClain and defensive tackles Vernon Butler and Paul Soliai all returned to practice after missing a combined seven games. Bradberry said he feels good, but needs to work on his conditioning following a three-week hiatus.
Also, cornerback Leonard Johnson appears ready to return from the non-football injury list -- more good news for a flailing secondary.
But starting left tackle Michael Oher remains in the concussion protocol and did not practice. Oher has missed the four weeks of practice and three games, causing the Panthers to move right tackle Mike Remmers to the left side and use young Daryl Williams at right tackle.
Oher was the only player who didn't practice due to an injury.
Rivera's staff spent the last week self-scouting, working on areas the team needs to improve upon.
Rivera wasn't giving away any competitive secrets, but McClain said one of the biggest points of emphasis Monday was on creating turnovers on defense and protecting the ball on offense. The Panthers led the league in the takeaway-giveaway category last year, but are a minus-8 this year.
"We are trying to get back to that way of attacking the ball, whether it is punching the ball out, stripping it or intercepting it," McClain said. "Just being around the ball and being a factor on the field."
The Panthers know better than to quit on a season.
Two years ago they started 3-8-1 and still won the NFC South after closing the season with four victories. They even won a playoff game.
Rivera said the losses by Atlanta and New Orleans this past weekend only helps serve as a reminder to his players they're not out of it.
"The fight our guys have in them and the desire not to quit, you see it, so it's just a matter of time before things turn around," Short said.
A few final notes here. .. According to the Sports Xchange, Newton surprisingly has slightly better numbers than he had last year at this time, which says a lot about how good he was in the second half of his MVP-winning season.
The Panthers' passing game ranks eighth, but their 10 interceptions are tied for the second-most in the league. Kelvin Benjamin has been good, but not great in his return from a torn ACL. Greg Olsen is on pace to break Rob Gronkowski's record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season.
The Panthers rank seventh in rushing yards, but the run game hasn't flowed like it needs to. That Jonathan Stewart missed three games with a hamstring strain didn't help, and neither did Newton's DNP against the Bucs after he suffered a concussion.
Devin Funchess did not practice Monday. He has been bothered by a sore toe lately, but Rivera said Funchess sat out for personal reasons.
QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Brenton Bersin
TEs: Ed Dickson, Greg Olsen
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As NFL.com's Conor Orr framed it: "In the type of coincidence native to the NFL, the Bears received clearance on quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday -- soon after we discovered that quarterback Brian Hoyer will be out for a significant amount of time with a broken arm. ..."
Head coach John Fox made the announcement Monday, adding that Hoyer's surgery was successful and that he will likely head to injured reserve.
While we thought we'd see Hoyer remain the starter until the end of the season, the Bears will continue to do the same song and dance with Cutler that they've been doing for the better part of his massive seven-year contract.
What we do have now, though, is the stage for an audition.
Cutler could very well be entertaining quarterback-needy teams in the offseason should Chicago opt to get out of the contract while they have the chance to escape with no guaranteed money on the hook. Cutler could still do very well for himself in the right circumstance. At just 33, he will have suitors.
How many depends on how well he plays down the stretch.
In two games this season -- both losses -- Cutler completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 373 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The team's next game is a prime-time game against the 5-1 Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.
Matt Barkley replaced Hoyer in the loss at Green Bay.
Cutler completed 28 of 46 for 373 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a game and a half before his thumb sprain against Philadelphia in a 29-14 loss Sept. 19. He had a passer rating of 75.7
Hoyer completed 134 of 200 for 1,445 yards with six touchdowns and a passer rating of 98.0. His 200 attempts without an interception are only five shy of the franchise record set in 2008 by Kyle Orton. While Hoyer was playing, Fox was asked if Cutler would return as starter when he healed and said the starting position would be performance-based.
Fox sought to clarify his statement Monday.
"Some things that I say go somewhere that I wasn't really intending," he said. "At the end of the day, obviously, Jay's our starter. He was injured, not permitted to play medically. And now that he's healed, he's back to being our starter.
"That's really the facts and kind of what happened and where we're at now. So I don't know that there was a competition to speak of. Just like there wasn't a competition when Matt Barkley went in, he was our only quarterback left. So it's good to have Jay back. We're excited to have him back and hopefully he can remain healthy."
It's been speculated often that Cutler and Chicago may part ways after this season. Fox doesn't think the talk will affect Cutler.
"I think all that for everybody is tough," Fox said. "I think everybody realizes what they signed up for. Obviously as a coach and a staff you're always trying to help your players through stuff like that, but one thing I've found in Jay in the time I've been here is that he's very tough-minded and resilient."
Fox said Cutler worked with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and Hoyer throughout his injury.
Now it's a matter of getting back in sync with teammates on the field.
One player who might immediately benefit is Alshon Jeffery, whose targets diminished with Hoyer in the lineup. Conversely, there's reason to believe Cameron Meredith, who led the team in targets the previous two weeks, was Hoyer's guy and may not have the same value with Cutler back.
Center Cody Whitehair said there could be a slight adjustment made in terms of Cutler taking snaps instead of Hoyer, but not much else.
"We don't really play into that much; whichever's back there, we're going to try and do our best to protect them and do our thing on the run," Whitehair said. "But you know, it is nice to have him back. He's been a leader on the sideline even while he wasn't playing and it'll be nice to have him back out there."
Meanwhile, the health of other players is at least as big an issue for the Bears, who are 1-6 for the first time since 2000.
They didn't have starting left guard Josh Sitton due to ankle and shoulder injuries, and Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long left Thursday's game with an arm issue.
The defensive secondary has also been wracked with injuries. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it: "The Jordan Howard era is apparently over in Chicago."
It certainly looked that way on Thursday night when Ka'Deem Carey led the Bears backfield. It wasn't pretty, but Carey out-touched Howard 11 to 7 in the game and was much more efficient on the ground with 4.8 yards per rush compared to Howard's 3.1.
While Franciscovich contends Howard is the best back on the team, he looked noticeably slow in Green Bay. Carey displayed an ability to hit holes faster than Howard, although he isn't one who punishes defenses. Whatever the case, the Bears are more than willing to split the workload. That's not going to change, In fact, it might get even worse when Jeremy Langford returns.
Langford practiced Tuesday for the first time since he suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 3 with designs of getting in the lineup for Monday night's game against the Vikings. Langford was the starter when he got hurt, but Fox wouldn't say if he'll be returning to that role.
"Earlier in the season I mentioned that, way back in the day, there used to be a rule that if you were the starter, when you were hurt, it was yours when you came back," Fox told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Well, that's not really necessarily the case as much anymore. It can be. You're going to play the best guy, and there's competition to be involved in that."
Remember, it's the Vikings this week. They play pretty good defense. It's worth keeping in mind when you're pondering which Bears to put in your lineup, running backs included.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, Markus Wheaton, Dontrelle Inman, Kevin White
TEs: Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell noted, Jeremy Hill is dancing again -- and so are the Cincinnati Bengals.
And why shouldn't they?
It's been a long time since the Bengals offense looked this good.
Hill ran for a career high 168 yards and a touchdown, A.J. Green made circus catches, and the Bengals' struggling offense reverted back to its 2015 form in a 31-17 rout of the winless Cleveland Browns (0-7, 0-2 AFC North).
Giovani Bernard contributed 80 yards on the ground as Cincinnati ran for 271 yards.
In fact, the Bengals' (3-4, 1-1 AFC North) only issues on that side of the ball were two missed field goals by kicker Mike Nugent.
Their 559 yards of total offense was the most the franchise has put up since Oct. 7, 1990.
They'll probably take it.
It was supposed to be Tyler Eifert's day in his season debut, but the Bengals didn't even need him. Eifert had one catch for nine yards.
With the Browns missing their best cornerback in Joe Haden, Green essentially ran wild, catching all eight of his passes for 169 yards and a touchdown.
The day was highlighted by a circus catch from Green, who hauled in a 48-yard Hail Mary pass from Andy Dalton to end the first half. He juggled the ball and essentially tipped it to himself with defenders draped all over him.
Andy Dalton, despite being sacked 22 times this season, is off to a great start with 2,065 passing yards, eight TDs and two interceptions. Dalton passed for 308 yards on Sunday.
While being balanced on offense is important, one might argue that 'Andy to A.J.' gives the Bengals the best chance to win. On Sunday, Green was targeted eight times and he caught them all, including a pair of one-handed catches.
Veteran receiver Brandon LaFell also is helping to ease coverage on Green. LaFell, who signed as a free-agent this past offseason to do just that, had four catches for 83 yards, including a 44-yard TD.
"With him on the other side, it's unbelievable," said Green. "He brings a lot of toughness to that room. He does the dirty work that nobody else sees."
In addition, as the Associated Press also pointed out, the last missing piece of the offense was back in a limited role on Sunday. Eifert got into a game for the first time since ankle surgery in the offseason. He was on the field for 15 plays, and the Bengals plan to move him into a bigger role each week.
Eifert set a club record for tight ends with 13 touchdown catches last season. The offense was complete with him back for third-down and goal-line plays. Cincinnati hadn't scored so many points since a 37-3 win in Cleveland last December.
"That was good to help us get back on the right track," Eifert said.
Eifert's presence in the red zone should help Cincinnati, which has struggled inside the opponents' 20-yard line this season.
But Sunday's win was undoubtedly the best the Bengals have looked all season.
It's no wonder Hill, who was once known for his touchdown dances but quietly ended the celebrations in the preseason, had to make an exception.
Hill smoothly darted through a gap opened by left tackle Andrew Whitworth and tight end C.J. Uzomah on the right side of the field and streaked down the sideline untouched for a 74-yard touchdown.
Then he broke out a quick dance.
Perhaps it was a release of frustration for both Hill and the Bengals, who won for the first time since Sept. 29.
Hill has struggled to move past a chest injury that kept his touches limited for the past two games. With an injured Hill, and no Eifert for the first six games, the Bengals have struggled to consistently move the ball this season.
All that said, the Bengals' problems on both sides of the ball haven't magically disappeared simply because they played a struggling team. Their three wins -- against the Jets, Dolphins and Browns -- have all come against teams with losing records.
The Bengals will face a much better team this week when they host the Washington Redskins in London.
But the Redskins might also be missing their top cornerback after Josh Norman exited Sunday's game with a concussion. If the Bengals can take advantage of that specific matchup and beat the Redskins, they could be back at .500 by their bye week, giving the season a significantly different outlook after two straight blowout losses.
They'll just have to prove they can keep the mojo going against a winning team. ...
One last note here. ... Hill checked out a couple of times Sunday after aggravating a shoulder injury. He expects to be fine.
"I could have gone back in," Hill said. "It's just a little shoulder I've been dealing with for the last few weeks. I'll be fine. I could have gone back in but [Lewis] pulled me out."
QBs: Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Brian Hill, Thomas Jones
WRs: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Cody Core
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
According to ESPN.com's Pat McManamon, the way the Browns season is going, any quarterback who has changed planes in or near Cleveland in the past year is eligible for the roster.
Monday, the team claimed quarterback Joe Callahan on waivers. Callahan was with the Saints for 10 days after Green Bay had waived him.
He made the Packers' 53-man roster after a strong preseason. Callahan played at Wesley, a Division III school.
This move would indicate that Josh McCown is not ready to play after suffering a broken left collarbone on Sept. 18, and that the team is concerned Cody Kessler, who was not practicing Wednesday, will not be cleared from a concussion in time to play on Sunday.
Which of course raises the very real possibility that the Browns could face the Jets with Kevin Hogan and Callahan as their quarterbacks. Combined they have been on the team's 53-man roster for 14 days.
The Browns' official depth chart on Tuesday listed Hogan as the starter and Callahan as the No. 2. McCown is third while Kessler is listed as fourth.
There is a chance McCown might be cleared, but the Browns can't count on that. McCown practiced the last two weeks but has not been cleared to play in games
Still, McCown, who practiced fully on Wednesday, told reporters his broken collarbone is healing nicely and he's hoping for a good week of practice this week and full medical clearance before Sunday.
"We're moving in that direction," McCown told reporters in Cleveland today. "We'll see how it goes."
And if not?
Hogan was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs. He was cut on Sept. 3 and signed to the Browns practice squad two days later, as though executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown had a premonition of what was going to happen.
Tuesday is normally an off-day for players, but Hogan was at Browns headquarters, cramming for the Jets.
"I'm confident in myself and my preparation," Hogan said. "I feel good about my process and putting in the work, studying, watching film, getting reps during and after practice. Obviously, I hope that Cody makes a speedy recovery he's our quarterback and we trust him. But I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I'm ready."
Still, as McManamon suggested, the way this season is going there's a high likelihood that Callahan will take a snap at some point. The Browns have had five quarterbacks on the roster, and every one has taken a snap (along with WR Terrelle Pryor).
Hogan was on the Browns practice squad until Oct. 11. He played in Sunday's loss in Cincinnati after Kessler left with the concussion. Hogan completed 12 of 24 passes for 100 yards against the Bengals on Sunday. He threw two interceptions and had a 26.4 passer rating. He for 104 yards — including a 28-yard touchdown.
As Profootballfocus.com's Jeff Ratcliffe pointed out, Hogan is now the only QB to run for 100 yards this season.
"He battled as hard as he could for a guy that, again, doesn't get a ton of reps," head coach Hue Jackson said Sunday.
Such is the state of the Browns that head coach Hue Jackson was not even asked about Hogan on Monday. There are that many issues with a winless team that has used six quarterbacks in seven games.
The Browns also raised a red flag about the condition of center Cam Erving by claiming center Gabe Ikard on waivers from Buffalo
Erving missed three games with a bruised lung then missed the second half Sunday with an undisclosed illness that Jackson did not specify.
"We just have to get some more clarity on exactly what that is and where he is," Jackson said. "He is definitely one of the ones I don't have a lot of the answers that way yet."
To make room on the roster the Browns waived defensive Darius Hillary and fullback Malcolm Johnson.
The move with Johnson was a bit of a surprise. He had played regularly and had started one game. He even got his first career carry in Miami, which led to a game-changing fumble.
"We are just going to keep working and be prepared for many different scenarios as we go through it and make sure that we can field a good offensive football team on Sunday," Jackson said. "That is what we will do."
Full speed ahead, as the trek to end a winless season continues.
"We get it," Jackson said. "We have dug this hole for ourselves. We have nobody to blame but us, starting with me. We know we have some things to fix. At the same time, being disappointed is different than being about to jump over the fence.
"I say it all the time, but I'm not discouraged. I'm more determined than ever and going to stay that way to get this football team where it needs to be. ..."
Meanwhile, the issues at QB were also an issue for the team's receiving corps.
Pryor came into the game with a tender hamstring and NFL.com's Matt Harmon believes it showed. Harmon noted that Pryor averaged just 0.9 yards or separation on his four targets in Week 7, which was the lowest of any wide receiver who had four or more targets per Next Gen Stats. Pryor's season average coming into this game was a healthy 2.8 yards of separation, which is above the NFL average.
With the No. 1 target struggling, only Gary Barnidge caught multiple passes and averaged over 10 yards per reception.
Considering the Browns had a minimal passing offense they did well to rush for 180 yards -- even if 104 of them came on Hogan's seven carries. He had wide open running lanes and took advantage of them.
Running back Isaiah Crowell scored on a 1-yard run for his fourth rushing touchdown in 2016. It matches his touchdown total on the ground last year. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry but was limited to just 12 rush attempts with the Bengals getting out in front early on.
After Duke Johnson's nice outing in Week 6, he returned to non-factor status against the Bengals.
Going up against the Jets this week, Crowell remains a viable starter, but you'll want to carefully assess all options before rolling with him in this one.
One last note here. ... Corey Coleman was a limited participant in practice Wednesday, and that's a good sign as Coleman tries to return from a broken hand.
Coleman previously hadn't been cleared to practice since suffering the injury, which occurred a few days after Coleman had 104 yards receiving and two touchdowns in Week 2 against the Ravens.
Jackson told reporters Wednesday that Coleman is "getting closer" to a return but said Coleman probably won't play this week againset the Jets.
The Browns also listed Pryor as limited. He missed two practices last week and though he played last Sunday he clearly wasn't 100 percent.
I'll have more on both men via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Matt Dayes
WRs: Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Bryce Treggs, Sammie Coates
TEs: David Njoku, Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Believe it or not, Ezekiel Elliott says the Dallas Cowboys' running game can be better.
He is still waiting to break the long runs consistently.
"I mean I broke that one run but there was no one there," Elliott said. "I've yet to show the dominance at the second level and beat the safeties and score long touchdowns. Once that starts happening, you know, it's going to be kinda scary."
Elliott was referring to his 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half against the Bengals.
Even though he leads the league in runs of 20 yards or more with seven, Elliott says it can be better.
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reminded readers, a year ago, the Cowboys had 17 runs of 20 yards or more. In 2014, when DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards, the Cowboys had 19 runs of 20 yards or more.
Elliott leads the NFL with 703 yards and is the first rookie in NFL history with four straight games with at least 130 rushing yards.
Elliott also leads the NFL in carries with 137, putting him on pace for 365 for the season.
The day after games, Elliott spends time in the cold tub to rejuvenate his legs. Two days after, he goes through running work with his teammates. Three days later, he gets a massage.
"My body feels great," Elliott said. "I think I've been doing a good job of just making sure that I'm taking care of my body. Found a good routine and make sure I rehab and get back ready by Sunday but ... I've not really taken too many big hits. We got that great O-line so that helps."
Before the draft, Elliott lobbied to play behind the Cowboys' offensive line.
"It's been exactly what I expected," Elliott said. "Those guys, they work their tails off and you see it in game. You see the results in the games."
Yes. We do.
Meanwhile, after not catching passes during the Cowboys one practice of the bye week after injuring his right ring and middle fingers while cutting carrots to make soup, wide receiver Dez Bryant was able to catch passes on Monday.
Bryant said his fingers are fine and more importantly the tibial plateau fracture he suffered Sept. 25 against the Chicago Bears is fine. Bryant went through Monday's practice without any issue and will return Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles after missing three games.
After the Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 16, Bryant pronounced himself ready for game action.
"Check me out at 7:30, man," Bryant said after the game, alluding to the Central time kickoff against the Eagles. "I already told [team physician Dr. Dan Cooper] what the deal was."
According to Archer, Bryant looked smooth as he went through early part of practice open to the media and did not show any laboring with his running. He took part in three limited practices leading up to the Packers' game but was held out more as a precautionary move.
On Oct. 14, Bryant had a CT scan that showed the fracture was healing. At the time of the diagnosis, head coach Jason Garrett said the team has had players miss no action or up to three games with a similar injury.
Bryant worked on a limited basis Wednesday, as did running back Lance Dunbar (knee).
Left tackle Tyron Smith did not take part in Monday's practice as he continues to deal with a bulging disc issue. He did not practice last week either, but the Cowboys believe he will be able to play Sunday against the Eagles.
Tony Romo was back at practice on Wednesday.
Via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Romo threw in individual drills on Wednesday. It's the first time he has thrown at practice since suffering a compression fracture in his back during the preseason, at Seattle.
The Cowboys still don't know when he will be back.
"We're getting closer," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "I don't know the exact time, but we're getting closer with him. I know that."
Prescott, a fourth-round pick in the 2016 draft, has thrown seven touchdown passes with just one interception and is the league's fifth-ranked passer, while leading the Cowboys to five straight wins.
According to the Sports Xchange, teammates are not sweating the impending quarterback decision between Romo and Prescott.
"We're not really worried about that honestly," Elliott said. "To this team, it really doesn't matter who is at quarterback. We have faith in our guys. So we're just going to.... Honestly, that's not our decision anyway, so there's no reason to worry about it. So, I mean, whatever happens, happens, and we're going to keep getting better as a team."
"It's definitely going to be a difficult decision," quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. "Tony's shown that he can play extremely well. Dak is doing everything that's been asked of him. When that time comes, it will have to be dealt with."
But we're not there yet.
Meanwhile, he Dallas Cowboys have the top-ranked rushing offense and the top-ranked rusher in the NFL. That doesn't seem to leave much room for the Cowboys' best rusher last season, Darren McFadden, to get meaningful snaps whenever he is deemed ready to go.
At this point, the Cowboys my look to find a trade partner by the Nov. 1 trade deadline. But McFadden is not looking to be traded.
"No, I can't say that," McFadden said. "I love it here. I've pretty much made this my home, so I love being here. I just want to be out there contributing and playing."
McFadden, 29, has yet to return to practice after undergoing surgery on his right elbow this offseason, and said Monday that it "could be a few more weeks" before he can practice.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Alfred Morris, Rod Smith
WRs: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer, Brice Butler, Noah Brown
TEs: Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, the Broncos couldn't be happier with their rushing attack. And the plan going forward is to keep pounding because it will produce results.
They believe, if they keep doing what they did to the Houston Texans on Monday night, opposing defenses will finally send help to the line of scrimmage. That will allow the Broncos to set their receivers free in a balanced offense with big-play potential.
In the meantime, they are willing to ride their defense, minimize their mistakes and wait.
The Broncos pounded out 190 yards rushing in Monday night's 27-9 victory over the Texans and continued their quest to get opposing defenses out of the nothing-goes-deep coverages. Defenses have played those coverages to limit the damage from wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. Along the way, they have defended the Broncos' rushing attack with six- and seven-man fronts.
Legwold noted that one opponent hasn't done it -- the Cincinnati Bengals -- and quarterback Trevor Siemian threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns in that win. But for four consecutive games the Broncos didn't hit 90 yards rushing; two of those were losses.
Head coach Gary Kubiak went the enough-is-enough route last week and essentially vowed there would be better results before he pushed the team -- hard -- to make it right.
"We stuck to our game plan, we needed to play physical, win the line of scrimmage," Kubiak said. "...We went back to preparation, details, little stuff, just little things trying to remind ourselves of how we go about our business."
The Texans came into the night ranked No. 2 in the league in pass defense so the Broncos knew they weren't going to throw their way out of trouble. The Texans dropped extra players into coverage to hold Thomas to six catches for 40 yards. Sanders had four catches for 86 yards.
Siemian had 14 completions in an efficient one-touchdown night. But the Broncos simply just kept pounding away with 35 carries and two rushing touchdowns. Kubiak also kept another promise in that rookie Devontae Booker was going to get the ball more.
Consider that something for defensive coordinators to chew on now as well. Booker had 17 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown and also ran with enough power to push C.J. Anderson to his best game of the season. Anderson, having heard from Kubiak this week that Booker was going to get more action, finished with 107 yards on 16 carries for his first career 100-yard game before Halloween.
"I think I always play that way," Anderson said. "Me and Book, if we can keep this 1-2 punch thing going and help our defense out, we can definitely go as far as we want to."
"You can see [Booker] has got some young juice to him, he gives us the ability to make some big plays," Kubiak said. "He's pushing C.J. to be the best he can be and C.J. did. C.J. responded tonight and responded really well."
Anderson's 107-yard performance gave him his first 100-yard rushing night before November at any point in his four-season career.
If the uptick in the run game is real, defenses are faced with a choice. A choice that could give Sanders and Thomas room to work. Coming in to Monday, the Broncos had just two completions for more than 20 yards in the last three games combined. They had two Monday night -- both to Sanders -- and would have had one more if Thomas wouldn't have dropped the pass.
Will the shared workload continue for the 5-2 team?
"I sure hope so," Kubiak told reporters on Tuesday. "Hopefully we can have that many touches in a course of a game, but I saw two guys competing. I saw fresh guys on the field and I think that was good for us, but we were also getting more room to run. Those things go hand-in-hand."
The competition with Booker has sparked a positive response from Anderson, according to Kubiak.
"I think C.J. has been playing well," Kubiak said. "I think last night we did a better job up front; we gave him some more room to run. I think when guys push each other, last year it was C.J. and Ronnie [Hillman] pushing each other and I think [Booker]. ... Is becoming more comfortable with what we're doing. We're more comfortable with [Booker] on the field in pass protection right now. We're just growing as a group. Here we go in Week 8 and hopeful those kids keep coming along. It's going to make us better if they do."
But there could be an issue with that. According to 9News.com's Mike Klis, Anderson is currently seeking a second medical opinion on a right knee injury suffered during the game Monday night against the Houston Texans.
There is hope the injury could be minor in nature, although it's also possible he could miss an extended period. NFL Network's Mike Garofolo is reporting Anderson will miss at least a few weeks -- and possibly more -- with a bone bruise.
It's safe to say I'll be following up on this via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Otherwise, Kubiak said Tuesday the coaches have given Siemian more freedom to make decisions at the line of scrimmage as the QB progresses.
And while Siemian was an efficient 14-of-25 passing for 157 yards and a touchdown against the Texans, Kubiak said Siemian's influence does show up in the Broncos' 190-yard rushing day.
"Trevor did a great job (Monday) night of getting our team into some great runs," Kubiak said. "Trevor had a lot to do with us running the ball well," Kubiak said. "We're getting more comfortable with him, letting go up to the line of scrimmage, giving him some either-or type of football plays, you go handle it, so we're growing from that standpoint. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Cody Latimer passed through the league-mandated post-concussion protocol last week, but was held out of the game against the Texans. Tight end Jeff Heuerman was active in his place as the Broncos went with five wide receivers and three tight ends for the first time this season.
In a rare trade with another top team in the AFC, the New England Patriots shipped second-year tight end AJ Derby to the Broncos on Tuesday for a 2017 fifth-round draft choice, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter and Field Yates.
Derby, a 2015 sixth-round pick out of Arkansas, spent his rookie season on injured reserve before flashing in the 2016 preseason with a team-high 15 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
At 6-5 and 255 pounds, Derby was viewed as more of a pass-catching tight end than a powerful in-line blocker. He fits the mold of what the Broncos look for at the position in Kubiak's system. ...
Overall, this looks like a trade where the value of a fifth-round pick was deemed too enticing to pass up, somewhat similar to the 2010 trade between the teams involving running back Laurence Maroney, who at that point was more of a fringe player on the roster.
One last note here. ... The Broncos players presented Kubiak with the game ball after Monday night's 27-9 victory over the Houston Texans. Cornerback Aqib Talib handed Kubiak the ball in the locker room following the game. "Coaches get game balls when players play good, I'll tell you that," Kubiak said.
QBs: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, Chad Kelly
RBs: C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor
TEs: Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein noted this week, Matthew Stafford had already shown vast improvement this season and lifted himself into the discussion as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. But Sunday he did something else in the Lions' come-from-behind 20-17 win over Washington: He made himself into a legitimate MVP candidate.
"One-hundred percent, 100 percent," backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky said. "If he's not in the MVP conversation, then who is? You know, who is. 100 percent."
The Lions would be close to nowhere without Stafford, who has led them from behind in all four of Detroit's victories this season. While the first three ended with a game-winning field goal from Matt Prater, this one had a higher degree of difficulty.
Stafford needed a touchdown to win. No problem. He drove Detroit 75 yards down the field in six plays for the game-winning score, using 49 of the 65 seconds left on the clock. He pulled it off with his arm, finding Marvin Jones, Andre Roberts and Anquan Boldin for big gains. He used his feet, scrambling for 14 yards and lowering his shoulder to try to pick up one or two more.
He finished Sunday having completed 18 of 29 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown, and he ran twice for 32 yards. He completed passes to six different receivers, targeting seven. He spread the ball around, continually searching for the open man and buying time with his feet whenever the option wasn't immediately there.
This was the Stafford the Lions have seen all year long, the guy who has never stopped believing his team can win. Who has no problem essentially pulling his offense along with him for the ride, getting everybody involved and coming up with clutch plays time and again.
The end of the game often has been when Stafford is at his best, but Sunday proved to have a different level to it. This was Stafford's 100th game as an NFL quarterback and his 24th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
And this is turning Stafford into one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. His continued late-game poised play has proven that.
"I expect to win every time I get the ball," Stafford said. "It's not always going to happen that way. You know, Tennessee, we had a chance and I didn't make a play to win. But I expect to go out there and win. I believe in the guys that I've got in the huddle with me.
"I think they believe in me, and this is NFL football, this happens. Just glad we made the plays."
Worth noting: Stafford has done more in 100 games than any player in league history.
Specifically, Stafford has more passing yards through his first 100 games, with 27,890.
That's an average of 278.9 per game. He was under that amount on Sunday, with 266.
Meanwhile, Roberts has been a welcome addition, giving the Lions a versatile receiver in the post-Calvin Johnson era, plus an important special teams player. Roberts, among the NFL leaders in punt returns, had an 85-yard touchdown return at Chicago in Week 4. Detroit made room for Roberts on its 53-man roster by trading receiver Jeremy Kerley to San Francisco in late August and cutting TJ Jones.
"He's learning, developing," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Roberts. "He's an integral part of what we do. We're lining up in four wides more than we've done previously; that's because we think he's certainly capable. He even returns punts and kicks. Very important role he plays."
Getting targets from Stafford can prove difficult with so many playmakers on the Lions' offense.
Jones leads with 33 receptions, followed by Boldin (32), Golden Tate (31), Theo Riddick (26) and Eric Ebron (18). Riddick missed the last two games with an ankle injury and Ebron missed three games with ankle and knee issues.
For the record, Tate has 22 targets over the last two weeks after having more than seven just once in the first five weeks. According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon Tate's average depth of target in these last two games is still just 6.7. Much of his usage has been inflated with Ebron and especially Riddick being out. Harmon believes Tate could easily go back to the frustrating lack of usage he saw early in the season when one or both of those players return.
Jones posted a solid 94 yards, but Harmon believes his volume is still a concern. After seeing 22 targets in the first two weeks, Jones has target totals of eight, seven, five, six and five since. Jones is still the deep threat (18.2 average depth of target) but he's become more of a hit-or-miss WR2 at this point in the season.
Of course, it is worth noting that All-Star corner Josh Norman shadowed Jones on all 11 plays when he lined up out wide. Norman did not travel with Jones into the slot, but Stafford did not target Jones when Norman was covering him until he chucked up a 52-yard shot which Jones made a dazzling catch on. That was the play where Norman was injured and left to be evaluated for a concussion. Norman did not return, and Jones collected all of his numbers after that.
Other notes of interest. ... The Lions ran for 94 yards on 19 carries, but nearly a third of that production (32 yards) came on two broken plays by Stafford.
Zach Zenner scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard plunge, but averaged just 3.2 yards a rush. Justin Forsett looked more comfortable in his second game as a Lion, but the offensive line didn't do much to open holes up front.
Zenner and Forsett got their work with Dwayne Washington missing a third-straight game despite working on a limited basis in practice all week.
Riddick and Ebron were on the practice field Wednesday, however. Jones was not (no injury has been specified yet). I'll be watching for more on all four injured Lions in coming days and report back via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock
RBs: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Tion Green, Zach Zenner
WRs: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Jared Abbrederis, TJ Jones
TEs: Darren Fells, Eric Ebron, Michael Roberts
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As the Associated Press suggested, we might want to get used to seeing wide receivers in the backfield for the Packers, at least while they wait for their injured running backs to return.
It could be an offensive staple when the Packers play against Atlanta this weekend.
"You try to create opportunities and have a vision and build a plan based off of your availability of your players week in and week out," head coach Mike McCarthy said last Friday.
Montgomery and Cobb are versatile pass catchers. They were willing to take on extra responsibilities, with Green Bay's offense having a productive night in its first game without injured running back Eddie Lacy. Montgomery took most of the Packers' 81 snaps, a season high, at running back.
"I didn't have that many plays in the backfield since, like, eighth grade, I think," Montgomery said after the game. "But it was a lot of fun, though."
Montgomery had nine carries for a team-high 60 yards, highlighted by a 30-yard run early in the third quarter that started a 13-play, 85-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead at 13-10.
Montgomery also tied a career-high with 10 catches for 66 yards, joining Davante Adams and Cobb in double figures for receptions as Aaron Rodgers set a single-game franchise record with 39 completions.
As the play-caller, McCarthy took responsibility for not giving Cobb a carry out of the backfield in the loss to the Cowboys the week before. McCarthy said the plan was to have Cobb get four or five carries in that game.
Against the Bears, Cobb ranked second on the team with five carries for 21 yards. He also tied a career high with 11 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown as Aaron Rodgers relied on quick, short passing.
"The short passing game is like an extension of the running game in games like (Thursday's) when you're going with a lot of four-receiver packages with Ty back there," said Rodgers, who eclipsed Brett Favre's 23-year-old franchise record of 36 completions in a game.
"We allowed (Montgomery) to run some more routes from the backfield and also from the slot, kind of expanding on what we did against Dallas," added Rodgers. "He has a very good feel. Obviously, he's played receiver for a while, but he's got a good feel on the routes out of the backfield as well. I'm proud of Ty."
Montgomery, who missed most of his rookie season last year because of an ankle injury that required surgery, is healthy this fall. He was gradually phased into the backfield in recent weeks, getting a carry each in the wins over Detroit and the Giants before having three rushing attempts for six yards against the Cowboys.
"Just look at the availability and production," McCarthy said. "He's been given two primary roles, (against) Dallas and against the Bears, and he's delivered. I thought he played excellent (Thursday)."
Meanwhile, Lacy is on injured reserve and must sit out at least eight weeks because of an ankle injury. James Starks is sidelined indefinitely after knee surgery last weekend.
Jackson had only two carries for 6 yards before leaving with a hand injury in the second quarter. His status for the Falcons game is uncertain. Davis, who had a kickoff return, didn't enter the game on offense until the second half and had only two carries for a yard.
McCarthy wouldn't say Friday whether Montgomery will continue to be used extensively in the backfield with Lacy possibly out the rest of the season and Starks sidelined indefinitely.
If he's needed as a running back again, Montgomery will be ready.
"I'm a football player, and as a football player, I can do anything that's asked of me," he said.
Much will depend on Jackson's health and getting Davis up to speed with the offense.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Jackson's hand did not show a break and the swelling is down. If he can grip a ball, he could play Sunday.
I'll be watching for more on that in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Little was expected of Adams on Thursday night. In fact, the third-year receiver was questionable to play because of a concussion that knocked him out of the Packers' loss to the Dallas Cowboys just four days earlier.
Despite not practicing the subsequent days and not being cleared from the mandatory concussion protocol until Thursday, Rodgers targeted Adams 16 times on passes. Adams responded with career highs of 13 catches, 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Adams tied Don Hutson for the second-highest receptions total in team history. Hutson, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, also holds the team's single-game record of 14 catches, which occurred in 1942.
He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance.
As mentioned above, Rodgers shattered Favre's longstanding single-game team record of 36 completions. That happened Dec. 5, 1993, incidentally against the Bears in Chicago. Favre threw 54 passes in that game, a 30-17 Packers defeat.
Rodgers also came within five pass attempts of the single-game franchise record set by Favre in an Oct. 14, 1996, overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers. Rodgers equaled those 61 throws, completing just 35 of them, in Green Bay's 18-16 home loss to the Detroit Lions on Nov. 15 last season.
Astonishingly, with so much production through the air, top wideout Jordy Nelson was limited to one catch for nine yards while targeted only four times.
Jared Cook has not played since Week 3 with an ankle injury and is not expected to practice this week (he was not on the field Wednesday). Richard Rodgers will continue to start at tight end during Cook's absence.
One last note here. ... The Packers placed receiver Jared Abbrederis on injured reserve with a bruised thigh.
QBs: Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays, Ty Montgomery
WRs: Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis
TEs: Richard Rodgers, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop reminded readers, after the Texans signed quarterback Brock Osweiler in March, head coach Bill O'Brien pointed out that one of the things he likes about his quarterback is his strong arm.
But in Monday's 27-9 loss to the Denver Broncos, he was unable to take advantage of it.
Osweiler was 0-for-7 on passes that were 15 yards or more downfield. According to ESPN Stats & Information, there were just three games this season in which a quarterback has gone 0-for-7 or worse on those throws, and Osweiler has two of them. The other came in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Osweiler said he had a few opportunities to complete deep passes, but he overthrew his receivers on those plays.
"[Throwing downfield] is part of this offense," Osweiler said. "We try to hit our running backs underneath. We try to hit our tight ends underneath. We like to push the football down the field, and we weren't able to do that tonight."
Osweiler finished 22-for-41 for 131 yards, without a touchdown or an interception. His 131 passing yards were the second-fewest in NFL history by a quarterback who attempted at least 40 passes, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Only Jesse Palmer, who threw for 110 yards on 43 attempts in 2003, has had fewer.
"Give credit where credit is due," Osweiler said. "The Denver Broncos' defense is a hell of a unit. They are very well coached. They play extremely hard, their chemistry is great and their communication is great. They play extremely fast and they're physical. They just played better than us tonight."
Yes, Denver has a good defense, but as Barshop pointed out, Osweiler's struggles are not limited to Monday night's loss to the Broncos.
According to Elias, Osweiler became the first quarterback in league history to have three games in a single season with fewer than 200 yards on 40 attempts in each game. And Osweiler accomplished that in Week 7. His 5.72 yards per attempt this season is lower than the career averages of David Carr, Joey Harrington and JaMarcus Russell.
And perhaps the most surprising stat is that Osweiler is doing this with one of the best wide receivers in the league, who has been healthy and consistently on the field. Osweiler has not been able to get the ball to Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. In Monday night's loss, Hopkins had five catches for 36 yards on 12 targets. Osweiler tried to get the ball to Hopkins early, including six first-half targets.
Osweiler said he's "not sure what the deal is" about being unable to connect with Hopkins.
"Bottom line, [it] comes down to execution," Osweiler said. "[We're] going to get this cleaned up to get some receptions and some chemistry down the field."
The Texans probably weren't hoping to hear any questions about whether they plan to stick with Osweiler as their starter at this point in the season, but head coach Bill O'Brien got that query when he met with the media on Tuesday. O'Brien said that he has not considered turning to Tom Savage or Brandon Weeden while admitting that the quarterback and everyone else on the offense needs to do a better job.
"He's a good player. I think he can play better, receivers can run routes better," O'Brien told the Houston Chronicle. "It has to get better. I can't really pinpoint one thing."
Plenty of others have pinpointed Osweiler's play as a major problem for the Houston offense and another bad outing against the Lions this weekend will send the Texans into a bye week where their quarterback's struggles will continue to be a major issue.
Of course, Osweiler wasn't the only player who contributed to another lackluster offensive outing. Running back Lamar Miller injured his shoulder when he took a shot at the end of a run in the first quarter and played only sparingly after that.
Alfred Blue got the bulk of the carries after the first quarter and had some good runs.
But his fumble midway through the third quarter when the Texans were down by five points and were driving with a first down might have been the most costly error of the game.
O'Brien said Miller would be day to day this week with his shoulder injury and the Texans will be without right tackle Derek Newton for the rest of the season after he injured both knees on Monday night.
I'll be following up on Miller's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Every week O'Brien talks about how he has to try different tactics to get the offense going and every week -- even following wins -- the group continues to underperform and fail to show the potential many expected entering the season. He was asked what else he can do to jumpstart the group.
"You never run out of things," O'Brien said. "No, I think every game is different. This is a long season ... there's always different challenges and things that present to you ... that's football. If there was perfection all the way around then why would we even do it? So, we're challenged here and we're going to try to do a better job."
QBs: T.J. Yates, Tom Savage
RBs: Lamar Miller, Andre Ellington, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, DeAndrew White
TEs: Stephen Anderson, Evan Baylis, MyCole Pruitt
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Chuck Pagano expects the Colts to follow the football mantra: Protect the ball, defend aggressively and avoid penalties.
"We've got to clean some things up. Defensive pass interferences, you have four DPIs, a couple hustle plays that result in penalties," Pagano said Monday. "If you just cut that stuff in half, that's a much more manageable way to win the game."
In many ways, the Colts (3-4) have been their own worst enemy this season.
The offense has had to rally from slow starts, the defense has struggled to hold leads and far too frequently, their chances have been damaged by flags littering the field.
This isn't new.
Since committing a league-low 66 penalties in 2013, the Colts have seen that number steadily climb. In 2014, they were called for 105 penalties. Last season, it was 108. And after being called for 12 penalties in Sunday's 27-23 victory, only two teams have faced more calls than Indy's 58.
"That was a long time ago," Pagano said when the 2013 numbers were mentioned Monday. "We're far from that. We've got to get better."
One player who's already better, however, is Andrew Luck.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells noted, Luck is definitely back after an injury-filled, underperforming 2015 season. The highest-paid player in NFL history is on pace to have a career high in completion percentage (64.9), and his 2,074 yards passing are third in the league.
Two telling stats in how well Luck has played this season: His completion percentage would be higher if his receivers didn't drop 5.8 percent of his pass attempts, which is third-worst in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Luck has put up those passing numbers despite being blitzed by five or more defenders on 33.3 percent of his dropbacks, which is the fifth-highest percentage in the NFL. The Colts have allowed 113 QB pressures, 16 more than any other team in the NFL. Luck has been sacked 25 times.
Still, Luck has excelled at spreading the ball around.
Seven players have at least 10 receptions, and he's targeted nine players at least 10 times. He currently ranks third in the NFL in yards, fifth in touchdowns and third in comeback victories.
Wells reminded readers that Luck entered 2015 coming off a career year in 2014. But he never really found a rhythm last season. He dealt with rib, shoulder and abdomen injuries and eventually a lacerated kidney, and he also made poor decisions with the ball. Luck completed just 55.3 percent of his passes, the second-lowest percentage of his career, and committed 13 turnovers in seven games last season.
That's why Luck, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer focused on improving his fundamentals in the offseason. The biggest emphasis was improving Luck's footwork, which in turn would help increase his completion percentage and cut down on his turnovers.
Luck has thrown four interceptions, fewer than the likes of Ben Roethlisberger (six), Eli Manning (six), Cam Newton (six) and Drew Brees (five). Three of Luck's four interceptions came in the first four weeks of the season.
For what it's worth, Luck wasn't surprised that several of the Colts' backup offensive players stepped up and performed relatively well in the win over Tennessee.
Luck's 123.1 passer rating against Tennessee is the fifth best for a game in his career. He completed 27 of 39 passes for 353 yards with three touchdowns, one each to tight end Jack Doyle, wideout T.Y. Hilton and Frank Gore.
Doyle caught nine passes for 78 yards and Hilton had seven receptions for 133 yards. Luck was sacked twice.
According to Profootballfocus.com's Jeff Ratcliffe, Doyle leads all tight ends in PPR scoring for the week after catching 9-of-10 targets for 78 yards and a score. Doyle and Antonio Gates were the only tight ends to top 10 targets for the week.
Hilton is now tied with former Colts WR Marvin Harrison for the most 100-yard receiving games in the first five years of his career. Hilton has 21. He is also tied with former Colts receiver Bill Brooks for the fifth most receiving touchdowns in franchise history (28).
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Hilton is on pace for 173 targets this season and has just one game where he saw single-digit looks go his way. That will come down a bit when Donte Moncrief comes back from his injury, which could be this week or next as we are now on the longer end of his four to six week expected length of absence.
Moncrief returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday. Asked if he expects to play this weekend, Moncrief said: "I'll be surprised if I didn't."
"Moncrief has a good chance to get back into the swing of things," Pagano said.
Moncrief has not played since Week 2 due to a fractured scapula and he only took nine snaps in that game before getting hurt, so he hasn't had much of a presence on the field for Indianapolis this season. Moncrief was second on the team in both catches and receiving yards last season.
There may be others rejoining the team this week. Dorsett missed last week's game with a hamstring injury and Pagano said he is "trending in the right direction." Dorsett was also limited Wednesday.
I'll be following up on Moncrief and Dorsett via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Allen (ankle) did not play against the Titans and is expected to be sidelined for a few more weeks. Doyle will continue to serve as a high-end replacement.
One last note here. ... Gore posted another 83 total yards on 22 touches and a scored on the above-mentioned touchdown catch. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich notes, Gore has been one of the most consistent mid-to-late round fantasy running backs who owners can leave in their flex spot on a weekly basis and are guaranteed anywhere from 10 to 15 fantasy points in standard scoring.
Franciscovich added: "Gore's work as a pass-catcher helps to boost his weekly floor when he's not able to punch one into the end zone. The Colts face the Chiefs in Week 8, so Gore will once again be a high-end flex option."
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien
RBs: Frank Gore, Marlon Mack, Matt Jones, Robert Turbin
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken
TEs: Jack Doyle, Ross Travis, Jason Vander Laan
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Blake Bortles insists his confidence isn't shaken despite playing the worst football of his NFL career.
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long noted, it probably helps that head coach Gus Bradley has his back.
"I firmly, firmly believe in Blake Bortles, without a doubt," Bradley said Monday, a day after a 33-16 home loss to Oakland. "I think it was a challenging day (with) some of the situations we were in, but as far as a competitor and tough and what he brings to this team, there is no doubt."
The Jaguars should have, at the very least, some concerns about whether the third-year-pro is a long-term solution. In several games this season and especially against the Raiders, Bortles showed no touch, no timing and no sense that he's capable of turning things around on a consistent basis.
His inaccuracy continues to be a major concern, along with his penchant for turnovers and his less-than-ideal mechanics. His ultra-long windup is giving defenders extra time to break on passes, and those three-quarter-sidearm throws make the 6-foot-5 Bortles play more like a 6-footer. He is tied for the most passes batted down at the line of scrimmage (7).
He has nine touchdown passes, nine interceptions, two fumbles and a rushing score. Sure, he's been plagued by some drops and a little bad luck with balls that should have been caught ending up getting picked.
But he also has benefited from two somewhat-fluky touchdowns. Allen Hurns turned a 4-yard out into a 42-yard touchdown in London when he broke an arm tackle, outmaneuvered five defenders on a sloppy field and found the end zone. Two weeks later in Chicago, Arrelious Benn slipped while catching a low throw, then got up, took advantage of a defender who also fell and went untouched for a 51-yard score.
Without those plays, the Jaguars probably would be winless in 2016.
What's more certain is Bortles has regressed from last season, when he finished with 35 touchdown passes and looked poised to take another significant step in Year 3. Instead, he's been one of the franchise's biggest problems.
He completed 23 of 43 passes for 246 yards Sunday against the league's worst-ranked defense. He had a garbage-time touchdown to Julius Thomas that was nearly picked, and two interceptions.
To be fair, as ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco pointed out, the offense's struggles aren't all on Bortles. He has had plenty of help bogging the offense down -- and not just on Sunday.
The Jaguars have too many playmakers to be this unproductive in the passing game, but some of those players aren't performing, either.
For the year, Allen Robinson has yet to earn more than 72 receiving yards in any single game. Sunday he cratered with two receptions for nine yards against the Raiders.
"I'm pretty shocked," Robinson said. "It's frustrating. I can't focus on those plays last year. I've got to make the plays this year. I can't try to make a super play every time. I've just got to make the play in front of me."
Through six games Robinson has shown no flashes of the deep-ball maven we expected. Through six games he has zero receptions of 25-air-yards or more. He had 10 such receptions last season. In 2015, he led the league with 31 catches of at least 20 yards. He has three in 2016.
Robinson has also dealt with drops this season, flubbing one that led to an interception in Week 6 and another in Sunday's loss.
Hurns and Thomas aren't getting much separation either. That may be partly due to the play calls, but those guys have to make plays.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville's leading receiver in Week 7 was Marqise Lee.
On Sunday, Lee caught 7-of-8 targets for 107 yards. It wasn't a massive day, but Profootballfocus.com's Jeff Ratcliffe believes it's still worth noting because he led the Jags in targets and played better than Hurns and Robinson. The Jaguars' passing offense doesn't inspire much confidence right now, but Ratcliffe believes Lee's fantasy arrow continues to point up.
But the offensive problems are vast.
Instead of getting points on the opening drive, the Jaguars seemed deflated right from the start and barely recovered.
The line has been among the worst in the league, failing to open holes for running backs and allowing 15 sacks in six games.
But Bortles has been the biggest issue. And while benching him might seem like an option, it's not for the Jaguars -- at least not now.
They have a short week before playing at Tennessee on Thursday night. It's also the start of a tough stretch in which Jacksonville plays four road games in five weeks.
According to the Sports Xchange, the team has three options in terms of dramatic changes it could make: Bradley could be fired and replaced by one of his assistants, possibly assistant head coach and line coach Doug Marrone.
Bortles could take a seat on the bench, giving way to veteran back-up Chad Henne.
Offensive coordinator Greg Olson could be let go, with Bradley or quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett taking over in calling the plays on offense.
None of that will happen before Thursday's game.
What might make more sense is to make changes on Friday, when there would be 10 days between the game against the Titans and the next game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The most likely option if the Jaguars struggle Thursday is letting Olson go. Bradley isn't likely to be fired in the middle of the season. Jaguars owner Shad Khan likes his head coach and would likely give him the chance to turn the season around in the final 10 games rather than make a coaching change now and then possibly another one during the offseason.
But something has to change. And soon. ...
Hurns (shoulder) returned to practice Tuesday and was removed from the final injury report for Thursday night's game. Thomas (ankle) was held out and is officialy listed as questionable. I'll have more on their status in advance of kickoff, but both played through the same injuries last Sunday. ...
DT Roy Miller tore his right Achilles tendon against the Raiders and will miss rest of season -- a big loss for the team.
One last note here. ... TE Marcedes Lewis appeared in his 150th career game on Sunday against the Raiders. Lewis is the fourth player and the first tight end in franchise history to appear in 150 or more career games.
QBs: Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Brandon Allen
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant
WRs: Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Allen Hurns, Max McCaffrey, Jaelen Strong, Marqise Lee
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Ben Koyack
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
For one thing, Ware learned to generally keep his mouth shut.
For another, he learned to run like a beast.
"He was always demonstrating, so I was able to see it day-in and day-out in his work ethic," said Ware, who ran for 77 yards and caught a 48-yard touchdown pass to lead Kansas City to a 24-21 win over the Saints on Sunday. "He's one of the great ones. His consistency set him apart."
Ware's tenure with the Seahawks was hardly memorable. The sixth-round pick shuffled between the active roster and practice squad as a rookie, carrying just three times for 10 yards in two games.
He didn't play at all the following season.
But when he signed a future contract with the Chiefs on New Year's Eve that year, Ware got with it a fresh start. He earned a spot on the team as a hybrid fullback in training camp, then earned important carries when four-time Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles went down with a knee injury.
The Chiefs thought so highly of his performance that they signed him to a two-year, $3.6 million contract that must have seemed unfathomable considering where he'd been a year earlier.
"He runs with a lot of physicality and determination," Alex Smith said. "He played quarterback (in high school), he's done a lot of things in his past going back to college, so he has that in him. He's a good mix and I think you see it physically. He has great vision."
That vision was never more evident than on his first career TD reception.
Ware caught the screen pass from Smith a couple of yards downfield, turned toward the end zone and began making guys miss. Never really known for his speed or elusiveness -- Ware is still a power runner despite slimming down a bit -- he managed to leave the Saints gasping for air.
He's also been doing a better job of hanging onto the football lately.
Ware never fumbled once in high school or college, even while playing for LSU in the pressure-cooker of the SEC. And he hadn't fumbled once in the NFL until a few weeks ago in Houston, when he lost the ball in a 19-12 defeat. Then he lost a fumble each of the next two weeks, too.
He spent the Chiefs' bye week working on ball security, and the result was a flawless performance in a win over Oakland and another against the Saints.
"I think him probably being around Seattle there a little bit with the way 'Beast Mode' ran it," head coach Andy Reid said, referring to Lynch, "that's the same type of deal. He had a chance to watch that firsthand and talk to him. ... That's how you work that thing."
It's been working out quite well for Ware and the Chiefs, too.
Meanwhile, as Profootballfocus.com's Jeff Ratcliffe noted, "We're still in wait-and-see mode with Charles," as the Chiefs limited him to just one carry on two snaps in Week 7.
This after the veteran halfback experienced some knee swelling last week.
Reid said it wasn't a big issue and he simply wanted to be cautious with him. "It's a long season and we'll need him as we go," Reid said. "I'm trying to be as patient as possible."
So what should Charles owners do?
According to Ratcliffe, "Stay the course. It's not the answer you want to hear if you own Charles, but trading him makes no sense. You're not going to get any value in return. You're also not dropping him. Your only course of action is to wait it out."
It's a good point. The Chiefs still aim to get him more involved as the season goes on, but until you see he's more involved, rolling with Charles as a starter on your fantasy team is a risky proposition. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Smith was not sacked by the Saints and any time that happens the Chiefs offense deserves a good grade. Smith was chased from the pocket several times, but he either picked up a few yards on the scramble or threw the ball away.
Smith completed 71 percent of his passes and threw a pair of touchdowns passes. The first was a nice pass and run connection with Ware and the second was a great throw by Smith and catch by wide receiver Tyreek Hill in the end zone.
Overall, the passing game was the best part of K.C.'s performance against New Orleans. But it isn't all golden.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Jeremy Maclin leads the team in targets (45) by 10, but is on pace for just 888 yards one the season and has not scored a touchdown since Week 1. Despite that, he's still on pace for just four fewer targets than he saw in 15 games last season.
Harmon went on to note there's a simple mathematical argument to be made that things could turn around for Maclin at some point, however.
Maclin's 60 percent catch rate is 4.5 percentage points lower than his career average and a full 10.2 percentage points lower than his 70.2 percent mark in his first season with the Chiefs last year, Harmon explained. Maclin's average depth of target (12.2) isn't even a full two yards higher than his 2015 10.6 mark, but his drops are up from one over the entire season last year to four in six games already this year, per Pro Football Focus.
According to Harmon, it's entirely possible that Maclin's efficiency marks start to progress back towards his career marks, or this could just be the way it is going to be this year. "Either way," Harmon added, "it's worth holding onto him to find out, or potentially looking to buy him off a surely frustrated owner coming off two duds against the weak Raiders and Saints."
One last note here. ... Justin Houston is at least one more week away from being ready to play in a game for the Chiefs. He's unlikely to go on Sunday against the Colts.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Alex Smith, Tyler Bray
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, Akeem Hunt
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Albert Wilson, De'Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Although Jared Goff still isn't getting the keys to the Los Angeles Rams' offense, the Associated Press notes No. 1 draft pick will get to take it for a spin.
Goff will get increased practice time with the first-team offense during the Rams' current bye week and again next week before their game against Carolina, head coach Jeff Fisher said Monday.
While Case Keenum will remain Los Angeles' starting quarterback, Goff has a chance to master the details necessary to gain Fisher's approval.
"He's going to get reps," Fisher said of Goff. "I don't feel like Case needs the reps Wednesday and early next week, so Jared will get those reps, which is good."
About 4 1/2 hours after stepping off the long flight home from London, Fisher confirmed he hasn't changed his mind about his quarterback situation with the Rams (3-4), who have lost three straight to wipe out their strong start to the season.
Keenum, who threw four interceptions in the Rams' dull 17-10 loss to the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium, is still ahead of Goff, who got a four-year, $27.9 million contract with an $18.5 million signing bonus in June after the Rams mortgaged a large chunk of their future to trade up for him.
"Jared is going to be our starter (eventually)," Fisher said. "But we're going to continue with Case."
Although a bye week seems to be an ideal time to make a change that's essentially inevitable, Fisher isn't yet ready.
Fisher declined the chance to be specific about whether he feels Goff isn't ready for the job, or whether he doesn't want to risk his prized pick's health and development in the NFL's 30th-ranked offense. The Rams have an inconsistent offensive line, a struggling ground game and receivers who aren't exactly distinguishing themselves this season.
"We won three straight games with (Keenum)," Fisher said. "Yes, I understand we've lost three straight. But the quarterback position, in my opinion, is not the reason why we lost the football games. ... (Keenum) threw four interceptions. You look at the actual plays, and as you guys know, interceptions -- you can place blame wherever you want."
Fisher says much of that blame resides with the Rams' receivers. Brian Quick ran an incorrect route on Keenum's fourth interception, while Kenny Britt made an earlier mistake that ruined a potential TD pass.
Tavon Austin was targeted on three of the picks, one of them being a clear drop. That was the play Giants safety Landon Collins brought back for a touchdown. Austin also fumbled twice, gaining 57 yards on 15 targets.
"When you're playing close games, you've got to do everything exactly right," Fisher said. "And we didn't do that at the receiver position. Nor did we do it at the offensive line position, or the running back position for that matter."
Cooper, a fourth-round pick, has been active for just one game this season. Spruce has yet to get on the field after the Rams kept the promising undrafted free agent on their 53-man roster out of training camp even though he was injured. Thomas is mainly contributing on special teams.
"We're going to work some of the younger guys in there (in practice)," Fisher said. "(Cooper and Spruce) going to get a lot of reps, so we'll see. Michael is doing a good job out there on special teams. We just have to get more production out of the whole group."
The Rams will practice only once during their bye. After a peripatetic season that began with the franchise's return from St. Louis, the players will have several days off to recover from their London trip while revitalizing themselves for the nine weeks ahead.
Those weeks begin with a favorable November schedule. Los Angeles' next four opponents are a combined 8-18, giving the Rams a golden opportunity to get back in the playoff hunt despite their offensive woes.
But first, Fisher wants his players to get rid of their jetlag. The coach could use some sleep, too.
"This week is about resting, it's about recovering," Fisher said. "It's also about getting away and coming back recharged, that's probably the most important thing. ..."
Meanwhile, as NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, if you started Todd Gurley against the Giants you knew you'd at least get some volume upside. And he did total 21 touches.
But, yet again, he was inefficient on the ground averaging fewer than four yards per carry (again) on his 15 attempts. A trend we've seen hold steady the last few weeks is Gurley's work as a pass catcher which has buoyed his floor given his struggles to gain yards as a rusher.
Still, he needs to get into the end zone to give your fantasy squad a chance to win, and he didn't do that against the Giants.
But it's not all his fault.
According to Profootballfocus.com's Jeff Ratcliffe, Gurley's stat line doesn't show how little his offensive line is doing to help. Through the first seven weeks of the season, the Rams offensive line is dead last in yards before contact per attempt, with an average of 0.90 yards. That's over two fewer yards per attempt than the Bills unit is creating before contact.
Gurley will not point fingers.
"It's definitely frustrating, especially when it's not in your hands and there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "It definitely hurts. It hurts."
Fantasy owners share in that pain.
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar
WRs: Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Foster made his Dolphins debut as the Week 1 starter, but was waylaid by the latest in a long line of soft-tissue injuries early in the Week 2 loss to the Patriots. He will finish his brief Miami career with 55 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
"This game has been everything to me ... my therapy, my joy, my solace and my enemy," Foster wrote via Uninterrupted.com. "I've learned to love every facet of this game, from the peak of accomplishment to the gutter of criticism. And it all makes the ride worthwhile. I've been fortunate enough to play many successful years in this league. I've given a lot to this game and given up a lot for it. But it has returned to me more than I could have ever asked for.
"Faceless gladiators have been shuffled in and out of this arena for decades and I'm proud to have taken part in that legacy. My father always said, 'You'll know when it's time to walk away.' It has never been more clear than right now. I'm walking away with peace. I know it's not commonplace to do it midseason, but my body just can't take the punishment this game asks for any longer. ... Every athlete would love to go out as a Super Bowl MVP, riding off into the sunset with the crowd cheering their name. Unfortunately, life has other plans and they're usually opposite the imagination. But that imagination got me this far and I could not be prouder of the things my teammates and I accomplished in this game."
Foster went on to thank the Dolphins organization for allowing him to "bow out with grace."
The 30-year-old's retirement is effective immediately. Asked why Foster was retiring now, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was told the eight-year veteran's heart couldn't handle another rehab, even for a minor injury.
Of course, the announcement also coincides with Ajayi becoming just the fourth player in NFL history to post back-to-back 200-yard rushing performances.
The last player to do it was former Dolphins running back Ricky Williams in 2002.
The only other players to hit the mark were Earl Campbell (1980) and O.J. Simpson, who did it twice (1976 and 1973).
After the game Sunday, Ajayi said he's excited to be in such exclusive company.
"I wouldn't have called you crazy because it's something that I envisioned for myself. I want to see myself on that level," Ajayi said. "I believe I still have a lot of work to do and I have to keep pushing forward. But I've always had the confidence in my talent and ability."
The former fifth-round pick became an unexpected, emerging star for Miami after losing the starting job to veteran Foster in the preseason. Ajayi didn't make the trip in Week 1 against the Seahawks because the team was unhappy with the way he handled the benching.
However, Dolphins coaches have been impressed with Ajayi's work ethic and preparation since that point, and it has paid off. Ajayi has been on fire the past two weeks with 418 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the Steelers and Bills.
Indeed, the second-year running back was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second-straight week for his effort against the Bills.
Ajayi and the offensive line have been the biggest bright spots for Miami during its two-game win streak.
"I believe that I'm catching my stride right now and continuing to do well," Ajayi said. "Just keep being consistent -- that's my main focus. At the running back position, in our room, we want to be the best players on the field at all times."
However, Ajayi's 54 carries the past two games have caused some wear and tear. Ajayi pulled himself from the game late in the fourth quarter Sunday due to cramps.
"Luckily we have a bye week, so it's all good," Ajayi said. "That's the most carries I've had in a long time. I just gotta keep working on hydration, but cramps are going to happen sometimes."
The Dolphins will take a two-week break before returning to the field with a home game on Nov. 6 against the New York Jets (2-5).
Playing to his team's strength, first-year coach Adam Gase has been willing to keep the ball on the ground, even though he was hired because of his success with the pass.
"Adam gets a rash from calling too many run plays," offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said with a smile.
Gase said calling for handoffs is a no-brainer because Ajayi keeps getting first downs even when the opposition knows what's coming. But recent success won't help in games to come, beginning Nov. 6 against the New York Jets.
"When we get to the Jets, we're going to have to prove it all over again, because they're not going to care what we did last week," Gase said. "They're going to say, 'Run it, because we're going to stop you.' We have to establish everything all over again."
The schedule improves the chances the Dolphins can sustain their momentum.
Ajayi said he felt fine Monday, but after two bruising wins, Gase said this week's bye comes at a good time for the young running back and the rest of the team.
The Dolphins conclude an NFL record 44-day homestand when they host the Jets (2-5). The next game against a team with a winning record isn't until Christmas Eve, with the next eight opponents a combined 15-26-1.
"We just want to keep this rolling," Ajayi said. "It feels really good to win. You see how it is when you get those losses pile up. Now we're starting to catch a rhythm, and we want to keep it going."
For what it's worth, Ryan Tannehill (1 TD, 0 INTs, 99.4 passer rating) had a good game, but nothing special. The pass protection only allowed one sack, which is huge. This unit moved the chains effectively. Kenny Stills had a 66-yd TD reception while Jarvis Landry (five receptions, 78 yards) was his usual reliable self. N
It was the second long TD reception Stills had this season. Stills, who has been a bit of a disappointment this season with his 16 receptions, 317 yards, 3 TDs (19.8 yards per reception) had a 74-yard TD against Cincinnati.
QBs: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Brandon Doughty
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams
WRs: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Anthony Fasano, MarQueis Gray
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As the last team in the NFL to lose this season, the Vikings had played well enough to keep their weaknesses mostly hidden.
Their post-bye trip to Philadelphia was not only a performance failure, but an exposure of their flaws.
According to the Associated Press, pass blocking was the biggest problem in a 21-10 defeat by the Eagles on Sunday afternoon, as Sam Bradford lost two of his four fumbles and threw an interception behind a leaky patchwork line that didn't get much help from the rest of the offense but was thoroughly outplayed by their opponents.
Bradford was sacked or put under duress on a season-high 36 percent of his dropbacks Sunday, 13 percentage points higher than his pressure percentage coming into the game.
Bradford took six sacks and was hit 12 times by his former team that used insider knowledge toward a crafty strategy by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz that called for a well-disguised series of blitzes out of zone coverages.
On the 18 dropbacks in which Bradford was pressured, he committed three turnovers and the Vikings gained 11 yards.
The Eagles sent a defensive back as a pass rusher on 13 dropbacks, the same number as the Eagles' total from the first five games of the season. On those plays, the Eagles sacked or pressured Bradford eight times.
Bradford entered the day 11-of-23 with two touchdown passes and no interceptions when under duress through his first four games.
Whatever the case, The Vikings (5-1) had no trouble admitting defeat in by far their worst game of the season. They weren't quite willing to acknowledge being outsmarted.
Head coach Mike Zimmer lit into his team, particularly the offensive line, in blunt, stern postgame remarks that garnered plenty of national attention. Having newcomer Jake Long rotate in a bit at both tackle spots for T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles didn't help. Long was rusty, as you would expect.
Bottom line? The defense forced four turnovers and allowed only 239 yards, and the Vikings still lost by 11 points.
"We're trying to figure out everything right now," Zimmer said, promising changes this week without specifying whether he meant the lineup, the game plan, the practice routine or all of the above. "This is a gut-check day."
According to ESPN.com's Ben Goessling, it's interesting -- and instructive -- to note what Zimmer said late in his postgame press conference when he was asked about his level of concern with the offensive line. He responded, "I'm concerned about the offensive play in general."
Goessling believes that's a fair way to put it, given the fact the Vikings problems weren't confined to the offensive line on Sunday. Stefon Diggs was 10 yards short on a crossing route in the second quarter, Zimmer said, when Bradford overthrew the receiver.
Bradford said he needed to take better care of the ball, "especially in traffic when there are other people around," and the quarterback missed some throws he'd hit earlier this season.
The other concerning item from the game, though, is what the Vikings' pass catchers did when Bradford got the ball to them. A group of skill position players that had dropped just three passes all season, according to ESPN Stats and Information, dropped four in Philadelphia.
"I thought he missed some throws today that he normally makes," Zimmer said. "We dropped balls; it's hard to win football games when you do things like that."
The good news?
The Vikings play at Chicago on Monday night, giving them an extra day to address the deficiencies and mistakes. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Matt Asiata, who had two of the four drops, turned in an otherwise admirable performance, gaining 80 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches and playing a bigger role after Jerick McKinnon turned his ankle on a run in the second quarter.
Asiata gained 32 of his 80 yards after contact, adding six on the end of a 29-yard cutback run to extend a drive on third-and-13 at the end of the third quarter.
McKinnon was able to come back to the game and sounded confident afterward he'd be able to play against the Bears on Monday night.
Cordarrelle Patterson played 51 snaps and continued to see his role in the offense grow, though the Eagles ran a defender at him several times to take away the bubble screens Bradford has thrown his way in recent weeks.
Patterson, who was Bradford's favorite target in the fourth quarter, finished with seven receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown, posting the second-highest single-game catch total of his career.
Bradford was 5-of-11 targeting Kyle Rudolph. He's now 8-of-19 throwing to Rudolph the past two games after going 7-of-9 throwing to Rudolph against the Carolina Panthers. Bradford completed 58.5 percent of his passes overall Sunday, his worst completion percentage since Week 13 of 2015 against the Patriots (58.3). His six sacks matched a career-high, set in 2013 against the Cowboys.
Diggs returned to the lineup on Sunday after missing a game because of a groin injury. He had a quiet game, however, with only two catches for 18 yards while being targeted five times.
Ronnie Hillman, signed a month ago, got his first playing time as a Viking on Sunday. The former Broncos player didn't fare so well. His first snap was a carry for a 6-yard loss. He also caught one pass for 2 yards and whiffed on a blitz pickup that contributed to the Eagles recovering a loose ball on a strip sack.
Blair Walsh made his only field goal attempt of Sunday's game. The 48-yarder into the wind was his second-longest make of the season. Walsh is now 10 of 13 on field goal attempts. He also was 1 of 1 on PATs. He hasn't missed a field goal or a PAT in consecutive games for the first time this season.
QBs: Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford
RBs: Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon, Mack Brown, C.J. Ham
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Blake Bell
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes, the Patriots, who overcame a myriad of mistakes Sunday and relied on LeGarrette Blount to help settle things down when their offense got shaky in the second half, sit alone atop the AFC East at 6-1.
Blount didn't want his return to Pittsburgh to be a major storyline leading into Sunday's game, which is why he politely declined interviews all week. His 2014 season with the Steelers ended abruptly when he walked off the field before a game was over, leading the club to release him the next day.
That wasn't something he cared to revisit, but Sunday's effort in Pittsburgh, in which he totaled 24 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns, had to be especially sweet for him.
"He's just so deceptive with his quickness. He's a big back [6-foot-0, 250 pounds] but he's got great agility," quarterback Tom Brady said. "He makes yards after contact, gets guys in space, and does a great job kind of attacking the creases there. He had a great day."
One of the keys to the game came in the second half when Blount helped settle down an offense that was struggling to stay on the field. The Steelers had sliced the Patriots' lead to 14-13 when Blount opened the ensuing drive -- which culminated with a 36-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski up the left seam -- with runs of 11 and 25 yards. As Reiss suggested, Blount's ability to churn out some positive yardage from the three-wide receiver package, which the Steelers matched with nickel personnel on the drive, was one of the X's and O's storylines of the game.
Meanwhile, Profootballfocus.com's Jeff Ratcliffe pointed out the list of leaders in fantasy points per opportunity by position reads as follows: QB, Matt Ryan, 0.58; RB, Blount, 0.52; WR, Julio Jones, 0.45; TE Martellus Bennett, 0.43.
According to Ratcliffe, the moral of the story is that the Falcons and Patriots put up fantasy points. But he also notes that Blount's appearance on this list is especially interesting.
"The popular narrative following Brady's return was that the Patriots would scale back their usage of Blount," Ratcliffe wrote, "but that's not what's happened. Blount topped 20 carries in Week 7, posting 127 yards and two scores. He's found the end zone in all but one game this season, and currently sits sixth among running backs in standard fantasy scoring."
This should not be lost on Blount owners. ...
Whatever the case, it's on to Buffalo.
As excited as Bills coach Rex Ryan was about his team's 16-0 win over the Patriots earlier this month -- his first in Foxboro in eight tries -- he was quick to acknowledge it came with an asterisk.
"It's satisfying. But let's face it: They had a player out," Ryan said at the time.
That player, Brady, is back for Round 2 as New England looks to get even for the lone blemish on its record this season.
The Patriots enter the week playing well three weeks after coach Bill Belichick described a performance against the Bills in which he said the team failed in all three phases of the game.
The offense is thriving with Brady back, outscoring opponents 95-46 over the past three games. New England is also the only team in the NFL not to throw an interception this season and has a league-best 115.9 passer rating.
Probably the only negative development since Brady's return has been on special teams with Stephen Gostkowski.
The Patriots kicker, who entered the season having not missed an extra point since his rookie year in 2006, has missed two in the past two games. He's also just 9 for 12 (75 percent) on field goals, which is below the career-low 77 percent he kicked in both 2010 and 2006.
Though Gostkowski was especially hard on himself after his performance against the Steelers, Belichick lauded the work his kicker puts in weekly, adding "we'll work through it."
He also dismissed the idea that Gostkowski's recent woes could be related to the different types of techniques he's being asked to employ on kickoffs this year. Belichick likened it to the multiple kinds of shots a golfer has to have in their repertoire.
"You've got to be able to hit a sand wedge, you've got to be able to hit a 5-iron, you've got to be able to drive, you've got to be able to putt," Belichick said. "That's what kickers and punters do."
Also of interest. ... Gronkowski's 36-yard touchdown reception midway through the third quarter was one of the key plays of Sunday's victory. It helped the Patriots re-establish momentum after the Steelers had sliced the lead to 14-13, and it also reflected why there was a large discrepancy in snap counts between Gronkowski (52) and Bennett (30).
According to Reiss, the play up the left seam came out of the 3-WR/1-TE/1-RB package, with Gronkowski as the lone tight end. The Patriots called on that package 26 times in the game, using Gronkowski as the lone tight end in 25 of them.
Bennett, who has been playing through a right ankle injury (he was limited again in Wednesday's practice), had a quiet day as a pass-catcher (one catch, five yards) but once again contributed as a blocker. Bill Belichick noted the run-blocking of both Gronkowski and Bennett after the game.
After a slow start, including missing the first two games with a hamstring injury carrying over from training camp, Gronkowski now has 17 receptions for 375 yards a pair of touchdowns. He's had 93 yards or more in each of the last three weeks and is averaging 22.1 yard per catch for the year.
The only other impactful pass catcher against the Steelers was passing back James White, who had a 19-yard touchdown on a screen to open the scoring.
That said, NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes the usage is there for Julian Edelman, who turned his 10 targets into just 60 yards. Edelman is on pace to see 123 targets this season and a grand total 733 yards. He's yet to score a touchdown.
Having Brady back in the lineup has not had a positive effect on his production. Harmon notes that Edelman's targets per game are up since Brady returned (9.0 from 6.75). However, his average depth of target is actually down from 6.5 to 5.7. His full-season 6.1 average depth of target ranks dead last among receivers who have played 75 percent or more of their team's snaps.
"There's an argument to be made that positive touchdown regression is on its way," Harmon added, "but that's tough to project with the twin towers New England has at tight end, and a power running back entrenched."
Bottom line, as the Sports Xchange suggested, "It wasn't the most productive day for the passing attack going against the NFL's 30th pass defense, but it was good enough on the road on a day when things weren't clicking on all cylinders through the air."
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Dion Lewis is expected back on the practice field this week, which would open the 21-day window for him to practice and possibly be activated from the physically unable to perform list.
Lewis had to have a follow-up surgery after last November's torn ACL, which set back his progress.
While Blount and White have been getting the job done, Lewis, if healthy and at full speed, would add to the mix.
Lewis delivered 622 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in seven games before he was hurt last year.
And finally. ... In a rare trade with another top team in the AFC, the Patriots shipped second-year tight end AJ Derby to the Denver Broncos on Tuesday for a 2017 fifth-round draft choice.
Derby, a 2015 sixth-round pick out of Arkansas, spent his rookie season on injured reserve before flashing in the 2016 preseason with a team-high 15 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
He was being utilized as the No. 3 tight end this year behind Gronkowski and Bennett, playing 35 snaps without recording an official statistic. He also showed up on some special teams units this year, initially flip-flopping with veteran Clay Harbor as the team's No. 3 option (before Harbor was waived).
Derby's role had some crossover with that of fullback James Develin, so it's unclear if the Patriots will sign another player to take his place. Veteran fullback/H-back Marcel Reece, for example, was in for a workout earlier in the month.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Slater
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, Michael Thomas is staying humble and dominating at the same time.
The Saints' breakout wide receiver is leading all NFL rookies with 36 catches and 437 yards this year, and he is tied for the rookie lead with three touchdown catches.
When someone pointed this out to him on Twitter, Thomas replied with the "#shhhh" catchphrase he picked up at Ohio State, but also made it clear that he has high expectations for himself.
"I mean, you definitely want to be proud of yourself about that, but you don't want to be selfish or anything to hurt the team," said Thomas, who set career highs with 10 catches and 130 yards in Sunday's 27-21 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. "And every time I make plays, I try to help this team be in a better position."
Thomas, a big, physical, sure-handed receiver at 6-foot-3, 212 pounds was drafted in the second round and immediately got pegged as a replacement for all-time Saints great Marques Colston.
He joined a crowded and talented receiver group, along with established third-year pros Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead. But it became clear that all three of them would play key roles in the offense after Thomas was the team's breakout player in training camp, and head coach Sean Payton said, "I don't follow fantasy football, but shoot, I'd try to have him."
In fact, as Profootballfocus.com's Jeff Ratcliffe noted, Thomas, with 47 this season, is now dead even with Cooks in target share following his 13-target outing on Sunday.
While Thomas leads the Saints in catches, Cooks leads the team with 486 yards and four touchdowns. And Snead isn't far behind with 28 catches for 383 yards and two touchdowns in just five games played because of a toe injury. Third-year pro Brandon Coleman also caught his first TD pass of the season at Kansas City.
Last week, Triplett wrote about how quickly Payton and Brees have developed trust in the NFL's third-youngest receiving corps. Much like Cooks did as a rookie in 2014, Thomas stands out as someone who coaches and teammates immediately recognized would be special.
Vaccaro also compared Thomas to Thomas' uncle, Keyshawn Johnson, a former NFL standout who was known for a similar style.
"It's rare what he has in him."
Ratcliffe went on to suggest that while Cooks' massive weekly ceiling still places him atop the Saints receivers in terms of fantasy value, Thomas is putting a little distance between himself and Snead as the second option. Ratcliffe added that Snead has been banged up, and this has really opened the door for Thomas to shine.
"Thomas should be considered a WR3 with upside going forward," Ratcliffe summed up. ...
Meanwhile, the Saints lost their first game by one point after a defensive pass-interference call on a fourth-down play allowed Oakland to continue a late drive that ended with a touchdown and bold 2-point conversion for the win. New Orleans lost its second game on a last-second field goal by the Giants, whose only touchdown came on the return of a blocked Saints' field goal attempt.
And on Sunday, an interception for a touchdown on Brees' deflected pass, the recovery of Saints running back Mark Ingram's fumble inside the Kansas City 10-yard line and defensive tackle Nick Fairley's late personal foul away from the ball all helped sink the Saints in a 6-point loss in Kansas City.
Fortunately for the Saints, they play in the NFC South, a division in which no team has pulled away. Atlanta has dropped two straight to fall to 4-3 and Tampa Bay has won two straight but sits at 3-3. Carolina is 1-5. So the Saints (2-4) are 1+ games off the division lead with 10 to play, starting against Seattle in the Superdome on Sunday.
After starting 0-3, New Orleans appeared to have righted itself with victories over San Diego and Carolina.
For the most part, New Orleans' offense has looked elite. If not for his somewhat fluky interception, Brees would have had a stellar statistical line, completing 77 percent of his passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns.
Indeed, Payton said he thought New Orleans' defense played one of its better games in Kansas City. Yet that unit's task became harder because of the two turnovers mentioned above.
As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel noted, one on hand, Payton wants to maintain a positive, optimistic vibe in the locker room. But the coach also said he found it "disturbing" that his team gave itself a chance to win a third straight game on Sunday, only to squander it with pivotal mistakes.
"You have to be brutally honest with your team," Payton said. "Our margin for error is different with this team. We are going to play in these close games. You're going to bat .500 if you're making the same type of mistakes."
Other notes of interest. ... The Saints, who rank near the bottom of the league in rushing, had one of their better games of the season against the Chiefs in netting 104 yards and a 4.7 average on 22 attempts. But Ingram, who had 62 yards on 16 carries, must do a better job of securing the ball.
Tim Hightower, who hasn't gotten many chances lately, added 39 yards with a long gain of 13 on five carries.
Running back Daniel Lasco injured his hamstring in practice on Thursday and was inactive for Sunday's game with the Chiefs. His status for this week's game remains unclear.
QBs: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
RBs: Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, TommyLee Lewis
TEs: Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, Odell Beckham finished talking to the media and hobbled off the two-foot-high stage. It was clear his hip/abdomen/oblique was still hurting after the New York Giants' 17-10 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham Stadium.
Raanan went on to stress that Beckham barely made it onto the field for the contest. He had practiced sparingly throughout the week and was experiencing pain on Saturday.
"Yeah, there was a seed of doubt," Beckham said. "But at the same time, you're going to do whatever you're going to need to do to be out there with your team. There's no better feeling than that. There's no better feeling than going home on the plane and we're all going to be laughing, smiling."
The Giants are off to their bye week with a winning record, even if the offense struggled for much of the afternoon.
By Beckham's standards, five catches for 49 yards is a modest effort. But he made the Giants' biggest offensive play of the game with a leaping catch on a jump ball on a third-and-3 from the Los Angeles 28-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Beckham still clearly wasn't himself. He was admittedly in pain, and it became worse as the game progressed.
"He's one of the toughest kids I know, and I know he's going to lay it all on the line for his team, for his receivers," wide receiver Victor Cruz said.
Beckham didn't participate in the early part of the team's pregame warmups, instead spending time working with the trainer and chatting with general manager Jerry Reese and coach Ben McAdoo. They were deciding whether he could even play.
"We kind of just came up with a plan," Beckham said. "We said, well, kind of get in where you fit in. Wherever you can get in, if you need to come out, let us know. But they did give me the opportunity to play, which I'm thankful for. Like I said, we came out with the ‘W.'"
The defense deserves most of the credit. Safety Landon Collins scored a touchdown and set up the other with his second interception of the game.
Still, teammates knew Beckham would be there when they needed him the most.
"I think it's more about character, just knowing he wants to be out there," quarterback Eli Manning said. "He's going to give it his all and played injured and do whatever he's got to do to be there for his teammates, for his game and go out there and play well."
Even head coach Ben McAdoo was impressed. His team and his top playmaker scratched its way through a game they needed to win.
"Yeah, he fought through some things [Sunday], as did a lot of other guys," McAdoo said. "It was a gutsy performance by those players."
Especially the one who came up with the biggest offensive play of the afternoon for the Giants.
But as mentioned above, things aren't going well in general.
After finishing as a top-10 offense last season in both average yards per game and average points scored per game, the offense seems to have badly regressed in both areas.
As the Sports Xchange notes, the Giants currently rank 20th in average yards per game (345.3) and are tied for 22nd (19.0 points) in scoring with the Ravens. While they enter their bye week with a 4-3 record, the fact remains that Manning is struggling to throw touchdown passes, despite having a significant upgrade in talent at receiver with Beckham, Cruz and Sterling Shepard back.
That, along with a slumping running game that is averaging 70.3 yards per game (32nd in the league), have resulted in an offense that McAdoo said a few weeks back was on the verge of a breakout performance after scoring 20 or fewer points in five of the Giants' first seven games this season.
Rashad Jennings, who has rushed 53 times for 142 yards (2.7 average) and one touchdown, is still the team's starting running back, per McAdoo. Jennings averaged 1.9 yards per carry on 13 attempts in Sunday's win over the Rams, just a hair better than the 1.8 yards per carry the running game combined to record.
The Giants had 36 total rushing yards as a team against the Rams.
"You want to make plays," said Manning, who has been held without a passing touchdown in three of the Giants' games this year, including Sunday's win over the Rams.
The Giants were outgained 345-232 in London and a four to one lead in the turnover department were the only reason they won. ...
And finally. ... Kicker Josh Brown released a statement Tuesday apologizing and saying he has "taken measures to get help" for his alleged domestic abuse and wants to be a "voice of change, not a statistic."
The apology wasn't enough.
The team announced that they were cutting the kicker on Tuesday, after admissions of abuse were released last week, casting them in an even worse light after they re-signed him this offseason knowing of the domestic violence allegations involving his then-wife.
Brown was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, effectively paid leave, last week.
Expect newly-signed Robbie Gould to remain the team's kicker for the remainder of the season.
QBs: Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb
RBs: Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, Travis Rudolph, Ed Eagan
TEs: Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Geno Smith's second chance at starting is over. His playing days with the New York Jets could be, too.
The quarterback has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee was placed on the injured reserve list on Wednesday, ending his season.
Smith, a second-round pick in 2013 who is scheduled to be a free agent after the season, injured his knee while taking a sack from Baltimore's Matt Judon in the second quarter of the Jets' 24-16 win Sunday. Smith, who got the start in favor of the benched Ryan Fitzpatrick, had an MRI on Monday.
It's a stunning turn of events for Smith, who didn't believe the injury was serious.
"I don't feel like it hurts a ton," Smith said after the game. "Honestly, I was begging to go back out there, but I understand they're doing their jobs, so we'll see how it goes (Monday) and move on from there."
It's the latest bout with bad luck for Smith, who lost his starting job to Fitzpatrick last summer when his jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate IK Enemkpali. Until Sunday, Smith hadn't started a game since the 2014 season finale, appearing in just two mop-up roles since.
With Fitzpatrick struggling with 11 interceptions in New York's first six games, in which the Jets started 1-5, head coach Todd Bowles went with Smith as his starter against the Ravens.
Smith had a solid start to the game, going 4 of 8 for 95 yards including a 69-yard touchdown to Quincy Enunwa. But he was hurt when he scrambled to his left and held onto the ball rather than throw it away on a third-down play, and took the sack.
He limped off the field and was checked by trainers on the sideline before being taken to the locker room. Smith spent the second half in sweats on the sideline as Fitzpatrick helped lead the Jets to a win.
He drew some criticism from Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath, who wrote on Twitter : "If you've got a right knee injury keeping you out of the game, why are you standing on the sideline the entire 2nd half? How bad can it be?"
Smith saw Namath's comments and responded on Twitter: "Somebody tell Joe that the doctors have the final say on whether you can or cannot get back into the game ... and also that I love him!"
The Jets will now apparently have to turn back to Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback. Bryce Petty, a fourth-rounder last year, and rookie Christian Hackenberg, a second-rounder, are also on the roster.
Fitzpatrick was candid after the game Sunday about how he felt owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Maccagnan and Bowles, among others, had lost their faith in him.
"The biggest thing in this game, in order to last, is to have belief in yourself," Fitzpatrick said. "Because when the owner stops believing in you, the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself.
"So, that's kind of something I've had to deal with before, something I'm dealing with now."
Still, head coach Todd Bowles told reporters that Fitzpatrick would start this week, with Smith going to injured reserve.
Asked about Fitzpatrick's comments, Bowles replied: "If pissed off is going to stop the turnovers I'm more than happy to have him pissed off the whole time."
The Jets are 2-5 and close to the point when it's reasonable to find out if Petty and/or Hackenberg can play.
But if the Jets whose remaining schedule has a composite record of 29-34 can surge back into contention, then Fitzpatrick will stay behind center, aiding an organization with whom he feels a giant disconnect.
Other notes of interest. ... As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted this week, since Matt Forte's 30-carry, 100-yard, three-touchdown game in Week 2, he's basically been useless, from a fantasy perspective.
But on Sunday, the Jets loaded up their veteran back with another 30 carries that he converted into 100 yards on the ground, adding 54 as a receiver and two total touchdowns.
And that will be sufficient to move Forte back up to borderline RB1 territory against the Browns.
Forte wasn't great, but his grind-it-out style against a previously stout Baltimore run defense provided exactly what the Jets needed.
For what it's worth, Forte became the seventh player in NFL history to amass 9,000 rushing yards and 500 receptions. Also, he became the sixth player in history to record 9,000 rushing yards, 4,000 receiving yards and 500 receptions.
Meanwhile, Bilal Powell (four carries for 18 yards) got all his touches before Smith got hurt because he would have been the emergency quarterback if Fitzpatrick was injured.
But the Jets need to find a way to involve him more. Anderson had the longest run of the day, a 30-yard end-around that set up Forte's receiving touchdown.
For what it's worth, Powell (toe) and Brandon Marshall (foot) were both held out of practice Wednesday. I'll follow up on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
RBs: Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Neal Sterling, Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart
TEs: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Tomlinson, Will Tye, Jordan Leggett
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Latavius Murray scored twice in his return from turf toe, and the Raiders handled listless Jacksonville 33-16 Sunday and gave head coach Jack Del Rio a victory against his former team.
Murray, who missed the past two games, finished with 59 yards on 18 carries. Michael Crabtree caught eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown from Derek Carr, Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals and the Raiders played the kind of defense they've been looking for all season.
But Carr wasn't all that impressed with the win.
According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, the quarterback was pleased enough with a defense that came up with two interceptions, a sack and kept the Jaguars out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. Nor was he complaining about the special teams play, especially with Janikowski hitting attempts of 26, 32, 42 and 52 yards without a miss.
Carr was unhappy that the offense left too many points on the field.
"There's three plays down there in the red [zone] where we're literally this close from having a lot more points," Carr said, putting his hands inches apart for effect. "We've got to figure out a way, whether it's rep it again or work harder, whatever it is, we have to do it."
After starting the season 11-for-12 on red zone efficiency, the Raiders began to stall inside opponents' 20-yard line, converting on five of their next 10 trips into TDs.
Sunday, the Raiders were three of five, but unsuccessful on their first two trips.
And Carr suffered through his second-worst completion percentage of the season, competing 62.2 percent of his passes (23-of-37) for 200 yards. But he did have a 2-yard score to Crabtree and delivered an absolute "dime" to Crabtree on a 62-yard deep ball a few plays before the TD and did not throw an interception.
But according to tracking by ESPN Stats and Information, Carr's average pass traveled 4.9 yards past the line of scrimmage, the fourth-lowest of his career. And before Sunday, the Raiders had lost nine of Carr's 10 lowest passing average games.
Still, he remained accurate on his deep throws, completing all three of his passes that went at least 15 yards downfield.
"Derek has done a tremendous job this year of going to another level as a player," Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said. "The poise that he showed coming in with us talking right before that last drive, with the idea of being, ‘Only we get points; we don't want them to have points.' We needed to be smart with how we were managing the clock there -- being deliberate, but being aggressive; a perfect blend.
"We scored with 10 seconds left on the clock, so I thought he handled it beautifully. It was an example of a young man really growing in terms of his mastery of situational football, which you need to be good at. It was a great indication of him executing at the highest level."
And yet, Carr was not satisfied.
"When it comes down to it, we can't leave points ... off the board like that," he said. "We left too many touchdowns out there. We can't settle for field goals. But at the end of the day, we scored over 30 points and you have to appreciate that; you have to feel good about that.
"Because I remember my rookie year scoring zero against the St. Louis Rams at the time and that doesn't feel very good. So I'm very appreciative of it, but we've got to do better."
Meanwhile, Murray didn't light it up statistically, but gained 59 tough yards on 18 carries and scored on the two above-mentioned touchdown runs.
The Raiders finished with 144 yards rushing, their best total since Week 3, with punter Marquette King's 27-yard run out of punt formation doing late damage.
"We know we've got to run to be successful," Murray said. "We complement each other, and then we can take shots down the field. It feels good to get the running game going."
Murray missed the previous two games with turf toe.
"I felt good," Murray said. "I think now it's going to be a matter of continuing to keep myself ahead of the game, take care of my body.
Murray has another nice matchup next week against the Buccaneers, although as NFL.com notes, it's a cross-country road trip for Oakland which could negatively affect the offense as a whole.
Still, Murray will be a high-end RB2 in that game.
Also worth noting. ... After two strong weeks where he led the team in targets, Amari Cooper fell victim to Jalen Ramsey's coverage in this one.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Cooper caught just one pass for four yards when covered by Ramsey. The rookie corner was eventually ejected from the game, and then three plays later Cooper caught his biggest reception of the day for 18 yards. Both Cooper and Crabtree will be in prime spots this week when they travel to face off against Tampa Bay.
Also, Harmon advised readers to keep an eye on Seth Roberts, who continues to hold onto a role with this offense, especially in the red zone.
QBs: Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook
RBs: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Marshawn Lynch
WRs: Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton
TEs: Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus notes, just as Carson Wentz was beginning his first sharp ascent, his quarterbacks coach, John DeFilippo, cautioned that there are two sides to this mountain.
"There's going to be peaks and valleys with him. There is," the coach told McManus. "It's just a matter of when it happens."
That was back in mid-September, a few days after Wentz burst on to the scene with a two-touchdown performance in the opener against the Cleveland Browns. He followed that up with impressive outings against the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. After three weeks, Wentz was 66-of-102 (65 percent) for 769 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Then came a downward turn, starting at the tail end of the Lions game when Wentz forced a downfield throw to Nelson Agholor late that was snared by cornerback Darius Slay for his first career interception.
In his two outings since, Wentz has completed just 54 percent of his throws with one touchdown to three turnovers.
You can point to receiver drops (5.4 percent of Wentz's passes have been dropped, the fifth-highest mark in the league, per ESPN Stats and Info) or general lack of standout play from his skill position players, but there's no denying that Wentz's own play has fallen off.
His dip in accuracy has been noticeable. Per Stats & Info, Wentz was 0-of-7 on passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield against Minnesota, and his 16 completions had an average target distance of 1.6 yards downfield.
Head coach Doug Pederson has picked up on a mechanical issue. He noted Monday that Wentz's lower body and feet are not pointing in a direct line toward the intended receiver at times.
"Sometimes when your feet are not on the target line, you tend to throw high and you tend to throw inside of a receiver, which is what we saw a little bit yesterday," he said. "We just have to continue to drill it and drill it down to where you get in the game and it does become second nature."
A big part of getting Wentz back to form will be to help him rediscover the comfort zone that he operated so effectively from early on.
"Right now, we're trying to build his confidence each and every week," said Pederson, "and I thought our guys [Sunday] did an outstanding job of [not allowing a sack] against a team that had 19 coming in. They protected him, kept him clean, and it just gives him confidence now and gives our whole unit confidence moving forward."
The coaching staff anticipated these kinds of ebbs and flows and, judging off DeFilippo's comments from back in mid-September, there is little concern that this will devolve into a season-long funk.
Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews lost a fumble in the fourth quarter for the second time in three games against the Vikings, although the turnover didn't wind up costing the team a win.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper notes, that wasn't the case in Week 5 against the Lions, when Detroit took advantage of Mathews' miscue to drive for a go-ahead field goal in what became a 24-23 victory. Mathews lost three fumbles for the Eagles last year and has fumbled 20 times over the course of his career, although neither recent nor distant history have Pederson feeling down about the back.
"Well, it's definitely a concern and we don't want to see it, especially in those situations – four-minute situations there at the end of the game," Pederson said in his Monday press conference. "We've got to continue to either find out if he's tired, where he's at the end of the game, if we need to put Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles in. But by no means am I down on Ryan at all. We just have to make sure that he understands that he can't obviously do that and put ourselves in a situation where we're giving the ball back to the opponent."
Of course, it probably won't take more than another fumble or two for the Eagles to rethink who is getting the ball down the stretch in games.
Worth noting: The Eagles became just the second team this season to rush for 100-plus yards (101 on 26 carries) against the Vikings. Mathews, who picked up 56 yards on 14 carries, gained 20 on a beautifully blocked third-and-9 draw just before halftime that set up a Caleb Sturgis field goal. ...
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon reminded readers, there was some talk of Dorial Green-Beckham's role expanding in the coming weeks. That did not materialize on Sunday, as the wideout played just 49 percent of the team snaps, well behind Jordan Matthews (78 percent) and Agholor (75 percent).
Green-Beckham hauled in a red zone target for a score, but it was the only one he saw on the day, which was the same amount as Matthews and Josh Huff. Nelson Agholor led the team with two, none of which he caught.
In addition, tight end Zach Ertz has three targets in all three games he's played since returning from injury and he played more snaps (84 percent) than any of the wide receivers on Sunday. Ertz has five touchdowns over his last 35 games.
As the Sports Xchange notes, Huff hasn't done a whole lot on offense this season. He entered Sunday's game against the Vikings averaging just 3.0 yards per catch. But he is one of the Eagles' core special teams players, serving as a gunner on their punt coverage unit and returning kickoffs.
In the second quarter Sunday, he returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It was the second kickoff return for a touchdown in Huff's career and the second in as many weeks by the Eagles. Their other kickoff returner, Smallwood, took one back all the way last week in the Eagles' 27-20 loss to the Redskins.
"I'm always going to be ready when my number's called," Huff said. "On Sunday, my number was called big time and I was able to capitalize and help our team get a win."
Huff was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
A few final notes here. ... Matthews has some tendinitis in his left knee, but is expected to be fine for Sunday night's game against Dallas. He was limited Wednesday, but played through the same issue last week.
And finall. ... Although Pederson denies it, the Eagles and 49ers are said to be discussing a trade involving wide receiver Torrey Smith, according to multiple reports. Profootballtalk.com indicated no deal is imminent, but the Eagles potentially acquiring Smith makes sense. He's been disappointing while playing on bad offenses in two seasons with the 49ers, and the Eagles would love to bolster their receiving corps for a run at the NFC East title.
Subsequent rumors mentioned Chicago wideout Alshon Jeffery as well.
The trade deadline is next Tuesday, Nov. 1.
QBs: Nick Foles
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Brent Celek
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves suggested, the bye week looks like it landed at a perfect time for the Steelers.
The Steelers suffered their second straight lopsided defeat on Sunday, this one at home against the New England Patriots. But Pittsburgh played without five regular contributors because of injury, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and defensive end Cameron Heyward.
The Steelers are hopeful for rest and recovery before a road game at AFC North rival Baltimore on Nov. 6.
"We need to get all the pieces back together," offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert said Monday. "We have a lot of bodies dinged up. We have to get some rest, heal up and really take advantage of this bye week."
Gilbert missed the previous three weeks with an ankle injury. He said he wanted to return against New England, but the ankle didn't respond the way he had hoped. Gilbert expects to be back after the bye against the Ravens.
It's unclear when Roethlisberger will return.
Roethlisberger underwent surgery and was expected to miss four to six weeks after he injured his left knee against Miami. Roethlisberger didn't speak to reporters on Monday, but he was spotted in the locker room walking without a limp. He also jogged onto the field Sunday to greet his defensive teammates prior to the game against New England.
Better still, the Steelers held a practice on Tuesday before taking time off for the bye and Roethlisberger was a limited participant in the session.
Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan that he did individual work a little more than a week after he had surgery on the injured meniscus in his knee. He also said that he hopes to return to play against the Ravens in Week 9, something that he thinks would require getting in a fuller practice session in the days leading up to the game.
"Typically I would say no, but it would be nice because I need to know what I can and can't do," Roethlisberger said. "Mentally, no, I don't need it. But physically, just to know what I'm capable of doing … I think in this situation it would smart to get a good, full practice in."
There were various reports about how long Roethlisberger would be out after he was injured against the Dolphins in Week 6 with Steelers president Art Rooney II calling a 2-3 week timeline the best-case scenario.
That's encouraging to Gilbert, who prefers to see Roethlisberger return when he's 100 percent so he doesn't suffer a setback.
"I see him walking around and he's been looking good," Gilbert said. "We'll see how he's progressing. Whenever he's ready, I'm sure he'll be out there, first thing, because we need him."
The defense could use a boost from Heyward, who missed the previous two weeks with a hamstring injury.
"I feel good one day and take a step back the next," Heyward said. "I have to be smart and keep progressing. I have to take it day by day because I don't know how I'll be feeling in two days. I just have to make sure I'm pushing myself to the extent where I'm ready to go when I get back."
It's a frustrating situation for Heyward, who previously played in 85 consecutive regular-season games.
"I'm just doing everything possible," Heyward said. "I want to get back for my teammates because I feel like I can contribute and help out."
The Steelers could also potentially see a boost offensively from tight end Ladarius Green, who signed a four-year $20 million contract in the spring, but started the season on the physically unable to perform list and continues to work his way back from offseason ankle surgery.
Green went through his first practice of the season with the Steelers Tuesday, as they hope to get him on the field after the bye. He's been on the physically unable to perform list after offseason ankle surgery.
"I was excited," Green said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "A little nervous. It was good to get out there with the fellas."
Green said he thought his ankle "held up good," and that he was eager to see how he responded today, in their final workout before the bye week.
It's something we'll all be watching in coming days.
The Steelers anticipate extra rest from the bye could help wide receiver Markus Wheaton return to the lineup against Baltimore. Wheaton is dealing with a lingering shoulder injury sustained in the preseason.
Wheaton missed the first two games of the season, but returned to catch passes in the next three. He suffered a setback and missed the previous two games against Miami and New England.
"Anytime you take a step backwards it's frustrating," Wheaton said.
Antonio Brown spent some time on the sidelines during Sunday's loss to the Patriots, with a leg injury. After the game, Brown explained why he was absent.
He took a knee to the quad from a Patriots defender.
Brown added that he expects to be able to play in two weeks.
For the game, Brown caught seven passes for 106 yards.
One last note. ... Le'Veon Bell rushed for 81 yards on 21 carries, but he wasn't able to bust a big run. Still, he finished with 31 total touches and 149 total scrimmage yards marking four straight contests with 100-plus total yards. He still has yet to find the end zone, but the workload is right where we want it (although eAngelo Williams missed the Patriots game with a knee injury).
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Terrell Watson, Stevan Ridley
WRs: Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown
TEs: Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, Vance McDonald
San Diego ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
In case you haven't been following along at home, Melvin Gordon leads the NFL with 10 total touchdowns.
So why are the Chargers talking about throttling him back a bit?
Perhaps because it would be wise.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gordon has 158 touches in seven games this season. He totaled 217 touches all of last season.
With 461 yards on 138 carries, Gordon is on pace to carry the ball 315 times this season, which would put him in the top-10 in team history for the Chargers.
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams notes, with Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver done for the year, Gordon has embraced the role of workhorse back for the Chargers. He's in great shape, and at 6-1, 215 pounds, Gordon is built to handle the toll of being an every-down runner in the NFL.
However, Gordon had microfracture knee surgery in January, and at some point, the Chargers have to take a long-term view of Gordon's workload during a 16-game season.
Backup running back Kenneth Farrow has just 31 yards on eight carries.
"We need to get Kenny in there a little bit more," running backs coach Ollie Wilson said. "The problem with that is it's always hard in the game for two reasons. One, the back is going good and you don't want to pull him out. Or, the back not's going well and you just say, ‘Hey, let's keep going and it's going to come that way.'"
There's no question that Gordon is more comfortable and performing better in his second season.
Gordon has been particularly impressive near the goal line, finishing seven of nine on converting touchdowns within 3 yards of the end zone. Gordon was 0-for-1 on those plays last season.
And Gordon has shown toughness as a runner. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gordon has 241 yards after contact, No. 6 in the NFL.
However, Gordon's still averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. He has just three runs of 20-plus yards this year.
With more explosive runs, Gordon's yards per carry will increase.
"That's what the NFL is," offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. "If you look at a guy that has 120 yards rushing, I guarantee you he's got a long run in there.
"I've been on teams where we've led the league in rushing or been in the top five in rushing, and there were games where we didn't have much going, and you hit a big run and all of a sudden you've had a successful day running the football."
With the return of Whisenhunt this season, Gordon's still getting a feel for the new runs he's being asked to do. Along with that, the Chargers have not had a consistent starting front five on the offensive line.
San Diego's projected starters up front have started together four of San Diego's seven games this season.
"Melvin's a very physical runner the way he's playing right now," McCoy said. "We've just got to do a better job up front of getting him to the second level cleaner, because he'll wear teams out. They're going to get sick of hitting this big back coming through and thumping them."
Wilson expects those big runs to come the more reps Gordon receives.
"I learned this from Eric Dickerson when I had him the last year I was in Atlanta -- the last run informs your next run," Wilson said. "The funny thing about young tailbacks is from game to game, how they see things varies. With Mel, when we get a couple good runs early in the game where he's felt like that's the thing, then he's on for that time.
"When we get something where it's a little muffled and it's not clean, then we've got to really work hard with seeing things and looking at things at the sidelines so he can get a feel for it. But overall, I think he's done a really good job. ..."
Gordon leads all running backs with 29 red zone rush attempts. He faces the Broncos this week. Gordon managed 94 total yards against Denver in Week 6, but failed to reach the end zone (his only game without a touchdown all season).
And even if the Chargers would like to lighten his load, they won't do it at the expense of wins. ...
Meanwhile, Philip Rivers fueled the rally that beat the Falcons Sunday and that could be long remembered for saving the season.
His best work might have come at halftime as he delivered a passionate speech about not giving up. Rivers threw for a touchdown and 317 yards and could have had more save for some drops. But he spread the ball around and was able to do so despite getting sacked four times.
According to the Sports Xchange, wide receiver Tyrell Williams continues to shine as he steps in to help fill the void of losing Keenan Allen. Williams has 526 receiving yards, which is No. 12 in the NFL. Williams is on pace to become the first Chargers receiver to pass 1,200 since Tony Martin in 1995. "We all have confidence now for the rest of the season," Williams said.
Meanwhile, NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes that Antonio Gates' snap share has gone up from 35 to 47 to 51 percent since his return to action in Week 5. Conversely, rookie Hunter Henry's snap share has decline in each of those weeks, going from 82 to 68 to 63 percent. This culminated in a one-catch outing for Henry while Gates absorbed 10 targets. This will be tougher situation to project going forward.
In addition, Henry has entered the NFL's concussion protocol after complaining of head issues after Sunday's game.
Henry, however, was practicing Wednesday while receiver Travis Benjamin (knee) and Williams (unknown) were not on the field.
I'll have more on their status in the Late-Breaking Updates section as the week progresses.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver
WRs: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Geremy Davis
TEs: Antonio Gates, Sean McGrath
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Despite a defense on pace to be one of the worst in the NFL in years, an offense that has struggled to move the ball with any consistency and a six-game losing streak that is the longest for the franchise in eight years, head coach Chip Kelly gave his players the week off for the bye.
According to the Associated Press, after spending Monday going over the film from the latest loss to Tampa Bay and meeting with strength coaches to come up with a plan for the week, the 49ers players get some time away from football before returning next week.
"That's what we've always done wherever I've been in the league," Kelly said. "We've played seven games. They've been at it since July 31st. They haven't had more than one day off in a row. ... I think at this point in time we need to heal up."
While the players get away, the coaching staff will meet for a week of self-scouting to determine what worked well the first seven games and what didn't and how opposing teams are playing San Francisco.
After a 28-0 victory over the Rams to open the season, nothing has gone right for the 49ers (1-6) in their first season under Kelly. They have been outscored by 75 points for the season -- second-worst in the NFL to the winless Cleveland Browns -- and have been thoroughly outplayed on both sides of the ball.
The defense is on pace to become just the fourth team ever to allow 500 points in a season -- despite the opening week shutout -- as opposing offenses have run at will. San Francisco has allowed a 100-yard rusher in six straight games and the 185.1 yards rushing allowed would be the most in a season since New Orleans gave up 194.1 in 1980.
In fact, the Niners have already allowed more yards rushing through seven games than they did the entire 2011 season in the first year under coach Jim Harbaugh.
This version in San Francisco looks nothing like the one that went to three straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl in Harbaugh's first three seasons in 2011-13.
The change from Jim Tomsula last year to Kelly this season was supposed to spark the offense with an up-tempo style that had success at times in Kelly's three seasons in Philadelphia.
Gabbert got benched after five starts with the team averaging an NFL-worst 4.5 yards per play. Kaepernick took over and has provided some sparks early in games but has also led the offense to 4.5 yards per play.
Kaepernick has failed to complete even half his passes in either game, going a combined 29 for 63 (46 percent) for 330 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and a career-low passer rating of 66.2. He has provided a boost with his legs, rushing for 150 yards on 17 carries but the inaccuracy has been too much to overcome.
The 49ers have a bye this week, which gives Kelly two weeks to ponder a possible change at quarterback.
The coach insisted he has better things to do.
"We'll go through everything," Kelly said, "but I don't envision making any changes at the quarterback spot."
And then there are the trade rumors.
Pro Football Weekly reported Sunday night that the 49ers are asking for a first-round draft pick for standout left tackle Joe Staley.
The source noted that the Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks are showing interest in the veteran.
"We need Joe here," Kelly said when asked about the rumors. "No one's ever talked, had any discussions with me about Joe being traded."
That said, Kelly noted that he is not in charge of personnel.
"I understand how it comes up because we're 1-6 and Joe is a veteran player," Kelly said. "But it doesn't matter where you are, that's going to be speculation no matter what team you are and where you are. It's kind of the nature of the sport we play."
Meanwhile, in response to multiple reports of a potential trade of receiver Torrey Smith to the Eagles, the 49ers are pushing back. Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com cites an unnamed league source for the proposition that the "49ers are neither shopping Smith nor is a trade anticipated."
That may be literally true. The 49ers may not be "shopping" Smith, and a trade may not be anticipated.
Indeed, when Profootballtalk.com first reported the existence of talks between the 49ers and the Eagles on Monday night, they explained that a deal was not imminent. There's a chance a deal may not happen at all.
Which is precisely why the 49ers needed to throw water on the chatter. If a trade doesn't happen, they need to coexist with a player who has been possibly nestled all snug in his bed with visions of passes not being thrown five feet over his head.
Likewise, if talks are indeed occurring between the 49ers and Eagles (and other outlets, including NFL Media, have confirmed that they are), the 49ers need to get the best possible deal. Taking the position that they'll just keep Smith could be the best/only leverage, especially if no other team is trying to trade for Smith.
And finally. ... Carlos Hyde missed Sunday's game against Tampa Bay with a shoulder injury. The 49ers hope to have Hyde back for their Nov. 6 game against New Orleans.
Mike Davis started in place of Hyde and recorded his first career touchdown. Davis contributed 21 rushing yards to the 49ers' season-best, 160-yard total. Shaun Draughn caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kaepernick working in tandem with Davis. The TD reception was the first of Draughn's career.
DuJuan Harris rushed 11 times for 39 yards and caught both his targets for 18 yards.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Logan Paulsen
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
They had another off night, but this time it ended in the first tie in franchise history.
The Seahawks escaped defeat when Chandler Catanzaro missed a chip-shot field goal in overtime, but Steven Hauschka did the same thing at the other end in Seattle's 6-6 tie with the Cardinals on Sunday night.
Catanzaro and Hauschka traded field goals to open overtime after a 3-all tie in regulation, but inexplicably missed on their second tries. Catanzaro hit the left upright on a 24-yard attempt, then Hauschka hooked his 28-yard attempt badly to the left, ending the NFL's first tie without a touchdown since 1972.
"My brain doesn't really know where to go," head coach Pete Carroll said.
The Seahawks (4-1-1) were lucky to come away with a tie after laboring all night against Arizona's attacking defense.
Hampered by quarterback Russell Wilson's limited mobility, Seattle finished with 257 total yards, most of that coming late in regulation and overtime.
Wilson had just 34 passing yards in the first half and 121 yards at the end of regulation. Nearly half of his 225 passing yards came on two overtime drives. Wilson was pressured into rushed throws frequently as well despite only being sacked once.
The Seahawks had three first downs after three quarters and had 10 penalties for 90 yards, many of those negating positive plays.
"Penalties definitely didn't help us," receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "We've got to clean that stuff up."
Knee and ankle injuries have taken away Wilson's biggest strength, mobility, and that's hurt the Seahawks' running game the past few weeks. The Seahawks had 52 yards on 19 carries against Arizona and Wilson, one of the NFL's best running quarterbacks, lost two yards on his lone carry.
"It's a factor, but he played his heart out," Carroll said of Wilson's injuries. "I don't know how much harder you can ask a guy to play. He is not making any yards running. Just look at the stats. It's real simple to tell."
The Seahawks' lone first-half highlight came on a field goal attempt by the Cardinals in the second quarter.
Bobby Wagner provided it, taking a running leap over Arizona's offensive line to block Catanzaro's 39-yard field goal attempt. Wagner would have been called for a penalty had he landed on Arizona's Aaron Brewer, but he only clipped the long snapper with his cleat.
Wagner's block may have impacted Catanzaro's final attempt -- Seattle got a good push -- but Hauschka couldn't capitalize in a similar situation.
Not a loss, but not a win, either.
"It's an awkward feeling," Wagner said. "At the end of the day, it's not a loss so I guess we'll take it for what it was."
Meanwhile, Carroll is convinced that his team's moribund run game is going to improve soon, and maybe the reason is that it just can't get much worse.
According to Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com, Carroll said he hopes the return of running back Thomas Rawls from his fibula injury the week after next will spark an offense that is a shell of its former self.
"This is what we're counting on right now," Carroll said. "We're counting on him running this week, and then next week [against the Bills] preparing to play. That's what we're counting on unless something changes."
That won't help them this week, but they're playing the Saints, whose defense is historically bad. But the Seahawks are averaging a meager 3.12 yards per carry, which is next to last in the league.
The absence of Rawls and the limitations of Wilson because of his knee and ankle injuries have kept them from running effectively, but Carroll said Wilson was improving.
"He is getting better," Carroll said. "He got out of this game maybe for the first time, he felt nothing of carryover on his ankle or his knee, which is really good. There's always a little bit of aftermath. He didn't feel that from what I understand."
Of course, they're going to have to try to fix things with another patchwork offensive line, as left tackle Bradley Sowell is going to miss some time with an MCL sprain. Whether that negates the return of Rawls and Wilson's getting healthier will be seen, but the best answer this week might just be their opponent.
As for the passing attack. ... NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes the Seahawks were in their three-wide receiver set on 88.9 percent of their offensive plays on Sunday night. Doug Baldwin (98 percent), Jermaine Kearse (89 percent) and Tyler Lockett (78 percent) were all fixtures in the snap count.
Harmon believes the groundwork is here for an explosive offensive masterpiece like we saw in the second half of the season in 2015. However, Wilson's relative lack of mobility and the offensive line makes it tough for them to sustain any sort of offense.
If Wilson can get going, Harmon believes there will be more statistical value to pluck from this attack in the closing weeks of the NFL season. ...
C.J. Prosise played 16 snaps in his first game back after suffering a broken wrist in Seattle's regular-season opener. He had two catches for 17 yards and one carry for zero yards.
With Prosise healthy, the Seahawks released C.J. Spiller on Wednesday.
And finally. ... Hauschka is the fourth-most accurate kicker in league history. His 86.7 field-goal percentage trails only Dan Bailey of Dallas, Justin Tucker of Baltimore and Stephen Gostkowski of New England for the best in league history with a minimum of 100 kicks made.
Somehow in six seasons with Seattle, Hauschka has missed as many field goals in Arizona as he has his own home stadium. Hauschka has just eight missed field goals at CenturyLink Field in 43 games. He's missed eight field goals in six games in Arizona.
"For whatever reason, something about the turf there; Calais Campbell and those guys have had a lot of blocks over the years, they've done a real nice job," Carroll said. "It just has been a place that he has not kicked very well.
"He's always come through for us, and we'll continue to count on him. He's a great performer and competitor."
QBs: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis
RBs: J.D. McKissic, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, Tre Madden
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, Tanner McEvoy, Amara Darboh
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson, Nick Vannett
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall, Jacquizz Rodgers never doubted he was capable of playing a lead role in an NFL offense.
Even when the diminutive running back found himself out of work and wondering if he'd get another opportunity to prove himself seven weeks ago.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers called on Sept. 13, two days after their season opener, and the sixth-year pro is making the most of a reunion with head coach Dirk Koetter.
Thrust into the starting lineup because of injuries to two-time Pro Bowl selection Doug Martin and versatile backup Charles Sims, Rodgers has responded with consecutive 100-yard rushing performances that have keyed a two-game winning streak that's got the Bucs (3-3) back to .500 after a 1-3 start.
Tampa Bay rushed for 249 yards, the fourth-most in franchise history, during Sunday's 34-17 victory over San Francisco.
Two weeks after carrying 30 times for a then career-best 101 yards at Carolina, the 5-foot-6, 215-pound blend of power and quickness gained 154 yards on 26 attempts to help the Bucs rally from an early 14-0 deficit against the 49ers.
"Jacquizz is just a really solid player and a really solid guy," said Koetter, Atlanta's offensive coordinator for three of the four seasons Rodgers played with the Falcons before signing with the Chicago Bears in 2015.
"He's never had a chance to be a feature guy. He's just behind really good guys," Koetter said. "He's been behind Michael Turner for a while (and) behind Steven Jackson (in Atlanta). We have good backs here, so he's ... just getting a chance."
According to Tampa Bay Times staffer Greg Auman, since he's already had a setback (and his replacement is getting 100-yard games), the Bucs will be very cautious with Martin's return. He was not on the practice field Wednesday.
Rodgers was a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 and started five of 63 games he appeared in over four seasons with Atlanta. He played five games with the Bears, carrying the ball 14 times for 41 yards, before being placed on injured reserve with a broken arm last season.
"He's durable, he's nifty, he can break tackles," Koetter said.
"The good thing, I am familiar with the offense," Rodgers, released by the Bears on Sept. 3, added, "so it helped make my transition a lot easier."
Before making his first start for the Bucs, Rodgers had never carried more than 18 times in a NFL game. Koetter noted, though, that he was a featured back in college at Oregon State and was productive as a backup during their time together with the Falcons.
"I didn't know the guy was as good as he is, as explosive as he is," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said.
"He's a baller and we were very fortunate to get him," receiver Mike Evans said.
Rodgers became the first back in the NFL with consecutive games with at least 25 carries since DeMarco Murray did it three straight games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014.
Martin was the last to do it for the Bucs, carrying 29 times against Minnesota and 25 against Oakland the following game as a rookie in 2012.
"Our O-line has been playing great, and the receivers have been doing great as well with downfield blocking. We're just playing complementary football," Evans said. "He's similar to Doug in many ways. They're both smaller, bigger backs that can break you down. He's been doing that."
Until Martin returns -- and there is still no timetable for that, expect Rodgers to be busy.
The Bucs are 1-3 this season and 2-6 going back to last season when rushing for less than 100 yards. They're also 0-2 this season and 0-5 in the past two seasons when Jameis Winston has had 40 or more passing attempts.
The Bucs' next opponent -- the Oakland Raiders -- is giving up the third-most rushing yardage in the league (132.2 yards per game).
Meanwhile, Winston threw one interception and may have tried to force the ball into Evans.
Who can blame him? Evans had eight catches for 98 yards and two TDs, including one that was an ad lib by him and Winston. All of Evans catches went for first downs or touchdowns.
Evans has six TDs in the first six games to start the season, becoming the first player in club history to accomplish that feat.
Evans is currently on pace for 1,452 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns and as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, he could come close to getting 200 targets before all is said and done. He's one of the best wide receivers in the NFL this season, and Winston is locked-in on him.
The first week of Vincent Jackson's absence brought new opportunity to Russell Shepard, who saw six targets in Week 7 despite collecting just four all season heading into Sunday. It was his best game as a pro, with five catches, including three on one series with a touchdown.
Also worth noting. ... Shepard had some extra motivation. San Francisco coach Chip Kelly cut him when he was with the Eagles.
Veteran wide receiver Nate Washington worked out for the Buccaneers Tuesday.
Washington, 33, was released by the Patriots in August. He caught 47 passes for the Texans last year and has caught at least 40 passes every season since 2008.
The Bucs also worked out fullbacks Austin Johnson and Will Ratelle on Tuesday.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Doug Martin
WRs: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Bernard Reedy
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
Mike Mularkey insists his Tennessee Titans are a good team. Yet for every great offensive drive or defensive stand, they stumble through stretches of games.
The Titans blew a 23-20 lead in the fourth quarter in losing 34-26 to Indianapolis, their 10th straight loss to their AFC South rival and worse considering the banged-up roster the Colts brought to Tennessee. The loss dropped Tennessee to 3-4 overall and just 1-3 at home.
Now the Titans face a quick turnaround, hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4) on Thursday night. Mularkey said Monday the key to being better more consistently is keep working like they have.
"We've played seven games, we've had chances to win in all of them," Mularkey said. "And for some reason or not, we haven't. And some reason or not, we have. What we've done good has helped us get over the top. These have all been close games, and we've just got to find a way."
According to ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky, as has been the case in each of their four losses, Marcus Mariota wasn't good enough for the Titans to win this one.
His final numbers were not terrible: 22 of 37 for 232 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 95.8 passer rating.
"I just missed throws in the pass game, especially on third down," he said. "We can't be missing those opportunities."
He dropped a ball earlier in the game as he tracked to hand it off and was fortunate to recover it, and a fumble at the end of the game was a killer.
Kuharsky went back over the QB's incompletions to see just how off target he was. Twelve of his misses were out of the shotgun.
Seven throws were too high or too long, though he was hit as he threw one of them and one was into very good coverage. After he missed Rishard Matthews deep down the middle early, Mariota put his hands on his helmet in disbelief he'd missed. Another miss was short and wide.
Those are eight throws that are squarely on the quarterback, though we don't know about the accuracy of the routes.
"Some of those were on Marcus, and I talked to Marcus this morning about that," Mularkey conceded on Monday. "Some of it was on our routes by our wide receivers not being where they're supposed to be. It was a combination of the two. We did a lot of good things with our receivers; (the Colts) made some big plays when they were where they were supposed to be, especially on the third-down-and-longs, those guys made great plays.
"But some of those throws are right where they're supposed to be, and I told that to Marcus this morning. 'Keep throwing those throws exactly where they are, so these guys understand they've got to be where they're gonna be at the end of it. And the ball is gonna be there.' That's a little bit of the trust factor. But it was a combination of both."
Running backs were responsible for three other incompletions: DeMarco Murray didn't turn for one pass that hit him in the back of the shoulder, and he fell down as he tried to leak out for another. Derrick Henry had a late drop.
Three more were incomplete largely on account of good defense: One was an OK throw against really good coverage that the Colts broke up. One was batted down at the line. One was a flutter ball resulting from a hit as he let it go.
And one was intentionally incomplete, a clock-stopping spike.
He also made a really bad throw that was intercepted by Patrick Robinson but washed away by a Colts penalty.
As the Sports Xchange suggested, the overthrows are something that must be fixed before it becomes a bigger issue. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Murray was solid, and even though he had 25 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown, the Titans probably didn't run the ball enough. Worse is that Henry has disappeared from the offense. He got only one carry for 3 yards.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Tajae Sharpe once again led the team in wide receiver snap share, playing on 83 percent. Out of 109 receivers to play 100 or more snaps this season, Sharpe ranks 96th in fantasy points per snap.
Sharpe sustained a sprained knee in Sunday's game but managed to finish and he was on the practice field Tuesday. He is officially listed as questionable against the Jags.
Delanie Walker sustained a bruised chest in Sunday's game on a hit from Colts LB Josh McNary that was flagged for a personal foul. Walker managed to return to the game and scored on a 7-yard touchdown throw and he practiced fully on Tuesday.
Still, their status bears watching in coming days; I'll have more in the Late-Breaking Updates section as the week progresses.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Derrick Henry, DeMarco Murray, David Fluellen
WRs: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Eric Weems, Corey Davis
TEs: Delanie Walker, Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith, Phillip Supernaw
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 October 2016
According to the Associated Press, Matt Jones' problems holding onto the football are hardly the only mistake the Washington Redskins will want to correct before they play again.
Still, Jones' fumbling woes are going to get a lot of attention until Washington lines up against the Cincinnati Bengals in London Sunday.
"You can't put the ball on the ground as a running back. That's just rule No. 1. So that's something we have to address and look at as a staff," head coach Jay Gruden said Monday. "He understands the magnitude of fumbling the football. If he doesn't, he does now. I mean, he should know by now."
During Sunday's 20-17 loss at the Detroit Lions, ending Washington's four-game winning streak, Jones lost a fumble into the end zone in the first quarter. The running back and quarterback Kirk Cousins had two other exchanges that didn't work -- Washington recovered one, Detroit the other.
Each of the two turnovers led to points for the Lions.
As ESPN.com's John Keim notes, Jones has averaged one fumble every 33 carries this season -- the average is 100.68 carries per fumble. In the last two years combined, Jones has lost the ball once every 34.71 carries -- the average during that period is 87.27, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has lost two fumbles this season and six for his career.
Jones worked on reducing his fumbles in the offseason, focusing on holding the ball higher and tighter to his body. Sunday, he lost the ball near the end zone because he was fighting for extra yardage and as he tried to lunge forward the ball squirted free.
But it's clearly a problem.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot," Gruden said.
Adding to the intrigue, Jones was held out of practice Wednesday due to soreness in his knee.
Thompson, often used as a third-down back, had 12 runs for 73 yards on Sunday, along with seven catches for 40 yards. Kelley ran four times for 15 yards and caught a 1-yard TD pass. Jones only had 10 carries for 27 yards.
Gruden called Thompson's number of plays "a great number for him."
The coach also made clear: "We're not going to give up on Matt. We've just got to make sure that he protects the dang football."
To be sure, the Redskins have other issues to clean up.
The numbers in the passing game look good. Cousins was 30 of 39 for 301 yards, didn't have an interception and took just two sacks. But there were two fumbles one a botched handoff after tripping over center Spencer Long. The Lions also sat back and forced Cousins to hit short passes over and over. The longest pass of the day was a 27-yarder to tight end Vernon Davis.
Dustin Hopkins missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt that hit the top of the left crossbar.
The offensive line was ineffective at times.
Gruden acknowledged that perhaps the Redskins should have tried to apply more pressure on Stafford on the outcome-altering possession, including rushing more than three on the touchdown play.
That, and other questions, will occupy him for the coming week.
"Got to get this taste out of our mouth," Gruden said.
Meanwhile, tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) was practicing Wednesday as he did last week. He has been cleared by an independent neurologist to do that much. But it doesn't mean he will travel to London.
"No. Not necessarily," Gruden said. "He is just cleared to practice and he still has to do all the tests and still have to get cleared by the independent doctor who gets a lot of air time."
Reed practiced last Wednesday in a non-contact jersey but was kept off the field Thursday and Friday and missed the Lions game. It was the second game he has missed in a row and this is the sixth documented concussion of Reed's career dating to two he had while in college at Florida
In addition, cornerback Josh Norman remains in the NFL's concussion protocol after being injured early in the third quarter of Sunday's loss. Norman was limited Wednesday.
That's a serious problem with the Cincinnati Bengals and star wide receiver A.J. Green looming this weekend when the teams meet in London at Wembley Stadium.
The Redskins will leave for London on Thursday, landing Friday morning.
We'll have more clarity on Jones, Reed and Norman then (watch the Late-Breaking News section for more).
With Reed out against Detroit, Jamison Crowder's playing time took an uptick as he was on the field for 77 percent of the team snaps. Crowder also led the team in targets and according to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, he was clearly their most dynamic player in the open field.
Harmon went on to note the minimizing of DeSean Jackson continued in Week 7.
Now, Jackson has target totals of eight, two, seven, nine and eight since Week 3, but he has not gone over sixty yards since that Week 3 game against the Giants. Jackson's average depth of target was just 11.4 on Sunday, which is lower than usual.
It appears that Jackson does not have a clear role in this offense and has fallen behind multiple players in the pecking order.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy
RBs: Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, Brian Quick, Terrelle Pryor
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Niles Paul