Team Notes week 9 2021

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<

NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF

Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

The Cardinals have lived by the 1-0-mentality all year, only this time, the team is fresh off a loss.

With a mini-bye over the week, the players attended meetings Friday and began to regroup with their 7-1 record. For the first time, the Cardinals have been hit with adversity, at least in the standings. Now, the players have a fresh motivation heading into Week 9 with the 49ers.

"It's a hungry group," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We didn't put our best foot forward (Thursday) night, and we feel we can be a lot better. We're going to play a division opponent on the road -- we've had great matchups with -- the last couple of years. Our guys will be on edge and ready to go."

Kingsbury called the loss "probably our sloppiest game overall." The Cardinals' offense had a slow start before picking up rhythm later in the game. The defense struggled to stop the Packers' run game, which kept Kyler Murray and the offense on the sidelines. There were three costly turnovers, including Rondale Moore's muffed punt.

"We've got a ways to go," Kingsbury said. "The way we practice needs to translate over to the field. That will be an ongoing work in progress as we continue down the road."

The Cardinals are still leading the NFC West regardless of what the Rams do this weekend, thanks to their head-to-head win.

But there are injuries that can cause problems. Murray was down on the field after the final play of the game and he was seen leaving State Farm Stadium after the loss to Green Bay in a walking boot on his left leg. He went down after throwing an interception in the final seconds Thursday night and was seen by trainers before limping off the field.

After the game, Murray said: "I'm good."

The truth is, the Cardinals are in a wait-and-see mode with Murray.

Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported on Sunday that Murray could be out one to three weeks with the sprain.

Murray was injured on Arizona's penultimate offensive play during Thursday's loss to the Packers.

On Wednesday, Kingsbury said Murray is still “progressing” and will likely be a game-time decision but said Arizona will “see how the week goes.”

Kingsbury also said he feels comfortable with Murray playing Sunday even if the QB doesn't practice this week. That wouldn’t have been the case earlier in Murray’s career, but Murray has a better understanding of the offense, thus giving Kingsbury more confidence in him.

Murray has not missed an NFL start since becoming the Cardinals' starter immediately in 2019. The quarterback has dealt with injuries but has played through them. He has missed large chunks of only two games because of injuries -- playing 54 percent of the snaps in a win at Seattle in 2019 when Brett Hundley came in to finish the game, and playing 47 percent of the snaps in Los Angeles in last year's season finale after starting, leaving for Chris Streveler, and then coming back in.

Kingsbury said the Cardinals would prioritize Murray's health and ability to play at the level he's showcased this season.

"We'll make sure he's in a good position to play at a high level before we put him out there," Kingsbury said. "That's for sure."

If Murray does not feel his ankle is well enough to play on Sunday, or the coaches elect to hold Murray out to avoid further damage, veteran Colt McCoy would get the start.

McCoy has not started an NFL game since doing so for the Giants against the Browns in a Week 15 loss last season, filling in for starter Daniel Jones. Kingsbury said the team would have faith in McCoy.

"He approaches the game like a starter," Kingsbury said. "He's here all day, every day. He arrives early and stays late. He's been a tremendous addition. So, if Kyler wouldn't be able to make it, we'd have all the confidence in the world in Colt."

An MVP candidate this season, Murray has completed 73 percent of his passes this season for 2,276 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's also rushed for 147 yards with three touchdowns this year.

The guess will be the Cardinals and Kingsbury will play this out as long as possible -- much like the Dak Prescott calf news played out this week for the Cowboys.

But Darren Urban of the team's official website wrote, "Knowing Kyler, he will do everything possible to play. He takes great pride in not yet having missed any games as a pro. ..."

Meanwhile, Kingsbury didn't want DeAndre Hopkins to continue playing after aggravating the hamstring injury that kept him out of practice all week in the first quarter Thursday night.

Hopkins had other plans.

After sitting out more than two quarters as he tested his hamstring with sprints on the sideline, Hopkins checked himself back into the game a couple of times, Kingsbury said. And after the Cardinals' 24-21 loss to the Packers, Kingsbury made it known he wasn't happy with Hopkins' decision.

"We wanted him to stay off the field but he'd just run on," Kingsbury said. "He wants to play, super competitive and made some plays there, and we just want him to be smart, but he was definitely hurting."

Hopkins grabbed his hamstring after hauling in a 61-yard pass for a touchdown with 8:18 left in the first quarter that was negated because of a face mask penalty on Hopkins. He didn't return until the 8:15 mark of the third quarter, a span of 30 minutes.

Hopkins played just 13 total snaps but gave the Cardinals a boost when he was on the field. Arizona averaged 10.9 yards per play when Hopkins played compared to 4.6 yards per play when he didn't.

"He wants to be out there," Kingsbury said. "He's competitive as anybody I've been around, and he ended up making some plays. But, we also have a lot of games left so we're trying to be smart with him."

Hopkins was on the field for the Cardinals' final offensive play of the game, when Murray threw an interception on a pass from the Packers 5-yard-line with 15 seconds left that was targeted to A.J. Green. The pick was a result of a "miscommunication," both Murray and Kingsbury said, because Green never knew the pass was coming his way.

The ball flew right by him without Green turning his helmet, and into the arms of Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas, who Green Bay signed off Arizona's practice squad earlier this month.

"I honestly don't know," Murray said about what happened on the play. However, Kingsbury said it was an audible. Arizona got the one-on-one look with Green, who was the lone receiver split wide, that it wanted.

Also on the injury front. ... Rookie LB Zaven Collins left the Packers game with a shoulder injury. The Cardinals hope to get some depth back on the offensive line in the coming days with the possible return of centers Hudson or Garcia. RB Jonathan Ward has a concussion after a scary injury. He was carted off the field, but Kingsbury said the running back has movement in his extremities.

For the record, Murray, Hopkins, Green and Ward were among the Cardinals not practicing on Wednesday.

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

Beyond that, the Cardinals designated C Rodney Hudson (ribs) to return from injured reserve. ...

Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer David Brandt suggests, it's no time to panic for the Cardinals, who didn't play particularly well and still nearly beat the 7-1 Packers. Arizona needs to focus on getting healthy and fixing the slow starts, but this still looks like a team that can make the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

But the slow starts have clearly been an issue.

They've fallen behind early in games several times this season, including against Vikings, Jaguars, Rams, Texans and Packers this season.

Arizona has proven talented enough to usually overcome those deficits, but it's a tough way to live.

Other notes of interest. ... When the Cardinals need tough yards and big plays, James Conner has delivered nearly every time. He had two touchdown runs against the Packers and provides a bruising style that's the perfect complement to the speedy Chase Edmonds.

Conner's eight rushing TDs this season rank second in the NFL behind Tennessee's Derrick Henry. The 6-1, 233-pound back has been the perfect addition to Arizona's running game because of his bruising style.

Conversely, Moore has been the team's most exciting rookie this season, but his mistakes were costly against the Packers. The most obvious was when he misplayed a punt in the second quarter, allowing the Packers to recover possession and capitalize with a field goal.

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

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein wrote, "It came as a surprise. An hour-and-a-half before the Atlanta Falcons kicked off against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, one of their stars wasn't going to play.

"Calvin Ridley was inactive -- missing his second game this season due to a personal issue. ..."

But then it went to another level.

About four hours later, with the Falcons in the midst of losing to Carolina, the 26-year-old receiver released a statement on Twitter. He is stepping away from football to work on his mental wellbeing.

While we all hope the best for Ridley, who should certainly do whatever is in his best interest, it leaves the Falcons with a hole to fill.

The first question: What will this team look like without Ridley on the field?

If Sunday's 19-13 loss to Carolina is part of an answer, it means Falcons head coach and offensive play-caller Arthur Smith have to figure some things out.

As Rothstein suggests, this week could be tough to gauge, since the Falcons (3-4) didn't learn until Sunday morning that Ridley would not be with the team. Smith wouldn't say how much not having Ridley changed the game plan the team had -- he figured Carolina might have changed some of its man-to-man assignments with Ridley out, but he didn't indicate anything else changed.

Except in reality it had to.

"Ridley, even in a somewhat down season, is a difference-maker." Rothstein explained. "In the past four games he played, Ridley had been targeted a minimum of 10 times. Through Week 7, he still led Atlanta in targets (52), was tied for the team lead in receptions (31), was second in touchdowns (two) and third in yards (281). His presence on the field demands attention from opposing defenses, whether it's a double-team or a top cornerback assigned to him."

"He's a great player, and you try to utilize other guys when he's not up," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We still have enough players. We trust the guys that are up on game day to go make plays, and unfortunately, we just fell a little bit short [Sunday]."

With Ridley out, the Panthers (4-4) seemed to focus on tight end Kyle Pitts, who had two catches for 13 yards on six targets. Pitts said that while his role didn't change in the offense, he saw more people over the top of him Sunday -- attention that may have gone to Ridley, had he been out there.

And however long Ridley is out, it's possible Pitts will continue to see that level of attention because he is the best remaining pass-catcher Atlanta has. Cordarrelle Patterson is still a strong viable option, but he'll figure to receive more focus by opposing defenses too.

The Falcons didn't target Russell Gage -- the team's typical No. 1 receiver with Ridley out -- even once.

Ryan said after the game that's "just how the game shakes out sometimes."

He has confidence in Gage going forward, but the fact a team could take Gage away like that is concerning. And if Gage is going to fill that role -- it can't happen again.

Tajae Sharpe seemed to be the prime beneficiary of Ridley's absence in terms of targets (six), catches (five) and receiving yards (58). But to count on Sharpe on a week-to-week basis is not a strategy that seems like a long-term answer.

Maybe Atlanta scours the free-agent market for an option off the street after opting not to work the trade market. Considering Ridley's return timetable is unknown, it would have been a tough move to make.

Whatever the case, Rothstein's assessment was on point: "Sunday, on short notice without Ridley, Atlanta's offense looked discombobulated, without the same potency it had during the past month when the Falcons put up 25 or more points in four of five games. Atlanta looked more like the offense it had been in the season's first week, when the Philadelphia Eagles held the Falcons to six points and the team took very few true offensive shots."

The numbers backed that up on Sunday.

Ryan had his lowest yards per attempt (5.41) and yards per dropback (4.32) since the season opener. He threw for his fewest first downs (11) since the loss to the Eagles too. His 7.3 yards per completion were the lowest of the season. Smith said after the game that Carolina took away Atlanta's deep-route options.

It's possible this looks better in the future. In Week 5, against the New York Jets, when the Falcons had a couple of days to process Ridley's absence, Atlanta responded with 27 points and Ryan threw for 342 yards. So there could be a plan that can work, it's just going to potentially look a little different than anyone envisioned.

If the Falcons are going to return to their previous offensive form, they need to do more on offense than what they showed Sunday -- especially with a defense that allowed 204 yards rushing, in part because the offense couldn't stay on the field.

"As ugly as that felt [defensively], we have to do more offensively," Smith said. "We're in the National Football League. We have to score more than 13 points. We didn't do things well enough to win that game."

So this week, the top priority is bulking up the receiving corps while Ridley is out.

One piece that will continue to pay off is Patterson, who provides a versatile weapon in the offense.

He hauled in five passes for 37 yards, including the Falcons' lone touchdown, and rushed for 35 yards on nine carries. With Mike Davis taking a bigger role in the running games (nine carries, 44 yards), the Falcons were effective on the ground (4.1 yards per carry) but didn't get enough chances as Carolina dominated the possession game.

Ryan had a brutal day. In addition to his paltry passing numbers and two picks, he was sacked three times and had to play much of a game wearing a black glove on his non-throwing hand after it got stepped on and resulted in a nasty cut that was gushing blood until he got it taped up.

Fortunately, there were no major injuries were reported after the game. Ryan's cut looked bad, but it won't affect him going forward.

This week, the Falcons will travel to New Orleans to face the Saints -- a team that lost starting quarterback Jameis Winston to a torn ACL -- on Sunday.

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

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister noted, when the Ravens lost running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards to preseason knee injuries, it felt like a crisis -- and the team's health concerns have not exactly gone away since then.

Through it all, the Ravens have kept winning.

"I just think our guys, we keep faith. We do a good job of that, and guys step up," coach John Harbaugh said recently. "Those two things, that's what has happened. Guys have kept the faith, and guys have stepped up and played well -- that's really what it boils down to."

Trister was quick to point out that the Ravens aren't in the clear yet.

After a 41-17 loss to Cincinnati last weekend, they're in a four-way tie for the best record in the AFC at 5-2. But Baltimore has arrived at its open date this week in far better shape than seemed likely, especially after losing its season opener at Las Vegas.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson deserves much of the credit after engineering pulsating prime-time victories over Kansas City and Indianapolis. As long as he is healthy, the Ravens have a chance to overcome injuries to other players.

"Coach always says that: 'Next man up.' Those guys know that. I know it," Jackson said. "My job is to just score points, move the ball downfield, and that's what we do. We're not worried about the guys who are out and stuff like that."

If the Ravens do finish atop the AFC North, Harbaugh will probably be a serious coach of the year candidate. His team continues to look like a model of stability even when adversity arises.

Last season, the Ravens were 6-5 and dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak after a loss at Pittsburgh. They rebounded with five straight wins to close the regular season, then won a playoff game at Tennessee.

Call it resilience, call it depth -- or just chalk it up to the franchise's culture. Whatever the reason, Baltimore is dealing with its injury problems with less drama than many healthier teams.

"Injuries happen. In a contact sport, you're going to have injuries," offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris said. "That's why you have to prepare players throughout your roster to get ready for sudden change, and when that happens, you give them a chance. Here's what I've always seen with players that have injuries -- when you grant them an opportunity, they take advantage of it, and they do well."

Meanwhile, the injuries to Dobbins and Edwards appeared to create an opportunity for Ty'Son Williams, but he has only 11 carries over the past five weeks. The Ravens brought in veterans Latavius Murray, Le'Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman.

Murray missed Week 7 game with an ankle injury, and Bell hasn't looked particularly effective in limited duty.

Rookie Rashod Bateman missed the first five games with groin problems, but he's contributed since returning and has shown promise befitting a first-round draft pick.

He has posted back-to-back games with six targets and in Week 7 he turned them into 80 receiving yards against the Bengals. Baltimore is extremely optimistic about his outlook as a player and, while they head into a bye this week, this is a "talent add" for a guy who should only improve as the season moves along.

Now the Ravens are without Sammy Watkins, who had 18 catches in five games before missing the past two.

Harbaugh told reporters on Monday that Watkins, Murray (ankle) and tight end Nick Boyle (knee) all "have a chance" to return against Minnesota. Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe (back) could also return after resuming practice last week.

Watkins has missed the last three games, Murray missed the Week 7 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals, while Boyle has been out all season.

"They all have a chance," Harbaugh said. "Whether they make it or not is up in the air."

Murray leads the running backs in yards (212) despite missing the Bengals game, and Boyle is perhaps the NFL's best blocking tight end who has improved every year as a receiver.

Bateman and Watkins have yet to play together, joining Jackson's leading targets Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews.

Harbaugh would love to see all of those players in action at the same time during the season half of the season.

"I feel like we have weapons," Harbaugh said. "We're going to add a couple of guys with Sammy coming back, Nick's going to be back at some point, Latavius will be back. I'm excited about where our offense can go; I just want to get it there."

Worth noting: Neither Murray nor Watkins were on the practice field Wednesday; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray, Ty'Son Williams
WRs: Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, James Proche, Miles Boykin
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Aside from the win, there is another bright side to the Bills' opening-half struggles on offense against Miami.

According to Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow, as much as head coach Sean McDermott would have preferred Josh Allen to find his groove long before the second series of the third quarter, he learned something more about his quarterback's ability to fight off adversity.

"You don't want to be in those games," McDermott said Monday, a day after the Bills scored 23 points in the second half to secure a 26-11 win.

If an NFL season, as McDermott likes to preach, is about a growth process, the Bills took another step in maturity toward their ultimate goal of defending their AFC East title, returning to the AFC championship game for a second consecutive season and, hopefully, beyond.

Whether being rusty from a bye week off, or still stung by a heartbreaking 34-31 loss to the Tennessee Titans two weeks earlier, the Bills managed to shake off a first half in which they scored three points and generated just 122 yards offense and five first downs, to close with four consecutive scoring drives.

What was the problem early?

According to ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg, the Dolphins were able to blitz Allen successfully in the first half, something most teams had not been attempting often this season. Allen went into Week 8 facing blitzes at the second-lowest rate in the NFL (16 percent). Miami blitzed him 25 times, tied for his third-most in a game in his career (56 percent).

"I think we were spinning the dial a little bit trying to find answers," McDermott said. "Give Miami credit, they had us a little bit off balance there in the first half and did some things quite honestly that they had success with in that first game but didn't do them as much in that first game as they came out today and did."

It worked for the Dolphins early.

Allen was 3-of-9 for 17 yards against the blitz in the first half. After halftime, however, the Bills offense adjusted, and Allen completed 11-of-15 throws when facing the blitz for 91 yards and two touchdowns.

"They had a good game plan early and it just took us a while," Allen said. "We gotta find a way to do it earlier and not put ourselves in a bind like that and rely on the defense to go out there and make plays like they did today. Just quicker adjustments by me and understanding what the defense is trying to do and get us into a good situation."

Since Week 1, the Bills have scored coming out of halftime in all but two games. One of those scoring drives was for a touchdown in the team's first win this season against the Dolphins, 35-0. Allen and the offense came out and ran quick, short passes with the quarterback in shotgun much of the drive. While the offense had been sputtering earlier in the game -- six consecutive drives without points -- it took just over three minutes to march downfield and take a three-score lead.

And, as Getzenberg further noted, the success in the second half Sunday also came on short passes.

The Bills sustained three drives of nine-plus plays with Allen averaging 3.3 yards per completion, second lowest of his career. Allen finished the day going 29-of-42 (69 percent) for 249 yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing score.

He completed 13 screen passes, the most in a game by a quarterback in the past 10 seasons. Wide receiver Cole Beasley became more involved in the second half, finishing with 110 yards, his first time over 100 yards this season.

"Finally, he got some opportunities, and he made some plays for us, huge plays that helped us move the ball," Allen said of Beasley. "Any given week, guys understand that it could be their time and they have to be ready to go. And he was today."

Once the Bills offense got on track, it didn't let up.

What remains to be seen is how much the Bills can derive from the victory.

It's one thing to run up the score against the Dolphins, who have lost seven straight and are accustomed to second-half letdowns in having been outscored 134-75 over the final two quarters. It might be another when it comes to facing Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom the Bills will play on Dec. 12.

At 5-2, the Bills are a difficult team as of yet to gauge in having padded their record against opponents who have gone a combined 8-31. Four wins have come against backups or starting quarterbacks with fewer than 16 games of NFL experience. The only exception was a 38-20 win over Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5.

And Buffalo's schedule won't get much tougher over the next two weeks, with games at Jacksonville (1-6) and at the New York Jets (2-5) before returning home to face Indianapolis (3-5) on Nov. 21.

By comparison, the Bills' two losses have come against Pittsburgh (4-3) and Tennessee (6-2).

As Wawrow suggested, the Bills won't apologize for their schedule, nor should they.

Rather than look too far ahead, McDermott maintained his week at a time approach when asked to rate how good his team is seven games into the season.

"We're just really focused on trying to get better this week so we can beat the Jacksonville Jaguars," he said. "That's really what we're focused on trying to improve every week and become a better football team every week."

As for this week's game, the Bills, who lead the league with a plus-13 turnover differential, travel to face the afore-mentioned Jaguars, who rank last with a minus-11 turnover differential. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Bills' rushing attack, with Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combining for 47 yards on 15 carries, was spearheaded by Allen, who finished with 55 yards rushing and a touchdown to outgain the two halfbacks.

Moss lost a yard while attempting to convert a third-and-1 in the second quarter.

By the way, Allen's 112 combined TDs passing and rushing (not including one receiving) ties Johnny Unitas and Deshaun Watson for third-most by a quarterback through his first 50 games.

Only Mahomes (135) and Dan Marino (118) had more over the same span.

Second-year Tyler Bass kicker hit a 57-yard field goal with the wind at his back to open the scoring, and then hit a 39-yarder to put the Bills ahead 20-11 with 3:39 remaining. The sixth-round pick out of Georgia Southern is 16 of 17 on field goal attempts, with his only miss being from 53 yards.

On the injury front. ... Dawson Knox (hand) remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice. According to NBCSportsEdge.com, McDermott labeled Knox as "day to day" earlier this week. He underwent surgery for a broken bone in his hand suffered in Week 6 and was expected to be sidelined for a few weeks.

With Knox out last week against Miami, Tommy Sweeney filled in and caught three passes for 30 yards.

Also, Beasley (ribs) didn't practice Wednesday.

I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

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

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Panthers.com's Darin Gantt noted, there were plenty of questions about the next steps at the quarterback position for the Panthers Monday, but head coach Matt Rhule didn't want to get ahead of himself.

Starter Sam Darnold left yesterday's win over the Falcons in the fourth quarter with a concussion. Rhule said Monday he wanted to wait to hear the results from Darnold's meetings with doctors later in the day before he went too far down any hypothetical roads.

"Sam will see the doctor today, so obviously, he's in the concussion protocol," Rhule said. "We'll wait and see where he's at before any next steps."

Darnold took a vicious shot in the right shoulder from Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun, and his head snapped back and then hit the turf. As he's in the protocol now, Darnold would need to be cleared by an independent neurologist before he could return.

When asked if backup P.J. Walker would start next week's game against the Patriots if Darnold couldn't go, Rhule again avoided getting too far down the road.

"Again, I'm not going to get into too many hypotheticals," Rhule said. "Right now, if he was unable to play, P.J. would be the next guy up. But I'm hopeful that Sam will play, and we'll see how that plays out today and through the course of the week.

"But for us, we just go through the process of seeing where Sam is at first, and go from there. That's always the best way to approach it."

Walker nearly threw an interception at the goal line before Chuba Hubbard's game-sealing touchdown, and Rhule again called that decision "unacceptable." But he defended Walker's overall ability, pointing to the game against Detroit last year as evidence they can win with him.

"Obviously really, really disappointed in that throw he made on the goal line. That's a ball you get out there, and you throw away," Rhule said. "I'll say this, I don't think there's a guy in the locker room that doesn't believe in him. I think most of our guys see him in practice, saw him last year against Detroit, and know he can lead us.

"All that being said, he has to protect the football. We can't go out there and turn the ball over. That's really the tale of our season. If P.J. is asked to play, I expect that he'll play well. . . . With a full game, the whole game plan, the whole practice reps of the week, I believe that he can do a really nice job for us."

But when asked about the possibility of bringing in a free agent such as Cam Newton, Rhule again went back to his position that he wanted to see what Darnold's condition was first.

"I'm obviously not going to get into hypotheticals," he said. "I'm going to see what happens with Sam today; just take that process one day at a time. Worry about him first and then work out afterward."

Meanwhile, the Panthers don't know at the moment if running back Christian McCaffrey will be able to play this week or not but he was officially designated to return from IR on Wednesday..

But whenever he does return to the lineup, they'd like to keep the offense looking like it did in Atlanta.

Rhule said that McCaffrey's availability for Sunday's game against the Patriots would depend on how he progressed through their return-to-play protocol, and how he held up in practice this week.

"Hopefully this week, if not, next week," Rhule said of the status of his star running back, who is eligible to return from injured reserve. He was placed on IR in Week 6 when a hamstring injury didn't respond well in practice, following his initial injury in Week 3.

The Panthers used four different ball carriers Sunday (Hubbard 24 attempts, Ameer Abdullah eight, Royce Freeman six and Darnold eight), and Rhule said he'd like to continue that when McCaffrey returns.

McCaffrey touched the ball 59 times in the first two games, and Hubbard had just 10 touches in those two games.

Rhule said that when McCaffrey was back, they'd like to see more of a distribution of labor based on what he saw in Atlanta.

"Take Christian out of it," Rhule said. "If you have guys you trust, I thought Royce played a good game for us, was physical, downhill, got hit a couple of times at 4 yards and ran for 6 or 7. I thought Ameer brought a jolt to us, catching the ball out of the backfield, screens and runs.

"To me, it's not just about Christian; it's about those guys have really emerged for us, and we want them all to play. So we'll see where Christian's at this week. But I think just in general with him coming back, forget about what's happened, I want to see Chuba Hubbard on the field too, and Ameer on the field too. It's a good problem to have."

Regardless of the status of his quarterback, Rhule wasn't going to apologize for the way they won the game. He pointed to holding the Falcons to 213 total yards, and controlling the clock for more than 35 minutes (by running 47 times and converting 10-of-17 third downs).

This is clearly not the most entertaining team in the league moving forward, but as Rhule pointed out: "We're going to have to come to terms with the fact that we're a defensive football team. And when we play good defense and win the takeaway battle, we are going to win games. Part of that on offense is running the football. ..."

Terrace Marshall Jr. (concussion) returned to practice Wednesday. Marshall has missed the last two games due to the injury.

Stay tuned. I'll have more on McCaffrey, who according to Rhule was "pretty limited" Wednesday, Darnold, who was very limited, and Marshall via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

In a related note. .. With Darnold currently in the concussion protocol, the Panthers are bringing in another quarterback.

Per Tom Pelissero of NFL Media, Carolina is signing Josh Love to its practice squad.

Love signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State last year, but didn't make the team out of training camp. He also was invited to Browns rookie minicamp in 2021 but didn't stick with the team.

Other notes of interest. ... Wide receiver Robby Anderson has done a disappearing act. He was targeted just once against the Falcons and failed to catch a pass after getting the wind knocked out of him. Over the past three games, Anderson has a combined six catches for 25 yards, which certainly doesn't bode well for the Panthers, who recently invested $37.5 million in him over the next three years to be a major part of the offense.

And finally. ... Rhule opened his press conference Monday by singling out two things from Sunday's win over the Falcons which he thought were helpful -- kicker Zane Gonzalez and the traveling contingent of fans who made the trip to Mercedes Benz Stadium.

Gonzalez hit all four of his field goal attempts, including a career-best 57-yarder, and Rhule called it "one of the key factors in the game."

On Wednesday, Gonzalez was named NFC Player of the Week for his efforts.

There were also a solid number of locals who made the trip down I-85.

"I thought our fans there were awesome," Rhule said. "There was a large contingency there. Know it was Halloween, but there were a lot of people there with Panthers jerseys on, and walking off the field, there was a whole group. I want to thank those fans. When we've been on the road, there have been a lot of people."

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

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Watching the game on TV, Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy helped stay engaged by jotting down notes as the plays unfolded.

It was an unusual spot, one he hopes he's never in again.

"It was just a really, really weird situation," Nagy said Monday.

It was also an all-too-familiar result.

As Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman reported, the Bears are reeling with three straight losses after falling 33-22 to San Francisco in a game during which they were without their coach as well as their top pass rusher.

Nagy, who is vaccinated, was away from the team all week after testing positive for COVID-19. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor filled in for him.

But besides missing their coach, the Bears had to get by without Khalil Mack. The three-time All-Pro linebacker was sidelined for the first time since 2018 because of a foot injury. And on top of that, safety Eddie Jackson exited after hurting his hamstring on the second play from scrimmage.

Though rookie quarterback Justin Fields had probably his best all-around game, the Bears couldn't get the stops they needed. It added up to another rough afternoon following back-to-back losses to Green Bay and Tampa Bay, including a 35-point thumping by the Buccaneers that was Chicago's most lopsided blowout since 2014.

It left the third-place Bears (3-5) four games behind the NFC North-leading Packers (7-1).

The good news?

Chicago's 22 points were two shy off its season high, and with 324 yards, the Bears went over 300 for the fourth time. Not exactly a high bar. But considering they came in last in the NFL in total offense and passing and 30th in points per game, it was at least a small step. The Bears were also 8 of 15 on third downs, though they need to do a better job in the red zone. They were 1 for 3 on Sunday.

But as noted above, Fields showed signs of life.

In fact, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said Fields had "by far his best game."

The former Ohio State star threw for 175 yards and ran for 103, making him the first Chicago QB to rush for 100 since Bobby Douglass in 1973.

Fields' 22-yard TD run in the fourth quarter in which he spun away from at least two defenders and avoided a few more as he turned up the sideline was simply spectacular. His 8-yard pass rolling left to a diving Jesse James in the end zone just beyond a lunging cornerback Josh Norman in the second quarter was neat, too.

"He played on time and in rhythm," Nagy said. "His decision-making was excellent. Maybe one or two plays here or there, but that goes along for any quarterback, let alone a rookie. He also made special plays."

Teammates were also impressed with the first-round pick.

"He's elite," said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. "It's fun to watch. I remember a play where he made like a little spin move and then he took off for another 10 yards. Although it wasn't a crazy gain, it tells the defense, 'Man, you've got to really work on tackling this guy.' He made some elite throws. I saw him come across his body and hit somebody in the left corner. I enjoy watching him play, and I look forward to his growth."

"He's different," added rookie running back Khalil Herbert. "[He's a] playmaker as you can see, but his will to win is very strong and it's going to pay off soon."

Fields conceded the touchdown run was a signature moment of his young NFL career.

"I'm not going to lie; that was awesome," Fields said. "I was excited, as y'all could see. Glad to celebrate with my teammates, and we're just going to continue to get better. We didn't get the outcome that we wanted today, but we're just going to get back and keep going."

The bad news?

The defense.

The Bears got torched for 467 yards for their highest total since they allowed 541 in an overtime loss at Miami on Oct. 14, 2018. They've now given up more than 30 points and 400 yards in back-to-back games.

Next up, the Bears visit Pittsburgh on Monday night, hoping to end their three-game skid. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Tabor said he felt comfortable serving as Bears acting head coach in place of Matt Nagy, who remains in COVID-19 protocol.

"I was extremely comfortable," Tabor said. "At the end of the day, we're football coaches and leading men to do something and get something accomplished, and in the special teams world I have a team meeting each and every day, so leading players, that's what a special teams coordinator is supposed to do. This just happened that you picked up the offense and the defense with it. ..."

The Bears entered Week 8 ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 131.0 yards per game, and they produced their highest output of the season Sunday with 176 yards on 36 carries.

The ground game has been particularly effective of late, generating its top five performances of the year in the last five games with 188, 143, 140, 143 and 176 yards.

Herbert rushed 23 times for 72 yards and caught two passes for negative four yards on Sunday.

As FantasyPros noted, Herbert continued to show flashes of excellent yet again in this one. With David Montgomery expected back in the next few weeks, Herbert may take a back seat to the incumbent starter. But for now, he continues to slot in as a low-end RB2 in fantasy formats. ...

The tight ends were a factor with three catches each for James (38 yards) and Cole Kmet (24 yards). Bears tight ends had just 23 catches through the first seven games, with 19 of them going to Kmet. ...

Cairo Santos made all three field goals he attempted Sunday from 39, 40 and 25 yards, extending his Bears record to 38 straight field goals, the longest active streak in the NFL. But he missed his first extra point of the season. It came after Fields' TD run and would have tied the score 23-23.

On the injury front. ... Nagy said Mack remains day to day and the Bears were evaluating Jackson, RB Damien Williams (knee) and TE J.P. Holtz (concussion protocol) after they were hurt on Sunday. ...

Montgomery (sprained knee), on injured reserve, missed his fourth consecutive game. "He is improving every day and we're working through his status," Nagy said. ...

The Bears activated TE Jimmy Graham from the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, leaving them with one player on it after a recent surge -- injured right tackle Germain Ifedi.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Justin Fields, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton
RBs: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Damien Williams, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Darnell Mooney, Allen Robinson, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Jesper Horsted, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, the Bengals spent all week preparing for the worst outcome against the New York Jets.

And yet, it happened anyway.

"The sobering lesson the Bengals desperately wanted to avoid smacked them in the face Sunday at MetLife Stadium," Baby wrote. "The Jets, massive underdogs, rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat Cincinnati 34-31 in an outcome Cincinnati saw coming. ..."

On the surface, the defeat seems improbable given the circumstances. But Baby contends this type of loss was likely inevitable.

In a matter of a few weeks, Cincinnati transformed from an AFC afterthought to one of the best teams in the conference. But Sunday, the Bengals learned that playing with a target on their collective backs means paying a steep price for a dull performance -- a horrible loss to a team like the Jets.

All week, Cincinnati (5-3) talked about avoiding a big letdown against the struggling Jets (2-6), who had one win entering the day and had backup quarterback Mike White making his first NFL start.

Head coach Zac Taylor said he looked for signs throughout the week that Cincinnati was riding a bit too high following a 24-point defeat of the Baltimore Ravens, the team's biggest win in Taylor's three-year tenure.

Cincinnati knew that on paper, the Jets were a proverbial trap game. Running back Joe Mixon suggested that might have played a key factor in the road loss.

"We knew what type of game it was going to be," Mixon said. "They talk about 'trap game, this, this and that,' but I felt like things were just spoken into existence, to be honest."

Of the many numbers that indicate how crushing a loss this is for the Bengals, two stick out. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, Sunday's loss as an 11.5-point favorite was the fourth-biggest upset in franchise history. And White joined Cam Newton as the second quarterback since 1950 to throw for more than 400 yards in his first start.

Taylor said the Bengals were outcoached, outplayed, tackled poorly and lacked attention to details. Bengals safety Jessie Bates III didn't have the answers as to why.

Joe Burrow, who was 21 of 34 passing for 259 yards, three touchdowns and a batted pass that turned into an interception, spoke about the perils of not being sharp, even against a struggling team like the Jets.

"We just have to come in focused every single day," Burrow said. "If we come out flat, every team in this league can beat any team. We can't come out flat."

In the postgame news conference, there was no direct admission that the Bengals let the feelings of the Baltimore win linger too long. But that was never denied, either.

Mixon, Bates and wide receiver Tyler Boyd addressed the reporters jointly to show they were angry about what happened in the Meadowlands, to display accountability and portray a united front after a bad loss.

"These are guys that have been here," Bates said of the trio after the game. "We've been through the bad part of this organization and we know that we got the right guys in here to do the right things."

Now it's up to the Bengals to prove that indeed the case.

The Bengals are still in good shape if they can put the Jets game behind them quickly.

They have six of their final nine games at home, starting with the Browns (4-4) on Sunday. Cleveland is coming off a 15-10 loss to the Steelers.

Remember: The Bengals are still moving the ball and scoring behind Burrow, who is third in the NFL in touchdowns (20) and fifth in passing yards (2,215).

Also worth noting. ... Tee Higgins, the second-year receiver who has been overshadowed by rookie Ja'Marr Chase this season, had four catches for 97 yards. He had catches of 26 yards and one for 54 yards, both of which set up Cincinnati touchdowns.

For the first time this season, Chase didn't have a catch longer than 34 yards. In fact he had just 32 yards on three catches. Chase, who came in as the Bengals leading receiver by far, was targeted nine times but made only three catches, including a 2-yard TD pass in the second quarter. He also dropped a first-half touchdown pass on third-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Burrow was sacked on the next play, and Bengals failed to score.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Brandon Allen, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers wrote, "Baker Mayfield's fractured left shoulder is only one of many things currently broken for the Browns.

"They're in pieces at the moment. ..."

Hobbled by injuries, hindered by a lack of offensive explosiveness and unable to put away games with the lead in the fourth quarter, Withers contends the Browns look like a middle-of-the-standings team sliding in the wrong direction.

Their 4-4 record reflects their status: Average.

All the playoff and Super Bowl chatter around Cleveland has been replaced by serious concern, pointed questions and major doubts.

A day after a disturbing 15-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped the Browns into last place in the AFC North, head coach Kevin Stefanski leaned on his tried-and-true excuse of "I've got to be better" to deflect attention from his team's many issues.

The most troubling trend is a Cleveland offense that has produced just 41 points in the past three games.

The Browns have playmakers. They're not making plays.

ESPN's Jake Trotter put it like this: "Mayfield has been up and down all season while battling the torn labrum to his non-throwing shoulder. But Sunday, during Cleveland's final two drives, he at least gave the Browns a chance late in the fourth quarter. Instead, multiple drops and a Jarvis Landry fumble robbed Cleveland's hopes of a comeback.

"With Odell Beckham Jr. having become a total nonfactor and Mayfield ailing, Cleveland's offense is suddenly a total mess -- even with its overpowering ground game."

Stefanski, whose play-calling has come under more intense scrutiny, was asked Monday what concerns him most about his sputtering offense and a passing attack that isn't making passing grades.

"We have to make the most of our opportunities," he said. "I've seen it from this group. I've seen some really good moments from this group, I know what we're capable of. We haven't done it consistently enough."

Injuries are a factor, not an excuse. The Browns just aren't very good right now, and it doesn't help that Mayfield's damaged shoulder -- and injuries to both starting tackles -- may be playing a role in Stefanski's hesitation to dial up plays to try and push the ball downfield.

Cleveland has trusted its potent running game to carry it, but when the Steelers shut down Nick Chubb on Sunday, the Browns were unable to counter as the passing attack was grounded as well.

The Steelers applied enough consistent pressure to make Mayfield move and rush throws, and it didn't help that Landry had that critical fumble and two drops in the final six minutes.

There's plenty to work on, and still plenty of season to fix things.

As far as center JC Tretter is concerned, the Browns' problems can be remedied easily.

"We have to play better," he said. "We have to play sounder and we as a line have to protect better and have to open up more holes in the run game. We just have to play better. It's not confusing. We are not throwing our hands up in the air saying, 'I am not sure how this is not working out.'

"We know what we need to do better."

They'd better start being better soon.

Until the Browns start closing games, there will continue to be conjecture about Mayfield's long-term future.

Some of the criticism toward the QB isn't fair. But he hasn't been able to mount a comeback to win a game or do enough in the fourth quarter to put teams away.

The Browns took leads into the fourth against Kansas City, the Chargers and Steelers -- and lost all three games.

"We have to finish. We have to close games," Stefanski said.

A critical trip to Cincinnati on Sunday for a must-win game against Joe Burrow and the reborn Bengals, who lost to the New York Jets on Sunday and will also be looking to bounce back. ...

Adding to the intrigue. ... The Beckham mystery deepens.

The wide receiver was targeted just twice Sunday -- he had a 6-yard reception and short-armed a high incompletion over the middle in the final three minutes.

His lack of production -- 17 catches, 232 yards, 0 TDs in six games -- and seeming exclusion in the game plan is baffling.

Unless you're Odell Beckham Sr.

The receiver's father posted a video on Instagram on Tuesday that blamed his son's lack of production in Cleveland on Mayfield, showing highlights of plays on which Beckham got open and Mayfield failed to deliver the ball to him.

The words, "Every missed opportunity Odell was open" appeared on the screen before the collection of Mayfield lowlights. In the comments on his video, Beckham Sr. agreed with a fan who said that Mayfield just doesn't want to get Beckham Jr. the ball.

As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith suggested, that Beckham Sr. would post the video less than 24 hours before the NFL trade deadline strongly suggests that the family believes Beckham Jr. would be better off elsewhere. And it wouldn't be the first time; Beckham Sr. took some social media shots at Giants owner John Mara in the months before the Giants traded Beckham Jr. to the Browns.

Beckham Jr. may claim he has no involvement in his dad's social media activities, but it seems highly unlikely that the father (who was a running back at LSU from 1989 to 1992) would post such a criticism of Mayfield if the son didn't agree with it.

ESPN's Dianna Russini subsequently reported the Browns have no plans on trading Beckham Jr. by Tuesday's trade deadline -- and that's exactly how it played out. Russini was told there weren't been any offers that made sense for the organization. But there were talks.

ESPN's Kimberley Martin reports the Saints and Browns discussed a Beckham trade ahead of Tuesday's deadline, but the sides weren't able to come to an agreement given Beckham's prohibitive salary.

But wait. ... It gets better. Or worse.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reported that Beckham will not practice on Wednesday, and that the decision is "team-related." Also, Josina Anderson reports that Beckham was ready to practice on Wednesday, but that the team told him he is "excused."

According to Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, "This means that the messages sent on Tuesday by Beckham's father resonated."

Florio went on to point out if the Browns cut Beckham, he'll end up on waivers. If he clears waivers, he'll become a free agent. And then he can sign with any other team -- including the Chiefs or the Bills or any other AFC contender.

Stay tuned on this. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Chubb was healthy and will only get better after Sunday's game, his first since suffering a calf injury Week 5 against the Chargers, Stefanski said.

Chubb and the entire Browns ground attack was largely contained by a Steelers defense that made stopping the Pro Bowl RB its No. 1 priority. Chubb had runs of 14 and 21 yards, respectively, but was bottled up on the rest, as he finished with 61 yards on 16 carries. The Browns, as a team, rushed for just 96 yards, marking the second time this season Cleveland has been held under 100 yards.

The Browns saw their average dip but remain atop the league in rushing offense (161.1 yards per game). Chubb, despite missing two games, sits second in the league with 584 rushing yards.

"First thing is you have to give credit to their defense. That is a physical front. They have some really, really good players along that front and they did a nice job against our running game," Stefanski said. "They definitely were physical at the point of attack and we just have to find ways to run the ball versus a tough front. We have gone up against some tough fronts this season. Again, credit to them. ..."

On the injury front. ... Mayfield was 20-of-31 for 225 yards. After the game, Mayfield said injured left shoulder was not the reason for their inability to come out of the home game with a win.

"I felt pretty comfortable from the beginning. No setbacks, so that was one positive," Mayfield said. ...

Starting RT Jack Conklin will miss "multiple weeks" with a dislocated left elbow suffered Sunday. The loss of the 2020 All-Pro could push the Browns into making a trade for either a starter or to add depth. ... Safety John Johnson III is "day to day" with a neck stinger. ... Stefanski hopes CB Denzel Ward (hamstring) will be back this week to face the Bengals.

Donovan Peoples-Jones missed a second-straight game with a groin injury he sustained in pre-game warmups in the moments leading up to their Week 7 Thursday night game against the Broncos. His status this week will be worth watching, but he was on the practice field Wednesday. Landry (knee) didn't practice Wednesday.

I'll have more on both Landry and Peoples-Jones -- and again, on Beckham -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

One last note here. ... The Browns have elected to let go of their fullback.

Cleveland has waived Johnny Stanton, the team announced on Tuesday.

Stanton has bounced between the Browns' 53-man roster and the practice squad over the last two years. He has appeared in two games for Cleveland this season. He took a pair of carries for 5 yards and caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the Browns' Week Seven victory over Denver.

Cleveland has just seven total touchdown passes this season. Neither Beckham nor receiver Landry have caught one.

Stanton's release comes with fullback Andy Janovich (hamstring, designated for return from IR) returning to practice Wednesday.

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

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Now that the Dallas Cowboys have won six straight without Dak Prescott, it's time for another week of will he/won't he on whether the franchise quarterback plays with a strained right calf.

Dallas (6-1) is on its longest winning streak since Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott were twin rookie stars in 2016, -- 11 straight on the way to the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon notes, the Cowboys are solidly in the running for a top seed again, leading the NFC East by three games. In addition to the close consultation with athletic trainer Britt Brown, the playoff race is an interesting component of how soon Prescott returns. Dallas is home Sunday against Denver.

"I was getting prepared to play this game," Prescott said after Cooper Rush made his first career start and threw the go-ahead touchdown pass in the final minute of a 20-16 victory at Minnesota on Sunday. "I'm a guy that takes it day by day, moment at moment, and right now, I'm going to celebrate this win with the guys and worry about rehabbing and getting everything back in order tomorrow."

Receiver Michael Gallup hasn't played since straining a calf in the opener, although there's no indication Prescott will be out that long. Four-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin tried to play through a calf strain last season and ended up costing himself five games.

The Cowboys have to decide when Prescott can play with the lowest risk of a repeat of Martin's situation.

"Obviously we were optimistic about Dak last week, even more optimistic this week," executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday. "The world got to see first-hand how well he was moving around last night. Feel good about it."

In fact, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters on Monday that he anticipates Prescott participating in Wednesday's practice, which will be scaled back coming off a Sunday night game, "and if everything goes normal, I would think he would be a full go on Thursday."

ESPN.com's Todd Archer advised his readers the Cowboys took a calculated risk by not playing Prescott against the Vikings in hopes that the calf injury, which he suffered on Oct. 17 in an overtime win against the New England Patriots, would not be a lingering issue with a second week off after coming off the bye.

Prescott did not practice last week, taking part only in the walk-throughs, as he focused mostly on his rehab. While Prescott wanted to play, his backup, Rush, threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns -- including the game winner to Amari Cooper with 51 seconds remaining -- in the first start of his career.

McCarthy had not spoken to Prescott on Monday, but he had a conversation with Brown.

"He said they had a really good day today. That's the feedback he gave me," McCarthy said.

Last Thursday, Prescott pushed his rehab and felt sore the next day. He thought he had pushed it to 80-85 percent, while Brown countered with 70 percent. According to the GPS trackers, the percentage was 77.5 percent, according to McCarthy.

"I think that tells you how in tune those guys are of what range they're working in and so forth," McCarthy said. "Like I said, we made the right decision and hopefully we can be past this. We're going to take the full week to figure that out."

Prescott spent the Vikings game on the sideline wearing a headset. McCarthy said the quarterback was listening and offering up advice to Rush at times.

"He was very much involved," McCarthy said.

For what it's worth, owner Jerry Jones believes Sunday's win over the Vikings will prove to be the only game Prescott has to miss with his calf injury.

Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan that the Cowboys believe Prescott will be back on the field Sunday against the Broncos.

"We have every reason to think that he's on go, and he should be ready to go," Jones said, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. "This will give him quite the layoff, including the bye week that we had. So we have every reason to think he'll be on the field for us this week."

Stay tuned. I'll be following Prescott's progress closely this week. I'll have an eye on Gallup as well. The receiver practiced all last week but was activated as he works through his 21-day window to return from IR. Jon Machota of The Athletic reports the team is hopeful Gallup can play Sunday, but it will be determined by how he practices this week.

CeeDee Lamb (ankle) and Cooper (hamstring) were limited in Wednesday's practice.

Also per Machota, Prescott was "going through every drill" at Wednesday's session although he was listed as a limited participant.

Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days. ...

Meanwhile, if Prescott plays, he'll catch a break as Denver's first game without star pass rusher Von Miller, who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday, will be at Dallas. The Broncos ended a four-game losing streak with a victory at home against Washington, one of Dallas' three sub-.500 NFC East rivals.

Other notes of interest. ... As Archer suggested, nobody could have expected this. Rush entered Sunday's game against Minnesota with one completion for 2 yards in his career. He left Minnesota with a win, throwing the above-mentioned 5-yard touchdown pass to Cooper.

Playing in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, Rush showed a poise that was beyond his experience, especially on the winning drive, hitting Lamb, Noah Brown, Elliott and Cooper with passes.

The defense, especially rookie Micah Parsons, was outstanding in limiting running back Dalvin Cook and confusing quarterback Kirk Cousins for most of the game after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive.

Winning without Prescott, who had been playing at an MVP level, is another indication that the Cowboys, winners of six straight, are a real contender in the NFC. ...

Cooper and Lamb keep showing they can be quite the tag team at receiver. Both finished with more than 100 yards for the second time this season (122 for Cooper, 112 for Lamb). The other was the Cowboys' only loss, 31-29 on a last-second field goal to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the opener.

Elsewhere on the injury front. ... LT Tyron Smith didn't play in the second half because of an ankle injury that had been an issue. Trevon Diggs didn't play late because of an ankle injury, but didn't appear affected by it after the game and said he was fine.

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

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold framed it: "In the span of 16 seconds Sunday night the Denver Broncos almost, as in within a hair's width, squandered a much-needed win in a historical, destined-for-a-blooper-reel sort of way, as they could only sigh with relief when they escaped with a 17-10 victory over Washington.

"However, those 16 seconds of offensive futility may have summed up a growing list of woes on that side of the ball, with an ill-timed incompletion sandwiched between two different running backs putting the ball on the ground in a three-play span. ..."

Legwold went on to note the second of those bobbles, a lost fumble by Melvin Gordon III, almost became the nightmare of nightmares for a team that still can't say it has regained its balance if it can't find more points in the weeks ahead.

"Whatever the worst word you can use to describe it, you can use to describe it," said head coach Vic Fangio of the final offensive sequence. "It was awful, it was a terrible, terrible series of downs for us."

In the end, the Broncos did their no-harm, no-foul best to cherish a rather choppy win that ended their four-game losing streak so they could claw back to 4-4 on the year. But step away, take a breath and it's clear they still have a significant problem on their hands.

They have scored more than 20 points in only one of their last five games -- a 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Oct. 17 -- and at 19.6 points per game are averaging fewer than 21 points per game for the sixth consecutive season. They have one player -- Gordon -- who has more than three touchdowns this season. By contrast, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have five players with at least three scores.

Asked Sunday if that was a hard way to live in today's NFL, Fangio said: "Yeah it is. We're going to Dallas next and I thought I saw somewhere, laying in bed, I think it was last night, that Dallas had scored at least 35 in their last four games. ... We better get some points."

Legwold went on to remind readers it isn't a new problem for the Broncos.

It's just Pat Shurmur is the latest offensive coordinator, Teddy Bridgewater is the latest quarterback and Fangio the latest head coach to participate in this dilemma.

"Wished we could have taken advantage of certain situations a little more," Bridgewater said. " ... If we could just avoid negative plays."

Last season's Broncos, with Drew Lock at quarterback, couldn't survive their own turnovers, as Lock tied for the league lead in interceptions and the Broncos led the league in giveaways overall. This year the Broncos are far closer to the middle of the pack with nine turnovers, including Gordon's fumble Sunday.

But this edition of the Broncos has struggled mightily on third down and has converted far too few trips in the red zone into touchdowns. The Broncos entered Sunday's game 27th in the league in third down conversions and were tied for 28th in red zone efficiency.

Sunday, against one of the league's worst pass defenses, the Broncos had six possessions go for 50 or fewer yards, including three in the second half that went for fewer than 20.

"We just have to make our plays, we can't go three-and-out. ... We just can't do it," Gordon said. "There's no magic formula."

The Broncos could use a little hocus pocus given that three of their next four opponents are the Cowboys, who could have quarterback Dak Prescott back in the lineup, the Los Angeles Chargers and quarterback Justin Herbert and the Kansas City Chiefs with former NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

The Broncos had hoped the return of wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who had not played since the season opener due to an ankle injury, and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, who had missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, would add some pop. Jeudy had four catches for 39 yards and Okwuegbunam had three receptions, but the Broncos didn't get too many swings with just 51 plays.

Sunday was the fourth game in the last five they've run fewer than 60 plays on offense, the second in a row they've run fewer than 55.

"We've got to keep improving ... we've got to be able to score more points that's obvious," Fangio said. "We've got to be able to sustain drives more often, and that's obvious."

Short-term improvement won't get any easier with Monday's blockbuster trade sending Von Miller Los Angeles where he's join Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on the Rams already-potent defense.

The Rams are sending the Broncos second- and third-round picks in the 2022 draft for the perennial Pro Bowler. The Broncos also are picking up $9 million of the $9.722 million left on his contract.

Miller's trophy case includes his Super Bowl 50 MVP award for leading Denver to a 24-10 win over heavily favored Carolina following the 2015 season and 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honor.

"Von was the very first draft pick we made back in 2011 at a time when we needed an impact player to turn this team around," said John Elway, the Broncos president of football operations. "Von dedicated himself to become an elite, record-setting pass rusher and future Hall of Famer while helping us to one of the winningest periods in team history.

"Von was always at his best when we needed him the most," Elway added. "Our Super Bowl 50 win and playoff run that year would not have been possible without Von turning in one of the most dominant individual performances of all time."

Broncos president Joe Ellis called Miller a "franchise icon" and general manager George Paton said, "I'll always be a fan of his and I look forward to watching his continued impact on our league."

Miller is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, seven-time All-Pro and a member of the league's 2010s All-Decade team. And he's the Broncos' franchise leader with 110½ sacks in the regular season and has another 6½ in the playoffs.

Again, the Broncos now travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Sunday -- without Miller. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Broncos rushed for a total of only 83 yards on 21 carries. Gordon carried the ball 10 times for 47 yards and one touchdown and caught 3-of-3 targets for an additional 14 yards and a receiving touchdown in the Broncos' Week 8 win over Washington.

Gordon held a slight edge over teammate Javonte Williams in carries (10-9), total touches (13-11), snaps (30-23) and touchdown (2-0) in what continues to be nearly a 50-50 timeshare.

Bridgewater completed 19-of-26 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. It was an efficient NFL performance, but not especially fantasy friendly.

Courtland Sutton caught 2-of-4 targets for 40 yards. The four targets tied him for the team lead with three teammates. There will be better days ahead, perhaps this week.

Even with the likelihood he'll face Dallas CB Trevon Diggs on the regular, Sutton remains a solid WR2 play this week. The same goes for Jeudy as he continues to work his way up to full speed.

Noah Fant caught 2-of-4 targets for 39 yards against Washington.

Fant was one of four receiving assets to draw a team-high four targets. While he didn't do as much with his opportunities against the Football Team as we'd like, Fant was on the field for 71 percent of the team's offensive snaps. But there's an issue this week.

Denver has placed Fant on the reserve/COVID-19 list, according to the transaction wire.

Per ESPN's Field Yates, Fant tested positive for the virus. If Fant is vaccinated, then he's eligible to return to the team with two negative tests separated by 24 hours.

In his third season, Fant is second on the team with 37 receptions and third with 320 yards. He also has three touchdowns.

The Broncos have Okwuegbunam and Eric Saubert at tight end on the 53-man roster and Shaun Beyer on the practice squad.

Elsewhere on the injury front. ... Fangio didn't have any updates on left tackle Garett Bolles (ankle) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (knee), who both left in the fourth quarter. The Broncos could receive a boost in the defensive backfield this week with Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey possibly returning.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer, K.J. Hamler
TEs: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

The Detroit Lions have a lot of long-suffering fans and they're starting to show their displeasure by simply not showing up for games to watch the NFL's only winless team at Ford Field.

First-year coach Dan Campbell, a former Detroit tight end, doesn't blame them.

"When you don't win a game and you're 0-8 and you've lost at home, I'm not going to be upset with that," Campbell said Monday. "I understand and my job is to try to find a way to help us win so that they want to come watch a winning product."

The Lions announced a crowd of 47,192 on Sunday, when they were thoroughly dominated by the Philadelphia Eagles 44-6. According to Associated Press sports writer Larry Lage, it was clear that a lot of people with tickets chose not to use their tickets or could not get rid of them because there were many rows throughout the stadium with unoccupied seats.

Detroit is averaging 52,046 tickets sold at home games this season, leading only Washington in attendance numbers per game this season.

With apathy setting in with fans, who have faithfully supported a team despite it having one playoff win in six-plus decades, the Lions will have to win to get them back.

Week by week, there are more doubts that will happen this season.

The Lions are going into their bye after a humiliating defeat against an Eagles team that had won just two of its first seven games.

Detroit was coming off a relatively respectable showing against former teammate Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams on the road, where they went into the fourth quarter with the lead. And, the Lions have been competitive in a handful of other games this year.

Philadelphia, though, pushed the Lions around on both sides of the ball to control the game.

The Motor City's NFL franchise is idle until playing at Pittsburgh on Nov. 14 and it doesn't return to Ford Field for a game until hosting Chicago on Thanksgiving.

"Am I frustrated? I am," Campbell acknowledged. "Am I upset that we're where we're at? Yeah, I am, but I have not lost confidence because I still know we are not the team that played (Philadelphia). That's not who we are. I don't believe that one bit. We're good enough to beat teams in this league."

The Lions' 134 points scored are third fewest of all teams that have played eight games. The 244 points allowed are the most allowed by any team.

The lack of support the defense gets from the offense in terms of sustaining possessions and controlling the clock make the job more difficult for a unit that has problems of its own.

The whole thing appears to be taking a direction -- one that players aren't interested in contemplating at this point.

"No, no, no," Jared Goff said when asked whether or not the possibility of going 0-17 has crept into the team's mind.

Goff was sacked four times in the first half, which equals the most first-half sacks he's suffered in his NFL career and is tied for the most of any quarterback in a game this season.

"Tough," Goff described. "One of the tougher ones I've been a part of and tough to swallow. It wasn't good on any phase. We knew that and I though what [Campbell] said to the team afterward was right on and we can do better."

Tight end T.J. Hockenson ended with a team-high 10 catches for 89 yards against the Eagles, but also couldn't hide that losing is taking its toll on the roster.

Still, he'll use the bye week to reflect on the first eight games as they try to figure out why the Lions offense continues to stall out. They remain confident that this isn't a repeat of the 2008 season. Guys still believe that they can win a game.

"This season is not over," Hockenson said. "And we're able to write the story with what guys want to do, what we want to do as a team and where we want to go with this organization and with this city. That's something that we've gotta look right in the mirror and just reflect to understand where we want to go and what we want to do for these next few games."

Campbell plans to give veterans a break to rest their body and minds while putting younger players through competitive situations in practice to let them develop and get evaluated by the coaching staff.

A few final notes. ... It wouldn't have changed the outcome, but not having Jamaal Williams left a hole. He was inactive because of a thigh injury. Left to carry the load alone in the running game, D'Andre Swift gained only 18 yards on 10 carries in the first half, and the Lions had only one rushing first down. Swift wound up carrying 12 times for 27 yards.

With Williams out, Jermar Jefferson scored his first pro TD on an eight-yard run. It meant nothing in the game, but it's something for him to remember.

Running back Godwin Igwebuike, a converted safety, became the first NFL player to have 125 yards on kickoff returns, 40 yards receiving and 15 yards rushing since New Orleans' Alvin Kamara did it in 2017.

Austin Seibert missed on his only field-goal attempt, from 47 yards.

And finally. ... The Lions don't have a game this week, but they did have a decision to make about left tackle Taylor Decker.

Decker was designated to return from injured reserve three weeks ago and the deadline to activate him was on Wednesday or the Lions would have to shut him down for the season. They announced on Tuesday that he's been activated along with defensive end Kevin Strong.

Decker injured his finger in training camp and has not played in any games this season. If he returns to the lineup in Week 10, the Lions are expected to move first-round pick Penei Sewell to right tackle.

In addition to the two activations, the Lions also announced that they have waived guard Tommy Kraemer.

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

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

When Packers wide receiver Davante Adams first went on the COVID-19 reserve list this week, quarterback Aaron Rodgers noted that the team had found a way to win without him in the past.

Now they have to find a way to win without Rodgers.

Rodgers has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, a source confirmed to ESPN.

The NFL has considered Rodgers as unvaccinated since the start of the season, sources confirmed to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky and first reported by NFL Network.

Under league protocol, if Rodgers tests positive and is unvaccinated, he must quarantine for a minimum of 10 days and cannot return until Nov. 13 at the earliest, if he remains asymptomatic.

The Packers next game is Nov. 14 against the Seahawks.

According to Demovsky, Rodgers petitioned the NFL to have an alternate treatment that he underwent before he returned to the Packers that would allow him to be considered the same as someone who received one of the approved vaccinations. After a lengthy back and forth, the league ruled that Rodgers would not get the same consideration and would be considered unvaccinated.

Sources tell Demovsky that Rodgers follows masking protocols while interacting with players and coaches inside the team's headquarters at Lambeau Field. However, Rodgers does not wear a mask while in the media auditorium during his weekly and postgame press conferences. The Packers have put other unvaccinated players on Zoom instead of in-person media sessions.

The reigning NFL MVP said this past August that he was "immunized" when asked about his vaccination status.

"You know, there's a lot of conversation around it, around the league, and a lot of guys who have made statements and not made statements, owners who have made statements," Rodgers said at the time. "There's guys on the team that haven't been vaccinated. I think it's a personal decision. I'm not going to judge those guys. There are guys that've been vaccinated that have contracted COVID. It's an interesting issue that I think we're going to see played out the entire season."

He later added: "I think I like to learn about everything that I'm doing, and there was a lot of research that even went into that. But like I said, there's been people that have tested positive, and I think it's only vaccinated people here. It's going to be interesting to see how things work moving forward. Obviously there could be some issues with vaccinated people only testing every couple weeks and then non-vaccinated testing every day."

Jordan Love is in line to make his first career start against Kansas City in Rodgers' absence.

The Packers (7-1) are riding a seven-game win streak and are tied with the Rams and Cardinals for the best record in the NFC.

Packers practice squad quarterback Kurt Benkert on Tuesday tweeted that he had COVID-19 and was later placed on the reserve list.

Receiver Allen Lazard also missed last week's game after being deemed a close contact of Adams.

The Packers were still without defensive coordinator Joe Barry on Monday because of COVID-19 protocols.

Head coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday that he hoped Adams would be able to return by Thursday.

The Packers appear to have found Love's backup quarterback for Sunday: Blake Bortles.

Bortles is flying to Green Bay today with the expectation that he will sign to the Packers’ practice squad and then get called up to the active roster before Sunday, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Bortles spent some time with the Packers this offseason while Aaron Rodgers was refusing to participate in offseason work, so he at least has some familiarity with their offense.

Meanwhile, the Packers needed an early answer last Thursday night and they got one, setting the tone in Arizona.

After combining for just nine carries in Week 7 against Washington, A.J. Dillon and Aaron Jones teamed up to rush for 137 yards on 31 carries Thursday.

Arizona took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when the Packers, who didn't gain a first down on their opening two possessions, were able to establish an effective ball-control attack.

From their own 25, Green Bay went 75 yards in 14 plays, spanning the quarter break and consuming eight minutes, 23 seconds in all, to tie the score.

Jones started it with a 7-yard run, and fellow running back A.J. Dillon followed with a 4-yard gain before Rodgers went back to Jones with a 7-yard pass.

Then Dillon ran twice for 18 yards, sandwiched around an incompletion, before the Cardinals were flagged for a neutral zone infraction on third-and-4, giving the Packers a first down at the Arizona 34-yard line.

After another incomplete pass, Dillon ran for 5 yards and Rodgers connected with WR Juwann Winfree for 4 yards on the final play of the first quarter, setting up fourth-and-1 to begin the second period.

Dillon converted, gaining 2 yards despite getting hit initially in the backfield, and then he ran for 8 yards on the next play to put the ball on the 3. After a 1-yard completion to TE Robert Tonyan, Jones was stood up at the line of scrimmage but kept churning his legs to get the ball to the goal line.

It was Jones' 50th career touchdown (40 rushing, 10 receiving), and the Packers never trailed again. ...

Don't be surprised if the rushing attack is a big factor with Rodgers out and Love under center this week. ...

On the injury front. ... One day after they withstood numerous absences to beat the NFL's lone remaining unbeaten team came the sobering realization they've lost two more players for the rest of the season.

Tight end Robert Tonyan and rookie kick returner Kylin Hill both suffered knee injuries at Arizona.

"I feel awful for both those guys," LaFleur said Friday. "They put a lot into this thing. They're tough guys to replace."

The injury to Tonyan, who caught 11 touchdown passes last season, will put more of a burden on tight ends Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara and Dominique Dafney. Wide receiver Malik Taylor was Green Bay's deep man for kickoff returns after Hill's injury.

Beyond the injuries, the red-zone offense still has plenty of room to improve.

The Packers settled for a field goal after having first-and-goal at the 3 in the second quarter. After an apparent Jones touchdown was overturned late in the fourth quarter on first-and-goal at the 1, the Packers ended up losing the ball on downs.

They'll try to correct that ahead of the trip to Kansas City.

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

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

The Houston Texans were prepared to keep Deshaun Watson past Tuesday's NFL trade deadline, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

And now that's exactly what they'll do.

Although many in the Texans organization wanted to turn the page and move on from Watson as soon as possible, with the Dolphins declining to make a trade before Tuesday's deadline, Watson now is expected to remain on the Texans' roster until after this season, when the team can explore a trade for him again at that time.

General manager Nick Caserio was unwavering in his stance and determination to get full value for Watson and was unwilling to trade him for anything less than what he believes Watson is worth.

Texans owner Cal McNair privately told people that he would like the organization to trade Watson before the deadline but he left the decision to Caserio.

The Texans and Dolphins had trade discussions at various points, and Miami had been in the driver's seat with Watson's desire to play, most of all, for Miami.

But the Dolphins also preferred that Watson's legal issues be resolved before making a deal. Watson is facing 22 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct and 10 criminal complaints, though no charges have been filed and the quarterback has denied the accusations.

While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last Tuesday that the league doesn't yet have enough information about the lawsuits to make a decision on potential discipline and that the information it does have is not enough to place Watson on the commissioner's exempt list, Watson's failure to settle the civil cases were part of the equation.

The Dolphins are the only team that Watson is known to have waived his no-trade clause for, according to sources. Watson has not done the same for the Carolina Panthers or any other team, sources told Schefter.

But the Panthers have been linked to Watson, 26, since last offseason, and some even have speculated on what a proposed package for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback would look like.

Sources told Schefter that Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer each called Christian McCaffrey on Friday night to tell him that, regardless of rumors including the star running back, they never discussed or even considered trading him to Houston for Watson.

Talks between the Texans and Panthers never escalated because Watson did not agree to waive his no-trade clause for Carolina, which therefore was never was in position to evaluate potential trade scenarios the way the organization wanted. The Panthers, with the history that former owner Jerry Richardson had involving harassment, were unwilling to make a trade until they could be entirely comfortable with it.

Whatever the case, it's all moot now that the deadline has passed. We'll all be revisiting this after the season. ...

Meanwhile, after another embarrassing loss extended Houston's skid to seven games Sunday, the Texans are focused on trying to keep the season from spiraling further out of control.

"It can always get worse," defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard said. "So that's the thing. ... We've got to have in the back of our head."

As Associated press sports writer Kirstie Rieken noted, "It's already quite bad."

The Texans fell behind 38-0 against the Rams, who pulled quarterback Matthew Stafford for his backup before Houston scored in the 38-22 loss.

Houston's seven-game losing streak is the team's longest since dropping the final 14 games of the 2013 season.

The Texans are last in the NFL by averaging 14.9 points a game and rank 31st by allowing 30.1 points. Their offense is generating just 281.1 yards a game (again, good for 31st) and they're allowing 401.4 yards, which is 29th in the league.

Against the Rams, Houston punted on seven of its first nine possessions and the other two ended with an interception and a missed field goal.

In short, nothing is going right.

It's easy to blame rookie quarterback Davis Mills for the team's woes, as he's struggled mightily since taking over for Tyrod Taylor at halftime in Week 2. But head coach David Culley was adamant there isn't one player or coach who doesn't carry blame.

"It isn't just about the quarterback," Culley said. "Our entire offensive football team needs to do better, our defense needs to do better, our special teams need to do better and we need to coach better. It's not just him."

Mills fell to 0-6 Sunday in what could have been his last chance to get a win this season with Taylor moving closer to getting back on the field.

The veteran, who has a hamstring injury, was at practice last week and could finally return Sunday against the Dolphins. But ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop isn't convinced that Taylor's return from a left hamstring injury might not make a difference for this team.

Without Mark Ingram, who was leading the Texans in rushing before being traded to the New Orleans Saints last week, Houston ran for 44 yards on 14 carries.

Will having Taylor back salvage the offense?

Houston's running game is in desperate need of improvement. The Texans are averaging just 76.1 yards rushing this season. They need David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay to step up if they hope to improve; neither player has had more than 25 yards rushing in a game this season. ...

Did I mention it's not going well? Need more evidence?

The Texans opened as seven-point underdogs to Miami, a fellow 1-7 team, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Still, Culley believes if he and the rest of the staff remain consistent, the Texans will find a way to end their skid and get back in the win column.

"Is it frustrating? Yes, it's frustrating, but the message does not change," Culley said. "We forget about what happened in the past. It's all about moving forward. ..."

On the injury front. ... In his Monday press conference, Culley said Taylor is still day-to-day with his hamstring injury. Taylor has been out since suffering the injury just before halftime of Houston's Week Two loss to the Browns. Taylor was playing well before the injury and could provide a shot in the arm to the offense.

Culley also noted left tackle Laremy Tunsil is nearing a return after undergoing thumb surgery.

"Not really sure, but I think he's close to coming back," Culley said, via Deepi Sidhu of the Texans website.

Tunsil went on IR on Oct. 16, so he's eligible to return after missing three games.

Tight end Pharaoh Brown suffered a hamstring injury during last Friday's practice, and Culley said he's unsure of Brown's potential availability for the Week 9 matchup against the Dolphins.

Burkhead (hip) was limited in practice Wednesday.

I'll have more on Taylor, Burkhead and Brown, who was not on the practice field Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

And finally. ... The Texans' gradual sell-off saw another player packing his bags Tuesday.

Edge rusher Charles Omenihu is headed to San Francisco in exchange for a future late-round pick, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

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

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

According to ESPN.com's Mike Wells, Carson Wentz took the blame for the Colts' 34-31 loss to the Tennessee Titans after throwing an interception late in the fourth quarter and another in overtime.

"I feel like I beat us with those turnovers," Wentz said about his second and third interceptions of the season.

Wells went on to remind readers that one of the reasons Wentz was benched last season in Philadelphia was his inability to protect the football.

He had a career-high 15 interceptions in just 12 games last season. Interceptions had not been a problem for the quarterback during his first eight games with the Colts, who acquired him during the offseason. Wentz's only interception prior to Sunday was in Week 2 against the Rams. But Wentz's two interceptions Sunday directly led to Tennessee's final 10 points of the game.

The Colts had the ball at their 8-yard line with the score tied at 24-24 and less than 90 seconds remaining, when head coach Frank Reich called a screen play for tight end Mo Alie-Cox. The play never developed, leaving Wentz in the end zone having to either take a safety, throw the ball into the ground or try to make something happen still.

Wentz chose the latter and attempted a left-handed pass that ended up being intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Titans cornerback Elijah Molden to give Tennessee a 31-24 lead.

"That was 100 percent my fault," Reich said. "It was a bad call. ... Didn't think they would be thinking that at that point in the game. I've been around too long to know you don't call a screen backed up in that situation."

After leading the Colts down the field in 64 seconds to tie the score and send the game into overtime, Wentz had an opportunity to redeem himself for the earlier interception. But on Indianapolis' second possession of the extra period, Wentz locked in on receiver Michael Pittman Jr., which made it easy for Titans safety Kevin Byard to intercept the pass to give Tennessee a short field to win the game.

Wentz is the first quarterback to throw an interception in the final two minutes of regulation and another in overtime since former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning did it on Dec. 11, 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I feel like I beat us with those turnovers," Wentz said. "As a competitor and my hardest critic, you feel that weight and you let your guys down even though I have the upmost confidence in our defense and they did a great job stopping them, but they were already in field goal range. But as a competitor, I try not to beat myself up too much over that, but I have to learn from it."

Of course, there are two sides to the Wentz coin.

Specifically, he's been effective with the deep ball. In fact, Wentz has taken more downfield shots the last two weeks and Pittman is making plays.

Even when receivers don't catch passes, they're getting behind defenders and drawing penalties.

Pittman caught 10 passes for 86 yards against Tennessee and had two TD catches in the first 7 1/2 minutes.

Pittman clearly is Wentz's favorite target. ...

Meanwhile, Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot believes the Colts should be adjusting their expectations.

They trail division-leading Tennessee by three games and the gap essentially expands to four when factoring in the Titans season sweep. It's a wide margin after eight weeks, even in a 17-game season -- and even if two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry doesn't take another snap with Tennessee this season.

Reich refuses to cede anything.

"I understand it's a really big hole to come back from and win the division, the odds are really stacked against us," he said after Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss put Indy in this predicament. "I'm just not wired to think like that. The way I'm wired, the way our team is wired is we've got a game on Thursday night. We have to come back."

A short week should help Indy move on quickly after seeing another winnable game slip away, this one with potentially long-term consequences.

With five losses, three at home, the Colts now face a daunting task to get back into division title contention.

While wins over the New York Jets (2-5) this week and Jacksonville (1-6) next week would get the Colts to .500 for the first time this season, the ensuing six-game stretch poses a major challenge. It includes trips to Buffalo and Arizona with home games sprinkled in against Tampa Bay, New England and Las Vegas.

So even navigating the more manageable journey to one of the AFC's seven playoff spots would require Indy to beat some playoff contenders.

And, regardless of Henry's injury status, the Colts can't afford many more stumbles.

Yes, it's a difficult task, one they've accepted with the same unrelenting approach of Reich.

"Football's funny. You practice hard, you put in the work and sometimes it's just not working out," tight end Jack Doyle said Monday. "You know the process works, you know how we do things here. So you dig deeper into that and you keep working and you know that the ball will start bouncing our way in those games."

Other notes of interest. ... Jonathan Taylor rushed 16 times for 70 yards and a touchdown and secured three of four targets for 52 yards against the Titans on Sunday.

He also fell on a Wentz fumble.

As CBSSports.com notes, Taylor once again saw his carries capped firmly under 20, but he was efficient with his opportunities and topped off his overall production with a game-tying one-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. His receiving yardage tally was his second highest of the season, and he's now encouragingly supplemented his strong production on the ground with a quartet of three-catch totals in the last four games.

Taylor will next look to exploit a vulnerable Jets defense on Thursday night. ...

On the injury front. ... Reich revealed Monday wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (concussion) will not play Thursday against the Jets, while defensive end Tyquan Lewis suffered a season-ending patella injury in Week 8's 34-31 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Safety Khari Willis is being evaluated for a calf/knee injury that forced him out of Sunday's game, and Reich said it was too early to know what his status will be for Week 9. The Colts on Monday signed safety Josh Jones and running back Deon Jackson to the 53-man roster from the practice squad and additionally waived quarterback Brett Hundley. ...

And finally. ... Running back Marlon Mack said early this season that he and the team mutually agreed that a trade would be a good idea.

But that never happened.

Instead, Reich said today, the team anticipates Mack being in Indianapolis for the rest of the season.

Last year Mack played in only one game because of a torn Achilles tendon, and this year he has largely been phased out of the Colts' offense in favor of Taylor and top backup Nyheim Hines.

But Mack will remain a Colt for the rest of this season, then hit free agency in March.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Carson Wentz, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Deon Jackson
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, Urban Meyer has one of the NFL's slowest teams, nothing even remotely close to the speed advantage he enjoyed during tenures at Ohio State and Florida.

Meyer's college offenses thrived with guys such as Michael Thomas, Curtis Samuel, Percy Harvin and Jeff Demps.

Now, in his first season with the rebuilding Jaguars, Meyer's most dynamic offensive player is a former NFL cornerback who's been playing receiver for less than two years.

Jamal Agnew has a team-leading 17 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown in Jacksonville's past three games, but he's hardly the deep threat the Jaguars (1-6) need to open the field up for everyone else.

Jacksonville's big-play inability was evident in a 31-7 drubbing at Seattle on Sunday. The team's longest play gained 17 yards.

"We have enough playmakers not to let that happen to us," said Meyer, whose team hosts Buffalo (5-2) on Sunday.

Long went on to remind readers that when the Jags lost speedy receiver D.J. Chark Jr. to a broken left foot in a Week 4 game at Cincinnati, it left them without a stretch-the-field guy. Marvin Jones Jr. is closing in on his 32nd birthday. Laviska Shenault Jr. is more likely to break tackles than ankles.

And supposed speedster Tyron Johnson is struggling to get on the field because of route-running concerns.

Meyer recognized the need for more speed during the offseason. He brought in recent first-round draft picks Phillip Dorsett (2015) and Tavon Austin (2013), and then claimed Johnson off waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers. He ended up cutting Dorsett, and Austin has been relegated to a backup role.

But truly fixing the issue will have to wait until next year's NFL draft, in which the Jags have 12 picks.

Jacksonville's current receiving group dropped at least four passes Sunday, including some on third downs that provided no help to rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence completed 32 of 54 passes for 238 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He was under duress often but sacked just once.

"There's no secret pill or there's no secret T-shirt you could wear," Meyer said. "It's hard work. I call it the snapshot: putting those players in position in practice so they can deal with that. But we didn't throw and catch (Sunday) very well. ...

"Hard work and the quarterback on the same page with the wide receivers, which at times they weren't (Sunday); we had a couple issues that were glaring."

While adding playmakers to help Lawrence has to be a top priority for the Jaguars when they assess the next step for the organization, NFL.com's Dan Hanzus believes it's fair to wonder if Urban Meyer will be around when those decisions get made.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars got comparatively good news Monday.

Running back James Robinson, the team's leading rusher, is expected to be "day to day" with a bruised heel sustained Sunday in a loss to the Seahawks. Robinson did not return to the game after sustaining the injury in the second quarter.

"Day to day," Meyer said.

Meyer said he would hesitate to play Robinson if the belief was the injury was structural or that it could worsen by playing on it.

"I know it's not that," Meyer said.

Robinson, who sustained the injury when he tried to stop quickly after being pushed out of bounds on the Jaguars' sideline on a 17-yard pass reception, finished the game with four rushes for 22 yards. He has 482 yards and five touchdowns rushing on 88 carries in seven games.

"James is obviously one of our better players, and you get your better players the ball," Meyer said. "James is a guy. ... Of course you're going to get him the ball."

The Jaguars rushed 19 times for 82 yards in the 31-7 loss. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw 54 passes and was sacked once with the Jaguars trailing by double digits for the last 39:24.

"We 14- and 17-0," Meyer said. "We're not built [to play from so far behind]. I'm not sure many teams are. We certainly aren't yet. When we're balanced, we're at our best. I imagine most offenses would say that."

Eighth-year veteran running back Carlos Hyde led the Jaguars with nine rushes for 32 yards Sunday, with running back Dare Ogunbowale rushing twice for nine yards. Meyer said the Jaguars will discuss carries for the backs Monday evening.

"That's why we went and got Carlos," Meyer said of Hyde, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent. "He's a backup running back to James, but he has had some good plays for us. He ran hard yesterday. He had post-contact yardage."

Hyde played two seasons, 2012-2013, for Meyer at Ohio State.

"I personally have a lot of confidence in him because of my history with him," Meyer said. "I like those two guys. Obviously, you need more but hopefully we'll get some positive news on James."

The Jaguars also claimed running back Devine Ozigbo via waivers from New Orleans, the team announced Monday.

Ozigbo has played in 20 career games over his first three seasons in the NFL and spent the 2021 training camp and Weeks 1-4 with the Jaguars earlier this season. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Saints in 2019. From 2019-2020, he played in 18 games with Jacksonville and recorded 28 rushing yards and 65 receiving yards.

He played in two games for New Orleans this season. ...

For the record, Robinson was held out of practice Wednesday and Hyde was limited by a previously undisclosed calf injury; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.

One last note here. ... Should Jaguars fans worry about Lawrence after this performance?

According to ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco, the answer is: "Heck no. Lawrence was not good today -- it may have been his worst game of the season -- but rookies are going to have games where they play badly. Lawrence had progressed steadily over the first six weeks. Had he not done that, then, yeah, today would be a major red flag. The youngster is going to be just fine."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Carlos Hyde, B.J. Emmons, James Robinson
WRs: Marvin Jones, Laquon Treadwell, Laviska Shenault, Tavon Austin, D.J. Chark, Jamal Agnew
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Chris Manhertz, Jacob Hollister, Luke Farrell, Dan Arnold

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Sorely in need of a victory, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs got a win on Monday night and got back to .500.

However, as NFL.com's Grant Gordon suggests, their quest to right an ailing offense more prone to turnovers than points continues.

In Monday's 20-17 win over the New York Giants, the Chiefs had two more turnovers, upping their league-worst amount of giveaways to 19, as Mahomes threw an interception for a career-worst seventh game in a row.

These are not the high-flying Chiefs of yesteryear and these are not the best of times in Kansas City -- even after a win.

"Listen, everything's not beautiful right now, but we're fighting through that. And that happens in this game," head coach Andy Reid said after the win. "Our guys battled, they didn't give up on each other, they kept working through what could've been a time where you just throw your hands up and go, 'Oh my god, things aren't working the way they're supposed to work.' Guys didn't do that. We'll build on that. Let's keep going, I mean they don't give these things away and I think that's important for people to understand."

In a matchup that on paper appeared poised for the Chiefs to get right, Kansas City mustered but 20 points and 368 yards of offense against the Giants' 23rd-ranked scoring defense.

Mahomes began the game going 8-for-8 and then struggled to the tune of 21-of-40 the rest of the way. On the evening, Mahomes was 29-of-48 for a touchdown, an interception, 275 yards and a 74.6 QB rating.

It was a sub-par showing for the former AP NFL Most Valuable Player everyone has grown accustomed to being magnificent, but it was an improvement from a Week 7 showing against the Titans in which he was 20 for 35 for 206 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and a 62.3 rating. That Monday was an improvement from the week prior underscores the current times for Mahomes and the K.C. offense.

"I think we're gonna snap out of it and find a way to start executing and when we do, we'll be a tough offense to stop," Mahomes said.

On Monday, the Chiefs had 10 offensive drives (excluding kneeling out the game) and produced two touchdowns and none in the second half. Those aforementioned league-high 19 turnovers are three more than Kansas City had all of last season.

"We'll get it there, we just gotta keep working," Reid said. "Making sure we evaluate and work. So that's what we do."

It's a credit to Reid and the experience of a team that's made it to two straight Super Bowls that there is no panic or finger-pointing.

Nonetheless, at points it appears the Chiefs aren't looking to change things, but merely that they're confident what they've been doing will eventually work out how it has the last three seasons. There is still an onus on style points or razzle dazzle and trick plays when simple runs up the gut are getting the job done.

Mahomes believes it's because of defenses adjusting. But, in turn, that would seem to lean to the Chiefs needing to adjust.

"I think we're the same as we've always been," Mahomes said. "We've caught some defenses that are playing over the top of us and we turn the ball over. We're still moving the ball and doing a lot of things great, but whenever you turn the ball over or get a penalty and get pushed back, that kinda ruins drives. But I think we've done a lot of great things, but it comes down to execution in this league."

Worth noting, Mahomes threw a lot of quick passes designed to get the ball out in a hurry, the result of protection problems from last week's loss to the Titans.

"I know it's kind of happening week after week these last few weeks, but I think we'll snap out of it and we'll find ways to start executing and when we do we'll be a tough offense to stop," Mahomes said.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Adam Teicher contends the Chiefs aren't ready for a gauntlet second-half schedule that begins with a three-game stretch featuring division leaders in the Packers, Raiders and Cowboys.

The Chiefs struggled mightily to finish off the Giants, who entered the game without running back Saquon Barkley and receiver Kenny Golladay and then lost receiver Sterling Shepard during the game. The Chiefs showed signs of defensive life against the Giants but things figure to be much different against quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr and Dak Prescott.

If they want to beat the visiting Packers on Thursday night, Teicher believes they'll have to play their best game of the season to make that happen and if they do, it will have come out of the blue.

Other notes of interest. ... Tailback Derrick Gore -- playing in just his third-career game -- found the end zone for the first time in his young career on a 3-yard touchdown run. The score finished off a dominant possession that featured rushing attempts on each of the Chiefs' final five plays and an impressive overall showing by Gore, who finished the game with 48 yards on 11 carries.

"He's been doing it since training camp and he finally got his opportunity," Mahomes said of Gore. "He went out there and executed and played well for us. I think that whole running back room has stepped up in different roles this entire season, and as the season goes on with the offensive line continuing to get better and better at run blocking and doing that type of stuff, I think he'll be a big part of our offense."

And finally. ... The Chiefs made some moves on Tuesday, most notably acquiring veteran pass-rusher Melvin Ingram from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 6-2, 247-pound Ingram saw action in six games for the Steelers this year, recording 18 pressures, six quarterback hits and a sack in that time. He saw extended playing time (more than 50 snaps) in each of the Steelers' first two games this year and made the most of it, notching 11 pressures in those two contests alone.

Ingram's 18 total pressures this season ranked third on the Steelers and 29th overall in the NFL among edge rushers through Week 6. Additionally, Pro Football Focus assigned Ingram the twelfth-best pass-rushing grade in the league this season among edge rushers through the first six games of the year.

The Chiefs have just 11 sacks in eight games, the second-lowest total in the league. Chris Jones has played more on the edge this season, but it hasn't helped the pass rush. He has three sacks.

Kansas City's other top pass-rusher, Frank Clark, missed three games with an injury, and he has just one sack, which came on the Giants' final play Monday night.

In addition, the Chiefs and Jets have swapped a pair of players who didn't have much of a future with their teams.

Offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is going to the Jets, while tight end Dan Brown is going to the Chiefs.

A medical doctor, Duvernay-Tardif missed the entire 2020 season so he could do health care work in the COVID-19 pandemic. He returned to the Chiefs this year but has not played in a game.

Brown is mostly a special teams player who has been on the field for just 13 offensive snaps this season.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Derrick Gore, Jerick McKinnon
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, Josh Gordon
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Opening on a very serious note that obviously transcends football. ... The Las Vegas Raiders released wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on Tuesday night following his involvement in a vehicle crash early Tuesday morning that left a woman dead.

Ruggs faces felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol resulting in death and reckless driving, court records show. He was released from a hospital and taken to jail earlier Tuesday ahead of an initial court appearance scheduled on Wednesday.

Ruggs, 22, and his passenger were hospitalized with unspecified injuries that police said did not appear life-threatening after the Chevrolet Corvette he was driving slammed at high speed into the rear of a Toyota Rav4 on a busy thoroughfare in a residential area several miles west of the Las Vegas Strip about 3:40 a.m. Tuesday.

The Toyota burst into flames and the driver and her dog died, police said.

Ruggs "showed signs of impairment," police said in a statement that did not identify the woman who died, the injuries that Ruggs or his passenger received or name Ruggs' passenger, who remained hospitalized.

Police are prohibited by federal privacy law from disclosing medical information, said Officer Larry Hadfield, a department spokesman.

In fact, Chief Deputy District Attorney Eric Bauman said in court Wednesday that Ruggs was traveling at 156 m.p.h. before the crash, and Ruggs' blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

Probation is not an option in Nevada for a conviction on a charge of DUI causing death, which carries a possible sentence of two to 20 years in state prison. The possible sentence for reckless driving is one to six years in prison, with probation available.

Ruggs' attorneys, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, said they are investigating the crash on behalf of their client "and ask everyone to reserve judgment until all the facts are gathered."

Chesnoff declined additional comment after Ruggs was released from University Medical Center and booked into the Clark County Detention Center.

The Raiders didn't wait for the courts to act, sending out a brief statement Tuesday night announcing Ruggs' release. The Raiders had issued a statement earlier in the day saying the team was aware of the crash, "devastated by the loss of life," and "in the process of gathering information."

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a statement saying, "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim of this horrific tragedy. We will continue to gather facts and monitor the matter under our policies, but our thoughts at this time are with those impacted by this devastating incident."

The Raiders (5-2) were on their bye week but reported back to team headquarters on Monday before having an off day on Tuesday. They were scheduled to begin practicing Wednesday before Sunday's game at the New York Giants (2-6).

Ruggs was the Raiders' first-round draft pick in 2020 out of Alabama, No. 12 overall, and at the time, team owner Mark Davis said of the speedy wideout, "He was the only person I wanted in this draft."

With 24 catches for 469 yards and two touchdowns, Ruggs' 19.5 yards-per-catch average was second in the NFL among pass-catchers with at least 20 receptions.

Ruggs lost a childhood friend, Rod Scott, in a car accident in 2016, and Ruggs pays tribute to him by putting up three fingers -- Scott wore No. 3 -- to the sky after big plays.

Getting back to football. ... Since stepping in as starting quarterback in Week 1 of his rookie season with the Raiders, Derek Carr has been one of the most prominent faces of the franchise.

But in the early years as he found his voice, Carr could defer to veterans such as Charles Woodson, Donald Penn and Justin Tuck. Then Jon Gruden took over as the marquee name when he arrived for his second stint as coach in 2018.

Now with Gruden gone and Carr entrenched as one of the most experienced starters on the roster, the Raiders have truly become his team.

"When Coach Gruden would walk a room, all eyes are on him," Carr said. "When we lost that, someone has to fill that void. It's not only me, but obviously as the quarterback and leader and I've been here a while, I was like, I've got to take that part of what I do to another level. ... Now I'm just trying to do everything I can to encourage, uplift and motivate the guys to keep going in every situation."

Carr and the Raiders (5-2) have negotiated a tricky situation when Gruden abruptly resigned following the release of old emails that had racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments.

Instead of sending the Raiders spiraling like has happened so often during an 18-year run with just one winning season, the team bounced back from consecutive double-digit losses in Gruden's final two games with double-digit wins in the first two under interim coach Rich Bisaccia.

That sent the Raiders into their bye week in sole possession of first place in the AFC West for the first time since heading into the final week of the 2016 season.

"We went through a lot of adversity going through that. It's a big shock," left tackle Kolton Miller said. "It starts with coaches first, they double down. We were running with them and we're all behind Rich Bisaccia. We've got a great team and we know that. We've just got to keep making big strides and the trust and faith that we're rolling with right now is awesome."

An improved defense and a more aggressive Carr are a big reason for the success so far in 2021. Third-year defensive end Maxx Crosby has emerged as a star and has teamed with free-agent acquisition Yannick Ngakoue to form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league this season.

That has helped a defense that allowed the most points and second-most yards per play in Gruden's first three seasons take a big step under new coordinator Gus Bradley.

Carr has also been much more willing to push the ball down the field this season

According to Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz, Carr had never had an average depth of target (aDOT) over 8.6 yards in his career. He dipped down really low with 7.0 yards in 2018 and 6.7 yards in 2019. That was the third-lowest aDOT in the league two years ago.

Last season, Carr bounced back to an aDOT of 8.5 yards.

But this season, Carr is throwing it even deeper.

Through Week 7, Carr's aDOT of 9.3 yards ranks ninth in the NFL. Carr is succeeding on those deep throws, too. He leads the league with 923 passing yards on passes over 16 yards through the air, and he ranks fifth in DVOA on such passes.

The caveat here: Carr is suddenly throwing shorter since Gruden resigned and Greg Olson took over the play calling. Over the past two games, his aDOT is only 8.4 yards. That's a small sample, but it could show that something has changed with the coaching change in Las Vegas.

Still, Carr's deep completions per game more than doubling from 1.4 to 3.

That has helped Carr rank second in the league to Tom Brady with 324.1 yards passing per game.

"Football-wise on the field he is tremendous," Bisaccia said. "He has an incredible understanding of what we are trying to do on offense. We can all see that the relationship that he and Greg Olson have running this offense."

Bisaccia has also called Carr the "voice of the Raiders."

But the real test will come after the bye when the Raiders try to avoid a repeat of the late-season collapses that doomed them in 2019 and '20 under Gruden and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

The Raiders lost five of six following a 6-4 start in 2019, and went 2-5 down the stretch after starting 6-3 last season.

"We talked about it when everything happened, 'Guys, we're going to be 5-2 at the bye. Be 5-2 at the bye, let's get healthy, and let's go on a run,'" Carr said. "We did the first part right. We've got to get healthy this week, it's not just a week off where we just lay on the couch. Guys have to work to get healthy, guys have to work to get better. If we do that and take care of business that way, we should be able to go on a run, take care of business when it comes."

On the injury front. ... Jacobs left the team's Week 7 game with a chest injury but checked out fine and should not miss any time. ... Darren Waller missed the game after spraining his ankle in practice the Friday before the game. He remained in town to rehab during the bye week but was not expected to miss another game.

Jacobs and Waller were on the practice field Wednesday; I'll have more on both players via Late-Breaking Update in coming days...

Foster Moreau stepped up and did a good job filling in for Waller in Week 7, catching six passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Moreau is a solid player who just happens to be behind one of the best tight ends in the league, so his production should not be a total shock. If Waller's injury lingers, Moreau is worth watching.

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

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy notes, Justin Herbert has set quite a standard in less than two seasons as the Los Angeles Chargers quarterback that struggles in two straight games -- albeit against Baltimore and New England -- end up generating cause for concern.

For a second straight year, Herbert was given fits by the Patriots.

In 2020, he was hit 11 times, sacked three times and threw two interceptions as the Chargers were blown out 45-0. While they scored this time around, it wasn't much better in 2021. Herbert threw two interceptions, one of which was returned by Adrian Phillips for the go-ahead touchdown, and couldn't lead his team on a game-tying drive when the Chargers were down 24-17 in the fourth quarter.

According to ESPN.com's Shelley Smith, Herbert seemed out of sorts at times and barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes (18-for-35). It was very un-Herbert like in a game they were predicted to win. For the second straight year, Patriots coach Bill Belichick made Herbert look ordinary.

Still, head coach Brandon Staley tried to calm any sense of panic after Sunday's 27-24 loss to the New England Patriots.

"People expect for him to throw for 300 to 400 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. And that's a good thing. He set that standard himself," Staley said on Monday. "But he's still seeing things a lot for the first time. There's going to be some setbacks and disappointments. That's what I told him yesterday."

Herbert was on track for career lows in completion percentage and yardage until a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter had him finish 18 of 35 for 223 yards and two TDs. The 66.7 passer rating marks the first time in his 22 starts he had a rating under 70 in consecutive games. He had a 67.8 rating in a 34-6 loss to Baltimore on Oct. 17.

Herbert and wide receiver Keenan Allen said the Patriots played a lot of Cover 2, which they had not seen on film leading up to Sunday's game. Even on some of the adjustments, Herbert was not on the same page on most plays with his receivers, including on a checkdown intended for tight end Jared Cook that was picked off by former Charger Adrian Phillips and returned for the go-ahead touchdown. That was first of Herbert's 16 career interceptions that had resulted in a pick-6.

When it comes to lessons learned from the loss, Herbert said moving on to the checkdown option quicker was the biggest takeaway.

"If the defense drops everyone out and if there is nothing down the field, you have to find your checkdown, you have to take off and find 4 to 5 yards, however you can get it," he said. "That is just the tough part about playing quarterback and is something that I need to get better at."

Besides Herbert making adjustments, Staley said his first-year coaching staff also needs to step up after two tough losses that have them at 4-3 and trailing Las Vegas by a game in the AFC West.

Los Angeles makes its third trip to the east coast this season when it takes on the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday from Lincoln Financial Field, and first-year Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was on the Chargers' staff from 2013-17. It seems like a great opportunity for Herbert and the Chargers to get back on track. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Los Angeles is running the ball on only 34.9 percent of its offensive plays -- the fourth-lowest rate in the league -- but it is averaging 4.6 yards per carry, which is tied for seventh.

They had 163 yards against the Patriots, which is their second-best total this season.

Austin Ekeler, playing through a questionable designation earned after being held out of practice last Thursday and Friday due to a sore hip, secured his fifth game with over 100 total yards. He rushed for 64 yards, while catching six passes for 60 yards. He's 135 yards away from a career high in rushing yards in a single season. Ekeler also scored his eighth touchdown of 2021.

Ekeler scored on the team's opening drive of the game Sunday -- a five-yard rush to cap an eight-play, 75-yard drive.

Justin Jackson's 75-yard rush in the first half was the longest of his NFL career by 35 yards. It was the Chargers' longest play of the season to date. Jackson's run was also the second-longest non-scoring rush in franchise history. LaDainian Tomlinson owns the first: a 76-yard rush on Dec. 1, 2002 against Denver. ...

Mike Williams was tied for third in the AFC in receptions (31) after the first five games, but he has only four catches for 46 yards in losses to Baltimore and New England as teams have started to take away the Chargers' short-passing game. ...

Joshua Palmer scored his first career NFL touchdown -- a 24-yarder from Herbert -- in the fourth quarter. The rookie wide receiver became the sixth player to catch a touchdown from Herbert this season. ...

Kickoff and punt returns continue to be a work in progress. Andre Roberts was signed to be the return specialist during the bye week, but only one of his three kick returns went beyond the 25-yard line. The Chargers have a league-worst average drive start of the 21.5-yard line after kickoffs.

On a more positive note. ... Kicker Dustin Hopkins, who was signed on Oct. 26 to replace Tristan Vizcaino, made a 48-yard field goal along with all three of his extra-point attempts. Three of Hopkins' four non-onside kickoffs went for touchbacks.

On the injury front. ... CB Michael Davis (hamstring) and Jackson (quad) were injured during the second quarter. CB Asante Samuel Jr. is in the concussion protocol.

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

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

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

The Los Angeles Rams share the NFL's best record at 7-1 after their 38-22 rout of Houston on Sunday for their fourth straight win. They're thriving on offense and steadily improving on defense -- a clear Super Bowl contender for yet another season.

So of course general manager Les Snead decided the time was perfect to use two high draft picks to acquire one of the most accomplished players of this generation.

As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham notes, Von Miller's move to Los Angeles on Monday is just the latest in a long series of audacious personnel moves by the Rams and Snead, the executive who will eagerly trade the murky future for the brilliant present.

The Rams' championship hopes are getting a midseason boost with the addition of Miller's pass-rushing skills and leadership to a defense that already leads the NFL with 25 sacks.

"You look at what it takes to be successful defensively, and it's about affecting and influencing the quarterback, and this guy does it as well as anybody over the course of his career," Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday night. "We felt like it was a really good thing for our team. I know a lot of players are excited about being able to add Von to the mix. Can't wait to get him here and get going."

Miller will line up with three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, whose attention-consuming dominance on the interior line has contributed to prolific pass rushing stats for Dante Fowler and Leonard Floyd in recent seasons. Floyd is still thriving with 6 1/2 sacks this season, giving the Rams three elite pass-rushing threats who could play simultaneously.

McVay called Miller "an incredibly unique football player that not only is a great pass rusher, but he's a complete football player that can really affect and influence an offense in a negative way on all three downs. You can utilize him in a variety of different ways."

But before Snead and McVay took their latest power swing, the Rams demonstrated their fundamental soundness in Houston.

Los Angeles briskly handled business against a struggling opponent with major problems, jumping to a 38-0 lead before their backups gave up three late touchdowns.

The Rams' schedule gets exponentially tougher in November, but they emerged from what was likely the softest stretch on their calendar with four wins -- and a pass-rushing linebacker of some renown as well.

Miller should debut in a showdown of conference co-leaders when the Titans (6-2) visit SoFi Stadium on Sunday night. Derrick Henry's injury takes a bit of the excitement out of the matchup, but the Rams will be tested in the first of several difficult matchups with elite opponents down the regular-season stretch. ...

Meanwhile, the offense is just fine.

The Rams' passing game cranked out 305 yards in the first three quarters in Houston, highlighting Matthew Stafford's connection with his receivers and the offensive line's sturdiness despite the absence of cornerstone left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Cooper Kupp's prolific season just keeps getting better: He has 63 catches on 90 targets for 924 yards and 10 touchdowns -- all of them tops in the NFL.

But what's the situation with the once-crowded receivers room?

As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry noted, until a few days ago, that room featured a stacked group with every skill set. There's no doubt that Kupp, Robert Woods and Van Jefferson can lead this team to a Super Bowl, but recent developments have led to some depth concerns.

On the injury front. ... Rookie Tutu Atwell suffered a shoulder injury against the Texans when returning a punt, and after catching a 68-yard pass,

Jefferson limped off the field. He later returned -- but it was concerning, to say the least. Rookie Ben Skowronek was inserted and fared well, but the Rams should be looking for some reinforcements.

For the record, Atwell needs shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season, McVay said. The second-round pick got only 10 offensive snaps all year.

Beyond that, linebacker Travin Howard also is headed to injured reserve with a hamstring problem, but he could return. Whitworth and starting defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day are expected to play Sunday after missing the game in Houston, McVay said.

Cornerback Darious Williams will return to practice this week, opening the 21-day window for the team to move him from injured reserve to the active roster.

Stafford (back) and Wood (foot) were held out of Wednesday's practice. McVay downplayed the absences and they may have been as much veteran days of rest as injury issues; that said, I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...

And finally. ... After they were unable to find a trade partner, the Rams released DeSean Jackson.

They announced the move on Tuesday afternoon.

General Manager Les Snead told reporters that Los Angeles did not do so before 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. That means Jackson will be subject to waivers because he'll be cut after the trade deadline.

Jackson posted a goodbye message to the Rams on his Instagram.

"I am very grateful for the time that I spent playing for the LA Rams," Jackson said. 'Although this isn't the outcome that we wanted, I am extremely appreciative for the opportunity and support given to me by the Rams Coaches and all of the Fans. I understand that everything happens for a reason and I look forward to beginning the next chapter of my NFL career. Thank you."

Jackson caught eight passes for 221 yards with a touchdown for the Rams in seven games. But he never played more than 22 offensive snaps in a game, with some matchups playing just three or four.

"It was an experiment that we attempted. Didn't work out as well as we wanted it to, as well as DeSean wanted it to, as well as Sean [McVay] wanted it to," Snead said, via Greg Beacham of the Associated Press. "That is why we wanted to move in this direction, come up with a win-win."

Though Jackson is 34, he's still displayed an ability to make plays.

If a team claims Jackson off waivers, they'll be on the hook for the rest of his 2021 salary.

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

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Head coach Brian Flores is generally the first or second person to speak with the media following a game, win or lose.

But according to ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques, roughly an hour after Miami's 26-11 loss Sunday to the Buffalo Bills, Flores still had yet to speak. When he finally stepped to the lectern in a stuffy room inside Highmark Stadium, he explained why it had taken him so long to get there.

"Today, I really just kind of sat there," he said. "It's a tough loss, it's a number of losses in a row, so I just figured we'll let the players go."

He met with team owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier after the game, which he said he always does, but declined to comment on what was discussed.

Sunday marked Miami's seventh consecutive loss after winning its season opener, eclipsing its entire loss total from last season with nine games still to play in 2021. The third-year coach won 10 games in 2020 but was asked about his job security as the Dolphins' poor season continues.

"I'm just worried about the players," Flores said. "I'm worried about getting them better, helping them improve. So no [I'm not worried about job security]."

Flores' comments came as criticism from some former Dolphins players arose Sunday. Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka wrote on Twitter that it was time for a "total rebuild."

"Sad times for #MiamiDolphins fans. Hoping for better days ahead," Csonka wrote. "But it seems obvious it's time to get back to basics and revisit the drawing board. #MIAvsBUF #totalrebuild"

Hall of Fame defensive end Jason Taylor criticized the team's play calling toward the end of Sunday's game.

After Miami lost 3 yards on a screen pass to running back Myles Gaskin with roughly a minute remaining in the game, Taylor questioned the point of the play on the team's radio broadcast.

"If you're going to run a play here in this situation, there's a minute left and obviously you've lost the game. ... That's the play you run?" he said. "If you're just trying to get out of here, turn around and hand the ball off or take a knee, but that's the play you run? You run a play for a 3-yard loss? I just don't understand it.

"There's one of two things to do here -- you either take a knee and go home without getting anybody hurt or you run the football twice and go home, with no timeouts. But to motion your back out of the backfield to an empty set and then throw the ball to your running back to a 3-yard loss, I mean what is that?"

Flores' record with the Dolphins through 40 games is now 16-24.

Still, as Louis-Jacques contends, players don't tank -- and the Dolphins haven't thrown in the towel quite yet.

Holding the Bills' second-ranked scoring offense to just three points at halftime took an inspired effort, especially considering Buffalo's bye week gave it extra time to prepare. Miami held quarterback Josh Allen in check throughout most of Sunday's game and was especially impressive on third down early in the game.

While Miami's offense took a while to get going after missing a field goal and fumbling on its first two trips to the red zone, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led his team to a TD that pulled Miami within six points with 9:39 left, completing a 40-yard pass on fourth-and-6 in the process.

All things considered, the Dolphins redeemed themselves from the 35-0 drubbing Buffalo handed them in Week 2 and have a very winnable matchup against the Texans in Week 9.

Meanwhile, although the Dolphins did due diligence on Deshaun Watson and had conversations with Houston, Miami did not make a trade for the QB. Ross, who had contingencies that needed to be met for any deal, made the final decision to not move forward. Ross received permission to speak with Watson, but only Monday night.

As complicated a deal as this is, that wasn't enough time.

The 2020 NFL passing-yards leader has wanted a trade for nearly a year, and hasn't played this season in large part because he stands accused of sexual assault and harassment by 22 women who have filed lawsuits against him. Watson has not been charged. Watson not settling his legal situation has resulted in him not getting traded, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Watson will stay put in Houston until the offseason.

While they clearly considered acquiring Watson, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that no deal ever was in place and the Dolphins will stick with Tagovailoa, a young QB who has shown improvement this year.

The Dolphins could certainly resume their pursuit of Watson after the season.

Now that the trade deadline has passed, the Dolphins at least know who they'll have on the roster as they get ready to play host to Houston (1-7) on Sunday. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine, the Dolphins have found themselves either tied or leading games for 50.5 percent of the minutes they have played this season, perhaps a surprising number for a team off to a 1-7 start.

But Miami has been outscored by 62 points after halftime this season, the second-worst differential in the NFL behind only Houston.

Special teams have been an issue.

The Dolphins have already seen Jason Sanders miss more field goals this season (four, in 12 tries) than they did all last season (three, in 39 tries). They're also last in the NFL in average kickoff return yardage and 26th in average punt return yardage.

The nonexistent running game is a bigger issue.

According to Wine, this only adds to the Tagovailoa conundrum for the Dolphins, since opposing defenses don't exactly have to worry much about ball-carriers. Miami is one of three teams that hasn't had anyone reach 70 rushing yards in a game this season, along with Atlanta and Detroit.

The Dolphins -- through eight games -- have one carry that went for longer than 20 yards. ...

DeVante Parker returned to action after missing the past three games due to injury, totaling eight receptions for 85 yards (10.6 avg.). Parker's 85 receiving yards give him 4,539 for his career and move him past Duriel Harris (4,534) for sixth in team history.

Mike Gesicki hauled in a 40-yard pass from Tagovailoa on a fourth-and-6 in the fourth quarter. The reception was the second-longest of Gesicki's career and was the longest completion of Tagovailoa's career.

And finally. ... Flores told reporters Wednesday that Will Fuller is week to week and though he isn't going to return this week, the coach expects him back this season. Fuller is on injured reserve with a broken finger suffered in Week 4.

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

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell noted, for all their setbacks over the first six weeks, whether self-inflicted or unlucky, the Minnesota Vikings emerged from their bye in a favorable position.

They were settled to play Dallas in their cacophonous stadium Sunday for their first prime-time game since before the pandemic. Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush was making his first NFL start because star Dak Prescott sidelined by injury. The Vikings had control of the third wild-card spot in a weak group of competitors beyond the NFC's clear top six teams.

The offense cruised into the end zone in seven plays on the opening drive, an early suggestion the Vikings would enjoy a stress-free game for once. The Cowboys were allowed the second-most yards per play in the league entering the week.

Then this well-paid group, with Kirk Cousins protecting the ball better than ever and the star trio of running back Dalvin Cook and wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen at his disposal, mostly stalled on the way to an ugly 20-16 defeat.

"We needed a win," Cousins said. "To not get it done is disappointing."

The Vikings (3-4) converted only one of 13 third downs, a 7.7 percent success rate that ranks as the worst by any NFL team in a game this season, according to Sportradar data.

"They were switching up coverages. They were doing some stuff that wasn't really scouted, I guess you could say, in trying to take away things that we do well, and they had a good game plan for that," Thielen said. "But I still think everyone's got to kind of look at themselves, and say, 'What could I have done to win?'"

The offense has produced several winning halves in the seven games this year, still searching for a complete performance that can put away an opponent instead of leaving the closing stretch in the balance. Against the Cowboys, the Vikings didn't even thrive with the ball for a full half.

Whether due to play-calling, pass rush, tight coverage or overcautious decisions by Cousins, their most obvious limitation was a dearth of deep completions to Jefferson, Thielen or K.J. Osborn. The only third down conversion came on the first drive, a leaping 31-yard catch by tight end Tyler Conklin along the right sideline.

Every other pass attempt on third down was short of the sticks, incomplete or not. Fullback C.J. Ham had more receptions (three) than Jefferson (two), an unforgivable statistic in a game such as this.

"It's not like we don't have those things that we're planning on doing. It's just something where they're not working," head coach Mike Zimmer said.

Adding to the problems, the team's defense has suffered a devastating blow, as Minnesota will be without perhaps its best player going forward. Zimmer announced Monday that defensive end Danielle Hunter tore a pectoral muscle and will miss the remainder of the 2021 season as he is headed for injured reserve.

Hunter, a two-time Pro Bowler, played just 27 snaps in Week 8 against the Cowboys and was injured in the second quarter.

"I don't think you replace him," Zimmer said of Hunter. "He's one-of-a-kind."

A torn pec is what linebacker Anthony Barr suffered in Week 2 of the 2020 season. Barr missed the final 14 games of that season.

The injury is especially crushing for Hunter, who turned 27 years old last week. He missed the entire 2020 season with a neck injury.

The Vikings have to figure out who else they can rely on to take Hunter's turns at defensive end beyond the 33-year-old Everson Griffen. D.J. Wonnum has made little impact this season but will only see his playing time increase now. Kenny Willekes and rookie Patrick Jones II, who sat out against the Cowboys with a knee injury, are the only others currently on the roster.

The Vikings face quarterbacks Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert and Aaron Rodgers in their next three games.

That's the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player, the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the 2011, 2014 and 2020 NFL MVP.

It begs the question: If Minnesota can't beat Rush, how is it going to beat Jackson, Herbert and Rodgers?

Rush can now be added to the list of backup quarterbacks, which includes Matt Moore and Chase Daniel, who have found a way to dismantle the Vikings. As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, Minnesota got outcoached by Dallas on a day it was without Prescott and let the Cowboys' No. 2 quarterback throw for 325 yards and two touchdowns.

Rush took chances not synonymous with backup-level QBs, and the Vikings allowed it to happen.

Next Gen Stats measured Rush's average intended air yards at 9.5 per pass for the third-highest distance in the NFL in Week 8. That figure exceeds the 7.9 averaged by Prescott in the six games he's played this season.

Cousins, meanwhile, averaged 4.2 intended air yards, which ranked 26th out of 27 qualifying passers and was well below his already low average of 6.6 (tied for 32nd out of 34 passers) on the season.

Next Gen Stats also calculates aggressive throw percentages based on distances and coverages.

Rush had an aggressiveness percentage of 20.0, which ranked ninth and his higher than the 17.1 by Prescott over the course of 2021.

Cousins' aggressiveness percentage was calculated at 2.9, which ranked 27th out of 27 qualifying passers in Week 8 and is well below his season average of 13.9 (26th out of 35 qualifying passers).

Rush was 9-for-16 with 224 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on passes thrown 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage (includes 5-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, which was caught at the back of the end zone). He was 15-of-24 passing for 101 yards when throwing fewer than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Cousins was 5-for-7 with 114 yards and a touchdown on passes thrown 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He was 18-of-25 passing for 70 yards when throwing fewer than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Maybe the Vikings can learn from this one.

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

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Sunday's 27-24 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles are the types of games the Patriots had been losing - filled with costly holding penalties, ball-security issues and questionable play calling - but their ability to stay mentally tough and make game-changing plays in the clutch finally helped them overcome it.

Safety Adrian Phillips was the star performer, with two interceptions, the second of which he returned 26 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

On a day that quarterback Mac Jones looked like a rookie - falling off after a hot start before rebounding with a key fourth-quarter, clock-killing drive - the Patriots needed the defense to pick him up and help them overcome some questionable play calling at the 1-yard line (two incomplete passes instead of running against the league's worst rush defense).

That's long been one of the winning ingredients to the Patriots' success -- when one unit lags, another picks it up.

The Patriots are 4-4, and in the words of outside linebacker Matthew Judon, "everything is out in front" of them now.

As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, immediately ahead is a defining three-week stretch -- at the Carolina Panthers (4-4), home against the Cleveland Browns (4-4), and at the Atlanta Falcons (3-4) on a Thursday night -- in which they could be favored in each game.

The margin for error is thin after some disappointing early season slip-ups, but confidence isn't.

"We feel like if we just keep working week in and week out, show up and prepare the right way, and come out and play our style of football, we know we're a good team and we can play with anybody," running back Damien Harris said.

Indeed, the Patriots took two of the NFL's best teams -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) and Dallas Cowboys (6-1) -- down to the wire in recent weeks.

What was missing in those games -- the inability to come through with the few plays in the critical situations to close things out -- finally showed up Sunday.

"We made the plays that we needed to make in the fourth quarter, which is something that we hadn't done as well earlier in the year," acknowledged head coach Bill Belichick.

It was an important step for his club.

The Tennessee Titans (6-2) are currently atop the AFC, followed by the Las Vegas Raiders (5-2) and Baltimore Ravens (5-2) and Buffalo Bills (5-2). The Cincinnati Bengals (5-3), Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) and Chargers (4-3) are next in line.

That's where the playoff line would cut off with a seventh team qualifying this year, but it opens the door for the Patriots (4-4), Browns (4-4), Denver Broncos (4-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (3-4 entering Monday night's game vs. the New York Giants) to be in the postseason conversation.

Another point that Belichick made was how the Patriots' past two wins came against fresh teams coming off their byes.

The Chargers, in particular, opened Sunday's game with a lot of energy, but the Patriots outlasted them. That resolve and mental toughness has helped turn their season around.

"What's happened in the past is behind us, and I think the last two games have showed we've started fresh," Harris said.

"We know what type of team we have. We just have to go out there and prove it," Judon said. ...

Jones completed 18-of-35 passes for 218 yards. Characterizing Jones as a game manager seems like an unkind assessment, but looking at his season on the whole, it also seems most apt.

There will be productive weeks.

The rookie has thrown for a TD in 6-of-8 games and he's thrown multiple touchdowns three times.

Harris carried the ball 23 times for 80 yards and one touchdown. With five touchdown runs over the last four games (in which he's average better than 17 carries per game), Harris has emerged as the most reliable fantasy prospect in this offense.

Jakobi Meyers caught 4-of-9 targets for 37 yards. The slot man continues to dominate the Patriots' target totals but often falls short in overall production. He has at least four catches in each of the last four games, but has failed to hit 60 receiving yards in that span.

He's also yet to catch a touchdown.

Still, the floor is there. ...

Nelson Agholor caught 3-of-6 targets for 60 yards in Los Angeles. The target share was Agholor's best since Week 3, but the workload has been steady enough and the playing time sufficient (he was on the field for 79 percent of the offensive snaps in Los Angeles) to merit a roster spot. That said, Agholor should only be considered starting caliber in deeper leagues or for those dealing with byes and attrition against the Panthers in Week 9.

Kendrick Bourne caught 4-of-7 targets for 38 yards. The seven targets were the second-highest on the day for New England and Bourne's highest number since Week 3. But with just 26 catches (on 35 targets) for 388 yards and two TDs spread over eight games, it's hard to argue Bourne delivers on a consistent enough basis to be fantasy relevant.

Hunter Henry caught 1-of-3 targets for 33 yards, but the tight end's touchdown streak ended at four games as he failed to hit paydirt in this one.

Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson carried the ball eight times for 25 yards. He caught 1-of-2 targets for an additional five yards. Stevenson was active for this game one week after being a healthy scratch with J.J. Taylor getting the No. 2 role behind Harris for the Patriots.

Running backs coach Ivan Fears has said this will be a weekly competition. We're unlikely to know the outcome until the inactive announcement prior to any given game.

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

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Jameis Winston was diagnosed on Monday with torn knee ligaments that will end his season, coach Sean Payton said.

Payton confirmed the extent of the injury following an MRI that showed a torn anterior cruciate ligament and damage to the medial collateral ligament in Winston's left knee.

Winston was injured early in the second quarter of New Orleans' 36-27 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday. On the play, Winston was scrambling when he was pulled down from behind by linebacker Devin White, who was penalized for a horse-collar tackle.

Winston's knee buckled as he went down. He was unable to walk off the field without help and was replaced by Trevor Siemian for the rest of the game.

Payton also stated that he's content to stick with the three remaining healthy QBs on the Saints' roster: Siemian, Taysom Hill and rookie Ian Book.

"We're satisfied with the quarterback room," Payton said.

As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel notes, Winston had been 4-2 in six complete games as a starter and his 16-yard touchdown pass to Tre'Quan Smith on Sunday had tied the game against Tampa Bay at 7. That was also the score when he left the game.

Siemian was the primary backup against the Bucs because Hill was still recovering from a concussion against Washington in Week 5. Payton said Hill's condition was progressing well, but declined to say whether Hill had been cleared to return to practice this week.

Even if Hill is back against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday -- and he was on the practice field to open the week on Wednesday, Payton declined to say how he'd approach deciding whether to give Siemian a chance to pick up where he left off, or install Hill, who went 3-1 as a starter last season while Drew Brees was sidelined with rib and lung injuries.

Of course, as ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, Hill is far from perfect.

That's why he lost out to Winston heading into the season. He is a 31-year-old multi-position player with four career quarterback starts under his belt -- and those four starts came with mixed results last season.

He completed an impressive 71.9 percent of his passes during that stretch. But he struggled once he got past his first and second reads, throwing two interceptions and losing three fumbles.

Hill had a good rapport with Saints receiver Michael Thomas, who will hopefully come back soon from the ankle injury that has sidelined him all season. But he never mastered the check-down pass to running back Alvin Kamara (which is essential for any Saints QB).

That experience should help both Hill and Payton if they try the experiment again.

If they can master a formula in which Hill relies more on his stellar running ability to get him out of trouble once those first and second reads aren't there, he should have even more success.

If Hill isn't healthy enough to start this week, Siemian could get another chance to make an even stronger impression.

And as a bonus, if Siemian is quarterback, the Saints could continue to use Hill in his versatile role as a RB/WR/TE in an offense starved for playmakers.

However, Triplett reminded readers that Payton made it clear this summer he wouldn't use that as a deciding factor between Hill and Winston.

If he thinks Hill would be the more effective quarterback, he'll get the job.

"This is going to be the $6 million question and honestly we going to look closely at what's best for our team in this game" against Atlanta, Payton said. "As the week progresses we'll see how we want it to play it out."

Winston came to the Saints as a reserve to learn from Payton and Brees in 2020, after the Buccaneers allowed him to go into free agency so they could replace him with Tom Brady.

While the Bucs drafted Winston first overall in 2015, he was a mercurial performer early in his career, often canceling out highly productive stints with costly mistakes.

In 2019, he led the NFL with 5,109 yards and 33 TDs passing, but also led the league in interceptions with 30 -- and the Bucs missed the playoffs.

In New Orleans, Winston had focused on improving his coverage reads and decision-making, and his 14 touchdown passes against just three interceptions this season -- not to mention his winning record as a starter -- indicated he was making progress on that front.

"We definitely were encouraged. We felt like, man, we'd seen the arm strength, the leadership, all of those things," Payton said. "He was someone that had become a vital part to what we were doing."

Now his NFL future is less certain again. He was under just a one-year contract with New Orleans, turns 28 on Jan. 6, and is slated to end the league year as a free agent in the midst of rehabilitating from reconstructive knee surgery. ...

Stay tuned. I'll obviously be following up on the quarterback situation via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

But it gets worse for the Saints.

Thomas announced Wednesday that he will miss the entire 2021 season after "another small set back which we will have to address" in his recovery from ankle surgery.

Payton confirmed Wednesday that Thomas suffered a recent setback, saying the wide receiver had been "working his tail off" before recent scans showed that he might have to have another procedure done.

Thomas underwent ligament surgery in June to repair his left ankle -- an injury that he initially suffered in Week 1 of the 2020 season and battled throughout that entire year. He was initially expected to return in October, but as NFL Network first reported, developed a separate ankle injury that recently led to him meeting with a specialist.

"I've always been a man of faith and these past few months my faith has truly been tested," Thomas tweeted.

Thomas continued: "Since [the June ankle surgery], the team and I have worked diligently, day and night to rehab and get me back on the field. Unfortunately there has been another small set back which we will have to address. To my displeasure, I will not be able to make it back in time for this season but will do everything in my power to get back to the player I have always been.

"I know God doesn't make mistakes so I will continue to follow in his path, and can't wait to be back on the field in front of the best fans on the planet."

Thomas, 28, was the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, when he set a league record with 149 catches. But he was limited to nine games last year, including the playoffs, and now zero games this season.

ESPN's Kimberley Martin reported Tuesday that there were discussions between the Saints and Cleveland Browns about a possible deal for Odell Beckham Jr. before the trade deadline passed but that the sides couldn't reach an agreement, given how much Beckham is owed the rest of the year.

Triplett reminded his readers the timing of Thomas' surgery in June initially led to some tension between him and the team. Payton made it clear at the start of training camp that he was disappointed the surgery didn't happen sooner. Then after multiple reports in August suggesting that Thomas was to blame for the delay, Thomas tweeted: "They tried to damage your reputation. You saved theirs by not telling your side of the story."

At the time, Thomas also liked multiple posts that suggested the Saints urged him to play through his injury without surgery last season and were blaming him for not being healthy.

However, that tension appeared to be defused after a productive phone call between Payton and Thomas, and Thomas has been with the team throughout most of his recovery. He was on the sideline for Sunday's victory over the Buccaneers. ...

One last note here. ... Former Chargers and Colts quarterback Philip Rivers retired after the end of the 2020 season and took over as a high school football coach in his native Alabama this fall, but told Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times that he would listen if the Saints gave him a call. Rivers said he has not heard anything from the team at this point.

Rivers started every game his teams played between the 2006 and 2020 seasons and closed out that by throwing for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions while completing 68 percent of his passes for the Colts last season.

In addition to Winston's injury, reserve defensive tackle Montravius Adams and defensive end Carl Granderson received attention in the injury tent.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, Ian Book, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Marquez Callaway, Tre'quan Smith, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery, Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris
TEs: Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson, Garrett Griffin

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan framed it, "There wasn't any one play that doomed the New York Giants against Kansas City on Monday night.

"There were about a dozen little ones. ..."

Canavan went on to cite the interception by Daniel Jones when he was caught staring down his target; two personal foul penalties by linebacker Tae Crowder in the fourth quarter; the wobbly punt from Riley Dixon that set up the Chiefs for the go-ahead field goal with just over a minute left; and the breakdowns that kept New York from mounting its own comeback.

The result was a 20-17 loss that left the Giants ruing a major upset they let slip away.

"It was mistakes we made, bad decisions -- the turnover was a big deal. Third-down executing and keeping drives going, and just being more consistent with execution," Jones said. "I think we did some good things here there but ultimately it wasn't enough and wasn't consistent enough."

Canavan pointed out the mistakes began with the Giants' first offensive play, when Jones threw an interception inside his own 20-yard line that allowed the Chiefs to capitalize for an early touchdown.

And they didn't really end the rest of the first half.

The biggest mistakes, though, came in the fourth quarter.

After the Giants had taken a 17-14 lead on a touchdown pass to Evan Engram, the Chiefs marched across midfield in search of an answer. That's when Crowder was hit with the first of his personal foul penalties, a 15-yard foul that helped to set up Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker for the 36-yard field goal that tied the game.

"We just can't have penalties like that, point blank, or any penalties. That comes down to how we execution on the field and coaching it better," head coach Joe Judge said. "There are situations that came up during the game that we have to eliminate if we're going to have any success."

The Giants' ensuing drive was low-lighted by a personal foul on fullback Elijhaa Penny for taunting, followed by an ugly third-and-7 pass that fell incomplete and forced New York to kick the ball back to the Chiefs.

The final tally for the woebegone Giants: 10 penalties for 88 yards along with an interception and three sacks.

That's hardly the kind of night that will beat the two-time defending AFC champions.

"It's tough whenever you lose. You don't go to practice to lose," said wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who left with a thumb injury in the fourth quarter. "But at the end of the day, we have to go back and correct our mistakes. It's simple."

Which brings up another point.

As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan reported, the Giants not only suffered a heart-breaking loss, they also lost a few more playmakers.

No wonder they didn't have a winning drive in them.

Already without wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee) and running back Saquon Barkley (ankle), the Giants lost two more pass catchers as Sterling Shepard left in the second quarter with a quadriceps injury and Dante Pettis was hurt earlier in the half trying to recover his own muffed punt.

Shepard has missed three games with hamstring injuries already this season and Judge was left to hope that this injury won't lead to further absences.

"I don't have a final diagnosis on it right now," Judge said in his postgame press conference. "It looked like he got twisted around by the defender on that penalty. I only saw a brief replay of it out of the corner of my eye so I'm running on second-hand information. I don't have a final diagnosis on where he's at.

"Obviously, he wasn't able to come back into the game so we'll see where he's at. Hopefully it's not too bad."

Raanan offered a more sobering outlook, advising his readers that Shepard is expected to miss "some time." Sounds like that will including this week with a chance to return following the Week 10 bye3.

Beyond that, Raanan contends Toney was clearly compromised by his ankle before leaving and then returning after a thumb injury. It's as if nobody can stay on the field, and making life way more difficult for Jones.

"It's frustrating," said Jones, who at times had Darius Slayton, Collin Johnson and John Ross as his only healthy wide receivers. "And those guys don't want to miss time. They're working as hard as they possibly can to get back. So we got to trust it and stay at it. It's our job to prepare and play with the guys who are up."

The games missed are piling up: Barkley, Golladay and Shepard have all missed three games. Toney has missed two.

This doesn't account for all five playmakers leaving a game in the first half because of their respective injuries.

It makes Jones' play all that much more impressive.

After the dismal start, Jones settled down and finished 22-of-32 passing for 222 yards with two touchdown passes and the interception. He protected the football and made enough plays for the Giants to move the ball consistently.

Still, Jones set the record for loses in prime-time games to start a career. He is now 0-7.

Next up, the Giants will try to figure out how and when they can get some of the above-mentioned playmakers back on the field. The health of Barkley, Golladay, Shepard and Toney will be monitored.

Barkley, in fact, will be have to monitored on two levels.

According to multiple reports, the star running back has tested positive for COVID-19.

Judge said on Wednesday morning that 13 people in the organization tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and that only one of those people -- running backs coach Burton Burns -- tested positive a second time. Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reports Barkley was not part of that initial group.

Barkley is being retested, but was not at practice with the team. Reports say he is vaccinated, so he can be cleared with two negative tests taken 24 hours apart.

Those initial results led to another testing for players, coaches, and other personnel on Wednesday. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that other players are also being retested.

I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days as the Giants begin preparing to host the Raiders this weekend. ...

One last item here. ... According to Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith, Judge says his team had to use timeouts it didn't want to use against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football because the headsets weren't working and they couldn't get their plays called.

In fact, Judge says the Giants' headsets never work.

"It's happened in every game so far," Judge said, via Newsday. "We deal with the league and they keep telling us there are different software updates, but we had to call two timeouts today because we're trying to send the deals in personnel-wise and we have half the headsets aren't getting any reception. ... Whatever the issue with that is, the people involved with that had better get it fixed fast."

Judge said he doesn't know if league or Giants employees are in charge of getting the headsets to work but that it "better be fixed fast."

The NFL has weighed in, saying they are looking into the matter, but confident that "nothing is attributable to the Bose headset."

League also says "We were not made aware of any issues during the game from the club through our standard communication channels."

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

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. understated: "Not even the most optimistic New York Jets fans could have predicted Mike White having the game of a lifetime -- in his first NFL start."

Seriously.

White threw for 405 yards and three touchdowns and caught a 2-point conversion pass in a 34-31 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday in place of an injured Zach Wilson.

"That was a moment to remember -- for him, for the fans, for our football team," linebacker C.J. Mosley said Monday.

White had the fans chanting his name at MetLife Stadium, and he said he had more than 300 texts, including several from Wilson -- who was so excited he was texting during the game and was the first to greet him in the tunnel after the win.

"He honestly might've been more juiced up than me," said White, who joined Carolina's Cam Newton (2011) as the only players since at least 1950 to throw for 400 yards in their first NFL starts.

White was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week, as released Wednesday morning.

If White can continue to play at a high level, Wilson might continue to sit a bit longer than everyone expected.

"The focus is on this moment," head coach Robert Saleh said. "Zach getting healthy is always at the forefront of our mind, but it's a hypothetical -- just take the days as they come."

It's only one game, of course, and Wilson remains the future as the No. 2 overall pick in April.

But White could be the quarterback of the present, at the very least. And there's a simple reason for that: Execution.

According to Waszak, the knock on Wilson, who's out a least another week with a sprained knee ligament, is that he isn't consistently making the so-called "easy" plays -- the short throws that keep the chains moving. First-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has taken a lot of criticism for some suspect play calling, but Wilson also didn't do a good enough job of taking what the defenses were giving him and getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

And that's where White excelled Sunday.

His 37 pass completions were the most by an NFL quarterback in his first start. Incredibly, none went for more than 26 yards. White, who had two interceptions on tipped passes, said the Bengals were playing a lot more zone defense, and the Jets took advantage.

"We did a great job of not pressing," he said, "and letting the plays come to us."

It provided a blueprint for success. After all, the Jets even scored in the first quarter -- the first time this season -- and on their opening drive, no less.

Short and sweet. Efficient and effective. And completely stunning.

So does White's strong showing change the Jets' big-picture outlook?

Yes, what White did was stunning and fun, but to suddenly wonder if he's the quarterback of the future is premature. As Waszak noted, it was just one game, and many casual fans hadn't even heard of him until this time last week. White will get a chance to eventually force the conversation if he continues to play well, starting Thursday night at Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, in an unusual midseason move, the Jets have added former NFL quarterback John Beck -- Wilson's personal coach -- to the coaching staff for the remainder of the season, sources told ESPN.com's Rich Cimini.

Beck, wearing a headset and Jets coaching garb, was spotted on the sideline during Sunday's victory. Although his exact role is unclear -- the Jets haven't commented -- Beck will be on the sideline for every game.

The move is significant because Wilson, the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, has been struggling.

Perhaps Saleh is hoping the reunion will settle Wilson once he returns from a knee injury.

Injured nine days ago, Wilson is expected to practice next week, but his status for the Nov. 14 game against the Buffalo Bills is less certain.

Beck, 40, has no NFL coaching experience, but he's highly regarded within industry circles. He provides instruction for several NFL quarterbacks out of the 3DQB facility in Huntington Beach, California. He has worked with Wilson for several years and was instrumental during the pre-draft process.

Again, LaFleur, a first-time coordinator, has come under fire because of Wilson's struggles and the slow start for the offense. Before Sunday, the Jets were last in most of the major statistical categories.

Against the Bengals, they tweaked the operation, sending LaFleur to the coaches' booth to call plays. Senior offensive assistant Matt Cavanaugh, hired in August to replace the late Greg Knapp, had a bigger in-game role from the sideline. In the first six games, LaFleur called plays from the sideline because it was Wilson's preference.

The Jets also have a first-time quarterbacks coach on staff, Rob Calabrese. It's unclear how he fits into the equation now that Beck is on staff.

We'll be watching for more on that even as we watch White make his second-straight start on Thursday. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Rookie running back Michael Carter played a crucial and somewhat overshadowed role in keeping the offense moving. The fourth-round pick out of North Carolina caught nine passes for 95 yards out of the backfield and ran for 77 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. His 172 yards from scrimmage were the third-most by a Jets rookie since the merger.

Rookie kicker Matt Ammendola made two 24-yard field goals, but was wide left on a 54-yard attempt after missing a 48-yarder at New England last week. The Jets will need the big-legged Ammendola to show some consistency, especially on long kicks.

On the injury front. ... Saleh wouldn't rule out left tackle George Fant, who injured an ankle Sunday, or receiver Corey Davis, who missed the game with a hip injury, for Thursday night.

Davis hurt his hip in a practice last week and was on the inactive list after being listed as doubtful to play on Friday. The team listed him as a non-participant in practice on their estimated injury report for Monday.

Davis told reporters on Tuesday that his hip was feeling good, but it apparently wasn't feeling good enough that they thought he would have practiced with the team.

The Jets estimated practice participation levels for the second straight day and Davis was listed as out of practice for the second straight day.

Davis said "we'll see" when asked about playing against the Colts on Thursday and the Jets will issue injury designations on Wednesday.

Davis has 24 catches for 349 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.

In addition to Davis and Fant, Wilson is out for this week and the Jets also listed running back Tevin Coleman (hamstring) and defensive lineman Bryce Huff (back) as out again on Tuesday.

Tight end Trevon Wesco (knee) went from being listed as out to being listed as a limited participant. He's the only Jets player in that category.

I'll have more on Davis via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...

And finally. ... The Chiefs and Jets have swapped a pair of players who didn't have much of a future with their teams.

Offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is going to the Jets, while tight end Dan Brown is going to the Chiefs.

A medical doctor, Duvernay-Tardif missed the entire 2020 season so he could do health care work in the COVID-19 pandemic. He returned to the Chiefs this year but has not played in a game.

Brown is mostly a special teams player who has been on the field for just 13 offensive snaps this season.

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

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As ESPN.com's Tim McManus wrote, "The Eagles ran the ball! And whaddya know, it worked. ..."

Quarterback Jalen Hurts had been shouldering too much of the offensive load for the bulk of the season, but he had an easier day at the office Sunday as Eagles backs rushed 39 times for 165 yards in a blowout win over the Lions.

Jordan Howard and Boston Scott combined for four rushing touchdowns, which is one more than all Eagles running backs had combined coming into the game.

Head coach Nick Sirianni called so many run plays on Sunday, even injured starting running back Miles Sanders expressed his enthusiasm from afar.

"Actually, he texted me: 'Hell yea, coach,' with all caps," Sirianni said Monday, a day after the Eagles routed the winless Detroit Lions 44-6.

"Miles was obviously super excited for his teammates. He's a great person, a great teammate, great player. Sure glad we have him on the team. Obviously, we're missing him right now and looking forward to when he gets back."

As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi suggested, Sanders can only hope Sirianni sticks to the ground attack after ignoring it most of the season. The formula worked perfectly against the Lions as the Eagles amassed 236 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Scott had 60 yards and two scores and Howard added 57 yards and two scores.

Hurts ran for 71 yards and only threw 14 passes.

"We had some good success early on running the football, being able to continue with what was working, but obviously we want to be able to be balanced in our attack and with running the football and setting up some play-actions from that," Sirianni said. "So, the game allowed for that in the situation that happened yesterday. Then again, we see that we can run the ball pretty well, and so we want to repeat the things that we do well, also.

"That doesn't always mean it's the style of runs we ran yesterday, right? Each style of runs is going to depend on what the defense is doing and what their defensive ends and defensive lineman and their front seven guys. But there is no doubt that we want to be able to run it because that will only help our play-action game and help Jalen moving forward."

The Eagles (3-5) dominated the Lions (0-8) from start to finish in all phases. The victory followed consecutive losses that put pressure on Philadelphia's rookie coach -- some people were calling for Sirianni to be fired after he used a flower analogy last week in a message to his players.

They responded.

After a 38-point victory, the Eagles don't have to do anything much better. But it'll take a consistent, strong effort to beat other opponents. The Lions are winless for a reason.

The Eagles host the Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) on Sunday. Los Angeles lost two in a row, sandwiched on either side of a bye week.

Other notes of interest. ... Howard, who was on the practice squad the first seven weeks, took advantage of his first opportunity this season. The veteran back should get more opportunities.

On the injury front. ... Sanders (ankle, foot) was placed on injured reserve Saturday so he'll miss two more games. Wide receiver Jalen Reagor (ankle) and right guard Jack Driscoll (hand) left Sunday's game in the first quarter. Sirianni said he's hopeful they can play this week.

Reagor (ankle) was not practicing Wednesday; I'll have more on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell
WRs: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, Mike Tomlin approached the throng of Steelers supporters standing outside the tunnel to the visiting locker room on Sunday, sunglasses unable to hide his gleeful intensity.

"What's up? What's up!" the longtime Steelers coach said over and over again while handing out emphatic hand slaps to players and assistants after a 15-10 victory over Cleveland that pushed his team's record to 4-3.

The win also moved Tomlin's career regular-season victory total to 149, the same number his predecessor -- recently minted Hall of Famer Bill Cowher -- racked up over the same number of seasons (15) in Pittsburgh.

Their resumes are strikingly similar. Both Cowher and Tomlin have been to two Super Bowls. Both have won one. Cowher's teams reached the playoffs 10 times. Tomlin is at nine and counting, with Pittsburgh -- despite an offense that remains very much a work in progress -- in the mix for a 10th at the season's midway point. Tomlin's next losing season with the Steelers will be his first.

This is why the speculation bafflingly trafficked as "news" during the team's bye week that Tomlin's name was on the radar for open jobs at places such LSU and USC was "a joke" to him. It's why his "never say never, but never" response when asked about the possibility of leaving a franchise that changes coaches once a generation -- if that -- went viral.

Tomlin signed a contract extension in April that runs through 2024, a tacit agreement from the front office that the 49-year-old has earned the right to see what he can do after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retires -- whenever that may be. Tomlin wasn't kidding when he said he has one of the best jobs in professional sport. One of the most stable too.

While outside sentiment on his coaching acumen can swing from week to week and season to season -- a quick scan of social media on Sunday nights and Monday mornings in the fall consistently reveals that there's a segment that still thinks he's not up to the gig regardless of the result -- make no mistake: Tomlin remains very much in control of his locker room and his team.

Having a quarterback destined for the Hall of Fame helps. So does having a dose of humility. Tomlin's decision to call for a fake field goal late in the first half of a tie game on Sunday turned disastrous.

The Browns weren't fooled when kicker Chris Boswell started running to his right with the ball in his hands. Boswell's fluttering pass to nowhere fell incomplete and Boswell was lost for the afternoon after getting drilled by Cleveland's Jordan Elliott, a hit that landed Boswell in the concussion protocol.

"I shouldn't have called it unless we were ready to run it with detailed execution and it's obvious that we weren't," Tomlin said. "That's on me."

Ultimately, it didn't matter.

As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor noted, even without a place-kicker in the second half, the Steelers proved resilient in their first meeting with the Browns this season.

Neither side of the ball earned any style points, but the offense did just enough to grind out a win thanks to Najee Harris' (24 carries, 88 yards, 1 TD) continued development and Pat Freiermuth's emergence (4 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD).

Defensively, the Steelers mostly neutralized the league's best run game and held the Browns to fewer than 100 yards rushing. The defensive stand late in the fourth quarter that forced the Browns to turn the ball over on downs at the Pittsburgh 26 coupled with Joe Schobert's recovery of Baker Mayfield's fumble kept Cleveland at bay.

And a season that looked on the version of being lost at 1-3 has the Steelers and their equal parts fiery and stoic coach in the mix heading into November, just as always.

Maybe it'll work out this season. Maybe it won't. Tomlin isn't getting ahead of himself, a painful lesson he's learned through the years. Yet he remains as hyper-focused on the task in Pittsburgh now as he was the day in January 2007 when he replaced Cowher as a relatively unknown 34-year-old.

"It is days like (Sunday) that give you an indication of what you could be," he said. "We'll continue to write that story positively or negatively, but today was a good day."

Meanwhile, the Steelers will try to carry the momentum into a two-game homestand against Chicago and Detroit. Considering the minefield that awaits over the season's final two months, going 2-0 is a must if the Steelers want to have any shot at the playoffs. ...

One issue: The downfield passing game remains almost non-existent. Roethlisberger's numbers were relatively pedestrian until Diontae Johnson's 50-yard catch-and-run in the final two minutes allowed the Steelers to bleed the clock. ...

Other notes of interest. ... As Graves noted, the Steelers raised eyebrows when they used a second-round pick on Freiermuth in April, considered a reach at the time because of the needs along the offensive line. The selection looks like a steal with each passing week, look at Freiermuth's juggling touchdown grab in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter as proof.

With Eric Ebron sidelined by a hamstring injury, third-year tight end Zach Gentry caught three passes for 39 yards to match his season total coming in.

On the injury front. ... Tomlin said Boswell is in concussion protocol, but his injury is "nothing that alarms us." Nonetheless, Steelers have added kicker Josh Lambo to the practice squad just in case. But Boswell is one of the league's most accurate kickers and the notoriously difficult conditions at Heinz Field will be difficult for Lambo if Boswell doesn't exit the concussion protocol this week. ...

The Steelers traded linebacker Melvin Ingram III to the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday. The Steelers will get a sixth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft from the Chiefs in return for Ingram.

The Steelers signed Ingram as an unrestricted free agent in July, and he played in six games, starting one. He recorded 10 tackles, two for a loss, and one sack.

Ingram spent his first nine seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers after being selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the 18th player overall.

The Chiefs and Steelers engaged in trade talks over the past couple of weeks, but initially the Steelers opted to hold on to their pass-rusher in hopes they could find a suitor that wasn't in the AFC. But the market never materialized, and Pittsburgh granted Ingram's trade request by sending him to Kansas City.

"What the team needs is first and foremost," Tomlin said. "Also, it's better to have volunteers as opposed to hostages, so that's good for the team as well."

With Ingram gone, the Steelers' outside linebacker depth is thin. Derrek Tuszka, initially selected by the Denver Broncos in the seventh round of the 2020 draft, is the only other outside linebacker on the active roster behind starters T.J. Watt and Highsmith. Pittsburgh elevated practice squad pass-rusher Taco Charlton to the active roster for the game in Cleveland, an option that could add to the depth at the position going forward.

"We're excited about the growth and development of Taco," Tomlin said. "We're going to continue to give him opportunities along with Derrek to fortify depth at the outside linebacker position. Obviously, we're extremely comfortable with the growth and development of Alex Highsmith."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud, James Washington, Cody White, JuJu Smith-Schuster
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Eric Ebron

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow reported, Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers quieted all the talk about struggling offense and quarterback changes for at least another week.

Now the question going forward is was that an aberration or what the Niners can count on the rest of the season.

Garoppolo led the 49ers to one of their most complete offensive performances of the year, throwing for 322 yards, running for two touchdowns and leading seven straight scoring drives in a 33-22 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

The victory snapped a four-game skid for San Francisco (3-4) that raised questions about when the team should make the switch from Garoppolo to rookie Trey Lance.

"I think our team just needed a win," Garoppolo said. "Losing four in a row like that, you've got to do something about it. I think our guys did. We came ready today. There was a good mindset on the sideline. Guys were talking. You could feel each other. When we're playing like that, that's when we get dangerous."

The Niners had almost everything clicking offensively Sunday after missing a field goal on the opening drive.

Sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season with 137 on 18 carries, Deebo Samuel provided big plays in the passing game and the Niners had eight plays gain at least 20 yards for their most in a game since 2019.

"Kyle (Shanahan) was on fire today with the play-calling," Garoppolo said. "Just perfect storm type of thing."

Now, as they enter a critical two-game stretch against top NFC West Division foes, the 49ers are set to welcome back some key reinforcements.

According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, as the 49ers, in search of their first division win after losses to the Cardinals and Seahawks, begin preparation for Sunday's game against Arizona, San Francisco will have tight end George Kittle, kicker Robbie Gould and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. back on the practice field.

According to Shanahan, the Niners will open the practice window for Kittle (calf), Gould (groin) and Wilson (knee), all of whom have been on injured reserve, on Wednesday.

Once that window is open, the team has three weeks to activate the player to the 53-man roster.

While opening the practice window for Kittle, Gould and Wilson is a step in the right direction, it's no guarantee that they will be ready to play against the Cardinals. Kittle and Gould should have a chance to return this week, though Wilson might take some more time because he has been out since May with a torn meniscus.

"It will be his first time playing football in a long time, so I don't know if he'll be ready to go this week, but at least we know he'll be coming back soon, too," Shanahan said.

The 49ers are also close to getting linebacker Dre Greenlaw back from a core muscle injury he suffered in a Week 1 win against the Detroit Lions. Shanahan said the team is hopeful Greenlaw's practice window will also be opened Wednesday, but is "still not sure."

Two other Niners who could return this week are defensive end Dee Ford and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, both of whom missed Sunday's win against the Chicago Bears with concussions. They were close enough to playing in that game that they traveled with the team to Chicago, and Shanahan is optimistic they'll be cleared in time for Wednesday's practice.

In less promising injury news, Mitchell is dealing with a rib injury. And free safety Jimmie Ward's status is even more tenuous as he recovers from what Shanahan called a Grade 1 quadriceps strain.

"[It will be] one to two weeks," Shanahan said of Ward's injury. "Outside chance of this week but not real optimistic about it."

Left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) and Samuel (calf) made it through the win against the Bears OK, but the Niners will continue to monitor them this week, Shanahan said.

Stay tuned. I'll obviously be following up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but it's worth noting now that Samuel and Mitchell were held out Wednesday. ...

Meanwhile, Samuel had his third game with at least 150 yards receiving this season, with six catches for 171 yards. His 83-yard catch and run on a third-and-19 screen changed the game and he also had a 50-yarder to set up a field goal late in the first half.

Samuel's 819 yards receiving are the most ever for a 49ers receiver through seven games, breaking Jerry Rice's record of 781 in 1986. He also has the eighth-most of any player in the Super Bowl era, and 46 percent of team's receiving yards, the highest rate by any player through seven games since Roddy White in 2008 (47.1 percent).

Samuel was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

As for Gould's possible return. ... Fill-in kicker Joey Slye missed an extra point for the second straight week, as well as a 48-yard field goal try and the Niners released him on Tuesday -- a pretty good indication that Gould is indeed ready to return from that groin injury he suffered in pregame warmups on Oct. 3. ...

And finally. ... The Texans' gradual sell-off saw another player packing his bags Tuesday.

Edge rusher Charles Omenihu is headed to San Francisco in exchange for a future late-round pick, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

The former fifth-round pick out of Texas has flashed at times, recording seven sacks in his first two professional seasons. He's gone without a sack in six games in 2021, but has recorded 11 quarterback pressures for a rate slightly over 10 percent. Pro Football Focus has given Omenihu a 67.5 overall defensive grade, but an 80.3 pass-rushing mark.

The 49ers are buying low on a player they believe might be able to develop within their system. If anything, they're adding competitive depth to a defensive front that has also welcomed players like Samson Ebukam and Arden Key to their depth chart.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Trenton Cannon, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Jauan Jennings, Mohamed Sanu
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Tanner Hudson, Charlie Woerner

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Russell Wilson had the pin removed from his surgically repaired right middle finger, a key step in his return from the most significant injury of his career.

But the question remains of whether Wilson will be ready to play against the Packers at Lambeau Field on Nov. 14 after the Seahawks (3-5) return from this week's bye.

Wilson posted a picture Monday afternoon of his removed pin with the caption, "No more Pin. Time to Win." That was about an hour after coach Pete Carroll told reporters that he still didn't know when it would be removed.

"I don't know when it's coming out and I don't have any updates for you," Carroll said. "Really, we're just kind of hoping for the best in terms of his return and that everything is handled really well as we get him in the mode where he starts to use his hand and his finger with the football and all that. So we've just got to do a good job and see what happens. There's no updates as of now."

The removal of the pin is far from the final step in Wilson's return, according to Carroll.

He said the team has been told that Wilson's finger will then need to heal for "a couple of days" before he can resume throwing.

"It's how he works after that's out and he's ready to start developing," Carroll said. "It's more that. There's a pretty clear-cut timeframe they think for the couple days after that is removed and then it's just how he can progress. Of course, the docs are going to take a look at it and see what it looks like now once he gets it out. That will be the first time he'll be able to bend his finger, so we've got to see how that works out."

As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson reminded readers, Wilson had surgery on Oct. 8, a day after he banged his hand against Aaron Donald on a follow-through in the third quarter of the Seahawks' loss to the Los Angeles Rams. According to Dr. Steven Shin, who operated on Wilson, the surgery was to repair a tendon rupture (mallet finger) and a fracture-dislocation.

That landed Wilson on injured reserve, snapping his streak of 149 consecutive starts to begin his career.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Adam Schefter initially reported that Wilson could return in as soon as four weeks post-surgery. The Seahawks play the Packers on Nov. 14. Wilson will be eligible to come off IR this week, and that Green Bay game will be on the early end of the 4-8 week timetable.

On Sunday morning, Wilson posted pictures showing the stitches removed from his finger and the end of the pin sticking out of it.

Later that day, Geno Smith made his third start for Wilson and led the Seahawks to a 31-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars to snap a three-game losing streak. Smith accounted for three touchdowns and no turnovers in his best performance since Wilson went down.

Smith completed his first 14 pass attempts before finishing 20 of 24 for 195 yards and two touchdowns passes.

DK Metcalf had two touchdowns, while Tyler Lockett led the way with 12 receptions for 142 yards.

Meanwhile, Carroll had a more encouraging update on Chris Carson than the one he shared last Friday, when he suggested it wasn't certain that the running back would return this season from his neck injury. Carson is planning on practicing next week with an eye toward returning at Green Bay, though Carroll isn't sure that he'll be able to play in that game.

Carson has missed the past four games and has spent three on IR, meaning he's also eligible to return. He'll be examined by doctors on Monday to determine if he's ready to resume practicing.

"So then we'll find out where he stands once we get to practice," Carroll said. "He's real determined to get that done, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed for him that he can get a chance to get back on the field and start working with us. That's about as optimistic as we can be until we know more."

Alex Collins has started all four of the games Carson has missed, rushing 61 times for 227 yards and a touchdown in that span.

As Carroll said, the Seahawks run game hasn't "found it" yet. Seattle managed just 69 yards rushing against Jacksonville.

Collins had 44 yards on 10 carries, but was playing with a nagging groin injury that should get better with rest. Rashaad Penny got seven carries but managed only 7 yards as he continues to struggle finding a role after missing time earlier in the season with a calf injury.

"I like what we're doing in the run game scheme wise, but we have to find the consistency," Carroll said. "Where it really shows up to me is at the end of the game. We did we didn't run the ball well in the fourth quarter. And that's when you want to really want to hammer the football."

But overall, the Seahawks played their most complete game in recent memory Sunday.

And for one afternoon at least -- with Smith playing his best football since taking over for Wilson and the defense pitching a shutout until the final two minutes -- they looked like the dominant Seahawks of old, as opposed to the one whose season has been hanging by a thread.

Yes, it was against a one-win team. And the hole they dug themselves by starting 2-5 may still prove to be too deep to climb out of, but they'll give themselves a chance if they play like they did Sunday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Adrian Peterson, Chris Carson, Alex Collins
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, D'Wayne Eskridge
TEs: Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

Tampa Bay's bye week comes at a good time for the Buccaneers, who can use the rest to try to get healthier -- especially on defense, where the reigning Super Bowl champions have not played up to expectations.

"I feel like the most important thing for us is to get healthy," linebacker Devin White said after Sunday's 36-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints -- a setback that dropped the Bucs to 6-2.

As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall notes, although the defense was unable to take advantage of the Saints losing Jameis Winston with a season-ending knee injury or hold a late lead after Tom Brady erased a 16-point deficit, White insisted there's no reason for alarm.

Tampa Bay still leads the NFC South by a half game and is off to one of the best starts in franchise history. And unlike a year ago, when the Bucs lost three of four leading into their bye week, no one's questioning whether they're headed in the right direction.

"We just need to get healthy and play complimentary football to be the best we can be," White said.

Linebacker Lavonte David returned against the Saints after missing two games with an ankle injury, but cornerbacks Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Richard Sherman remain sidelined.

In fact, Tampa Bay announced on Tuesday that receiver Scotty Miller and Murphy-Bunting have been designated to return from injured reserve. That means the team now has a 21-day window to activate the players to the 53-man roster.

Miller has been out since suffering a toe injury in the Week 3 loss to the Rams. He caught just two passes for 11 yards in that contest, but he could see an increase in playing time since Antonio Brown is missing time with an ankle injury. The speedy Miller caught 33 passes for 501 yards and three touchdowns in 2020.

Beyond that, linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul continues to play through injury, and a couple key cogs on offense -- Brown and Rob Gronkowski -- are banged up, too.

After Sunday's loss, head coach Bruce Arians said that Gronkowski "probably" should not have played. Arians took it a step farther on Monday night.

Appearing on WFLA-TV, Arians was asked point-blank if Gronk should have played.

"No," Arians said, via JoeBucsFan.com. "We only planned on playing him in the red zone. And when he didn't make that catch that he makes nine of out of 10 times, it told me something. And then he went back out there and tried to block on a running play and his back spasmed up. So hopefully, you know, he's got 10 days to recoup and get it loosened up."

Gronk was targeted only once on Sunday.

Arians hopes the bye week will help the team get healthier. But the Bucs will also look to eliminate costly penalties and other mental mistakes that have undermined the team.

"Players have to take the responsibility to play smarter," Arians said Monday.

White was flagged three times for personal fouls against the Saints, including a horse-collar tackle that ended Winston's season and a roughing-passer call for a hit on backup quarterback Trevor Siemian.

Just as disconcerting for the defending champs was an inability to hold off the Saints after regaining the lead in the fourth quarter. Brady's third turnover -- an interception that was returned for a touchdown with the Bucs only needing a field goal to regain the lead -- sealed the outcome.

But White said the injury-decimated defense should have been able to close out the Saints, regardless of who was on the field.

"We have new people out there, but new people means new opportunities for people. We all have to play with each other and just be in sync," White said.

"We had the chance to show up, but as a unit, we didn't," the linebacker added. "We let it slip away."

Worth noting: Last year, the Bucs didn't lose a game after losing to the Chiefs entering a Week 12 bye. Following this bye, the Bucs will resume the season at Washington on Nov. 7. ...

A few additional notes. ... With Brady leading the league in passing and on pace to throw for more than 50 TDs, the Bucs offense is more than capable of keeping the defending champs in games on days when the defense doesn't play well.

Despite injuries, there's no shortage of playmakers at Brady's disposal. With Gronkowski and Brown sidelined Sunday, Chris Godwin stepped up with eight receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.

"Chris is an incredible player. ... He played a great game," Brady said. "All the receivers did."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mike Evans, Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden, Scott Miller, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported it, the Titans' thrilling 34-31 overtime win over the Colts came at a heavy cost.

Derrick Henry suffered a broken bone in his foot that will sideline him indefinitely.

Henry underwent foot surgery Tuesday morning as planned.

Dianna Russini of ESPN reports that surgery "went well," and Henry now is recovering.

Henry injured his foot in Sunday's victory over the Colts, but he still played through the end of the game.

Head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday there is a chance Henry can return this season, but it is roughly an eight-week recovery.

Henry led the league in rushing each of the past two seasons, gaining 2,027 yards with 17 touchdowns last year. He currently leads the league with 219 carries, 937 yards rushing and 10 rushing touchdowns, which had him on pace for 465 touches, 1,948 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Indianapolis' Jonathan Taylor is second with 649 rushing yards.

Meanwhile, the Titans signed 2012 NFL MVP and four-time All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson to help replace Henry.

The Titans announced Tuesday they signed Peterson to the practice squad. This is the sixth NFL team for Peterson, 36, who had been unsigned since finishing last season with Detroit. Tennessee plans to add him to the active roster with the Titans (6-2) visiting the Los Angeles Rams (7-1) on Sunday night.

Running backs coach Tony Dews said Peterson obviously has been a great player and will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. Dews said he will need to see Peterson on the field to gauge what shape the running back is in.

"My job is just to get him up to speed and whatever he can do to help the team, that's my job to try to figure that out and help him out along the way," Dews said Tuesday. "Obviously, he'll go out and do what he does best."

Tennessee also signed running back D'Onta Foreman and two others to the practice squad.

Beyond Peterson and Foreman, the No. 2 running back in Tennessee, Jeremy McNichols, often deployed as a pass catcher, has taken just seven carries on the season for 38 yards. McNichols, who has been impressive at times in the screen game, should get the first crack at replacing Henry.

But Peterson is the running back who most resembles Henry, at least in production. Peterson is a seven-time Pro Bowl running back. He led the NFL in rushing three different seasons, the last in 2015. He also is one of only eight players in NFL history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season.

He also becomes the third 2,000-yard rusher to play for this franchise. Chris Johnson ran for 2,006 yards in 2009, Peterson ran for 2,097 yards in his MVP season and Henry ran for 2,027 yards last season.

Peterson ranks fifth all time in the NFL with 14,820 yards rushing, trailing Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Frank Gore and Barry Sanders. He also holds the single-game rushing mark with 296 yards in 2007 against the Chargers. That was Peterson's first Pro Bowl nod, also when his new coach Mike Vrabel earned his lone Pro Bowl berth at linebacker.

The 6-1, 220-pound Peterson has 3,192 carries and 118 touchdowns in his 14-year career. He also has 301 catches for 2,466 yards receiving and six TD catches in 180 games.

Foreman also is a bigger running back at 6-1 and 236 pounds.

He played six games last season with the Titans and ran 22 times for 95 yards. A third-round pick by Houston in 2017, he has played in 17 career games with 421 yards rushing and two TDs.

Henry was seen early in Sunday's win limping on the sideline without his cleat on. But the bulldozing back didn't miss time. Henry played 50 of 68 snaps in Week 8 and took all of Tennessee's 28 handoffs in the game for 68 yards with a long run of nine.

The Colts did a good job of slowing Henry, not allowing the beastly back to gain traction or get a head of steam. Given the context of what Henry played through, the struggles are a bit more enlightening.

Henry's 68 rush yards were his second-fewest of the season (58 versus Arizona in Week 1) and the second-fewest rush yards in his career for a game with 25-plus carries. It marked the first time Henry recorded less than 100 rush yards in back-to-back weeks since weeks 5-9 in 2019.

With the win, Tennessee improved to 8-10 over the last three seasons when Henry rushes for fewer than 100 yards.

That stat underscores Henry's importance to the Titans. It's also what makes him so important to fantasy managers who will be left scrambling to fill his shoes. Just like Tennessee. ...

Winners of four straight, the Titans (6-2) sit atop the AFC and just grabbed a stranglehold on the AFC South they won last season. They have a three-game lead and the tiebreaker with only their third season sweep of the Indianapolis Colts with a 34-31 overtime win.

"We're going to have to be creative," Vrabel said Monday after confirming Henry would have surgery. "And we're going to have to figure out answers and way to move the football and continue to run our offense."

The Titans still have Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and 2020 Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown, coming off his two best games this season.

The 2020 Pro Bowl wide receiver has put together his best two games over the past two wins, and he has the physical skills to do whatever the Titans ask of him. On a trick play against the Colts, Brown was set to throw early in the fourth quarter before throwing the ball away under pressure.

"It was a wonderful decision," Vrabel said. "It was a great job avoiding the tackle for loss. The nickel did a nice job of triggering. We thought we could take advantage of that. We just didn't execute it. What we did do was we saved that play. A.J. smartly and wisely threw that ball away."

The Titans will need more from seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones, who is dealing with a hamstring that kept him out of the Colts' game.

Jones returned to practice Wednesday.

They also have Vrabel, who has shown repeatedly in his coaching tenure the ability to adapt to injuries by diving into the playbook for trick plays or anything else that can help the Titans win. He and his assistants will be busy until Henry returns -- whenever that is.

The Titans continue the toughest stretch of their schedule with the visit to Los Angeles. Then they host the Saints (5-2) who are dealing with their own big injury.

After that, the schedule eases tremendously. The Titans face the NFL's three teams currently with only one win in Miami and Jacksonville with two games remaining against Houston (1-7). Their other two opponents, New England (4-4) and Pittsburgh (4-3), are hovering around .500.

One last note here. ... Randy Bullock propelled the team to their overtime victory on Sunday with his game-winning 44-yard field goal in the extra period. That clutch kick, along with a 46-yard field goal and four extra points, earned Bullock AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Derrick Henry, D'Onta Foreman, Jeremy McNichols, Dontrell Hilliard, Khari Blasingame, Darrynton Evans, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Racey McMath, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cameron Batson
TEs: Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser

Washington Football Team

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2021

As ESPN.com's John Keim advised his readers: "Washington is just a bad team. Forget about being young or immature. Washington has now lost four straight games, but it has yet to play a complete game.

"It has shown some grit and resiliency -- they were down three offensive line starters among other injuries -- but they need to show results."

The issues are across the board. The front office cut a kicker in Dustin Hopkins, who had made 12-of-14 field goals for a guy who had not kicked in five years and in two games he's had three kicks blocked.

On the field, Chase Young has not produced; it's not just about sacks it's about applying consistent pressure. Yes, injuries have played a role, but that alone is not a reason for the bad play.

Patience will be tested real soon; if they don't show progress in the second half, 2022 will be very interesting. -- John Keim

Where do they go from here?

Washington has a bye week, then hosts Tampa Bay.

Keim went on to note that barring a big upset, it's staring at a 2-7 record and right now there's little it can point to as true progress.

It still has games remaining at Las Vegas and two with Dallas. They might be favored in one game the rest of this season (home vs. Philadelphia; maybe).

The offense has made 13 trips inside the opponents' 30-yard line the past two games; it has one touchdown, two field goals, three blocked field goals and six loss of downs.

They need a quarterback.

But that's not surprising; Taylor Heinicke will be a good backup and that has never been in question. Still, head coach Ron Rivera said Monday he's sticking with Heinicke as Washington's starting quarterback after the team's upcoming bye week.

Heinicke threw two interceptions in a loss at Denver that dropped Washington to 2-6. Rivera instead pointed to some of the progress Heinicke has made in recent weeks.

"I think that he's being productive for the most part," Rivera said. "The one area we've got to get better on, obviously, and it's kind of stood out in the last few weeks is we've got to be better in red zone. We've got to come down and when we get chances to make plays down there, we've got to make those plays."

Heinicke has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,065 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions since taking over for injured starter Ryan Fitzpatrick midway through the season opener. Asked if he deserves the starting QB job, Heinicke said it was not his decision.

"It's out of my hands," Heinicke said after the 17-10 loss to Denver on Sunday. "The biggest thing I do is I go into that facility every single day and I give it my all and that's all I can do. I control what I can control, and I feel like I've gotten better throughout the weeks and I feel like it's just not been enough lately."

Rivera did not have an update on Fitzpatrick other than to reiterate that the 38-year-old was set for an MRI on his injured right hip next week. Fitzpatrick is signed only for this season, and Washington's shift into evaluation mode for next season could play into what his status is down the stretch.

That also explains why Heinicke is getting every chance to show Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner what he can do. The 28-year-old only has nine career NFL starts on his resume.

"The one thing right now that really is probably the hardest thing for us to figure out is, do we have a franchise quarterback right now?" Rivera said. "Is that guy on our roster, or is that guy going to be in free agency? Is that guy going to be in the draft next year? So, we've got to continue to work with what we have."

Reasons for optimism? Or at least to be hopeful?

Heinicke earned his contract by playing well in a surprise start against Tampa Bay in the playoffs, and he'll get a chance to show how much improvement he has made since when he goes up against them again after the bye.

Other notes of interest. ... With starting running back Antonio Gibson's workload dialed back while dealing with an injured shin, rookie Jaret Patterson got to start showing what he could do in Denver. Patterson ran 11 times for 46 yards and could be Washington's feature back later this season if the coaching and training staffs decide to shut down Gibson.

Kicker Chris Blewitt had two more field-goal attempts blocked to make it a total of three in two games since Washington signed him to replace Hopkins. Asked if Blewitt was still the team's kicker, Rivera responded, "For now."

"Kickers are hard to find," Rivera said. "Consistent kickers are even harder to find. Guys that have had success in this league are on teams. There's not a 90 percent guy out there right now that you could just pick up and he's going to go out and do it."

Hopkins made his only attempt for the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday and is at 86.7 percent this season.

On the injury front. ... Starting center Chase Roullier could miss a significant amount of time after injuring his left leg at Denver. He was carted off with an air cast around his left ankle/lower leg.

Rivera hopes to get injured receiver Curtis Samuel, tight end Logan Thomas, right guard Brandon Scherff, right tackle Sam Cosmi and cornerback William Jackson back after the bye week.

In fact, the Football Team expects Thomas to return to practice next week after the bye.

They made room today by releasing one-time Packers third-round pick Jace Sternberger, who's healthy and still has upside at age 25. He'll go on waivers.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, Jaret Patterson, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Adam Humphries, DeAndre Carter, Dyami Brown, Curtis Samuel
TEs: John Bates, Sammis Reyes, Ricky Seals-Jones, Logan Thomas