Team Notes Week 9 2017
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFFDirectly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
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. ... Team Menu
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As the Associated Press noted last week, Drew Stanton has been here before. Carson Palmer goes down with a serious injury and Stanton steps in as his backup.
Stanton's career statistics are unspectacular. His win-loss record, not so bad.
In his four seasons with the Cardinals, Stanton is 6-3 as a starter.
"That's the only one that matters to me," Stanton said. "I know my career stats are probably horrible ... but I think that (the win-loss record) is the ultimate measure of a quarterback, especially as a backup. That's something I take pride in is to come in and try to win football games."
That certainly didn't happen last Sunday in Arizona's 33-0 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams in London.
When Palmer went down with a broken left arm, Stanton came in and completed just four of 15 passes for 62 yards with an interception.
"I was disappointed from a personal standpoint of what happened last week because I wasn't able to go out there and get in a rhythm," he said after the team went through a light workout Tuesday.
Head coach Bruce Arians expects Stanton to improve with more time with the starters.
"I know Drew (Stanton) will bounce back and play a whole lot better when he gets all the practice time," Arians said. "It's nice to have an extra day's work. He got literally no reps last week in our offense, so we'll get that straightened out."
Stanton's most recent start was on Oct. 6, 2016, in San Francisco when Palmer was sidelined with a concussion. Stanton completed only 11 of 28 passes but two went for touchdowns and he had no interceptions in a 33-21 victory.
Coincidentally, Stanton's first start this year will be a week from Sunday at San Francisco. And, as was the case last year, Arizona will be coming off a bye week.
Arians did not hesitate naming Stanton the starter over Blaine Gabbert, who has been inactive every game as the team's third quarterback but now will suit up as the backup.
Stanton is no youngster. He is 33 years old and in his 11th NFL season, the last five with Arizona. Stanton is a favorite of Arians, serving as backup in Indianapolis in 2012 when Arians was there as offensive coordinator and, later, as interim head coach.
Stanton followed Arians to the Cardinals and, before the deal that brought Palmer to Arizona, the coach was insisting he'd be comfortable with Stanton as his starter.
Stanton spent his first five seasons with Detroit, missing his rookie year due to injury. He was mostly a backup with the Lions but started five games.
For his career, Stanton has completed 53 percent of his passes for 3,165 yards and 14 touchdowns with 19 interceptions. Dating to 2015, he has thrown for two touchdowns and been intercepted six times.
Stanton went 3-2 as a starter in 2014 after Palmer went down with a season-ending knee injury only to have his own season-ending knee issue, missing the final two regular-season games and a playoff loss to Carolina.
Gabbert, who has 40 career NFL starts, said he has no problem with Stanton moving into the starting role.
"Drew's going to do a great job," Gabbert said. "I'm going to be there to support him just like I was there to support him and Carson. We have a great quarterback room. We're very fortunate to have a very veteran quarterback room. We've played a lot of games with the NFL. Nothing's going to change."
Just how long Palmer will be out remains a major question. Initially, Arians said eight weeks but Palmer has seen specialists in hopes of a diagnosis that might reduce his absence to four to six weeks.
To add another throwing arm to their workouts, the Cardinals signed former Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici to the practice squad.
Of course, nobody is going to be forcing Stanton into fantasy lineups.
So the question is, with Stanton taking over for Palmer, is there a wide receiver not named Larry Fitzgerald whom we can trust for consistent production?
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss suggested, when you look at the individuals, each of them is trustworthy as a receiver.
Jaron Brown has caught 20 passes for 311 yards and J.J. Nelson has 19 catches for 316 yards.
So it's not the receivers who can't be counted on -- it's Arizona's offense.
After catching eight passes against San Francisco in Week 4, Brown has just six catches in his past three games. Nelson started the season with back-to-back five-catch games. Since then, he's had seven catches in the past five games, including two games without a single catch.
The Cardinals' passing game isn't consistent enough to rely on anyone aside from Fitzgerald, but those two would be the next-closest options. ...
Other notes of interest. ... David Johnson, who suffered a dislocated wrist in Week 1, isn't sure when he'll return -- if he returns -- this season.
"I hope I do get back, but I really don't know," Johnson recently told Mike Jurecki of 98.7 FM Arizona Sports. "The wrist is a complicated limb and it's tough to say, just because I still have this cast on. I haven't even started rehab so I don't know yet."
Worth noting, Arians told Arizona Republic staffer Kent Somers on Tuesday that at this pointt, the coach doubts David Johnson plays again this season. ...
The Cardinals eventually replaced Johnson with Adrian Peterson, and as Profootballtalk.com suggested, the 2-4 team arguably would be wise to save Johnson for next year instead of rushing him back this year -- especially with hopes quickly fading for a playoff berth.
Peterson needs 92 yards to surpass Thurman Thomas (12,074) and move into 15th place on the NFL's all-time rushing yards list. He needs 138 to also move past Franco Harris (12,120) and into 14th place and 261 to surpass Marcus Allen (12,243) for 13th place.
The Cardinals remain the worst rushing team in the league.
Peterson thinks the Cardinals can turn this part of their offense around if they just stick with the run a little - or a lot - longer, but Arizona rarely did that during its first seven games. The run blocking was below average in all but one game - Peterson's 134 yard, two-TD Cardinals debut.
And finally. ... Andre Ellington was limited by a lingering quad issue at Wednesday's practice; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
QBs: Drew Stanton, Mike Glennon, Sam Bradford
RBs: Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler, Chad Williams
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
The losing streak is over. ... Still to be resolved: Can this team recapture the form that carried it all the way to the Super Bowl last season?
After surviving a miserable day at the Meadowlands for a 25-20 victory over the New York Jets, the Falcons (4-3) were finally able to turn their focus to the NFC South race.
They'll face a divisional opponent for the first time on Sunday when they hit the road for the third week in a row to take on the Carolina Panthers (5-3).
Due to a quirk in the schedule, Atlanta is the only team in the league that hasn't played a division foe.
"We put emphasis on the division (games), and now we're finally getting back to do that," head coach Dan Quinn said Monday. "They're special because you only get six of 'em."
The NFC South field is tightly bunched, with New Orleans (5-2) on top of the standings and riding a five-game winning streak. Only Tampa Bay (2-5) has fallen off the pace.
The Falcons snapped a three-game skid with their victory over the Jets, which came on the heels of an ugly 23-7 loss at New England in a nationally televised rematch of the Super Bowl.
"It was important for us to come out and play well," quarterback Matt Ryan said after the game. "To find a way to get the job done after not doing that the last couple of weeks was huge for us."
But, other than an impressive win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 2, the Falcons have yet to reach the form they showed last season, especially on the offensive side.
That was certainly understandable in this latest game, which was played in a driving rain. Ryan, who fumbled away a couple of snaps, called it "some of the hardest conditions I've played in for the length of the game."
"I've played in situations where we've had some heavy rain or tough wind for a little bit, but really from kickoff until the end of the game, it was coming down pretty hard," he said.
The Falcons are still scuffling in the middle of the NFL pack, averaging 21.9 points per game, after leading the league in scoring in 2016.
The lack of a strong running game remains one of Quinn's top concerns. The numbers against the Jets looked pretty good -- 140 yards on 32 carries -- but a big chunk of that came on Tevin Coleman's 52-yard run.
Otherwise, the Falcons were held to 88 yards on 31 carries -- an average of just 2.8 yards.
"I thought we had opportunities to create a few more," Quinn said. "It was good to see Tevin break a long one at the end. But we can take our run game better than we did (Sunday). I think we have at times this year. We're still committed to it.
"Even on a down day, we still had over 100 yards because of our commitment to that. But I would say I was probably more pleased from a pass protection standpoint than all the way finishing through on the run game."
On a third down play with a little more than five minutes to play in Sunday's game against the Jets, Ryan tried a pass to running back Devonta Freeman that went incomplete with linebacker Darron Lee in coverage on the play.
Freeman returned to the sideline while the Falcons kicked a field goal that extended their lead to 25-20 and was spotted getting some attention from medical personnel on what appeared to be his shoulder. He didn't return to the game on Atlanta's final possession, but there was no update on his condition from the team after the final whistle.
Quinn provided one on Monday. Per multiple reports from his press conference, Quinn confirmed Freeman was getting his shoulder checked out and said that the running back is expected to be limited in Wednesday's practice. That doesn't suggest a high level of concern about his condition, although we'll see how the week plays out.
Freeman ran 12 times for 41 yards and caught one pass for 20 yards in Sunday's win. Coleman led the team with 82 rushing yards, including a 52-yard scamper that set up a fourth quarter touchdown pass by Ryan.
I'll have more on Freeman via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Otherwise, Atlanta came through the game with no major health issues.
Quinn had nothing but praise for the run defense, which held the Jets to a season-low 43 yards on 22 carries. The Falcons had given up more than 100 yards in three straight games, including 162 yards the previous week against the Patriots.
"We were really committed to doing it right," Quinn said. "That part of the game felt real familiar in terms of everybody just being assignment-sound, doing their jobs, not stepping out of the gaps to go make a play.
"The consistency of the run defense is what really jumped out. We took a big step toward becoming the unit -- especially in the run game -- that we can be.
"It's just one time to do it. But after the last three weeks, everybody was tired of how we performed in the run game. We decided to stand up and do something about it. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... The Falcons were 2 of 6 in the red zone, which included a dropped touchdown pass by tight end Austin Hooper in the second quarter. The Falcons were 5 of 14 on third downs and called 13 pass plays. There were four drops on third down.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, Mohamed Sanu, with seven targets in this game, continues to be a sneaky solid fantasy option, keeping up his streak of six-plus targets in every game he's finished this year. He also secured the game-winning touchdown for Atlanta.
Harmon went on to suggest that Sanu should be on the flex radar every week with the workload he owns.
Meanwhile, Week 8 was the fourth game in which Jones finished with seven or fewer targets.
"The Falcons are not funneling volume his way and they've given us no reason to expect that to change here at the mid-way point of the NFL season," Harmon wrote.
If you're looking for positives, Ryan, who had been struggling throwing the deep ball, connected with Jones for a 53-yard gain on a deep bomb down the middle of the field against the Jets.
Remember, this week's opponents, the Panthers, are playing excellent defense right now.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Nick Williams
TEs: Austin Hooper, Eric Saubert, Logan Paulsen
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, it didn't take long for the Ravens to place quarterback Joe Flacco in the concussion protocol after he took a shot to the head from Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso while sliding to the ground in last Thursday's 40-0 Ravens win, but it doesn't sound like the team expects him to spend an extended period of time in it this week.
Head coach John Harbaugh spoke to the media on Monday and provided a positive update on the quarterback's condition. Harbaugh said that Flacco's concussion "symptoms are zero" as the week gets underway.
"I think there's a good chance he'll play," Harbaugh said.
In fact, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Wednesday that Flacco has been fully cleared and will start this weekend.
Flacco's health notwithstanding, ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley believes the Ravens should put the offense squarely on the back of running back Alex Collins when they take on the Titans this weekend.
That became apparent after Collins accounted for 47 percent of Baltimore's offense against Miami. He ran for 113 yards and added 30 yards on two catches, underscoring yet again how he is a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball.
Hensley went on to suggest, "There were two questions that came to mind as Collins ran around and through a Dolphins defense that entered the week as the No. 5 run defense in the NFL:
"Why did the Seattle Seahawks cut him at the end of the preseason?
"Why aren't the Ravens giving him more touches?"
Fantasy owners were certainly in on that second question.
Collins is the NFL's ninth-leading rusher with 478 yards, which are more than three Pro Bowl running backs from last season (Devonta Freeman, Jay Ajayi and DeMarco Murray). What makes his production more impressive is Collins has at least 17 fewer carries than any other back in the top 15 in rushing.
He's only averaging 11.7 touches and has yet to reach 20 carries in a game this season.
"He ran well," Harbaugh said after the game. "That run up the left sideline at the end of the game. ... I thought he was down, but then he was still running for 10 more yards up the sideline. [It was] a pretty athletic run. He made some really good runs."
Collins received one of the game balls for being the first Ravens' 100-yard rusher in 20 games.
He also needs more touches.
With the NFL regular season nearly at the halfway point, Collins leads the league with a 5.98 yards per carry average. Javorius Allen, who has been splitting carries with Collins, is gaining 3.6 yards per attempt.
Hensley went on to contend that Collins is the most consistent playmaker on the team. This is true. And it's not even close right now. He has produced five plays of 20 or more yards -- which are two more than anyone else on the Ravens -- and Collins wasn't on the 53-man roster to start the season.
"He's a vicious runner," center Ryan Jensen said. "That's how I describe him. He's elusive, but he'll hit it downhill and run some guys over and break tackles."
But it would be worth the gamble given that the Ravens are at a crossroads with a 4-4 record and might have to go with Ryan Mallett at starting quarterback if Flacco isn't cleared for Sunday's game at Tennessee.
"He's about as good as he can be at it right now, and he needs to keep doing that," Harbaugh said of Collins' improvement in holding onto the ball. "He's very secure and technique-sound with what he's doing with the football."
How vital is the running game to the Ravens' success?
Under Harbaugh, Baltimore is 53-13 (.803) when totaling 120 or more yards rushing, which is the sixth-best record since 2008.
"I feel like [the confidence is] definitely growing," Collins said. "It's just getting the feel for the team and getting the playbook and working with the quarterbacks and other running backs. They do a great job of just bringing me along and helping me learn a new scheme. I feel like when you know what you're doing out there, you can play fast and confident."
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Allen remains the team's better pass-catching back but in games where Baltimore is leading as they were on Thursday, expect Collins to shoulder the load.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have a bye following the game in Tennessee. They were already able to use the couple of extra days off this week to savor their biggest win of the season, and more important, get healthier before playing the Titans.
Mike Wallace missed just the second game of his nine-year career against the Dolphins the result of a concussion. Wallace was placed in the concussion protocol in the first quarter Oct. 22 against Minnesota and did not return.
Wallace, who leads the team with 248 receiving yards, lost his helmet and smacked his head against the turf on a hit by safety Andrew Sendejo, who was suspended for the hit.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses. ...
As Baltimore Sun staffer Jeff Zrebiec reminded his Twitter followers this week, Danny Woodhead is eligible to return in Week 11. Woodhead has been cleared and is practicing this week, the team announced on Tuesday. Terrance West, who has missed the last two games with an injured calf, is also aiming for a Week 11 return. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Breshad Perriman was back in the lineup against the Dolphins after missing the previous game. He did not have a reception despite a couple of targets. Perriman missed his entire rookie season with a torn PCL he suffered on the first day of training camp. Last year, he also missed several weeks of the preseason with another injury.
Perriman, however, has missed just one regular-season game in the past two seasons. He has struggled with drops this year and has just four receptions for 26 yards.
Jeremy Maclin was also back in the lineup last Thursday night after missing the past two games because of a shoulder injury. Maclin caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Flacco in the first quarter. He finished with three receptions for 53 yards.
And finally, as NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out, with the Ravens running most of the game, Nick Boyle well out-worked Ben Watson. Boyle went out for 54 plays to 31 for Watson.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan, Robert Griffin III
RBs: Terrance West, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Kenny Bell
TEs: Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak reminded readers, not long after Sean McDermott took over the Buffalo Bills in January, the first-year coach made "playoff caliber" a ubiquitous slogan around the practice facility.
It is found on the hallway walls between meeting rooms, on players' nameplates in the locker room, on the doors of the team cafeteria and on T-shirts players wear when they're not practicing.
That is not to say McDermott was making a promise of the playoffs, as Rex Ryan did when he took over as coach in 2015.
"The one promise I will make is we're going to work hard. And when you work hard and have good people, usually good results seem to follow," McDermott told 1270 The Fan in May. "The whole theme of playoff caliber is really an internal vision and standard. It's a day-to-day standard for how we walk, how we think, how we execute meetings, how we execute on the field.
"It's not a promise of we're going to make the playoffs. It's more of an internal expectation level and standard for going back to earning the right [to win]. If you do things the right way -- and the playoff caliber is a standard of doing things the right way, it's a measuring stick -- then you're going to give yourself a chance. It doesn't guarantee anything, but you're going to give yourself a chance."
McDermott's message is taking hold. The Bills' 34-14 win Sunday over the Oakland Raiders improved their record to 5-2, the franchise's best start since 2008. The Bills must keep their ship steady over the remaining nine games, including five on the road. But if they can hold strong, the Bills' odds of breaking their 17-season playoff drought will only increase over the coming weeks.
Should the Bills win Thursday night at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets, losers of three consecutive games, Buffalo will own a 6-2 record -- the team's best mark through eight games since a 7-1 start in 1993, the season in which Buffalo made the last of its four consecutive Super Bowl appearances.
"I've been around some super-talented groups of guys, so I won't say that [we are] one of the most talented teams," running back LeSean McCoy said after Sunday's win. "But as one of the most strong-hearted -- fight until the end -- I think so."
The 1993 Bills, who lost Super Bowl XXVIII to the Dallas Cowboys, finished the regular season plus-12 in turnover margin, second best in the NFL. The current Bills now have a league-leading plus-14 turnover margin after taking the ball away four times and not giving it up in Sunday's win over Oakland.
It is the highest turnover margin through seven games since the 2005 Bengals, who were plus-16. The NFL-best mark is also a good sign: The last team to lead the league in turnover margin and miss the playoffs was the 1999 Kansas City Chiefs.
Meanwhile, for a team few outside the building expected to be playing meaningful games in December -- let alone January -- taking the Patriots to the mat in the division but falling short of an AFC East title this December would be an unexpected victory.
It would also leave open the possibility of a wild-card berth in an AFC playoff picture that currently places the Bills in the No. 5 seed. ...
The Bills added to that possibility on Tuesday, but acquiring receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2018 third- and seventh-round pick.
The team released running back Joe Banyard to make room on the roster for Benjamin.
As NFL.com suggested, it's a chips-in-the-middle move for the Bills.
The Bills brass knows Benjamin well. Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane was in Charlotte when the Panthers made the receiver the No. 28 overall pick in 2014. McDermott was defensive coordinator in Carolina from 2011-2016.
Benjamin provides quarterback Tyrod Taylor with a needed big target and red-zone threat. In three seasons played (Benjamin missed 2015 with a knee injury), the 6-foot-5 target has compiled 2,424 yards on 168 receptions and 18 touchdowns. Through eight games this season, Benjamin earned 32 catches for 475 yards and two scores.
The trade immediately upgrades a Bills receiving corps that has been without a go-to target since trading Sammy Watkins before the season.
Taylor has been winning games this season tossing to a band of second-fiddle receivers. Running back LeSean McCoy leads the Bills in receptions with 38, and tight end Charles Clay, who has missed the past two games, leads in yards with 258. Before the trade, Taylor's top wide receivers were Jordan Matthews (15 catches, 193 yards), Andre Homes (11 for 97) and rookie Zay Jones (10 for 115). Bills wide receivers have caught just five combined touchdowns this season.
Adding Benjamin will give Taylor a big-bodied receiver who can win on the outside and should help open more holes for the running game, especially in the red zone.
The wideout, however, comes with injury risk and was dealing with a sore knee earlier this month.
Don't expect the newcomer to be a big contributor this week with just two days of prep time, but I'll have more on that possibility when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Bills seem to have regained their mojo, and it coincides with LT Cordy Glenn returning to the lineup. The Bills ran for 166 yards, with McCoy breaking out for a season-best 151 that included a late 48-yard touchdown run.
The Bills' offensive line has settled in the last couple weeks with Glenn at left tackle and Vlad Ducasse at right guard, and it was Ducasse who had the key block to spring McCoy on his TD run.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, McCoy gained 115 of his 151 rushing yards on plays straight up the middle (between the guards), averaging 6.8 yards on such carries, and rushed 10 times for 36 yards on all other rushes.
He averaged 4.2 yards per rush before contact on all of his rushes, and 5.3 on his tries up the middle.
McCoy logged 173 yards from scrimmage and once again led the team in targets. According to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, McCoy has just one game on his resume this year with fewer than six targets. The veteran back is on pace to clear 500 receiving yards this season. It would be the third time in his career he accomplished that feat but it would be the first as a Bill.
Taylor played turnover-free yet again, and the Bills have only three turnovers all season. Taylor was economical as he completed 20 of 27 passes for 165 yards, and eight of those completions resulted in first downs.
Wideout Andre Holmes had two big plays, a touchdown catch and 36-yarder that set up another TD. Jones had his best day as a pro, though it wasn't much - three catches for 32 yards.
Clay did not practice to open the week and while he's making progress in his return from having his knee scoped, he's been ruled out for Thursday night. ...
And finally. ... His impact on the game was minimal. Backup tight end Logan Thomas played only 28 offensive and special teams snaps and he recorded one catch for seven yards. But given the week he endured, it was only fitting that McDermott handed Thomas one of the game balls following Buffalo's victory over the Raiders.
On Tuesday, Thomas and his wife Brandie suffered an unimaginable tragedy when their daughter, Brooklynn Rose, was born six months premature and then died. The couple already has four sons together, and they were eager to add a girl to the mix, but that will not happen, at least not yet. Thomas missed practice Wednesday, but was back at work Thursday.
Thomas was given the honor of breaking the team down in the post-game locker room and with his teammates huddled around him, he said, "I just want to say thank you to everybody from the top to the bottom who have had my back this week. We really appreciate it and we feel y'all's love. Family on three."
QBs: AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, Brandon Tate
TEs: Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As Charlotte Observer staffer Joseph Person reported it, the Panthers pulled off a stunning trade-deadline move Tuesday, sending No. 1 wideout Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo in a move made in part to get more speed on the field.
The Panthers will receive the Bills' third- and seventh-round picks in 2018 but had to give up one of quarterback Cam Newton's favorite targets in return.
Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney said Bills GM Brandon Beane -- Hurney's former assistant -- called him Tuesday afternoon inquiring about Benjamin.
Hurney liked the idea of moving a player whose size (6-5) and skill set were nearly identical to that of No. 2 wideout Devin Funchess.
"This was more about getting more speed on the field. We've got some young players who we think have some real ability," Hurney told Person. "Kelvin was a very good player and was productive for us. It was more getting a mix of skill sets on the field and more speed."
Before he was fired, former GM Dave Gettleman had exercised the fifth-year option on Benjamin for 2018. So trading him saves the Panthers $8.5 million against the salary cap next year. Hurney was not around when Gettleman drafted Benjamin in the first round in 2014, then snagged Funchess in the second round the following year.
Hurney said he expects Funchess to slide into Benjamin's former X spot as the lead receiver, with rookie Curtis Samuel moving into Funchess' vacated role at Z. Speedy wideout Kaelin Clay also could see more playing time.
But the Panthers, who are 5-3 at the midseason point and built to win now, are now without their best receiver, albeit one who has struggled with his weight and attitude at times.
It has been a stressful year for Benjamin, who showed up to offseason workouts overweight and was body-shamed on social media. Benjamin was close to 270 pounds during the spring, but weighed in at 243 for the start of training camp. Benjamin then lost his mother in July, posting on Instagram that her death left him in a "dark place."
When he met with reporters in September, Benjamin said he was going to dedicate "every snap" to his mother.
But the first half of this season was rocky for Benjamin, as well.
Benjamin saw his targets plummet with the arrival of rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, whose 49 catches are a team high and a single-season record for a Panthers running back.
Benjamin then had the bursa sac on his surgically repaired knee swell up after a hit during a loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 12.
The following week Benjamin walked out of a practice, saying later he was frustrated about his knee.
He missed practice the next day, but played that week at Chicago.
Hurney said Benjamin's off-field issues were not a factor in trading him.
Benjamin's 32 receptions ranked third behind McCaffrey and Funchess, although his 475 receiving yards were a team high.
After Benjamin caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Newton in a 17-3 win at Tampa Bay on Sunday, Newton heaped praise on Benjamin, who was playing his first game in his native state since his mother's death.
"He's a person that's an unbelievable teammate. He comes to work each and every day," Newton said after the game. "He may not be the talkative person all the time, but I guarantee you, when you want people in your foxhole, Kelvin Benjamin is the person that you want.
"You know you can just see it on his face. He's usually a very enthusiastic person come game day, and man, I could just see it."
Benjamin was the 28th overall pick in 2014, and set receiving records for a Panthers rookie with 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.
Benjamin missed the Super Bowl season of 2015 when he blew out his ACL during non-contact play at training camp.
This is the second trade Hurney has made with Beane, the longtime member of Carolina's front office who joined ex-Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott in Buffalo before this season.
The Panthers sent Clay and a late-round pick to Buffalo for cornerback Kevon Seymour. They reacquired Clay last week when the Bills waived him.
Hurney said things moved quickly after Beane called him.
"We want to get a mix of skill sets on the field. We want to get more speed on the field," Hurney said. "Buffalo expressed interest in Kelvin and the deal got done late right before the trade deadline."
And as Person summed up, "The ripples of it will be felt for some time. ..."
In a related note, Person reported on Wednesday the Panthers are bringing back receiver Brenton Bersin, who has been cut and re-signed five times in six years.
Bersin was in camp with them this offseason, but was released with an injury settlement in September. He has 24 receptions for 287 yards and a touchdown in his career.
Meanwhile, Newton struggled to throw the deep ball for much of a very windy day during the team's win in Tampa. He was 0-for-8 with an interception on passes of 15-plus yards before his 25-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to Benjamin that sealed the victory.
He was 3-for-13 overall on passes thrown more than five yards past the line of scrimmage. But Newton didn't make any huge mistakes and he was effective in the running game, leading Carolina in rushing (44 yards) for the third straight week. He also was effective getting the ball to McCaffrey, connecting for a team-high five catches for 49 yards.
He was at his best on Carolina's first-quarter touchdown drive, converting three third downs with passes and a fourth with a run. But Newton was far from consistent enough for this team to take advantage of its defense and make a deep run into the playoffs. He knows it, too.
"Offensively, holding myself to a higher standard," Newton said.
It was big for Newton in that he didn't have the pressure of carrying the team because the defense was outstanding against the league's second-ranked offense.
"Just a one-week mentality," Newton said. "With that mentality, that got us a win today. A lot of people may say it wasn't how they wanted it to turn out, but it was how we wanted it to turn out. We got the win, and we're expecting bigger things moving forward."
Newton couldn't say that the last time he left here.
Something else he hasn't been able to say for a while? Cam connected on a deep pass.
Newton started Sunday 0-of-8 with a pick on throws of 15-plus yards, but his ninth such attempt found Benjamin in the end zone. Newton finished the day 1-of-9 on those throws and just 3-of-13 on passes beyond 5 yards.
The Panthers did what they had to do Sunday, ending a two-game skid and building momentum for the second half of the season.
If they can get past the next two home games against Atlanta and Miami they get a bye week to rest up for the stretch run. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Panthers reached 100 yards rushing, something that seems like quite a feat for this team. Still, they managed barely three yards per carry. Again, Newton was the most effective Carolina player in the ground attack by gaining 44 yards on 11 attempts.
James Stewart scored a touchdown, but was limited to just 34 rushing yards. McCaffrey finished with 53 yards from scrimmage on nine total touches. The rookie led the team in receiving yards but, as Rivera suggested in the days leading up to the game, McCaffrey's snap count diminished as the team relied more Cameron Artis-Payne's pass-protection skills. Artis-Payne also got five touches.
Meanwhile, as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Funchess continues to see solid volume with target totals of nine, eight, nine, eight and six over the last five games. However, he hasn't cleared 60 yards receiving since Week 4 and has scored just once. Expect that volume to remain solid with Benjamin gone.
And finally. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed, Rivera said tight end Greg Olsen will test his surgically-repaired foot this week with the training staff. He can practice this week and play after bye week.
QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Torrey Smith, Brenton Bersin
TEs: Greg Olsen
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
Already operating with one of the league's least accomplished receiver group, Mitchell Trubisky will continue his development in the season's second half without his top remaining target.
The severe knee injury to tight end Zach Miller in Sunday's 20-12 loss at New Orleans will deprive the Bears of a well-liked veteran team leader.
"He's just a great dude. He's a leader. His teammates look up to him," head coach John Fox said Monday. "He's very, very smart. I call him quality control just because he helps people in the heat of battle on the field. And those are the kind of guys you do need and his teammates rally around him and so do coaches."
The Bears didn't announce Miller has been placed on injured reserve yet, but it was a formality after Miller was in some danger of losing part of his left leg after suffering the dislocated knee. Miller had immediate vascular surgery to repair a torn popliteal artery and Fox said a vein was removed from his right leg for use in repairing the artery.
"Right now, the report is they're obviously going to take a while for it to make sure it remains good, but he's got good pulse in his lower leg, as well as has good feeling," Fox said. "His foot is warm, which is a good sign. Not that he's out of the woods by any stretch, but it's as good as could be expected at this point."
The gruesome injury occurred on an apparent 25-yard touchdown catch to get the Bears within 14-9, but the catch was later ruled incomplete on review by New York because it was determined Miller lost control of the ball and it hit the ground during the process of making the catch.
It was a big play in the game and still on Miller's mind when he talked from University Medical Center in New Orleans by phone with Fox on Monday.
"He pretty much wanted his touchdown back," Fox said. "He was in good spirits."
Miller has fought through numerous injuries in his career, but is in the second year of a two-year, $5.5 million deal. He was coming off season-ending foot surgery when this season began. At age 33, an injury of this sort can mean the end of a career, although it was far too soon for the Bears to worry about possible recovery time.
Recovery for the team will also take time mentally and physically.
As the Sports Xchange noted, the offense was operating already with top two receivers Kevin White (shoulder blade) and Cameron Meredith (knee) on injured reserve.
Wide receiver Tre McBride is coming off his first productive game - three catches for 92 yards since arriving on waivers at the start of the season.
"For me personally, I didn't have the luxury of being here for the preseason and build that rapport with Mitch," McBride said.
McBride isn't the only receiver who has had to pick up the system in the passing game as the season has gone on. Injured Markus Wheaton had to do it, and then suffered a groin injury and was lost again. Now newly acquired receiver Dontrelle Inman will need to do it.
"You're learning on the fly," McBride said. "You only get a certain amount of time during the day to run plays and the rest is done in the classroom, you know, like, studying plays and stuff like that.
"So it is a tough task to build a rapport with somebody on the fly, somebody that you've never thrown with, because there's nuances between different quarterbacks and stuff that you've got to get adjusted to; stuff that you only get with reps."
Specifically at the tight end spot, losing Miller will mean rookie Adam Shaheen must step into a more prominent role. Dion Sims will become more of a target, and Daniel Brown will be the third tight end.
"We're going to have to recover from it," Fox said. "Anytime we lose somebody - I know I always use that term next man up, that's not out of a lack of respect or disrespect for the guy we lost by any stretch.
"That guy was there for a reason. But we have to review it. Not just his on-the-field ability but his everyday pushing guys, remaining positive, a lot of things that it takes to do this every day because it's blue collar. It's hard work. So I think we'll miss him in that way and I know everybody in that locker room will."
Shaheen was the second-round draft pick this year and came into the league out of Division II, so he's needed time to adjust. He has one 2-yard TD catch and no other receptions and has been targeted twice.
"He's definitely got the ability and the football intelligence to do it," Fox said. "I think you'll see on the season his play time has increased. Whether that relates to the production at this point I can't speak to off the top of my head, but the game's slowing down for him."
The leadership aspect of Miller's presence on the roster won't be easily replaced. Miller was someone offensive and defensive players looked to for guidance on a young team.
"He welcomed me with open arms, just like everybody else," McBride said. "He just did it fast. He was actively doing it.
"That's what I really appreciated from Zach. I feel like that was something that was important to me and that's part of the reason why when something bad happened to him, it hurt even more.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson suggested, while Trubisky's job got tougher with Miller's injury, the rookie had several good moments in Sunday's loss to the Saints.
The Bears seemed out of it until Trubisky's 46-yard scramble in the fourth quarter. The entire mood inside the Superdome changed after the play.
However, Trubisky also tossed an interception to end the game.
Again, Trubisky has to get better in certain areas, but the flashes have been there. There's genuine excitement over where this may be headed with the rookie quarterback.
Trubisky's statistics weren't great (14-of-32 for 144 yards and the interception), but he's making steady progress. That's probably the best the Bears can hope for. ...
The Bears (3-5) have their bye this week but were scheduled to practice Tuesday and Wednesday. Following the bye, the Bears host Green Bay and Detroit in back-to-back division games.
Other notes of interest. ... Also according to Dickerson, Jordan Howard had a good afternoon for fantasy owners. The rest of team. ... Not so much. Tarik Cohen scored a touchdown, but his touches are down lately. McBride had close to 100 yards, but it's doubtful he's on many rosters. Kendall Wright got eight targets, but the week-to-week predictability of his role makes him an impossible play at this point.
Given all that, it will be interesting to see how the Bears use former Inman after the bye.
Connor Barth missed a field goal from 48 yards and the veteran has now missed field goals in back-to-back games.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Josh Bellamy, Markus Wheaton, Bennie Fowler, Taylor Gabriel, Dontrelle Inman, Kevin White
TEs: Dion Sims, Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
Rookie Joe Mixon said last week that he couldn't "showcase" himself if he didn't get the ball more, so the team gave him his wish.
As ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell notes, the results were a reflection of how Mixon's rookie season has been so far: brilliant at times, but mixed overall.
Mixon clearly has the potential to be a star player, and that was on display in a 24-23 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. But as the Bengals (3-4) have struggled this season, their offense has tended to take a step back when needed the most.
Mixon was one of the few bright spots in a lackluster day against a Colts defense that had been struggling. That was obvious when he took a screen pass from Andy Dalton, broke several tackles and went 67 yards before he was taken to the ground. It was the best play of the day, and one of the few offensive highlights.
The Bengals' offense has improved under Bill Lazor, but they haven't been consistent at any position. Dalton has struggled along with his offensive line, and outside of A.J. Green the receivers haven't stepped up. Mixon has shown the ability to create big plays out of nothing.
However, for all of his big moments, Mixon hasn't been consistent from play to play. That could be attributed to a combination of the offensive line, the play calling and Mixon himself. He ended the day with three catches for 91 yards, but also ran for only 18 yards on 11 carries.
According to Terrell, Mixon's inexperience tends to show up at inopportune times.
On Sunday, he repeated some of the same mistakes that have frustrated head coach Marvin Lewis. Mixon stalled a drive in the red zone when he suddenly slipped and went down untouched. The same thing happened on a key red zone play against the Packers a few weeks ago.
He also fumbled the ball after catching a pass one-handed from Dalton. Mixon never secured the ball with both hands as he started running, and a defender punched it out. That led to a field goal by the Colts.
It's the second straight week Mixon has lost the ball, although he was able to recover his fumble the week before. Mixon was benched for fumbling in the preseason, but on Sunday he was put back in on the next play.
Fumbling has always been something that's irked Lewis, and he preaches ball security, pointing it out as part of his reasoning that Mixon should "show maturity" after his comments last week.
Maturity will have to come with time. The Bengals are going to have to be patient with Mixon, but it's clear he has potential.
With few other options stepping forward, Mixon looks like one of the few who has the ability to break out the big play, and at this point, the Bengals need that badly.
That said, not everybody was impressed with Mixon's effort. After MIxon suggested he wanted a more Le'Veon Bell-like role in Cincinnati, racking up 30-plus touches a game as Bell did the previous week, the Steelers running back responded on Twitter.
"For someone who feels they can do 'way more' than I can, sure seems like u wanna be me! tryin to mimic my run style, my 1st down celebration" read one tweet by Bell. Another said: "now u wear an arm sleeve on your left arm AND went to the mismatch gloves too?! lol just change your number from 28 to 26 while your at it."
Mixon had little response to Bell's Twitter taunt, telling reporters after the victory, "I mean, it's unfortunate [Bell feels] that way, but like I said, I'm not worried about what he's talking about. I just gotta keep my head down, keep grinding and, you know, it's gonna happen."
Looking at the box score, Mixon got what he wanted: More snaps than his fellow Bengals running backs and a big Bell-ish play through the air. But he didn't get anywhere close to the 30-touch mark, instead finishing with less than half of that.
Mixon has a long way to go to even touch Bell's level of play and consistency in this league. So if he really wants to perform like or better than his AFC North foe over a season's worth of games, NFL.com's suggested he emulate Bell's best quality: Patience. ...
Because the going gets tougher soon enough with road games three straight weeks against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Denver looming.
Remember, Dalton was under steady pressure again on Sunday. A struggling offensive line repeatedly allowed the Colts to blitz up the middle unblocked, forcing Dalton to get rid of the ball while taking another direct hit. He was sacked three times in the fourth quarter and spent a lot of time avoiding the rush.
Dalton has been sacked 22 times in seven games, putting him on pace for the first 50-sack season of his seven-year career.
The offensive line was a concern going into the season and even a change at offensive coordinator hasn't helped that unit do a better job of protecting Dalton or generate a consistent rushing attack.
Dalton managed to pass for 243 yards and two touchdowns without an interception despite the constant pressure.
"Andy did a really good job of not putting the ball in harm's way," said Lewis. "He had the two scramble throws that he didn't get to his guy. He usually does that pretty well. He hung in there throughout the game and took care of the football."
Sunday was supposed to be the day the Bengals' offense busted out against a Colts defense that was both struggling and decimated by injury. Instead, it took an interception return for a touchdown by defensive end Carlos Dunlap to seal a 24-23 win. ...
The Bengals couldn't find ways to involve Green who had only three catches for 27 yards on eight targets. ...
Meanwhile, Lewis was noncommittal about whether first-round pick John Ross would be active for the game in Jacksonville. Ross played Sunday for the first time since the second week of the season, getting in for six plays without touching the ball.
The receiver has been slowed by offseason shoulder surgery and a sprained left knee. He has yet to catch a pass -- he ran once and fumbled in his other appearance.
He has played a total of 11 snaps this season.
"John got to dress [Sunday] because I chose to suit him up, and Cody [Core] couldn't go," said Lewis. "He'll continue to practice and get an opportunity as it goes. But he was not part of the plan going into the game."
Ross, who has been nursing a knee injury, finally got back on the field after practicing for the past two weeks. However, even though the Bengals were down two receivers due to Core's and Tyler Boyd's injuries, the Bengals still had five receivers active between Green, Brandon LaFell, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone and Ross.
Malone, a fourth-round pick this season, was a healthy scratch for the first five games before making his debut last week due to injuries. He caught his first career touchdown on Sunday. Even though he has not played much, his availability in practice and ability to play special teams has clearly moved him ahead of Ross in the pecking order for now.
Worth noting. ... LaFell (hamstring) was not practicing Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Browns were "close" to making a deal with the Bengals for AJ McCarron, but weren't able to get it finalized.
There's no details about what might have been involved in the deal on the Browns' end. Word in the offseason was that the Bengals wanted at least a second-round pick for McCarron's services.
McCarron is set for free agency this offseason.
McCarron had heard from his agent that a deal was happening before getting word of the complication that left him in Cincinnati. McCarron shared his reaction to the rollercoaster when he met with the media on Wednesday and said he was thankful to Bengals owner Mike Brown for being willing to send him somewhere he would play.
"I'm not angry. I'm not upset. It feels good to be wanted," McCarron said, via the team’s website. "Today I'm going to thank Mr. Brown personally. I admire that he was going to give me an opportunity to go start and play somewhere. I really appreciate that of him. He's been an unbelievable owner in my experience here."
Lewis said he was "relieved" that the Browns failed to get the paperwork done because Dalton's backup is a "valuable member" of the team. The second- and third-round picks that the Bengals were set to receive are valuable as well, but they remain in Cleveland for the time being.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Brian Hill, Thomas Jones
WRs: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Cody Core
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
One day after a 33-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on a rugby pitch in England dropped Cleveland to 0-8, head coach Hue Jackson instructed his players to get some rest as they head into a much-needed bye week that will be dedicated to health and assessment -- for everyone.
Jackson found some positives in the Browns' latest loss, which came after they led in the third quarter. But the league's youngest team couldn't overcome some costly mistakes and fell to 1-23 under Jackson and a front office that might be running out of time to prove their plan works.
To his credit, Jackson has been unbowed by the losing. He's staying calm in the swirling storm around him and has continued to say all the right things even though some of his comments are ringing hollow with Cleveland fans sickened by the team's 4-41 record since the end of the 2014 season.
"My mindset remains the same," he said. "There is no quit in this team. We are going to continue to work hard. We are going to continue to improve. We are improving in some areas, but it doesn't show in the win column.
"We know we can play better at times, too, and I am going to keep asking more of our players and our coaches. We will continue to do it that way. Hopefully, we will come out with some better results here soon."
Following Sunday's game, Jackson said he believes he has the full support of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam.
Only one coach in history has had a worse record after 24 games with one team than Jackson, and that was Tampa Bay's John McKay, who lost his first 26 with the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976-77.
McKay was once asked what he thought of his team's execution and famously answered, "I'm in favor of it."
Jackson knows the record is appalling, but he wouldn't speculate whether Haslam will make changes to the coaching staff or front office.
"That is a question for Jimmy," he said. I think he has to be able to answer that. My job is to coach this football team and this football staff and get our players to be the best they can be.
"Will there be conversations that I am sure we will have over the next several days? I am sure there are, but right now, I have not had that conversation."
There weren't many positives from Sunday's loss, but rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer did make it through a complete game without committing a turnover or being benched by Jackson.
With a more conservative game plan, Kizer stayed out of trouble, made smart decisions and completed 18 of 34 passes for 179 yards.
Kizer was 8-for-12 in the first half as the offense scored 13 points, but in the second half he was 7-for-19 and wildly inaccurate before three garbage-time completions made the stats look slightly better (18-for-34 overall). When the Vikings went up 30-16, Kizer had two possessions in which he did not get a first down.
As ESPN.com's Patrick McManamon noted, Kizer has not progressed tremendously since the preseason, though to be fair, he's getting little help from his receivers. Two-thirds of the way through the fourth quarter, the Browns had 2 yards in the quarter. Total.
Still, the 21-year-old showed some improvement and Jackson will start him again when the Browns play in Detroit on Nov. 12.
"DeShone has earned that opportunity to walk back out there again," Jackson said. "He did some good things. That was a better version of DeShone, and we need to grow from that and keep getting better."
At the midway point of the season, Kizer has a 52.1 completion percentage with a league-high 11 interceptions and a yards-per-attempt of 5.4 yards.
Hardly impressive numbers.
Whether another quarterback with the same supporting cast would be much better is up for debate, but as McManamon suggested, at some point a quarterback has to own his numbers.
The Browns are barreling full speed (again) toward the first pick in the draft.
Kizer has eight games to convince the team that quarterback is not the way to go with that first pick -- but only because of what might have been a botched trade.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Browns were "close" to making a deal with the Bengals for AJ McCarron, but weren't able to get it finalized.
Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweeted that the Browns sent a signed trade document to the Bengals to sign and send to the league, confirming the trade. The Bengals sent in the wrong document, one signed only by them.
The league needed both signatures to approve the trade, and the deadline passed before they got both.
Various reports blamed the Browns for failing to get the trade into the league in time. The Bengals would have received 2018 second- and third-round picks in exchange for the backup quarterback.
Jackson was the Bengals offensive coordinator during McCarron's first two years in Cincinnati, so interest in rekindling that relationship after losing eight straight to start the year isn't a great surprise. Jackson also reportedly had interest in adding Jimmy Garoppolo and that obviously didn't go anywhere either as Garoppolo was dealt to the 49ers on Monday night.
McCarron is set for free agency this offseason, so the Browns may have another chance to bring him to Cleveland. ...
Meanwhile, back to London. ... The Browns kept the game close until 10 minutes remained, and that allowed them to use their running game effectively. Running back Isaiah Crowell ran with more confidence than he has all season. He ran 26 yards for his first touchdown in 2017 and finished the day with 64 yards on the ground.
Crowell and fellow running back Duke Johnson each had four catches totaling 64 yards. The offensive line opened holes and Crowell didn't hesitate to run through them.
Johnson (concussion) left the game late in the fourth quarter, but was cleared.
Meanwhile, regarding his decision to sit disappointing wide receiver Kenny Britt, Jackson said he was unaware of comments the player made in advance of the team's international trip.
Britt played in London with the Rams last season and detested the visit, saying he hated everything about it.
Jackson said Britt didn't play because he wanted to see more of Bryce Treggs, who caught one pass for 12 yards and fumbled a punt. Britt hasn't lived up to the four-year, $32.5 million free agent contract he signed in March. He has 10 receptions for 128 yards, missed two games with injuries and was sent home from the team's trip to Houston for missing a curfew.
Jackson disagreed with the opinion that Britt has been a bad influence to Cleveland's young receivers.
"If I knew that Kenny Britt was a negative influence on our football team, he wouldn't be here," he said. "I have conversations with all of our players. Everybody is going to have some issues from time to time.
"Obviously, his are well documented. There are some games where things haven't gone as well, but hopefully, those things are not bleeding over into our locker room because I would not allow that."
Despite leading the team in targets, David Njoku was on the field for fewer than 50 percent of the team's plays. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, "This has become a routine." Seth DeValve went out for 54 percent of the plays and Randall Telfer chipped in with 31 percent.
In addition, Harmon notes that Treggs appears to have officially overtaken Rashard Higgins. He was on the field for 88 percent of the team's plays, trailing only Ricardo Louis. ...
The Browns are going to use the bye to try out kickers. Rookie Zane Gonzalez hit the right upright on an extra-point attempt against the Vikings and missed a field goal wide left. He missed two field-goal tries against the Jets in the fifth game.
"There's no question," Jackson said. "I mean, we've got to do something that way just to figure that out because that's unfortunate. ..."
QBs: Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Matt Dayes
WRs: Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Jeff Janis, Bryce Treggs
TEs: Darren Fells, David Njoku, Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
Ezekiel Elliott is officially suspended by the NFL.
Judge Katherine Failla of the Southern District of New York said Elliott and his NFL Players Association legal team failed to demonstrate a substantial question warranting the extraordinary remedy of injunctive relief, forcing him to begin his six-game suspension immediately.
Moreover, the court ruled that the NFL was fair in its investigation and arbitration process per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and the league's personal conduct policy.
Elliott had 24 hours to file an emergency appeal -- which he did.
And not surprisingly, Failla quickly denied the NFLPA's request for an emergency injunction blocking Elliott's suspension pending appeal.
"For the Court to grant the NFLPA's motion for a stay at this stage would in effect be to reverse its decision of last night," Failla said in her ruling.
The NFLPA expected the decision and now will go to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals with an emergency motion asking for an injunction pending the appeal in that court.
The NFLPA argues that Elliott will suffer "irreparable harm" if he serves a suspension another court proceeding later overturns. Failla's initial decision on Monday rejected that argument without explanation.
The NFLPA and Elliott are using their remaining options to try to keep him on the field, with his NFL suspension back on for now.
Bottom line? Elliott must immediately begin serving his suspension while the full case plays out in the Second Circuit Court.
Elliott will now miss games against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Falcons, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants.
He'll be eligible to return on Dec. 17 against the Oakland Raiders.
It's a huge setback for the Cowboys (4-3) who have won two straight games after a disappointing 2-3 start, especially with the 2016 NFL leading rusher seemingly finding his old groove again.
Of course, it's also bad news for fantasy owners.
Elliott, who currently ranks third in the league in rushing with 690 yards, had a career-high 33 carries for 150 yards in Sunday's 33-19 victory against the Redskins. It was his third straight 100-yard game and third career game over 150 yards dating back to last season.
The Cowboys will go with Alfred Morris, Rod Smith and Darren McFadden in place of the suspended Elliott.
Head coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys built their roster knowing suspension was possible.
"We have some veteran running backs, we have some depth at that position," Garrett had said earlier on Monday. "It's not like we're just living this day and we don't think about the future at all - you have to do that. I think you build your team that way at all positions. If this guy is not able to play, who's your backup? Who can go in? That's the way you construct your team, and you're always thinking about those scenarios. We'll take it one day at a time and we'll see what his situation is. Regardless, we're going to go forward and try to play our best football."
This case and fallout, however, are far from over.
It will get even more intense with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who believes the NFL should get out of the investigation business and leave that to the court system.
Elliott was never arrested or charged in the case as the Columbus (Ohio) City Attorney cited inconsistent and misleading testimony, yet the NFL believes it has evidence of three instances of domestic violence when it made its initial decision to suspend Elliott Aug. 11.
"What is important is that he gets a fair shake," Jones said. "Zeke has in no way by any standard in this country done anything wrong. He's done nothing wrong. We believe the league has tried to say that he's done something that we disagree with; we all don't agree with that. I want him to get a fair shot; he deserves that.
"We don't have the system in place for this. We tried to make one up in a few short months and it's got too many ways to not be fair for a person like Zeke. I know this, we have a pretty good system in place in this country. It's called the legal system. It has a lot of precedents and its made a lot of mistakes, but it's the best one in the world, in my view. For us to not basically recognize that, that's a concern."
Meanwhile, fantasy owners trying to figure out whether Morris, Smith or McFadden are the true handcuff should be prepared for the possibility that it takes a combination of all three to get the job done.
Jones suggested as much on Tuesday.
During an appearance on 105.3 The Fan, the owner said that Morris will get more carries but also added that McFadden and Smith will have roles in the offense over the next six weeks.
Morris has 13 carries for 105 yards in five games this season while Smith has 10 carries for 69 yards. McFadden has not played at all this year.
I will, of course, continue to watch for more on that angle of this story in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more there and on Cole Beasley, who entered concussion protocol after hitting the back of his head on the ground in the third quarter in Washington.
"[Beasley] had a concussion during the game," Garrett said Monday. "But he was here this morning, and he seemed good. So we'll take his situation day-by-day."
Beasley was not practicing Wednesday. ...
Rookie Ryan Switzer replaced Beasley in Washington and would again if Beasley can't play.
Beasley led the Cowboys with catches last season but has only 18 receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns this season. ...
Also of interest. ... Dak Prescott's performance against Washington was not something he is proud of, but the bottom line is that he got the win. He completed 14 of 22 passes for 143 yards. The best he did was not turn it over. Prescott completed just five passes in the second half.
The wet conditions played a factor as receiver Dez Bryant dropped a touchdown pass. It was strange because Prescott opened the game 6-for-6 and completed nine of his first 10 passes for 105 yards. ...
Kicker Mike Nugent tried out for the Redskin earlier this month, but they opted to go with former Texas kicker Nick Rose. That kept Nugent on the open market, and the Cowboys signed him last week after Dan Bailey went down with a groin injury.
Nugent made the Redskins pay in his debut, connecting on four of five field goals and all three extra points in a 33-19 victory over the Redskins on a rainy afternoon at FedEx Field.
He didn't get off to the best start, though. Nugent's first field-goal attempt from 49 yards was wide left.
But he responded by connecting on four second-half field goals of 36, 48, 27 and 37 yards. Considering the weather factor, Nugent has earned trust quickly.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Alfred Morris, Rod Smith
WRs: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson, Allen Hurns, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown
TEs: Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold reported, with a third consecutive turnover-filled loss, head coach Vance Joseph said he wasn't ready to announce a quarterback change immediately following Monday night's 29-19 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but that doesn't mean he won't consider it Tuesday.
Following the loss, Joseph was asked if he would consider making a change at quarterback, to move Trevor Siemian out of the starting lineup
"I'm going to watch the film [Monday] night and [Tuesday], like most coaches would do, and see," Joseph said. "[Monday] our defense played winning football in my opinion, our offensive line blocked, we ran the ball for 177 [yards] and the pass pro was better. It all fell back to turning the ball over five times, that's insane."
Asked if that meant he would make a change Tuesday if he didn't see what he wanted to see from Siemian on the game video, Joseph replied, "I'm not sure, I'm not sure, but losing three games in a row, and having five turnovers [Monday] -- anything's possible."
In fact, it seemed likely.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. was at wit's end late Monday night.
"Frustration is very high, man," Harris said. "Tired of losing. Tired of losing the same way every game, man. We're not giving ourselves a chance to win."
On Wednesday it became a done deal.
According to multiple reports, Joseph informed the team on Wednesday morning that Brock Osweiler will start against the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday. Joseph reportedly had Siemian and Osweiler come to the team's facility on Tuesday night to break the news to them.
Osweiler spent his first four NFL seasons with the team and started seven games for Denver in 2015 before being replaced by Peyton Manning for the second half of their Week 17 game. The Broncos came back to win the game and Manning remained the starter through their Super Bowl win.
Osweiler left for the Texans as a free agent, had a dismal 2016 season and got traded to the Browns. He returned to the Broncos as a free agent after Paxton Lynch hurt his right shoulder just before the start of the regular season.
Siemian started 14 games during an 8-8 2016 season and opened this year with three good outings as the Broncos went 3-1 before a Week 5 bye. Siemian has not been anywhere near as good in the last three games, all of which the Broncos lost, and had a nightmarish outing against the Chiefs to force the Broncos' hand.
The Broncos have a short week before they face the Eagles, who have the best record in the league at 7-1, on the road and then return home to face the New England Patriots the following Sunday.
As Legwold suggested, the offense is not only stagnant, it's negating the league's top-rated defense.
Overall, the Broncos have 11 turnovers -- six of those interceptions by Siemian -- in the three losses, which have dropped them to 3-4 after a 3-1 start.
Five of those turnovers came in the loss to Kansas City, including a Jamaal Charles fumble that Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters returned 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Siemian threw three interceptions on the night.
"I just turned it over, couple of bad decisions, tough to win, tough to beat good teams when you turn it over," Siemian said.
Siemian was tied for the league lead with six touchdown passes after two games; he has nine touchdown passes total, with just two coming in the past three games, and 10 interceptions for the season.
Siemian won a training camp battle to be the starter in each of the past two seasons, beating out Mark Sanchez and Lynch in 2016 and then beating out Lynch again this past summer. Joseph has consistently expressed a comfort level with Siemian as the Broncos moved through the first quarter of the season at 3-1.
But the three-game losing streak has put any and all potential changes in the offensive huddle on the table. And Siemian is first man to the bench. ...
Osweiler's game action has been limited to one series of work late in the first half against the Giants in Week 6 as he serves as the Broncos' backup while continuing to undergo what Broncos general manager/president of football operations John Elway called "football rehab" nearly two months ago when he signed Osweiler to back up Siemian while Lynch recovered from a sprained right shoulder.
Lynch's recovery and work getting up to speed has not progressed to the point where Joseph considered starting him against the Eagles, leaving Osweiler as the only other option. Osweiler has as many regular-season starts in the NFL as Siemian 21 apiece but the Broncos are his third team in the last 12 months after the Texans traded him to Cleveland, which released him at the cutdown to 53 players in September.
Broncos general manager/president of football operations John Elway indicated that if Joseph opted to start Osweiler, he would be comfortable with the choice.
"If a decision is made to go that direction, I think we would be fine," Elway told KDSP-AM 760 in Denver on his weekly radio show.
With all the chaos on offense, there seems to be little reason for Denver's defense to change what it's doing.
The Broncos lead the league in total defense, allowing 261 yards per game. They rank second in rushing defense, allowing 72.9 yards per game. They rank sixth in passing defense, allowing 188.1 yards per game, and rediscovered their turnover touch with two takeaways against the Chiefs on Monday night.
Denver's defense is one of two in the NFL that ranks in the league's top six in passing and rushing defense; Carolina has the other such defense. The Broncos have allowed exactly one offensive touchdown in three of their last four games, and permitted two in the other. And through seven games, the Broncos haven't allowed a rushing touchdown, becoming the first team since the 2013 Rams to accomplish that feat.
Quarterback change notwithstanding, the Broncos will need their defense to continue getting the job done in Philadelphia. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to the Sports Xchange, C.J. Anderson left the game lamenting that he could have done more, but at the same time, he, Charles and Devontae Booker were the most consistent aspect of the Broncos' offense once they got uncorked, working through sizable holes for 177 yards.
As noted above, Charles' lost fumble in the first quarter marred the night, but the overall production offered something on which the Broncos can build as they try to get some level of consistent production from their struggling offense.
Emmanuel Sanders missed a second consecutive game because of a sprained ankle. Jordan Taylor started in his place, but Bennie Fowler saw the lion's share of the work as the No. 2 wide receiver.
Brandon McManus made both of his field-goal attempts and his only extra-point attempt Monday night. McManus entered Monday's game having missed half of his placekicks so far this season. All of his misses have come in home games.
Sanders was not practicing Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Rookie tight end Jake Butt did not practice last week because of soreness after his first week of practice following a nine-and-a-half-month recovery from a torn ACL. The rookie is on the reserve/non-football injury list, and the Broncos have until Nov. 6 to decide whether to move him to the 53-man roster. He was on the practice field Wednesday.
QBs: Case Keenum, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly
RBs: Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor
TEs: Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
The Detroit Lions were there again, in position for another fourth-quarter comeback, for another chance to pull off a win against one of the best teams in the NFL.
Except for one problem -- and it was the biggest one for the Lions on Sunday night -- it had to try to score from the red zone.
Time and again, the Lions got into the red zone. And time and again, the Lions failed to reach the end zone. Looking for the easiest reason why Detroit dropped its third straight game, sending it to under .500 for the first time this season, and it's here.
Five times Detroit reached the red zone. Five times the Lions settled for field goals or worse in a 20-15 loss to Pittsburgh that dropped the Lions three wins behind the NFC North-leading Vikings.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggested, the play calling inside the red zone from coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was unbelievably confusing by the Lions throughout the game, particularly in the second half. On a potential game-winning drive, the Lions ran a draw on third-and-5 leading into the two-minute warning. It was a play that was set up to fail -- one checked into by quarterback Matthew Stafford because he said he saw eight players in coverage.
Detroit ran 16 red zone plays Sunday without scoring a touchdown, the most plays run by a team in the red zone this season in a game without getting into the end zone.
"Just didn't execute," Stafford said. "We were close on a lot of plays, whether I missed a throw by an inch or two or we didn't catch a ball or whatever it is, it's obviously frustrating to get down there and not come away with points twice."
But it was so emblematic of Detroit's day.
It wiped out a day when the Lions played pretty well otherwise. Detroit actually found consistent offense when it wasn't inside Pittsburgh's 20-yard line, led by Stafford's 423 yards passing. The defense held Le'Veon Bell to 2.9 yards per carry and Ben Roethlisberger to under 55 percent passing. And the special teams -- well, kicker Matt Prater scored all of Detroit's points.
But it was the offense in the position where it needed to score that doomed Detroit.
"Red zone," tight end Eric Ebron said. "We came up with three instead of seven. That was pretty much the game. Whenever you don't put up touchdowns in the red zone, it's kind of hard."
Stafford completed 2 of 10 passes in the red zone Sunday for six yards and took a sack. Detroit's running backs had five carries for four yards.
The highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, Stafford currently has the third worst red-zone completion percentage in the league (39.5 percent), ahead of only Marcus Mariota and DeShone Kizer.
But, as the Sports Xchange suggested, it's the Lions' lack of any semblance of a running game that's made their issues more pronounced.
The Lions rank 28th in the NFL in rushing overall, and defenses have shown little regard for their running game much of the season. The Lions routinely face six-man boxes, and yet their overmatched offensive line still has trouble creating holes.
On Sunday, running back Dwayne Washington had four carries inside the Steelers' 4-yard line, and could not punch in a touchdown.
"If you take a look at the film, he's got to have some room to run, too," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "So there's a lot of things that go along with it. There were a couple of things that weren't done exactly right. There are not many guys in this league are going to run through two guys that are unblocked, so that's where we've got to get better. We've got to get better from all ends of it.
"Just not maximizing opportunities when we were down there," running back Ameer Abdullah said. "Very poor. Very poor. Got to find a way to score."
That's a fact.
The Lions wouldn't score a touchdown Sunday, the first time that happened since their wild-card playoff loss to Seattle last season.
So it's a concerning issue for Detroit and for fantasy owners, especially since the Lions entered Sunday converting 60 percent of their red zone opportunities, which was tied for sixth in the league. That'll drop dramatically now, with Detroit seemingly fixing some of its offensive problems -- and now running into a bunch of other ones. ...
The good news?
They'll be going up against a Green Bay offense led by Brett Hundley on Monday Night Football this week. Missing out on Aaron Rodgers isn't the worst thing that could happen here. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Ebron said he wasn't sure what to expect at Tuesday's trade deadline after reports surfaced over the weekend that the Lions fielded multiple trade inquiries about the fourth-year tight end.
No trade materialized.
Ebron, the 10th pick of the 2014 draft, is having a quiet season so far with just 15 catches for 160 yards, but the Lions aren't exactly overflowing with options at the position. Darren Fells has split playing time with Ebron this year, while No. 3 tight end, fourth-round pick Michael Roberts, has just one catch.
Asked Sunday if he still wanted to be a Lion, Ebron said, "I mean, I got drafted here. In high school I could have went to a different school. In college, when Butch (Davis) left I should have left. I always like to stick it out with the team that invested in me. So if I'm here, I'm here. If I'm not, I'm still going to be a happy man doing whatever it is I got to do. ..."
The Lions got big games from their top three receivers, Marvin Jones (six catches, 128 yards), Golden Tate (7-86) and TJ Jones (4-88), and good protection from their offensive line. Tate lost a key fumble in the fourth quarter, and Jones had a would-be touchdown pass bounce off his helmet. Ebron and Fells also couldn't hold onto catchable balls. ...
Stafford had the Lions' longest rush Sunday, an 11-yard scramble on third-and-10, as the running game was a non-factor most of the day. Abdullah had just 11 carries for 27 yards, and as noted above, Washington was stopped short of the end zone on four rushing attempts from the Steelers' 4-yard line.
While the offensive line held up well in pass protection, the returns weren't quite as good run blocking. Travis Swanson and Graham Glasgow missed key blocks on one Washington goal-line rush, and Swanson had a holding penalty that wiped out another gain.
Washington left Sunday's game with a concussion and is in danger of missing games for the second time this year. Washington missed four games with a quad pull earlier this year.
In addition, Kenny Golladay, who missed another game with a hamstring injury, suffered a setback in practice last week. His status for Monday night remains uncertain.
Tate, who played through a sprained AC joint that was supposed to cost him multiple games, appeared to finish this one without suffering any setbacks.
I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock, Matt Cassel
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Tion Green, Zach Zenner
WRs: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Jared Abbrederis, TJ Jones
TEs: Luke Willson, Michael Roberts, Levine Toilolo
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As Associated Press sports writer Genaro C. Armas put it, "Someone named 'Aaron' is still making big plays out of the Green Bay Packers backfield. ..."
With Aaron Rodgers out indefinitely with a right collarbone injury, the hard running of rookie Aaron Jones will have to do for now in Green Bay.
Jolted by the loss of the two-time NFL MVP, the Packers are in transition. A bye gave head coach Mike McCarthy more time to find ways to get the team back on track under backup Brett Hundley .
A once high-octane offense hit a speed bump last week in Hundley's first NFL start against the New Orleans Saints.
Suddenly, the Packers must regroup quickly to keep pace in the NFC North.
"Is the game plan as big as it was the week before? Absolutely not," McCarthy said. "We need to be more creative and make sure we're giving (Hundley) the things that he needs."
Armas went on to suggest this might be McCarthy's biggest challenge since the Packers last had to play an extended period without Rodgers, a seven-game stretch in 2013 when the quarterback had a left collarbone injury. Back then, they were 5-2 when Rodgers went down during a Monday night game in a loss to the Bears, what would be the start of a five-game winless streak. They recovered and still made the playoffs in part after getting consistent production from the running game behind then-rookie starter Eddie Lacy.
Lacy is now in Seattle, but McCarthy may have found a viable alternative in Jones. The fifth-round draft pick had 131 yards on 17 carries against the Saints, and the Packers ran for 181 yards overall.
And to think Jones was inactive for the season opener against the Seahawks.
"Everything's happening fast," Jones said about his emergence. "I don't know another way to explain it, I'm definitely enjoying it."
Jones shot up the depth chart after then-starter Ty Montgomery (ribs) and second-stringer Jamaal Williams (knee) were knocked out of a 35-14 win over the Chicago Bears last month. Montgomery hasn't been productive since his return playing with a flak jacket, while Williams is healthy again.
McCarthy turned to Jones to start against the Saints, and the 5-9 slasher set an early tone with a 46-yard touchdown run.
"You always want to be able to run the ball, that makes it easier (for) any quarterback," Jones said after the game.
Of course, some, like ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, believe Jones probably should have carried the ball more than 17 times against the Saints.
Perhaps that's why the Packers weren't able to capitalize by taking more deep shots or hitting play-action passes after establishing the run with Jones.
The plan in part with Hundley was to take advantage of his ability to play outside the pocket. Hundley might be in his third year in the system, but the Vikings game, when he replaced the injured Rodgers, was really the first time he had meaningful snaps in the regular season.
Against the Saints, Hundley ran for a 14-yard touchdown, and finished 12 of 25 for 87 yards and an interception.
"It's tough. It's all about building chemistry with your quarterback when you've only had a week to do that," receiver Randall Cobb said. "It's going to be important for us to continue to build confidence in him to throw it to us in different situations."
Part of the emphasis for Hundley moving forward will be getting him more comfortable in the pocket.
"You look at how many dropback passes he had, there's where the majority of our time clock things were, we weren't very clean there," McCarthy said. "The action passing game, the footwork was perfect and we had protection issues on two of them.
"You have to take in all the information. You can't let him feel the weight of the world, it's part of playing the position, I get that," McCarthy added. "Just stay in tune with what he's being asked to do."
The job might be easier if the Packers were able to get the ball more to their collection of playmaking receiving threats.
Jordy Nelson is tied for the NFL lead with six receiving touchdowns, while Davante Adams is tied for second at five. Cobb is a threat to turn short passes into long gains. Tight end Martellus Bennett has had several drops this season but still provides an athletic, 6-foot-7 target over the middle.
Together, the four players combined for just seven catches for 57 yards with no scores against the Saints.
"Jordy Nelson, Davante, Marty, Randall Cobb, those guys have got to touch the ball. We didn't get that done," McCarthy said. "Now, how many times have we run for 180-plus yards? Not very often. You're supposed to win those games. So, we have a lot to build off of."
For what it's worth, Hundley stayed in Green Bay during the bye and put in extra time with the coaching staff in hopes of being in better position to succeed when the Packers return to face the Lions on Monday Night Football.
"You know obviously with the bye, you get to get away from football for a second, but the mindset is still, we've got to come back and win games," Hundley said. "Because we face Detroit at home, a Monday night game, so the mindset is winning. Obviously, the bye week we'll be able to get away and just sort of get our minds away. Come back to it. But we've got to win.
"That's all I've got to say. We just have to win."
One last note here. ... In case you missed it, Bennett, 30, posted an Instagram story last Saturday saying he is considering retirement after this season, his 10th in the NFL.
"After conversations with my family, I'm pretty sure these next eight games will be the conclusion of my NFL career," Bennett wrote. "To everyone that has poured themselves and time into my life and career. These next games are for you. Thank you."
A Packers source confirmed to Demovsky that the team is aware of Bennett's possible retirement after the season. Green Bay, which is on a bye this week, has nine games to go in the regular season.
Bennett got off to a slow start this season and battled drops, but he has 24 catches (fourth-most on the team) for 233 yards without a touchdown.
The Packers signed Bennett after they decided to let tight end Jared Cook leave in free agency. Cook then signed a two-year, $10.6 million deal with the Raiders.
QBs: DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays, Ty Montgomery
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted, the Texans' improved passing game has a lot to do, of course, with rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, but for the first time since Andre Johnson left Houston, the team has two top receivers.
Texans receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are tied, not only for the team lead with seven touchdown catches, but for the NFL lead as well. Fuller has reached that number in only four games, as he missed the first four weeks because of a broken collarbone.
With a passing game that struggled last season with Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage under center, Hopkins had his worst season statistically since his rookie year in 2013. He finished with 78 catches for 954 yards and four touchdowns, a far cry from his 111-reception, 11-touchdown performance the year before.
But with Watson, Hopkins and this offense has thrived. In seven games this season, Hopkins has 45 catches for 606 yards and seven touchdowns, including one of the biggest games of his career in the Texans' 41-38 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Hopkins finished with eight catches for 224 yards and a touchdown. The total yardage was the most in a game by a receiver this season.
"He is a great player," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "He is one of the best receivers in the league. You guys have seen it for a long time. He is a competitor. We try and get the ball in his hand as much as possible. We just didn't get it into his hands enough. We will try and continue to do that."
Hopkins has also been helped by the play of Fuller, a second-year receiver for Houston. At times on Sunday, Fuller had two or three Seahawks defenders chasing him down the field, drawing coverage away from Hopkins. In four games since returning from a broken collarbone, Fuller has 11 catches, seven of which were for touchdowns. On Sunday, he had five catches for 125 yards.
"He's a beast," Hopkins said. "How many of catches of his [are] touchdowns? Almost every one it seems like. So that helps me out. If guys want to cheat to my side, you've got to watch Will."
Added Fuller on Hopkins: "We help each other out. He's opening me up, I am opening him up. It feels real good to be back with the team."
Last season, Fuller started off strong but dealt with a nagging hamstring injury and had trouble holding onto the ball at times. Hopkins said he has noticed a big difference in Fuller in 2017, and that started with the work he put in during the offseason after he felt he left some things on the field.
"Will has been playing his butt off," Hopkins said. "And we've been seeing that during the offseason. ... Even before he got hurt, he was doing good things, improving on his hands and his routes and it's showed this season.
"I could tell this offseason he was doing extra in the weight room, extra things like film study to come out and make sure he improved from last year. And it showed."
Fuller's speed has been a huge help to this offense as he continues to draw coverage deep down the field and take away defenders from Hopkins.
O'Brien praised Fuller's route-running and speed, saying the young receiver has clearly gotten better with his hands as well.
"He's a playmaker," Watson said. [He] finds ways to get open. He's a deep threat, he has a lot of speed and he's very, very smart, so he knows the feel of this offense and what we're looking for."
And the dynamic duo of receivers has helped Watson breathe life into this offense in 2017.
"We scored 38 points," Fuller said. "Whenever you can score 38 points, that's really tough to do. We have a lot of confidence on offense that we can put up points."
Based on what we saw Sunday, fantasy owners should share in that confidence. Watson is a must-play regardless of matchup.
Remember, Sunday's game was supposed to be tougher, a "true test" for Watson going into Seattle to face the No. 1 scoring defense that had held five of six opponents to fewer than 20 points.
And although Watson could not make up for a defense that struggled down the stretch, he showed he and the Texans' offense are a legitimate threat.
The rookie quarterback was 19-of-30 for 402 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions with a passer rating of 119.6. His first interception was a pick-six on the Texans' second drive of the day, and the last came on Watson's last pass of the game as he was attempting one more comeback drive in the 41-38 loss.
The Texans' 14 first-quarter points were the first time the Seahawks have allowed 14 points in the first quarter of a home game since 2012, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Seattle also entered the game having allowed just two points and no touchdowns in the first quarter.
Prior to Sunday, the Seahawks also had not given up a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Worth noting: Entering Sunday, the Texans had faced only two teams that ranked in the top 10 of opponent Total QBR: the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In those two games, Watson threw for just 227 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
As Barshop pointed out, the other four games were against teams that ranked 19th or lower in opponent QBR and Watson averaged 267.5 passing yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions.
So even though Watson found success against the Seahawks, it won't get too much easier the rest of the way, as the Texans will play four of the teams ranked in the top six in opponent QBR down the stretch. Watson does get a break this week against the Indianapolis Colts, which entered the game ranked 32nd in scoring defense, allowing 31.7 points per game.
Of course, you're not sitting Watson -- regardless of the matchup -- based on his production to this point. ...
In a related note. ... With four passing touchdowns on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, Watson continued his historic start, passing Kurt Warner with 19 touchdowns through his first seven career NFL games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Watson also passed Peyton Manning, Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott for the most three-passing-touchdown games in a season (four) by a rookie quarterback since the 1970 merger.
Also of interest. ... Standing inside the Texans locker room Monday morning, veteran left tackle Duane Brown gushed about how much he enjoyed his first game playing with Watson.
It will be the only game that Brown will play with Watson, though.
Brown was traded to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night in exchange for cornerback Jeremy Lane along with a fifth-round draft pick in 2018 and a second-round draft pick in 2019 one day before the NFL trade deadline. Lane failed his physical on Tuesday, but the trade still went through with some slight adjustments.
Brown played Sunday against the Seahawks and held up well despite the obvious rust accumulated during the longest contract holdout in Texans franchise history.
With Brown off the roster after playing 68 of 71 offensive snaps during a 41-38 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday, the Texans are expected to go with Chris Clark at left tackle again as Clark is returning from a strained calf. They used rookie Julie'n Davenport in relief of Brown against the Seahawks for a few snaps. ...
Hopkins left the facility and skipped practice on Friday after owner Bob McNair's "inmates running the prison" comments came to light. As noted above, Hopkins then had a phenomenal game against Seattle. After the game, he declined to talk about the McNair situation.
In response to every question about what had transpired regarding McNair's comments, Hopkins said "Seattle played a great game" or words to that effect.
Rookie running back D'Onta Foreman also left the facility on Friday. He was more willing to discuss the situation after Sunday's game.
"I'm still upset," Foreman said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. "I feel like some things shouldn't be said."
Foreman added that the comment hurt Foreman and his family, and that he felt like he had to stand up and take action.
Worth noting: Foreman had no carries Sunday as he was replaced by Alfred Blue. Both O'Brien and Foreman insisted that his reduction in status had nothing to do with him walking out Friday.
O'Brien said Blue had practiced better than Foreman.
Lamar Miller served as the Texans' workhorse against Seattle, logging 21 carries for 54 yards and a rushing touchdown. He added 19 receiving yards and a second touchdown through the air.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, while he wasn't too efficient as a runner, his fantasy owners won't notice thanks to the two scores. Franciscovich went on to point out that Miller logged 87 percent of the snaps. With the Houston offense putting up 38 points on Seattle, Miller should continue to roll this week in a dream matchup against the Colts.
And finally. ... Defensive end Christian Covington is out for the remainder of the season with a torn biceps suffered Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
The former sixth-round draft pick from Rice will be placed on injured reserve. He finishes the season with 16 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.
The Texans will have to adjust without Covington, who was playing extensively even before the season-ending broken leg sustained by J.J. Watt. Plus, defensive end Joel Heath missed the Seahawks game with a knee injury. O'Brien said he wasn't sure how the Texans will replace Covington. They could use veteran Kendall Langford if his back cooperates or plug in Brandon Dunn.
QBs: T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Andre Ellington, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, DeAndrew White
TEs: Stephen Anderson, Evan Baylis, MyCole Pruitt
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
Andrew Luck spent Monday out of sight, still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Cornerback Vontae Davis, running back Frank Gore and receiver T.Y. Hilton dealt with questions about potential trades, and head coach Chuck Pagano again found himself explaining what went wrong over the weekend.
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot put it, "Welcome to another week at the Colts' complex. ..."
"We're just trying to get him healthy right now," Pagano said when asked about his star quarterback. "We're not going to force the issue unless he's ready. So obviously, he's not ready yet."
The Colts (2-6) never established a timetable for Luck's projected return from a partially torn labrum.
But the longer he sits, the more likely it becomes Luck won't play at all this season -- a possibility that was bolstered by the fact Pagano confirmed his starting quarterback would miss a third consecutive week of practice.
The news comes just 3½ weeks after Luck told reporters he sensed he was "getting close to the finish."
After having surgery in January, Luck missed all of the offseason workouts, all of training camp, the entire preseason and the first eight regular-season games. He didn't start throwing to teammates till early October and after two weeks of going every other day, Luck complained of soreness in the shoulder.
General manager Chris Ballard told reporters on Oct. 18 that Luck had been "shut down" after receiving a cortisone shot.
Since then, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft has not been working out during the open portions of practice. Pagano said he wasn't sure if Luck might have been throwing out of view.
On Sunday, FOXSports' Jay Glazer first reported Luck was seeking another opinion on the shoulder.
"We're going to exhaust all resources because the best interest is the players and it's long term and we've said that," Pagano said when asked about the report. "It's 10 or 12 years for this guy, for any player. So we're going to make sure he's all right before we put him out there, or any player."
Luck didn't take questions Monday.
Without their starting quarterback, the Colts are off to their worst start since 2011 and their playoff hopes are fading fast.
That has prompted many outsiders to openly debating whether it's worth playing Luck -- even if he can come back this season. The Colts visit Houston (3-4) on Sunday then host Pittsburgh (6-2) before their bye week.
In fact, Indianapolis' final eight opponents have a combined record of 28-21. The Colts already have lost to Jacksonville and Tennessee while they still have to play Houston twice. The Colts have finished with a 2-14 record once since 2011. That got them the No. 1 overall pick, which landed them Luck, in the 2012 draft.
They could be on their way to finishing with that record again.
"That's how life is. That's how football is. You have to keep fighting," Pagano said. "If you don't give up, it will turn. When that is, I don't have a crystal ball. But I know if you go the other way, I know what the outcome will be. That's not this team. They will never do that."
Does that mean they would force Luck back into the mix at some point? Even if he's cleared to resume throwing, Luck probably will need at least several weeks of practice to get into game shape.
By then, the Colts could be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention or close to it.
All along the Colts have said they expect Luck to play this season, a notion Pagano reiterated Monday.
"Nothing's changed," he said.
With plenty of reason to wonder how the Colts can possibly turn their season around, some observers expected them to be active in the trade market in advance of Tuesday's deadline.
Ballard has made three trades since joining Indianapolis in January, but despite considerable buzz surrounding Gore and Davis, who both have expiring contracts, as well as rumors around three-time Pro Bowl receiver Hilton, nothing came to pass. ...
Meanwhile, Pagano is trying to help the Colts dig themselves out of a major hole.
Indy has lost three straight for the first time since 2015, and if Luck remains out, the immediate future for Indianapolis could become even bleaker.
"We want the kid healthy," Pagano said. "Nobody's more frustrated than him. He wants to be out there battling. So it isn't fun for anybody, but it is what it is. ..."
In a related note. ... With concerns about Luck ongoing, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Tuesday that the Colts would work out former Giants QB Josh Johnson. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Jacoby Brissett played relatively well against Cincinnati, competing 25-of-39 passes for 233 yards and TD passes to Jack Doyle and rookie running back Marlon Mack. Brissett was sacked four times. His only mistake in the game was a mid-fourth quarter pick-six that scored the game-winner for the Bengals.
Cincinnati's Carlos Dunlap made a great play to tip and then intercept the ball. ...
Hilton has caught five passes for 61 yards in his last three games, all losses. He was only targeted twice in the fourth quarter of the Cincinnati game Sunday and Pagano told reporters on Wednesday that "We've got to figure out ways to get him some free access. ... Gotta find ways."
Doyle had a career day against the Bengals, hauling in 12 passes for 121 yards. ...
Gore played as well as he has in his time with Indianapolis. Gore rushed 16 times for 82 yards and had a gaudy 5.1 per rush average in the game. Mack added 11 carries for 27 yards. Indianapolis averaged 4.1 yards per rushing play.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "If you were forced to start Gore in a flex spot due to bye weeks, you have to be satisfied with his yardage total. But he'll be tough to trust next week against the Texans." Meanwhile, Franciscovich believes Mack is becoming a weekly low-end flex given his increased snaps and big-play ability so if he's still on your waiver wire, now is the time to add.
Tight end Erik Swoope (knee) is "making progress" towards a return to the active roster. Pagano would not put a timeline on when Swoope could resume practicing with the team. He has been on the injured reserve list since the start of the regular season.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri keeps moving up the NFL record chart. Vinatieri, playing in his 22nd season at the age of 44, is now tied for second in NFL history with 2,434 points. What's his secret?
"Good genes. And he's Italian. Phenomenal," Pagano said Monday.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien
RBs: Marlon Mack, Christine Michael, Matt Jones, Robert Turbin
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken
TEs: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Ross Travis, Jason Vander Laan
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long noted last week, fast starts in games are a big reason for Jacksonville's fast start to the season.
The Jaguars (4-3) have scored on their opening possession in six of seven games, two shy of the franchise record set in 1997 and matched in 2007 and 2009. Getting those early leads have been the key for a team built to pound the ball with rookie running back Leonard Fournette and play solid defense. They also have propelled Jacksonville to a first-place tie in the AFC South and the team's best start in a decade.
"I think it's just the attention to detail," quarterback Blake Bortles said. "I think guys are pretty locked in and have a really good idea of what we're running, when's it going to be called, what look, who we're going to get. So I think guys are pretty locked in and focused on that.
"It's something that we've talked about for a long time in Jacksonville -- the past couple years for sure -- being able to start fast, and we haven't always been able to do that, so I think for us to be able to take the next step and be able to do that this year has been big."
The Jaguars have more first-quarter points (51) than any other team and haven't committed a turnover in the opening 15 minutes. Those initial drives have undoubtedly set the tone for the rest of the games.
Jacksonville has three touchdowns and three field goals on opening possessions. The only time the team failed to score on its first drive was at Pittsburgh, a game the Jags managed to win 30-6.
"When you go out there and get off to a good start, it's like two-minute (drill)," head coach Doug Marrone said. "You make that first completion and you get on a roll. If you miss the first one, then it's very difficult when you study all the two-minute stuff.
"Don't let that last drive hinder what you can do on the next one. And then when you do well on it, go on the sideline, keep that momentum going for the next drive. It is a matter of the consistency and the execution."
Long went on to explain the Jaguars are designed to play with a lead. They have Fournette and former 1,000-yard rusher Chris Ivory in the backfield, have a rookie left tackle, have a quarterback with accuracy issues, have played without former Pro-Bowl receiver Allen Robinson all season, and have a defense that might be the best in the league.
Being ahead minimizes what the Jaguars ask Bortles to do and turns loose the league's top pass rush.
The results have been staggering, really.
All four of Jacksonville's wins have been by at least 20 points. To put that in perspective, the team had three such wins over the previous seven seasons.
And the Jaguars feel like they should be 5-1. They gave up 17 points on three special teams blunders in a 27-17 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 6. Two weeks before that, they gave up 17 points on three running plays totaling 177 yards in a 23-20 overtime loss at the New York Jets. Those included a 75-yard TD run in which defenders failed to touch Bilal Powell when he fell to the turf.
Jason Myers also missed a 52-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, and Marqise Lee dropped a third-down pass in overtime that likely would have set up a winning attempt.
Pulling out close games late is the next step for Jacksonville.
For now, though, the team will settle for making huge progress early in games.
The Jaguars haven't finished a season outscoring opponents in the first quarter since 2007, the last time they had a winning record and made the playoffs. They trailed at the end of the first quarter in seven games last season and 10 in 2016. They've been behind after the first quarter just twice this season.
"When you go through the week, you have a sense of what you would like or think that the players can do well and what you want to do in those situations," Marrone said. "During the course of the week, you're going to practice those plays. You're probably practicing them pretty much in the order that you would probably want to call them.
"I really think if you are really focused in and really paying attention to what we're doing during the week, then you are going to know exactly what we're going to be able to call on Sunday. ..."
Meanwhile, it's fair to wonder if Dede Westbrook will emerge as a legitimate threat when he's activated from IR this week.
ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco wrote last week that he expects Westbrook to back for the Bengals game. He'll start off as the No. 4 receiver because the Jaguars really like Keelan Cole. But other than his 52-yard catch in Week 7, Cole hasn't given the Jaguars much, so Westbrook shouldn't have much trouble moving past Cole once Westbrook gets his conditioning back and feels comfortable being on the field for the first time.
That could take a few weeks, but he should be in that role by December.
For the record, it looks like Fournette is on track for that return. He worked on the field Monday as the team got back from their time off and he worked fully on Wednesday. Westbrook was also on the field.
Lee (knee) was not practicing Wednesday, something we've seen in recent weeks. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
QBs: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Brandon Allen
RBs: Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant
WRs: Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Max McCaffrey, Jaelen Strong, Marqise Lee
TEs: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ben Koyack, Niles Paul
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher noted, something about playing against the Denver Broncos brings out the best in Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Kelce had his third straight 100-plus yard game against the Broncos on Monday night as the Chiefs won 29-19 to move to 6-2 and break their two-game losing streak. Kelce had seven catches for 133 yards and a 29-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Games with more than 100 yards aren't rare for Kelce. Monday night was the 11th of his career, and all but two of those have come in the past two seasons for the player drafted in 2013.
But he has done it a disproportionate number of times against the Broncos, and Kelce was at a loss afterward to explain that.
"I wish there was a secret," he said.
"I want the ball every single play. That's just how I grew up playing. I was a quarterback because I loved having the ball in my hand. When I moved to tight end in college I've always been the same way."
On Monday night, the Broncos were determined not to let rookie running back Kareem Hunt beat them, and he didn't. Hunt was held to fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his pro career.
That came at a cost, particularly early in the game. The price was usually an open Kelce. He had four catches for 83 yards in the first quarter.
"They've tried a lot of things," head coach Andy Reid said. "That's a credit to [Kelce]. He's fought through all double-teams and jams, quick jams at the line, and all of those things that teams do to try to disrupt his game. He's battled through it and found ways to get himself open. He's one of the best if not the best in the business."
Kelce had two previous 100-plus-yard games this season, but 133 yards is the high. He was well on his way past 100 in a Week 5 game against the Houston Texans, but he left at halftime because of a concussion and didn't return, finishing with 98 yards.
"He's just a matchup problem, bigger than most corners," quarterback Alex Smith said. "Route running-wise, he's a tough matchup for safeties and linebackers. It's a little bit of pick your poison. He's had success throughout his career versus all three of those matchups.
"It seems like there's a different plan each week given the defense and certainly it seems like he does get attention, and rightfully so. Obviously, he does a heck of a job understanding what they're doing to him and how to combat it. He always seems to have a comeback move off of it. He knows how teams play him and has a good plan of attack going into games."
Smith said the Chiefs made no special effort to get Kelce going early in the game.
"You call a play and you don't totally know where it's going to go and on some of those plays it's dictated by coverage," he said. "We did get some good looks though, some good matchups early. ..."
In general, Smith delivered an uneven performance, completing just 14 of 31 passes for 202 yards. The offensive line provided better pass protection with the return of center Mitch Morse, especially given the level of competition.
But aside from Kelce, the team's passing game never found a rhythm and floundered much of the night.
As for the rushing attack, if you take out a lone 15-yard run, Hunt averaged fewer than 2 yards per carry. Even Smith scrambling for 33 yards failed to add respectability to the run game. It's time to question if teams have enough film on Hunt to find ways to counter his explosive physical tools. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Receiver Albert Wilson left Monday night's game early with a hamstring injury. Wilson battled a sprained knee in recent weeks that kept him out of the team's Week 6 loss to Pittsburgh. Wilson remains the most experienced wideout among the Chiefs' young receivers group. He has 17 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns this season.
He was not on the practice field Wednesday. ...
LB Dee Ford left Monday night's game with tightness in his back, according to Reid. Ford missed two games earlier this season with what the team termed back spasms. His availability for next week's game at Dallas remains unclear. Ford has two sacks in six games this season along with 13 tackles.
And finally. ... The AFC Special Teams Player of the Week was Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker. Butker booted five field goals -- including a 51-yarder -- to help Kansas City top Denver.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Tyler Bray
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, Kerwynn Williams, Damien Williams, Akeem Hunt
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, De'Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
Head coach Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers took to the podium on Monday as his players took off.
"These guys have been working hard, so I gave them the week off," Lynn said.
It's the Chargers' bye week and Lynn wasted little time making it just that. Smarting from another close loss, this one coming to the New England Patriots, 21-13, on Sunday, had left Lynn's team frazzled.
"They were in a lot of close games, had their backs against the wall, fought back and I just felt like getting away from football and being with their families is something they needed to do this week."
According to the Sports Xchange, the coaches will be punching the clock, trying to figure out how the Chargers sit at 3-5 after losing another game by a single score. A bounce here and there as well as better execution everywhere and the team's ledger just as easily could be flipped.
But a loss to the defending champions ended a three-game winning streak on Sunday. That had come after a four-game losing skid as the Chargers continue their uneven showing.
"It's tough because we have been in every single game and we think what could have been," Lynn said. "But you can't do that. Our record is what it is: 3-5. We have to figure out a way to win the third and fourth quarters of the season."
That means while the players will have their legs up, the coaches will have their pencils out. The ones with erasers to omit what has backfired for the Chargers.
"We'll reflect back and self-scout," Lynn said. "And we have different projects by guys trying to figure out like crazy how we can get better and how we want to move forward when the guys come back."
The Chargers will reconvene in Jacksonville on Nov. 12 against a Jaguars team that surprisingly has a share of the AFC South lead.
Now if the Chargers can just be the team that shocks everyone after their bye and in the second half.
Quarterback Philip Rivers doesn't forget the first half included an 0-4 record.
"I said if we can somehow get to 3-5 at the bye, we'll be in the hunt," he said. "And we did that."
Reasons for optimism heading into the bye?
Nursing an injured foot, running back Melvin Gordon had one of his best days as a pro, finishing with 132 rushing yards, including an 87-yard scamper for a score.
Gordon recorded his fifth career 100-yard rushing game and became just the second player to rush for 100 yards against the Patriots in the past two seasons. Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 148 yards in his team's season-opening win against the Patriots in Week 1.
Gordon's 87-yard run was the longest rushing touchdown allowed by the Patriots under coach Bill Belichick.
"Melvin came into the game sore a little bit, but I thought he played extremely hard," Lynn said. "He left a couple yards out there on the field, but I thought he played well."
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "The Chargers offense runs through their workhorse back, so as long as he remains healthy enough to get an active tag, he needs to be in fantasy lineups every single week. Except (this) week, because the Chargers have a bye. It comes at a perfect time as Gordon could use the rest. ..."
Branden Oliver was active on Sunday, one week after being a healthy scratch. Oliver had 3 yards on three carries. ...
Rivers finished 17-of-30 for 212 yards, with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin and an interception on the game's final play. Rivers' favorite target was Benjamin, who finished with five catches for 64 yards. Keenan Allen also totaled four catches for 61 yards.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out, Allen hasn't found the end zone since Week 1 and has not crossed 70 yards receiving since Week 4. His targets have gone down in every game since that game against the Eagles with 12, nine, seven, and five over the last four weeks. ...
Issues of note?
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams notes, the Chargers' special teams played poorly. Benjamin ran backward on a punt return and was tackled for a safety. After an offside penalty, the Chargers gave up a 71-yard kick return to Dion Lewis. Nick Novak had a 51-yard field goal attempt partially blocked by Lawrence Guy.
And three times, Chargers kick returners brought the ball out of the end zone and failed to get to the 25-yard line.
In addition, the Bolts had two touchdowns called back because of penalties. Tyrell Williams hauled in what looked to be a 42-yard pass for a score but was called for illegal touching after he stepped out of bounds on his go route. On the Chargers' next drive, Williams was called for offensive pass interference on a pick play that freed up Benjamin, bringing back the Miami product's 41-yard score on a shallow crossing route.
Fortunately, the Chargers get two weeks to clean those issues up and prepare for their next game on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Chargers are 7-2 all-time against Jacksonville and have won six straight. And linebacker Denzel Perryman, who has been on IR with an ankle injury, is expected to play when the Chargers return on Nov. 12.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver
WRs: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Geremy Davis
TEs: Antonio Gates, Sean McGrath
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
The Los Angeles Rams got back to work on Monday after their bye week. The key now: Maintain the momentum they built while constructing their best start in 13 years, which includes leading the NFL in scoring at 30.3 points per game and surrendering just 39 points over their last 14 quarters.
Coming of the bye at 5-2, the Rams are off to their best start since 2003. That's also the last year this long-struggling franchise finished a season with a winning record.
As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham noted, Sean McVay might be only 31 years old, but he has been around the NFL long enough to be wary of the midseason excitement building around a team in position to challenge for its first playoff spot since 2004.
"Who were you talking about after seven weeks in the NFL last year?" the coach asked. "What were guys' records? Nobody cares. Because really, it's about what you do at the end."
Still, the Rams can be proud of the strides they've made into football relevance after 10 straight losing seasons.
After the euphoria of relocation devolved into a miserable losing streak and wholesale franchise turnover last fall, the Rams are doing things right this year.
"I think guys have earned the right to enjoy their bye week, get back, get away, get refreshed, get recharged," McVay said.
Although McVay isn't handing out any trophies right now, just about everybody has done work that's worthy of a reward.
"I think we've got a comfortable rhythm right now," McVay said. "I think we've done a lot of things pretty well."
McVay's offense is the most impressive achievement of the season for Rams fans who watched the NFL's worst offense in each of the past two years.
Much of the credit should go to the revamped offensive line, which has been thoroughly transformed into an above-average unit led by left tackle Andrew Whitworth, but the Rams' young skill players are turning into stars under McVay's tutelage.
Most notably, the new coaching staff has revitalized running back Todd Gurley and turned Jared Goff into a solid NFL quarterback in just his second season.
Goff, written off as a bust after a disastrous rookie season, is a changed man working behind the reconstructed offensive line and surrounded by a bevy of new playmakers - including wide receivers Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp and the rejuvenated Gurley.
The first overall pick in the 2016 draft, Goff has thrown for 1,719 yards and nine touchdowns against just four interceptions. Miraculously, he's been sacked just 10 times through seven games after going down 26 times over the seven games he started as a rookie.
The better protection, combined with more perimeter weapons and the creative offense under McVay, has put Goff back on path to being the franchise quarterback the Rams envisioned upon drafting him and, just as important, has completely turned the Rams franchise around.
As good as Goff has been, though, Gurley has been equally impressive while bouncing back from a horrendous sophomore season last year to reclaim his standing as one of the best running backs in the NFL.
Gurley has 627 yards and five touchdowns on the ground while adding 293 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
The defense has made an impressive transition to coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, with All-Pro lineman Aaron Donald returning to dominance after holding out for the entire preseason. The rest of the defense has overcome injuries and absences to remain solid around linebacker Alec Ogletree, its emotional leader.
"The biggest thing that we'll always strive to achieve is that continuous improvement," McVay said. "I think when you look at what our team has done, we do feel like we're getting better."
Los Angeles headed into its bye week with a 33-0 thrashing of the Arizona Cardinals, underlining the Rams' rise with another win over an NFC West foe.
Provided both Goff and Gurley can maintain their level of play, there's no reason to think the Rams can't remain in the thick of the NFC West division and NFC playoff chase.
They resume play off the bye against the New York Giants in New Jersey Sunday to conclude three straight games and one full month away from Los Angeles.
Beyond that, a matchup with the suddenly offensively dangerous Houston Texans awaits at the Coliseum in two weeks.
The stage is set for the Rams to make a legitimate playoff run, especially with their defense getting back on track after a shaky start.
The key now: Maintaining. ...
Meanwhile, asked if Watkins playing more in the slot in Week 7 was a maneuver to get him away from Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, or was it a sign of things to come, ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez advised readers there's a good chance we'll continue to see Watkins operate out of the slot.
One thing McVay continually stresses is that he wants his receivers to have the ability to line up all over the field, be it on the outside, in the slot or even inline. Still, though, Woods and Kupp will continue to be Goff's primary targets in the short to intermediate passing game, with Watkins serving as the vertical threat.
The two have had a hard time hooking up on deep shots ever since Watkins' breakout game against the 49ers in Week 3.
Woods has been everything the Rams expected upon signing him as a free agent during the offseason. The veteran pass-catcher has 27 catches for 381 yards and has provided the leadership the Rams were hoping he'd provide.
And finally. ... Running back Lance Dunbar, who is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, officially returned to practice on Monday. In doing so, it begins a 21-day clock in which the Rams either have to activate him to the active roster or keep him on PUP for the rest of the season.
Dunbar was a key free-agent addition this past offseason from the Dallas Cowboys and was expected to play a big role as a third-down back behind Gurley. But the effects of a knee injury he suffered last season lingered into OTAs, training camp and the first seven weeks of the regular season to nullify him as an option.
It seems likely the Rams will eventually activate Dunbar given his skill set, fresh legs and how McVay can figure out a way to utilize him. To do so, though, they'd have to release a player from their active roster and that gets dicey considering the options are so limited. One option would be cutting rookie running back Justin Davis and hoping he slips through the waiver wire and the Rams can add him to the practice squad.
I'll follow up on that as developments warrant; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar
WRs: Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
In the aftermath of the Miami Dolphins' 40-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night -- the team's worst shutout loss in 20 seasons -- head coach Adam Case had strong words for the offense.
"We're the worst offense in football. It's hard to go lower than that," Gase said at his Friday news conference, and the numbers back him up. The Dolphins (4-3) rank last in the NFL with 252.4 yards per game.
"I'm pissed. I'm tired of this. I'm tired of the offense being awful," Gase said. "Guys better need to get their heads right. Coaching staff needs to do a better job, because obviously our players not knowing [what to do] is a direct reflection of them."
Gase was most upset about the study habits of the players on offense.
"We're not putting the work in," he said. "That's what it comes down to. If you can't remember it, you shouldn't be in the NFL. At the end of the day, guys have got to actually take this stuff home and study it. They're not going to just learn it all in meetings. We've got to find guys that'll actually put forth effort to actually remember this stuff, and it starts with our best players."
Perhaps some changes might shake things up?
Well. ... We'll find out after Miami shipped starting running back Jay Ajayi off to the Eagles early Tuesday in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round draft pick.
So why move on from Ajayi?
Surely, plenty was happening behind the scenes. In 2016, the season began with a decision to leave Ajayi behind for a trip to Seattle, given his apparent reaction to the decision to start Arian Foster. And with the offense already as bad as it can be -- at least according to Gase, it's not going to get much worse without him.
Ajayi has a pair of 100-yard performances in seven 2017 games. But he has only 465 for the season, and a 3.4-yard average per carry.
Ajayi's final game in Miami was particularly disappointing. Last Thursday against the Ravens, the power back sprinted for 21 yards on his first attempt of the game. He earned two total yards on 13 carries the rest of the way, including a bevy of negative plays for 1.8 yards per carry average.
After the game, Gase criticized the running back without mentioning him by name:
"We've got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time," Gase said. "It's on the running back. Do your job. It's not hard to do."
Now the Dolphins backed up those stormy words by shipping the workhorse out of town.
With Ajayi out as the running back in Miami, who's in?
Basically, the guys who are already there.
Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, reported shortly after the trade was announced that the Dolphins currently plan to go with the guys they currently have: Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake, and Senorise Perry.
They also could elevate De'Veon Smith from the practice squad.
For the year, Williams has 32 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Drake has 25 yards on 10. One or both of them is about to get a lot more work, soon.
Meanwhile, Gase also said quarterback Jay Cutler will start Miami's next game against the Oakland Raiders, and said Cutler "could have played" last Thursday.
Maybe he should have.
Cutler left the Oct. 22 matchup against the New York Jets with a rib injury. Matt Moore replaced Cutler and led the Dolphins to a comeback win against the Jets, but he was 25-of-44 for 176 yards against the Ravens with two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns.
The team is also without a rushing touchdown this season. In fact, Miami hasn't had a rushing touchdown in eight straight games, the longest streak in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The Dolphins have been outscored by 60 points, the worst point differential by a team with a winning record after its first seven games of a season in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Miami has been held without a point during a half six times this season, the most in a team's first seven games of a season since at least 2001, according to ESPN Stats and Information. ...
Worth noting. ... Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported shortly after the Ajayi trade was announced that the team also made wide receiver Jarvis Landry "available for the right compensation." What that compensation might wasn't clear, although the team would probably be hoping for a third-round compensatory pick if Landry leaves as a free agent in the offseason.
The possibility of Landry leaving at that point seems like a decent one as the Dolphins have shown little urgency about signing him to a new contract before he would hit the open market. Gase's angry comments last week about key offensive players failing to do what's being asked of them by the team would serve as further evidence that the team would be willing to try out life without Landry.
Landry has 50 catches for 398 yards and three touchdowns this season.
In addition, Landry has target totals of 10, 14, 11 and 12 in the four games DeVante Parker has missed or left early with injury. According to Palm Beach Post staffer Joe Schad, Parker on Wednesday confirmed he’s playing against the Raiders on Sunday. If so, his connection with Cutler and a generous Oakland pass defense could make for a solid comeback game.
Parker and Cutler both practiced fully on Wednesday.
I'll be following up on Cutler and Parker via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, Kenny Stills, who was targeted 10 times against the Ravens, will likely take a step back with Moore's turn as the starter over. ...
Kicker Cody Parkey missed a 50-yard field-goal attempt wide left against Baltimore. Parkey was 8 of 8 entering the game.
QBs: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Brock Osweiler, Brandon Doughty
RBs: Frank Gore, Kenyan Drake
WRs: DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Anthony Fasano, MarQueis Gray, Gavin Escobar
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, Jerick McKinnon is living out the best stretch of his career as the first-place Vikings head into their bye week atop the NFC North.
In Minnesota's past four games, all of which have resulted in wins, McKinnon totaled 494 yards from scrimmage on 79 touches and four touchdowns, a career high for the fourth-year pro.
His versatility has been touted among the assets he provides the Vikings' offense. It comes as little surprise that it was McKinnon who got the team going after a stagnant start against the Browns, providing momentum in both the running (50 yards, one touchdown) and passing games (72 yards on six receptions -- both season highs) in Minnesota's 33-16 win.
Entering Week 8, wide receiver Adam Thielen led the NFL with the most receptions (43) without a touchdown catch. That changed against Cleveland, where Thielen saw the end zone for the first time this season and totaled five catches for 98 yards.
What we're seeing now is the best of both McKinnon and Thielen, two playmakers deemed the No. 2s at their positions but who have been outperforming those ahead of them.
These two have been able to withstand injuries during the first half of the Vikings' schedule while others around them have missed games. In the case of McKinnon, Latavius Murray was immediately slotted in to handle Dalvin Cook's workload, even though it was apparent the Vikings weren't going to feature a different back the way they did Cook before he tore his ACL in Week 4.
It took Murray a while to finally break through, which he did last week against the Ravens with his first 100-yard rushing performance since 2016. But McKinnon consistently has been a reliable threat for big, explosive plays. Getting him involved with the passing game in Week 8 created an additional element for Cleveland to defend and provided Minnesota a different way to move the ball downfield.
"It's basically like a run game, it's a short pass and then a run," quarterback Case Keenum said. "I think that Jerick did a great job out of the backfield."
Added coach Mike Zimmer: "It was big. Pat talked to Case during the game, talked about some of these checkdowns that were open instead of trying to force the ball down the field. And you get a seven-, eight-yard gain and I thought that was good. Then we had some good run after catches as well."
Thielen is now second in the NFL in both receptions (48) and receiving yards (627). Without Stefon Diggs against Green Bay and Baltimore, Minnesota wasn't able to spark its deep game. Instead, it has relied on Thielen's production to attack opponents in other areas.
In critical moments against the Browns, Keenum relied on Thielen to convert a new set of downs. The receiver caught three passes on third down and churned out 55 yards.
"He's a great competitor and he sets routes up really good," Zimmer said. "He leans one way, and then goes the other way, sometimes he leans this way and shakes and goes back the other way. He's probably as good a route runner as we have."
Cronin added that much credit is due to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who has turned Thielen into one of the best receivers in the NFL. The result of Thielen's 18-yard touchdown, which came on a play-action fake where Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor expected safety help that never came, had as much to do with the design Shurmur drew up as it did Keenum's ability to keep the play alive by scrambling and finding his receiver wide open in the back of the end zone.
For whatever reason, Diggs was used more as a decoy in the second half of Sunday's win after catching four passes for 27 yards in the first two quarters. The offense, in turn, featured Thielen as its top threat, and it's more than his route-running ability and athleticism that are making it difficult for teams to cover him.
The good news here, according to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, is that Diggs was on the field for 76 percent of the team's plays in his first game back and drew six targets. He averaged just 9.8 air yards per target, despite averaging 13.9 for the season. Diggs gets a week off to get right and should be back cooking in Week 10.
Kyle Rudolph turned his slow start into a big-time gain in the fourth quarter, totaling six catches for 27 yards and a touchdown.
But Thielen's production has helped carry the Vikings into their bye on a high note.
According to Cronin, "It's time he starts getting credit that's long overdue. He's performing like one of the NFL's best receivers because he is one of the league's best receivers. ..."
Meanwhile, Keenum grabbed his fourth win of the season as a starter, though it was far from a perfect outing.
Still, Keenum has completed 64.2 percent of his passes this season and thrown five touchdowns to two interceptions; the team's de facto starter has managed the Vikings' offense and done enough to win.
But this was never meant to be a season-long solution. Minnesota's bye comes at a time when it needs to evaluate its quarterback situation.
Sam Bradford hasn't played since Week 1 and missed the past three weeks of practice after re-injuring his left knee in Week 5. He was reportedly with the team in London, but his status for a return remains unknown.
At the conclusion of the bye week, specifically on Nov. 6, the three-week window for the Vikings to activate Teddy Bridgewater off the PUP list closes. At that point, Minnesota will either move him to the 53-man roster or to IR for the remainder of the season.
Asked postgame about how he'll have to reevaluate the position, Zimmer did not allude to much regarding whether Bradford or Bridgewater will be ready to get their job back when the Vikings travel to face the Washington Redskins.
Zimmer told reporters on Tuesday that the team is "prepared" to activate Bridgewater next week, but didn't press too far when asked about when Bridgewater would be a consideration as the starter.
"No, I haven't decided that yet," Zimmer said. "We'll continue to take it one day at a time. Just see where he is at, where the team is at, how [Keenum] is doing. The whole deal. [Bradford], how is he doing. ..."
One last note here. ... The Vikings claimed former Redskins running back Mack Brown on waivers on Monday.
QBs: Kirk Cousins
RBs: Latavius Murray, Mack Brown, C.J. Ham
WRs: Kendall Wright, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Tavarres King, Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Blake Bell
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss put it, "The New England Patriots are all-in with 40-year-old Tom Brady as their quarterback of the future."
And for the moment, heading into their bye week, as their only quarterback.
That's the overwhelming takeaway from Monday night's stunner of a trade that sent backup Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick.
Those who wanted Brady to retire as a Patriot, never playing in another uniform, have had their wish granted in shocking fashion.
In the process, owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick are taking a major risk in both the short and long term.
In the short term, the Patriots have just one quarterback on their roster: Brady. They'll need to fill the No. 2 spot, and it turned out to be veteran Brian Hoyer, who spent his first three seasons in the NFL with the Patriots (2009-2011) and was released by the 49ers. Brady and Hoyer have remained close friends.
But part of the reason the Patriots were so adamant about holding on to Garoppolo was that he was viewed as insurance in the event that Brady, who is signed through 2019, breaks down as he enters his 40s. Belichick has often said if a team doesn't have its quarterback position accounted for at all levels of the depth chart, it puts the entire team at risk.
By making this move, the 2017 Patriots assume much greater risk than they would if Garoppolo, who was scheduled for unrestricted free agency after the season, were on the roster.
Yet Belichick obviously felt that the value of a second-round pick, which should be high in the round (low-to-mid 30s), was worth taking that risk.
Reiss went on to note the risk is even greater considering that the Patriots had a third layer of insurance in Jacoby Brissett, who was traded in early September to the Colts in exchange for receiver Phillip Dorsett.
In essence, Belichick has stripped down the once-promising quarterback depth chart in exchange for a No. 4 receiver and a 2018 second-round pick.
"Only a football czar with Belichick's job security and track record could pull off those moves and not be facing a firestorm of questions," Reiss noted.
Reiss went on to suggest there are likely things that unfolded behind the scenes that would help add context to the Patriots' thinking.
For example, if there was an earnest effort to sign Garoppolo to an extension and it was clear to the club that it wasn't going to happen, that could have led Belichick and Co. to make the deal now for what they felt was the best value they would ever receive.
Or perhaps if Kraft had let it be known to Belichick that he wanted Brady to finish his career in New England, no matter what, that would make some sense, too.
But Reiss believes one question lingers: Even if those or other factors were in play, why wouldn't the Patriots play out the 2017 season with Garoppolo, assign the franchise tag to him in the offseason and then attempt to trade him like they did Matt Cassel in 2009?
That would have been the safe play, even if it meant sacrificing some leverage and briefly handcuffing the salary cap.
But Belichick has never been shy about taking risks, and this is among his biggest. ...
Beyond that, the good news for the Patriots is they are right where they want to be heading into their bye week, winners of four straight games following a 21-13 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The Patriots are 6-2 and remain a top AFC contender.
The not-so-good news: Brady's goal of having the offense feel good about itself heading into the midpoint of the season wasn't realized because the unit couldn't reverse a troubling trend.
Too many field goals. Not enough touchdowns.
And at times, those field goals weren't even a guarantee because kicker Stephen Gostkowski -- who entered the day with just one miss in 17 field goal attempts -- was off the mark twice (both from 43 yards) in six attempts.
Brady had lamented the Patriots' inconsistency in the red zone leading into the game, and they were 1-of-4 against the Chargers -- although the final trip was smartly played conservatively late in the fourth quarter with a five-point lead.
But the stats were also misleading because the Patriots advanced deep into Chargers territory twice in the third quarter -- starting one drive on their 25-yard line and having first down on the Chargers' 22-yard line on the next drive -- only to come away with a total of three points.
"[Struggle] is a good word for it," said Brady, who finished 32-of-47 for 333 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. "We didn't finish them off. We just have to do a better job of that. I know I've said that about 100 times this year. It's tough. The execution is just coming up a little short."
The bye week comes at a good time to figure out why.
Two weeks ago, Brady had pointed the finger at himself, saying, "Some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of these missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully I can do a better job for this team."
But while it might start with Brady, he's hardly the only problem (and some credit goes to the Chargers, too). Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is the team's top red zone weapon and scored the team's lone touchdown Sunday, said, "We definitely have to clean it up and it starts with myself. I've got to be on my game the whole time. Some plays here and there, I do good, and others I feel like I just don't have it for that one."
Added Belichick, "There's a lot of plays that we can get more out of -- there's more there than we're getting, so we've got to find a way to get more out of those. ... We're obviously not doing a very good job in that area, no question about it. We're giving up too many big plays on defense and can't convert on third down in the red area. Those are two huge issues."
As Reiss pointed out, the result is something seldom seen over the past decade-plus with Brady leading the Patriots' offense: The team has posted victories while scoring 19, 24, 23 and 21 points in the past four games.
For a team accustomed to putting up 30 points, this stretch has allowed opponents to stick around, with the Patriots relying on their defense and special teams to help pull them through.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, because the best teams find different ways to win. After all, it was only a month ago that Brady was fielding questions about the possibility of in-house division because the offense had to bail out the defense.
Now, if the Patriots are to realize their championship hopes, they know what needs to be fixed first: Surprisingly, it starts with Brady and the offense turning those 3s into 6s.
Worth noting. ... Brady relied heavily on his running backs Sunday, completing 14 of 16 passes to that position group for 163 yards and eight first downs, with one of his incompletions the result of a James White drop. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the 14 completions to running backs are the third-most in a game in Brady's career, while his 163 yards are the second-highest of his career.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Dion Lewis remained the Patriots lead running back Sunday, both in terms of touches and snap count. Lewis totaled 52 yards from scrimmage and led the backfield in snap share with 34 percent. A close second was Rex Burkhead logging 32 percent of the snaps. Franciscovich added that Burkhead is creeping up as a low-end flex play on the heels of an 11-touch game, seven of which were receptions (on seven targets) that he used to rack up 68 yards.
Franciscovich believes Burkhead is worth a speculative add for a late-season run while Mike Gillislee has become an afterthought. ...
Gostkowski has now hit 20 of 23 field goals on the season trying to bounce back from a 2016 campaign in which he struggled to find consistency, missing field goals and PATs right up to the Super Bowl. He's certainly been better this fall, but as noted above, not exactly perfect.
While Belichick has been quite praiseful of Gostkowski's work on kickoffs this year, putting them high and to the goal line to let his coverage units try to tackle opponents inside the 25 or even the 20, the coach made it clear that making field goals remains the top priority. "Kicking the ball through the uprights is No. 1. Kickoffs is not to say a distant second, but it's definitely second to kicking it through the uprights for the kickers," Belichick said after breaking down the tape of the win over the Chargers. ...
And finally. ... The Patriots wideout corps received some good news: Chris Hogan will avoid surgery on his shoulder injury after leaving Sunday's game early.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Hogan wouldn't require surgery to his shoulder, just rest and rehab, according to a source informed on the injury. Hogan could miss a few weeks, but the Pats will re-evaluate after the bye.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, James White, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
WRs: Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Slater
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Troy Niklas, Dwayne Allen
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, Mark Ingram didn't mince words after his two fourth-quarter fumbles nearly cost the New Orleans Saints their fifth straight victory.
"I sucked," Ingram said - a total of 18 times, if you include the word "sucky." He also mixed in "I was terrible" and "I was whack" a handful of times as he faced the fire after New Orleans escaped with the 20-12 victory over the Chicago Bears.
"I let my teammates down. I put us in a bad position. The game was only close because I sucked. That's the bottom line," said Ingram, who had never before lost two fumbles in a single game in his seven-year career and now has a career-high three lost fumbles on the season.
"I sucked. I sucked. That's the bottom line, I sucked. Two possessions we're about to ice the game, and I sucked," Ingram said. "Let the ball go, hurt my team, hurt my coaches. That's the thing about a family, that's the thing about a team, they lift you up, they had my back, and we were able to get the W. But I was whack, I sucked, and I'll be better."
Ingram was on his way to becoming the MVP of New Orleans' win on Sunday before his first fumble came with 7:32 remaining and the Saints leading 17-6. Up until that point, he had 15 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown, plus six catches for 24 yards in a game where New Orleans' plan was to keep the ball away from Chicago's opportunistic defense.
Ingram's next fumble came on the very next possession after Chicago closed within 17-12 (on his second carry of the drive). He didn't touch the ball again on New Orleans' final possession.
It will be interesting to see if this affects Ingram's role going forward, since the Saints have another talented running back they love in rookie Alvin Kamara, who has been serving as a "1-B" to Ingram's "1-A."
Kamara finished Sunday's game with eight carries for 28 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 48 yards.
Head coach Sean Payton wouldn't reveal what his message to Ingram was during a brief sideline exchange or after Sunday's game.
"The message to Mark will be between me and Mark," said Payton, who earlier commented that, "You turn the ball over like we did, and you don't deserve to win games like that. You can't do it."
On Wednesday, Payton added to that, telling reporters he's sure Ingram will bounce back, but he didn’t let him off the hook. Payton said Ingram was upset -- and Payton was upset, too.
In that situation, "you're carrying the ball and you’re carrying the team’s hopes and dreams."
Last year, Payton benched Ingram for nearly a full game after he lost a fumble in the fourth quarter of a loss at Kansas City, then followed up with a first-quarter fumble at home against Seattle. And it took a few weeks before Ingram resumed his No. 1 job full-time. But he wound up with the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career.
Ingram also insisted a couple times Sunday that, "I'm gonna bounce back. I'm a fighter."
And he credited his teammates for the way they responded to his mistakes to still seal the victory.
"It's kind of been the story of our year," Ingram said. "No matter what has been going on, nobody's been panicking."
Assuming there's no retribution for the fumbles, NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich believes Ingram is locked in as a volume back, and he continues to provide a safe weekly floor with his work as a pass-catcher. He hauled in all six of his targets for 24 yards on Sunday and added 75 yards on the ground. In addition, Ingram has a nice matchup against the Bucs next week.
Kamara split snaps with Ingram, as the duo has been doing since the departure of Adrian Peterson, but both remain every-week starters in all fantasy formats. They'll both be usable against Tampa Bay.
Meanwhile, the Saints offense did poorly on third downs for the second time in three games, converting just 2 of 9. Two weeks earlier against Detroit, they converted 2 of 12. In between they converted 8 of 15 against Green Bay.
The Saints scored a touchdown on their first possession for the first time this season, but needed an assist from the Bears' special teams to do it. Chicago was offside on Lutz's 32-yard field goal, giving New Orleans a first down. On the next play, Kamara ran 8 yards for a touchdown.
For the second consecutive week, the Saints won despite having more turnovers than takeaways. They gave the ball away twice on running back Ingram's fumbles and took it away on cornerback Marshon Lattimore's interception. A week earlier, Drew Brees threw interceptions on the Saints' first two possessions and New Orleans didn't take it away until safety Kenny Vaccaro intercepted Brett Hundley late in the fourth quarter.
Prior to the game against Green Bay, New Orleans had lost its last 10 games in which it turned the ball over more than it took it away.
Brees was very efficient against the Bears, completing 23-of-28 passes for 299 yards. He didn't throw a touchdown pass.
Michael Thomas continues to get encouraging volume. He has just one game with fewer than eight targets. With that workload, NFL.com's Matt Harmon believes we'll eventually see him post a big state line. It could easily be this week with a poor Bucs defense coming to New Orleans.
Willie Snead is healthy but still went out for just four offensive plays against the Bears. Payton insisted after the game that Snead is someone the Saints will rely on down the stretch, but as Harmon suggests, the wideout is currently not a fantasy option.
QBs: Drew Brees, Tom Savage
RBs: Mark Ingram, Jonathan Williams, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, TommyLee Lewis
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan noted, figuring out what went wrong this season wasn't the New York Giants' biggest problem heading into their bye week.
With a 1-6 record, the Giants probably are going to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons, and co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch have to consider some housecleaning.
General manager Jerry Reese is certainly on the hot seat. The good will the 54-year-old Reese established in winning the Super Bowl in two of his first five seasons has been exhausted by the dismal recent run. This year's performance is particularly frustrating because the Giants were coming off an 11-5 record in Ben McAdoo's first season. Much was expected, even a run to a fifth Lombardi Trophy.
McAdoo hasn't distinguished himself this season, either. The team obviously wasn't ready for the start of the campaign. The offense has struggled for the second straight year with him calling the plays, and the defense has failed to close out games. His curt manner has alienated the media.
It is unlikely that ownership will give up on the 40-year-old McAdoo this early in his career. The last coach fired after two seasons was Ray Handley in 1992. He was canned after his team was in open rebellion in a 6-10 second season.
That brings us back to Reese. He barely survived the shakeup after 2015 that claimed long-time coach Tom Coughlin, the driving force behind the Super Bowl wins in 2008 and '12. Mara and Tisch actually put Reese on notice after the 2015 season and he responded by spending nearly $200 million to sign defensive end Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison and cornerback Janoris Jenkins as free agents.
It was a bold move that turned one of the NFL's worst defenses into a unit that led the Giants back to the postseason.
Inexplicably, Reese sat on his hands this past offseason. He had two major jobs. He needed to re-sign defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and he had to fix the offensive line, which was horrible in 2015. It failed to generate a running game and it allowed Eli Manning to get hit more often than any quarterback should.
The deal with JPP was done without a hitch.
The line was left to fend for itself, and it has been another major problem. The running game is again nonexistent and the passing offense has suffered with injuries to three-time Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. Beckham and Marshall are out for the season.
Reese said he looked at the free agent market for offensive linemen and decided there was nothing he liked, saying he did not want to add old players to a young group. It was a major mistake, and not the only one the GM made.
Signing the 33-year-old wide receiver Marshall in an attempt to give Eli Manning a second option other than Beckham also turned out badly. He was hurt in training camp, didn't produce once the season started, then had a season-ending ankle injury in the same game as Beckham.
Reese also re-signed 31-year-old starting guard John Jerry. He has disappointed. Free agent guard D.J. Fluker also was signed but he is one dimensional: a good run blocker who struggles in pass protection.
Speaking at his annual bye week news conference, Reese accepted the blame for the 1-6 record, saying he put the roster together and this was his team. He also dumped a little of the blame on McAdoo, noting the team got caught up in the all preseason hype and it didn't have the same hunger as last season.
Everyone knows it is the coach's job to have the team focused for the season.
"It's not on the head coach, it's on all of us," Reese said when asked to clarify. "When I said, 'Guys, we lose together and we win together,' it's on all of us. It's every single body in this organization."
Because the Giants haven't won -- or have flopped in such a disappointing manner -- Reese probably will lose his job after 11 seasons if ownership makes changes.
"I've been left for dead a lot of times since I've been doing this job and that's just part of the business, it comes with the territory," Reese said. "It's a high-performance business. I'd love for us to have won 10 Super Bowls in my 10 years as the general manager of the Giants, but we haven't. I wish we could have. We've won some games, but I sure believe we could have done better than we have."
Reese won't be the only one hit by changes. Expect McAdoo to make alterations to his coaching staff, probably with the offense and special teams.
With the recent drafts being hit and miss -- the selection of left tackle Ereck Flowers in the first round in 2015 seems to be a miss -- Marc Ross, the vice president of player evaluation, could be in trouble.
"Again, the season's not over yet, we have nine games to play," Reese said. "We're going to prepare just as hard as we always do and our players and our coaches are super proud people and I still believe in them."
The question is, do Mara and Tisch still believe in Jerry Reese?
Meanwhile, coming off the bye, the first thing McAdoo said the coaches looked at during the off week was how they've deployed their personnel.
"We wanted to make sure we were using our players the right way," McAdoo said. "Is there an opportunity moving forward to interject some younger or maybe some veteran players into different roles that we haven't been using them?"
There probably is.
One such change that could be coming is for the Giants, who kept four tight ends on their roster, but have made heaviest usage of Evan Engram, to get others from that position group involved in the passing game.
While the rookie has delivered the goods he leads the team with 342 yards on 30 receptions with the Giants' receiving corps trying to find their footing, it's probably just a matter of time before opponents start to hone in on limiting Engram's impact in the game.
To combat that, one possible forthcoming change could see veteran Rhett Ellison, who has six receptions for 50 yards, get more involved in the receiving game. Per Profootballfocus.com, Ellison has run 87 pass routes this year, but has been targeted just eight times.
The personnel usage will also affect the scheme, which was another area McAdoo said the coaching staff looked at.
"We wanted to take a look at things schematically; the schemes that have been working, and what hasn't been working and those that haven't been working, either throw them out or is it a quick fix we can fix over the second half of the year."
There are a few things the Giants might be planning to adjust here as well. One of the biggest might be to send more running plays to the right side of their formation behind the current right-side configuration of D.J. Fluker at right guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle.
The Giants, who have run 14 plays (26th in the NFL) behind the right guard, are averaging 3.0 yards per carry; they are averaging 5.53 yards per carry when running behind the right tackle, and 5.45 yards per carry on running plays to the right end.
In addition, it's fair to wonder which young receiver is most likely to sustain a large role opposite Shepard.
According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, Roger Lewis will remain in the mix even with Shepard in the lineup. He should be better off, too. Lewis' top skill is his ability to get downfield and make plays. Having Shepard as the No. 1 wide receiver target on short and intermediate routes should open things up a bit for Lewis, and take No. 1 cornerbacks away from his side of the field.
In a related note. ... Shepard (ankle) was working in practice when the team returned from the bye on Monday.
Paul Perkins (ribs) was not seen at Monday's practice during the part open to the media. Perkins was excused by McAdoo for personal reasons and was expected back at work Wednesday.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was suspended by the team indefinitely on Tuesday for failing to report back to work after the end of the bye, which leaves them down a starting cornerback for their next game. They opted against using Jenkins’ roster spot to add a cornerback to the team, however.
The Giants announced on Wednesday that they have promoted defensive end Jordan Williams from the practice squad. Williams entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and played one game for the Dolphins that year. He has also spent time on the Jets’ practice squad.
With Jenkins out, the Giants will have Eli Apple, Ross Cockrell and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who served a team-issued suspension of his own, as their top cornerbacks.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb
RBs: Orleans Darkwa, Jonathan Stewart, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Travis Rudolph, Ed Eagan
TEs: Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
The Jets gave up a lead for the third straight week against the Falcons on Sunday and they wound up as 25-20 losers for the third straight week when a late attempt to rally fell short.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, one member of the Jets offense thinks their play calling was a contributor to the defeat. The Jets and Falcons played in a driving rainstorm that featured plenty of wind, which led running back Matt Forte to say that the Jets erred by running the ball 21 times and calling 37 passes.
"I'm definitely surprised by that, because we knew the weather was going to be like that," Forte said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. "It continued to rain the entire game. I think we only ran the ball 20 times. (There) should have been at least one person getting 20 carries -- something like that -- with the way the weather was. I thought we were going to grind them out on the ground like that, but it ended up not turning out that way."
The Jets led to start the fourth quarter and never trailed by more than five points, but the split was 13 passes and two runs in the final 15 minutes of the game.
Pinning the entire loss on the play calling would be foolish. Chandler Catanzaro missed two field goals, the defense let Tevin Coleman break loose for a 52-yard run to set up the go-ahead Falcons touchdown and Jeremy Kerley muffed a punt with the Jets down two points in the fourth quarter.
The entire combination was too much for the Jets to overcome and their three-game skid leaves them with a 3-5 record at the halfway point of their season.
And according to Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr., Forte won't be grounded after saying the team should have used the ground game more.
The veteran running back said he spoke Monday to offensive coordinator John Morton and head coach Todd Bowles about his critical comments Sunday.
Forte added that Morton was "very open-minded" during their brief discussion.
"Yeah, I spoke with both of them," Forte said Monday in the locker room. "Really, we didn't spend too much time on it. We just talked about some ways to help us win football games. Then, we went on to Buffalo."
Forte finished with just 7 yards on four carries, while New York totaled 43 yards on 22 attempts -- for a paltry 2 yards per run. Bilal Powell led the Jets with 33 yards on 14 carries. Elijah McGuire had one run for 2 yards, and wide receiver Robby Anderson gained 1 yard on an end-around.
"Our game plan was fine," Bowles said.
"It's always good to be open-minded," Forte said when asked if he appreciated Morton's approach to their conversation. "I'm open-minded, as well. The main goal for me, as well as the coaches, is to win games, and that's what we're trying to find out, ways to do that."
When a reporter asked another follow-up question, Forte bristled.
"You have any questions about Thursday, the Buffalo game?" he said. "Because this is like kind of over with. It's overkill."
Bowles downplayed Forte's comments, saying the running back's emotions got the better of him after the Jets' third straight loss.
"It's just frustration after the ballgame," Bowles said. "We got down late. We had to throw the ball. But we ran the ball, and we'll continue to run the ball."
Although Forte said he spoke to Bowles, the coach said there was "no need" to talk to him about his comments.
"Everybody's frustrated," Bowles said. "People are going to say things. Me and Matt have a good understanding. We're fine."
When pressed on whether he was OK with Forte making those comments, Bowles made it clear he was moving on.
"I think it's a waste of my time to even talk about it," the coach said tersely.
The Jets (3-5) enter their game Thursday night against the Bills (5-2) ranked 23rd in overall offense, including a running game that is tied for 22nd. New York's passing offense hasn't been much better, ranking 23rd in the league.
Quarterback Josh McCown echoed Forte's sentiments that Morton, in his first season as an offensive coordinator, is receptive to input from players on how to improve the unit.
"Johnny Mo's great," McCown said. "That's what makes him a good coach, when you can listen to guys, but he also has his plan, his idea of how he wants things to go. He stands by his convictions, but at the same time, he understands and is willing to hear our suggestions and he makes that open to us all the time. I think that's great, that's a great dynamic."
McCown ranks third in the NFL with a 70.5 completion percentage, and has a league-leading 75.6 completion percentage on third down. He thinks the offense is still very much a work-in-progress under Morton.
"Every week (his goal) is to give us the best chance to run plays and he grinds tirelessly to get that done, he and all those coaches, and we appreciate that," McCown said. "We're growing and learning each other, and I think we'll continue to see that bear more fruit as we go. ..."
We'll see how much fruit the offense yields in a tough matchup on a short turnaround.
And yes, there will be injury issues.
Fullback Lawrence Thomas has already been ruled out against the Bills with a concussion. Cornerback Morris Claiborne has what Bowles said is a "sore foot" and could play Thursday night. X-rays were negative and an MRI showed no structural damage after the Jets' top cornerback left Sunday's game. Cornerback Buster Skrine remains in the concussion protocol and it's uncertain if he will miss a second straight game. Defensive lineman Ed Stinson (neck), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (shoulder, foot), TE Jordan Leggett (knee) and S Terrence Brooks (hamstring) did not practice to start the week. OT Brent Qvale was limited with a toe ailment. Forte (knee) and RT Brandon Shell (neck) were also limited. ...
I'll have more on all the pertinent injury situations when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday morning. ...
Meanwhile, Kerley is expected to be suspended by the NFL, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. There's no word on the reason for the suspension or the length of the suspension, but Kerley has told people it's coming.
Kerley is the Jets' No. 3 wide receiver and their primary punt returner. He signed a one-year deal with the Jets in September after he was surprisingly released by the 49ers.
The Jets got off to a surprising 3-2 start and Kerley played a key role, but his playing time has been declining of late, and on Sunday he caught just one pass and lost a fumble when he muffed a punt.
The good news?
Anderson has picked up the pace.
The speedy wideout caught all six of his targets, went over 100 yards for the first time this season and scored his third touchdown and as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Anderson has quietly owned a nice piece of the Jets passing volume pie for most of the season.
He had five games with six or more targets. With his big-play ability, Harmon believes Anderson should be on the flex radar every week as a high-ceiling option.
In addition, Harmon pointed out that Austin Seferian-Jenkins also hauled in all his targets (five) but only recorded 28 yards. He snapped his three-game touchdown streak. Without a touchdown, Harmon notes that Seferian-Jenkins has a worrisome floor, as he's yet to cross 50 yards receiving in any game this season.
Still, in a season with tight ends coming up small across the board, ASJ remains a viable TE1.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
RBs: Matt Forte, Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Thomas Rawls
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Neal Sterling, Andre Roberts, Terrelle Pryor, Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart
TEs: Eric Tomlinson, Will Tye, Jordan Leggett
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
Coming off a lopsided loss to the Buffalo Bills, head Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said his team needs to regain its energy and start playing aggressive football again starting with next Sunday night's game against the Miami Dolphins.
"As I said yesterday, I feel like we've earned this 3-5 through the first half of the year," Del Rio said. "Nobody is real happy about that. I think we all take responsibility and are accountable for that. We're going to go into the second half and look to make it a whole lot better in the second half. We need to kind of get our mojo back a little bit."
Del Rio believes the Raiders (3-5) need to get back to being the physical team they were when the season began.
Quarterback Derek Carr suggested the intensity in practice needs to be greater but Del Rio said that while poor execution remains a big issue, the Raiders just need to play hard and "let it rip."
"I know what a Raiders football team that I envisioned having," Del Rio said. "We're not playing like that -- what my vision is. We're not playing like that right now. We need to be more physical up front offensively and defensively. We need to be playmakers aggressively going for the ball, competing. That's what I'm looking for. That's what we're looking to get this second half."
Offensively, the Raiders failed to follow up on their last-second comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. With Marshawn Lynch serving a one-game suspension for shoving an official, the Raiders ran the ball just 14 times for 54 yards in their 34-14 loss to the Bills on Sunday.
DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard failed to gain much ground other than one carry each a 10-yarder for Washington, a 14-yarder for Richard. Jamize Olawale scored on a 1-yard touchdown.
Carr threw for 313 yards but had two interceptions while Washington and Richard lost fumbles to put the Raiders at a minus-6 turnover differential this year.
Lynch, who was reinstated to the active roster Monday, will join the Raiders in Sarasota on Tuesday to prepare for the Dolphins.
The running back made headlines during his suspension when he participated in a practice with his high school alma mater, Oakland Tech. The high school could face discipline from the Oakland Unified School District for allowing Lynch to participate without providing notice.
Del Rio, however, said he had no issue.
"There's nothing really to talk about," Del Rio said. "I think people at the school district have more of a problem with it than I do."
To make room on the roster, the Raiders released running back Elijah Hood.
One problem in Buffalo?
After an explosive start in which the Raiders' offense moved efficiently, Oakland resorted to gaining bits and pieces via dump-offs to running backs.
Why, though, revert from what actually worked?
"I can't answer to that," Del Rio said. "I wasn't -- nobody was saying, 'Don't take a shot' -- I can't speak to that right now."
Asked again if he wanted to see more urgency on offense after falling into a deficit, Del Rio wouldn't oblige.
"I'm not sure where you're going with this," he told a reporter. "I feel like, you know, don't have four turnovers. I think it would probably look a little better. ..."
At his Monday press conference, head coach Jack Del Rio conceded Carr realized after the fact in some instances he had more time to throw than he thought.
"Derek is one of the best in the league in making quick decisions to get the ball out of his hands," Del Rio said. "There were some occasions where we look at the film and he looks at it and says, 'I had more time. I wasn't under duress.'"
Worth noting: With the two interceptions thrown on Sunday, Carr's 2017 total jumped to six. He threw six interceptions all last season.
Last year he didn't throw two interceptions in a single game. This year he's done that three times.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez wrote: "Was it all a dream, Amari Cooper going for a career-best 210 receiving yards on 11 catches with 19 targets last week? It seemed the Raiders rediscovered the explosive wideout, but he had just three catches for 26 yards against the Bills late in the fourth quarter. ..."
On a more positive note, as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Michael Crabtree keeps his consistent streak alive. He has 80 yards and/or a touchdown in all but one game this year. Crabtree has target totals of eight, 10, seven and 10 in his last four games. Harmon added: "It's hard to find a better floor than that at the wide receiver position."
On the injury front. ... Receiver Seth Roberts came up sick Sunday morning and did not play. Olawale left with a hamstring injury on a kickoff return and did not return.
QBs: Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook
RBs: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton
TEs: Jared Cook, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
The NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles (7-1) weren't too pleased with their 33-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers (0-8) on Sunday. The offense was sluggish and the defense made too many mistakes it can't afford against better teams.
"Sometimes you're never satisfied with a win," head coach Doug Pederson said Monday. "When guys take ownership like that and say they can play better, it just shows you the kind of character of the football team and the type of guys that we have in the locker room."
But that didn't keep the team from adding to the locker room -- and the offense.
This after the Miami Dolphins traded running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles for a fourth-round draft pick, it was announced Tuesday.
The Dolphins traded Ajayi because they believe his most productive games are behind him, fearing the knee issues stemming from a significant 2011 surgery are finally catching up to him, team sources told ESPN's Jeff Darlington. There was no conflict or controversy that led to Ajayi's trade, sources told Darlington, but Ajayi did express some frustration about his lack of touches in the red zone.
Ajayi has rushed 138 times for 465 yards (3.4 average) over seven games for the Dolphins this season. He is coming off a big 2016 campaign in which he racked up more than 1,200 yards (4.9 per carry) with eight touchdowns.
He has yet to score a touchdown this season and has the most rushing attempts for a player yet to find the end zone.
If the 2016 Pro Bowl selection is able to regain his form, Ajayi is likely to emerge as the No. 1 back for the Eagles (7-1) and can be a force for an offense that already ranks third overall in production at the midway point.
By acquiring Ajayi, the Eagles address both an immediate and longer-term need. The ground game hasn't exactly been a problem -- Philly ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game (129) -- but second-year back Wendell Smallwood has been too inconsistent to be relied upon to share the load with LeGarrette Blount.
The biggest issue for the Eagles has been pass protection. When Darren Sproles suffered season-ending injuries in Week 3, they lost their best pass-pro back. Nobody has fully stepped into the void in the weeks since. Ajayi should give them an upgrade in that department, with Blount's carries sure to take a hit.
Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman is trying to surround quarterback Carson Wentz with players who will be with him over the long haul. Just 24, Ajayi has the potential to fit that bill.
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, that's why pairing him with Blount makes sense, even though they have similar styles. Blount, 30, is on a one-year deal. Ajayi's rookie contract runs through 2018, and he can be in Philly well beyond that if everything works out.
In the meantime, the Ajayi-Blount backfield promises to be one of the toughest in the league. According to Profootballfocus.com, Ajayi ranks first (81) and Blount third (69) in most forced missed tackles since 2016.
Overall, Ajayi has rushed for 1,924 yards and 9 touchdowns in 31 games for Miami since being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft out of Boise State.
The Eagles have the best record in the NFL, and they may think Ajayi can be the last piece that puts them over the top.
For fantasy owners?
It just further clouds an already crowded field with Blount, Smallwood, Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner already in the mix. Against the 49ers, Blount led the way with 48 yards on 16 carries and rushed for a touchdown. Even Clement got in on the action, logging 54 rush yards on 10 attempts.
Roseman stressed on Tuesday that acquiring Ajayi wasn't because of unhappiness about the backs they already have. 49ers, Blount led the way with 48 yards on 16 carries and rushed for a touchdown. Even Clement got in on the action, logging 54 rush yards on 10 attempts.
"[Blount is] awesome. He wants to win. He’s all about winning. Nothing changed today," Roseman said, via WIP.
I'll have more on what the backfield rotation might look like when Late-Breaking Updates crank up early Thursday.
The Eagles on Sunday host the Denver Broncos then they'll have a bye. The Broncos will provide a tough test for the new backfield. ...
As the Sports Xchange pointed out, the trade for Ajayi was even more of a surprise because most who follow the Eagles were curious if they would acquire an offensive tackle due to the loss of Jason Peters.
Peters, their nine-time Pro-Bowl left tackle, suffered a season-ending knee injury last week against Washington.
Second-year man Halapoulivaati Vaitai started in his place Sunday in the Eagles' 33-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers. He gave up a sack and looked a little shaky at other times.
But Pederson said he was pleased with Vaitai's overall performance.
"I think he held up extremely well," Pederson said. "He gave up the one sack, and it was a combination of him getting a little off-balance and (quarterback) Carson (Wentz) hanging on to the ball while just waiting for the routes to open up down the field.
"Things like that are going to happen, obviously. But you take away that play, and he played really well."
For the record, Philadelphia is 7-1 for just the seventh time in franchise history. It happened in 2004, 1981, 1980, 1961, 1960 and 1949. In 1949 and 1960, the Eagles won the NFL championship. In 1980 and 2004, they lost the Super Bowl.
"We're fortunate to be 7-1. It could easily be a little bit different with some of the games," Pederson said. "These guys have battled. They're a resilient football team. They've fought through some injuries. They've kept it together. We've learned to finish. All the things you need to have to win. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Wentz wasn't quite as effective against the 49ers on Sunday. As ESPN.com's Bill Barnwell explained, the 2016 second overall pick wasn't bad by any means, but he threw an ugly interception to set up the 49ers for a (relatively meaningless) touchdown. The interception came on third down, where both Wentz and the Eagles have been lights out this season, but the 49ers -- who possessed the league's worst third-down defense heading into the game -- held the Eagles to a 4-for-14 performance on third down.
Wentz, who had a passer rating in excess of 130 on third down coming into the game, went 3-for-8 and racked up a passer rating of 9.9 on third downs. He also missed an open Alshon Jeffery for a would-be touchdown, and when he connected with Jeffery for a 52-yard touchdown late in the game, it was on a jump ball where Jeffery did most of the work.
Overall, Wentz had his second lowest passer rating of the season Sunday. Wentz had an 84.2 rating against the 49ers, including 6.6 yards per attempt and a 56.2 completion percentage. He was 2-for-7 and was sacked twice when the 49ers blitzed.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith played his lowest percentage of snaps of the season against the 49ers (46 percent) as the Eagles gave more playing time to rookie Mack Hollins. Smith has no catches in the last two games. For the season, he's been targeted 28 times and has 14 receptions.
Asked Monday about Smith, Pederson said: "He's doing fine. It's also good to see our young players step up. It just helps the whole football team. Bottom line, we're going to do everything we can to win the football game, regardless of who's in it."
Hollins has been very productive when he's been in the game. He's been targeted nine times and has eight catches. He's averaging 20.5 yards per catch.
QBs: Nick Foles
RBs: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Mike Wallace, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves noted, "The offense expected to light up scoreboards is instead grinding it out.
"The way the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is playing, it hardly matters. ..."
Graves went on to note the team expected to compete for a Super Bowl berth looks the part at the season's midway point.
The Steelers just aren't doing it the way most envisioned.
Rather than race up and down the field with an offense that features the highest-paid wide receiver and running back in the league, it's the remade-on-the-fly defense has propelled Pittsburgh.
The proof came in a 20-15 victory over Detroit on Sunday night. And while Pittsburgh gave up 482 yards to Matthew Stafford and company, the Lions never reached the end zone.
Five times Detroit ventured inside the Steelers 20. The results? Three field goals and two failed attempts on fourth down.
Pittsburgh (6-2) heads into its bye week firmly atop the AFC North after its third straight win. While the defense slipped from second to fourth in total yards after letting the Lions go up and down Ford Field, the Steelers are tied for second in points allowed. Heady territory for a unit that doesn't have starter over 30.
"I know we had some mishaps, but I'm glad we're 6-2," defensive end Cameron Heyward said.
With considerable room for improvement, particularly the $92 million offense.
The unit that once -- albeit not this season -- said it wanted to make scoring 30 points the norm has struggled at times to reach 20.
Le'Veon Bell's slow start following his decision to skip training camp didn't help. Neither has the enigmatic play of wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who spent Sunday night on the sideline in sweat pants after being deactivated by head coach Mike Tomlin for making the ill-advised decision to vent his frustrations on social media.
Yet the Steelers have turned things around after a 30-9 mauling at home by Jacksonville, a loss that included a pair of pick-6s thrown by Ben Roethlisberger, who facetiously wondered if he still had "it."
Three straight victories have followed and while Roethlisberger is still searching for consistency -- his completion rate (61.1 percent) is his lowest since 2008 -- he's developed a rapport with rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, taking some of the pressure off All-Pro Antonio Brown.
Smith-Schuster had career highs in receptions (seven) and yards receiving (193) against the Lions, showcasing a burst even he wasn't sure he had on a 97-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown in the third quarter that served as the longest pass play in the franchise's 86-year history.
Smith-Schuster also sealed the win by taking a shovel pass from Roethlisberger and bulling for a first down with less than two minutes to go, a conversion that allowed the Steelers to run out the clock.
On Wednesday, Smith-Schuster was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"The best player under 21 ever and I mean that," Bell said of his teammate, who turns 21 on Nov. 22.
One with a burgeoning national profile. Smith-Schuster's "hide and seek" touchdown celebration with Bell a week ago went viral.
Then the bicycle he rides from his apartment to the team's training facility was stolen, leading to breathless and not entirely tongue-in-cheek news coverage before it was recovered.
Smith-Schuster made light of it after his record-setting score against Detroit, taking a chain and looping it around a stationary bike on the Pittsburgh sideline.
It was a light moment on a night where the Steelers again struggled to put away an opponent. For all of the talent in the huddle, Pittsburgh is 30th in the league in converting red zone possessions into touchdowns.
Even the typically sure-handed Bell had a momentary lapse, fumbling at the Detroit 21 late in the second quarter.
"'I'm glad we got out of the game with a 'W', but we still can go back, look at the film and look at, 'Oh look, we can clean this up. We can do this,'" Bell said.
"We know we haven't played our best football yet and we're just glad that we're able to get the wins where we're getting them, whether they're pretty or not."
Maybe that's the surest sign of maturity on a team that will get a much-needed break before beginning the second half of the season at injury-ravaged Indianapolis on Nov. 12 before playing five of their final seven at Heinz Field.
"Going to the bye at 6-2 feels really good," Roethlisberger said. "It can be frustrating at times offensively because we're not executing the way we want to, but we're finding ways to win football games."
Meanwhile, as the trade deadline approached on Tuesday, it became clear the Steelers were firm on their stated position to not get rid of Bryant just because he wanted them to.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com, a source said that the Steelers told the disgruntled wide receiver that he was part of the game plan when they return from their bye week in Week 10.
After weeks of pouting about his role and making remarks on social media and later to a reporter, Bryant was inactive Sunday night against the Lions.
And in his absence, rookie Smith-Schuster had a breakout game.
As Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt suggested, that had to get Bryant's attention, but the reality is the Steelers have two primary playmakers who have to get the ball regularly (Bell and Brown), meaning the rest of the guys on offense are going to be fighting over the scraps each week.
That's something fantasy owners need to keep in mind when rolling with any of the remaining Steelers -- even Smith-Schuster -- going forward. ...
A few final notes. ... Roethlisberger has now thrown touchdown passes of 94, 95 and 97 yards. As noted above, the 97-yarder was completed to Smith-Schuster Sunday night in Detroit. The 94-yarder was to Bryant in 2014 and the 95-yarder was to Mike Wallace in 2010.
Smith-Schuster's 193 receiving yards were the second-most by a rookie in team history. Jimmy Orr had 205 receiving yards in 1958.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Terrell Watson, Stevan Ridley
WRs: Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown
TEs: Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, Vance McDonald
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
The San Francisco 49ers have reportedly acquired their quarterback of the future by trading for New England backup Jimmy Garoppolo.
ESPN reported Monday that the Niners dealt a 2018 second-round pick to the Patriots for Garoppolo. San Francisco (0-8) had been expected to either draft a quarterback high in the first round next year or try to acquire a proven starter like Kirk Cousins in free agency.
Instead, they decided to strike early and put the fate of their franchise in the hands in a quarterback who has started just two games in four NFL seasons.
Garoppolo won those two starts in place of a suspended Tom Brady at the start of the 2016 season. He completed 42 of 59 passes for 496 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He got hurt in the second quarter of his second start and has thrown just four passes since then.
"Jimmy was a great teammate and a great friend and he always will be," Brady told Westwood One in his weekly spot during halftime of the Monday Night Football broadcast. "I want nothing but the very best for him. He's earned the trust of his teammates and the respect of his teammates and that is all you can ask for as a player."
Garoppolo, a second-round pick in 2014, is in the final year of his contract. By acquiring him now, San Francisco gets a head start on negotiating a long-term deal to keep him or can use the franchise tag on him in free agency.
The Niners hope Garoppolo can be the quarterback to lead the franchise out of its recent cycle of losing that started when Jim Harbaugh was let go as coach following the 2014 season. San Francisco won seven games the past two years with Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert sharing the quarterback duties.
The winless 49ers are off to the worst start in franchise history this season in coach Kyle Shanahan's first year at the helm. Veteran Brian Hoyer, who also began his career as Brady's backup in New England, started the first six games and third-round rookie C.J. Beathard has struggled as the starter the past two weeks behind a patchwork line.
Beathard has completed just 52.7 percent of his passes in his limited time, averaging 5.9 yards per attempt with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 65.2 passer rating.
He has been sacked 11 times on his 110 pass attempts and hit several others, with Niners' injury-riddled line giving him little time to succeed.
"I think it was tough for him to have a real good game. I think it would have been tough for anyone to," Shanahan said before the trade was announced. "I think there was stuff that he struggled with. There's a few things he missed, especially early. ... I have a lot of respect of how he battled in that game. He took a beating. Like a lot of guys did. Didn't shy away from it. You can see it in the guys' eyes on the sideline when you talk to them, when you ask them what plays they want. I thought he got more aggressive as the game went, which some people would be the opposite."
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Garoppolo is not expected to be in the starting lineup for the 0-8 49ers when they face the Cardinals this weekend.
Beathard is expected to make his third straight start since replacing Hoyer, who was released with Garoppolo joining the team (and who subsequently signed with the Patriots).
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested, that's not a particularly surprising piece of information as Garoppolo has a lot to learn about Shanahan's offense before he'll be in position to run it.
That may mean Beathard remains the starter in Week 10 against the Giants as well because the 49ers have a bye in Week 11. That would give Garoppolo three weeks to soak up the offense and six games to put what he's learned into motion before the year is out.
The 49ers may be 0-10 by that point, but they didn't trade for Garoppolo to win right now. They made the move to win games in the future and that makes getting him into the lineup immediately a less urgent matter.
Meanwhile, Garoppolo joins a team that's in total disarray on the offensive line.
As the Sports Xchange notes, the starting tackles Joe Staley (fractured orbital in right eye) and Trent Brown (concussion) are injured, and the club currently employs only one backup, Garry Gilliam, who suffered a knee injury after just 15 offensive snaps at Philadelphia.
Gilliam is expected to be placed on injured reserve this week, while Staley is expected to be out several weeks. Only Brown is a possibility to face the Arizona Cardinals in a home game Sunday.
Gilliam started in place of Brown at Philadelphia, with Zane Beadles, a backup guard, replacing Gilliam after he got hurt.
Another backup guard, Erik Magnuson, took over after Staley was hurt, meaning the 49ers finished the game with a pair of tackles who had never played the position previously in the NFL.
Right guard Brandon Fusco played the entire game at Philadelphia with a biceps injury.
Not surprisingly, the Eagles pressured Beathard on 17 of his 45 (38 percent) dropbacks Sunday, the second-highest pressure percentage the Eagles have had in a game this season.
Beathard did not handle the pressure well, completing just 3 of 10 passes for 31 yards while under duress, throwing an interception and also taking four sacks.
Entering the game, the Eagles' defense was pressuring quarterbacks on 22 percent of dropbacks, the 27th-highest rate in the league.
As the Xchange put it, "Beathard threw so many short passes behind people, you had to wonder if the rain was fogging up his contacts. And when he scrambled, his eyes never left the grass, as if he were looking for puddles rather than receivers who had broken open."
Six runs for 40 yards sounds good, but only if Marquise Goodwin wasn't wide open somewhere downfield. We'll never know if that was the case. ...
Rookie tight end George Kittle was targeted nine times but only pulled in two of them for 22 yards. ...
Pierre Garcon (strained neck) had to leave Sunday's game at Philadelphia. He made two catches on four targets for 17 yards. Garcon is questionable for the Sunday's home game against Arizona. ...
Carlos Hyde logged 16 touches but managed just 47 yards from scrimmage in a tough matchup against Philadelphia. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich advised his readers, Hyde remains the primary back for the 49ers as he logged a 69 percent share of snaps, but it just wasn't his day. As noted above, even Beathard, out-rushed Hyde in the game.
Meanwhile, Matt Breida scored his first NFL touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Beathard in Sunday's loss. The rookie had a team-high 39 yards in receptions in the game.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson embraced in celebration as the Seahawks made their way off the field after Sunday's game.
Sherman had just sealed a thrilling 41-38 victory with his second interception, but only after Wilson shook off a mistake and led Seattle on an 80-yard touchdown drive with under two minutes left.
Wilson finished with a career-high 452 yards and four touchdowns, the last of which came after Seattle's defense -- which had been dominant over the past three games -- relinquished its second fourth-quarter lead.
Sherman's message of appreciation to Wilson: You bailed us out.
"Our offense deserves all the credit in the world," Sherman said. "They won this game for us."
Wilson also bailed himself out, in a sense. His game-winning touchdown came one possession after he threw an interception deep in Houston territory, which at the time looked like Seattle's last gasp. Most of the 69,025 in attendance at CenturyLink Field probably thought that so as well, but not Wilson.
"That didn't even faze him, not even a blip on the screen," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He handled that quite well. That's just the way he is. That's how he always is. He isn't going to let it bother him. He just knows what's coming next, the very next step you take. He's the best we have at understanding that and believing that and he stands for it, and they'll follow him anywhere."
As Henderson suggests, Wilson and Carroll share a positivity that is best described as relentless. No matter how dire it looks, they always believe their team can -- no, will -- pull out a victory as long as there's still time left. So when the Seahawks took over under daunting circumstances -- trailing 38-34 and needing to go 80 yards with 1:39 on the clock and no timeouts remaining -- Wilson was exuding confidence in the huddle.
"I told the guys when we went out there, 'Hey, have no fear. Let's go do this,'" Wilson said, "and sure enough, guys made some big plays."
Wilson heaved a deep ball to Paul Richardson, who made a beautiful midair adjustment to haul it in for a 48-yard gain. Wilson found Tyler Lockett for 19 yards, and then, instead of spiking the ball with less than a minute left, he hit Jimmy Graham for the game-winner.
Including playoffs, it was the 23rd time in 99 games that Wilson has led Seattle on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime. That's the most of any quarterback since Wilson's rookie season in 2012.
Asked about his winning touchdown catch, Graham first talked about his quarterback's mettle.
"It's crazy because at those moments, 3 has the most confidence you've ever seen," Graham said. "It's just unbelievable, his mindset and his focus at those times, how upbeat he is. You believe every time, if there's 20 seconds left on the clock that we're going to score, that we're going to get that Hail Mary. It was just unbelievable, his actions and his demeanor in the huddle was unbelievable."
Said free safety Earl Thomas: "Just to see Russ go down there after he made a mistake, he came back with so much poise. He didn't spike the ball, he kept it going. He talked about it last night, about those situations where it seems slow. He came through for us tonight."
On Wednesday, Wilson was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Seattle's inability to run the ball remains a troubling trend, one that could prevent a deep playoff run if it isn't righted. The Seahawks rushed for only 33 yards against Houston, and 30 came from Wilson, as the trio of Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls and J.D. McKissic produced almost nothing.
In fact, McKissic led Seattle's running back with six yards on four carries. Lacy gained zero yards on six carries. Rawls was responsible for minus-1 yard on six carries. While center Justin Britt was not at 100 percent due to an ankle sprain, Seattle's offensive line could not create any space for the backs to work.
But it was encouraging that Wilson and Seattle's passing game managed to carry the load on a day when the running game was nonexistent and defense didn't have its A-game or even its B-game, for that matter.
"He bailed us out," Sherman said. "He was lights out. He was lights-out down the stretch, and this was not one of our better games in the history of us being here. There was just a number of dumb mistakes. And the quarterback [Watson] played good football. You have to give their offense credit. I'm not trying to take anything away from them; we just also didn't execute.
"But in a game where in past years we may have kind of wavered and it might've been one where it could've gotten away, he didn't give up. He never stopped fighting. He stayed poised, the offense executed and they won the game for us. They bailed us out. They bailed us out in a big way."
And maybe the rushing attack benefits from an upgrade on the offensive line.
With the trade deadline looming on Tuesday, the Seahawks reached an agreement with the Houston Texans to acquire three-time Pro-Bowl left tackle Duane Brown in exchange for cornerback Jeremy Lane.
A 2018 fifth-round pick and 2019 second-round pick are also reported to be included in the deal that brings Brown to Seattle.
The deal solves the biggest problem spot for Seattle on the offensive line. Schneider said he's been in discussions with Houston about Brown ever since their starting left tackle, George Fant, was lost for the season to a torn ACL in mid-August. Rees Odhiambo replaced Fant and started the first seven games of the season at left tackle for the Seahawks.
However, it was clear he was too often physically outmatched.
It's worth noting, Wilson might have bailed the team out with Brown, too.
Brown's contract calls for him to make a little less than $5 million over the rest of the season, which meant that the Seahawks needed to do some work to create cap space even after sending Lane to the Texans in the deal. Andrew Brandt of TheMMQB.com reports that they did that by restructuring Wilson's contract.
Per Brandt, Wilson converted $6.26 million of his salary to a signing bonus that allows them to spread the cap hit out over the remaining years of the deal. That opened up $4.1 million of room.
Brown is signed through next season, but held out until last week in hopes of getting a new contract. That didn't happen in Houston, but Seattle General Manager John Schneider indicated the team is interested in extending Brown's contract so he's in Seattle for "several more years. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Getting back to the ball carriers, asked about the running back situation on Wednesday, Carroll told reporters "you're going to see a lot of [Lacy]" this week.
For better. Or worse. ...
Richardson continues to emerge as a playmaker in Seattle's offense. He caught six passes for 105 yards and two more touchdowns to give him a team-high five on the season. A Seahawks penalty negated what would have been a third Richardson score.
The fourth-year receiver was slowed by injuries over his first two seasons, but he's healthy now and has developed a lot of trust with Wilson, which has been evident. Lockett also went over the 100-yard mark in this one.
In addition, Graham caught his third and fourth touchdowns, giving him four in three games.
His first of two Sunday was again near the goal line, where he's suddenly becoming much more of a factor than he was over his first two seasons with Seattle.
Meanwhile, Doug Baldwin has 30 targets over the last three games, which as NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, is enticing volume for a fantasy receiver. However, Harmon added, Baldwin is still been a volatile asset. Baldwin has one game with 92 yards and a touchdown between two contests with 91 yards combined.
He was on the field for just 69 percent of the team's plays against the Texans. ...
And finally. ... Running back C.J. Prosise is expected to return to practice this week. He's still dealing with the after-effects of a high-ankle sprain and has played just two snaps in the last four games.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis
RBs: J.D. McKissic, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy, Tre Madden
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, Tanner McEvoy, Amara Darboh
TEs: Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine reported, it was one of the most inaccurate performances of Jameis Winston's career and the first time in 39 starts that he failed to account for a touchdown. He also threw two interceptions, partly a function of playing from behind all day, while completing 21 of 38 passes (55.3 percent).
The only other time he had such a low completion percentage this season was against the Cardinals after he'd just injured his shoulder and attempted to play through it.
He completed just 2 of his 11 passes on third and fourth down on Sunday, converting only one first down on those plays.
Head coach Dirk Koetter believed it was a function of 20-mph winds at Raymond James Stadium. That may be why he only averaged 5.53 yards per pass attempt, the third-fewest of his career, although the Panthers blitzed an awful lot. Koetter also said that he contemplated pulling Winston after he took a hit to the shoulder in the fourth quarter.
Winston had just two passing attempts from outside the pocket, the second-fewest of his career, and those plays accounted for a mere 6 yards. To Carolina's credit, the defense did a good job of accounting for his escape lanes. By comparison, he had 65 yards on six passes outside the pocket against the New England Patriots this season and 59 yards on six passes against the Panthers in Week 17 of 2016.
The Bucs still utilized play-action, faking handoffs to Doug Martin, but they were not eager to roll Winston out on naked bootlegs because of the shoulder. He was also not as eager to scramble outside the pocket, buying himself some time to find Mike Evans downfield, even though offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Todd Monken has said before that the scramble drill is their most productive play.
The real question is, how productive can Winston be with this sprained AC joint in his right throwing arm as the season wears on?
Wide receiver Adam Humphries didn't seem to think it was impacting their offense.
"He prepares, even the days he doesn't throw, he is preparing like any other day," said Humphries, who caught four passes for 26 yards. "He is right behind the huddle mentally taking every snap, so there is no difference. He is one of the toughest people I've ever met and for him to take some of those hits and keep plays alive with his feet, it says a lot about him and the heart that he has."
To Winston's credit, he did make some plays.
A 17-yard pass on third-and-11 that went through multiple defenders and into Cameron Brate's hands was excellent, but it did little to offset the multiple passes that sailed over receivers' heads.
But shoulder is going to heal any time soon and it's fair to ask how many more days of practice will Winston miss?
While he looked fine during the first 30 minutes of practice that were open to the media Friday, it was revealed during the broadcast Sunday on Fox Sports that in the full duration of practice, he looked inaccurate.
Winston said repeatedly, "I've got to get better," after the offense failed to score a touchdown this week, but it's tough to do that on one day of practice per week.
"Well as I mentioned earlier in the week, that's not ideal," Koetter said. "But again, that's where you have to rely on all the work Jameis put in in the offseason, puts in after practice. I still don't think this will be an every week, all-season thing. But, that's just my opinion. I'm not the medical guy and I don't know what happened. If he's hurt from today, I don't know that yet."
Winston did take a hit against the Bills, something Koetter didn't mention during the week, but later disclosed in an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio Friday night, along with the fact that he suffered a bruised deltoid too. "[Jameis] was doing better, [and] he played very well, especially in the second half against Buffalo," Koetter said. "We did have that one sack-fumble in the first half, and he kind of re-injured it, and so that's what led to him not throwing on Wednesday or Thursday this week."
Koetter was asked why he said Thursday there were "no setbacks" and made no mention of the deltoid.
"It was a bruise-type thing so it was sore. It wasn't a setback," Koetter said. "In fact, it was very similar to the way it was the week before. I wasn't trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes. In my mind, I'm saying the same thing. He's had the same injury. I mean, it's the same thing."
As for how the Buccaneers treat Winston going forward, Koetter said "Jameis' health will be priority No. 1. But that's a medical decision," Koetter said.
Winston's pain tolerance is pretty high, but like all players, the Bucs believe he could benefit from practicing more -- and the initial plan this week was having him on the field Wednesday (it will be the first time he's thrown on a Wednesday since he was hurt last month).
Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick looked good in his only appearance this season. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a loss at Arizona.
"I can't explain why he would play so well at Buffalo and miss some throws (Sunday)," Koetter said. "The one thing that was different was it was much windier. That was about as windy of a game that I've been in in a long time in the NFL. I'm not sure how much that affected him."
So, is there any scenario where if Winston is cleared to play, the Bucs would consider not starting him?
"There's three factors in that," Koetter said. "First and foremost is what the medical staff says. That's for every player. Jameis is at the front of the list. Second is the player. The player knows if he can go or not. And then third, when we're watching practice, if it doesn't look like they can go or it looks like they can't go at a success rate good enough for us to win, we would always hold them out. But we haven't had any of those things.
At 2-5 and three games behind the New Orleans Saints, the likelihood of the Bucs winning the NFC South is already very slim, even with divisional play just beginning.
Losing a franchise quarterback, like the Indianapolis Colts have with Andrew Luck, would be even worse.
In addition, Humphries was held out of practice Wednesday due to a rib injury.
I'll be following up on Winston's and Humphries' progress in practice in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
It's safe to say Winston was a limiting factor for his receiving corps against the Panthers. Mike Evans has been targeted regularly, but isn't converting those targets (more than a few of them being off-target targets) in to production. Brate, however, has fared well, posting at least 60 yards per game since Week 3. ...
The Bucs had trouble getting the running game going in the first half as Carolina loaded the tackle box and dared them to throw the football. In the second half, they spread the field with four and five receivers and Martin had some running lanes. He finished with 71 yards on 18 carries.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Martin has been somewhat underwhelming as a fantasy running back since returning from suspension, but he does have two touchdowns in his four games this season. And to his credit, he's faced tough run defenses in Arizona, Buffalo and Carolina.
But, as Franciscovich added, the Bucs schedule opens up now with games against the Saints, Jets, Dolphins and Falcons in the next month, so hopefully, Martin can get back on track as more of an RB1.
The volume will be there, that's for sure.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims
WRs: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Bernard Reedy
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa Walker, a four-play sequence sums up the Tennessee Titans' season so far.
With first-and-goal at the Cleveland 1, the Titans ran DeMarco Murray twice without success. Marcus Mariota missed a wide-open tight end Delanie Walker in the end zone. Then they couldn't reach pay dirt on fourth down with Derrick Henry running behind a line featuring Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan at left tackle and All-Pro Jack Conklin at right tackle.
A year ago, nobody in the NFL was better than Tennessee at scoring touchdowns inside an opponent's 20. Mariota has thrown 33 touchdown passes from the red zone without a single interception in his career, and he owns the league's second-best passer rating in that area since 2015.
But Mariota has yet to throw his first TD pass from the red zone this season. That's why the Titans (4-3) are busy during their bye trying to figure out how to rev up their offense as they chase their first AFC South title and playoff berth since 2008.
"We are where we're at for a number of reasons," head coach Mike Mularkey said. "We have a lot to do, we have a lot of work to do. There's no question ... hopefully taking a step back and catching our breath, getting some guys healthy, I mean everybody, not just the guys on the injury report, I think will be good for us to start the second half."
Injuries haven't helped. Corey Davis, the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft, has been sidelined since the second week with an injured hamstring. Mariota missed six quarters himself -- both losses -- with a strained left hamstring that also severely limited his mobility in Tennessee's two wins going into the bye.
The Titans have made too many mistakes. They sit atop the division with a tiebreaker advantage over Jacksonville, but winning the AFC South will be challenging if the Titans can't fix an offense that has taken a big step back in key areas:
1. Run game: After leading the AFC and ranking third overall last season, the Titans are tied for eighth averaging 124.6 yards rushing per game.
2. Third down: The Titans rank 27th, converting only 34.8 percent in another stark contrast to 2016 when only New Orleans (48.6 percent) and Green Bay (46.7 percent) were better than Tennessee (46.1 percent).
3. Red zone: Tennessee ranks 13th in scoring despite having the biggest drop-off being in this area. The Titans scored 36 TDs for a rate of 72 percent of red zone trips in 2016. No other NFL team was better than 68.2 percent.
Now the Titans are ahead of only Arizona with a TD percentage of 41.2, with seven TDs on 17 trips inside the red zone.
Kicker Ryan Succop leads the AFC with 74 points and made four field goals to beat Cleveland 12-9 in overtime last weekend. Mariota said the Titans can't keep kicking field goals.
"As the season rolls on, we start playing playoff teams and we have to find ways to score points," Mariota said. "I'm glad we have a week to figure it out."
Mularkey is hoping to get the 6-3 Davis back after the bye, possibly even Nov. 5 when Baltimore visits for the first of two straight home games for Tennessee. The Titans installed Davis instantly as a starter, and he has seven catches for 73 yards in very limited work. Mularkey says he has been impressed by how mentally prepared the rookie is. They just need him healthy.
"We have a lot of confidence in him," Mularkey said.
Right now, Mariota is part of Tennessee's issues, too. The third-year quarterback has four touchdown passes this season, ahead of only Cleveland's DeShone Kizer and Indianapolis' Jacoby Brissett. All four passes have come from 24 yards or longer, and Mariota has an interception to match each of his TDs.
Mariota missed a chance to add to his total last week in Cleveland when he couldn't hit Walker with the short pass.
"He's got to make those throws," Mularkey said.
According to ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe, it doesn't appear that Mariota ever truly got comfortable and into a rhythm over the first half of his season, and suffering that hamstring injury that caused him to sit out or be limited throughout October was a big part of that.
There's still time for Mariota to rebound and turn in what would be considered a strong season, but he'll need to piece together more consistent efforts. A return to 100 percent should bring back Mariota's dual threat capabilities and help him to be the starting-caliber fantasy QB1 many thought he would be going into the season.
Wolfe also contends that Davis needs to be a full-time starter opposite Rishard Matthews once he's fully healthy and up to speed. And Davis' return shouldn't mean a demotion for current WR3 Taywan Taylor, the Titans' best deep threat.
Davis was brought in to be the Titans No. 1 receiver, and he can be that over the second half of the season. His crisp route-running and unique ability to consistently make highlight grabs will be a much-needed resource in this offense. He displayed that in his training camp cameo and in Week 1.
Davis practiced Monday, his hamstring healed enough that he expects to play Sunday.
"It felt good. It felt real good," Davis told Jim Wyatt of the team's website. "It's been a long time coming, and it's felt good to knock the rust off and be out there with my team.
"I have real fresh legs. I am feeling good."
Receivers coach Frisman Jackson, offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie and Mularkey took turns quizzing Davis in meetings to keep his mind progressing while his hamstring was healing. That should help Davis have an immediate impact.
Matthews is a third down monster who Mariota often looks to in key situations, but Davis will present defenses with different challenges and take pressure off the rest of the receiving corps.
So what happens to Eric Decker?
Well, Wolfe believes Decker might be best suited as a reserve who comes in during red zone and special situations. He's a savvy veteran who hasn't shown the consistent ability to get open as a starter this season. An ankle injury has limited him, but he followed his best game of the season vs. the Colts (seven catches, 88 yards) with no catches against a depleted Browns secondary.
A big portion of that is lack of consistent separation. Decker ranks 119th in separation among 127 wide receivers and tight ends with at least 18 targets following Sunday's games, per NFL Next Gen stats. Matthews ranks 62nd, Walker 97th.
Limited separation forces precise passes and/or a lot of 50-50 balls, which is a part of why the Titans are unable to lean more on the pass when teams put eight-in-the-box to stop the run.
"We had a lot of contested plays and we didn't make a lot of them," Mularkey said.
Titans tight ends and running backs (14) had double the amount of catches that wide receivers (seven) did Sunday. Wide receivers were only targeted on 13 of Mariota's 34 passes. That should change once Davis returns. Wile there are a number of issues for the Titans coaching staff to fix, Davis' return will be the easiest.
But it all starts with Mariota.
"I think it comes down to us," Mariota said. "We aren't executing to the best of our abilities. I think there are times where, including myself, we make mental errors. We have too many negative plays where we're third-and-goal from the 9-or 10-yard line, which is not where you want to be. When it comes down to it, we're doing a good job moving the ball, but just need to find ways to finish."
If not, the Titans could find themselves missing the playoffs for a ninth straight season. ...
As for the injuries. ... Davis is practicing fully this week. Walker sat out Monday's and Wednesday's practices with an ankle injury sustained against the Browns. That injury is a bone bruise, and Walker was given an extra day to rest his ankle.
Murray, who is coming off a hamstring injury, was able to do some work on Monday.
Mariota should have more of his mobility back this week, according to Mularkey.
"I think Marcus is back to where we need him to be to play at the same level he did before the injury," Mularkey said.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry, David Fluellen
WRs: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Eric Weems, Michael Campanaro, Corey Davis
TEs: Delanie Walker, Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith, Phillip Supernaw
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2017
As Associated Press sports Stephen Whyno framed it: "Forget about getting backups ready to start. Jay Gruden is worried about having 46 healthy players in uniform. ..."
That's the absurd state of the Redskins on the injury front. Tight end Jordan Reed and defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis are among those expected to be out Sunday at the Seattle Seahawks with the status of about a dozen other players in doubt.
"The issue is we've got 13 guys that are questionable, and we only have seven guys that we can put inactive," Gruden said Monday. "That's the major issue that we have right now. We have to try to get six of those guys up -- at least -- somehow."
Reed strained his right hamstring and Ioannidis broke a hand in a 33-19 loss to Dallas that dropped the bruised and battered Redskins to 3-4. No. 3 tight end Niles Paul, who is in the NFL's concussion protocol, starting left guard Shawn Lauvao, who has a stinger, starting center Spencer Long (knee injury) and backup safety Stefan McClure (hamstring strain) could also miss the Seahawks game.
Gruden's injury report included 13 players who are questionable or worse to face NFC West-leading Seattle.
"It becomes a challenge," Gruden said. "But we're going to keep fighting on and put some guys out there and get them ready to play. That's all we can do."
Starting left tackle Trent Williams, No. 2 cornerback Bashaud Breeland and starting right guard Brandon Scherff have knee injuries; top receiver Jamison Crowder has hamstring and lower-leg injuries; rookie safety Montae Nicholson has a stinger and a shoulder injury; backup offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings has a sprained ankle and third tackle Ty Nsekhe is working back from core muscle surgery.
That list doesn't include right tackle Morgan Moses playing through two sprained ankles, other injuries across the roster and long-term health issues with defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (foot), kicker Dustin Hopkins (hip) and linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) that landed those players on injured reserve.
"It's crazy," said No. 1 cornerback Josh Norman, who missed two games with a broken rib. "Can't really say enough about how crazy it is."
The injuries got so bad along the offensive line against the Cowboys that rookie center Chase Roullier and guard Tyler Catalina made their NFL debuts and two players signed Saturday, Arie Kouandjio and Orlando Franklin, were pressed into game action.
"You really can't make this up," said Williams, who hopes to continue playing through a right knee injury that eventually will require surgery. "This is something that I've never in my life, playing football, seen an injury bug bite a team like it's bitten us."
Of the Redskins' top six linemen, only one, Moses, was on the field at game's end.
"I don't know how you could have more injuries on the offensive line. I really don't," Gruden said. "It's mind-boggling."
Gruden said Ioannidis will have surgery on a fractured metacarpal in his hand but could return for Washington's game against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 12. Without Allen and Ioannidis for now, the Redskins' depth will be tested on the defensive line -- and all over the roster.
"It obviously hurts, not only on your offense and defense but on your special teams also," Gruden said. "It's our job as a staff to get these guys up to speed and get them ready to play. That's the only thing we can do. We got it on our shirt, 'By any means,' so we've got to just get it done, have great effort, attitude and preparation, and hopefully we'll figure out a way to get it done."
The Vikings claimed RB Mack Brown off waivers from the Redskins, further depleting their special teams depth. ...
Gruden said losing two tight ends in the first half impacted his play calling. He wanted to use more two- and three-tight-end sets but had only Vernon Davis available. The Redskins' longest pass play in the first half, a 41-yard gain to Crowder, came out of a two-tight-end set. That play was no longer available to run after the injuries.
While Davis was the only active tight end beyond Reed and Paul against the Cowboys, rookie Jeremy Sprinkle is also on the 53-man roster and will likely play for Reed in Seattle on Sunday. Given the struggles of Washington's wide receivers, Gruden is losing players who have helped keep the offense afloat.
"(Losing Reed) impacts it. You have to figure out what personnel packages you're going to feature and go from there," Gruden said. "Hopefully we will get good news on Niles and then we have Sprinkle ready to go - and obviously Vernon is the ageless one who has done a nice job of staying healthy. ..."
Kirk Cousins said all the injuries on the line -- and, more accurately, all the new players forced into action -- prevented the team from going deeper into the playbook and from using certain audibles.
"That's where it gets tough," Cousins said.
Indeed, as the Sports Xchange suggested, you almost have to grade this one on a curve for Cousins. He was sacked four times. Conditions were also miserable with a steady rain all game. Cousins still managed to complete 26 of 39 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown.
Cousins has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 37 games since the start of the 2015 season, which ties for most in the NFL during that stretch.
But for whatever reason the QB is still not connecting with wide receivers Terrelle Pryor or Josh Doctson, who had one catch on four targets combined. That's not good enough.
Crowder, however, tied a career high with nine receptions and set a career high with 123 receiving yards. But Crowder came out of that game with a hamstring injury and a lower-leg contusion so his status for Sunday's game at Seattle is in doubt.
Pryor had just one target on Sunday. It was his worst game since the first time the converted quarterback played full time at receiver in the NFL on Dec. 20, 2015 against San Francisco (no targets, no catches).
Chris Thompson has 442 receiving yards, the third-most for a running back through seven games since 1999.
Overall, the rushing attack managed just 49 yards on 15 carries (3.3 yards per carry). In poor weather conditions, that put way too much stress on the passing game. It's not like Dallas had a big lead and Washington was forced to throw the ball, either.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Robert Kelley fell into the end zone in the first quarter, but other than that he didn't do much. He posted 19 rush yards on eight attempts and played just 12 snaps compared to Thompson's 46.
Meanwhile, getting back to the injuries, it's safe to assume I'll be posting daily on Reed, Crowder (neither of whom practiced Wednesday) and the rest of Washington's walking wounded; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days.
QBs: Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Brian Quick
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle