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Team Notes week 9 2023
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. .. 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. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
The Cardinals were in Minnesota practicing against the Vikings when they made the deal to acquire quarterback Josh Dobbs from the Browns.
A few months later -- the week they are playing the Browns -- the Cardinals are sending Dobbs to the Vikings themselves, with Kyler Murray on the verge of returning and Minnesota in a bad way at the position after starting QB Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles this weekend.
The deal includes the Cardinals sending a conditional 2024 seventh-round pick to the Vikings in return for a 2024 sixth-round pick. The trade is pending a Dobbs' physical.
Head coach Jonathan Gannon, who doesn't usually speak on Tuesdays, showed up at the outset of Tuesday's regularly scheduled coordinators press conference to talk about the deal.
"Just wanted to thank Josh for his contributions," Gannon said. "He came in, battled. He's an ultimate pro for what he did for us and our team. I can't thank him enough. Josh is excited for the opportunity to go to Minnesota and play."
The Cardinals had traded a fifth-round pick in exchange for Dobbs and a Browns' seventh-round pick back in August.
Dobbs, who started the first eight games of the season for the Cardinals after his arrival, was benched this week in favor of either Murray or rookie Clayton Tune starting Sunday in Cleveland. Gannon said the Cardinals will be bringing in another quarterback -- Jeff Driskel had been on the practice squad until recently -- because as of now, Tune is the only QB on the 53-man roster.
Murray remains on the PUP list. It would seem unlikely the Cardinals would want him to be activated just for a backup role, which would be necessary if no other QB was signed.
Gannon said Monday he did not know whether Murray or Tune would start Sunday.
A source, however, told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Arizona is planning to start Tune.
That said, Gannon told reporters on Monday that there's a chance Murray could start as he continues to ramp up his return from ACL surgery.
Gannon said the timing of Murray's return to the field will be dictated more by the Cardinals than by whom they're playing. Murray's 21-day window to practice after being designated to return from the physically unable to play list will close Nov. 8, days before Arizona hosts the Atlanta Falcons.
He's coming off a major injury, he's had a couple weeks of work here, he's made major strides but we want to make sure he feels comfortable with everything we are doing," Gannon said.
Gannon said "I truly don't know" when he will choose between Murray and Tune before this week of practice.
Tune is excited for the opportunity, Gannon said.
"The things we saw in preseason and the things we saw him work on, he's done a good job," Gannon added. "I think he'll go out and sling it, if he's out there. ..."
Dobbs started well for the Cardinals over his first four games but had fallen off in the last four games. In his brief eight-game Cardinals career, Dobbs completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,569 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions and a passer rating of 81.2. He also was the team's second-leading rusher, gaining 258 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries, a 5.5-yard average.
Gannon had said Sunday Dobbs would continue to start. Monday, he said he was sitting Dobbs in favor of either Murray or Tune.
"It's my job to continue playing good football," Dobbs said after Sunday's game.
Now that will be for the Vikings.
Of course, whoever starts at quarterback will need some help.
According to ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, when the Cardinals' run game gets stagnant, as it did at times Sunday, the pass game can't make up for it and the entire offense looks like it's stuck in the mud.
That said, Urban notes that Emari Demercado is the guy until James Conner comes back. Demercado played 41 of a possible 49 snaps over the first three quarters. Keaontay Ingram took over as the primary backup, taking three snaps in the third quarter. His last snap was the first play of the fourth quarter.
For a while there it looked like Demercado would have his first 100-yard game. He ended up with 78 yards on 20 carries.
Fantasy managers shouldn't get too excited, however.
As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, Demercado saw an 80 percent snap share in Week 8. That fell to a 56 percent snap share this week. He still saw 83 percent of Arizona's RB rushes, but Ingram ran 19 routes to Demercado's 11.
Zachariason added: "Arizona has used their running backs in totally different ways each week without Conner."
Conner is eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 10. ...
Meanwhile, if there's one silver lining to the Cardinals' struggles, it's that they're in line to have the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL draft. The Cardinals have stockpiled draft picks for 2024 and will be hunting for playmakers at multiple positions. ...
Also according to Urban, it feels like Trey McBride is going to be TE1 even after Zach Ertz comes back from his injury. His performance in this game is indicative of that.
McBride had a career-best game with 10 catches for 95 yards.
McBride was targeted on 39 percent of his route. PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke contends that even if he doesn't see a 39 percent target rate again this season, McBride is still among the top waiver-wire options at tight end, given his playing time, recent success and potential.
Hard to argue that point. ... The Cardinals haven't had a 100-yard game from a tight end since Rob Awalt had 105 on Nov. 12, 1989 against the Cowboys. McBride came up five yards short in this one, but it seems like he's on a trajectory to surpass that number at some point. ...
The Cardinals wasted no time getting the ball to Marquise Brown in his first game against his former team. The receiver known as "Hollywood" caught a 7-yard pass on Arizona's first play and later induced a pass interference against Marion Humphrey in the end zone, setting up Dobbs' TD sneak.
Brown finished with six catches for 33 yards and a touchdown. He played three seasons for the Ravens before being sent to Arizona in a draft day trade last year. ...
Rondale Moore had just 21 yards from scrimmage -- 11 on the ground and 10 receiving -- and was largely a non-factor, but it wasn't necessarily all his fault as his role in the offense is questionable. ...
On the injury front. ... New starting left guard Trystan Colon, who is in the lineup with Elijah Wilkinson on IR, went out early in the game with a right knee injury and didn't return. Running back Damien Williams hurt his foot and didn't return. Wide receiver Michael Wilson got dinged on the successful onside kick at the end of the game and went to the locker room.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Michael Carter, Emari Demercado
WRs: Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim, Zach Ertz
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
Desmond Ridder did not finish Sunday's loss to the Tennessee Titans, but head coach Arthur Smith made it abundantly clear after the game that it wasn't because of the quarterback's play.
Instead, Smith insisted, the switch to Taylor Heinicke came out of caution for Ridder's health after he had been evaluated for -- but eventually cleared from having -- a concussion following the first half of a 28-23 loss to the Titans.
Smith wouldn't say whether Ridder or Heinicke would be the starter this Sunday against the Vikings, instead saying that he's "always going to be conservative" when it comes to medical decisions -- something he has demonstrated throughout his two-plus years as Atlanta's coach.
Even though Ridder said everything went well with the testing, he said coaches felt he was "a little off" so they instead turned to Heinicke in the second half. Ridder said he didn't necessarily feel off, but "there were a couple of plays that got mixed up."
Ridder said he didn't know which play it was that caused enough alarm for him to get checked for a concussion. One of the plays that was mixed up was late in the second quarter and another was early in the first. He said he will have further testing Monday morning in case concussion symptoms present themselves later on.
Ridder completed 8 of 12 passes for 71 yards while being sacked five times and losing one fumble -- his seventh turnover in three weeks -- in the first half.
Heinicke found out about the switch when he heard Smith calling his name while Heinicke was using the bathroom.
He came out and was told "you're in."
Heinicke entered the game and completed 12 of 21 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown. With him in the game, the Falcons scored 20 second-half points, picking up an offense that was stagnant in the first half with Ridder at quarterback, gaining just 89 yards.
Heinicke and receiver Drake London, who had five catches for 55 yards, said Ridder was helping Heinicke and the offense from the sideline while he was out.
"It didn't faze him at all," London said. "He just kept us going and kept Heinicke going as well, keeping him up."
Heinicke said after the game he doesn't believe he should be the starter.
"This is Desmond's team. He's played great throughout the year," Heinicke said. "Obviously there's a couple hiccups here and there, but he's progressing every week. He's working hard. Logan [Woodside] and I are doing everything we can to help him in any way we can.
"Obviously, ultimately, that's Arthur's decision [on who starts], but tomorrow we're going to go in and try to get better from the film and proceed as usual."
Heinicke said he is going to approach things just as he has the past two-plus seasons as the backup to Ryan Fitzpatrick and then Carson Wentz in Washington: Do what he can to help Ridder as best as he can.
When Smith was asked if at some point a decision might come because of performance instead of just medical concerns, Smith said he felt Ridder was "throwing the ball pretty well and obviously we've got a lot of confidence, that's why he's our starter."
Ridder admitted to some difficulties over the past few weeks, saying he didn't know what might happen going forward.
"Everyone stepped up and did their part and what they needed to do," Ridder said. "We're going to go back tomorrow and look up and see where we need to do better -- both offense, defense and special teams -- and come back ready to work and get a win at home."
For the record, Associated Press sports writer Paul Newberry reports that Ridder will be re-evaluated this week for a possible concussion, with a starter for Week 9 to be announced on Wednesday.
When Smith was asked if he will evaluate the role of the starting quarterback for the Falcons in the coming week, he left his answer open-ended.
"You can ask me 500 ways. We just finished the game. There's a lot of things that we have to go back and look at, listen to medical experts," Smith said. "We'll see how this week goes."
ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein had a more pointed take: "Heinicke was brought in for this reason: If things weren't going well, he could provide stability. ... Ridder has been turnover-prone; he lost a fumble on the fourth offensive play of the game and has seven over the past three weeks. For the time being, it might be best for Atlanta to go with the veteran Heinicke. ..."
The Falcons return home to face Minnesota (4-4) after splitting two road games. Atlanta is still tied for first in the mediocre NFC South, but this team has yet to win more than two games in a row since Smith took over as coach in 2021. Certainly, more consistency is needed with this regime at the midway point of its third season.
Also worth noting. ... London left Sunday's loss with a groin injury. His return was announced as questionable following the injury, but he never returned to action.
London said after the game that he's fine, so ideally, this won't be a long-term concern.
I'll obviously have more on the quarterback situation and London as Sunday's game against the Vikings draws nearer; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Also of interest. ... London has recorded at least five receptions in the last four consecutive games. The last time he had a streak like this was Weeks 13-18 (Week 14 was the bye) of 2022, when he strung five games together with at least five receptions. ...
After London's injury, Van Jefferson played 15-of-17 fourth-quarter snaps. KhaDarel Hodge and Scott Miller also started playing more. Mack Hollins was still fairly limited.
All season, Smith has said he had increased expectations for Hodge, and Hodge showed why with three catches for 75 yards (his second-highest total in a game). ...
The Falcons rushed for 140 yards against the Titans, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. After playing sparingly the previous week because of ill health, rookie Bijan Robinson led the way with 62 yards on 11 carries and scored the first rushing touchdown of his young NFL career.
The rookie boasts 655 yards from scrimmage, though, making him the second player in franchise history to record at least 650 yards from scrimmage in his first eight games. William Andrews has been the only other to do so in 1979 with 727. ...
Kicker Younghoe Koo made all three of his field-goal attempts. The longest was a 49-yarder in third quarter. Koo has now made 56 of his 65 field-goal attempts of 40-plus yards, giving him an 83.6 percent success rate that qualifies him as the best in the NFL since 2019. ...
Finally. ... Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett's season came to an end on Sunday and he was moved off the active roster in Atlanta on Tuesday.
Jarrett tore his ACL in Sunday's loss to the Titans and the Falcons announced that he has been placed on injured reserve. The Falcons filled his spot by acquiring defensive lineman Kentavius Street in a trade with the Eagles on Monday.
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As BaltimoreRavens.com's Ryan Mink noted, there's been plenty of media chatter recently about the possibility of the Ravens trading for a running back. Well, two days before this year's deadline, running back Gus Edwards made a statement of his own.
With the passing attack scuffling in Arizona, the Ravens rode the "Gus Bus" in the second half for a 31-24 win against the Cardinals.
Edwards ran for three touchdowns and piled up 80 yards on 19 carries. He scored in the second, third and fourth quarters from 1, 7, and 1 yards out, respectively, and punished the Cardinals defense down the stretch.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said it was "huge" to get the ground game going in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. It was especially critical on a day when the passing attack was spotty.
Coming off a monster offensive performance, particularly through the air, against the Detroit Lions last week, Lamar Jackson finished just 18-of-27 for 157 yards and one touchdown. No Ravens pass catcher had more than 40 receiving yards.
After Baltimore went down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive, the Ravens mustered just 25 yards on its next three drives. They scored a second touchdown just before halftime, but that was set up by an interception that gave the offense a short field.
The Ravens threw the ball 70 percent of the time in the first half. There was no doubt that at halftime, the Ravens knew they had to make some changes.
"I believe we went away from the run," Jackson said. "We were passing the ball a lot earlier in the game, and I believe we should have been running a little bit [to] just balance our offense out because last week when we were balancing our offense, we showed strides of being great all across the board."
It seemed the Cardinals were dropping a lot of players into coverage, which forced Jackson to hold onto the ball and eventually led to pressure.
"A win is a win, but I feel like we need to put more points on the board," Jackson said. "When they would drop back in coverage, we had longer-developing routes, and their defensive line was causing havoc, that's all."
The Ravens came out running the ball more in the second half but still punted on their first three drives. Finally, after a Geno Stone interception gave them a shorter field, the Ravens strung together three straight scoring drives -- including one nine-play, 75-yard drive with eight runs -- to essentially close out the game.
Edwards' 19 carries were the most he's had in a single game since Dec. 29, 2019.
"I love it. I love it whenever my number is called," Edwards said. "I feel like it was just like everybody knew that we had to get back to the running game before the game even started. Just watching them [the Cardinals] on film, we definitely saw some stuff from them that we felt we could run the ball. I'm glad we were able to get back to that before it was too late."
Edwards' big day is particularly of note considering the din of buzz about Baltimore being a possible trade partner for bruising Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, or possibly others, this week. Edwards said "I don't know anything about that" and Harbaugh said he's confident in the team's running backs.
"We're confident in Gus. We're confident in Justice. Obviously, we want to get our guy back Keaton Mitchell and get healthy with that," Harbaugh said, also mentioning practice squad veteran Melvin Gordon III. "Yes, we like our running backs a lot."
The Ravens have to be pleased to see their rushing attack answer the call when their passing attack falters.
In the wake of this game, it's fair to ask if the Ravens are the best team in the AFC.
ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley believes the Ravens made that argument by following up a blowout of the Lions with a road victory over the one-win Cardinals. It wasn't a blowout, but now the Ravens are tied with the Chiefs, Dolphins and Jaguars for the best record in the AFC at 6-2. Baltimore has the most favorable schedule to landing the top seed in the conference as they play six of their last nine games at home, where Jackson is 26-8 for his career.
That's the third-best home mark since 2018 (minimum 10 starts) behind Patrick Mahomes (34-8) and Aaron Rodgers (33-8-1).
Although Baltimore has a stretch of games at home coming up, that doesn't mean they'll be easy. The Ravens face the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, and then they take on Cleveland and Cincinnati. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Sunday marked only the second time in Odell Beckham Jr.'s 102-game career that he failed to record a catch.
While he didn't have a catch, Beckham drew three pass interference penalties that put the Ravens in position to score. Beckham showed frustration after he was interfered with in the end zone that ruined a potential touchdown, and Jackson understood. "It's great (pass interference penalties), but we're trying to get him a touchdown," Jackson said.
Beckham left the game late in the third quarter with a stomach contusion. He missed roughly a quarter but was able to return for the end of the game, even though the Ravens had a clear lead. ...
Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that Zay Flowers scored fewer than 10 PPR points today for just the second time this season. ...
Mark Andrews caught his 40th career touchdown pass in the first quarter, moving him one shy of Todd Heap's franchise record of for most career touchdown receptions. "We're close man," Andrews said smiling. ...
Baltimore was a bit sloppy closing the game out with a sizable lead. Receiver Nelson Agholor tried to short-hop an onside kick and muffed it, enabling Arizona to kick the field goal that cut the lead to seven.
Agholor recovered the next onside kick attempt by the Cardinals.
"He who hesitates is lost on an onside kick recovery, obviously, and it bounced," Harbaugh said. "In the second one, it was the exact same kick, and we went and got it."
Finally. ... As Harbaugh's comment indicates, Mitchell was inactive with a hamstring injury. Undrafted rookie Owen Wright was activated off the practice squad, as Gordon had already been called up three times this season and Kenyan Drake was recently cut.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Keaton Mitchell, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg noted, consistency has eluded the Bills' offense over the first eight games of the season.
In the 24-18 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Thursday night, the team adjusted its approach to fix the slow starts that caused headaches in the first halves of the previous three games. The passing game got hot quickly, with the Bills racking up 146 total yards in the first quarter -- the second-most yards for the team in an opening quarter over the past three seasons.
Head coach Sean McDermott described the performance as "what I'm used to seeing" and said it was "fun to watch" the offense.
Quarterback Josh Allen "looked very comfortable. The offense looked very comfortable," McDermott said. "Probably the first time other than maybe in episodes of the Raiders game and then again [against] Miami, where it just looked like it was every play wasn't an adventure, every play wasn't just -- there looked like there was some easy plays, I guess I should say."
The offense will try to find that elusive consistency and keep the positive trends from Thursday night going after the mini-bye when Buffalo faces the Cincinnati Bengals this coming Sunday night. With the decisive, up-tempo offense Thursday, Allen was able to guide the unit up and down the field with plays that featured minimal substitutions and gave players with the ball a chance to shine -- from Allen with his legs to the team's wide receivers.
"This team moves really well when I'm able to get the ball around to our playmakers," Allen said. "I thought guys did a great job with the ball in their hand making some [runs after catch]."
What can the Bills take from this performance going forward?
To Allen's point, the game featured the second-highest yards after catch for the team this season (154), sitting just between the games against the Dolphins and Raiders. The bulk of that production came from wide receivers Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis and Khalil Shakir and rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid.
Diggs and Davis played 99 percent of the offensive plays, while Kincaid, the team's only tight end for the game, played 84 percent, and second-year receiver Shakir saw 65 percent of the snaps -- way ahead of free agent additions Trent Sherfield (32 percent) and Deonte Harty (9 percent).
On their first possession of the game -- a 10-play, 77-yard drive that ended in a field goal -- the Bills made only a substitution at running back. They committed to sticking with what had worked, and with tight ends Dawson Knox and Quintin Morris out, that meant the highest number of plays in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE) this season (51).
"That's the offense we can run, and it's the best way to run it," Davis said on the performance. "We've been talking about it for ... a couple weeks, keeping it simple. And that's what we did."
Keeping those players on the field worked well, with four different Bills catching at least five passes for 50 receiving yards, tied for the most players to do that in a game in franchise history (last done in 2011). Shakir had a career day with highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (92), while Davis had a career-high nine receptions and Kincaid caught his first career touchdown pass.
Kincaid generated five catches for 65 yards and the score; he has raced to the forefront in the past two contests. In the Week 7 loss to New England, Kincaid generated career highs with eight catches for 75 yards. In the first five weeks, he earned 17 catches for 118 yards.
After missing Week 6 due to a concussion, the rookie has been sensational, making 13 catches for 140 yards and a TD in two games.
Diggs still got his targets, catching nine of 12 targets for 70 yards, but it wasn't a one-man show as it's been at times this season. When Allen spreads the ball around like he did Thursday, the Bills' offense is far more dangerous to defend than when he's force-feeding Diggs.
The key for Buffalo moving forward is getting consistency from Kincaid, Shakir and Davis and Allen continuing to trust them to make plays.
"Josh did a great job of just working the progressions," offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey said. "And I think as a playcaller taking the pressure off, 'Hey let's get this guy and the ball going. Let's get this guy going,' and just trusting the fact that they'll get going through the natural flow of the game."
Having three wide receivers on the field for 45 of Allen's 46 dropbacks appeared to bring out the best in him as well. Previously this season, the Bills had three receivers on the field for 57 percent of dropbacks. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Allen's QBR was 90 on those plays against the Buccaneers compared to 69 in the first seven games of the season.
Another positive development for the offense was the speed in which Allen got the ball out. He released the ball in an average of 2.27 seconds, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the fastest of his career. That could explain why Allen's pressure percentage decreased from 38 percent in the previous three games to 24 percent.
Getzenberg added the Bucs' defense also had to defend against Allen the runner, something the Bills have limited in an effort to keep him healthier. (Allen did go in the medical tent at one point but didn't miss a snap.) Allen had seven carries for 41 yards and a touchdown, tying his season high in rushing attempts and his second-most rushing yards.
He came into the game averaging 4.1 carries per game (down from 7.8 last season) and 21.1 rushing yards per game.
"Hey, Josh is a unique football player," Dorsey said. "And he's extremely obviously talented as a passer and explosive as a runner. So, I just feel like to be able to let him go ahead and utilize those traits is great for us."
The Bills' offense did slow down late in the game, taking a more "cautious" approach as McDermott called it.
They finished the game with four drives ending in punts, and the Buccaneers worked their way back into the game on a 17-play, eight-point drive.
"I think there was a couple of fourth-and-2 situations, but to that point they hadn't really done much offensively, and I was not about to give a team that has not shown that they can drive the field on us at this point a short field when it's a two-score game," McDermott said.
Spreading the ball around was a positive sign for the offense to build upon before games against some tough defenses over the next month.
"I think when you're playing good team offense, the ball is spread around, not intentionally, but the ball finds the open receiver or the open tight end. And that's when we're at our best," McDermott said. ...
According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, Shakir has seen target shares of 10.3 percent and 15.4 percent over his last two games. Prior to Week 7, his single-game target share high was 4.0 percent. ...
For the record, McDermott said Allen's throwing shoulder was sore the day after Thursday's game; I'll watch for more on this as the team begins practicing Wednesday; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
A few final items. ... Leonard Fournette has found a new team. The Bills signed Fournette to their practice squad, according to multiple reports.
The No. 4 overall pick of the 2017 draft, Fournette spent the last three seasons with the Buccaneers, winning Super Bowl LV with the club. Last year, he recorded 668 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. He also caught 73 passes for 523 yards with three TDs.
Buffalo currently ranks No. 14 in rushing offense. James Cook leads the club with 486 yards while Allen is second with 189 yards. The quarterback leads with five rushing touchdowns. Latavius Murray has also recorded 40 carries for 143 yards with two TDs.
On Thursday, Cook handled 73.7 percent of Buffalo's running back rushes. According to Zachariason, it's the second straight week he was over the 70 percent mark (76.5 percent last week) after five straight games with a high of 60.0 percent.
The Bills will play the Bengals, Broncos, Jets and Eagles over their next four games before a Week 13 bye.
Last. ... Veteran cornerback Rasul Douglas is heading to Buffalo.
The Packers traded Douglas and a fifth-round pick to the Bills for a third-round pick, with the deal finalized just minutes before the NFL trade deadline, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
The 28-year-old Douglas originally entered the NFL as a 2017 third-round pick of the Eagles and has also spent time with the Panthers, Raiders, Texans and Cardinals before joining the Packers. Douglas has started all seven games this season.
Douglas represents depth in the secondary for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris, Dawson Knox
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As Darin Gantt of the team's official website notes, throughout his time in college and his short time with the Panthers, Bryce Young has exuded calm.
And while he was clearly relieved with getting his first NFL win, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft quickly went back into "get back to work" mode in his postgame press conference.
But before that came the release as Young said some words people don't ordinarily imagine hearing from the mild-mannered rookie, as he celebrated Sunday's 15-13 win over the Texans. There might have been some expletives, according to his teammates, as all the frustration of the fruitless first six weeks of the year came out all at once.
But when you ice the game with a last-minute drive for your first NFL win, how are you supposed to react?
"Really, it's just excitement for that opportunity," Young said of having the game on the line and the ball in his hands. "You know, you love opportunities like that. You go in, you have a chance to end the game on your terms and to try to go out and take the game. Down one, what else would you hope for? It's why we play the game.
"So that was all of our response. All of our attitudes were being able to see the opportunity, and really embrace it and make sure we're listening to coaches trust in our training, but embrace the opportunity, and again, I'm super proud of this team for stepping up. Super grateful to be playing with the guys I'm playing with."
Young was a clean 22-of-31 for 235 yards and a touchdown, hitting Tommy Tremble for a touchdown pass in the second quarter. His 103.6 passer rating was the highest of the season, and included in the total was a 40-yard shot to Jonathan Mingo, his longest completion of the year.
There's still a lot of stuff to work on, and there's time to work on it all, but getting a win is important.
"I mean, I think it's a big confidence builder for our whole team," head coach Frank Reich said. "Especially for the offense and Bryce obviously as our leader, making the plays in that drive that we needed was clutch. And I thought Bryce made a bunch of those during the day, but when we needed him the most, he made the biggest plays."
Beyond that, the win and some of the plays Young made at least showed a glimpse of why Reich was sold on Young as the top pick from the start of the draft process.
"He's just got all the instincts, all the playmaking ability, all the throws, great composure, seeing the field great," Reich said after his first game since giving offensive coordinator Thomas Brown the playcalling duties. "So good things ahead."
Among the positives, the Panthers were able to seal the victory by running the ball, something they haven't said all year (the winning or the running).
Young got them into position by passing smartly. But after the two-minute warning and holding onto a one-point lead with the Panthers in field goal range, the Texans had all three timeouts. They were going to use them to try to get the ball back.
That's when running back Chuba Hubbard got behind a physical offensive line, which is nearing health and stability again, and ran for 4 yards, then 4 yards, then a chain-moving 3 yards, at a time they needed it the most, allowing them to bleed the clock before Eddy Pineiro's game-winning field goal to end the game and the losing streak.
Hubbard is clearly the preference among the backs on hand in this situation, one he ran well in last year. He had 15 of the 24 carries Sunday, and 28 of the 44 yards (again, it wasn't a great day overall).
"Not the best game. Definitely a lot of ups and downs, but just happy to get the win," Hubbard said. "All credit to our coaches, o-line, Bryce, and everybody. I mean we just put it all together when we needed it. I'm just blessed to be in an opportunity where the coaches trust me to put me out there and to be that guy to do that. I give my all to this sport and this team and am just blessed to get the win."
Next up, the Panthers host the Colts, Reich's former employer, on Sunday. ...
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, offensive coordinator Thomas Brown had a nice debut as the team's play-caller.
"Thomas called a great game," Reich said. "It was his game. It was his game and I resisted any temptation to get involved. We talked on the sideline a couple times about a few things, but I thought he did a fantastic job. ..."
Worth noting. ... At a certain point in the season, contract status can't dictate playing time.
So for the Panthers, free agent pickups Miles Sanders and Hayden Hurst are being rotated more often and used less than earlier in the year. Sanders played just 12 snaps to Hubbard's 45, a clear shift in the offensive gameplan. And at tight end, Tremble actually got more snaps (36) than Hurst (22).
This is a long year, and they'll need both, but at the moment, the Panthers are rolling with younger options.
Raheem Blackshear had 10 snaps, barely fewer than Sanders, can be an effective receiver out of the backfield, and continued to show some pop as a kick returner, averaging 35.7 yards per return. He has value in a number of areas, which he's proving in the absence of Laviska Shenault Jr. ...
With Shenault out due to an ankle injury -- and their other backup wide, receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., on the trade block so he barely played, the Panthers' top three wide receivers rarely left the field.
Mingo played 66 (99 percent) snaps, Adam Thielen 65 (97 percent) snaps and D.J. Chark 62 (93 percent) snaps. ...
Thielen continues to have a tremendous season with 57 catches for 581 yards and four TDs. He had a 3-yard reception in traffic on fourth-and-2 during Sunday's winning drive.
More importantly, Thielen saw a 35.5 percent target share Sunday. As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, the veteran wideout has been over the 35 percent mark in three consecutive games. ...
As Pineiro prepared for a winning field-goal attempt with 3 seconds left, he turned to holder Johnny Hekker and said: "Listen, when I make this kick, I'm jumping on your back and you're taking me all the way to the 50-yard line."
Hekker responded: "Alright. Done deal."
Three successful kicks later, Pineiro found himself getting a piggyback from the 6-5, 225-pound Hekker out to the team's logo at midfield, his hand raised in victory.
"It was fun," Pineiro said with a laugh. "I was just saying things to get my mind off what was actually happening."
Pineiro, who was hoping to redeem himself after missing an extra point in the first half, initially lined up for a 38-yarder after Young moved the Panthers into field-goal range with a 15-play drive that took six minutes off the clock. But Houston's Tavierre Thomas raced into the backfield well before the ball was snapped and collided with Hekker, who was still kneeling after Pineiro booted the ball through the uprights. The play was ruled dead and Pineiro had to kick it again, from 10 yards closer, after Thomas was flagged for unnecessary roughness and offsides.
Pineiro booted his second attempt through again, but once again the kick was nullified because Thomas was offsides. This time, officials penalized Thomas for unsportsmanlike conduct for intentionally delaying the game and the ball was moved 5 yards closer.
Pineiro lined up a third time, and again connected -- this time from 23 yards -- setting off a celebration.
QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas, Giovanni Ricci
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
Quarterback Justin Fields will miss his third consecutive game because of a dislocated right thumb, and rookie Tyson Bagent will continue to start in his place when the Chicago Bears visit the New Orleans Saints this week, head coach Matt Eberflus said Monday.
Eberflus said Fields remains "week to week" but is "improving." He would not say if Fields has started trying to grip a ball or throw it.
"He's progressing, I can just say that," Eberflus said. "I'm not gonna get into particulars, but he is progressing. We like where it is right now."
Fields was hurt on Chicago's first possession in the third quarter of a Week 6 loss to Minnesota. Bagent, undrafted after a record-setting career at Division II Shepherd, took over in that game.
He is 56 of 80 for 477 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 73.8 passer rating. He also has two touchdown runs.
The Bears are 1-1 with Bagent as their starter. They beat Las Vegas at Soldier Field last week before losing to the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday night.
Fields traveled with the team and participated in the pregame coin toss. He watched from the sideline, wearing sunglasses at night and indoors.
Had the Bears placed him on injured reserve, Fields would have missed at least four games. Eberflus said there's a chance he comes back sooner. After New Orleans, the Bears (2-6) have a Thursday night game against Carolina at Soldier Field.
The Bears struggled on both sides of the ball Sunday night in a disappointing 30-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
The Bears trailed 14-0 after the first quarter, 24-7 at halftime and 30-7 after three periods.
"The start we had today was not what we wanted," said Eberflus. "Offensively, we went punt, punt and interception, and then we went touchdown, touchdown, field goal and touchdown on defense.
"The glaring things that stood out to me and what my message was at halftime for the players was that we had a lot of penalties that set us back, our drives back on offense. The operation wasn't as clean as it needed to be. And then on defense, it was really simply about fundamentals. It was about basics. It was about cupping the ball. It was about having force pursuit apex, about our tackling and our angles. We need to do a better job of that. That's where they got their big plays and that's where they got their scoring opportunities.
"I thought the guys came out in the second half and did a solid job of that, but at that point we were down."
Bagent was asked to do more in his second start, where he didn't have the benefit of a productive run game and solid offensive line play.
Bagent completed 25-of-37 passes for 232 yards with zero touchdowns, two interceptions and one fumble. ...
Wort noting. ... On the first play from scrimmage, Bagent took a deep shot, hitting Darnell Mooney for a 41-yard gain as the receiver laid out for the catch.
The pass marked Bagent's longest play from scrimmage as an NFL quarterback. ...
With just under two minutes left in the first half, Darrynton Evans took a pitch from Bagent and hurdled over a Chargers defender for an 11-yard score. The score marked Evans' first rushing TD of his NFL career and his second time finding the end zone.
His first touchdown, a 3-yard reception, came in 2020 when Evans was a rookie with the Titans. ...
On glaring error came when Velus Jones Jr. slipped and fell on his rear while he slowed down for Bagent's underthrown pass. Still, no Chargers defenders were anywhere near him when the ball fell straight through Jones' arms, hit his chest and landed on the end zone turf.
"It's real devastating," the second-year receiver said, his pained emotions obvious on his face and in his voice.
Although the Bears ended up recovering from that second-quarter drop and scoring a touchdown later on the drive, Jones' miscue was the latest in a series of NFL lowlights for the former USC and Tennessee receiver.
The third-round pick was chosen by Chicago for his speed and playmaking ability, but Jones has only 10 career receptions for 116 yards so far. He has also become a lightning rod for criticism from angry Bears fans after his mistakes both as a kick returner and a receiver: After the drop, social media lit up with demands for Jones to be left in Los Angeles.
Jones also committed a key penalty on special teams, running into Chargers punt returner Derius Davis on a fair catch. The 15-yard penalty greatly improved Los Angeles' field position, and the Bolts drove for their second touchdown and an early 14-0 lead.
Jones was far from the only Bears skill-position player who had a night to forget.
Chicago averaged 2.9 yards per rushing attempt, while playmaking receiver D.J. Moore was targeted just once in the second half while the Bears attempted to rally out of their deficit.
Meanwhile, for a game that featured very few positives, veteran tight end Cole Kmet caught a team-high 10 passes (on 10 targets) for 79 yards. Kmet was the security blanket Bagent needed to keep Chicago's first touchdown drive alive with three catches after a dropped TD and illegal shift penalty threatened to force the Bears off the field without points.
Beyond Fields on the injury front. ... S Jaquan Brisker entered the concussion protocol Monday after missing the game. He was hurt in the Week 7 win over Las Vegas and medical personnel determined at the time that he did not have a concussion. Brisker developed a fever Tuesday and continued to feel "a little bit off," Eberflus said, after the illness subsided late in the week. He was tested Monday and entered the concussion protocol. ... S Eddie Jackson (foot) was active, but did not play for the fifth time in six weeks. ... LB Tremaine Edwards (knee) exited in the third quarter.
Worth noting. ... New Orleans has won seven in a row against Chicago -- most recently, a 2020 wild-card victory at the Superdome. ...
Finally. ... The Commanders and Bears have agreed to a trade that will send defensive end Montez Sweat to Chicago for a 2024 second-round pick, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday.
Sweat, 27, is in the last year of his contract, and the Commanders are opting for a draft pick now rather than a compensatory selection they might receive if Sweat signed elsewhere as a free agent next year.
The trade injects talent into Chicago's league-worst pass rush at the halfway point of the season. The Bears replaced three of their four starters along the defensive line ahead of the 2023 season in free agency and spent second- and third-round draft picks on defensive tackles Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens. The Bears have an NFL-low 10 sacks this season and 46 pressures, which ranks 30th.
Through eight games, Sweat has 6.5 sacks, bringing his career total to 35.5 over five seasons.
QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby notes, the Bengals entered Week 8's game against the 49ers knowing the biggest thing road teams have been unable to do at Levi's Stadium: Win.
The Niners' 11-game winning streak at their home stadium was hammered home by the Bengals' coaching staff ahead of Sunday's game.
And Cincinnati took great pride in ending that streak with a 31-17 victory.
"They want to hear that this team's won 11 in a row at home," head coach Zac Taylor said after the game. "Because someone's got to beat them and it's going to be us, you know?
"So I think that's just kind the edge that these guys play with. They want that information to fuel them and they responded how I assumed that they would."
Cincinnati padded a notable streak of its own.
After a slow start, the Bengals (4-3) have won three straight games and moved over the .500 mark for the first time this season.
Quarterback Joe Burrow, who struggled to start the year, also had one of the best games of his career. He was 28-of-32 passing for 283 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Burrow's 87.5 completion percentage was a new career high, besting a 2021 performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he completed 83.3 percent of his attempts.
At one point, he had 19 straight completions, one shy of the franchise record set by Ken Anderson during the 1982 season.
But Baby reports the aspect he was most excited about was the way he was able to use his legs.
One of the big plays in the game came in the first quarter when Burrow slipped out of multiple defenders while in the pocket, scrambled to his right and found wide receiver Tee Higgins to convert a third-and-10. It displayed the difference in Burrow in recent weeks after he spent the beginning of the season managing a right calf injury he sustained on the second day of training camp.
"Athleticism, acceleration, explosiveness was really a big focus of mine in the offseason," said Burrow, who also had six carries for 43 yards. "I just haven't really been able to show that too much. So it was nice to have that hard work pay off."
"All you need to say now is, 'Welcome back, Burrow. Welcome back,'" receiver Ja'Marr Chase said.
For fantasy managers, the difference has been stark.
As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, Burrow's first four games this year: 7 fantasy points per game; his last three games: 21 points per game. ...
Cincinnati's defense also played a key role in ending San Francisco's home-winning streak. The Bengals forced three turnovers in the second half -- a fumble and interceptions by linebackers Germaine Pratt and Logan Wilson.
"They deserve more national recognition," said defensive end Sam Hubbard. "Hopefully, as they continue to perform well, they're going to get that."
Did the Bengals re-establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders?
They certainly looked like a championship contender for the first time this season in beating the 49ers. They'll face a big test again this week, when they host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football.
According to Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacy, the objectives beyond that are pretty simple: Keep Burrow healthy and happy so he can keep finding Chase. Maintain and improve the run game. A balanced attack will be beneficial as the Bengals grapple with AFC North opponents.
They still play the Steelers twice (Nov. 26 and Dec. 23) and have the chance to avenge early season losses to Baltimore (Nov. 16) and Cleveland in the final week of the season. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Geoff Hobson of the team's official website, the offense is beginning to reap the benefits of Taylor's and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan's tweak during the offseason. All receivers, not just Chase, are moving around and playing all the spots.
After struggling through the first six games of the season, even before suffering a rib injury in Week 4, Higgins bounced back on Sunday with five catches on six targets for 69 yards. ...
Joe Mixon rushed 16 times for 87 yards and a touchdown and secured all three targets for 23 yards on Sunday.
Mixon enjoyed rare rushing success against the 49ers' normally stout front seven, with the veteran looking explosive on multiple runs throughout the afternoon. Mixon came into the contest averaging just 3.8 yards per carry for the season, but his yardage total Sunday was his highest yet in 2023. The seven-year pro also recorded his second touchdown of the season on a five-yard rush with 2:54 remaining that sealed the victory for Cincinnati, and he'll head into Sunday night with multiple receptions in three straight contests as well. ...
On a less positive note. ... On top of limited production to date in his short stint with the Bengals, Irv Smith Jr. had a fumble deep in San Francisco territory that raises further questions about his role in the offense.
QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans, Chase Brown
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
P.J. Walker had a chance to put away a second straight road victory for the Browns. A completed pass would have given Cleveland a new set of downs with less than two minutes remaining.
When Walker's pass deflected off the helmet of blitzing Seattle safety Jamal Adams, the Cleveland quarterback knew it was trouble.
"The moment it got tipped in the air, I felt the bad feeling that it was going to be a pick or something like that," Walker said.
The deflected interception was Walker's third turnover of the Browns' 24-20 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday.
Making his second start of the season with Deshaun Watson sidelined by a shoulder injury, Walker's performance was filled with some big plays and big misses that added up to a frustrating result for the Browns.
Walker was 15 of 31 for 248 yards. He quickly turned around what was a disastrous start for the Browns, who fell behind 14-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. For long stretches after Seattle took the early lead, Cleveland was by far the better team.
The Browns were stout on defense and during one stretch forced the Seahawks to go three-and-out on four of six possessions, with the other two ending in interceptions.
Offensively, Walker was able to hit big plays in the screen game, including an 18-yard TD to David Njoku, and Cleveland's running back trio of Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr. and Jerome Ford combined for 137 yards on 33 carries.
Hunt surprisingly disappeared from the rotation in the fourth quarter.
"It is what it is. I feel like I could've helped win," Hunt said.
At some key moments, the Browns couldn't make needed plays. Twice in the third quarter, the Browns saw drives inside the Seattle 10 and had to settle for field goals.
And then there was the third-and-3 call.
"With the outcome, you're always thinking, what can you do differently?" head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "We had options there. Certainly, you can run it, certainly you can pass it. But the result, that was tough."
With Cleveland's success running the ball, the Seahawks expected to see a rushing play.
Walker's pass was directed toward Amari Cooper, but even if it had gotten through, it may not have been complete. Seattle's Devon Witherspoon was breaking on the throw.
"It definitely was a changeup. So that's what they expected. Thankfully Jamal Adams came in headfirst," Love said.
It's unclear whether Walker will get another start this week against Arizona or if Watson's strained rotator cuff will have improved enough for him to play.
Watson will continue to be week to week with his rotator cuff injury, but it is not expected to be a long-term absence that would necessitate him being placed on injured reserve, which automatically would sideline him four weeks, sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter.
While the Browns will continue to be cautious with him, it is, in the words of one of Schefter's sources, "unlikely that it's longer than two weeks."
After hosting the Cardinals, the Browns have consecutive division games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, which may be better targets for Watson's return.
For the record, Stefanski said Watson will be back when he's ready.
"Coming onto this team at such late notice, a quarterback, having to know all that he has to know, it's not easy," Njoku said of Walker. "And he comes into work every day, works his (tail) off, so I have all the respect for him."
Meanwhile, heading into Sunday's matchup, the Browns had committed the second-most turnovers in the NFL with 14 and ranked 29th in turnover differential with minus-6.
They only added to that number in the loss on Sunday, as Walker threw two interceptions, as well as a fumble. Walker was sacked in the first quarter and fumbled the ball, which the Seahawks recovered.
"Obviously some good moments, but we have to take better care of the football," Stefanski said. "And he knows that. ..."
In Week 7 against the Colts, Cooper didn't get his first target until the third quarter. That changed in Week 8, as Cooper was a target for Walker's first pass attempt of the game on Sunday for five yards. Then he followed up that catch with receptions for 20, 22, 24, 10 and eight yards over the course of the game.
He had two critical catches near the sidelines, and also drew two DPIs. Cooper finished with six receptions for a total of 89 yards. He was a target of 11 passes on Sunday, as Walker looked for Cooper to help the Browns get downfield and create spark plays.
Cooper leads the Browns pass catchers with 478 yards on 30 catches this season, averaging 15.9 yards per catch.
His presence in the Browns offense is critical, especially when they look to involve the passing game.
"It's a great feeling," Cooper said. "When I'm off the field and I see the defense making a play, it's a spark. I assume it's the same thing when we're on the field and we're all making plays, it's a spark for the defense, and not only that, it's a spark for other guys on the offense to think, 'OK, we have momentum now. Let's start making plays. Let's go score. ...'"
Njoku caught four passes for 77 yards and scored the aforementioned touchdown -- his first of the season, making it his best performance this season. ...
The Browns averaged 16.1 yards per catch Sunday, the most they have averaged in a game this season. ...
They picked up 155 yards rushing, giving them three straight games of at least 150, a nice bounce back after struggling for two games in the wake of star Nick Chubb suffering a season-ending knee injury.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, neither Ford nor Hunt practiced to begin the week. They were still limited by the end of the week. Hunt started the game and split playing time with Strong early.
Ford played only four of the 38 snaps in the first half.
The Browns trusted Ford much more in the second half, as he played 22 of 40 snaps while Hunt was limited to seven. Ford played more in clear passing situations, while Hunt was used in clear short-yardage situations.
The three players took at least nine carries each, and they all averaged roughly 4.0 yards per carry. All three caught a pass, too. Hunt has scored at least one touchdown in the last three games.
As Jahnke summed up, "The next injury report will determine which players could be worth starting ahead of Week 9. ..."
And maybe that somebody is Kenyan Drake, who was signed to the practice squad the team announced on Tuesday.
Drake, 29, spent most of last season with the Ravens where he rushed for 482 yards and caught 17 passes for 89 yards. He signed with the Colts in August but did not make the team's 53-man roster. He then rejoined Baltimore's practice squad, appearing in two games. He caught two passes for 31 yards.
If Drake can get up to speed, he'll play against one of his former teams this weekend.
Cleveland has also signed offensive tackle Deron Christian and receiver James Proche to the practice squad. The club released running back Nate McCrary and running back Jordan Wilkins from the practice squad and placed offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe on the practice squad/injured list with a biceps issue.
Finally. ... The Browns traded Donovan Peoples-Jones to the Lions on Tuesday.
Cleveland will receive a 2025 sixth-round pick in the deal.
Peoples-Jones, a 2020 sixth-round pick, had seemed to fall out of favor within Cleveland's offense. After making 61 catches for 839 yards with three touchdowns last season, he's recorded just eight catches for 97 yards in 2023.
Peoples-Jones has caught 117 passes for 1,837 yards with eight touchdowns in 50 games with 30 starts.
QBs: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
At the start of the month, after a dominating win against the New England Patriots, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was more than willing to discuss the impending matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, who had ended the Cowboys' previous two seasons.
The Cowboys ended up losing 42-10 at Levi's Stadium.
At the close of the month, after Sunday's 43-20 domination of the Los Angeles Rams, Jones was unusually quiet when it came to the impending matchup with another NFC elite, the Philadelphia Eagles, next week.
"Let's soak this one up," he said. "I don't want to do anything to poke the bear."
Dak Prescott did not believe Jones was willing to suppress his feelings about the Philadelphia game. The quarterback needed to be told the "poke the bear" comment to believe it.
"Whether you talk about it or not, we know what's ahead of us," Prescott said. "Great opportunity. Excited for us. Excited for obviously an opponent we're familiar with and vice versa. Yeah, I'm excited for it.
"Big, big, big rival. Division game. Obviously down the road it means something. It will mean something as we get further down the line in the season. So, trust me, the guys in the locker room, myself, we know what this game means."
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer notes, the Cowboys carried high emotions into the San Francisco game. The losses in the wild-card and divisional round the past two seasons pierced their confidence. They wanted to show they belonged with the NFC's elite but were walloped in every way, leaving most everyone believing they were the same old Cowboys.
The Cowboys (5-2) get a second chance to show what they can be against an elite team in Week 9 versus the Eagles (7-1) at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I like where we are," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I like where we are and who's next is irrelevant. Frankly, we can talk more about that on Wednesday."
McCarthy was more willing to discuss the complementary nature of Sunday's win. Prescott completed 80 percent of his passes, had four touchdowns and his first 300-yard passing game of the season. The defense harassed the Rams into just 280 yards and scored a touchdown (a pick-six by cornerback DaRon Bland). The special teams contributed a safety and a 63-yard kickoff return after the safety.
But the 23-point margin of victory against the Rams allowed for more discussion about the Eagles than the dissection of Los Angeles.
"I mean, that's another game," left guard Tyler Smith said. "They're an elite team. We're an elite team. It's going to be another game and we've got to bring our A-game."
The Cowboys didn't bring it against San Francisco and have paid the price since, although back-to-back wins have them at 5-2. Since Jones took over in 1989, the Cowboys have been 5-2 or better 13 times and made the playoffs on 12 occasions.
"I look at it as another opportunity to continue to build and focus on us," said wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who has scored a touchdown in each of his past two games. "Not get caught up in all the hype of what type of game this is, and just focus on what we got in front of us. Continue to build what we have from an everyday standpoint and let everything take care of itself."
Last season, the Cowboys and Eagles split their season series, but Prescott did not play in the first game (a Dallas loss) because of a broken thumb. Jalen Hurts did not play in the rematch (a Cowboys win) because of a shoulder injury.
Since becoming the Cowboys' starter in 2016, Prescott has an 8-3 record against the Eagles. He has 19 touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
"Excited for this matchup," Prescott said. "Yeah, it's fun, and then anytime you go to Philly it just makes it a little bit more fun. Excited for it. Going to enjoy this win, enjoy it for the day and then turn the page [Monday] and, yeah, we understand what's ahead of us."
A Dallas victory would turn the division race into a toss-up. An Eagles win would make it difficult for the Cowboys to avoid another postseason filled with road games.
McCarthy wasn't quite in tune with his quarterback after beating the Rams.
"I like where we are and who's next is irrelevant," McCarthy said. "Frankly, we can talk more about that on Wednesday. ..."
Prescott's connection with receiver CeeDee Lamb is as strong as ever after Lamb was visibly frustrated over not getting the ball in the loss to the Niners.
Entering the week, Prescott had completed 81 percent of his passes to Lamb, the second best of any QB-WR duo with at least 30 attempts. Lamb had 12 catches, 158 yards and 2 TDs for his second straight 100-yard game and his fifth game with 10 or more catches, tied with Miles Austin for the fourth most in team history.
Of some concern, Prescott was sacked three times, including two of the first three snaps, and it would have been three of four if not for a Rams penalty. They settled down, clearly, and Tyron Smith (neck) returning against the Eagles' pass rush would help greatly.
Of greater concern, the Cowboys are having a hard time getting the running game going. As Associated Press sports writer Schulyer Dixon notes, the per-carry average has been under 4 yards in three consecutive games, and that's with receiver runs of 14 yards from Cooks and 12 from Lamb.
Tony Pollard, in his first season as the lead back after the offseason release of two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott, had a decent game against the Rams with 12 carries for 53 yards. But his per-carry average is at 3.9 yards after being above 5 each of the previous two seasons.
In fact, as Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason points out, Pollard has failed to score 10 PPR points in three of his last four games. ...
In a related note. ... Diminutive rookie RB Deuce Vaughn was the talk of the preseason after several highlight-reel runs. It hasn't translated to the regular season. Vaughn was inactive for a second consecutive week after averaging four carries per game through the first five weeks.
There was also talk of the 5-foot-6 Vaughn sharing return duties with KaVontae Turpin, but special teams needs played a role in him sitting both weeks. He has just one punt return, and Turpin just had his best game. Turpin returned a punt 63 yards to set up a touchdown and had another 87-yarder for a score that was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Rookie PK Brandon Aubrey is one field goal from setting an NFL record for consecutive makes to start a career. And it's not as if he isn't getting tested. Aubrey's 17th in a row was a 58-yarder, the 28-year-old rookie's longest so far. He tied the 2015 record of Cleveland's Travis Coons with a 27-yarder for his 18th.
Aubrey also has been perfect on extra points (17 in a row) since missing his first-ever NFL kick on a PAT. ...
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, Jalen Tolbert cut into Michael Gallup's playing time Sunday.
The Cowboys were winning throughout the game, but it was clear the plan was to get Tolbert more involved early.
Both he and Gallup played 10-of-18 snaps in the first quarter with each running seven routes. Both Gallup and Cooks were substituted out of 11 personnel at times for Tolbert. Gallup and Cooks both played 28 of a possible 39 snaps compared to 22 by Tolbert.
Gallup was playing in over 90 percent of 11 personnel snaps over the first six weeks.
The more significant changes happened in other personnel groupings where Gallup only played four of a possible 24 snaps. Gallup had played 41 percent of offensive snaps in other personnel groupings over the first six weeks.
Gallup was held to two receptions for 20 yards while Tolbert didn't catch his only target.
All of this prompted Jahnke to add: "Tolbert could be a sneaky waiver wire target in very deep leagues, while Gallup can be cut in most leagues."
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold noted, it's been so long since the Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, the team doesn't even have a player in the locker room who played in that last win.
But after the Broncos finally ended their 16-game losing streak with a 24-9 victory at Empower Field at Mile High, the guy who had been in uniform for more of those losses to the Chiefs than any of his teammates couldn't have been happier.
"Man, it's a complete effort. ... Really proud of how the guys battled and played," said safety Justin Simmons, a third-round pick in the 2016 draft who is the Broncos' longest-tenured player. "... I get from the outside looking in that there's this streak, but every year, it is a new team. ... Some guys who have been here, myself having been here the longest, I'm just happy we won. Just feels good to win."
The Broncos used five takeaways -- four on defense; one on special teams -- and their best defensive effort of the season to hold the Chiefs without a touchdown. It was the first time the Chiefs had lost an AFC West game on the road in which quarterback Patrick Mahomes had started.
It was also the Broncos' first win vs. Kansas City since Sept. 17, 2015, with 12 of those 16 losses coming at the hands of Mahomes, including his first NFL start in the 2017 season finale.
They did it on the ground.
The Broncos averaged a meager 22 rushes a game over the first seven games under Sean Payton, next to last in the league. Despite their O-line's win rate being among the top handful of teams in the NFL, their use of play-action was sparse. So, they weren't capitalizing on their biggest strength.
That all changed Sunday when they ran the ball 40 times and threw just 19 passes.
Russell Wilson said the Broncos wanted to set the tone of physicality by running the ball early and often and "in terms of the passing game, we wanted to capitalize on our opportunities when they were there."
They did just that.
"I thought it was a really great game plan by coach Payton, all the coaches. I think the offensive coaches did a really good job of paining the picture of what we wanted to do," Wilson said.
"We set the standard (of) how good we can be," Wilson said. "We have a lot more season left. I've been saying to you guys, it's a process, it's a journey, but we believe. We believe in who we are. We believe in the players that we have. We believe in the coaching staff that we have. We believe in the determination and resilience that we have. We believe in this organization and where we can go and what we can do. We're going to stay the course."
Wilson had three touchdown passes, but it was a choppy ride. He had barely crossed 100 yards passing at the start of the fourth quarter -- he had 104 -- had been sacked four times, fumbled twice (losing one) and is holding the ball far too long.
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton posted just two catches, but recorded his sixth touchdown of the season -- which matches a career high -- to put the Broncos up by two scores.
Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy similarly had just two catches, but he made a leaping grab for a 39-yard gain and then dragged his feet for an 11-yard touchdown for the Broncos' second touchdown of the game.
Running back Javonte Williams ran for 85 yards and added another 13 on the ground, and he scored a touchdown for the first time since his season-ending knee injury in 2022.
The Broncos have a bye next Sunday before they travel to play the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 13 on "Monday Night Football."
A few final items. .... Williams set a career-high in carries with 27. He took 15-plus carries for only the third time in his career, with the other two games occurring in the 2021 season. The good news is that he played ahead of Jaleel McLaughlin.
The undrafted rookie has been playing well and got significant playing time when Williams wasn't 100 percent.
McLaughlin played well in his limited opportunities, gaining 33 yards on four carries.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke suggests, the only problem is that Samaje Perine still played most of the snaps on third-down and two-minute drill situations. Williams won't reach his full receiving potential until he's taking more snaps on third downs.
As long as the Broncos can stay competitive in upcoming games, Williams will be a relatively safe start. ...
This was the third consecutive week Sutton has caught a touchdown pass, something no Broncos receiver had accomplished since Demaryius Thomas in 2017.
Sutton has six catches this season by Sutton, tying his career high set in 2019. Jeudy has one scoring catch so far in 2023.
Also according to Jahnke, Marvin Mims Jr had been competing with Brandon Johnson for playing time as one of the outside receivers in 11 personnel.
Johnson was on the injury report this week and was listed as questionable for the game on Friday. However, he ended up on injured reserve on Saturday.
The Broncos elevated longtime New Orleans Saint Tre'Quan Smith to the active roster to take his place.
Mims played 19 of a possible 30 snaps out of 11 personnel, with Lil'Jordan Humphrey and Smith taking some of those snaps. ...
There were plenty of trade rumors surrounding Sutton and Jeudy, but they remained in place after the trade deadline.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
According to ESPN.com's Eric Woodyard, after exploding for 189 yards from scrimmage in his "Monday Night Football" debut, rookie Jahmyr Gibbs delivered a message for fantasy managers who have been questioning his production all season.
"I'm tired of hearing it," Gibbs said with a smile from his locker room stall following Detroit's 26-14 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. "My fault. My bad."
With veteran running back David Montgomery ruled inactive for a second straight game, the No. 12 overall draft pick shouldn't hear much criticism this week, as Gibbs put up 29 fantasy points after rushing for 152 yards with a touchdown while carrying a heavier load.
Pro Bowl offensive lineman Penei Sewell said the Lions "finally saw the real Jahmyr."
"He was really comfortable out there, he looked like he had a clear mind and knows the game plan well, so to see him out there doing what he does best, it was honestly crazy," Sewell said. "I didn't know he was that fast, and he just makes it look effortless out there -- and it makes us look better."
The Lions' coaching staff made a conscious effort to get Gibbs going early with 11 touches in the first quarter off eight rushes and three receptions, which were the most touches in an opening quarter in the league since Christian McCaffrey's outing in Week 15 of last season.
Gibbs would finish with 31 total touches, as he recorded five receptions for an additional 37 receiving yards. In contrast, the Raiders' offense totaled just 157 yards on the night.
"It was fun, and it's good knowing that your coach and teammates got that much trust in you," Gibbs said.
Over the previous two weeks, the Lions' run game struggled, with just 124 total rushing yards combined. Against the Raiders (3-5), Detroit rushed for 222 yards as Gibbs found a groove.
Lions quarterback Jared Goff said the performance will be a "good little springboard" for Gibbs going forward, with Detroit off to a 6-2 start for the first time since 2014.
"I think it was seeing him get in a rhythm," Goff said of Gibbs. "Like you could see it where his workload has kind of been on the field, off the field, on the field, off the field, and this was just like, 'Hey, we're going to keep giving you the ball.' And you could see him kind of start feeling the defense a little bit better, feeling those holes a little bit better, and he can do some pretty special things in space."
Detroit enters its bye week with the second-best record in the NFC, and there's plenty of reason for optimism, as the Lions have the fourth-easiest remaining schedule in the NFL based on their opponents' record (.421 combined win percentage).
Detroit has five games left against the NFC North after having won six straight divisional games, tied for its longest such streak since the 1970 merger.
Head coach Dan Campbell said the Lions accomplished their most important goal of "getting our identity back" following last week's blowout loss at the Baltimore Ravens. He said that entering Monday's contest, the Lions' focus was on getting re-centered and trusting their process, which included a bigger role for Gibbs.
"We felt like there was some things that we could do, and we wanted to get Gibbs going," Campbell said. "We wanted to be able to establish the run, and you could tell he was feeling it. Every week, he's gotten a little bit better, a little bit better, and I thought last week was his best game and this week certainly surpassed that.
"I think the more he gains his own confidence in his own abilities, in this league, he's just going to continue to grow, and I think this was kind of the tip of the iceberg, if you will, for what he is able to do and going to be able to do."
Entering the game, receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was listed as questionable with an illness, but he managed to play and finished the night with his 11th career game with 100 receiving yards, passing Roy Williams for the most such games by a Lion in his first three seasons. Sam LaPorta continued to shrug off the supposed rookie learning curve at tight end with eight catches for 57 yards and a score.
Worth noting: Over the past two seasons, Goff has thrown 16 touchdown passes to tight ends, which is the second most in the league behind Patrick Mahomes (22) during that span.
Goff completed passes to eight different targets, going 26-for-37 with 272 passing yards and one touchdown. He did throw a pick-six in the third quarter, however.
Monday night, however, belonged to Gibbs as the No. 12 overall pick in the 2023 draft announced his arrival on a prime-time stage.
Gibbs became the fourth rookie in Lions franchise history with 150-plus rushing yards and one or more rushing TDs in a game, joining Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, Billy Sims and Kevin Jones.
Whenever Montgomery returns from his rib injury, it looks like the Lions are ready to deploy the two-headed beast most expected right from Week 1.
The next opportunity for the team to accomplish that goal will come in Los Angeles, against the Chargers on Nov. 12.
A few final items here. ... Integrating wide receiver Jameson Williams into the offense continues to be a work in progress. Williams dropped a pass in the first quarter and also lost 6 yards on an end-around play after getting hit by Las Vegas defensive end Maxx Crosby.
In what might or might not be a related note ... The Lions have acquired receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones from the Browns, Detroit announced on Tuesday afternoon.
Cleveland will receive a 2025 sixth-round pick in the deal.
Peoples-Jones, a 2020 sixth-round pick, had seemed to fall out of favor within Cleveland's offense. After making 61 catches for 839 yards with three touchdowns last season, he's recorded just eight catches for 97 yards in 2023.
"We're excited about the kid," Lions GM Brad Holmes said in a press conference just after making the trade. "He's had good production in the past. He'll be a good fit here. He's been a high-character kid.
"Obviously, he's from Detroit, he's a local kid. So I think he'll be very, very happy. I just talked to the kid, he's fired up about getting this process going. All these moves that we make [are] always the best thing for the franchise, best thing for the team. And that's every single move we make. So that's the best way I can sum it up for the reason why."
Peoples-Jones also played his college ball at Michigan.
Peoples-Jones has caught 117 passes for 1,837 yards with eight touchdowns in 50 games with 30 starts.
QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky noted, what looked like a promising start for Jordan Love, who led the Packers to a 2-1 start and had seven touchdowns and just one interception through three games, has turned into a weekly slog with the latest discouraging outing coming in a 24-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field/
Three of the teams the Packers have lost to during this four-game streak came into that contest with a losing record.
Three games into the season, it looked like the Packers had their next franchise quarterback. Now, not so much.
Love doesn't look like the confident passer he was early on.
He missed open receivers, took off running on third-and-long when there was no chance at converting and threw another pick - his eighth in the last five games - on a ball that, because it was underthrown, Vikings safety Josh Metellus took away from Jayden Reed.
It was Love's fifth straight game with an interception, the longest streak by a Packers quarterback since Matt Flynn (2013-14).
Their problems run deeper than just Love though -- for example they had 11 penalties for 99 yards Sunday, the most in Matt LaFleur's five seasons as coach (per ESPN Stats and Information).
But for a team that is used to having a field-tilting quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, this is a new experience.
Love completed just 5 of 16 passes on throws that traveled 10 or more yards downfield. That includes the interception. Love has thrown eight interceptions this season, with all of them coming on such throws -- the most in the NFL -- and he ranks 31st in the league in completion rate (36 percent) on throws of 10 or more yards, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
That's not the only measure by which to judge Love, but it's an important one.
"I think, obviously, not good enough," Love said when asked to assess his season to date. "It's been, I think, pretty average to start. We got highs and lows. Myself, it's too bumpy right now. I need to find consistency in my play, where I'm able to make every play, go to the right place with the ball on every play. And it's gotta be more consistent from me, and I think that's where I'm lacking right now."
LaFleur, however, suggested Love hasn't gotten much help.
"We've got to make some plays for him too," LaFleur said. "I think we had like six dropped balls. That's going to be tough to overcome. We've got to catch it, we've got to throw better, we've got to catch it better. We've got to block better. We've got to stop having penalties that knock us back and put us in these obvious pass situations."
According to Demovsky, LaFleur must be a tougher grader than ESPN Stats and Info, which credited the Packers with just two drops -- one by running back Aaron Jones in the first quarter and another by receiver Dontayvion Wicks in the fourth.
Whether or not it was a drop, Packers tight end Luke Musgrave said he should have caught the third-and-6 pass Love threw his way on the second drive, which contributed to another miserable start for a Packers team that has been outscored 73-9 in the first halves of their past five games.
"We've got to start fast," Musgrave said. "And I'm looking at myself for that."
And perhaps, as Demovsky further suggested, general manager Brian Gutekunst should be looking at himself for not surrounding Love with a more veteran roster, as the Packers are the youngest team in the NFL.
And it wasn't just the offense.
After the preceding two losses at the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos, LaFleur said the defense did enough -- holding those teams to 17 and 19 points, respectively -- to win those games.
On Sunday, he couldn't even say that. Cousins picked apart the Packers on third downs. He completed 12 of 13 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown on third downs before exiting with an Achilles injury, and the Vikings converted 10 of 18 third downs (plus their lone fourth down) into first downs.
It all led LaFleur to end his postgame interview on the team's radio network with this: "It's just like, you know, we're a mess right now. ..."
The Packers get a shot at a team coming off a bad beating of their own in the Rams, who come to Green Bay on Sunday with Matthew Stafford's status in question following their 43-20 loss in Dallas. ..
Other notes of interest. ... Jones reaches 50 percent of Green Bay's offensive snaps for the first time all season.
Jones played last week but didn't practice on Wednesday and was still limited the rest of the week, so the lingering hamstring issue he's been dealing with has him at less-than 100 percent, something LaFleur acknowledged last week.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke pointed out, Jones was also dealing with injuries late last season, so we are nearing a full calendar year since we last saw Jones in his usual role in the Packers offense.
Still, Jones led the team in carries with seven, gaining 29 yards. Jones also caught four passes for 17 yards. A.J. Dillon played two more snaps than Jones. Dillon was less effective in the run game but more effective as a receiver.
According to Jay Glazer, the Packers were one of the few teams interested in a running back at the trade deadline. Nothing came of it, but it's probably an indication that Jones' time as a consistent fantasy starter is coming to an end. ...
Reed led the Packers with four catches for 83 yards but the only play on his mind after the game was the one ball the rookie receiver didn't come down with: the one that Metellus wrestled away from Reed for the takeaway.
"I gotta attack the ball right there. That's completely on me," Reed said. "I'm a receiver. I'm paid to catch balls. Right there, I just gotta make that play."
Reed has been a bright spot for the Packers during their 2-5 start. Through seven games, He leads Green Bay with 314 receiving yards on 20 catches (15.7 yards per reception).
Per Next Gen Stats, Reed ran the most routes for the Packers Sunday (40). Christian Watson had 36, and Romeo Doubs had 35.
"Hungry. I just want to win," said Reed when asked how he's feeling after the game. "I want to be better personally. There's definitely more I can do. Like on the (interception), I gotta have those. That's why I'm here. I'm just hungry to be a better player. ..."
Both cornerback Jaire Alexander (back) and Musgrave (ankle) suited up against the Vikings despite missing practice time last week.
Alexander said after the game that his back "felt good enough" to finish against Minnesota, while Musgrave battled through an ankle injury that initially had him in a walking boot and sidelined him during practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
"That's part of football," Musgrave said. "Monday, I was not thinking I was going to play, but great training staff, great people around me, and I fought to play, and they got me ready to play. If I can play football, I'm going to play football because that's what I'm here to do, that's what I love. ..."
Veteran cornerback Rasul Douglas is heading to Buffalo.
The Packers have traded Douglas and a fifth-round pick to the Bills for a third-round pick, with the deal finalized just minutes before the NFL trade deadline, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
The 28-year-old Douglas originally entered the NFL as a 2017 third-round pick of the Eagles and has also spent time with the Panthers, Raiders, Texans and Cardinals before joining the Packers. Douglas has started all seven games this season.
For the Packers, it's another reminder that this is a rebuilding season in Green Bay: They're not going anywhere this year, and they'd rather acquire a higher draft pick than keep a veteran. ...
Finally. ... It isn't just a lack of talent or experience that's hindering the slumping Packers.
There has also been a lack of discipline.
The Packers have committed a league-high 7.4 penalties per game. Green Bay committed 11 penalties for 99 yards Sunday while falling for the fourth straight time in a 24-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
"Certainly the lack of disciplined play, that's paramount," LaFleur said after Sunday's game. "Because it doesn't matter what you're doing if we're getting called for things. We've got to clean it up."
The Packers have committed 52 penalties through their first seven games of the season after producing 17-game totals of just 69 in 2021 and 89 last year.
QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Patrick Taylor
WRs: Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Tucker Kraft, Ben Sims, Josiah Deguara, Luke Musgrave
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken reported, the Texans are lamenting their mistakes and missed opportunities after a last-second loss to the previously winless Carolina Panthers.
Houston (3-4) had a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before a delay-of-game penalty on third down knocked them out of field-goal range and forced a punt. The Panthers took over and Bryce Young led them on a 15-play drive, capped by a 23-yard field goal as time expired to get the 15-13 victory.
"When you have penalties, you have errors that hurt yourself, you're playing against your own self. So, it's hard," head coach DeMeco Ryans said. "When you put yourself in the hole, you have to find a way to mitigate those penalties, those negative plays, and help ourselves. When we continue to do that, we'll play good ball, and we'll win games."
Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud thought he got that critical play off in time but knows he can't let mistakes like that happen.
"I could have sworn I seen it go down to two," he said. "At one, I snapped it, and they called it. I'm a player. I can't go back and try to combat that. ... It happens, but we've got to get better getting in and out of the huddle. I've got to split the players out better and snap the ball."
Of course, that penalty was far from Houston's only problem on Sunday. Stroud had a season-low 140 yards passing after entering the game averaging more than 276 yards per game.
The Texans had shown a knack for making big plays on offense but didn't have any against Carolina. Houston had just one play longer than 20 yards against a defense that had allowed 84 points and 12 touchdowns in its last two games combined.
The Panthers batted down four of Stroud's passes at the line of scrimmage on a day he managed just 5.8 yards a throw. Houston also struggled on third down, converting 5 of 12 opportunities.
"We have the talent to be explosive, and I think we've shown that ... we can do it," Stroud said. "We've just got to go out there and call it and run it and execute. I feel like that's why we haven't been consistent. Too many taking the ball short and not having enough explosives."
The Texans are aiming for more of that and better consistency Sunday against Tampa Bay after losing two out of three games since beating Jacksonville and Pittsburgh in consecutive weeks.
"We play really good one week and then we play off the next," Stroud said. "We can't do that if we want to be consistent and want to be playoff contenders and win the division. We've got to come and bring it every week."
If you're looking for positives, Stroud engineered a pair of touchdown drives, one in the second quarter and another in the third. He is already focused on improving in time for the visiting Buccaneers this Sunday.
"We showed our potential and we're going to keep doing it," Stroud said. "I think next week is really big for us. We have Tampa Bay and that's a really good defense and a good challenge for us. And we got to go back to work and practice really good."
Ryans, like his rookie signal-caller, was already looking ahead to getting better.
"Hate to lose," Ryans said. "But what can we learn from it? It happened. They won the game. It's over. How can we grow from this loss?"
Have defenses figured out Stroud?
In his first four games, Stroud averaged 303 yards passing. In the last three, he's averaged 196 yards per game. It's not all on Stroud, as receivers and tight ends haven't helped the rookie. But to remain competitive in the AFC playoff race, the unit must get the passing attack on track.
Nico Collins had his season-low of 30 yards after entering the day top-12 in receiving yards.
According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, Tank Dell played more than usual because Robert Woods missed this game due to a foot injury.
Woods is expected to miss at least one or two more games.
Dell, Collins and Noah Brown were typically on the field in 11 personnel while the three all received significant playing time in two receiver sets.
Brown remained the primary slot receiver, but Dell played more snaps from the slot than usual with Woods out.
Dell caught three passes for 16 yards in a quiet day for the Texans passing game in general.
After missing the first four games with a calf injury, Brown has been improving each week and had his best game of the season Sunday. He had three receptions for 57 yards, highlighted by a 31-yard catch in the third quarter.
We have yet to see Collins, Dell, Woods and Brown all healthy since Dell broke out in Week 2. We'll probably see all four players rotated in and out once that happens, which could be a hit to the fantasy value of both Collins and Dell.
Also according to Jahnke, the Texans backfield remains a three-man committee. The team utilized a similar rotation of running backs to Week 6 before their bye week.
Dameon Pierce started the game as usual, but his playing time in normal early down situations has been much lower in the last two games compared to previous weeks.
Per Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, Pierce has now seen 50 percent or fewer of Houston's backfield rushes in consecutive games and he hasn't been targeted since Week 5.
Devin Singletary has cut into his playing time. Pierce ran the ball 12 times for 46 yards, but Singletary wasn't far behind with 10 carries for 30 yards.
Singletary ended with more PPR points thanks to two receptions for 13 yards.
Pierce remains the goal-line back. He had multiple opportunities for touchdowns that didn't work out.
Mike Boone has been taking the majority of the third-down snaps since Singletary became more involved on early downs.
Jahnke contends Singletary is worth a waiver wire target given his double-digit touches. He could potentially overtake Pierce on early downs, or he could get third downs back, which could make him a fantasy starter.
On the injury front. ... Ryans said rookie C Jarrett Patterson will be "out for some time" after sustaining a lower leg injury Sunday. Patterson was subsequently placed on IR.
Finally. ... KPRC2's Aaron Wilson reports RB J.J. Taylor is signing with the Texans' practice squad following a visit Tuesday.
QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Devin Singletary, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Tank Dell, Robert Woods, Noah Brown, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot noted that October began with so much promise for the Indianapolis Colts.
Two straight wins put them atop the AFC South, running back Jonathan Taylor was about to be activated from injured reserve, rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson cleared the concussion protocol, and four of their next five games were at home.
Then, reality hit.
They endured the annual nightmare loss at Jacksonville, Richardson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, and now a three-game skid has them searching for a way out of the division's cellar.
"Everybody talks about toughness," quarterback Gardner Minshew said after Sunday's 38-27 loss to New Orleans. "When your body hurts, when your heart hurts, who's tough? I think we're about to figure that out, but I feel good about the guys we've got."
What's gone wrong over these last five games? What hasn't?
Since replacing Richardson, Minshew has thrown five interceptions, lost four fumbles, been sacked nine times and is 0-3.
Taylor, the 2021 rushing champ, ended an ugly contract dispute by signing a three-year extension on Oct. 7, but had only one second-half carry Sunday after rushing for 87 yards in the first quarter.
And one week after top receiver Michael Pittman Jr. publicly lobbied for a larger role in the offense, he caught eight passes for 40 yards and blamed his bad route for Minshew's lone turnover Sunday.
Defensively, the Colts (3-5) have allowed 37, 39 and 38 points over the last three weeks.
"We know we're better than that," two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said. "We have proved we're better than that. There is nothing special (to do). There are things we prepare for and in those moments, we are just dropping the ball."
The obvious solution to ending this midseason slump would be leaning more heavily on a ball-control game plan that would help reduce the number of turnovers, sacks and opponents' scoring chances.
And while the doubters think it's an impossible task after eight games, Minshew believes the Colts can turn the corner in time to make November a month to remember.
"Everybody talks about toughness, you know? Can you get back up if you get hit?" Minshew said. "Alright, if you get hit once, so what? If you get hit twice, alright. Three times? Now it's tough. When your body hurts, when your heart hurts, it's tough. I think we're about to figure that out.
"But I feel good about the guys that we got. I don't think that we're far off. I think we clean a few things up, start playing some complimentary football and we can do everything we want to do still."
Minshew and Co. will have the opportunity to prove that Sunday when they head to Carolina to face the 1-5 Panthers. After that, they will take on the 2-6 New England Patriots in Germany before their bye in Week 11.
As they prepare for the Panthers, it's not unreasonable to believe the Colts will lean more into their running game.
Taylor and Zack Moss have given Indy one of the league's top rushing tandems since Taylor returned to action. They did it again Sunday, combining for 23 carries, 161 yards and one TD as the Colts averaged 6.8 yards per carry.
As ESPN.com's Stephen Holder notes, Indianapolis was the rare team to have substantive rushing success against New Orleans this season. And yet, Steichen often seemed to ignore that apparent advantage in the game.
Taylor had his most first-half yardage in nearly two years (94 rushing yards), but he inexplicably got just one carry in the second half. The backdrop for all of this was the continued struggles of Minshew, who had difficulty connecting with receivers and threw a critical interception after halftime.
For what it's worth, Taylor reaches 60 percent of Indianapolis' offensive snaps; according to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, this was his largest lead over Moss since returning from his injury.
Most of the increase came from passing downs and, in particular, on third downs. The two were receiving an even split on third downs and pass routes in recent weeks.
Moss was questionable coming into this game after barely practicing this week with both an elbow and a heel injury.
Taylor ran the ball 12 times for 95 yards with one reception for two yards. Moss ran 11 times for 66 yards and caught one pass for eight yards.
Moss ended up with more fantasy value because he ran for a one-yard touchdown.
As Jahnke points out, there has been a clear tendency to let Moss do the dirty work in short-yardage situations, which isn't great news for Taylor's touchdown potential.
It's unclear if Taylor will continue to earn more playing time, if this is the new normal, or if we revert back to a 50/50 split once Moss is healthier again. ...
The Colts had a clear focus to run the passing game through Pittman this week. The Colts threw to him six times in the first quarter alone, or more than he had last week in four quarters.
It became a dink-and-dunk quarter of screen passes and crossing routes, until the Saints began to run more zone coverage to take away some of those chances. Pittman didn't play a very explosive game, averaging just 5.1 yards per catch and 3.3 yards per target, but he turned a fourth-down catch into a touchdown and helped manage the game for Minshew to get some of those forced turnovers down. ...
Rookie receiver Josh Downs seems to be taking on a bigger role each week. He had seven catches for 72 yards against the Saints and is now second on the team in receptions (40) behind only Pittman (50). No other Colts player has more than 17 catches this season.
The Colts' top receiving tight end Kylen Granson missed his second-straight game after suffering a concussion. This led Andrew Ogletree to lead the tight end room in routes and his 33-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was a nice boost.
He ran a nice scramble route as Minshew got chased to the right sideline, and he flowed until he caught up to the ball for a smooth sliding catch in the back of the end zone.
Jelani Woods is reportedly getting closer to practice per Steichen after spending the first half of the season on injured reserve, but it's unclear if closer means sometime this upcoming week, or if it will still be another few weeks.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Zack Moss, Trey Sermon, Jonathan Taylor, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
The Jacksonville Jaguars believe they can take their brand of football anywhere. Regardless of the continent. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of the opponent.
Their play is backing it up.
The franchise-wide makeover sparked by head coach Doug Pederson's arrival less than two years ago is gaining momentum on the field, in the standings and -- on Sunday anyway -- in volume inside the tunnel underneath Acrisure Stadium, where shouts of "we're 6-2!" echoed following a decisive 20-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We want to make it so people have to match us," wide receiver Christian Kirk said. "Physicality, toughness and big plays is kind of what we predicate ourselves on."
All three were on display over the course of three-plus soggy hours as the Jaguars pushed around the Steelers (4-3) for long stretches to overcome three turnovers and win their fifth straight game going away.
Trevor Lawrence threw for 292 yards and connected with longtime teammate Travis Etienne for a 56-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that gave the Jaguars a 14-point cushion.
It's a play the Jaguars have run countless times, with the ball never going Etienne's way. The third-year running back, however, always runs the play as if the ball is coming to him. And when Steelers safety Damontae Kazee and cornerback Joey Porter Jr. hesitated as Lawrence's eyes briefly focused on wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the slot, the quarterback arced the ball over both of them into Etienne's waiting hands.
"That's a tough play for a running back," Lawrence said. "But him being able to finish it and score, that was a huge play for us."
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves suggests, that's the kind of play that's become the norm for Jacksonville, which is now 13-4 over its last 17 regular-season games. The Jaguars have followed an ugly 20-point blowout loss to Houston on Sept. 24 by winning five games in four cities across two continents during an unbeaten October that's seen them strengthen their grip on the AFC South.
"I'm not surprised by the success, but we're definitely still hungry," tight end Evan Engram said after catching 10 passes for 88 yards, including a 34-yard gain in the fourth quarter that set up Brandon McManus' fourth field goal.
Etienne ran for 79 yards and caught three passes for 70 yards and the score. Jacksonville's defense limited the Steelers to 261 total yards.
Worth noting. ... Etienne took all 33 offensive snaps in the first half. According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, he had taken at least three plays off in each previous first half this season.
Etienne sustained a third-quarter ankle injury and returned.
He missed a little over five minutes of game time when he was in the medical tent, which is where Tank Bigsby played all of his offensive snaps and D'Ernest Johnson took two of his three snaps.
Etienne took all but one snap over the rest of the game. Had it not been for the injury scare, Etienne could have played well over 95 percent of Jacksonville's offensive snaps.
This was the fourth time in his career with 24 or more carries and the first receiving touchdown of his career. His 70 receiving yards was a career-high.
As long as Etienne stays healthy, there will be very few better options on fantasy rosters down the playoff stretch. ...
And how many teams will be better than the Jaguars?
Jacksonville is 6-2 for the first time since 1999 but they're coming off a sloppy victory in Pittsburgh and have yet to put together a complete game. They're going to get back four injured starters after the bye -- WR Zay Jones, LG Walker Little, CB Tyson Campbell and S Andre Cisco -- and should be full strength for the second half of the season -- which is good because they'll be tested right away against San Francisco and also have a three-game stretch against Cincinnati, Cleveland and Baltimore in December.
The Jaguars, who already have a victory over Buffalo, can show whether they're legit contenders in the AFC or not.
Jacksonville is now 13-4 over its last 17 games, tied with San Francisco for the second-best record in the league (behind Kansas City) over that span.
"It's just confidence in our guys, confidence in the team," Pederson said Monday. "As a coach looking at our schedule and looking at the season and how things started out -- it was a little rough -- but to be here at 6-2, I expected that, the guys expected that."
But with the offense leading the way, right?
"You would think so with the weapons and the firepower," he quipped.
Instead, defense has been Jacksonville's calling card. The Jaguars have allowed 81 points, 16.2 a game, during their winning streak. They've been stout against the run all season and arguably just as good against the pass thanks to 11 interceptions.
One issue they'll want to work on over the bye week: Red-zone offense.
The Jaguars managed to overcome failing to score a touchdown in three trips inside the 20-yard line. Making their red-zone woes worse, they turned the ball over twice near the end zone. Engram fumbled at the 19 and Trevor Lawrence threw an interception in the end zone on a first-and-goal play from the 6.
The last time Jacksonville went 0 for 3 in the red zone was in a Week 2 loss to Kansas City.
"It's not the recipe, obviously," Pederson said.
Also. ... Bigsby fumbled for the second time in 24 touches this season, and Associated Press sports writer Mark Long believes another turnover that could cause the coaching staff to lose confidence in the third-round draft pick from Auburn.
Bigsby already was being limited on passing downs because of concerns about his blocking ability. He has 23 carries for 54 yards and two touchdowns. He has one reception for 6 yards. He also tipped a pass in the season opener that resulted in a touchdown. ...
According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, Ridley's 31.3 percent target share today was his highest since Week 1. Kirk's 15.6 percent share was his lowest since Week 3. ...
Finally. ... Veteran guard Ezra Cleveland is leaving Minnesota for Jacksonville.
Cleveland has been traded from the Vikings to the Jaguars for a sixth-round draft pick, according to multiple reports.
The 25-year-old Cleveland was a 2020 sixth-round draft pick of the Vikings who is in the final season of his rookie contract. He has started six games this season but missed Sunday's game with a foot injury.
The Vikings likely felt that their line didn't miss much without Cleveland and that it was time to move on, while the Jaguars wanted to add some offensive line depth for a playoff run, and so it's a trade that both sides will see as a win.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Jamal Agnew, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Kendric Pryor
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the Denver Broncos, 24-9, in a game characterized by missed opportunities as the Chiefs lost to their division rival for the first time in eight seasons.
Specifically, the Chiefs committed five turnovers while going 0-for-3 in terms of red zone touchdown efficiency and 3-for-10 on third down.
Three weeks ago at Arrowhead, the Chiefs were just 1 for 5 in the red zone but managed to pull off a 19-8 win against the Broncos.
"Five turnovers. I think that's the obvious [thing]. [We were] 0-for-3 in the red zone. We gave them 17 points off of turnovers and great field position. I take full responsibility for it," said head coach Andy Reid. "I saw things this afternoon that I haven't seen before from the guys. That's my responsibility to make sure that they're right, and we weren't right today."
The Broncos raced out to an 11-point lead following a pair of touchdown drives early in the game, but despite three giveaways in the first half, Kansas City still managed to keep the game close. Notably, kicker Harrison Butker connected on a 56-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to pull the Chiefs within five points at the break.
Then, on the Broncos' opening possession of the second half, Chiefs' safety Justin Reid blocked a 38-yard field goal attempt to set Kansas City up with favorable field position and an opportunity to take the lead. The Chiefs' offense stalled at midfield, however, and while the defense went on to force a Broncos' punt on their ensuing drive, Kansas City muffed the kick and Denver recovered it deep in Chiefs' territory.
The Broncos cashed in on the takeaway with a 6-yard touchdown soon after, and while the Chiefs had additional chances late in the game, Kansas City never narrowed the deficit.
"It just wasn't good enough. Obviously, [we had] the turnovers, but then the execution in general [wasn't good enough]," said quarterback Patrick Mahomes. "They did a good job against us with their defense, but we have to execute at a high enough level, and we clearly haven't done that in the two games we played against them. ... They were the better football team today."
Mahomes completed 24-of-38 passes for 241 yards and two interceptions in the game, finding tight end Travis Kelce six times for a team-leading 58 yards. Kansas City moved the ball at times on Sunday, but too often, a turnover or critical drop stalled what otherwise appeared to be a promising drive.
"They know that I'm going to keep firing it to them," Mahomes said. "That's just who I am…I trust in those guys. We just have to continue to get better and better…Today wasn't our day, but we'll continue to get better and better."
It was Mahomes' first loss to Denver after 12 wins and his first road defeat in the AFC West after winning his first 16 divisional games away from Arrowhead Stadium.
He said the Broncos had a great game plan and executed.
"And we didn't execute or score any points," he said.
No touchdowns, at least.
In fact, Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass. According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, that's the first time that's happened since Week 13 of 2021.
Mahomes experienced flu-like symptoms, apparently catching a stomach bug from his wife and two young children, who got sick during the week.
"I started feeling bad last night," said Mahomes, who had a pedestrian day with a 59.2 passer rating, three sacks and two interceptions.
Defensively, the Chiefs recorded six sacks and consistently kept Kansas City in the game in spite of numerous Broncos' possessions that began in Chiefs' territory. Defensive end George Karlaftis, in particular, tallied 2.5 sacks in the contest.
That defensive performance appeared as if it may be enough many times throughout the game, but ultimately, the Chiefs' costly missed opportunities proved to be too much to overcome.
Sunday's loss stings, but recent history should provide some comfort.
In fact, the result marked the first time in 40 consecutive games that the Chiefs fell by more than five points. It was the longest such streak in NFL history. Additionally, Mahomes -- who has lost only 18 regular-season starts during his six years as the Chiefs' quarterback -- is 14-3 following a regular-season loss in his brilliant career.
The Chiefs will now aim to get back on track with a matchup against the Miami Dolphins in Frankfurt, Germany this upcoming Sunday. The Chiefs plan to head to Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday. They will practice there Friday, with a normal Saturday walk-through before playing old friend Tyreek Hill at Deutsche Bank Park. ...
Justin Watson returned after missing last week, but Justyn Ross was unavailable. Ross was put on the commissioner exempt list after being arrested on charges of domestic battery.
Watson cut into Marquez Valdes-Scantling's playing time, as both players serve as deep threats in the offense.
This was Mecole Hardman's second game back with the Chiefs. He played twice as many snaps as last week, taking opportunities away from Skyy Moore and Kadarius Toney. According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, Toney's playing time has reached a season-low, making him droppable.
Despite Watson's return and Hardman's increased role, Rashee Rice's percentage of offensive snaps increased slightly. He led the wide receiver room (as usual) with four receptions for 56 yards.
Rice remains a borderline fantasy starter but will need his playing time to increase further before he can be a consistent option. ...
Also according to Jahnke, Jerick McKinnon reached a season-high in snaps played as Kansas City played from behind. It resulted in two carries for -2 yards and one reception for 11 yards. He can be dropped from most leagues. Isiah Pacheco is a buy-low option after his quiet game. ...
One last note here. ... Butker connected on field goals of 23, 34 and 56 yards on Sunday as he continued his perfect start to the campaign. The veteran kicker has now made 18 straight field goal attempts to begin the year, passing Morten Andersen for the longest streak in franchise history.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Mecole Hardman
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
The Raiders have fired HC Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler.
Raiders’ owner Mark Davis began informing select members of his organization late Tuesday that he was firing McDaniels and Ziegler. And now he has became the first NFL owner this season for fire the HC and GM.
"After much thought about what the Raiders need to move forward, I have decided to part ways with Josh and Dave," Davis said in a statement. "I want to thank them both for their hard work and wish them and their families nothing but the best."
Davis gave McDaniels a six-year contract in January 2022. He has over four full years left on the deal that the Raiders are obligated to pay.
The Raiders are planning to name LB coach Antonio Pierce as their interim head coach.
This after the Raiders' 26-14 loss to the Detroit Lions Monday night at Ford Field.
It was a brutal beatdown.
All-Pro receiver Davante Adams was nearly speechless.
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez reported, it was that kind of game for the Las Vegas offense, which was outgained by the Lions 486-157.
"You have good days and bad days," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sighed. "Today was a bad day, there's no sugarcoating it. It is what it is. So, I've just got to play better. Myself, I have to play better. A bunch of little things that will solve a lot of problems.
"It starts with me. We've got to be better, and we will be."
After suffering through a 10-for-21 passing night for 126 yards with an end zone interception and enduring a career-high-tying six sacks, Garoppolo's 46.9 passer rating was the third-lowest passer rating in a start of his career.
And Garoppolo, who was returning after missing last week's loss at the Chicago Bears with a back injury suffered the previous week, now leads the NFL with nine interceptions. This despite missing 2½ games (he missed the Raiders' Week 4 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers with a concussion).
Adams, meanwhile, had just one catch on seven targets for 11 yards, and his 14 percent catch rate was tied for the worst reception percentage in a game with five-plus targets in his career, per ESPN Stats and Information research. And while Garoppolo did look for Adams deep, he missed with four off-target throws.
"Honestly, I don't know what to say at this moment," Adams said softly. "I truly don't. I wish I had the words to say something that's not going to get blown up in the media and taken out of context, so I'm going to just, I truly, I just don't know."
Adams, who said he was frustrated, has just 142 receiving yards over the past four games, his fewest in a four-game stretch since the 2015 season, when he was in his second year in the NFL, with the Green Bay Packers.
He also has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 3.
"It's not hard to maintain the confidence in our offense," Adams said. "It's just hard to curb your frustration when you can't put it together, when you know you should.
"Just keep trying to get better. Keep trying to get better."
It was hard for Garoppolo to get untracked against the Lions.
Consider that Garoppolo was just 2-for-7 with the interception on throws of 15 or more air yards downfield. He went 3-for-10 on second, third and fourth downs, was 1-of-7 on throws outside the numbers, and ultimately, was a mere 4-of-12 targeting receivers, including 1-for-7 when targeting Adams.
In fact, no receivers touched the ball in the first half.
The Lions pressured Garoppolo on 12 of his 28 dropbacks, including on eight of 11 in the fourth quarter, and the game percentage of 43 percent is the highest rate of pressure Garoppolo had faced in a game since he saw a 45 percent rate in Week 8 of the 2020 season against the Seattle Seahawks, when he was with the San Francisco 49ers.
"A little pissed off from the game," Garoppolo said, "but physically, I'm fine."
Signed to a three-year, $72.75 million free agent contract to replace nine-year starter Derek Carr, the oft-injured Garoppolo underwent surgery on his left foot in March. He sat out the on-field portion of the Raiders' offseason program while rehabbing and was on a "pitch count" in training camp before suffering the concussion and back injuries.
Asked if he felt he was still playing catch-up, Garoppolo shrugged.
"I mean, I'll never make an excuse like that," he said. "It is what it is. We're in the season now. People don't care if you have excuses or not, so you've got to go out there and play. I've got to play better. It's just a bunch of little things, man. Man, it's frustrating.
"You have the good days, you have the bad days, but we've just got to string things together. I've got to play better. There's just so much love in that locker room and it sucks that we performed like that tonight."
Josh Jacobs didn't have too much more to offer. Jacobs scored the team's only offensive touchdown on Monday and he was asked what the Raiders need to do to get the offense going after the game.
"I don't know, it ain't my job," Jacobs said, via Bridget Condon of NFL Media.
And now it's no longer McDaniels' job either.
It's not clear how Pierce will proceed, but we'll be watching closely to see who he chooses as his offensive coordinator. McDaniels handled the play calling up to this point.
Here's what fantasy managers have to consider: A month through the season, Adams and his teammate Jakobi Meyers seemed to be the only pass catchers Raiders quarterbacks were looking for with any regularity.
Since then, he's gone missing, and Monday was the worst case yet.
Yes, Garoppolo struggled, but Adams wasn't entirely blameless for his one-catch, 11-yard finish on seven targets. He had an uncharacteristic drop on a pass that could've moved the chains with the score still tight.
He's now gone five straight games without a touchdown, and he has just 14 catches for 142 yards in the last four weeks.
Compare that to his 13 catches for 172 yards and two TDs back in Week 3 against the Steelers. This was a statistical low on the season for three-time All-Pro. The frustration is clearly mounting, as evidenced by Adams slamming his helmet to the ground on the sidelines after the Raiders' final possession.
Will a fresh start with a new coach make a difference? Stay tuned.
I'll obviously have more on this when Late-Breaking Updates crank up early Thursday.
QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
The Chargers eased past the Bears on Sunday night, leading from start to finish on the way to a 30-13 victory.
It was the Chargers most complete game of the season, as all three phases played a role in helping the Bolts get their third win of the year.
John Breech of CBS Sports recognized the Chargers strong showing and handed out an 'A grade' to the Bolts for their Week 8 performance.
As Breech noted, Justin Herbert completed his first 15 passes of the game, and from there, it was pretty clear that the Chargers were going to have their way with the Bears defense and that's exactly what happened. Herbert seemed to toy with Chicago's defense on a night where he threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
According to Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy, Herbert was especially effective against the blitz. He is tied for first in touchdowns (10), second in passer rating (122.8) and tied for second in completion rate (71.9 percent) when facing five or more pass rushers. Herbert was blitzed on 14 dropbacks against the Bears and completed eight passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
The bigger news for the Chargers offense is that Austin Ekeler is starting to look like Ekeler again.
After missing three games with a high right ankle sprain, Ekeler returned in Week 6 but hadn't played to his standard. That changed on Sunday as he scored the game's first touchdown and led the Chargers in receiving yards with 94. After averaging just 54 yards per game over the past two weeks, finished with 123 yards from scrimmage.
The score was Ekeler's 30th receiving touchdown in his career and also his 400th reception. He's the seventh Charger to record at least 400 receptions and 30 receiving touchdowns.
Defensively, the Chargers manhandled an overmatched Bears offense. This game was never close with the Chargers dominating from start to finish.
The Bolts got off to a fast start Sunday night, forcing a Bears punt on Chicago's opening possession before the offense marched 92 yards for an opening-drive touchdown.
Head coach Brandon Staley credited the outing to their consistency at practice in the days leading up to the game.
"I think it was," Staley said when asked if this was the team's most complete performance of the year to date. "It was our most complete week of practice, too. I thought that that was what we were in search of, is to feel that complete game where you're feeding off each other and your level is high the whole way.
"There are going to be some things that we need to improve on, for sure. It wasn't like it was this perfect performance, but I liked the level of play," Staley added. "I thought the level of play, the style of play, was much more of what we're capable of."
Meanwhile, Staley has faced plenty of criticism for his defensive approach during the Chargers' disappointing start to the season.
On Sunday night, his unit put together its best performance of the season.
The question for the Chargers is whether they can put together a bunch more games like that.
The biggest improvement came from the secondary. After allowing two 400-yard passing games in its first six contests, including 424 to Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes a week earlier, the Chargers were stingier against Taylor Bagent and Chicago's receiving corps.
Los Angeles allowed only completion over 20 yards while cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Michael Davis had their best games of the season.
Samuel nearly came up with two picks, and he bounced back after allowing a 41-yard catch by Darnell Mooney on the first play. It is only the third time since Staley took over the Chargers in 2021 that they have allowed one or zero plays of 20 yards or more.
Samuel was targeted 10 times and allowed six catches for 91 yards. Davis, who came into the game as the second most targeted-cornerback in the league, allowed only 16 yards on three catches while having five passes thrown his way.
The Chargers found success while playing zone coverage 34 of the 38 times Bagent dropped back to pass. The Bolts came in as one of the worst teams playing zone, but this was their highest rate in a game in nearly two years.
Ja'Sir Taylor and Derwin James had interceptions with the Chargers in zone coverage.
"We really need our corners to come through for us in order to play at the level that we're capable of playing," Staley said. "We had the one play, the first play of the game, and then after that, we kept the football in front of us."
Staley added another wrinkle to his game plan by playing linebackers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack on the same side of the field four times. That alignment resulted in a third-down sack for Bosa on the opening series, which forced the Bears to punt.
Whether the Chargers can replicate this over the next couple weeks remains to be seen. They have another prime-time game Monday night against Zach Wilson and the New York Jets before returning home to face Jared Goff and NFC North-leading Detroit on Nov. 12.
The Bears were ranked 27th in passing coming into the game. The Jets are ranked 31st and the Lions sixth.
Other notes of interest. ... A couple of areas in need of work?
According to ESPN.com's Kris Rhim, the Chargers' rushing offense has been among the worst in the NFL all season, and that didn't change on Sunday night, as they finished with 54 yards. The Bears' defensive line closed openings, and the Chargers' rushers were often stopped before passing the line of scrimmage.
The running struggles didn't matter on Sunday, but this is an issue the Chargers need to fix moving forward. -- Kris Rhim
In addition, the team still needs to work on is the offense in the second half. Per Reedy, the Chargers have the lowest scoring efficiency after halftime in the last four games at 19 percent with only one touchdown and three field goals in 21 possessions. They have also gone three-and-out a league-high seven times.
Back to the positives. ... Quentin Johnston entered Week 8 with seven catches for 64 yards through six games.
The Chargers rookie wide receiver nearly matched those numbers on Sunday night as he hauled in five passes for 50 yards in his best game of the season.
"Just a confidence booster," Johnston said. "But at the end of the day, I don't feel like I did anything different other than just staying consistent at practice and continuing to work. Just build that trust and relationship with the quarterback.
Johnston later added: "Not getting too high on this little stepping stone. Continue to stack days and reflect on what I did, but also be critical on myself for what I didn't do."
Johnston drew a defensive pass interference call a few minutes into the second quarter and later recorded a 3-yard catch.
But the 2023 first-round pick really got rolling in the Chargers 2-minute drive before halftime, picking up gains of 11 and 12 yards on back-to-back plays.
Johnston then made his presence felt in the red zone of the same drive by gain six yards on third-and-3 to move the sticks.
Johnston's big night came as fellow wide receiver Josh Palmer was limited in the game with a knee injury.
"We wanted to get him going. I felt like we had a lot of good plays in the plan for him," Staley said of Johnston. "He made plays tonight, a lot of different types of plays. That third-down conversion on the back shoulder was huge. Got a couple of shallow crosses.
Also worth noting. ... The Bolts were down a key member of the offense Sunday night as tight end Gerald Everett was out with an injury.
Enter Donald Parham, Jr., who stepped up in a big way with four catches for 43 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown -- his fourth score of the year.
Parham's highlight of the night was his touchdown catch just before halftime.
Staley said Parham's performance was reminiscent of the 2021 season when the tight end had 20 catches for 190 yards and three scores.
"I really felt [Parham] tonight," Staley said. "You guys would have covered the team, this was a lot closer to that 2021 version of Donald Parham, who's a difference maker. You saw the run-after-catch, he did that all of 2021.
"He's just continuing to improve. Justin really trusts him," Staley added. "He's a weapon out there because he can beat you vertical, he's really good in the red zone, and then he's giving us that run-after-catch that he was giving us in 2021. That gives us a different dimension on offense. ..."
With Parham and Stone Smartt play ahead of Tre' McKitty, it's no real surprise the Chargers waived the latter today, McKitty was a former third-round pick.
I'll be watching for more on Palmer and Everett in coming day; in addition receiver Jalen Guyton and DL Otito Ogbonnia are both making progress in coming back from knee injuries and could come off the physically unable to perform list this week.
Remember, the Jets have allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends this season. So, Parham is at least an option for next week if Everett ends up missing another game.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Josh Palmer, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
Matthew Stafford has an ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his right thumb and is day-to-day, head coach Sean McVay said Monday.
Stafford injured his thumb in Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys and did not return to the game after leaving in the third quarter.
McVay said the Rams are taking it a day at a time with Stafford's availability for Sunday against the Green Bay Packers but added it would be "silly to not try to get our ducks in a row" if Stafford cannot play.
"I think it's exclusively a result of how quickly that thumb turns over," McVay said. "I mean, there's obviously some swelling and some bruising. It's a significant part of being able to throw the football."
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted, the Rams are expected to sign another quarterback to the roster who could back up Brett Rypien if Stafford is unavailable.
Rypien has served as the Rams' backup quarterback this season and completed 5 of 10 passes for 42 yards in relief of Stafford on Sunday.
Los Angeles drafted quarterback Stetson Bennett in the fourth round to serve as Stafford's backup this season, but he has been on the reserve/non-football illness list since Sept. 13. McVay said Monday that he doesn't have an update on Bennett returning to the team but said it's "probably less likely than it is likely he would" be back with the Rams this season.
McVay said that while Stafford hit his right thumb twice on throws earlier in the game, it was how he hit his thumb while making a catch on a 2-point conversion that forced him to leave the game. After that play, the medical staff "felt like there was potentially some instability" in his right thumb.
McVay said "this is an injury that [Stafford has] previously had," but that there isn't any concern about any potential aggravation from that injury. The Rams were "encouraged" that the testing done showed it was a sprain, McVay said, because "there were some potential concerns that it could be worse."
"So hopefully it was just a good scare," McVay said. "That's what the scans revealed, and then we will see how quickly some of that stuff that is key and critical to being able to grip and throw a football, some of those symptoms, subside with Matthew and how quickly that makes him available to return for us."
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham pointed out, even with a healthy Stafford, the Rams (3-5) have lost two straight measuring-stick games to the Steelers and the Cowboys, two opponents that appear to belong in the playoff race.
That's where the Rams thought they could be last month before they were brought back to reality by the consequences of their offseason roster gutting.
Instead, the Rams have lost five of their last seven games, beating only the Colts and Cardinals. They were blown out by the Cowboys, falling behind 26-3 before they had even touched the ball four times.
Even with Stafford in their lineup, the Rams' shortcomings on the offensive line and throughout the defense have been made increasingly obvious in the last month when their opponents had more game video to digest. The early-season optimism has given way to the reality that the Rams don't have enough top-level players and coaching acumen to make up for their talent deficiency across the roster.
All that said, another eminently winnable game at Green Bay before the Rams' bye week provides them with a chance to preserve their playoff dreams into mid-November. But if Rypien is behind center, the offense will be limited. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Rams remain a two-man backfield with Darrell Henderson Jr. and Royce Freeman continuing to rotate.
According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, the Rams utilized a rotation by drive last week with Henderson taking the first drive, Freeman the second and so on. Henderson would often take a snap or two from Freeman on his drives, resulting in Henderson leading the team in fantasy production.
The rotation left Henderson with more carries, more receptions and more yards, but the Rams happened to get to the one-yard line on one of Freeman's drives, resulting in a Freeman touchdown.
Freeman out-snapped Henderson 30 to 28.
Henderson is still the player to start over these next two games with Kyren Williams still on injured reserve, with two better matchups upcoming, but Freeman has 110 yards and the aforementioned touchdown while averaging 5.2 yards per carry over the last two games. ...
In a related note. ... Last week, Myles Gaskin was inactive after getting signed to the Rams roster earlier that week. This week, Gaskin surpassed Zach Evans on the depth chart, leaving Evans inactive. ...
The career-low three-catch total Puka Nacua included just catch after halftime. Nacua also took a bunch of big hits from the Cowboys' defense, undoubtedly adding to the minor injuries that have built up during his incredible rookie season. McVay said Monday that Nacua has knee swelling and could miss some practice this week.
I'll have more on the rookie wideout -- and of course the QB situation -- in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
And what about Cooper Kupp?
Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason points out the veteran superstar has seen 17 targets over his last two games. He's caught just six of those targets for 50 yards. ...
One last note here. ... Kicker Lucas Havrisik looked sharp in his NFL debut, making two field goals from 47 and 33 yards.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
Tyreek Hill wants 2,000 yards this season. After this week, he's halfway there.
The speedy receiver eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards during Sunday's 31-17 victory over the New England Patriots, becoming the first player to do so this season. Hill is the fourth player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards through his team's first eight games.
"It feels great. God is great. I've been calling my shot since I came in this league," Hill said. "A lot of people doubted me, saying I couldn't do this and do that, but it's all about believing in yourself."
The All-Pro got the Dolphins on the board late in the first quarter with a 42-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, his league-leading eighth receiving touchdown of the season. Hill finished the day with 112 yards and a touchdown on eight catches, giving him 1,014 yards on the season.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques notes, it was Hill's fourth straight game with a touchdown of at least 25 yards. The NFL's premier downfield threat has now connected with Tagovailoa for four touchdowns of at least 30 air yards this season. Tagovailoa had four such passes entering the 2023 season, with three of them going to Hill in 2022.
On the play, Hill sprinted between Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson and safety Marte Mapu, splitting their attempted bracket coverage.
"I think with how [Patriots] coach [Bill] Belichick plays his guys, it is a little different because it's not necessarily [the cornerback] I'm looking at, it's more so the guys on the top end who have to cover someone like Tyreek," Tagovailoa said.
"When Tyreek's pressed, I think everyone in here would probably agree it's not a good idea to not have someone over the top of him. So, the way Coach Belichick played it, I think, was to try to take that off of Tyreek. But with a lot of our back-turned actions ... it makes it tough for the safety because he also has a run fit responsibility -- but he also has to help with [Tyreek]. So outside leverage with J.C., [Mapu is] inside leverage and if you don't get a hit on Tyreek, the timing of it makes it tough."
At a rate of 126.8 yards per game, Hill is on pace for 2,155 receiving yards this season -- which would set an NFL record and make him the first 2,000-yard receiver in league history.
Hill's performance exhilarated the home crowd at Hard Rock Stadium, the applause for him outdone only by the ovation for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who made his season debut Sunday.
Ramsey said he was initially given a late December return timeline but never personally accepted it. He called a November return "super, super realistic" but was always aiming for this game. In fact, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said Ramsey called his shot more than a month ago, when the Dolphins played the Patriots on Sept. 17.
Ramsey was traded to the Dolphins in March but missed the team's first seven games after injuring his left meniscus on the second day of training camp in July. He returned to practice last week and was added to the active roster before Sunday's game. He made his presence known in the first half, forcing a fumble that bounced out of bounds and intercepting Mac Jones late in the second quarter. According to Next Gen Stats, Ramsey allowed one catch for 24 yards as the nearest defender and was targeted only three times.
Not only did Ramsey correctly predict his return date, but he also predicted his interception.
"I told the whole team I was going to get a pick today. Told the whole team that," Ramsey said in the news conference room while Hill nodded in agreement on the other side of the room. "I've been telling the whole team for a couple weeks that I was going to get a pick my first game.
"It felt good. Don't get it twisted, I'm happy I had an interception, but I definitely don't want that to be the storyline. I just want to talk about how we got a good, hard-fought division win. My success, it comes from the preparation that I put in and the team around me. It's not just me. I work really hard during the week to prepare myself to feel like Jalen Ramsey and it's just a product of it. But it was a great, hard-fought win for the team, so that was dope."
The win gave Miami a season sweep of the Patriots and improved the Dolphins' record to 6-2. Miami is a half-game back of the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC lead. Fittingly, the Dolphins and Chiefs face off in Week 9 in Frankfurt, Germany, as part of the NFL's International Series.
It will mark the first time Hill has faced his former team since he was traded to Miami last offseason. He said he was initially disappointed the game was not at Arrowhead Stadium, but he's excited to see his former teammates who he won a Super Bowl and two AFC championships with.
"I'm ready, man. It's just another game. I'm just excited to play against my old brothers," he said. "It's just like if you're in high school and you move to a different city, it's still ball. At the end of the day, my job is to go out there and do what I've been doing all year, and that's have fun, help lead this team and create opportunities for whoever. I'm still going to be the same old Cheetah, baby."
Other notes of interest. ... Tagovailoa has never lost to Belichick.
Tagovailoa moved to 6-0 in his career against Belichick, throwing for 324 yards, three touchdowns and an interception on Sunday.
"If you look at a lot of the games, none of them were runaway games," Tagovailoa said. "To me, those are always tough games. If you turn the ball over the way I have, it makes it a tough game, and you keep those guys in the game."
Tagovailoa completed 30 of 45 passes and moved his league-leading yardage total to 2,416. Jaylen Waddle had seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown to go with Hill's production. Cedrick Wilson Jr. caught Tagovailoa's second touchdown pass in the second quarter.
It was Wilson's first touchdown since before Miami picked him up in free agency last year. He hadn't scored since Week 18 of 2021 with Dallas. ...
One issue in in this one: The Dolphins ran for only 78 yards on 26 carries Sunday (3.0 yards per carry), marking Miami's second straight lackluster performance on the ground.
Some of that can be attributed to the team's dire situation along the offensive line.
At one point Sunday, the Dolphins were down four starters with Terron Armstead and Isaiah Wynn on injured reserve, Connor Williams active but not playing with a groin injury and Robert Hunt out of the game with a hamstring injury. To make matters worse, backup left tackle Kendall Lamm also briefly left the game with an abdominal injury, but was able to return in the second half.
It's not ideal, but Armstead is eligible to return for this week's game against the Chiefs (he is making the trip to Germany) and Williams should be healthy enough to play as well. Losing Hunt would be a major blow, but he never left the sideline and appeared able to play in an emergency.
Beyond that. ... Jeff Wilson Jr. spent the first three quarters leading the team in rushing yards.
Wilson ran the ball five times for 23 yards and caught two passes for 14 yards.
According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, Wilson still wasn't the clear No. 2 running back on the Dolphins' depth chart. Salvon Ahmed was the backup in passing situations while Wilson was the backup in rushing situations.
If Wilson were going to break out of any game, it would have been this one, as Raheem Mostert was limited in practice all week due to an ankle injury.
The Dolphins have a Week 10 bye. After that, De'Von Achane is eligible to return and is expected to be ready to go.
At that point, Wilson will be back to third on the depth chart at best.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
A sensational season has been cut short for Kirk Cousins after eight weeks.
Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings were dealt a massive and conclusive blow Monday with an MRI confirming he tore his Achilles in Sunday night's victory over the Green Bay Packers and will miss the remainder of the season, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Monday.
The timeline and details of his upcoming surgery will be determined this week, per the team.
"Me personally, our whole team, our whole organization, we're all hurting this morning for Kirk," head coach Kevin O'Connell said in his Monday press conference. "Just knowing how much he's invested into this team, and from a standpoint of his leadership and what he's meant to every single guy in that locker room and really what he's meant to me since my arrival here last year. We're going to miss him, there's no doubt about it that we're going to miss him."
Cousins was injured in the fourth quarter of Minnesota's 24-10 win, having to be carted to the locker room. It stands as the first significant injury of Cousins' 12-season career. The veteran is expected to be with the team after surgery to help the Vikings' QB room, O'Connell told reporters.
"My expectations are, and in my dialogue briefly with Kirk since yesterday, he has every intent of still being a major, major part of our leadership, part of our quarterback room, a part of our offense, a part of our plans each week schematically like he's been, right there every step of the way, and quite honestly I don't expect anything less from Kirk being the man and the leader that he is.," O'Connell said. "Regardless of the circumstances, as tough of a break, with the momentum we have as a team right now, we have to move forward."
Now, the Vikings, who have strung together three wins to salvage a seemingly lost season, are once again wandering through uncertainty.
With Cousins out for the season with a torn Achilles, the Vikings busted a move on Tuesday.
They traded for Cardinals quarterback Josh Dobbs, giving up a 2024 sixth-round pick in exchange for Dobbs and a conditional 2024 seventh-round pick. The Vikings also made official the end to Cousins' season.
The Vikings announced they placed Cousins on injured reserve Tuesday.
Rookie Jaren Hall, who replaced Cousins on Sunday, is expected to start this week with Dobbs "potentially" in a supporting role. Sean Mannion is on the practice squad, and Nick Mullens is on injured reserve with a back injury and out at least until Week 10.
A fifth-round pick from BYU, Hall finished Sunday's game against the Packers after Cousins was hurt. Hall completed three of four passes for 23 yards. He also fumbled on a sack, losing possession to Green Bay.
If the Vikings play well against the Falcons, it will be interesting to see whether Hall keeps the job. Especially with receiver Justin Jefferson eligible after Sunday to return from injured reserve.
That's the short term.
What about the long term?
After a 1-4 start to the season and Jefferson being sidelined with a hamstring injury, the upcoming trade deadline was a popular talking point. However, Cousins and Co. played inspired football and ran off three consecutive wins to improve to 4-4. Where the Vikings go without Cousins for the rest of the season and Jefferson for at least one more game remains to be seen, but it's a bad hand that Minnesota's been dealt.
Where Cousins goes from here will be a massive storyline, as well.
Cousins and the Vikings did not come to an agreement on an extension before the season, so he's in the last year of his contract. How and when he's able to come back will no doubt impact his contract demands this offseason, whether it be with the Vikings or elsewhere.
What he did in eight games in 2023 certainly is an argument that the 35-year-old has some peak years ahead if he heals up.
Cousins' season concluded with him tied for the NFL lead with 18 touchdown passes. He'd also thrown for an NFC-best 2,331 yards with just five interceptions.
Now, Cousins is set for surgery and uncertainty thereafter, while the Vikings head to Atlanta for a Week 9 matchup with the Falcons with a new QB under center.
Including this weekend, the Vikings enter a six-week stretch with five opponents -- Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver, Chicago and Las Vegas -- all currently at .500 or worse, plus the valuable late bye waiting in Week 13.
Even with a backup quarterback, staying in the hunt should be realistic, especially if Jefferson returns sooner than later from injury.
Adding to the positive vibes, the defense has executed quite the turnaround since the 0-3 start, allowing only seven touchdowns with 17 sacks over the last five games and forcing seven turnovers during the three-game winning streak. The tackling has been sound.
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell notes, the defensive line, in particular, was superb in the 24-10 win at Green Bay on Sunday, with Harrison Phillips tying for the team lead with eight tackles and D.J. Wonnum getting two of the team's four sacks.
The Vikings still aren't running the ball with enough consistent success. They needed 31 attempts to net 62 yards on the ground, though Cam Akers did give them their first rushing touchdown of the season. Their average of 3.5 yards per carry is the fifth-lowest in the league.
Akers seemed to be taking over the early down role in the Vikings backfield, but momentum shifted back to Alexander Mattison in the second half.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, Mattison seemed to be the guy in Week 6 and to start Week 7 when he ran five times in the first quarter to Akers' zero carries. Akers ran the ball 10 times over the final three-quarters last week to Mattison's three. The Akers trend continued in the first half of the game Sunday. He ran eight times including a touchdown compared to Mattison's four.
Akers was looking better too with 2.6 yards per carry compared to Mattison's 1.5.
For whatever reason, Mattison dominated the second half with 12 carries to Akers' one.
Jahnke went on to acknowledge that neither running back is playing all that well this season, but whoever is getting the most carries would still be worth starting with how much the Vikings run the ball. With Cousins likely out for the season, the reliance on the running backs could increase. ...
Another issue. ... Special teams have been hurting the Vikings lately. Greg Joseph had a 44-yard field goal blocked and a 42-yard attempt sail wide right. All of his misses -- four field goals and two extra points -- have occurred during the three-game winning streak.
Rookie Ivan Pace was called for holding during what would've been an 103-yard touchdown return of a kickoff by Ty Chandler. Rookie Jay Ward was offside during a missed field goal by the Packers, and Anders Carlson made his second-chance kick. Ward did the same thing during a made field goal in the opener against Tampa Bay, giving the Buccaneers a fresh set of downs on their way to a touchdown. ....
On a more positive note, K.J. Osborn had eight catches, the second-highest total of his career, for 99 yards against the Packers as Cousins repeatedly targeted him in creases big and small in the middle of the zone coverages. Despite several quiet games this season, the fourth-year wide receiver is on pace for career highs in targets, receptions and yards.
Finally. ... Veteran guard Ezra Cleveland is leaving Minnesota for Jacksonville.
Cleveland has been traded from the Vikings to the Jaguars for a sixth-round draft pick, according to multiple reports.
The 25-year-old Cleveland was a 2020 sixth-round draft pick of the Vikings who is in the final season of his rookie contract. He has started six games this season but missed Sunday's game with a foot injury.
The Vikings likely felt that their line didn't miss much without Cleveland and that it was time to move on.
QBs: Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
Facing the NFL's top-rated offense, the New England Patriots limited the big plays by the Miami Dolphins on Sunday until a late touchdown ended their hopes of beating the AFC East leaders.
"Miami made some plays and that was the difference in the game," head coach Bill Belichick said after the 31-17 loss.
New England (2-6) could not follow up its dramatic win over defending AFC East champion Buffalo last week and now needs a surge of victories in its remaining nine games to stay in playoff contention.
"It starts with us in the locker room," veteran center David Andrews said. "I think any grown man has to sit there and look in the mirror and say what I could do better. If you start pointing fingers, I think that's kind of a coward's way of doing things."
In addition to further dropping in the division standings, the Patriots lost receivers DeVante Parker (head) and Kendrick Bourne (knee) to injuries.
Follow-up tests Monday revealed that Bourne tore his right ACL.
The injury ends Bourne's seventh season in the NFL, which was on pace to be his best, as he faces a recovery that a source estimates in the six- to eight-month range.
Bourne was injured on the first play of the fourth quarter when he caught a pass and was tackled along the right sideline by cornerback Eli Apple. He remained down after the play, holding his right knee.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, Bourne entered Sunday rated 11th in the NFL in ESPN's new receiver tracking metrics and has totaled a team-high 37 receptions for 406 yards and four touchdowns through eight games. He has played 73 percent of the offensive snaps this season, easily the most of any Patriots receiver, and said last week that maintaining such stamina was a source of pride to him.
Bourne, 28, who coaches say brings infectious energy to the team, is in the final year of his contract.
Dolphins defensive back DeShon Elliott's helmet collided with Parker's chin during a pass play in the third, but Elliott wasn't penalized.
Parker, a former Dolphin, got to his feet after the play but immediately stumbled to the ground.
"Talk to the officials about it. What do you want me to do?" Belichick said when asked about the play.
The Patriots had a logjam at receiver entering Sunday, with seven on their roster. The loss of Bourne could mean that veteran JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had fallen to No. 5 on the depth chart Sunday, rises on the depth chart.
Smith-Schuster got additional reps after Parker and Bourne exited. Smith-Schuster, signed as a free agent in the offseason, had his first touchdown as a Patriot when he caught a 3-yard pass from Mac Jones to get New England within 24-17 midway through the fourth quarter.
"Our tempo plays were good and it's something we can expand on as an offense," Jones said. "But you don't want to be in that position. It's hard for everybody. We just want to have longer drives, have explosive plays and throw the ball downfield when there are opportunities."
Jones finished 19 of 29 for 161 yards and two touchdowns. But he also threw a costly interception late in the first half.
Rookie Demario Douglas and Parker are currently the team's other top receivers, although Parker is now in concussion protocol.
Tyquan Thornton, the 2022 second-round pick out of Baylor who was a healthy scratch Sunday, projects to be back on the game-day roster when the Patriots (2-6) host the Washington Commanders (3-5) on Sunday.
Kayshon Boutte, a 2023 sixth-round pick out of LSU who hasn't played since the season opener, is another possibility.
I'll have more on Parker and the situation at wideout in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, Reiss believes it's fair to ask if Jones will find answers to avoid committing costly turnovers?
As noted above, Jones' interception late in the second quarter was one of the key plays in the game, as his pass sailed and was picked by Jalen Ramsey. The Patriots were trailing 14-7 but had advanced to the Dolphins' 23-yard line, facing first-and-10 at the two-minute warning. Working the clock and coming away with points was critical in that situation. Instead, the Dolphins turned the miscue into a field goal and were able to keep the Patriots at bay the rest of the way.
Jones played a cleaner game in Week 7 against the Bills, with no interceptions while leading a late fourth-quarter comeback, so this was a step back to some of the struggles he had in Weeks 4-6. ...
According to PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke, tight end Pharaoh Brown was targeted on two of his three routes, leading to 33 yards and the second-most receiving yards on the Patriots. He's maintained a ridiculous 5.0 yards per route run this season while Hunter Henry is at 1.15 and Mike Gesicki at 1.02.
Rhamondre Stevenson rushed 10 times for 39 yards and secured two of four targets for 11 yards on Sunday.
Stevenson turned in some serviceable production relative to his amount of opportunities, but New England's ground game wasn't much of a priority as the second half unfolded and the Dolphins began to increase their lead.
Stevenson outpaced backfield mate Ezekiel Elliott by three carries, yet, as CBSSports.com suggests, neither back figures to have a chance for a true game-breaking performance as long as the passing game continues to mostly be inconsistent and the division of labor in the ground attack is similarly split.
QBs: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Pharaoh Brown
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell framed it: "The Saints' offense had its performance of the season, when many of the players were at their lowest. ..."
The Saints put up a season-high in points in their 38-27 win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday and posted 511 yards of total offense -- the most since they beat the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 25, 2020.
"I felt like there was a rhythm to what we were doing offensively, and that was good to see," head coach Dennis Allen said.
As Saints quarterback Derek Carr came to the podium for his postgame media session, he took a breath and said "gosh it feels good to fricking smile" after the turmoil amid their two-game losing streak.
Multiple players and coaches said after the game that the team needed a game like this, not only to regain confidence, but to reset after a week in which Carr said it probably looked like "the world was falling down" on them from the outside.
"Inside our building, we're getting better, we're talking about things, we're communicating and I think that showed today," said Carr, who's 19-of-27 passing for 310 yards (and two touchdowns and no interceptions) marked the third straight game Carr went over the 300-yard mark.
Coming off a Thursday night game in Week 7, the Saints didn't exactly have an easy time the last two days heading into the game. An illness swept the Saints locker room at the beginning of the week, sidelining two key starters in safety Marcus Maye and wide receiver Michael Thomas late in the week.
"Look, it's no fun," Allen said. "It's a [gastrointestinal] bug that's kind of been going through the group a little bit. ... Hopefully it kind of runs its course."
For some, like Alvin Kamara, it was a minor issue.
"I didn't have what everyone else had." said Kamara, who had 110 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. "I just had a little respiratory. But it's cool. Once you've been in this league for a minute, the preparation is the preparation. ... You've got to be a pro about it."
For others like Thomas, it was 12-24 hours of misery -- citing fever, chills and the inability to keep anything down.
Thomas said he came down with the sickness sometime Saturday morning. He barely ate for two days and instead relied on IVs, going through about nine bags between Saturday morning and Sunday to keep hydrated.
After missing the majority of three seasons because of injuries, he was insistent that he not miss a game.
"My guys needed me to be there," Thomas said. "I just knew that, you know, it's just accountability. If it wasn't something, like how I missed all those games, I'm probably going to play. That's just the mindset. That's how much I missed it. ... I was going to find a way to play."
Thomas responded with four catches for 68 yards, his highest single-game total since 2020. But he was just a small part of the offensive firestorm, which included two rushing touchdowns for quarterback Taysom Hill, who ran for 63 yards, had a 44-yard pass and also a 14-yard reception.
It was also a career day for second-year wideout Rashid Shaheed, who had three catches for 153 yards and a touchdown. Shaheed had the third-most yards per reception by a player with at least three receptions in a game over the last 10 seasons.
All three of Shaheed's catches came at critical moments. His 58-yard touchdown in the second quarter put the Saints up 21-17 at halftime, and he was able to secure the 44-yard pass from Hill despite a defender's attempts to rip away the 50-50 ball.
"Sheed, for as fast as he is, the dude plays the ball as good as anyone I've been around," Hill said. "When you get a look and an opportunity like that, you're gonna let him go up and make a play, and man he did. I was certainly grateful."
He also had a 51-yard pass from Carr late in the fourth quarter to set up a field goal and secure the game.
"That big one from Taysom, he wasn't even really running," Thomas said. "Sometimes he's running so fast, when he gets next to guys he already has them beat. ... He can outrun anyone, sometimes he can outrun the quarterback's arm with how fast he is. The other thing he does tremendous, I've seen him do it week in and week out is the contested big boy catches.
"They try to label the speed guys as one dimensional, but to see him make those plays, that's impressive."
Terrell went on to note the Saints were able to build on some of the success they found late against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, incorporating some of the no huddle elements that helped them score two fourth-quarter touchdowns in that game.
The offense, which came into Week 8 tied for 28th in red zone efficiency, went 3-of-4 in the red zone, with the lone miss coming in the final two minutes of the game as the Saints set things up for a field goal to put the game out of reach.
"We were right on the brink of a game like this," Hill said. "It was good to finally put it all together. Gives us a lot of confidence moving forward. ... From the beginning, our expectations were to be able to score like this. Historically, we've been moving the ball, but we haven't been scoring as much as we should have. I think it's nice as an offense to see everything come together."
New Orleans (4-4) will head into their next game, they host the struggling Chicago Bears on Sunday, tied atop the anemic NFC South, even with Atlanta (4-4) and a half game ahead of Tampa Bay (3-4). ...
Worth noting. ... As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, Chris Olave had a 31 percent target share Sunday. He's seen a 26 percent target share on the season, but has yet to score 20 PPR points in a single game.
Juwan Johnson was back this week, and Hill ran just 12 routes as a result. His route participation dipped back to where it was in Weeks 4 and 5. ...
The Saints pass defense remains among the NFL's best. New Orleans is ranked eighth in yards passing allowed prior to Monday night's game. On Sunday, they held Colts QB Gardner Minshew to 213 yards passing, intercepting him once and sacking him twice.
But penalties have been a problem.
New Orleans has now been penalized 54 times for 513 yards, resulting in 21 opponent first downs. Just two teams -- San Francisco and Buffalo -- have been penalized 55 times and no team has been penalized for as many yards as New Orleans.
New Orleans was penalized eight times for 73 yards at Indianapolis.
"Penalties hurt us," said Allen. "Each one of their scoring drives really were aided by defensive or special teams penalties."
QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
Daniel Jones was cleared for contact and is expected to make his return on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, sources told ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan on Monday.
Jones confirmed that news on Tuesday. Jones said on "Up and Adams" on FanDuelTV that he's good to go for this week's game against the Raiders.
"I'm cleared, I'm ready to go," Jones said, "ready to play on Sunday."
Jones was dealing with a neck injury and was a limited participant in practice the past two weeks. But the final step was passing tests from doctors and being cleared for contact. The sources said the positive news came on Sunday morning, hours before the Giants finished with a franchise-worst minus-9 passing yards in a 13-10 overtime loss to the New York Jets.
Jones' return comes just in time. Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor left the game with a rib cage injury. He spent the night at Hackensack Medical Center, where he was undergoing further evaluation.
Undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito finished the game on Sunday and went 2-of-7 for minus-1 yards in his NFL debut.
It didn't help that the Giants also lost tight end Darren Waller in the first half to a hamstring injury. He came into this week leading the Giants with 35 catches for 380 yards. He caught one pass for four yards and aggravated the injury on that play.
Waller's injury is particularly concerning considering injuries have been an issue for him in recent years. He missed eight games last season because of a hamstring problem.
Waller, 30, was listed as a limited participant in practice this past week with a hamstring injury. He was officially listed as questionable for Sunday's contest.
The Giants acquired Waller this past offseason for a pair of draft picks from the Las Vegas Raiders to be their No. 1 receiver.
Jones injured his neck when he was sacked by Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel on Oct. 8. He missed three games.
The Giants were cautious with Jones, especially considering he now has a history of neck injuries. The 26-year-old missed the final six games of the 2021 season with a disc problem.
Jones insisted this was not the same injury and was confident he would return this season despite some pain and weakness that also affected his left (non-throwing) shoulder.
"It's a different injury," Jones said recently. "I think when you see other guys who have similar situations as mine and they are able to progress and come back, I'm following a similar timeline to that. That is kind of the optimism, and yeah, it's a different injury than last time."
But the uncertainty of the situation did leave reasons for concern.
Head coach Brian Daboll was hesitant last week to say that Jones would definitely return this season, even though he had publicly expressed confidence previously.
It has been a rough start to the season for Jones and the Giants (2-6). They are averaging 11.9 points per game, ranking last in the NFL. Jones has thrown two touchdown passes and five interceptions while taking 28 sacks in five starts.
This comes after an offseason in which the Giants signed Jones to a four-year, $160 million deal, including $84 million guaranteed over the first two years.
Looking ahead, the Giants have three straight road games. They play at Las Vegas (3-5), followed by Dallas (5-2) and Washington (3-5). ...
I'll have more on Jones' progress in practice this week and on Waller's status in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
In a related note. ... The Giants announced that they signed Matt Barkley to the practice squad. They also confirmed that DeVito has been signed to the active roster from the practice squad.
Barkley played for Daboll when Daboll was the offensive coordinator in Buffalo. Barkley played in eight games and made one start for the Bills, but has not appeared in a regular season game since 2020. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Jets knew the only way the Giants could gain yards was to turn to Saquon Barkley and he delivered. Per Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason Barkley ended the day with an 87.8 percent running back rush share and a 41.7 percent target share. The running back had a career-high 36 carries for 128 yards. The Giants had 194 yards of total offense.
He was quite literally the entire offense.
After missing three games with a high ankle sprain, Barkley has been a difference maker against Buffalo, Washington and the Jets. The Giants are 1-2 in those games but they could have won each of them, which would have made a difference in a season gone south. ...
Graham Gano missed two of three field goal attempts Sunday, including the 35-yarder in the final minute and a 47-yarder in the second quarter. He has missed three of four in the past two games and is 11 of 17 this season (64.7 percent).
Gano was on the injury report with a knee problem the past two weeks. He had been successful on 89.2 percent of his field goal attempts since 2020, second best in the league.
"I'm sure some people want me to sit up here and make excuses. I've got none," Gano said. "I've got to play better. It's frustrating."
Finally. ... Defensive lineman Leonard Williams played his final game for the Giants on Sunday.
NFL Media first reported on Monday that the Giants traded Williams to the Seahawks. They will receive a 2024 second-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick in exchange for the veteran.
Williams was traded to the Giants by the Jets in 2019 and played out the 2020 season under the franchise tag. He signed a three-year deal with the Giants ahead of the 2021 season and has an $18 million base salary this year, but the deal will reportedly be reworked with the Giants paying a portion of his remaining compensation before the trade becomes official.
QBs: Tommy DeVito, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, Darren Waller
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. notes, one opportunity after another on third down came and went without any success for the New York Jets.
They were 0 for 12 until quarterback Zach Wilson scrambled for 17 yards on third-and-11 with 2:19 left in regulation of the Jets' ugly 13-10 overtime win over the Giants on Sunday.
That first conversion was met with cheers -- many likely from exasperated fans who watched their team go 2 for 15 overall. It has been that way all season for the Jets, who are 4-3 despite ranking last in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage at a dismal 23 percent.
The next closest team is Cleveland, which is converting third downs with 8 percent more success.
So, what gives?
"Lack of execution somewhere along the (line) from a player's standpoint," head coach Robert Saleh said. "Can we be better as play callers? Obviously, there are always going to be things we can be better at. But it's a universal thing. It's not one thing. It's not the quarterback, it's not the O-line, it's not the receivers, it's not tight ends or running backs or play calling.
"It's everybody taking turns at not being very good at football on third down and we've just got to figure it out."
But it seems the Jets have been saying that since the season began. Or at least since Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles tendon on his fourth snap of his debut with the Jets.
It has been a struggle on offense since.
While the defense remains stout -- it held the Giants to minus-9 net yards passing -- and special teams have stood out, Wilson, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and Co. need to get better on third down in a hurry.
And in the red zone -- where they also rank last in the NFL -- and in overall first downs, also last in the league. New York's 18 points per game average is also near the bottom.
"It just goes back to the details of things," wide receiver Allen Lazard said Monday. "Putting ourselves in a better position on third down and then ultimately, especially the short yardage ones, just going out there and just beating the man across from you."
Some better luck on the injury front would help.
It started with Rodgers, and now the injury bug is working its way through the New York Jets' offensive line.
Center Connor McGovern (knee) and right guard Wes Schweitzer (calf), both injured in Sunday's game, were placed on injured reserve Monday. The Jets now have four offensive linemen on IR.
"You'd like reinforcements, but no one is trading offensive linemen," said Saleh, hinting they may sign a free agent. "They're so scarce throughout the league."
When the Jets face the Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) next Monday night at MetLife Stadium, they will have only one starting lineman in his original position from Week 1 -- left guard Laken Tomlinson.
Mekhi Becton, too, has started every game, but he moved from right tackle to left tackle when Duane Brown (hip) went on IR in Week 3. Brown was eligible to return to practice last week, but his three-week window hasn't opened yet.
The fourth lineman on IR is guard/tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
McGovern, who has missed only three games in six-plus years, could return later in the season, according to Saleh. For now, he will try to rehab the injury without having surgery, but that's not a sure thing.
"He's not out of the woods," Saleh said, "but let's just say it was best-case scenario based on what we thought on the field."
Schweitzer, the third different player to start at right guard, also has a chance to return after Week 13. He began the season as a backup, but he's a key loss because he plays center, too. He replaced McGovern in the second quarter, but he lasted only 10 snaps before his injury.
Desperate, the Jets had to move Xavier Newman-Johnson to center -- a position he had never played in a regular-season game. Cut by the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 2, he signed to the Jets' practice squad on Oct. 5 and was elevated to the 53-man roster on Saturday. He came in for Schweitzer at right guard, then had to slide into the pivot for the remainder of the game when Schweitzer got hurt.
Rookie Joe Tippmann, who suffered a quadriceps injury in Week 6, could return this week or next. He started four games at right guard, but he's a natural center who can fill the void. If he's not ready this week, they may have no choice but to start Newman-Johnson, with Tomlinson and Billy Turner at guard and Becton and Max Mitchell at tackle.
Newman-Johnson earned the respect of teammates by winning scout-team player of the week. Because of his ability to play center in a pinch, he got promoted to the game-day roster and adjusted on the fly when pressed into action. His first snap to Wilson resulted in a fumble, but he settled down after that, helping the Jets pull off an improbable late rally.
"People don't understand how hard it is to play football coming off the street," said Lazard, alluding to Newman-Johnson. "We've been here since July 19th, going over plays, practicing, and we still struggle sometimes [to] execute. So, to be someone that just came into this building two weeks ago ... understand the offense, put the effort in, taking the time to learn everything, and then to be thrown into the fire like he was during the game ... I'm beyond proud of [Newman-Johnson] and his ability to be resilient."
Despite the winning streak, the Jets have sputtered on offense -- only three touchdowns in the last three games, all by running back Breece Hall. Now they face more potential trouble without McGovern, a savvy veteran known for his ability to make protection calls.
"It's really tough. Everything starts up front," Saleh said of the offensive-line instability. "From a protection standpoint, and how creative you can get offensively, [it] starts with your ability to protect the quarterback. ..."
In a related note. ... The Jets are signing free agent offensive guard Rodger Saffold to their practice squad with the intent to promote him to their active roster, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.
Saffold played for Jets offensive line coach Keith Carter for three seasons in Tennessee.
Saffold earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl last season with the Bills, starting 16 games at left guard. He had seven accepted penalties against him and allowed two sacks.
He also has played left tackle and right guard in a 13-year career.
Saffold entered the NFL as a second-round pick of the Rams in 2010 and played nine years for them, three with the Titans and one with the Bills. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett acknowledged the Jets were lousy on third down and in the red zone in their first six games, but nothing improved in their first outing since the bye-week break. There were a few questionable play calls, too, including employing an empty backfield on third-and-1 late in the third quarter when Wilson threw incomplete to Tyler Conklin.
Hall and receiver Garrett Wilson accounted for 193 of the team's 298 yards on Sunday.
Hall finished the game with 93 all-purpose yards -- 17 rushing and 86 receiving -- and, as noted above, scored the Jets' only touchdown on a 50-yard catch and run.
Wilson had 7 receptions for a season-high 100 yards and tacked on 6 yards rushing on an end-around. In the fourth quarter, he caught 2 passes for 46 yards with none bigger than his 29-yard grab on the game-tying field-goal drive at the end of regulation.
Wilson has scored 15-plus PPR points in three of his last four. As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, Wilson has hit target shares of 36 percent and 38 percent over his last two.
It's fair to say, from a fantasy perspective, that focusing on Hall and Wilson while avoiding other Jets to the degree possible is your best approach. ...
The special teams have been on point.
Punter Thomas Morstead placed a career-high three punts inside the 5-yard line against the Giants, becoming the only punter in franchise history to accomplish the feat and just the 15th NFL player to do so since 1970.
"He was the MVP of this game," linebacker C.J. Mosley said Monday.
Meanwhile, kicker Greg Zuerlein has made at least one field goal in 26 straight games, the NFL's longest active stretch. He also has three consecutive games with multiple field goals, also the longest streak in the league.
QBs: Tim Boyle, Trevor Siemian, Zach Wilson, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston framed it: "All Jalen Hurts did on an injured left knee was throw for 319 yards and four touchdowns and led the Philadelphia Eagles to another win. ..."
Gelston went on to point out that Hurts even failed to throw an interception for the first time in four games. To top off his list of accomplishments, Hurts rallied the Eagles back from a halftime deficit to beat the Washington Commanders 38-31 and make them the only 7-1 team in the NFL.
How much better could Hurts have played on two healthy legs?
Just how much his banged-up left knee is really bothering him, well, Hurts won't say. He's downplayed the severity of the injury -- though clearly it has made him reluctant to run -- and remained focused on staying in the lineup and keeping the Eagles tops in the NFL.
"I told you guys I really don't wanna speak on it anymore," Hurts said.
He'll let his numbers do the talking instead.
Hurts became the sixth player in NFL history to record 300-plus total yards and at least two total touchdowns in six straight games.
His ability to play through pain is certainly an admirable trait inside the locker room. His performance in the pocket might have been a surprise when he was drafted in 2020. But Hurts has long shown that he is more than just a running quarterback who can throw when needed. His passing is on point and it certainly helps him when his legs -- the ones that made him one of the most dynamic players in the NFL -- are too banged up to truly go on a breakout run.
Still, the concern over his health is real, and Hurts has the Eagles in a bit of a precarious position headed into the teeth of their schedule.
There are games ahead against Dallas, Kansas City and San Francisco. Should Hurts take one wrong hit, make one wrong twist of that knee, the Eagles would be in serious trouble without their franchise QB. Keeping Hurts healthy is clearly as important as winning even regular-season games over the final two months of the season.
"I don't think there's a point we will arrive as a team," Hurts said. "Obviously, there's one stop we'd like to make in the end, but it's just a journey."
The Eagles won't get there without Hurts.
Fantasy managers would argue the same could be said for receiver A.J. Brown.
Brown set an NFL record for most consecutive games with 125-plus receiving yards (6) in Sunday's win. Brown also became the first NFL player with 100-plus receiving yards in six consecutive games since new teammate Julio Jones did it with Atlanta in 2018.
Finishing with eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns, Brown broke a tie with Pat Studstill (1966) and Calvin Johnson (2012), the former Detroit Lions great.
"He's got some of the strongest hands I've played against in the league. One dude I knew that had strong hands was Calvin. He attacks the ball just like Calvin used to do," said Eagles cornerback Darius Slay, who also was a teammate of Johnson's in Detroit. "It's mind-blowing that I'm seeing someone else do the same thing. He's doing some crazy s--- right now."
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus wrote, "Brown channeled his inner Megatron" for his first touchdown against the Commanders with a one-handed snag in corner of the end zone and cornerback Benjamin St-Juste draped over him late in the second quarter.
Brown added another score in the third quarter, once again elevating to beat a pair of defenders to the ball. Brown had 0.7 and 0.6 yards of separation on his two TDs, the least on any Eagles receiving touchdown this season, according to Next Gen Stats.
"I'm proud of him as a friend and as a quarterback," said Hurts, who and went 15-of-15 with three scores when targeting Brown and DeVonta Smith. "I'm proud that he's truly invested into winning and putting team first and doing whatever he needs to do in his role to win."
Brown has 60 catches for 939 yards through eight games. He is on pace for a staggering 128 catches and 1,995 yards.
"I want that jersey before the NFL can get its hands on it," head coach Nick Sirianni said. "A.J. has done it better over a six-game stretch than anybody ever to play this game. That's pretty special."
Brown has 12 receiving touchdowns on throws of 15-plus yards downfield since the start of last season, the most in the NFL in that span. He has been among the most dominant players in the game over the first half of the campaign. His outing on Sunday helped the Eagles overcome a slow start and multiple red zone turnovers to top the Commanders and improve to 7-1.
Still, Brown said his performance to this point doesn't resonate, "Because I'm still working."
"I think there will be a time when I sit down and I'll [reflect] and I'll be like, 'Go A.J.!'" he said. "But that's not it right now. We've got a big matchup, we've got Dallas [next week] ... we've got to clean up some stuff and go to work."
Worth noting. ... Smith had seven catches for 99 yards. Smith had a clutch 17-yard grab on fourth down in the third quarter. Well, at least on the stat sheet. Commanders coach Ron Rivera did not challenge Smith's catch, which replays showed should have been incomplete. ...
One issue? The rushing attack has declined in recent weeks.
D'Andre Swift did grind out a touchdown against Washington but was otherwise held to 57 yards rushing.
Swift rushed for a combined 305 yards in consecutive games against Minnesota and Tampa Bay but has just 263 yards over the last five games. The Eagles have failed to rush for 100 yards in three straight games, their longest drought since 2016.
Hurts fumbled at the Washington 1-yard line, one of two Philadelphia turnovers inside the 5. Running back Kenneth Gainwell lost a fumble at the 4 in the first half.
They are the second team since 2000 with multiple lost fumbles inside their opponent's 3-yard line in a game, along with the 2022 Broncos (season opener against the Seahawks). Philadelphia has been shaky inside its own 20 through eight weeks -- an area that needs to get cleaned up for the second half of the season. ...
The Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys Sunday in what sets up to be one of this weekend's top games. ...
Finally. ... Gainwell's rough day got worse when he was caught responding in a direct message to someone on social media who blasted the running back for his fumble.
Sirianni said Monday he talked to Gainwell about his mistake and said it would not happen again.
"These guys have some time away from us when we get into the locker room," Sirianni said. "They sit down at their locker, they do whatever is going to take their mind and just calm it. No, he shouldn't respond to that guy or girl at all. Yes, of course we talked to him about that, to be locked in, be focused and not worry about outside noise."
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
A short week will make the going a bit tougher for the banged-up Pittsburgh Steelers.
Quarterback Kenny Pickett (ribs) will be a game-time decision for the Steelers prior to their Thursday night contest against the Tennessee Titans, head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters on Monday.
"The door is definitively ajar for Kenny," Tomlin said, adding Pickett will receive a chance to prove he's ready in Wednesday's practice. "Probably a game-time decision based on the information I'm holding."
Mitchell Trubisky will start in place of Pickett if the second-year passer cannot play, Tomlin said on Monday, but Pickett seemed to put the kibosh on all that before Wednesday.
The second-year QB told reporters in his Tuesday press conference that he'll be on the field against the Titans.
"I'm playing for sure," Pickett said, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
Pickett noted that he did some light throwing during Tuesday's practice and was officially listed as limited. While the Steelers didn't get on the field on Monday, Pickett was also listed as a limited participant on the estimate.
The quarterback noted that his ribs get irritated the most when he's trying to create torque to throw.
"Obviously, your ribs are a huge part of that," Pickett said, via Mike DeFabo of The Athletic. "So, just being smart these two days and being ready to go Thursday night."
Pickett has completed 61 percent of his passes this season for 1,330 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions.
Week 7 was a costly one for the Steelers, who also lost safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to a hamstring injury suffered on a slick surface on a rainy day at Acrisure Stadium. Fitzpatrick will not play Thursday, Tomlin said, and the coach didn't have additional information to offer at the time.
Pittsburgh could welcome the return of veteran defensive tackle Cameron Heyward this week. Tomlin told reporters the longtime defensive standout is in consideration to play on the short week.
Heyward has been on injured reserve since Week 1 due to a groin injury suffered in the Steelers' season-opener, but was a full participant in Pittsburgh's Friday practice ahead of their game against Jacksonville.
Heyward (groin) and running back Anthony McFarland (knee) were both upgraded from limited to full on the Tuesday report. Safety Damontae Kazee (hand) was also upgraded from limited to full. While defensive back Levi Wallace (foot) remained limited.
The Steelers are aiming to rebound from a disappointing loss to the Jaguars on Sunday in a game in which Pittsburgh mustered just 10 points.
They'll face a Titans team that is still soaring after earning a win over Atlanta. Pittsburgh will be tasked with brining Titans rookie QB Will Levis back down to earth after Levis threw four touchdown passes in his first start. ...
Meanwhile, the Steelers have issues.
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves wrote, "There is an almost metronome-like quality to the start of Steelers games. The offense jogs onto the field, runs three plays, and then punter Pressley Harvin III punts."
Five of Pittsburgh's seven games have begun with the offense going three-and-out. The Steelers have yet to generate any points on their opening drives this season. ... Or even take a snap in opposing territory.
While offensive coordinator Matt Canada has become the focus of derision -- some of it oddly personal -- from the fan base, Tomlin has made it a point to put the onus on the players. And considering there were plays they left on the field on the opening series against Jacksonville, he's not wrong. ...
Whatever the case, the fantasy outcomes haven't been great.
The Jaguars have one of the league's best run defenses, and the Steelers' run game all but disappeared when they needed it most.
Najee Harris had seven carries for 13 yards, while Jaylen Warren had five carries for 13 yards.
Harris caught five passes for 42 yards. Harris had three games with more than 42 yards over the first six weeks of his rookie season but hasn't topped 42 yards since then.
Harris found the end zone just once in seven games this season, and if not for five catches Sunday, it would have been a complete disaster. Warren has been much more effective. ...
The tight ends have virtually disappeared with starter Pat Freiermuth on injured reserve after aggravating a hamstring injury. Connor Heyward caught two passes while rookie Darnell Washington saw the field for 10 snaps or two fewer than recently promoted practice squad player Rodney Williams. ...
Diontae Johnson ended up with a 35 percent target share Sunday (was 26 percent last week). As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, that resulted in George Pickens hitting a season low 12.5 percent target share.
Johnson left for the medical tend in the second half but was able to return to the game not long after. Following the game, an obviously frustrated Johnson sounded off about the officiating crew that he believes cost the Steelers the game.
"Refs were just killing us the whole game," Johnson said. "The same refs we had at training camp. I didn't like the refs today. At the end of the day, we can't keep complaining about the refs. Like Coach [Tomlin] says, we can't worry about the refs, whatever. But everybody's different.
"I didn't like the refs today. They must've got paid good today or something, but they blew -- that field goal, that hurt us coming into the half. We needed that."
Johnson expressed frustration with the inconsistency of roughing the passer calls, including a non-call when Pickett was knocked to the ground with 17 seconds remaining in the first half.
"They was calling some stupid stuff," Johnson said. "They should get fined for calling bad, making worse, terrible calls and stuff like that. That's how pissed I am. They cost us the game. I don't care what nobody say. They cost us the game."
Johnson continued: "[The officials] wanted [the Jaguars] to win, bro. They was calling, everything was in their favor. They was getting every little call, but it is what it is. But we can't, like I said, I'm moving on from it. I'm ready for Thursday."
Trubisky, who completed 15 of 27 attempts for 138 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in place of Pickett, downplayed the impact of the officiating.
"I'm not really too concerned with the officiating," Trubisky said. "For me it's like us just executing, guys being on the same page, and no matter if the call was for us or against us, we got to be on the same page of what the down and distance is, so we don't have confusion and [miscommunication] on our part.
"I think that's something we can get better at, just communicating where we're at on the field, down and distance and getting the right guys in the huddle so we could operate faster."
QBs: Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner reminded readers, it was around this time last year that the San Francisco 49ers found themselves in a difficult spot heading into their bye week.
The Kansas City Chiefs had just beaten them soundly at Levi's Stadium to drop to 3-4 on the season. But the biggest solution to that team's problems was already in the building.
The Niners acquired running back Christian McCaffrey in a blockbuster trade a couple days earlier with the idea that he could spark a second-half run. He did, and the Niners ripped off 10 straight wins to close the season on the way to an NFC Championship Game appearance.
Little more than a year later, the Niners head into their bye and Tuesday's NFL trade deadline with a much better record but just as much urgency to right the ship after Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. After a 5-0 start, the loss to the Bengals was San Francisco's third in a row, dropping them to 5-3 and out of first place in the NFC West division.
Though the Niners are likely to be active in the search for outside help -- and they landed Washington DE Chase Young for a third-round pick, coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear Sunday afternoon that another McCaffrey isn't walking through that door.
Which means improvement must largely come from within, a process that will begin with plenty of self-reflection over the bye week before the Niners play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 12.
"No, none of this changes anything with the trade deadline," Shanahan said. "How we played today or how we played these last three weeks. ... I do believe we have the answers in our building. I believe we have good players. I believe we have good coaches. It's up to me to get them to do better.
"I thought we started out pretty good, but there's some things that we haven't been able to hide here these last few weeks and that's why we've got to continue to push them in every aspect because some people do go on these losing streaks and they don't have those answers and you're just living in hope."
Sunday's loss was the Niners' first three-game losing streak since the 2021 season and comes on the heels of a stretch in which they had won 15 straight regular-season games (tied for a franchise record) and beat their first five opponents this season by an average of 19.8 points per game.
Even during their early season domination, Shanahan had alluded multiple times to the mistakes his team was making but able to get away with because it had jumped out to big leads.
Penalties and red zone woes had been problematic but the Niners offset many of those by making big plays on offense (21 plays of 20-plus yards was sixth most in the NFL) and giving up few on defense (10 20-plus yard plays allowed were fewest in the NFL). They'd also been dominant in the turnover battle, going plus-7 with a league-low two giveaways.
The past three weeks have offered a dramatic shift in the opposite direction for most of those categories.
The Niners have been outscored by an average of 7 points per game, outgained by an average of 62 yards per game and have given up 15 plays of 20-plus yards (the second most in the NFL in that span). What's more, the Niners have turned the ball over seven times (tied for fourth most) and are minus-3 in turnover margin (also tied for fourth worst) in that span.
After not throwing an interception the first five weeks, quarterback Brock Purdy has thrown five in the past three games, including four in opposing territory, one of which came inside Cincinnati's 10 on Sunday. The compounding mistakes have also limited the Niners' ability to run the ball often or effectively.
"All I know is that it's hard to win football games when you lose the turnover battle which we've done two weeks in a row," tight end George Kittle said. "And we obviously just have to play better and we have to put ourselves in situations where we can run the football more and we don't have to throw the ball so many times."
While many of those issues have been alarming, the defensive problems have been the most surprising. The Niners have regularly fielded one of the league's best defenses in recent years and even with the change to new coordinator Steve Wilks from DeMeco Ryans (who became the Houston Texans head coach), the Niners figured to be tough to score on again this season.
That was the case the first five weeks but hasn't been of late. As the schedule and quarterbacks they face have gotten tougher, the Niners have given up almost 70 passing yards more per game through the air and opposing quarterbacks have a QBR nearly 16 points higher over the past three weeks.
Those issues combined with a pass rush that has struggled to get home and a controversial blitz call before halftime of last week's loss to the Minnesota Vikings have put Wilks under the microscope. But Shanahan said Sunday that there's plenty of blame to go around.
The addition of Young should help.
Young, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2020 draft, has recorded 5.0 sacks, six tackles for loss, and nine quarterback hits in seven games for the Commanders this year. He played only 12 games in the past two seasons due to a knee injury, but has been healthy in 2023.
Young and 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa played together from 2017-2018 at Ohio State. Young recorded 3.5 sacks as a freshman alongside Bosa's 8.5 sacks in 2017. Bosa played only three games the next season but had 4.0 sacks while Young had 10.5.
Each player was selected at No. 2 overall -- Bosa in 2019 and Young in 2020. Now they'll play together with the 49ers.
But Shanahan knows the offense needs to pull its weight as well.
"This isn't on any one coach or any one side of the ball," Shanahan said. "We haven't scored over 20 points here in three weeks, too. So, I think our defense needs to do better. I think our offense needs to do better. I think our team needs to do better. When I say our team, I mean every single player in there and I think every single coach."
Now, the 49ers head into a long layoff that should allow left tackle Trent Williams' sprained right ankle and Deebo Samuel's injured shoulder to heal. That should help but it's going to take much more to make a run as the Niners enter a stretch in which they'll play Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Philadelphia and Seattle again in the five weeks coming out of the bye.
"We've got to sit here and wait about 14 days to deal with this feeling that we have, which nobody wants, but I think we need to," Shanahan said. "I think our guys need to be pissed off a little bit. I think we need to come back with a little better focus because it hasn't been enough and we haven't been getting it done."
A few final notes. ... While Purdy's six turnovers the past three games have been problematic, his scrambling ability has been a bright spot. He gained 57 yards on six scrambles on Sunday, including a 16-yard conversion on third-and-8 that prolonged a touchdown drive.
Purdy has scrambled eight times the past two weeks after doing it only once in the first six games, leading to three first downs on those plays.
With Williams out the past two games with a sprained ankle, San Francisco has struggled on designed rushing plays. McCaffrey had 54 yards on 12 carries, while Elijah Mitchell and Kyle Juszczyk combined for 2 yards on five carries.
The Niners are averaging 3.0 yards per carry and 51 yards rushing per game from their non-quarterbacks the past two games after averaging 4.85 yards per carry and 144 yards rushing per game the first six weeks.
On a more positive note. ... McCaffrey made a little bit of history against the Bengals, scoring a touchdown in his 17th consecutive game. That ties him with Lenny Moore, the Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame running back/receiver, for the longest streak in NFL history. Moore's streak stretched over the 1963 and 1964 seasons.
The record-tying touchdown came with 3:19 left in the first quarter, when McCaffrey scored from 2 yards out. It was McCaffrey's 12th touchdown from scrimmage this season, tying him with Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert for most in the NFL.
LaDainian Tomlinson's regular-season record is also within reach. Tomlinson scored touchdowns in 18 consecutive regular-season games spread over the 2004 and 2005 seasons but did not score in a playoff game after the 2004 season. McCaffrey's regular-season streak is now at 14 consecutive games.
On Thursday, McCaffrey was asked about the streak but appeared to be a bit superstitious about it, declining to expand on his answers so as not to jinx anything.
"We just got to keep it going," McCaffrey said. "I try not to talk about it. Yeah, just not talk about it. Keep it rolling."
But Niners coach Kyle Shanahan offered his thoughts on it.
"It's real good coaching," Shanahan said, laughing. "He's unbelievable at it. I think he's done it since I heard about it growing up in Denver, to college, to whatever team he's on. He knows how to get the end zone."
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
Jamal Adams used his head to give Geno Smith the chance at some late heroics that helped vault the Seahawks into first place in the NFC West.
Adams forced an interception that deflected off his helmet with 1:57 remaining. Five plays later, Smith threw a quick screen to Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a 9-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left, lifting the Seahawks to a 24-20 win over the Browns on Sunday.
Seattle (5-2) blew an early 14-point lead, but made enough plays in the fourth quarter for its fifth win in six games. The Seahawks moved a half-game ahead of division rival San Francisco, although that matters little in Week 8.
"We're in pretty good shape. That's good. And we're still growing," head coach Pete Carroll said.
After struggling for long stretches against the best defense in the NFL, Smith was sensational on Seattle's final drive. He connected on 4 of 5 passes, the last of which was a quick screen to Smith-Njigba. The rookie first-round pick used a terrific block from DK Metcalf on the perimeter to sneak down the sideline and score the second touchdown of his career.
"You just got to be ready when you're out there when your number is called," Smith-Njigba said. "I had the opportunity to make a play. Geno made the right read and DK made a great block. It was just great execution."
Smith finished 23 of 37 for 254 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Smith's first pick came at the end of the first half with Seattle in position to get points, and he also took a sack from Myles Garrett midway through the fourth quarter that knocked Seattle out of field goal range while trailing 20-17.
Wide receiver Jake Bobo rushed for a 3-yard touchdown and Smith threw a 12-yard touchdown to Tyler Lockett as Seattle took a 14-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game. Then the Seahawks' offense came to a stop for most of the final three quarters.
"Our team is such a scrappy team. We find ways to win no matter what," Smith said. "I feel like if I can play up to my capabilities, play up to my standard, who knows where we can be. Because we're one of the best teams in football if we play right."
Running backs Kenneth Walker III and Zach Charbonnet combined to averaged 8.4 yards per carry, but ended up an afterthought in the offensive game plan. The pair had 13 total carries and only five in the second half. Giving Walker and Charbonnet more carries would have helped.
It's worth noting, however; Walker didn't practice earlier in the week because of a calf injury, so he played less than usual in Week 8.
Walker ran eight times for 66 yards, adding a 4-yard catch. Charbonnet ran five times for 53 yards and caught two passes for 11 yards.
Charbonnet out-snapped Walker 31 to 24.
As PFF.com's Nathan Jahnke notes, Charbonnet received a slight increase in playing time on early downs and short-yardage situations, likely because of Walker's injury.
The big difference in snaps occurred on third downs and in two-minute drills. Charbonnet and DeeJay Dallas had been sharing that role. This week, Charbonnet completely took over.
Dallas was not on the injury report this week. He played on special teams and didn't play a snap on offense, so Charbonnet's increased role in passing situations should be here to stay. ...
According to Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, Metcalf hit a season high 38.9 percent target share. His previous high came Week 6 against the Bengals, where his target share was 27.0 percent. ...
This weekend, the Seahawks make their fourth trip to the Eastern Time Zone, traveling to Baltimore on Sunday in a matchup of division leaders. Seattle's had issues with running quarterbacks previously, but Lamar Jackson has proven to be far more than just a runner. Seattle most recently played the Ravens in 2019. ...
Worth noting. ... Carroll cares about stats that accentuate two areas -- ones that highlight that his defense is playing well and ones that show his team is excelling as the game progresses, especially in the fourth quarter.
Combine those two aspects, and you get a very happy Seattle Seahawks coach.
In the past four games, Seattle's defense has allowed a total of nine second-half points and zero touchdowns.
Seattle hasn't been shutting down elite quarterbacks and offenses during this stretch. The one performance that does stand out is the Week 6 loss to Cincinnati when the Seahawks held Joe Burrow and the Bengals to three points in the final 42 minutes of game time.
And Seattle's defense appears it'll only be getting better after the acquisition of New York Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams on Monday for a pair of draft picks -- the latest move in a remodel of the defensive front.
Williams has 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks in eight games this season. He joins Frank Clark as new additions to the front seven for the Seahawks, who moved into first place in the NFC West with Sunday's win over the Browns. ...
Carroll said there were no major injuries coming out of the victory. The Seahawks appear to be getting healthier, although there still remains the lingering question of right tackle Abraham Lucas and when he may be able to return after having treatment on his knee following Week 1 and landing on injured reserve.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it: "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' hot start to the season faded as fast as a deck board in the blazing sun. ..."
Tampa sat atop the NFC South at 3-1 to open the campaign heading into the Week 5 bye. Three losses later, the division lead evaporated and then some.
Last Thursday night's 24-18 loss to the Bills included more of the same struggles perpetuating the spiral. The offense can't consistently move the ball. The defense gets destroyed on third downs. And the self-inflicted wounds destroy any chance to stack positive plays.
"Losing three in a row sucks," quarterback Baker Mayfield said, via the Tampa Bay Times. "There's no way around that. ... But we showed fight tonight. That's the one thing we can hang our hats on. We gave it everything we had late there, but we've got to play better early on. You can't hurt yourselves."
The Bucs got down by double-digits twice before attempting rallies. Tampa trailed, 10-0, early in the second quarter before a field-goal drive and then a tipped interception turned into a short touchdown for the offense to tie the game at the half. The Bills responded with a touchdown late in the second quarter and early in the third to take a 14-point lead they'd hold for much of the second half.
"We shot ourselves in the foot early on with some penalties at some misopportune times," Mayfield said, via the team's website. "That continues to be a problem so we need to get that fixed. But the good thing about tonight was the fight, the resilience to be able to come back and the determination that we're never out of the fight. We can work with that. We can get these things fixed and move forward."
The Bucs got back into the contest with an excruciatingly long 17-play, 92-yard touchdown drive -- aided by two Bills penalties on fourth downs -- that took 7:21 off the clock. Given that they were down two scores, taking up half the quarter wasn't ideal, but the TD gave the Bucs a shot.
Mayfield heaved a gorgeous Hail Mary shot to close the game, but Chris Godwin turned his head late, watching the ball hit the turf for yet another loss.
The Buccaneers insist they are not as bad as they have played at times this season.
"My faith in these guys has never wavered. ... I believe in them wholeheartedly," head coach Todd Bowles said.
"We believe in ourselves as a team," Bowles added. "And we know we'll push forward and get better."
That is becoming an all-too-familiar refrain from a sputtering offense, as well as a defense that ranks among the NFL's stingiest in some key categories but also has a knack for breaking down in crucial situations.
The Bucs' three wins have come against the 3-4 Vikings, 2-5 Bears and 3-4 Saints. The losses came to the 6-1 Eagles, 5-2 Lions, 4-3 Falcons and 5-3 Bills. With the schedule, in theory, easing up a bit over the next five weeks -- they play in Houston on Sunday followed by games against Tennessee, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Carolina, the Bucs could turn the ship back around.
"It won't snowball," Bowles said of the losing streak. "We have a lot of leaders in that locker room, a lot of leaders on our coaching staff. We have faith. We understand how tough we play. We just have to play smarter."
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall notes, Thursday's penalties (11) and lack of third-down efficiency (4-of-15 on offense, allowed 7-of-13 on defense) were problems that have persisted during the losing streak.
"My faith in these guys has never wavered," Bowles said. "I'll take them anywhere. I'll take them down an alley. I'll fight with them any kind of way. I believe in them wholeheartedly. We believe in ourselves as a team. And we know we'll push forward and get better."
Eight of the penalties came on offense, including four for false starts.
"Ones that just drive you absolutely nuts are the pre-snap penalties. The ones that you can completely control," Mayfield said.
"Pre-snap stuff is inexcusable. We have to get that fixed," the quarterback added. "Guys have to be locked in."
Despite the absence of a viable ground attack, Bowles insists the Bucs are encouraged by the progress of second-year running back Rachaad White, who had a team-leading seven receptions for 70 yards while rushing for 39 yards on nine attempts against Buffalo.
That matched White's career best of 109 yards from scrimmage.
It was the second-straight week White played a crucial role in the passing game.
Still, the realization has set in, as Mayfield put it this week that they "aren't a run-first team," and they won't beat many quality opponents if they continue to drop back and pass 40-plus times every game. Tampa Bay needs offensive balance and must pick up some of the slack from a defense that has surrendered 400-plus yards of offense in back-to-back weeks.
Also, even though they've played one fewer game than some other statistical leaders, the Bucs are third in the NFL with 13 takeaways. Jacksonville (16) and Buffalo (14) are the only teams with more.
Finally. ... The Buccaneers signed QB John Wolford to the team's active roster.
As Rotoworld notes, the Rams reportedly planned on signing Wolford, who played in Sean McVay's offense in recent seasons. He'll remain in Tampa, however, with the Bucs signing him off the practice squad.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
As ESPN.com's Turron Davenport notes, the Titans got a glimpse of their future Sunday, with rookie quarterback Will Levis leading the team to victory in his first career start.
"He was ballin', huh," running back Derrick Henry said. "He was playing out of his mind. It was exciting how it came together with him handling the offense and us being able to finish drives and makes some plays."
Levis completed 19 of his 29 pass attempts for 238 yards and four touchdowns -- three to DeAndre Hopkins -- to lead the Titans to a much-needed 28-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The rookie quarterback joined Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (1961 vs. the Chicago Bears) and former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (2015 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) as the third NFL player with four passing touchdowns in his first career game.
Levis also showed off his powerful arm by throwing three of the 10 longest TD passes in the league as measured by distance through the air this season. According to Next Gen Stats, those three traveled more than 50 yards and were the most in a game since 2016.
Levis had time to throw behind a line that had allowed 23 sacks.
Levis started in place of Ryan Tannehill, who suffered a right high ankle sprain in the Titans' Week 6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in London.
Tannehill had been ruled out Friday.
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker reminded readers, the offense came in with three combined TD passes -- one by Henry -- and scored its most points since the 2021 season finale. Levis not only threw for 238 yards and did not turn the ball over, he posted a 130.5 passer rating and doubled the number of TD passes Tannehill had in his first six starts.
The first touchdown to Hopkins was a 47-yard strike in the first quarter, after which Hopkins said he gave Levis the ball and told him, "Let's go get some more."
The second came on a 16-yard pass that hit Hopkins in stride so he could make his way to the end zone. The final touchdown throw to Hopkins came after a pump fake from Levis moved Falcons safety Richie Grant out of position, and Levis effortlessly hit Hopkins for a 61-yard score.
"I was just trusting what I saw," Levis said of his throws to Hopkins. "We knew we'd get opportunities to go over the top on them. I just wanted to make the right decisions and he was doing a good job of getting open."
Levis finished his scoring barrage with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine with two Falcons pass-rushers barreling toward him. The ball was lofted perfectly, allowing Westbrook-Ikhine to run under it and bring the pass in.
Henry ran for 101 yards and also caught all four passes for 21 yards. That allowed the Titans to hold the ball for nearly 33 minutes.
"Not a bad debut," head coach Mike Vrabel said of Levis. "We hit some shots down the field. The opportunities to move the ball down the field were there and we hit 'em."
The rookie looked extremely comfortable in the pocket, even when it collapsed around him. The Titans even used a version of the Eagles' "Brotherly Shove" sneak play on which Levis gained two first downs.
The Titans moved up in this year's draft -- from No. 41 to No. 33 overall -- by sending a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 third-round selection to the Arizona Cardinals to select Levis with the second pick of the second round.
"This is a dream come true for sure," Levis said. "I dreamed of this moment as a kid and to get a win is incredible. But we have a few more minutes to celebrate it today, then we're on to Pittsburgh as [Coach] Vrabel would say."
After turning in an NFL debut for the ages, Levis is expected to start Thursday night when the Titans visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In fact, despite his record-setting debut, Levis already had his eyes set on a big game against the Steelers.
"We got the win, that's all that matters," Levis said Sunday. "Got to get ready for this short week against Pittsburgh."
The Titans will be trying to end an 0-3 start away from home Thursday night to kick off a three-game road swing. A win in Pittsburgh (4-3) would get the Titans back to .500 before trips to Tampa Bay and a big AFC South game Nov. 19 in Jacksonville.
Then Tennessee concludes the season by hosting five of seven at home.
Worth noting. ... Vrabel considered playing both Willis and Levis, but the first snap to Willis was a little high and went through his hands and was recovered by the Falcons. Levis received the lion's share of the snaps after that. Fans booed when Willis came back in for his second and last play. He picked up 4 yards on a run just before Levis' second TD pass, a 16-yarder to Hopkins. ...
For the record, Vrabel said Monday they need to see how Tannehill is with his high right ankle sprain. ...
Hopkins, with his four catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns, brought back memories of Texans era Hopkins.
It was only his second career three-touchdown day.
"They wrote me off. I feel like Geno Smith," Hopkins said, via NFL Media, as he left the field.
As Profootballtalk.com reminded readers, the Seahawks quarterback famously said after the 2022 season opener, "They wrote me off. I ain't write back, though."
Hopkins reminded everyone Sunday of the five times he was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro from 2015-2020. His touchdowns in rookie Will Levis' debut covered 47, 16 and 61 yards.
"I always want the quarterback to trust me, even if the DBs are on me and I look like I'm covered," Hopkins said, via Jim Wyatt of the team website, "and that's what he did. That's what we talked about. We knew we were going to go out there and make those plays. He felt confident in me and trusted me. Obviously, I want to be there for my quarterbacks, especially a first-time starter -- that helps build his confidence. It's not only me but (Westbrook -Ikhine) as well. And the offensive line, you've got to thank them as well for blocking for us."
It was Hopkins' first career game with at least 100 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions and his 13th career game with at least two touchdown receptions. His only other career game with three touchdown catches was as a member of the Texans against the Chiefs on Oct. 8, 2017.
Only Davante Adams (90), Mike Evans (86) and Antonio Brown (76) have more touchdowns than Hopkins' 74 since Hopkins entered the NFL in 2013.
Hopkins last week was frequently mentioned as a possible trade candidate, but after his performance, Levis' performance and the Titans' win, no moves came.
Through seven games, Hopkins has 31 catches for 504 yards and three touchdowns. It has him on pace for his best season since his last Pro Bowl season in 2020 with the Cardinals.
"I really don't care too much of what goes on outside of things that I can't control," Hopkins said. "I trust God. I've trusted God my whole life and for me to be the NFL playing football, I'm thankful. I really don't care about what goes on. I'm grateful to be here. I'm just thankful that I'm playing football today. ..."
On the injury front beyond Tannehill, RT Chris Hubbard likely will miss Thursday's game after missing the second half with a concussion. Vrabel said a spotter noticed Hubbard rubbing his neck. Clearing the protocol will be tough before kickoff Thursday night.
The Titans played without cornerback Roger McCreary, who hurt a hamstring last Wednesday and didn't practice again. The quick turnaround also might keep him out a second straight game.
Vrabel said they have a chance of getting tight end Josh Whyle out of the concussion protocol that kept him out of Sunday's win.
Henry (ankle) practiced on a limited basis Tuesday, and he's gearing up to face the Steelers.
"I feel good," Henry said. "It's about recovering, getting the body right. It's a short week, so we're trying to get everything in this week, and play."
Hopkins was also limited by a sore toe.
We'll have more on all these issues via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game.
QBs: Will Levis, Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 30 October 2023
When much of the chatter after the Washington Commanders' latest loss was about whether Chase Young or Montez Sweat -- or both -- had played his final game for the team, the pass rushers were eager to deflect the trade talk to football.
"My job is to play football, and that's what I'm going to continue to do," Young said.
Problem is, for the players who stay, it hasn't been good football for a while. The Commanders have lost five of their last six games, and their 38-31 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles that dropped them to 3-5 this season exposed flaws in the team's makeup, particularly on defense.
"There's enough potential in that locker room to be a better football team," head coach Ron Rivera said.
That potential has not translated to results, which is why Washington was selling before the trade deadline expired on Tuesday.
The Commanders traded defensive end Chase Young to the San Francisco 49ers for a third-round pick on Tuesday.
The move cut ties with their most productive pass-rusher this season and signaled a change in direction for the franchise, especially after agreeing to trade fellow defensive end Montez Sweat to the Chicago Bears for a 2024 second-round pick earlier in the day.
Young would have been a free agent after the season. Washington declined to pick up his fifth-year option in the offseason. It would have counted $17.452 million against the 2024 salary cap but also would have been guaranteed money.
Because there were lingering concerns about Young's right knee -- he tore the ACL and ruptured his patellar tendon in 2021 -- Washington was hesitant to make a commitment. Rivera also said in the offseason that he hoped it would serve as motivation for Young to have a stronger season.
Young has five sacks in seven games after he missed the opener with a neck injury. Overall, in 34 games over his four seasons with Washington, Young had 14 sacks, 90 tackles and 6 forced fumbles (3 recoveries).
For Washington, trading Young and Sweat means the Commanders can turn their attention to quarterback Sam Howell, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
That allows them to invest more at other spots.
After allowing a league-high 40 sacks through the first seven games of the season, the Commanders did a much better job keeping Howell upright against the Eagles. Philadelphia's first sack came with just over two minutes left, on fourth down.
"I thought the protection was outstanding," Rivera said Monday. "We had a couple little glitches, and unfortunately, we did give up one sack. That was a tough one, too, just because of the situation."
Two big personnel changes played a role. Chris Paul replaced injured left guard Saahdiq Charles, and veteran Tyler Larsen took over for Nick Gates at center. Washington added Gates and right tackle Andrew Wylie in free agency to remake the offensive line, but that has, until now, not worked out.
Howell threw for a career-high 397 yards and had four TD passes against Philadelphia. He completed 24 passes in the first half, the most of any QB in franchise history.
"Howell has played two really good games against us," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. "(Eric) Bieniemy has done a good job as offensive coordinator in these games."
Maybe it's as simple as giving Howell time to make throws.
But the 2022 fifth-round draft pick also got the ball out of his hand quicker, which helped avoid the sacks and hits that piled up in previous games.
Next up for the Commanders is a matchup at the New England Patriots, who opened as 3-point favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook coming off their 31-17 loss to Miami that dropped them to 2-6. ...
Worth noting. ... There were 53 drop-backs by Howell compared to 16 rushing attempts, a similar ratio to the loss at the New York Giants, which Rivera defended in the name of development.
Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes that Howell has ranked as a QB1 in weekly scoring (top-12) in 5 of 8 games this season. He's been a top-7 quarterback in three of his last four.
Zachariason also points out that Jahan Dotson scored 24 PPR points, essentially doubling his previous season high. His target share was still under 20 percent, though (19.6 percent). ...
There obviously wasn't much work for Brian Robinson Jr., who rushed 10 times for 59 yards and secured both targets for 20 yards on Sunday.
Robinson was highly effective as a runner and also recorded multiple catches for the fourth time in the last five contests. However, the second-year back's opportunities were limited as the game went on, capping Robinson's overall output.
Antonio Gibson played over 50 percent of Washington's offensive snaps for the third time this season, but it was his fifth time this season with two or fewer carries. Chris Rodriguez Jr. ran the ball seven times for Washington last week but didn't play an offensive snap this week.
On the injury front. ... Receiver Curtis Samuel will have further testing and treatment on his injured toe, Rivera said. Rookie offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg is set for an MRI on his injured right knee.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates