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Team Notes week 8 2022
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
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Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Kliff Kingsbury went out of his way last week to say over and over that wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins wouldn't single-handedly fix the Arizona Cardinals' fledgling offense.
"We can't just expect him to be the savior," the head coach said before Hopkins' return.
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, "It turns out, Kingsbury was wrong."
Hopkins rescued the Cardinals' offense last Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints, giving it a much-needed spark in a 42-34 win. Arizona's offense looked different, ran differently and produced differently with Hopkins on the field for the first time this season.
"I mean, you saw it, right?" Kingsbury asked after the win. "It was a different-looking deal out there with him and the confidence that other guys around him play with. It's good to have him back. I think once he really gets in shape, gets back into running routes and is comfortable in the offense, he can really do some things."
Almost every aspect of the Cardinals' offense was better with Hopkins on the field Thursday, even if both Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray thought there was room to improve.
"Not to our standard obviously, but I thought we started well," Kingsbury said.
Said Murray: "I think there are a lot of things that we could have done better out there."
But the stats from Thursday painted a picture of Hopkins' impact.
First of all, their 42-point output is the most in Kingsbury's four-year tenure in the desert.
Murray's completion percentage with Hopkins on the field jumped to 69.2 compared to 64.9 percent without him, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
But, wait. There's more. With Hopkins on the field: Murray's yards per attempt increased 1.13 yards; his yards per completion jumped .93 yards; his yards per dropback increased .83 yards; his QBR increased to 64.3 (47.3 without Hopkins).
Arizona's yards per pass play went from 4.82 to 5.36 with Hopkins on the field and they averaged almost an extra half-yard on the ground.
"If you look at, like, when he's played and he hasn't, offensively it's pretty dramatic," Kingsbury said Friday. "Defenses have to play you differently. I mean, they just do. The run game opens up when they're rolling another guy to him."
Kingsbury pointed to three plays that showed Hopkins' value to the offense that aren't measured in a box score. Hopkins drew three penalties on Thursday night, one on third-and-10, one on second-and-10 -- both of which were sacks of Murray that were negated -- and another on a two-point conversion that allowed the Cardinals another shot at it, which they converted.
Kingsbury showed those plays to the Cardinals in a meeting on Friday morning, calling it "hidden yardage."
"Since he's been here, I can't tell you how many times … there's not a stat, I don't think, on that, but it's incredible how many times he's helped us in that department," Kingsbury said. "So, you have his 10 catches plus you have those three.
"Those are huge swings in the ballgame, especially with the struggles we've had on third downs."
Hopkins' impact wasn't just massive, it was also immediate.
He accounted for 48 percent of the Cardinals' targets, 50 percent of their receptions and 51 percent of their receiving yards on Thursday.
Hopkins didn't downplay it when asked whether his presence helped the Cardinals' offense finally open up. He knew it did.
"Yes, absolutely," Hopkins said. "I think reads are easier for Kyler. I'm not saying that they're not with other players out there, but he and I have been playing together for a couple years now, so, obviously, we know each other very well."
Not only was Hopkins a great receiver on Thursday, he's also a peacemaker. He broke up a verbal spat between Kingsbury and Murray late in the first half.
According to Associated Press sports writer David Brandt, Hopkins didn't divulge what was said, but said it was the mark of a winning team.
"Both of those guys want to win, and I love to see that," Hopkins said. "I love being a part of a team where two people are dedicated and so focused on winning and obviously you're going to butt heads.
"I'm not married, but from what I hear, that's a marriage," the receiver added with a grin.
"Elite receiver. Marriage counselor," Brandt wrote. "Hopkins can do it all. ..."
Now the Cardinals look like a much more dangerous team as the second half of the season approaches.
That said, the Cardinals still have not scored a touchdown in the first quarter this season and have been outscored 48-6.
Arizona has managed to recover for three wins, but its poor performance early in games remains a big problem.
They'll try to change that this Sunday in Minnesota, when they take on the Vikings. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Eno Benjamin was a seventh-round pick three years ago and has slowly developed into a valuable role player. He was forced into a starting role on Thursday because of injuries and responded with 12 carries for 92 yards rushing and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 21 yards.
Kingsbury said James Conner will be the starter when he returns from an injury to his ribs, but Benjamin has solidified his role as a versatile playmaker when needed. ...
Seven-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green didn't play a snap on Thursday, which begs the question if he'll have any sort of role in the offense going forward. The 34-year-old is a popular, low-key presence in the locker room, but his production has dipped substantially.
With the trade deadline closing in, Green could fit a specific role for another team, especially one that needs some veteran leadership in its receiver room. ...
As for the injuries. ... The Cardinals hope more than a week of recovery will allow some of the team's starters to return. Conner, LB Dennis Gardeck (ankle), K Matt Prater (hip), and C Rodney Hudson (knee) were all inactive against the Saints. Kingsbury hopes at least some could return this week.
Conner and Darrel Williams (knee) returned to practice Wednesday; I'll follow up on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
But don't count on Prater.
The Cardinals announced on Wednesday thatdefensive lineman Rashard Lawrence has been placed on injured reserve Wednesday and they signed kicker Rodrigo Blankenship off of their practice squad. Blankenship was elevated for last Thursday’s game in place of the injured Prater and Wednesday’s move suggests Prater will miss another game due to his hip injury.
Blankenship made both field goals he tried against the Saints and hit 2-of-3 extra points.
You can access complete stats for the Cardinals Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: David Blough, Trace McSorley, Colt McCoy, Kyler Murray
RBs: James Conner, Keaontay Ingram, Darrel Williams
WRs: Marquise Brown, Greg Dortch, DeAndre Hopkins, Rondale Moore, Antoine Wesley
TEs: Trey McBride, Maxx Williams, Stephen Anderson, Zach Ertz
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Marcus Mariota and the Falcons couldn't keep up with Joe Burrow and the Bengals, and Atlanta's 35-17 loss on Sunday erased the momentum it gained from last week's win over San Francisco.
The Falcons (3-4) are still tied with slumping Tampa Bay atop the unimpressive NFC South, but their chance to take control of the division ended early. They fell behind 21-0 by the second quarter and never got closer than 11 points.
"We've got to be able to get out on the road against a team like that and start better," head coach Arthur Smith said. "Thankful it only counts as one (loss). It's a long season. We need to get back to work."
While Burrow passed for a season-high 481 yards on 42 attempts, Mariota attempted a season-low 13 passes for 124 yards, 75 of which came on a TD pass to Damiere Byrd just before halftime.
Mariota had 14 pass attempts -- completing the first 13 -- in last week's 28-14 win over the 49ers, but the Falcons managed 168 rushing yards in that game against the NFL's top-ranked defense.
The plan on Sunday was similar against a Bengals defense that was missing injured nose tackle D.J. Reader and allowed 228 yards on the ground last week in a win over New Orleans.
The Falcons rushed for 107 yards on Sunday but weren't able to sustain drives.
"I felt the same (about the rushing attack) that I felt about our passing game: pretty average," Smith said. "We didn't do enough to sustain drives whether it was a run or a pass."
Production by Atlanta's receivers has been underwhelming. After being targeted eight times last week, they only had 12 targets on Sunday, including four to Olamide Zaccheaus, who finished with three catches for 31 yards. Byrd's 75-yarder was his only catch and target of the day.
"They did a good job defensively to get us off the field and then sustain drives," Mariota said. "They were throwing it around, but they were able to keep the ball and win time of possession."
With Cordarrelle Patterson on injured reserve, the Falcons have used a committee approach to the running game. Four players had carries on Sunday, including Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for 50 yards and a TD. Mariota ran for 31 yards on six carries.
As badly as the game started for the Falcons, they trailed by only 11 points at halftime after scoring 10 points in the final 39 seconds of the half.
But they were forced to punt on two straight possessions in the third quarter.
"You can't go three and out like that, especially when you have momentum like that before the half to get us back into the game," Mariota said. "We weren't good enough on offense to sustain anything after that point."
Smith said he did not consider replacing Mariota with rookie Desmond Ridder, a third-round pick from the University of Cincinnati.
"No, no. There was plenty of time left in the fourth quarter," Smith said. "If we would have gotten a stop late, we probably would have put him in there to hand the ball off. You could have gotten excited about that."
But it's fair to ask if Atlanta's offense can continue to run when it gets into a hole?
The Falcons' trailed by seven or more points on 100 percent of their offensive snaps against the Bengals.
They dropped back to pass on 45 percent of plays. According to FantasyLife.com's Dwain McFarland, the NFL average this season is 72 percent in that scenario.
Sticking with their run-based offense worked in comebacks-just-short against the Buccaneers and Rams, but against a more explosive offense in Cincinnati, and with the team's secondary decimated by injury, it didn't work.
This is going to be something to pay attention to going forward.
The good news?
Not many offenses are as explosive as the Bengals. And with a stretch that includes games against the Bears, Commanders, Steelers and two against the Panthers coming up, the Falcons have to hope this was a bad matchup instead of a sign of problems to come.
Meanwhile, though no fault of their own, Drake London and Kyle Pitts combined for 18 yards on four catches. That was on six combined targets.
As Associated Press sports writer George Henry suggested, the Falcons don't stand much chance of winning when their top two receivers aren't getting many chances.
Fantasy managers undoubtedly feel the same. ...
On the injury front. ... In Monday's press conference, Smith provided an update on three defensive players in preparation for a divisional matchup against the Panthers.
Cornerback A.J. Terrell, who was ruled out of Sunday's game against the Bengals after going down with a hamstring injury in the first quarter, is week-to-week. Prior to Terrell's hamstring injury, he dealt with a thigh injury in Week 6 against the 49ers which limited him in majority of last week's practices.
Safety Jaylinn Hawkins is in concussion protocol after suffering a head injury against the Bengals. Smith formally ruled him out of the upcoming game against the Panthers.
Cornerback Dee Alford, who did not participate in practice last week and was ruled out against the Cincinnati Bengals due to a hamstring injury is day-to-day.
When asked about bringing in players to help replace the number of injured secondary guys, Smith said he has faith in his players that are currently on the roster.
"We've tried to develop guys that have been in our program and it's our job to find solutions," Smith said. "Everybody is dealing with something around the league and we got to find solutions. We got a big divisional game coming up here Sunday."
With the Falcons currently at 52 players on the roster, there is an open spot for a player to be signed. Smith said that he will see how this week goes.
"We just have to evaluate with the IR guys. I don't have an update on it right now but there's IR, there's somebody you bump up, or you never know if there's somebody out there you may claim or whatever so we'll see how the week goes," Smith said.
With Hawkins out, Dean Marlowe will now slot in as starting safety.
You can access complete stats for the Falcons Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson, Caleb Huntley, Avery Williams
WRs: Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus, Damiere Byrd, KhaDarel Hodge, Jared Bernhardt
TEs: MyCole Pruitt, Parker Hesse, Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Pitts
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Gus Edwards scored two touchdowns in his long-awaited return, staking Baltimore to a double-digit lead in the second half.
Those haven't exactly been safe this season for the Ravens, but this time they managed to hold on.
Baltimore avoided another fourth-quarter collapse thanks to a couple huge Cleveland penalties that helped the Ravens hold off the Browns 23-20 on Sunday. Baltimore outrushed Nick Chubb and Cleveland 160-113 and remained in a tie with Cincinnati atop the AFC North.
"We kind of had the lead again. What's going to happen?" head coach John Harbaugh said. "Focus on what you've got to do within the play, not within the situation and the circumstances. Circumstances really doesn't matter. What matters is the play call and doing your job."
Baltimore (4-3) has blown a double-digit lead in the second half of each of its three losses this season.
This was the first game all season Baltimore didn't score first, and the first time the Ravens allowed any points on an opponent's first possession.
Neither team had a great deal of success passing.
Lamar Jackson completed nine of 16 passes for 120 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He also rushed 10 times for 59 yards.
Jackson was able to sit back and lean on Edwards and the rushing attack while the defense also pitched in five sacks, allowing Jackson to attempt his fewest passes of the season.
It was the star quarterback's third sub-200-yard tally through the air in the last four games, but the victory was naturally of overriding importance to a struggling Ravens team that had blown several games in the second half already this season.
Jackson and the Ravens now will take aim at the reeling Buccaneers defense in a Thursday night road showdown.
With the Buccaneers coming off a game in which Panthers running backs Chuba Hubbard and D'Onta Foreman combined for 181 yards on 24 carries, Edwards investors should be eager for this one.
As noted above, playing his first game in more than a year, Edwards made an instant impact and showed how much the Ravens have missed his powerful running style. He scored the aforementioned touchdowns and handled a majority of the workload, finishing with a team-high 66 yards on 16 carries.
It had been 645 days since his last NFL game. After months of rehab to get back on the field, Edwards finally got his reward on Sunday.
"It's a blessing, I just want to give God his glory," Edwards said. "It took a lot of patience through all the adversity I faced through the injury. I'm just blessed to be in this position a year later."
He was ready to roll from the start, getting the ball on Baltimore's first three plays and rumbling for 12 yards on his third carry.
Edwards was just getting started. On first-and-goal from the seven in the second quarter, Edwards rolled untouched into the end zone for a go-ahead touchdown just before halftime that gave Baltimore a 13-10 lead. At halftime, Edwards was the game's leading rusher with 49 yards on 10 carries.
In the third quarter, with the Ravens needing their hammer on the goal line, Edwards entered the game on fourth-and-1 and plunged forward for a second touchdown to give the Ravens a 20-10 lead.
Edwards showed no ill effects from the torn ACL suffered last year that cost him the entire 2021 season. It's been a long road back for Edwards, and his return comes at an opportune time for the Ravens, who placed running back J.K. Dobbins (knee) on injured reserve Saturday.
Edwards figures to get stronger as the season progresses, and his presence could be a major lift to the offense in the second half of the season. He wasn't sure he would get such a heavy workload in his first game back, but Edwards said he felt fine after the game.
"I felt good," Edwards said. "Big shoutout to the offensive line. Both of those touchdowns they were making it easy on my part. It's a lot of season left. I'm even fortunate to be playing right now with the type of injury I had. I've just got to get building off this."
Head coach John Harbaugh knows that Edwards gives the Ravens the kind of power runner that many teams don't possess. With Edwards healthy again, the Ravens let "The Bus" roll and it paid off.
"Gus is unique," Harbaugh said. "He's a downhill guy, he covers a lot of ground. Every back has a different style and Gus' style is very valuable to us."
Justice Hill had 20 snaps and Kenyan Drake had 17, with neither too far behind Edwards.
Hill saw the fewest carries (five) but averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He had a nearly extremely costly fumble in the fourth quarter. After running for 119 yards last week against the Giants, Drake had just five yards on 11 carries this week. ...
As for Dobbins. ... Harbaugh said the third-year man's latest arthroscopic knee procedure is related to the previous injury.
"As he was going, he had a range of motion issue with scar tissue," Harbaugh said in his press conference. "So, we're working him through. He's making progress. We measure all that stuff, and he's making, I'd say, measured progress, probably what you would expect. He's a little impatient, which is in a good way, and he wants to try to speed the process up. This particular surgery kind of got into the conversation about three weeks ago. I think it's the same one that [Giants running back] Saquon Barkley might have had -- I'm just speculating on that -- and get the full range back in four to five weeks, something like that, six weeks, something like that.
"So, he just wanted to do it. He wanted to do it; he didn't want to go the slow road. If it doesn't work 100 percent, then he's kind of on the slow road again. He's making progress. So, there's no new injury or anything like that; he just wanted to take a shot at speeding up the process."
Dobbins started the four games from Week 3 to Week 6. He had 123 yards on 35 carries with a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 39 yards with a TD. ...
With the passing attack limited, there wasn't much production for the receiving corps.
Mark Andrews (knee) managed to overcome his questionable designation, but he ultimately was held without a catch for only the second time in his career, with the only other instance having occurred in Week 14 of his 2018 rookie campaign.
The veteran tight end, who got one carry for four yards to avoid a shutout, was one of several Ravens pass catchers caught up in the domino effect of Jackson attempting just 16 passes, and he should have a good chance to bounce back from what will surely prove an outlier when he faces the struggling Buccaneers Thursday night.
Tight end Josh Oliver continues to see his role grow, as he played a season-high 31 snaps (38 percent). Oliver was targeted with one pass that he nearly hauled in for a touchdown.
In his first game back from the foot injury that sidelined him for two weeks, wide receiver Rashod Bateman saw his usual workload of 36 snaps (56 percent). He had four catches for 42 yards.
On the injury front. ... The Ravens added receiver Bateman to the practice report Tuesday with a foot injury. Bateman was not on the report Monday when the Ravens estimated their injuries after a walkthrough.
In five games this season, Bateman has 15 receptions for 285 yards and two touchdowns.
Bateman practiced fully on Wednesday and is expectedt to play despite a questionable designation. The same goew with Edwards, who practiced on a limited basis all week -- likely to manage his workload coming off his first game back.
Andrews did not practice all week but is still listed as questionable and should be available as well, but I'll be following up on all three right up through Thursday night's inactive announcement in the 90 minutes before kickoff. ...
You can access complete stats for the Ravens Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Tyler Huntley, Anthony Brown, Lamar Jackson
RBs: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Kenyan Drake, Justice Hill
WRs: Demarcus Robinson, James Proche, DeSean Jackson, Sammy Watkins, Tylan Wallace, Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay
TEs: Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, Nick Boyle, Charlie Kolar
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Quarterback Josh Allen has had an MVP-like start to the season. We still have 11 games left in the regular season so there's plenty of time left for Allen to impress us even more.
But since we're at the bye week, the team's official website though it was a great opportunity to look back on the many things that Allen has done so far this season to help give the Bills a 5-1 record through six games.
Allen leads the NFL right now with 19 total touchdowns and is tied for first with 17 passing touchdowns. Allen's 17 passing touchdowns through six games qualifies for a new franchise record. The previous record, 16, was set by Allen in 2020.
His three passing touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 6 makes it six times in the last 10 regular season games that Allen has thrown for at least three passing touchdowns in a game. He is also the only QB in NFL history to have at least 120 passing touchdowns (120) and 30 rushing touchdowns (33) in a quarterback's first five seasons.
Head coach Sean McDermott says it's been fun watching Allen grow into being one of the faces of the NFL.
"He's just grown leaps and bounds through his career to this point," McDermott shared. "It's been fun to watch, having a front row seat to watch his development and growth. He seems so comfortable in his own skin, off the field on the field."
With his 329 passing yards and three passing touchdowns against the Chiefs, Allen now has 12 career games with at least 300 passing yards and three passing touchdowns. This number ties former Bills QB and Hall of Famer Jim Kelly for the most in Bills history.
Week 6 marked Allen's 18th career game in which he's thrown for at least 300 yards. It was also his fourth game (Chiefs, Dolphins, Titans, Tennessee) this season with that stat.
Thanks to Buffalo's 24 to 20 victory over the Chiefs, Allen now 44 career wins as a starter in the regular season. That Week 6 win broke his tie with former Bills QB Jack Kemp (43) for 3rd most wins by a starting Bills quarterback in regular season play.
His .667 win percentage (44-22) in the regular season is the second best among Bills quarterbacks with at least 30 starts.
Allen is the first starting quarterback to beat Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes twice at Arrowhead Stadium.
In that Week 6 win, Allen completed 27 of 40 passing attempts for 329 passing yards and threw for three touchdowns. Allen's first win in Arrowhead came during the 2021 season when the Bills beat the Chiefs 38 to 20 in Week 5. In that game, Allen was 15 of 26 for 315 passing yards and threw for three touchdowns.
In "big" games, many players notice Allen's calmness in the heat of the moment. Linebacker Von Miller is new to the team this year but has already loved following his QB's lead.
"I think we're all following Josh Allen's lead," Miller said. "He's one of the best quarterbacks in the league, if not the best. And he comes into work and he just has this aura about him. And it's not an overly confident thing, you can just look in his eyes and you can tell he's at peace with his game."
In Week 6, Allen completed 13 consecutive passing attempts against the Chiefs between the second and third quarter. This sets a new career high for Allen. He has had 12-straight completions three different times.
His 13-straight completions ties the third longest streak in Bills history, which happened last in 2012 with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the quarterback.
Allen now has a 92.9 career passer rating, which is the best in Bills history. He had a 117.6 passer rating against the Chiefs in Week 6. It was the 21st game of his career (minimum 20 passing attempts) with a passer rating of at least 100.
Allen leads the NFL with 1,980 passing yards through six games. This number is the second-most passing yards through six games in Bills history (Drew Bledsoe 2,016 in 2002).
Allen's 16,094 career passing yards are the third-most in Bills history. The QB is one of three in NFL history with at least 16,000 passing yards and 2,500 rushing yards (2,582) in his first five seasons (Cam Newton, Russell Wilson are other two).
Allen has a 109.1 passer rating to start the 2022 season, which is the second highest in the NFL. His two highest passer ratings this season came in Week 2 against the Titans (128.9) and Week 5 against the Steelers (134.1). The Bills are 20-1 when Allen has a passer rating of at least 100.
Allen also has 96 passing first downs, which ties for the best in the NFL.
So far this season, Allen has 25 completions of at least 20 yards, which ties for the most in the NFL. The QB is also averaging 8.28 yards per pass attempt this year, which is second best in the league.
Two of Allen's receivers in Gabe Davis and Stefon Diggs have been averaging big numbers this year thanks to their QB.
Davis is averaging 27.4 yards per reception, which is a career high and leads the NFL. Diggs ranks second in the NFL averaging 109.3 receiving yards per game.
Diggs thinks Allen's play elevates his ability as a receiver.
"Josh has that energy that makes you want to play harder and get open and catch the ball," Diggs said. "It's the opposite of feeling like pressure because pressure is something you're not really ready for. Some people call it good pressure, but for me, I just feel like it puts me in the right mental state that he's counting on me, and I'm ready."
Even though it's not something quarterbacks usually attempt to do, Allen has multiple hurdles in his five-year NFL career. The QB had an epic hurdle over Chiefs safety Justin Reid in Week 6. Let's just say our QB has more hurdles than yours does. He also has 21 rushes that has gone for first downs this season, which is the fourth most for quarterbacks.
At this point, Allen's teammates aren't even surprised when he decides to leap over others to grab a first down.
"He's a special player," cornerback Taron Johnson said. "We all know that. It doesn't even surprise me."
Meanwhile, it's Ken Dorsey's first season as play caller for Buffalo. The early returns have been encouraging through the first six weeks.
Whether it's moving Diggs around to get the most favorable matchup or using a multitude of personnel groupings and players to keep opposing defenses off balance, Dorsey more often than not has made the right call.
Thus far, with an exception or two, his game plans have chosen efficiency in the passing game to keep the offense on schedule in terms of down and distance. This is revealed in Buffalo's league-leading third down conversion rate so far this season of almost 53 percent (52.8 percent).
The Bills also lead the league in total offense, total yards per play, passing yards. They're also second in first downs per game and points per game (29.3).
Dorsey is described by his players as an aggressive play caller and there have been examples of that through the first six games like his 3rd-and-10 call from the Bills own two-yard line against the Steelers in Week 5.
Of course, having Allen makes a lot of that possible.
But that coupled with a top-ranked defense invites an aggressive approach and Dorsey has demonstrated he has the chops to follow through in that fashion.
Meanwhile, McDermott said he'd be able to enjoy his bye week going into it with a victory, but acknowledged the team has a long way to go with 11 regular season games left to play. With that in mind some areas in need of improvement include red-zone touchdown efficiency where Buffalo ranks a pedestrian 18th in the league.
Their 22 red-zone possessions are second only to Kansas City, but they want to improve on their 54.5 percent success rate.
The Bills have also been somewhat careless with the football through the first six games. They are tied for the third-most giveaways in the league thus far with 10, which has done a lot to negate their league-leading 13 takeaways this season.
There are others smaller details that the coaching staff will unearth as well during the bye week as they put their self-scouting process into action. But all in all, the Bills have positioned themselves extraordinarily well for a big second half run to the postseason.
Worth noting. ... The Bills are 5-0 coming off the bye week under McDermott, and a big prime-time game awaits with the Green Bay Packers traveling to Orchard Park, New York, for Sunday Night Football on Oct. 30.
On the injury front. ... Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier suggested during a media session earlier this week that cornerback Tre'Davious White could make his first appearance of the 2022 season against the Packers in Week Eight.
White’s return from a torn ACL will have to wait at least one more week, however. McDermott said at his Wednesday press conference that the White will not be in the lineup on Sunday night.
One last note here. ... With the best record in the AFC, the Bills aren't in big-time trading mode -- this is one of the best rosters in the league. But if there were a candidate for the Bills to trade, ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg believes it would be Zack Moss, who was a healthy scratch in Week 6 against the Chiefs.
The 2020 third-round pick has the fewest yards and carries among the team's three backs and is a healthy scratch candidate as the season continues, since pass protection and special teams play are the priorities for the final active offensive roster spots on game day. A potential trade would likely include late draft picks.
QBs: Josh Allen, Kyle Allen
RBs: James Cook, Damien Harris, Nyheim Hines, Reggie Gilliam
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Trent Sherfield, Khalil Shakir, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Jamison Crowder, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Dawson Knox, Quintin Morris, Tommy Sweeney
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
A week after a feeble offensive performance, quarterback P.J. Walker helped guide Carolina to a stunning 21-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
With Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold close to returning from ankle injuries, interim coach Steve Wilks was asked if Walker could hold onto the gig.
"I feel like P.J. would be our starter this week," against the Atlanta Falcons, Wilks said.
Wilks said he's still unsure of where Mayfield and Darnold are in their rehabs from ankle injuries at this point in the week, but said regardless that Walker played well and deserves another start.
"I don't see no reason not to start him," Wilks said.
Walker completed 16 of 22 passes for 177 yards and two TDs.
After an embarrassingly conservative performance in Walker's start last week against the Rams, the Panthers were more willing to take chances. On the first play from scrimmage, Walker took a shot to Terrace Marshall Jr., but the young wideout dropped the ball. Walker finished the half by completing his next 11 passes.
Three of the Panthers' four largest margins of victory since 2020 have come in Walker starts.
The 27-year-old isn't worried about whether he'll hang onto the starting gig once Mayfield and Darnold are healthy. Instead, he's just concerned with playing his best and letting the chips fall where they may.
"No, I just went out there and played my game, executed what we called, moved the ball down the field efficiently," Walker said. "That's not my call. My call is to get ready to work Monday. ... Whether it's to start, back up, whatever it is, I'll be ready."
The Panthers may have finally found their identity on Sunday and that's running the football. Walker guided an offense that leaned on the ground game despite trading away Christian McCaffrey last week.
Wilks told Profootballtalk.com after Sunday's win that he had full faith in D'Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard.
"Just seeing these guys in practice," Wilks said. "I saw back in the preseason. Just the way they go about their business, you know, each and every day. I didn't have any reservations whatsoever [about] those guys stepping up and getting it done today."
Hubbard started the game and ran for 63 yards and a score before leaving with an ankle injury. Foreman was a big part of the game plan with 118 yards on 15 carries, including a 60-yard burst that set up a touchdown to give Carolina a 14-0 lead.
Before Sunday, they each had a total of six carries in six games.
The strength of the Panthers offensive line is run-blocking, so that will be something they need to focus on for the remainder of the season.
"We knew what (McCaffrey) meant to this team," Walker said. "We knew what he brought to the table, but we still had to go out there and execute and go out there and play at a high level. The O-line knew that, the running backs knew that, and I knew that."
Their success against the Buccaneers doesn't mean Wilks was happy to lose McCaffrey.
"It's always hard when you get rid of a great football player," Wilks said. "As somebody that was here when we drafted him, you know, a great guy, not only on the field but off the field as well. Very tough decision, but we felt like the decision was, you know, all about the organization."
So what was the message to get the locker room to accept the decision to move on from McCaffrey?
"Just to understand that, you know, this is part of the business that we signed up for," Wilks said. "Your opponent, whether it's Tampa or Atlanta this week, they can care less about any kind of turmoil that you may be having inside. Our guys understood that. We wish Christian well. He's still considered to be our brother. Nothing but the best for him. But we realized that we needed to step up as well, and I was very proud once again of the guys stepping up in that room."
Step up they did. And they've stepped right into the race for first place in the NFC South. Despite being 2-5, they're only one game out of first place, with the 3-4 Falcons up next.
With the Buccaneers facing the Ravens and the Saints hosting the Raiders, there's a good chance that all four NFC South teams will be caught in a tie at 3-5. But the Panthers would have the inside track; if they beat the Falcons, Carolina will be 3-0 in the division. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, this season has been a struggle for D.J. Moore, largely because of the team's poor quarterback play. But Moore finally seemed on the same page with a QB as he caught six passes for 69 yards and a 20-yard touchdown.
Prior to Sunday, Moore had just 20 catches for 204 yards and one score in six games, leaving him well off the pace to earn his fourth straight season with at least 1,150 yards receiving.
Marshall played a career-high 86 percent of the snaps, making two receptions for 31 yards. ...
Rookie receiver Shi Smith continues to make punt returning an adventure. First, he called for a fair catch in the end zone on Sunday after back peddling 10 yards to field the punt. Later, he allowed a punt to hit the ground and roll around a bit before pointlessly attempting to jump on the ball with three Buccaneers players approaching, risking a potential fumble.
Smith will remain as the punt returner this week, but Wilks said he needs to be coached up. ...
On the injury front. ... Hubbard and CB Donte Jackson suffered ankle injuries and cornerback C.J. Henderson injured his arm on Sunday, but Wilks offered no updates on Monday. Carolina is hoping to get CB Jaycee Horn back this week after he missed two games with a shoulder injury. Wilks said he wanted to give Horn an extra week to heal.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Hubbard "could have come back in if needed." But he did not practice Wednesday.
I'll have more on the second-year running back via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
You can access complete stats for the Panthers Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Matt Corral
RBs: Miles Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, Raheem Blackshear, Spencer Brown
WRs: Terrace Marshall Jr., Shi Smith, Laviska Shenault, Preston Williams, Rashard Higgins, Andre Roberts
TEs: Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Stephen Sullivan
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, the Bears used their mini-bye between the Week 6 loss to Washington on Thursday night and Monday night's tilt against the New England Patriots to rework the offensive game plan. It paid off in a big way, as the offense woke up and helped destroy the Pats, 33-14.
"We had a chance to take a breath during the (mini) bye week and really figure out what we needed to do and needed to adjust what we're doing well," head coach Matt Eberflus said via the official transcript. "And some things we needed to tweak a little bit and no big changes but just some things that -- to enhance our player skill sets. And I thought we did a good job with that."
The Bears scored more than 30 points for the first time since Week 16, 2020, the most points with Justin Fields as the quarterback. The rush game keyed the offense as Chicago galloped over New England to the tune of 243 yards and two TDs.
Fields led the rushing attack with 82 yards, notably taking more designed runs than in previous weeks. An aspect of Chicago's offense that had been conspicuously missing given Fields' talent, the QB earned 63 yards on 12 designed runs, both career highs, per Next Gen Stats.
"I thought it brought a whole different element to our offense," Fields said of using his legs. "I think we executed that well. And there were definitely some explosive plays in the design runs for sure."
Like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts or Daniel Jones, designed QB runs can help open up the rest of the offense. The lack of usage from coordinator Luke Getsy in previous weeks was head-scratching. Better late than never.
Fields' rushing ability helped open lanes for Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery on the ground, aided the quarterback's play-action passes and helped keep Chicago in manageable third downs for the most part. The Bears converted 11 of 18 third downs (61.1 percent -- entered Week 7 converting 35.6 percent).
One of Fields' best plays of the night was a third-and-14 scramble where he stepped through pressure and dashed for a first down late in the first half. The type of play showed the danger the QB can cause a defense.
"He's special," Herbert said. "I always tell him, 'Be special, be you, use your legs and do what you do.' He was able to do that tonight definitely."
Fields passed for 179 yards on 13-of-21 passing with a TD and an INT off a deflected ball, and he was sacked four times. The numbers aren't eye-popping, but there are signs of growth. The QB made several on-time throws, used his athleticism to get out of trouble and made splash plays.
The second-year signal-caller still needs to process quicker and get rid of the ball, but when he's using his legs like Monday night, it takes the pressure off the need to be perfect in the pocket.
"My main goal right now is to continue to improve each and every day, each and every game," Fields said. "So, again, kind of look at tomorrow with the film, really tonight on what can I get better at and what I can improve on as an individual and what we can improve on as a team. So we're just focused on getting better each and every day."
The Bears will be back on the road in Week 8 against a Cowboys defense that has been one of the stingiest in the league so far this season, so they'll be hoping Fields keeps rolling the way he did on Monday night.
If the Bears continue to progress as an offense behind Fields, and the young studs on defense keep growing, Chicago could surprise some people -- and provide some fantasy contributors. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The self-evaluation during the mini-bye led to changes on the offensive line. Lucas Patrick replaced Sam Mustipher as the starting center after playing both guard positions in the first six games. And veteran Michael Schofield III started in place of Patrick at left guard.
Patrick, however, exited with a toe injury in the first quarter and did not return. Mustipher entered the game and played the rest of the way.
"I stay ready at all times," Mustipher said. "I've got people counting on me to make things happen. All those guys in that room, they believe in me. When it was my time to step up, I stepped up. That's how it is. The game of football is the next-man-up mentality and I was ready to go."
"That's the old thing in pro football," Eberflus said. "Rosters are really small and one thing happens and you're back in the ballgame. Sam did a great job of having a positive attitude during the course of the week when we made the move. He's a consummate pro and he's the toughest guy on the field, I promise you that. He did a really good job of coming in there and executing. ..."
Montgomery rushed the ball 15 times for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Patriots.
The Bears' backfield came very close to an even split, as Montgomery out-touched Herbert only 15-13. Montgomery ran fairly effectively, though the majority of his production came early in the fourth quarter on a drive during which he tallied his longest rush of the day -- 12 yards -- and also found the end zone from one yard away.
With the performance, Montgomery topped 60 rushing yards in a game for only the second time this season, and he appears to be headed for a split in workload with Herbert moving forward. In fact, Eberflus told reporters on Wednesday the Bears "will continue" to get Herbert more involved on offense. ...
Former Patriots receiver N'Keal Harry made his season debut with the Bears after missing the first six games with an ankle injury.
"It felt good," said Harry, who caught one pass for 14 yards. "It felt good to come back here. I saw some of my guys pregame, but it just really felt good to get back on that field and get back out there."
Harry was acquired by the Bears July 13 in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round pick. He was selected by the Patriots in the first round of the 2019 draft and played three seasons in New England. After failing to live up to expectations with the Patriots, he wasn't surprised when fans at Gillette Stadium booed when his name was announced following his first-quarter reception.
"It was funny," Harry said with a smile. "I enjoyed it actually. It was just great to be back, back on the field and especially get a W. ..."
Veteran Dante Pettis replaced rookie Velus Jones Jr. as the Bears' punt returner, averaging 11.0 yards on three returns with a long of 33 yards. Pettis muffed one of the punts but was able to recover it. He also had a career-long 29-yard run on a jet sweep. ...
Cairo Santos made all four field goals he attempted from 42, 23, 38 and 50 yards. He is now 11-of-11 on the season, including 4-of-4 from 50 yards and beyond. Santos has now made 17 straight field goals dating back to last year. It's the second longest active streak in the NFL behind the Raiders' Daniel Carlson, who has hit 39 in a row.
Santos was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday. ...
In a sudden and surprising development, the Bears are trading pass rusher Robert Quinn to the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a fourth-round pick, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday.
Quinn is a three-time Pro Bowler who has played the last two-plus seasons with Chicago.
Linebacker Roquan Smith was in the middle of his regular appearance with the local media when news of the trade was first reported, and Smith broke down in tears at the news.
“It sucks,” Smith said. “I’m going to take a second, if you don’t mind. I have a great deal of respect for that guy. Damn. Crazy.”
With that, Smith cut his media appearance short. ...
Finally. ... The Bears designated WR Byron Pringle (calf) to return from injured reserve.
As NBCSportsEdge.com notes, this gives the Bears 21 days to officially activated Pringle. He went down with the calf injury in Week 3 and has been on injured reserve ever since. Pringle had two catches in three games to start the season.
You can access complete stats for the Bears Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Nathan Peterman, P.J. Walker, Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian
RBs: D'Onta Foreman, Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, Darrynton Evans, Travis Homer
WRs: D.J. Moore, Equanimeous St. Brown, Chase Claypool, Byron Pringle, N'Keal Harry, Velus Jones Jr., Dante Pettis
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin, Trevon Wesco
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra put it, "Joe Burrow was handing out touchdowns in the first half of Sunday's 35-17 victory over the Atlanta Falcons like Oprah giving away gifts. ..."
The Bengals scored a touchdown on their first four possessions of the game, including on passes of 60, 32 and 41 yards from Burrow.
After Burrow missed training camp time due to an appendectomy, Cincy is kicking it into gear following a slow start to the season.
"I'm feeling comfortable," Burrow said after the game, via the team's official website. "We're getting our timing down. We're finding a rhythm and the defense will keep doing what it does. We're finding our stride."
Burrow finished 34-of-42 passing for 481 yards, three TDs and a 138.2 passer rating and added one rushing score. His 196 passing yards in the first quarter set a team record, as did his 344 yards in the first half.
With the three 30-plus yard TDs, Burrow has tossed 49 touchdown passes since the start of last season with an average of 27.6 yards per score. The last passer to average 27-plus yards per TD pass over a two-year span was Randall Cunningham in 1998-1999 (27.9 average on 42 TDs).
All the Bengals ate.
Tyler Boyd, at 27 the elder statesman of the group, caught eight of his nine targets Sunday for a career-high 155 yards and a 60-yard touchdown two minutes into the game.
Ja'Marr Chase, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, had eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Tee Higgins caught five and came up 7 yards short of getting a 100-yard game for himself.
"I wanted them bad, man. I'm not going to lie," Higgins said with a smile. "We ran some play, and I was butt-naked (open), and I'm looking at Joe like, 'Throw me the ball!' But it's OK. My guys went off today, and I'm so proud of them."
Chase and Boyd are the fifth pair of Bengals wide receivers with 100 yards and one TD each in a game and the first since 2010 (Chad Johnson and Jordan Shipley against the Falcons).
"[There is] no defense in the league, or whatever you do, that can stop what we got," Boyd said. "We got a great quarterback that can always make the right read every single time and make our jobs easy."
Worth noting. ... Burrow, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, became the first player in NFL history with five games of 400 or more passing yards in the first three seasons of his career. Burrow previously held the record with Dan Marino, a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
He also has three of the five biggest passing days in Bengals history, including the franchise-record 525 yards he posted in a game last season.
None of that news led to any deep thoughts from Burrow about his place in team or NFL history.
"Nope," Burrow said, via the team's website. "I have great players around me, and great coaches."
Remember: Burrow said last week that the three-game stretch against the Falcons, Browns and Panthers was going to define Cincinnati's season. It represented three opportunities to bank victories in a tight AFC North race heading into the team's bye in Week 10.
They're obviously off to a good start.
Next up, the Bengals will spend Halloween night in Cleveland taking on the Browns on Monday Night Football. ...
Worth noting. ... As Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacy noted, the retooled offensive line was expected to heal everything that was ailing the Cincinnati offense, and the Bengals were criticized when the five guys didn't immediately click. They've improved significantly since. Burrow had time Sunday to drop back and survey the field, which yielded big results.
Stacy went on to note that Joe Mixon is still playing solid, hard-nosed football, but the running game has been an afterthought. Mixon gained 58 yards on 17 carries (3.4 yards per carry) against the Falcons. After rushing for 1,205 yards last season, he has yet to top 100 in a game in 2022. He did have three catches for 33 yards against Atlanta.
You can access complete stats for the Bengals Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
RBs: Joe Mixon, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Trent Taylor, Stanley Morgan, Kwamie Lassiter II
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Mitchell Wilcox, Devin Asiasi, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers suggested Monday, there was plenty of blame to be shared Sunday both outside and inside Cleveland's locker room, which may explain why some of the Browns were yelling and screaming at each other following a fourth straight loss.
Frustration mixed with disappointment and anger.
It's a familiar formula, and a familiar feeling.
Following the 23-20 loss at Baltimore, head coach Kevin Stefanski's third season is spiraling downward as his talented and probably overrated team continues to find ways to lose. There are problems -- some bigger than others -- on offense, defense and special teams. Everyone is guilty.
Last week's theme was whether players were fully committed. Now, the overriding sentiment with the Browns is whether their season can be salvaged.
With a chance to beat an AFC North rival on the road and get their season back on track, the Browns (2-5) were doomed by some of the same mistakes that have led to them losing four games by nine combined points.
Penalties. Execution. Turnovers. Questionable strategy. Game mismanagement.
Throw in a couple disputed calls in the final minutes by officials, and it's understandable why the Browns keep tripping over themselves.
Stefanski said he placed a call to the NFL on Monday for an explanation on a false-start penalty that backed up a potential game-tying field goal by the Browns with just over two minutes left.
Cleveland was penalized 5 yards -- guard Michael Dunn got singled out as the offender -- and rookie Cade York's 60-yard attempt was blocked. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh effusively argued that long snapper Charley Hughlett moved the ball, causing the Ravens to jump. After huddling up, the officiating crew agreed.
"Charley is a veteran long snapper," Stefanski said. "He did nothing differently than he has done his entire career. We are in no way trying to draw them offside in that situation -- the risk-reward is way, way, way too high.
"You may do that if it's a short field goal. There are teams I see do that. But that certainly is not what we were doing there."
Moments earlier, the Browns had a potential go-ahead touchdown pass erased as receiver Amari Cooper was called for pass interference after delivering a late push on cornerback Marcus Peters.
"You have seen that one go either way," Stefanski said. "There is hand-fighting in this league. I get it. He created some separation there so you are beholden to whatever the officials saw."
It's true that good teams get breaks. The bad ones just get broken.
But while things don't look promising, All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio, who has been through a winless season and a playoff run in his eight-plus seasons with Cleveland, doesn't think the Browns are finished.
"I just really do have faith in the people in the building," he said. "Top down, I really do have faith in those guys and have faith in my teammates. I know there is a win out there for us. You get one, and it can turn to two."
Cleveland's much-maligned defense had perhaps its best game. Coordinator Joe Woods' unit pressured and contained Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (nine completions, 120 yards passing, 59 yards rushing), shut out tight end and Cleveland nemesis Mark Andrews and forced a late turnover that gave the Browns a chance.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett rebounded from his worst game to have arguably his best, completing 22 of 27 passes for 258 yards and a 106.5 rating. He lost one fumble, but Brissett, who had three turnovers a week earlier, also managed to wriggle out of some potential sack situations to keep plays alive.
But missing Pro Bowl right guard Wyatt Teller (calf), Cleveland's normally efficient offensive line wasn't itself.
Brissett was sacked five times and the Browns missed some key blocks that could have turned routine runs into big gains.
Nick Chubb rushed 16 times for 91 yards and a touchdown while also bringing in two of three targets for 16 yards.
As CBSSports.com notes, Chubb comfortably paced the Browns backfield in carries and rushing yards while also recording a rare double-digit yardage catch. The fifth-year veteran fell just short of what would have been his fourth 100-yard effort in the last five games, but game script continues to be about the only opponent that Chubb hasn't proven capable of conquering to date this season.
Running back Kareem Hunt averaged 0.8 yards on five carries. Stefanski noted Hunt's plays "were not blocked correctly" in one of the season's great understatements.
Meanwhile, tight end David Njoku is expected to be sidelined for two to five weeks with a high ankle sprain, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Stefanski described Njoku's status as week-to-week when he addressed the media Monday.
In addition to Njoku, starting linebacker Jacob Phillips likely will miss the rest of the season with a pectoral injury. Phillips had taken over signal-calling duties after captain Anthony Walker Jr. suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury in Week 3. Stefanski said Phillips got hurt while making a tackle near the sideline.
Medical tests revealed that Phillips has a torn pectoral and likely will need surgery that would end his season, a source told Schefter.
Also Monday, Stefanski said top cornerback Denzel Ward remains in concussion protocol. He's missed Cleveland's past two games after getting hurt in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 9.
Njoku suffered the injury in the second half against the Ravens. He went to the locker room during the third quarter and didn't return, eventually leaving the stadium in a walking boot and on crutches.
Later Sunday, Njoku tweeted: "Be back soon."
Njoku was leading the Browns with seven catches on seven targets for 71 yards before leaving the Baltimore game. On the season, he has a team-high 34 receptions for 418 yards and a touchdown.
Fellow tight end Pharaoh Brown is in concussion protocol.
Harrison Bryant is next man up at tight end.
Can Cleveland recover from four straight losses? The Browns desperately needed this victory to hang around in the AFC North race. Now, at 2-5 with arguably the league's toughest remaining schedule, Cleveland's season is officially on life support.
A loss to Cincinnati on "Monday Night Football" this week would effectively be the death knell -- before the Browns even reach their midseason bye. ...
One last item. ... Hunt, in the last year of his deal, requested a trade or extension during training camp and got neither. Chubb is obviously Cleveland's primary running back, and Hunt's role is becoming limited, with only nine carries for 16 yards in the past two games combined.
The Browns probably won't be able to get what Carolina got in the Christian McCaffrey trade. But ESPN.com's Jake Trotter notes that Hunt is a quality back with value, and the Browns will have to start thinking about the future -- and recouping draft picks -- after giving up that haul in the Deshaun Watson trade.
You can access complete stats for the Browns Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, John Kelly, Demetric Felton, Jerome Ford
WRs: Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Elijah Moore, David Bell, Michael Woods II, Anthony Schwartz
TEs: David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported, Dak Prescott's return from the thumb injury that knocked the starting quarterback out for five weeks wasn't an offensive explosion. Still, the Cowboys signal-caller passed the first test in a 24-6 victory over the Detroit Lions.
"It felt great," Prescott said of his thumb, via the team's official website. "I felt comfortable with everything. The thumb didn't bother me. It wasn't a thought in my head. I felt like -- after a few throws -- I was back into it."
Prescott's first throw was a tad high on a roll out that Noah Brown couldn't corral. There were a few passes like that off the mark, but Dak also threaded the needle several times, including a nice ball to Dalton Schultz and a dime to CeeDee Lamb for a chunk gain.
Prescott finished with 207 yards on 19-of-25 passing with a late touchdown to add icing to his return. The Cowboys didn't need the QB to throw the pigskin all over the park. The defense was once again dominant, and the run game churned out yards in the second half.
Perhaps we could have hoped for a few more explosive plays against a Lions defense that entered the week as the worst in the NFL by far, but the Cowboys will take having their starter back on the field and getting his feet wet in a win.
"A win's a win," Prescott said. "I really don't care how it gets done, a win's a win. I thought it was going to be pretty cool to leave this game without a touchdown, honestly. That's kind of where my head is right now. I know how talented this team is. I know what we can be. It's not about me. It's about all of us, and I'm just trying to make sure I play my part and make sure I put this team in the right situation each and every play."
Prescott made some stellar throws, completing 4 of 7 attempts on tight-window throws (less than one yard of separation), per Next Gen Stats, the most in a game for the Cowboys this season. That's the difference Dak can make for the Dallas offense: Finding plays when receivers don't obviously win.
"I thought Dak performed better as the game went on," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's his first time he's been out there in quite some time. Start with the command of the huddle, the whole operation, I thought he was really on point there. He handled the adjustments that were going during the course of the game. Those are the big things that don't show up in the stat column."
Still, as ESPN.com's Todd Archer suggested, if there was a doubt -- and by now there shouldn't be -- the Cowboys' defense will carry them to success.
Not even Prescott's return could get the Cowboys' offense rolling.
But the defense came through. Again.
After allowing two touchdowns last week versus Philadelphia for the first time this season, the defense did not allow a touchdown against a Lions offense that came in averaging 28 points a game. They also changed the momentum of the game with five takeaways in the second half that the offense turned into 21 points.
The rushing attack was a factor as well.
After a tough first half, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard both came out on the first drive of the second half with a vengeance, starting with the former's signature leap over a defender.
"We knew they were going to play hard," Elliott said of the Lions defense. "We just had to tire them out a little bit and that's what those rushing attempts do. You lean on them and lean on them, and it starts to get a little bit easier."
Before Elliott started his vintage performance in the second half, the Cowboys' bell-cow running back had a scare in the second quarter after an awkward tackle looked to have caused a problem with his knee.
"It hurt," Elliott said postgame with a chuckle. "It's stiff. I got a contusion when I was out there on my knee, so [the muscle] is stiff."
Nevertheless, after missing just a few snaps Elliott was right back in there alongside Prescott.
"He's relentless," Prescott said of his backfield-mate Elliott. "When I saw the play, I thought it was a little ugly. ... He said he'd be good and it wasn't too long before he was jumping a guy. That's Zeke for you. He's just going to go and give you everything he can each and every play."
Shortly after Elliott started to hurdle defenders following that scare in the first half, he proceeded to rack up two hard-nosed touchdown runs from the 1-yard line in both the third and fourth quarters.
"It felt good to get in the end zone twice," Elliott said. "The big fellas wanted to run it down there, and [offensive coordinator] Kellen [Moore] called it."
It was a long time coming since Elliott had scored two rushing touchdowns in a game. In fact, the last time he achieved that feat was last season against the Eagles. With his performance on Sunday against the Lions, Elliott has 13 career games with two rushing scores for the third most in franchise history.
But at first glance, the final stat line for Elliott probably isn't all that exciting. In 15 attempts, he had 57 yards for just under 4 yards a carry, with his longest run checking in at 18 yards.
In comparison to Pollard, who had 83 yards on 12 carries and averaged just under 7 yards a try, Elliott might have looked like he was the second running back for the Cowboys on Sunday.
Indeed, Pollard played 65 percent of snaps while Elliott played just 49 percent.
But the difference was not only the two touchdowns Elliott had when the Cowboys needed them most after a brutal first half offensively. It was a clear demonstration of the impact he has situationally and from a leadership standpoint following what could have been a nasty injury.
"This team is selfless all the way around," Prescott said. "And I think you can look at Zeke and he's the epitome of that. He's going to do whatever it takes. Whether it's coming off the field and Tony getting in, or it's pass-blocking or lining up at fullback and blocking that way."
So while Elliott's box score might not have been the prettiest, and the Cowboys' path to victory might not have been the prettiest, Elliott characterized the team's season as such. But at the end of the day, results and wins are what matters.
"I think that's how the year has been going," Elliott said. "It's been grimy, tough games. It's the NFL so you're not going to have any 'gimmes.' But when the defense plays the way they do, and go and take the ball away like that, it's really hard for us to lose. ..."
For the record, while Elliott’s knee held up last weekend, the team is taking it easy with him to kick off the practice week. McCarthy said that Elliott will not practice on Wednesday and that he will work with director of rehabilitation Britt Brown instead.
The fact that Elliott played through the injury suggests that Wednesday’s absence may be more about managing his workload than concern about his injury. His participation on Thursday and Friday will provide more of an idea if that’s the case. ...
While Lamb's production has been solid, the group behind him is struggling to make an impact.
Brown had five catches for 50 yards, but fumbled when he was somersaulted on a hit by safety DeShon Elliott inside the Detroit 10. Michael Gallup caught a touchdown in his return from a torn ACL three weeks ago, but was shut out against the Lions after just two catches for 18 yards against the Eagles.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys will carefully monitor Schultz over the course of the week after the veteran returned to action - alongside Prescott - to make an impact for Dallas.
The issue is Schultz saw his offending knee twisted awkwardly in the first quarter, having already been nursing a knee sprain over the last several weeks, which required medical evaluation before he would eventually continue playing.
He went on to grab all five of his targets from Prescott for a total of 49 yards, the most he's had in either category since he and Prescott played together in Week 1, as the longstanding chemistry between the two was put on full display as if neither had missed any time this season.
"Another tough guy - a guy that's selfless and will do whatever he can in whatever role to help this team out," said Prescott of Schultz. "We took a big step this offseason - be it with routes and [on the personal front] and I think it shows. I have a lot of trust in him. He's important to this team, to that tight ends room and growing those young guys."
More on Elliott and Schultz via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant; the same goes for Brown, who did not practice Wednesday due to a foot injury.
But it's worth noting rookie tight ends Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson are plenty capable.
Hendershot, an undrafted former Indiana standout, reeled in his first-ever NFL touchdown late in the fourth quarter Sunday. Ferguson scored his first-ever NFL touchdown just last week in what was nearly a comeback win for the Cowboys against the Eagles.
The young duo has now made franchise history - 2022 marking the first season in the existence of the club wherein two rookie tight ends have both scored touchdowns. ...
Looking ahead. ... The Cowboys won't be home again until Thanksgiving after playing the Bears this week. The open week is followed by trips to Green Bay and Minnesota as the Cowboys finish a four-game NFC North run.
You can access complete stats for the Cowboys Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Tony Pollard, Malik Davis, Ronald Jones, Qadree Ollison
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, T.Y. Hilton, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Tolbert, Simi Fehoko
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
According to Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton, by sitting Russell Wilson, head coach Nathaniel Hackett demonstrated he's in charge of the team.
He also proved he's at fault for Denver's odious offense.
The Broncos are 2-5 despite holding opponents to fewer than 16.4 points per game. They're the first team in NFL history with a losing record while allowing fewer than 17 points a game through Week 7.
In what may prove the best decision of his rocky rookie season in Denver, Hackett held out his $245 million quarterback against his wishes because of a strained hamstring.
Wilson wore a smile and a headset on the sideline Sunday in support of Brett Rypien, who made his second career start.
Hackett? He was dialing up a whopping 46 passes for his backup QB in a one-score game.
The result was another close loss, a 16-9 gut-wrencher to the New York Jets that once again had fuming fans streaming to the exits in the closing minutes. This time it happened with the Broncos taking over at their 25-yard line and down seven with 4 1/2 minutes left.
The Broncos have now lost by 1, 9, 3, 3 and 7 points.
Hackett said at halftime when the Broncos trailed by a point that they needed to keep running the ball. But he didn't follow his own advice: Rypien threw 28 times and handed it off seven times in the second half. Rypien's first six snaps in the third quarter were passes and he threw on the Broncos' final 15 snaps of the game, completing seven of them.
"We wanted to come out there and run the ball and then sometimes situation determines that you go to a couple of passes to try to get some chunks and so forth," Hackett said Monday.
"But yeah, I mean, in the end, we've got to execute better. We ended up running the ball a little bit and I think that fourth quarter we started going up-tempo. That's where a lot of the passes are starting to show up there at the end," Hackett said.
Rypien's eight misfires in those final 15 plays included a heave into the end zone on fourth-and-3 at the Jets 25 that Sauce Gardner kept away from Courtland Sutton and another to the goal line that didn't come close to K.J. Hamler on fourth-and-10 from the Jets 49 with 30 seconds remaining.
Both of those fourth-down go-for-it-all attempts continued a season-long trend of head-scratching calls by Hackett in the closing minutes or overtime.
Indeed, Hackett's halftime adjustments are only making things worse. In 20 drives after halftime over the last three games, the Broncos have two field goals, a missed field goal, two interceptions, three turnovers on downs and 12 punts.
Hackett said after the game that he'd look at everything to kickstart his stagnant offense when asked if he'd consider relinquishing play-calling duties. But on Monday he said, "Right now, in a short week, we're going to keep the status quo."
Are there any obvious changes that might create points?
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold notes, the Broncos were better Sunday when they bulked up on offense -- two tight ends, three tight ends and two backs. They moved the ball better Sunday when they were in those groupings and lost their way, again, when they got in catch-up mode and leaned on their three-wide receiver sets.
They simply have to accept they can't play what they want to right now and have to play the way they need to.
Meanwhile, with his offense playing so poorly and his defense playing so well, Hackett is trying to keep his team from cracking.
"It starts with me getting up in front of the team and holding everybody accountable, including myself and the coaches," Hackett said. "I always believe that where communication lacks, negativity fills the void. As long as we keep that communication open at all times, I think that will always keep everybody together so we can band together and get ourselves out of this hole and get us out of this losing streak."
As they prepare to travel to London for a Week 8 game against the Jaguars, will they be making any offensive changes?
"Right now, on a short week, we're going to keep the status quo," Hackett told reporters on Monday. "We're all going to work together to build a great plan."
The Broncos are making the trip to London on Tuesday, five days before the game. Will that be a good thing for the team?
"I think it's great to be able to get away for a little bit," Hackett said. "We have a bye afterwards also, but we're going there to win a football game first and foremost. I think it's so important to let the guys get out there, be together and work through it. Everybody needs to look from within because we put ourselves in this position and we have to get ourselves out of this position, it's that simple. I think it's always good to get away a little bit.
"London is a little far away to get away, but it will be a good thing for us, I believe. ..."
Sunday's meeting with the Jaguars is a matchup of 2-5 teams riding four-game losing streaks. It's critical for both teams, but certainly more so for Hackett, who is already hearing the whispers about his job security. ...
And what about the quarterback situation? Will Wilson be back on Sunday in London, against the Jaguars?
"He's trending in that direction," Hackett told reporters on Monday. "He did everything he could to try to be there, but it was just a little early with that short week. So hopefully, we'll see him out there and if not, we'll be smart with him too."
The team traveled to London Tuesday and practiced there Wednesday. Wilson was a limited participant and said that he’ll be on the field against the Jaguars.
Asked after that session whether he could play a game right now without any limitations, Wilson answered, “Yeah. I feel great. I’m ready to rock.”
The Broncos have their bye after the London trip, and it might be tempting to give Wilson one more week off so that he can be fully rested for the second half of the season. But from all indications, Wilson will be back on the field on Sunday.
I'll have more on Wilson via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. Whether Wilson or Rypien, who went 24-of-46 for 225 yards and an interception, or someone else is the quarterback, the Broncos simply need to win a game. ...
Also on the injury front. ... The Broncos put another running back on injured reserve Monday.
The team announced that Mike Boone will miss at least the last four games after hurting his ankle in Sunday's loss. Javonte Williams was already on the list after tearing his ACL earlier this season.
With Boone and Williams out, the Broncos have signed Marlon Mack to their practice squad.
He'll join Melvin Gordon and Latavius Murray as backfield options against the Jaguars.
Boone had 15 carries for 82 yards and six catches for 61 yards in his seven appearances this season. ...
Finally. ... Jordan Schultz of TheScore.com reports NFL teams are inquiring about Hamler.
According to Schultz, Hamler who's still on his rookie deal, is getting more calls for his services than Jerry Jeudy because of the asking price. Although no action has been taken, Schultz stated that teams view Hamler as a deep threat option who isn't being utilized to his potential in Denver.
You can access complete stats for the Broncos Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham, Brett Rypien
RBs: Latavius Murray, Samaje Perine, Javonte Williams, Marlon Mack
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Kendall Hinton, Freddie Swain, Montrell Washington, Jalen Virgil, Tyrie Cleveland, K.J. Hamler
TEs: Eric Tomlinson, Albert Okwuegbunam, Chris Manhertz, Marquez Branson, Eric Saubert, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Head coach Dan Campbell talked Monday about some of the positives he took out of his Detroit Lions' 24-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
In 2021, the Lions had the 31st-ranked scoring defense in the NFL, allowing 27.5 points per game, and this year was even worse.
In Detroit's 1-3 start, they allowed an average of 35.3 points.
In road losses to New England and Dallas they've given up 53 total points, but they've looked competitive. The Patriots scored a defensive touchdown and Dallas got short fields after five Lions turnovers, and Detroit's defense kept them in the game.
"We're climbing out of a hole, and I'm encouraged by our defense," Campbell said on Monday. "It's hard to lose, but boy, you watch the way they played yesterday and that's exactly how we practiced. It was high energy, it was intense, and they were urgent."
Unfortunately for Campbell, who is now 4-18-1 in his Lions career, his high-flying offense struggled just as the defense showed signs of life. Detroit averaged more than 30 points and 400 yards in the first four games, ranking near the top of the league, but only managed a pair of field goals in Dallas after being shut out by the Patriots.
Jared Goff has turned the ball over six times in two games, including a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Patriots before two interceptions and two fumbles in Dallas.
Campbell isn't putting all the blame on his quarterback, though. Injuries have forced Goff to play without his two biggest playmakers -- running back D'Andre Swift and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
They were also without D.J. Chark, who was placed on injured reserve last week due to ongoing issues with his surgically-repaired ankle.
"I think there's a number of things to that," he said. "The injuries at the receiver position has done a little bit and I think not having Swift has hurt a little bit because you lose a little explosiveness in the run game. We've also had to figure out some things on the O-Line, and that's been a little unsettling. That's hard, but that's the task we've been given."
The Lions were tied for the fewest sacks allowed with seven coming in, but Goff went down five times against the club leading the NFL in sacks.
Goff and Campbell said both the fumbles on sacks were more a product of the quarterback trying to extend plays with the Lions down by double digits late.
Goff, though, wasn't making excuses.
"Can't do it," said Goff, who was 21 of 26 for 228 yards. "Defense played their tails off today. Gave us a great chance to win that game and we didn't do our part offensively."
Indeed, one of the NFL's top offenses coming in was limited to 312 yards coming off the bye, which followed a 29-0 loss to New England.
As the defense has improved, the offense is regressing.
"Dan made it a point of emphasis for us this week and we didn't execute when we have to," Goff said. "It starts with me and trickles all the way down. We had plenty of chances today."
In his second year as Detroit's starter, Goff has lacked the ability to consistently bring the team to a victory -- something his predecessor, Matthew Stafford, was forced to do almost every week.
Even in the hot offensive start, the running game was providing most of the big plays, and with Swift and St. Brown missing, there hasn't been anything.
The Lions are hoping to have Swift and St. Brown back on Sunday against Miami.
The Lions announced during Sunday's game that St. Brown had been ruled out with a concussion, but Monday the team said St. Brown actually did not suffer a concussion.
Campbell said that St. Brown was removed from the game because of the new league rule that all players who exhibit ataxia, which is poor muscle control that causes clumsy movements, are automatically taken out of the game. Campbell said medical staff watched tape of St. Brown's motion on the field and took him out.
"They look at the video, and so when the video, plus what they saw there, it's automatically you're out now," Campbell said.
Campbell said St. Brown will remain in the concussion protocol and continue to be evaluated, but from all indications he'll be clear to play on Sunday against the Dolphins.
Swift has missed the past three games with shoulder and ankle injuries.
I'll have more on St. Brown and Swift, both of whom were on the practice field Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. The same goes for T.J. Hockenson (knee), who did not practice Wednesday. ...
One last item here. ... When the Lions selected receiver Jameson Williams in the first round of this year’s draft, they knew he would be out for much of his rookie season while recovering from a torn ACL.
As of now, it still appears Williams has a shot at playing this season. But it won’t be that soon.
“No, there’s still hope [he’ll play during the 2022 season]. He’s put together a pretty good month — a real good month,” Campbell said in his Wednesday press conference. “We feel like we’re going to have him before this season’s out.
“It’s hard to say when that’s going to be. I would say, at least probably another month. But I do feel like we’re going to get him before this is said and done.”
Williams suffered the ACL tear during the CFP national championship game in January. The Lions traded up to select him at No. 12 overall in April. ...
You can access complete stats for the Lions Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jared Goff, Nate Sudfeld
RBs: David Montgomery, D'Andre Swift, Justin Jackson, Craig Reynolds
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Jameson Williams, Kalif Raymond, Tom Kennedy, Quintez Cephus, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Brock Wright, James Mitchell, Shane Zylstra
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky noted this week, three straight losses -- all when they were the favorites -- and with perhaps their most dangerous opponent next up on the schedule seemingly has the Green Bay Packers' season slipping away.
Or maybe Sunday's 23-21 loss to the Washington Commanders, which featured more of the Packers' season-long struggles on offense and dropped them to 3-4, was the worst of it.
Aaron Rodgers believes it could be the latter even if he wasn't able to provide much concrete evidence to support it.
Whatever the reason, the struggling four-time NFL MVP insisted this season feels like it can be saved.
"You're goddamn right it does," Rodgers said when asked if it seems plausible for the Packers to still make the playoffs. "I'm not worried about this squad. In fact, this might be the best thing for us. This week, nobody's going to give us a chance, going to Buffalo on 'Sunday Night Football,' with a chance to get exposed. Shoot, this might be the best thing for us."
If this feels like a familiar spot, it's because in 2016 the Packers lost a game at FedEx Field to drop to 4-6. It was just a few days later when Rodgers offered his now famous "run the table" assertion that ultimately came to fruition.
The Packers won their final six regular-season games and two more in the postseason to reach the NFC Championship Game.
"I don't think anybody thought we'd be in this spot that we're in right now," said head coach Matt LaFleur, who is facing his first three-game losing streak in four seasons coaching the Packers. "We're going to find out what we're made of in terms of just how we attack Monday, how we attack Tuesday, Wednesday and every day in practice. I do believe that we've got the right kind of guys that will continue to battle."
If only their struggles were one-sided.
The defense was supposed to be the strength of this Packers team; instead, Green Bay has lost consecutive games to teams quarterbacked by Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson and Taylor Heinicke. But the defense is under greater pressure with the offense averaging just 18.3 points per game, which would be the Packers' worst since 2006.
They also went 0-for-6 on third downs Sunday, the first time the Packers went an entire game without a conversion since 1999, when Brett Favre was quarterback and Rodgers was 15 years old.
Nor can they find a way to get the ball down the field, with Rodgers averaging only 3.2 air yards on his completions Sunday after entering the day with the second-lowest average in the NFL (4.3 yards) on such throws (ranking 34th in the league in that category).
It's an offense that remains unsettled in the post-Davante Adams era. The Packers played Sunday without Randall Cobb (ankle) and Christian Watson (hamstring) but got back Sammy Watkins after a four-game absence. Watkins managed just 2 catches for 36 yards and didn't come close to catching up to one of the few deep balls Rodgers threw.
Rodgers also was dealing with an injured right thumb and working behind a line that was missing left tackle David Bakhtiari and had other guys adjusting to new positions.
Green Bay had planned an offensive line shakeup but couldn't use it in full because Bakhtiari's knee acted up and rendered him inactive. And outside of Allen Lazard (7 catches for 55 yards before a shoulder injury knocked him out) and Aaron Jones (76 total yards and 2 touchdowns), the Packers got little production.
"I think outside of those two guys, there's too many mental mistakes," Rodgers said. "I talked about simplification last week. I don't really know where to go when it comes to that. There has to be something inside that has the accountability for performance where we're just having way too many detail mistakes. It's just not winning football."
And then there's Rodgers, who said he came into the game with the idea that he would try to make more plays outside the pocket but never was able to.
"I think I might need to do that a little bit more," Rodgers said. "I kind of had a mindset to maybe look to do that a little bit more. Didn't do it enough today."
When asked if Rodgers needs to play better to turn things around, LaFleur said: "I think it takes everybody. It takes everybody around him. You've got to have the protection in front of you to be able to hold up. You've got to have the guys making plays, too. I feel like we had a ton of drops. We had a lot of penalties that put us back behind the sticks."
Meanwhile, the Packers are 10½-point underdogs Sunday at Buffalo, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. According to Sportradar, the Packers haven't been that big an underdog since Nov. 26, 2017, when the Pittsburgh Steelers were favored by 14½ and won 31-28 over a Packers team that started QB Brett Hundley in place of an injured Rodgers.
Green Bay hasn't been this big an underdog in a game started by Rodgers or Brett Favre since Oct. 2, 2006, when the Philadelphia Eagles won 31-9 as 11½-point favorites over a Favre-led Packers team.
After they visit Buffalo Sunday night, the Packers might get some relief as they finish their three-game road swing Nov. 6 at Detroit. ...
Back to the injury front. ... At this point, it's unclear whether Lazard will be available for Sunday night's game.
"He hurt his shoulder," LaFleur said in his Monday press conference. "I'll kind of leave it at that, see how it feels throughout the course of the week."
Lazard currently leads Green Bay's struggling offense with 340 receiving yards and four touchdowns on 26 catches.
Multiple reporters spotted Lazard in a sling in the Packers' locker room after the game.
I'll have more on Lazard, who did not practice Wednesday, and Watson, who was limited to open the week, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Now will the Packers get another receiver?
The trade deadline is just under a week way and, as Demovsky suggests, without a significant addition, it's hard to see how their passing game will improve.
The return of Watkins, who caught a pair of passes for 36 yards in his first game back, didn't immediately help. Rodgers had not attempted a pass that traveled more than 10 yards in the air until the final two minutes of the first half on Sunday and when he finally did, Watkins wasn't fast enough to run under it.
It was so far off that flags for pass interference were picked up because the ball was deemed uncatchable.
Whatever the case, Rodgers has made it clear he expects the team to pursue any trade opportunities that arise. We'll all be watching for more on that front as well.
You can access complete stats for the Packers Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Goodson, Patrick Taylor
WRs: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Randall Cobb, Samori Toure
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
The Texans followed up their only win of the season with their most lopsided loss.
Houston beat Jacksonville to get out of the winless column in Week 5, but couldn't build on that success after its week off, falling apart in the fourth quarter in a 38-20 loss to Las Vegas on Sunday.
The Texans (1-4-1) led by three points entering the fourth quarter before the Raiders scored 21 straight points to roll to the victory.
The biggest problem in that quarter was Houston's run defense, which allowed two touchdowns by Josh Jacobs. He had TD runs of 7 and 15 yards in the fourth to cap a game where he finished with 143 yards rushing and three scores.
Head coach Lovie Smith was disappointed in the performance and said they'll continue to focus on improving in that area.
"Believe me, it's important to us," he said. "And we'll keep working, eventually we'll get it right. It didn't work (Sunday). I'm not sure what else to tell you besides that ... we didn't play the run well ... and we're going to work to get it right."
The Texans rank last in the NFL by allowing 164.7 yards rushing a game despite Smith's vow to improve in that area after Houston finished last season ranked No. 31 by giving up 142.2 yards rushing a game.
Things won't get any easier this week as the Texans host Tennessee and running back Derrick Henry, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 536 yards rushing this season.
"It's the same thing each week," Smith said. "You have to have good gap integrity, gap discipline. If you don't, one person being not in it can cause you to give up an explosive run in that case."
Henry has had plenty of explosive runs against the Texans over the years and they'll have to find a way to shore up their run defense quickly if they hope to contain him Sunday.
As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken noted, while Houston's run defense is poor, its running game has been solid because of the development of rookie Dameon Pierce. The fourth-round pick from Florida had 92 yards rushing Sunday to give him 504 this season to rank sixth in the NFL entering Monday.
According to ESPN.com's DJ Bien-Aime, Davis Mills played his best game of the season.
Prior to the bye, Mills looked shaky, completing 62.7 percent of his passes for five touchdown passes and four interceptions. But against the Raiders, he was much better. He completed 68 percent of his passes, threw two touchdown passes and logged a season-high 302 yards. Mills was also money on third downs, throwing both of his touchdown passes on that down.
However, he did throw a pick-six late in the fourth quarter, which blew the game open.
Mills has thrown five interceptions combined in his past four games after not throwing any in the first two games.
As noted above, the Texans have a huge test Sunday when they host the AFC South-leading Titans, who have won four in a row after an 0-2 start.
"I would like to be talking of course on a win, but when you are disappointed, you like going into the division," Smith said. "This will be the last division opponent we haven't played, so we're excited about playing them."
It will be the first of two tough games in five days with the team getting a visit from the undefeated Eagles on Thursday, Nov. 3. ...
Other notes of interest. ... On the Texans final drive of the game in Las Vegas, Dare Ogunbowale ran once for an 8-yard gain and caught five passes for 54 yards. Prior to Sunday's loss to the Raiders, Ogunbowale had contributed exclusively on special teams. But after what he did Sunday, Smith said the 6th-year pro might play a bit more on offense.
"What we did see was production from Dare," Smith said. "He's been waiting patiently for an opportunity, and he got it yesterday. He had some flash plays that caught all of our attention."
Ogunbowale has been one of the key contributors on special teams this season for Houston. He logged another tackle on a second quarter kickoff Sunday, dropping return man D.J. Turner at the Oakland 18-yard line. It was his fifth special teams stop of the season. Whether he's screaming down the field hitting return men, or catching the ball out of the backfield, Ogunbowale said his mindset remains the same.
"Whatever my role is I'm going to go out there and make plays when they ask me to," Ogunbowale said. "Any time you get a chance to play in the league, it's a blessing. Being out there, getting a chance to make plays with my teammates is always fun."
For Ogunbowale, he'll keep on getting ready for game days the same way he said he and fellow running backs Pierce and Rex Burkhead have all season.
"I prepare as if I'm the starter," Ogunbowale said. "Me, Rex and D.P. prepare as if we're the starters, so there's nothing different about that. I was just ready for when they gave me a chance to play."
Meanwhile, As HoustonTexans.com's Drew Dougherty noted, tight end Jordan Akins caught three passes on Sunday at Las Vegas, and he made the most of that trio of receptions.
His first two catches came on third down, and he helped the offense move the chains. His final reception was a fourth down snag that also gave the Texans a fresh set of downs against the Raiders.
His 68 yards on the afternoon was tops on the team in receiving Sunday, and Smith called the veteran out as one of the bright spots in the defeat.
"Akins continues to shine and have his moments," Smith said.
According to the Houston Texans Media Relations department, since Week 3, Akins is second in the NFL among tight ends (minimum 10 receptions) in yards per catch, with 15.4 per.
"He poses a threat in the vertical passing game at tight end as a guy that's coming out of a three-point stance," offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. "It's been good to see in certain situations when's he asked to win a one-on-one matchup, he's been able to do just that."
Akins was drafted by the Texans in 2018, and played here through the 2021 season. He signed with the Giants in free agency, was cut during training camp, and signed on with the Texans practice squad on September 1.
Eight of his 10 catches in 2022 have gone for a first down or touchdown.
On the injury front. ... Nico Collins left in the third quarter with a groin injury and did not return.
Smith told reporters on Wednesday that is not out for the season
That's a positive. But Collins did not practice Wednesday and, as NBCSportsEdge.com suggests, he should be considered highly doubtful to play against the Titans. Phillip Dorsett and Chris Moore have some deep-league appeal if Collins is out.
Dorsett caught three of his four targets last week after Collins' exit -- one for a touchdown.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
One last note here. ... The Texans cut receiver Tyler Johnson to make room for the signing of receiver Tyron Johnson.
Tyler Johnson spent seven weeks with the Texans, was active for two games and played 29 snaps with no targets.
The Texans claimed him off waivers from the Bucs on Aug. 31.
Tyler Johnson appeared in 31 regular-season games and six postseason contests for the Bucs after being drafted in the fifth round in 2020. He had 48 catches for 529 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and seven catches for 76 yards in the postseason.
Tyron Johnson most recently was with the Raiders, appearing in two games for them this year. He played three offensive snaps in the season opener and returned a punt in the team's Week 4 victory over Denver.
Tyron Johnson's most productive year came for the Chargers in 2020, when he caught 20 passes for 398 yards with three touchdowns in 12 games.
Tyron Johnson entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Texans in 2019 but was cut at the start of the regular season. He re-signed to the team's practice squad in September but was cut soon after.
You can access complete stats for the Texans Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Davis Mills, Jeff Driskel, Case Keenum
RBs: Royce Freeman, Devin Singletary, Rex Burkhead, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale, Dameon Pierce
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Chris Moore, Phillip Dorsett, Tyron Johnson, Nico Collins
TEs: Brevin Jordan, Dalton Schultz, Jordan Akins, Andrew Beck, Teagan Quitoriano
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot framed it, "The Indianapolis Colts thought Matt Ryan would help them make a playoff run, maybe even win a championship.
"Instead, the bruised and battered 15-year veteran is getting benched. ..."
Head coach Frank Reich announced Monday that second-year quarterback Sam Ehlinger will make his starting debut Sunday against the Washington Commanders.
"Right now, the move is for Sam to be the starter the rest of the season," Reich said. "It's a big step, but we think he's ready. This guy's special. You all know it, everybody knows it. Just talk to anybody in that locker room."
The move comes one day after a 19-10 loss at Tennessee left Indy 1 1/2 games behind the Titans in the AFC South.
Ryan threw two interceptions and was sacked three times, the first apparently resulting in a separated throwing shoulder late in the first half.
He was 18 of 21 with 123 yards and one touchdown in the second half, but couldn't complete his fourth fourth-quarter comeback this season. Even if Ryan wasn't hurt, Reich said, the decision would have been the same. "The shoulder injury is real, but this move was going to be made either way," he said.
Ryan did not speak with reporters Monday. He is usually available on Wednesdays.
Indy (3-3-1) sent a third-round draft pick to Atlanta for the 37-year-old Ryan in March.
General manager Chris Ballard thought Ryan was playing well as recently as last season and in April, team owner Jim Irsay said he thought Ryan could make the Colts a contender for up to four more years.
But this season has not gone the way many anticipated.
Indeed, Ryan's demotion, which comes after 239 career starts (including the playoffs) comes because, as long-time Colts beat writer Mike Chappell of FOX59/CBS4 in Indianapolis put it: "He gave the team no choice."
Ryan has thrown nine interceptions and has 11 fumbles, both league highs. The Colts' usually strong offensive line has struggled, allowing 59 hits and 24 sacks -- tied with Cincinnati's Joe Burrow for the most in the NFL entering Monday. And with Indy's traditionally strong ground game becoming ineffective, Ryan has thrown more passes (297) than anyone other than Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (308).
The combination has made Indy the NFL's fourth-lowest scoring team, 16.1 points, and in need of a change.
"Excited for Sam and the opportunity this presents him," Reich said. "We've always thought Sam had some special sauce. We feel this is the best decision for our team."
Ehlinger's surprising ascent on the depth chart has come rapidly.
The former Texas star was a sixth-round pick in 2021, but opened his rookie season on injured reserve because of an injured knee. In October that season, he beat out Jacob Eason for the No. 3 job and wound up appearing in three games though Ehlinger did not throw a pass.
An impressive second preseason had some openly wondering whether the 6-1, 222-pound Ehlinger may supplant Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles, a longtime friend of Reich's, at No. 2.
Reich made that move before the Week 6 victory over Jacksonville and kept Ehlinger in the backup spot Sunday.
Ehlinger thought the move was made primarily for using him for a few plays.
"We haven't discussed a package this week, so I don't know what the plan for that is," Ehlinger said last Wednesday. "Last week, there were a few situations we talked about. Obviously, didn't end up running any of them."
Another good week of practice continued to turn heads inside the organization and when Ryan struggled again Sunday, Reich, Irsay and Ballard huddled again to debate the move.
Reich said he told the quarterbacks and their teammates Monday and that Ryan responded like a pro, promising to help the Colts. The hope is Ehlinger's mobility can help him evade pass rushers, make plays down the field and make plays with his legs.
"I think it's a great decision for us to have Sam back there, the way he's come along and made plays," defensive tackle Grover Stewart said. "I think it's a good decision for us."
Ehlinger will be the seventh different starting quarterback Reich has used in his five-year tenure with the Colts.
Why not Foles?
ESPN.com's Stephen Holder points out that Foles presents a similar problem to Ryan. Both are pocket passers who lack mobility, and that has intensified the challenge of playing behind the Colts' porous offensive line.
Whatever the case, Reich makes his preference for a run-heavy offense perfectly clear.
He wants the kind of attack that helped Jonathan Taylor win last season's NFL rushing title, the kind that put the Colts in playoff position and the kind that never really materialized for Ryan.
Now, with Ehlinger set to make his starting debut Sunday, Taylor's presence becomes even more vital.
He's Indy's most reliable offensive weapon. Against Tennessee, he had 85 total yards on 17 touches, so it's essential to keep him involved when he's healthy. Will Ehlinger's mobility help slow down the pass rush by extending plays? Perhaps.
"The core of the problem is we've got to find a way score more points," Reich said. "Nobody can predict the future, nobody can make guarantees, I'm not going to try to do either. All I can tell you is that I've got a lot of confidence in our team, our players and our coaches."
Also of interest. ... Injuries limited speedy receiver Parris Campbell to 15 total games in his first three seasons. Now healthy, Campbell is rounding into the form Indy expected. He's caught one TD pass in back-to-back games, matching his previous career total (two), and he had a career-best nine catches Sunday.
To what can we attribute his sudden rise?
As FantasyLife.com's Dwain McFarland noted, Campbell had 14 targets over the first five games of the season.
Before Week 6, Reich said Campbell was close to a larger role.
He has 21 targets in the last two games. It'll be interesting to see if that carries over with Ehlinger under center.
You can access complete stats for the Colts Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Sam Ehlinger, Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles
RBs: Zack Moss, Deon Jackson, Jordan Wilkins, D'Vonte Price, Jonathan Taylor
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan
TEs: Kylen Granson, Jelani Woods, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Running back Travis Etienne Jr. got some potentially useful advice from a sure-handed teammate following the first fumble of his young NFL career.
Receiver Marvin Jones Jr, who has never lost a fumble in his 11-year professional career, walked Etienne through how to better grip and secure the ball. Their exchange came in the locker room more than half an hour after Jacksonville's fourth consecutive loss, a 23-17 nail-biter to the New York Giants.
The game came down to the final play, with the Giants stopping receiver Christian Kirk a yard shy of the end zone. But Etienne's fumble was one of several avoidable mistakes that propelled the Giants (6-1) to their first win in Jacksonville (2-5) in four tries.
"I feel like I could have played much better, feel like I left a lot of plays out there," Etienne said. "It really put a damper on that."
Jones took it upon himself to give Etienne some tips while trying to help the second-year pro get over the feeling of letting down the team.
"It's great because he's been there," Etienne said. "He was just telling me it's a marathon, not a sprint. Just letting me know to never stop believing in yourself."
Etienne was on his way toward a potential touchdown late in the second quarter when he allowed the ball to hit his knee and bounce into the end zone. The Giants recovered for a touchback and then drove for a field goal, a 10-point swing in a tight game.
"When you see the end zone as a football player, your eyes just get so wide," Etienne said. "That's where you want to be. You've got to quiet your mind."
It was an unfortunate gaffe and helped offset what could have been a breakout performance for Etienne, a second-year pro who missed all last season with a foot injury. Etienne ran 14 times for a career-high 114 yards and scored the first touchdown of his career.
Of course, he probably should have had a pair of scores. He also slipped on a trick play, resulting in an incomplete pass from Kirk, and picked the wrong lane on a third-down screen pass that forced Jacksonville to settle for an early field goal.
"Just ready for next week and trying to right my wrongs," Etienne said.
Meanwhile, running back James Robinson played only 12 offensive snaps and had no touches for the first time in his three-year career, an indication that he's fallen out of favor with Jacksonville's new coaching staff.
Head coach Doug Pederson hinted that Robinson was injured, but the third-year pro wasn't on the injury report last week and didn't seem to get hurt against the Giants.
Etienne's performance also contributed to Robinson's usage, or lack thereof.
"We know Travis is playing well right now, too, and it doesn't take anything away from James," Pederson said. "It just so happens that, in certain situations, Travis is getting the ball. But as we move forward, we're always going to continue to find ways to get James going, in the mix and he's a big part of what we're doing."
Pederson may well have been telling the truth when he said that.
But the truth changed Monday night when the New York Jets, who lost standout rookie running back Breece Hall to a torn ACL, agreed to acquire Robinson in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick that could become a fifth-round selection.
So it's a totally clear path to workload for Etienne -- even with JaMycal Hasty and Snoop Conner in the mix -- heading into the Jaguars "home game" at Wembley Stadium in London against Denver (2-5) on Sunday.
"You're not going to see anything different from (Etienne)," Pederson said on Wednesday.
The coach added Hasty's carries will go up. The team wants to make sure Etienne plays more now, but they also want to get him through the season healthy.
By the way, Jacksonville is now on its 13th losing streak of four or more games since owner Shad Khan bought the franchise in 2012.
But it's worth noting the Jaguars nearly beat the Giants with a last-second play on Sunday but came up a yard short of a game-tying touchdown with Trevor Lawrence's 16-yard pass to receiver Kirk.
After starting the season 2-1 with a pair of promising victories over the Colts and Chargers, the Jaguars have dropped four straight games to the Eagles, Texans, Colts and Giants.
As Profootballtalk.com's Myles Simmons noted, the games have been close, but the Jaguars haven't been able to make the critical plays that decide wins and losses.
"We're just not making enough of those plays right now," Lawrence said in his postgame press conference. "We're that close. That's what's frustrating for us, too, as players. You know, you put so much into it, and coaches too, obviously. You put so much into it. To come up that short especially this many times, early in the season, is frustrating. Everybody feels that.
"Guys are sticking together. We have a lot of belief in that locker room, and you saw it today. We came up a yard short at the very end to [potentially] win that game by a point. [If we were to] kick the extra point, we beat them. So that's how close it is. That's why I think you see the look on the guys' faces and just the energy. That's the way it should be when you are losing like that. No one is, obviously, happy about it."
On that last throw to Kirk, Lawrence said he felt good about the chances of getting in the end zone on the play.
"We've practiced that play and others too," Lawrence said. "That one, honestly, when I caught the snap, hit the top of my drop, it looked like the exact look we wanted. It looked like it was shaping up where he was just going to sneak in right underneath everyone and get in.
"When I let it go, I thought we were going to score. Like I said, the safety came flying in and hit him right when he caught it and kept him short. Then they all rallied and pushed him back. It sucks watching that when you are that close. But yeah, they made a good play."
The Jaguars are playing better than they did last year, but it hasn't translated to many more wins yet. But they'll get a chance to play a reeling Broncos team in London.
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long notes, the Jaguars are finding success on third down. They were 6 of 13 against the Giants and have converted nearly 46 percent on the all-important down the last three games. They rank fifth in the AFC and 10th in the NFL in third-down conversion rate.
Lawrence is a big reason for Jacksonville's rise.
He's mobile, accurate and has the arm to fit passes into tight windows. He has the franchise looking to finish above 41 percent on third down for the first time since 2009.
In addition Kirk caught seven passes for 96 yards against New York, better production than his last three games combined. He had six receptions for 95 yards in the previous three weeks. It's clear that the Jaguars need to get Kirk, one of their top playmakers, involved. ...
Cornerback Shaquill Griffin will be out of action for the Jaguars for the near future.
The Jaguars announced that Griffin has been placed on injured reserve Wednesday. Griffin suffered a back injury against the Colts in Week 6 and did not play in last Sunday’s loss to the Giants.
No corresponding move was announced to fill the open roster spot.
Griffin started five of the team’s first seven games this season. He had 29 tackles and four passes defensed in those appearances.
You can access complete stats for the Jaguars Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., JaMycal Hasty, Snoop Conner, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Marvin Jones, Jamal Agnew, Tim Jones, Kendric Pryor
TEs: Evan Engram, Dan Arnold, Luke Farrell
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta noted, the Chiefs were staring at an early 10-point hole, on the road and against one of the best defenses in the NFL, yet managed to not only turn things around but roar to a 44-23 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
It changed the entire complexion of the first half of the season for Kansas City.
Rather than heading into their bye tied atop the AFC West with the Los Angeles Chargers, the Chiefs improved to 5-2 and are just a half-game back of Buffalo for the best record in the conference. And a valid argument could be made that the first seven games were far more difficult than what Kansas City will face down the stretch.
Maybe hosting a fifth straight AFC title game isn't quite the longshot it seemed after a stunning loss at Indianapolis.
"We had a tough schedule going into the bye. We knew that going into the season," said Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who threw bounced back from an early interception to throw for 423 yards and three scores against the 49ers.
Of the 10 games the Chiefs have after their bye, six are against teams that are .500 or worse, and only the Titans (4-2) are more than a game above the break-even mark. That includes the Jaguars (2-5), two games against the Broncos (2-5), a trip to Houston (1-4-1) and the Raiders (2-4) to finish the regular season.
"Obviously we lost a couple of games that we wanted to win," Mahomes said, "but when you look back on it and you're 5-2 and you're first in the AFC West, you can't ask to be in a better position. So now we have to recalibrate, get off our feet, get our bodies back and then learn, because when we come back in this next stretch, we're going to be ready to go."
The Chiefs could be in their best shape since training camp, too.
Defensive end Mike Danna should be fully recovered from a calf injury. Defensive back Rashad Fenton should be back from a hamstring injury. First-round pick Trent McDuffie, who has practiced the past two weeks but has not played since a hamstring injury landed the cornerback on injured reserve after the opener, also is expected back. And there's a chance the Chiefs will get backup tight end Blake Bell from IR and Lucas Niang off the physically unable to perform list.
"It's a good time (for the bye)," head coach Andy Reid said. "I think it comes where we could afford to get a little bit healthier in some spots, in particular the corner spot -- as long as the guys are out there and being safe. And that's kind of my primary concern right now. To get back on time. That's always important."
Meanwhile, the Chiefs' free-agent wideouts appear to be hitting stride.
The Chiefs signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to help replace Tyreek Hill, and for the first time Sunday, they delivered on their promise together. Smith-Schuster proved difficult to guard over the middle, catching seven balls for 124 yards and a score, while Valdes-Scantling showed off his speed on three catches for 111 yards.
"I think it's the hard work we're putting in. Like I said, it's the chemistry," Smith-Schuster said. "Patrick, you know, getting to trust all of us and putting the ball where it needs to be for us to go out and make the play."
In addition, Mecole Hardman showed up in San Francisco.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher pointed out, the Chiefs like to utilize Hardman on the jet sweep for reasons more than just his obvious speed.
Hardman was so good on the jet sweep in Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers that the Chiefs figured they would keep trying until the 49ers made them stop. They never did.
He scored three touchdowns on the day.
"I think I've got a good feel for it," Hardman said. "Honestly, just the vision and trying to find out the little holes and the little gaps between the [defenders]. ... If you can get through it with speed and you try to get somebody one on one, it's gonna be a long day for that defender. So I'm just trying to do that."
Two of his touchdowns were runs and one came on a pop pass from Mahomes. The longest of the three, a 25-yard run, illustrated why the Chiefs like getting the ball to Hardman on the jet sweep.
"Mecole did a heck of a job going fast and being patient and then hitting it," Reid said. "Our guys blocked it well. It's the same play really three different times."
In the past the Chiefs and Hardman haven't been this effective. Mahomes said one reason why is that the Chiefs were more productive with their conventional running game against the 49ers. Running backs Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon combined to average 5.4 yards per carry.
"Jet sweeps work better when you run the ball," Mahomes said. "Then when you get other guys like Travis Kelce going through the middle, sometimes they lose sight of that jet sweep guy.
"What makes Mecole so good at it is obviously he is super fast, but he runs really hard and a lot of times when you get smaller receivers and you get on those guys on jet sweeps, they want to get outside and kind of get to the sideline and go out of bounds. With Mecole, that man puts his foot in the ground, he gets upfield and trusts his blockers. You don't see that out a lot of guys in this league and it's a special talent."
Hardman came into the game with two receiving touchdowns, but the 49ers game was his best of the season.
By the way, Pacheco got the start over Edwards-Helaire, but it ended up being more of a committee approach with four non-QB Chiefs receiving two or more carries.
Pacheco played 30 percent of snaps in San Francisco. Edwards-Helaire played just 27 percent of snaps. McKinnon actually led the backfield with a 44 percent snap share.
Pacheco finished with more carries in two previous games as a backup this season than he did in his first career start. The 23-year-old would need to see more than eight touches to become a reliable fantasy asset, but he should be rostered -- even with Kansas City's upcoming bye week -- after being named the starter on a potent offense.
The Chiefs get next week off before turning their focus to Tennessee on Nov. 6. It will be the fourth time in the first eight games that the Chiefs have played in prime time and the third such game at Arrowhead Stadium. ...
Finally. ... The Chiefs won't have Frank Clark for the next two games. The league has suspended the Kansas City defensive end under the NFL's Conduct Policy.
The punishment arises from felony weapons charges filed in 2021 against Clark. The case was resolved in September after Clark pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor possession of an assault weapon. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 40 hours of community service.
Clark will be eligible to return to the roster on Monday, November 14, following the team's Week 10 game against the Jaguars. They face the Titans in Week 9.
You can access complete stats for the Chiefs Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Shane Buechele
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As fantasy managers invested in him will tell you, Josh Jacobs is in a groove right now.
Jacobs ran 20 times for 143 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's 38-20 win over the Texans.
It's the third straight game that Jacobs has run for at least that many yards and he has 441 yards and six touchdowns over the span.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested, it's rare for running backs to put together streaks like that and Jacobs said that it is difficult to take too much enjoyment from his success when the 2-4 Raiders are still at the bottom of the standings.
"It's hard to have self-satisfaction," Jacobs said, via Tashan Reed of TheAthletic.com. "Because, obviously, we're still on the bottom end of the winning pole. And then it's still a long season. If I don't play good the rest of the season, everything I did up to now don't really mean nothing. The biggest thing for me is, man, I want to get in the playoffs. I want to go on a run and actually feel what it feels like to actually experience that. I think we have a special group of guys. When we're all clicking offensively and defensively, we're a scary team. I'm just trying to find a way to approach going about working every day to bring out the best out of everybody."
Jacobs' continued productivity can't guarantee the Raiders season ends the way he hopes, but it would have upside for him in any case.
The new regime of head coach Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler did not pick up Jacobs' fifth-year option this offseason, instead taking a wait-and-see approach after Jacobs had a down year in 2021.
Jacobs, who authored a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons his first two years and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2020, has not publicly stated he is motivated by the seeming slight.
But his play is speaking volumes.
In fact, Jacobs became just the third player in franchise history to record 150 scrimmage yards and score a TD in three straight games, joining Marcus Allen (four straight in 1985) and Clem Daniels (three straight in 1966); Jacobs is also the first in franchise history with three straight games of 100 rushing yards and a rushing TD, three straight games with 150 scrimmage yards and a rushing TD, and 500 scrimmage yards and 6 rushing TDs in a three-game span.
He also joined Allen (5) and Pete Banaszak (2) as the only Raiders players with multiple games of 3 rushing TDs in their respective careers.
Jacobs' running has created more opportunities for an often slow-starting offense. Especially for receivers, said wideout Davante Adams.
"In certain situations, whether it's play-action or whatever, the box is obviously going to be a little more stacked," Adams said. "Especially if he keeps [rushing] for a buck-fifty every game, it's going to make it a lot easier for us to go do our thing.
"[Defenses] can still take me away, but at that point, it's just, 'You don't like me.' Because he's going to keep doing what he's doing and having successful games like that. That's what we need out of him if we're going to keep winning."
The Raiders, who opened 0-3, have won two of their past three games and embark on a crucial two-game road trip at the New Orleans Saints (2-5) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5).
Worth noting. ... The Raiders got into the red zone three times and turned them all into TDs by Jacobs in a pleasant change for an offense that has struggled to finish off drives in recent years. This marked the third time in the past five seasons that the Raiders had a perfect day in the red zone with at least three trips, also doing it in a win at Kansas City in 2020 and a home loss to the Chiefs in 2018.
As The biggest question on offense coming into the season for the Raiders was the offensive line and those didn't lessen when McDaniels spent most of the first few weeks shuffling combinations. After allowing six sacks in the opener, the Raiders have allowed just seven in the last five games.
The move of rookie Dylan Parham to left guard alongside left tackle Kolton Miller has been a big help. Las Vegas allowed just one sack this week and created many holes for Jacobs.
A few final items here. ... Derek Carr completed 21 of 27 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 38-20 win over the Texans.
He also lost a yard on three carries.
While the Raiders posted a season high in points, most of the damage came from Jacobs) and the defense (a 73-yard interception return for a TD by Duron Harmon), leaving Carr with little to do other than be a game manager. It's only the second time in six games he hasn't tossed multiple TDs, but Carr might need to be a little more productive in what could be a wild Week 8 clash with the Saints.
And finally, on the injury front. ... Darren Waller (hamstring) is out for Sunday's game against the Texans after missing practice all week. In his absence, Foster Moreau handled starting tight end duties. Hunter Renfrow (hip) and Mack Hollins (heel) played through questionable designations.
I'll be following up on Waller, who injury the hamstring in Week 5 and wasn't able to get healthy enough to play during the Week 6 bye. He was scheduled to practice Wednesday.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
You can access complete stats for the Raiders Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Chase Garbers, Jimmy Garoppolo
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden, Brittain Brown
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Davante Adams, Mack Hollins, Hunter Renfrow, Keelan Cole, DJ Turner
TEs: Austin Hooper, Foster Moreau, Jesper Horsted, O.J. Howard, Jacob Hollister
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry framed it: "The Los Angeles Chargers seemingly cannot catch a break with their streak of injuries. ..."
Cornerback J.C. Jackson will miss the remainder of the season after rupturing the patella tendon in his right knee in a 37-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, coach Brandon Staley said Monday.
And wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a right high ankle sprain that will sideline him for a "matter of weeks, not days," Staley said.
In fact, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reported Wednesday that Williams is expected to miss "at least" four weeks.
The Chargers are 4-3, in second place in the AFC West behind the 5-2 Kansas City Chiefs, and enter a much-needed bye in Week 8.
The loss of Jackson for the season and Williams indefinitely is the latest blow to the injury-riddled Chargers, who also are without Pro Bowl left tackle Rashawn Slater and Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa -- both of whom were placed on injured reserve following Week 3.
Staley expressed uncertainty whether the Bolts' ever-evolving list of injuries would affect the team's activity at the trade deadline or in free agency as they continue a push for their first playoff berth since 2018.
"I think in the next couple days, we'll be able to assess our team a lot better," Staley said. "We'll take the next couple days and ... make those types of discussions happen, and we'll see.
"We're always going to look for avenues to enhance our team and make it better."
The possibility remains that Bosa, who underwent surgery for a groin tear, could return later this season.
"Joey is making progress," Staley said. "I don't have a timetable for his return other than he's making progress ... we're looking forward to him coming back as soon as possible."
Slater is expected to miss the rest of this season because of a left biceps tear.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen returned against the Seahawks after missing five games because of an injury to his left hamstring. He caught two passes for 11 yards, playing in only the first half.
"Just didn't feel like he could really burst the way that he wanted to and didn't want to risk anything happening," Staley said of Allen's return and limited snap count. "So no step back yesterday, but just didn't want to push it."
In Allen's absence, Williams has led the Bolts with 37 receptions for a team-high 495 yards and three touchdowns.
The Chargers will need to do plenty of healing up during the bye week, with four of their next five games being on the road, beginning on Nov. 6 against Atlanta. The only home game during that stretch isn't an easy task either since that will be against Kansas City on Nov. 20. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy notes, Austin Ekeler is catching the ball out of the backfield at a near-record rate. With 12 receptions for 96 yards and a TD against the Seahawks, he is the sixth running back in NFL history to have at least 10 catches in consecutive games and the first since Chicago's Matt Forte in 2014.
With 53 catches, Ekeler is the third running back in league history with at least 50 receptions in his team's first seven games. New Orleans' Alvin Kamara had 55 in 2020, and Forte had 52 in 2014.
Gerald Everett had five receptions for the third time in the past four games. The sixth-year tight end is in his first season with the Chargers. He has become one of Justin Herbert's more dependable options because of injuries to the receivers.
So there's plenty going in the team's favor -- and that includes Herbert.
Herbert completed 33 of 51 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns with one interception against the Seahawks. He added 22 rushing yards on three carries.
For the second straight week, Herbert had to attempt more than 50 passes. Despite the depleted receiver corps, the quarterback's numbers were still solid -- in addition to the issues for Williams and Allen, Josh Palmer (concussion) was inactive.
Herbert has tossed multiple TDs in four of seven games to begin the season, and the offense's injury situation may not be so dire coming out of the Chargers' Week 8 bye.
And finally. ... Reedy reminded readers that Staley's aggressive play-calling on fourth down got off to a roaring start last season when the offense converted on its first seven opportunities. Since then, the Chargers have gone 22 of 43.
Los Angeles is 7 of 17 this season, with its 41.2 percent conversion rate below the league average of 48.2 percent. It was 1 of 3 against the Seahawks, including Ekeler being stopped for no gain on fourth-and-inches at the Seattle 32-yard line on the game's opening drive. Seattle went down the field and took a 7-0 lead eight plays later when Marquise Goodwin caught a 20-yard TD pass from Geno Smith.
You can access complete stats for the Chargers Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree, Isaiah Spiller
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Josh Palmer, DeAndre Carter, Michael Bandy, Jason Moore, Jalen Guyton
TEs: Gerald Everett, Tre' McKitty, Donald Parham
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham notes, the Rams are used to making the NFL's boldest moves and getting the big-name players they want.
So when the defending Super Bowl champions were outbid for Christian McCaffrey last week, the experience was a bit unfamiliar for Sean McVay.
As an added disappointment, the Rams have to see what they missed out on this Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers visit SoFi Stadium.
When the Rams (3-3) got back to work Monday, McVay could only shrug his shoulders at failing to add Carolina's star running back to Los Angeles' ailing ground game after the Rams and the Niners were both finalists for a deal. McVay admits his first reaction last week wasn't quite so serene.
"They get another great player?" a smiling McVay recalled, acknowledging his initial thoughts also contained an expletive.
"As a competitor, you say, 'Hey, they've got him,'" McVay added. "We've got to be able to move forward accordingly, and it just so happens that they're on the schedule this week."
McVay and general manager Les Snead know their San Francisco (3-4) counterparts made the move at least partly with the Rams in mind.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan called it "definitely a bonus" to keep McCaffrey off the Rams' roster: "It's also nice to keep a good player away from the team that we have to compete with year in and year out."
The rivalry is fierce, but McVay and Snead clearly admire the hustle of Niners GM John Lynch and Shanahan to get the deal done.
McVay and Shanahan have been close friends since their time together on Washington's coaching staff.
"The thing that I respect is there's a good competitiveness," McVay said. "We have a lot of relationships in this business. It's a small business, but it is one that's got a bunch of very competitive people in. Sometimes some of the moves are made with, No. 1, it benefits your team, but it's also not trying to help strengthen others, and I think that's just a sound approach."
The Rams already faced McCaffrey in their most recent game, a 24-10 victory over Carolina on Oct. 16. McCaffrey racked up 158 total yards, although Los Angeles kept him out of the end zone and mostly contained him after a prolific opening drive.
"I think he's a phenomenal player, obviously," McVay said. "I've always had respect for his game and the versatility. That's your first inclination, and then you know what a great job Kyle and his staff do in maximizing and utilizing offensive weapons."
The Rams have played a major role in redefining how the NFL values both veteran stars and draft picks, which were long considered sacrosanct.
Snead has moved all of his first-round picks from 2017 to 2023 in deals to acquire Jared Goff, Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford, while he has used other picks and aggressive recruiting tactics to get everyone from Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks to Von Miller, Dante Fowler Jr. and Odell Beckham Jr. in recent years.
The Rams still had nearly enough capital to land McCaffrey -- and while the league debates whether the Niners overpaid for a running back, Los Angeles clearly could have used a major boost to a running game that has been mostly terrible this season.
Los Angeles is in disarray at the position with the continued absence of Cam Akers, who is being actively shopped for a trade after he fell out with the coaching staff for undisclosed reasons.
Akers has been just as ineffective this season as the rest of the Rams' rushing offense, which ranks 31st in the NFL with 71.5 yards per game.
While McVay continues to claim Akers might return to the Rams, the coach acknowledged Akers is likely to stay away from the team this week, and he's unlikely to play Sunday.
While their running game remains a problem, the Rams are getting help at other positions as they attempt to end their seven-game regular-season losing streak against the 49ers.
Center Brian Allen, receiver Van Jefferson and cornerback Troy Hill are all expected to return from injuries this week. They returned to practice Monday along with linebacker Travin Howard, who made the interception that clinched the Rams' trip to the Super Bowl with a victory over San Francisco in the NFC championship game.
McVay said the team would take it a day at a time, but he does expect Jefferson and Hill to contribute this week against the San Francisco 49ers.
Asked what he missed most during Jefferson's absence, McVay said his "overall productivity."
"Obviously, he brings the big-play element, but I think Van's a complete receiver," McVay said. "I think he showed that with the way that he was progressing really throughout last year, but then especially where he was at in relation to just his performance in training camp. And camp is camp, but it's still playing football.
"And so to be able to get him back, a guy with a lot of experience, a lot of ownership of our offense, the ability to play in a bunch of different spots, I think he's a great complement to some of the guys that we already have in the mix. But you're getting a big-time playmaker back who can do a lot of different things for us."
Last season for the Rams, Jefferson had 50 catches for 802 yards and six touchdowns.
McVay said there's a possibility that Jefferson could have been ready to come back before Week 8 had the Rams not needed his roster spot but that the team wanted to make sure his return wasn't rushed.
"I think we felt like the smart approach was to do what we did," McVay said. "And it was great to be able to have Van back out there this week. He looks good, and I'm excited for Van to be able to help our team."
McVay also confirmed Alaric Jackson will be the Rams' replacement at left tackle for Joseph Noteboom, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. Jackson, an undrafted free agent, was filling in at right guard before moving to left tackle -- his position in college at Iowa -- when Noteboom got hurt against Carolina.
With the trade deadline looming, keep an eye on the Late-Breaking Updates this week. There are running backs (Cleveland's Kareem Hunt comes immediately to mind) who might be available that could offer immediate help.
I'll also be watching for more on Jefferson.
QBs: John Wolford, Bryce Perkins, Matthew Stafford
RBs: Cam Akers, Kyren Williams, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Brandon Powell, Lance McCutcheon, Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Ben Skowronek
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Kendall Blanton, Brycen Hopkins
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames noted, for a moment, it looked as if the Miami Dolphins would cruise to an easy win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night after playing in so many close games this season.
Tua Tagovailoa completed six of seven passes for 68 yards on the Dolphins' opening drive and capped it with a touchdown pass to Raheem Mostert. Miami forced a three-and-out and an interception on the Steelers' first two possessions.
As the game went on though, Miami's offense sputtered. Tagovailoa's passes sailed high.
Some passes were behind receivers. At least three could have been intercepted if not for drops by Pittsburgh defenders.
"We just weren't really coming together. We lacked that rhythm," head coach Mike McDaniel said, "and especially after we had in the third quarter, that first drive that we went for it on fourth-and-3 in the tight red, felt like right after that we kind of hit a lull that we can all learn from because it was like we got punched in the stomach or something."
Because of injuries at quarterback, the Dolphins' offense has had uneven performances all season, which was a big reason for their three-game losing streak.
Sunday was no different, even with Tagovailoa back after missing two games with a concussion.
Miami scored 16 points in the first half and none in the second.
"There were just little misses here and there that we had offensively," Tagovailoa said. "A lot of the misses could have turned into really big plays. Just better execution, and it starts with me."
Miami has played in four one-possession games this season and has won three of them.
Moving the ball hasn't been the problem, with players such as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle catching passes. The two receivers continuously find soft spots in the middle of defenses.
The Dolphins aren't taking advantage of trips to the red zone.
"It is frustrating for the whole team," McDaniel said, "and we're not going to be able to just have to outscore 10 points every time to win games, so we've got to find a way to get better at that, which we'll be focused on moving forward."
Despite missing several key players on defense, the Dolphins forced three turnovers and came away with an interception for the first time since the season opener against New England. Miami also only allowed the Steelers to convert four of 14 third down attempts.
"This is something that we've been making a big point of emphasis within the team on turnover differential," McDaniel said.
But the offense needs to be more efficient in the red zone.
Miami scored once in three trips to the red zone. Getting Hill and Waddle more involved in the red zone should be a priority moving forward, as neither player has a touchdown since Week 2.
Meanwhile, each week, the run game puts together a handful of plays that have the potential to pop a big one.
As the team's official website pointed out, while we haven't seen the 50-yard scamper, Mostert is consistently exploiting creases. He's ripped off eight runs of 10-plus yards over the last three games, including three on Sunday night. He also added three more missed tackles forced -- he has 10 total the last three weeks -- giving him a cool 3.50 average yards after initial contact during this hot streak.
The line is creating lanes and the Dolphins have now eclipsed 100 yards on the ground in two of the last three games.
The 321 rushing yards over that span is the most over a three-game stretch for the Dolphins since Weeks 14-16 of the 2020 season, when they rushed for 460 yards.
While Mostert is ascending, fellow running back Chase Edmonds is struggling.
Edmonds dropped two passes against the Steelers, including a wide-open one in the first half that would have been good for a first down. He has taken a backseat to Mostert, who has emerged as Miami's clear No. 1 option at running back.
Edmonds hasn't had double-digit carries since the season opener and finished Sunday's game with seven carries for 17 yards.
After two straight home games, the Dolphins will be on the road next week to face the Detroit Lions (1-5) for the first of what should be an easier stretch of games than they've seen in the first seven weeks. Five of Miami's next six games are against teams with losing records. ...
Also of interest. ... Before Tagovailoa returned to the lineup on Sunday night for the first time since he suffered a concussion in Week 4, he spoke to Maria Taylor of NBC Sports about what he learned from his experience.
Tagovailoa said he's always been a player who tries to make something happen, but that the last couple of weeks drove home the importance of "the longevity of me just being able to be the quarterback for this team and not try to make something out of nothing." Once Tagovailoa was on the field, though, the prospect of making a play seemed to win out.
Tagovailoa lowered his shoulder and plowed into Steelers defenders multiple times while running during Sunday night's win.
"I wasn't trying to be Superman or super hero," Tagovailoa said, via Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. "I was just looking at the situation . . . I can see the first down. To me they were close calls, 'OK maybe if I do just put my shoulder down hopefully I can get forward progress with this.'"
McDaniel didn't endorse Tagovailoa's approach, but also said it is difficult to get a player to fully alter his approach in the heat of the moment.
"You know, it's hard," McDaniel said in his postgame press conference. "Was I advising him to do that? I think no. I think he immediately the next series after the first time he did it, he was like, 'Coach, I'm sorry. I needed that.' I was like, all right. But it is football, and he's going to protect himself, and he's got that component to his game where he's a competitor and he's trying to get a first down for his team. I'm never going to totally encourage that at all. I'm probably going to advise him to slide every time, but when push comes to shove and a guy has the ball in his hands, it's going to be tough to get him to completely turn it down, although I will try."
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper notes, Tagovailoa emerged from the game without further injury, which means that the Dolphins can work on ways to avoid the kinds of hits he took on Sunday night while also looking for ways to keep scoring points after halftime in the weeks to come.
The Dolphins suffered another injury in their secondary when safety Brandon Jones left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. McDaniel said Monday that Jones will be placed on injured reserve.
Elsewhere. ... Waddle (shoulder) was limited in Wednesday's practice while Durham Smythe (hamstring) was held out. I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but I'll remind you Waddle played through the same issue against the Steelers. ...
One last note here. ... With the Nov. 1 deadline looming, Mike Gesicki has been the rumored trade candidate since the offseason, when it was speculated that his skill set as a receiving tight end wouldn't mesh with the blocking required in McDaniel's offensive scheme.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques points out, the targets are down for Gesicki this season, and he's on pace for the fewest targets, receptions and yards since his rookie year after setting career highs in all three categories in 2021.
In his defense, Gesicki has repeatedly stated that he'd like to remain with the Dolphins after signing his franchise tag this offseason -- but he is their most valuable trade target at the moment.
You can access complete stats for the Dolphins Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Skylar Thompson, Mike White, Teddy Bridgewater, Tua Tagovailoa
RBs: Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Raheem Mostert, Myles Gaskin
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson, Braxton Berrios, Erik Ezukanma, Tanner Conner
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Hunter Long, Cethan Carter
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As the Associated Press noted, more than one-third of the way through their first season under coach Kevin O'Connell, the Vikings have the only two-game lead among the NFL's eight divisions.
The question about how close this team is to seriously contending for the Super Bowl -- with a roster mostly similar to the one that missed the playoffs the last two years -- remains unanswered.
With their strong start ahead of an unusually large middle of the pack in the NFC, though, the Vikings have at least set themselves up for some meaningful football down the stretch. This much is clear: Good vibes and hidden strengths go a long way toward success in this sport.
"At the end of the day, we just find a way," wide receiver Adam Thielen said after the 24-16 win at Miami in Week 6 gave Minnesota a 5-1 record entering its bye week.
The Vikings have a plus-33 point differential in the final 4 minutes of either half. That's the best margin in the NFL through six weeks, according to Sportradar. Last season, they were dead last at minus-73. In 2020, they were third-worst in the league at minus-53.
The previous coaching staff under Mike Zimmer spent plenty of practice time on those vital scenarios, but there's clearly a winning spirit present with this group that has been missing in Minnesota in recent years. The Vikings have won four straight games, all by one score.
"It comes down to those margins and how can we be good on some plays and situations that maybe don't always get talked about on Monday morning, but they're winning plays and winning philosophies for us," O'Connell said. "Those margins become even smaller, and we're going to have to be that much better."
O'Connell and his staff have implemented a curriculum of sorts called "Situational Masters," one of several pieces of the program he learned and copied from the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams under coach Sean McVay.
Ryan Cordell, who serves as game management coordinator, and Mike Pettine, the assistant head coach, lead the weekly sessions highlighting applicable sequences from around the league that can determine the difference between winning and losing.
"You have to be trained to know the situation," quarterback Kirk Cousins said.
The Vikings praised cornerback Cameron Dantzler II for his foresight to slide after stripping the ball away from Chicago's Ihmir Smith-Marsette with a seven-point lead with a little more than one minute left. The Bears were out of timeouts, so ensuring the Vikings kept possession -- instead of giving it back after a touchdown or, worse, a fumble during the return -- guaranteed they could end the game on their terms.
"You see guys like actually watching other games and learning from them before we even talk about it, which is cool," Thielen said.
The Vikings have outweighed their No. 25 ranking in the NFL in yardage differential with several other influential factors.
They have taken just 185 penalty yards, the fewest in the league. The Rams (24) are the only team with fewer penalties against them than the Vikings (25). Their turnover margin (plus-four) is the second-best in the NFL. They're also seventh in the league in third-down defense, allowing a 34.7 percent conversion rate.
Whether this promising early-season performance by the Vikings is attributable to strategic advancements by the staff, increased confidence for the players that comes from a rejuvenated environment around the practice facility, or simply a healthy dose of good luck, they're on the right track under the new regime.
Not to be overlooked, either, is the impact of new executive director of player health and performance Tyler Williams, another arrival from the Rams. The sports science techniques being applied by Williams and his staff have paid off with a remarkably low number of soft-tissue injuries. The only starter who has missed a game is safety Harrison Smith, who had a concussion. The Vikings have also navigated a long trip to London and a hot visit to Miami.
The kicking game is another critical piece that can quietly make the difference between an average team and a championship contender, and the Vikings under new special teams coordinator Matt Daniels have been thriving on just about every unit.
They lead the league with an average starting field position differential of 7.5 yards better than their opponent, a telling measure of effective kick coverage and returns.
Rookie punter Ryan Wright had 10 punts for a net average of 43.9 yards that included a 73-yard boomer from his own end zone that sent Dolphins speedster Tyreek Hill backpedaling for a 2-yard loss on the return. Wright was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
"One critical error can literally dictate the win or loss of a game. So for us, the mindset going into it is to have a positive impact on the football game every single time we step out there," Daniels said. ...
The Vikings host the Cardinals this week and should be rested, healthy and ready to roll in this one. ...
One last note here. ... The NFL trade deadline is next Tuesday and ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert notes that Alexander Mattison is now in his fourth season as Dalvin Cook's backup. He has been valuable during Cook's various injury absences, but their skills are similar and Cook hasn't missed a game in 2022.
Mattison has gotten 30 carries on 117 snaps, and it's possible that a team that needs an off-tackle runner with receiving skills would inquire about his availability.
He is in the final year of his contract, but it's uncertain whether the Vikings would want to part ways, given Cook's injury history and the lack of an every-down back behind the duo. Rookie Ty Chandler is on injured reserve because of a broken thumb, and Kene Nwangwu has been used exclusively as a kickoff returner.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler
WRs: Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Jalen Reagor, Jalen Nailor, Olabisi Johnson
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Irv Smith Jr., Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Ben Ellefson, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Bill Belichick, Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe each explained away the New England Patriots' quarterback usage Monday night in the 33-14 blowout loss to Chicago, stating at the podium they discussed the rotation before the game.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, the message apparently didn't make it all the way to the locker room.
The rest of the offense seemed surprised that Belichick pre-planned using two quarterbacks.
"No. We weren't aware," running back Rhamondre Stevenson told MassLive.
No. 1 receiver Jakobi Meyers, likewise, expressed his surprise when Zappe entered after three failed Jones drives.
"I would say it's a shock, but we don't really have time to focus on it too much," Meyers said openly. "The bullets are already flying by the time we realized it. You have to go out there and keep making plays."
During a Tuesday Morning appearance on WEEI, Belichick said he told the players who needed to be in the know.
"I talked to the quarterbacks. I talked to the leaders of the team," Belichick said, via Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston. "There was no lack of communication."
Jones started and struggled, completing 3 of 6 passes for 13 yards and an interception on three possessions. Following back-to-back three-and-outs to open the game, "Zappe! Zappe!" chants began raining down from the Foxboro crowd. They got their wish after Jones' interception.
"You hate to see one of your brothers treated like that," Meyers said of the chants and Jones getting benched. "You want to see him do well. You want to see everybody do well, including Zappe, but as far as getting caught up in it, you really don't have time to really focus on the decisions being made."
Zappe gave the Pats immediate juice with two quick TD drives that included a couple of Bears defensive breakdowns. But from there, the offense went silent again, and the Bears rattled off 23 straight points to seal the win.
Belichick said he planned to return to Jones, but with the lopsided scoreboard, he decided against it.
Meyers decried how Jones was treated, not just a perceived benching by coaches, but "the crowd, all of it. It was an ugly situation."
"It's tough as a man to see somebody who works so hard get that kind of treatment," Meyers said. "At the end of the day, we're all trying to feed our families. We have to go out there and make plays with whoever is throwing it."
The Patriots QB situation will be one of the biggest storylines heading into Week 8.
An already short week will be even more hectic for the Patriots as they try to clean things up before hitting the road to face a Jets team they have beaten 12 straight times. New York's previous win in the series was in 2015. Still, a win by the Jets this week could knock the Pats out of any hope of clawing back into the division race.
Belichick always likes to keep his plans mum to gain a competitive advantage over his opponent. But maybe this week, Patra suggested, he should at least share that plan with his own locker room, lest they be surprised once again by shuffling signal-callers.
Asked Tuesday on WEEI if he saw enough Monday night to determine a QB for Week 8, Belichick simply responded: "We'll do what we think is best for the football team."
Later asked as press conference if Jones is the starter if he's healthy, Belichick again evaded:
"That's a hypothetical question. So let's see where that is and what that is."
"I guess when Sunday comes, we'll know," Jones said. "I've been in this situation before, and I'm just going to try to help the team. Whatever my role is, I'll be ready, and I'll give it 100 percent."
Jones wouldn't put a percentage on his health.
"I don't really do the whole percentage thing. You are either able to play or not. In the NFL, you don't get any credit for playing hurt or not, and there's no excuses," he said. "So I felt like I was good to go. With time, it will get better. I've just got to play better."
Stay tuned. ... Early indications are Jones will get the nod again this week, but it's safe to assume I'll be watching this one closely in coming days.
For what it's worth. ... While those chants of his name were ringing at Gillette Stadium, a flurry of big bets on Zappe hit Caesars Sportsbook, causing the first-year signal-caller's Rookie of the Year odds to move from 50-1 to 5-1 in approximately 30 minutes during the first half of Monday's game against the Chicago Bears.
Caesars Sportsbook reported taking six bets of $1,000 or more on Zappe to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, after he replaced Jones and promptly led the Patriots to back-to-back touchdown drives. The largest wager of the flurry of bets was $3,000 at 16-1. According to ESPN.com's David Purdum, the six four-figure wagers are the most of that size on any player offered by Caesars in its Rookie of the Year odds.
Zappe's odds had settled at 13-2 by Tuesday morning at Caesars, making him the third-favorite to win the Associated Press's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III is the favorite at 2-1, followed by Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce at 3-1.
Zappe's odds were as long as 20-1 at other sportsbooks.
On the injury front. ... Center David Andrews was examined for a concussion late in the fourth quarter after being leveled by a blindside block by Mike Pennel during a runback following an interception by Zappe. The loss of the Patriots' longest-tenured offensive lineman would be significant for a group coming off its worst outing of the season.
Safety Kyle Dugger also left in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
Kendrick Bourne was inactive after being limited by a toe injury in practice last week.
More on the injuries and QB situation via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last item here. ... The offensive line didn't do its part in opening up rushing lanes for Stevenson and Damien Harris, while left tackle Trent Brown's four penalties were backbreakers.
Speaking after the game, right guard Mike Onwenu said the Pats are seeing more loaded boxes, and teams are game-planning to stop the run more frequently as of late. Although that's opened up play-action passes, New England's rushing attack is too important to their overall team success to generate a 33 percent success rate (33rd percentile).
Whether it's passing teams out of stacked boxes or finding ways to run the ball while teams are attacking the line of scrimmage, the Patriots need to find answers. Shifting to Marcus Cannon as the starting right tackle over an injured Isaiah Wynn was the least of the worries, which might be a silver lining moving forward.
As for the backfield rotation, Stevenson rushed the ball 11 times for 39 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. He added eight receptions for 59 yards.
Stevenson accounted for 11 of the team's 14 carries by running backs, despite the return of Harris.
As CBSSports.com suggested, game script may have played a role in the backfield split, as the Patriots surprisingly trailed for the entire second half.
However, Stevenson also gave the team no reason to shift work elsewhere, as he accounted for three plays of 10 or more yards -- all of which came on receptions. Stevenson also made an impact on the ground, tallying one of New England's two touchdowns with a four-yard scamper midway through the second quarter.
Harris could see more work in positive game script, but Stevenson appears to have the inside track to lead the backfield.
You can access complete stats for the Patriots Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Kevin Harris, Pierre Strong Jr., J.J. Taylor, Ty Montgomery
WRs: DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Matt Slater
TEs: Hunter Henry
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Head coach Dennis Allen gave his players the weekend off while he and his staff try to figure out how to stem the tide of turnovers, missed tackles and other fundamental errors that led to five losses by 10 or fewer points.
As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel reported, particularly frustrating for Allen is that while he can identify issues preventing his team from winning, the staff hasn't been able to find quick fixes -- and Allen suggested Friday there might not be any.
"There's not this magic pill, this magic formula," Allen said. "We all live in the microwave society and we want to see things change right away.
"We're working as hard as we can to get it fixed, but yet, I think the process is, you've got to continue to work on it," Allen added. "The results may not be immediate, but eventually those results come."
The Saints (2-5) have lost five of six games. Four of those losses came by eight or fewer points.
In Thursday night's 42-34 setback at Arizona, three interceptions thrown by Andy Dalton caused a swing of between 14 and 21 points.
The first turnover came in the Arizona end zone on third-and-8 from the Cardinals 10, preventing the Saints from at least setting up for a routine field goal.
The second turnover bounced off receiver Marquez Callaway's hands and helmet, and landed in the arms of Arizona's Marco Wilson, who returned it for a touchdown.
On the last one, Dalton was hit as he threw. The wobbly pass was short of intended receiver Chris Olave. Linebacker Isaiah Simmons snagged it and returned it for another TD.
Those three plays undermined a largely productive night for Dalton and the offense. The Saints scored more than 30 points for the second time in three games and New Orleans outgained the Cardinals, 494 yards to 326, with Dalton passing for 361 yards and four TDs.
"There's a lot of things that we've done well," Allen said. "We moved the ball extremely well (Thursday) night. We've scored a lot of points in the last few games.
"There's some things we have to clean up so we can begin to win some of these games instead of coming out on the short end," Allen added.
Heading into the week, the Saints were uncertain about who would start Sunday against the Raiders.
Jameis Winston started the first three games for the Saints before he injured his back and then an ankle. He has dressed as the third quarterback the past two games.
Dalton has started the past four games. And on Wednesday, Allen announced that Dalton will make it five-straight starts.
The news came shortly after Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football reported that Winston is still not 100 percent healthy.
Dalton also has had a back injury that limited him in two of the three practices last week, but it would appear he's further ahead.
Remember, there was some conversation about Dalton potentially taking over as New Orleans’ full-time starter, but throwing three picks in last week’s game reduced that chatter. Dalton has completed 63.4 percent of his passes in four starts for 946 yards with seven touchdowns and four picks.
Given all this, it seems Winston's health was a factor here.
We'll see if Dalton benefits from the return of receivers Jarvis Landry (ankle) and Michael Thomas (foot).
Thomas has missed four straight games; Landry has missed three and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore has missed two. Cornerback Paulson Adebo (knee), tight end Adam Trautman (ankle) and left guard Andrus Peat (chest) also were out Thursday night, and cornerback Bradley Roby (ankle) was carted off during the game.
"Obviously, we've got some good players that are unavailable to play right now," Allen said, but he said he and the medical staff had "optimism" that some of those players would be back by the time the Saints play again on Oct. 30.
I'll have more on the quarterback situation and the walking wounded (neither Thomas nor Landry practiced Wednesday) via Late-Breaking update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, as Martel pointed out, undrafted rookie receiver and returner Rashid Shaheed is gaining momentum. After running for a 44-yard touchdown in his debut on Oct. 16, he caught a 53-yard touchdown pass in his second game.
Olave returned from a concussion and led the Saints with seven receptions for 106 yards, while tight end Juwan Johnson caught two touchdown passes.
Callaway had a rough night. In addition to his failed catch leading to a Cardinals TD, he finished with two catches for 20 yards on six targets.
The good news? The Saints play their next two at home, where they've won once this season, starting with Sunday's visit by the Raiders. ...
One last note here. ... Running back Alvin Kamara addressed the team following its 42-34 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night.
Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith said Kamara, a team captain, told players that everyone needed to hold themselves and their teammates accountable for the mistakes that have caused them to start the season 2-5.
"AK said, 'We've got to find our spot.' This losing mentality, that's not Saints football. We're not used to it," Smith said. "We've got to really police ourselves, hold our own selves accountable, hold our teammates accountable."
Smith said the team hasn't been in this position after making the playoffs every season from 2017 to 2020 and just missing the postseason with a 9-8 record last year.
"It's a feeling we're not used to," Smith said.
The Saints are not only one of the most penalized teams in the league, but they also have the worst turnover differential in the NFL.
Smith said it was the first time someone had addressed the team "in that manner."
"But after every loss, we talk about it. We feel bad but we've got to move on to next week," Smith said. "What AK said really meant a lot to me. It really touched me.
"Ever since I've been on the team, we always won, we're always in the playoffs, probably with the exception of last year. ... This year, we're in the games but we're falling short."
Smith said the team isn't breaking apart but has to work to stick together and ignore the outside noise.
You can access complete stats for the Saints Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Derek Carr
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, David Johnson, Dwayne Washington, Eno Benjamin, Mark Ingram
WRs: Chris Olave, Tre'Quan Smith, Rashid Shaheed, Marquez Callaway, Michael Thomas, Deonte Harty, Jarvis Landry
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Adam Trautman
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
During the first seven weeks of the season, there has been a lot of head-scratching going on about the New York Giants.
Every time Brian Daboll's team has found a way to win, the feeling has been the run will end next week. No team goes from winning four games the previous year to challenging for the NFL's best record.
Surely, the club will revert to being a team that had five straight losing seasons in a dark decade in which it made the playoffs once since winning the Super Bowl in February 2012.
The Giants are 6-1 heading into their final game before a bye week. So it might be time to jump on the bandwagon.
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan acknowledged, maybe the Giants aren't going to challenge for the Super Bowl this year, but Daboll and new general manager Joe Schoen have put them on the right track. They are finding ways to win, which is what sports is all about.
Take a look at their 23-17 win over Jacksonville Sunday. They stopped Jags receiver Christian Kirk after a catch at the 1-yard line on the final play of the game.
The schedule is going to help the Giants. Their 10 remaining games include matchups with Houston (1-4-1), Detroit (1-5), Indianapolis (3-3-1) and two with Washington (3-4).
There are also two games with NFC East-leading Philadelphia (6-0) and one apiece with Seattle (4-3), Dallas (5-2) and Minnesota (5-1).
The playoffs are within reach for New York. All it has to do is keep playing the same way and continue to get massive contributions from running back Saquon Barkley, quarterback Daniel Jones and a defense that bends but doesn't give up a lot of points.
Led by Barkley, the Giants' running game has been outstanding. New York rushed for 236 yards against Jacksonville with Barkley and Jones both reached 100 yards -- the first time since 2010 the Giants had two 100-yard rushers in a game.
Barkley has 726 yards this season and New York is averaging 173.4 rushing yards per game.
The wideouts have been an issue, however.
With Sterling Shepard out for the year, and Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay sidelined with injuries, the Giants have been relying on Wan'Dale Robinson, Darius Slayton, David Sills and Marcus Johnson.
They have gotten by, but there were at least five drops Sunday.
Jones has not developed a reputation for being a fiery sort during his NFL career, but he flashed some emotion during Sunday's win over the Jaguars.
Johnson dropped a fourth down pass near the end zone in the third quarter Sunday and Jones reacted by shouting at him to catch the ball. After the win, Daboll said he had not seen the exchange and that Jones is like a "cucumber," but Jones acknowledged it happened and said that he regretted losing his cool in that moment.
"Yeah. [It was the] heat of the moment, and I wish I could have that situation back," Jones said in his postgame press conference. "I pride myself on being composed in those situations. Yeah, I wasn't there. I've got full faith and confidence in the world in Marcus, and yeah, disappointed I let that happen."
In past seasons, Jones had plenty to regret about his play but that has not been an issue this season.
The Giants are 6-1 after Sunday's win and Jones, who was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, ran for 107 yards and a touchdown while throwing for 202 yards and another score, which makes it much easier to shrug shoulders about a play where things didn't work out as hoped.
The Giants head across the country to play at NFC West-leading Seattle on Sunday. It's their final game before a much-needed bye week with the injuries continuing to mount.
Among those injuries. ... Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger is going to be sidelined indefinitely after fracturing an eye socket and septum against the Jaguars.
The Giants said the fourth-round draft pick was seen by an ophthalmologist Monday and he probably will need to have surgery.
Daboll did not know how long Bellinger will be sidelined, but he said there is a chance he can play again this season.
Bellinger was hurt in the second quarter. He was inadvertently poked in the eye through his facemask by cornerback Tre Herndon after making a catch.
A bloodied Bellinger was carted off the field. He was examined at a hospital and was able to accompany the team back to New Jersey.
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, Bellinger was becoming one of Jones' most reliable options. He has 16 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns this season while playing 61 percent of the team's offensive snaps.
New York has just two healthy tight ends on its active roster in Chris Myarick and Tanner Hudson. The Giants also signed converted wide receiver Lawrence Cager to their practice squad last week.
"Anytime one of your better players gets injured, you'll always miss him," Daboll said. "But that's why you have players on your roster. People are here for a reason. We've said this before: We have to find a way to use our pieces the best way we can. So we have two tight ends, we have a practice squad and we'll try to do the best job we can of utilizing their strengths."
In addition, RT Evan Neal and LG Ben Bredeson are week to week after hurting knees.
Daboll told reporters on Wednesday that Toney (hamstring), Golladay (knee), OLB Oshane Ximines (quad) and CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf) won’t practice to start the week. It's also safe to say Bellinger (eye), Neal (knee) and Bredeson (knee) will be out.
Daboll did say Jones is over his sprained ankle; the injury is fully behind the QB.
I'll follow up on the injuries via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days.
One last note here -- which is pertinent given the situation at wideout.
Robinson's route participation increased from 35 percent in Week 6 to 81 percent in Week 7, per Pro Football Focus data (via FantasyLife.com's Dwain McFarland).
The rookie led the Giants with a 27 percent target share and has 28 percent target rate over the last two games.
McFarland went on to suggest Robinson could lead Giants in targets the rest of way given the lack of competition for looks. That moves into WR3 territory for fantasy managers.
You can access complete stats for the Giants Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Antonio Williams
WRs: Darius Slayton, Richie James, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Kenny Golladay, Marcus Johnson, Sterling Shepard, Wan'Dale Robinson
TEs: Daniel Bellinger, Darren Waller, Lawrence Cager, Tanner Hudson, Chris Myarick, Nick Vannett
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
The New York Jets are off to their best start since 2010, the most recent time they made the playoffs -- a drought that is the NFL's longest.
A four-game winning streak has them feeling confident they can end that postseason dry spell. But it just got a lot tougher amid all the optimism.
Robert Saleh opened his Zoom call with reporters Monday by delivering the news rookie running back Breece Hall and versatile offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker -- perhaps the Jets' two best players on offense during their surprising 5-2 start -- are out for the rest of the season.
Hall has a torn ACL in his left knee, while Vera-Tucker has a torn triceps. And they both came within a six-minute span in the second quarter of the Jets' 16-9 victory at Denver on Sunday.
"It's always tough," Saleh said of losing key players. "Those are two potential Pro Bowlers between Breece and AVT."
Both were placed on IR on Tuesday and the Jets moved quickly to replace Hall.
They traded a conditional late-round draft pick to Jacksonville on Monday night for running back James Robinson.
Robinson is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be a restricted free agent after the season, meaning the Jets will have an opportunity to retain his rights for 2023.
Travis Etienne Jr. surpassed Robinson on the Jaguars' depth chart over the past several weeks and got the start in the past two game.
Robinson has rushed for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Jaguars, including 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns as an undrafted rookie in 2020. His 1,414 yards from scrimmage that season were the most by an undrafted rookie in NFL history.
Robinson had 767 yards and eight rushing touchdowns last season before suffering a torn left Achilles tendon in the Jaguars' Week 16 loss at the Jets.
Robinson was ready for the 2022 season opener, however, and ran for 66 yards and a touchdown to go along with a touchdown catch in Jacksonville's loss to the Washington Commanders. He had a season-high 23 carries in Week 2 and 17 in Week 3, before Etienne became a bigger part of the backfield rotation.
Robinson played only 12 snaps in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants and did not record a carry or a reception in a game for the first time in his career. Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said Monday that Robinson was dealing with some knee soreness, but he was not listed on the injury report last week.
It will be difficult to replace Hall's production, though.
Hall, a second-rounder from Iowa State, had quickly emerged as a playmaker capable of scoring at any time. Just as he did on his 62-yard touchdown when he hit a top speed of 21.87 mph according to Next Gen Stats, the fastest by a ball carrier this season.
Hall is eighth in the NFL in rushing with 463 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and scoring a touchdown in four straight games.
Zach Wilson and the offense will now turn to Michael Carter, who led the team in rushing as a rookie last season. He had lately been more of a complementary back to Hall.
"I prepare all the time like I'm the only back on the team, and understand I'm not," Carter said. "I prepare myself for games like that, but my preparation is not going to change."
Saleh said the team would "take it slow" with Robinson.
The coach added on Wednesday that Robinson would be a "good complement" to Carter and Ty Johnson.
Vera-Tucker earned high praise and respect from his teammates and opponents for being able to play multiple spots on the offensive line while filling in for injured players and performing at a high level. He was the starting right tackle the last three games after previously starting at left tackle and right guard this season, and at left guard as a rookie.
Cedric Ogbuehi, a first-round pick of the Bengals in 2015, will take Vera-Tucker's place at right tackle.
Once Vera-Tucker is placed on injured reserve, the Jets will have four offensive tackles on injured reserve, including George Fant -- who's eligible to return this week, but Saleh said he likely won't -- rookie Max Mitchell and Mekhi Becton. That doesn't include Duane Brown, who's back after missing the first four games with a shoulder injury.
"Definitely not ideal," center Connor McGovern said. "But there's not a lot we can do about it. You've got to just kind of take what's given to you and make the most of it. We've been winning football games and rolling with punches as best we can."
That remains the focus, even as backups to the backups have to step in.
"Nobody in our locker room will look at each other and say, 'We just got worse because we've got to go with this guy.'" Saleh said. "I promise you the person who is stepping up isn't thinking that and I promise you we're not thinking that, either. It's a great opportunity for somebody else to step up and put their name out in the open."
In addition to Hall and Vera-Tucker being out for the season, receiver Corey Davis is day to day with a knee injury that forced him out Sunday. Davis did not practice Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Jets left wide receiver Elijah Moore on the bench for their win over the Broncos, but his absence from the lineup is not expected to continue.
Moore was inactive after expressing frustration with his role in Week 6 and requesting a trade away from the team. The Jets have said that they will not be trading the 2021 second-round pick and Saleh said that Moore was in the facility to lift on Monday.
Saleh said he had not spoken to Moore yet, but stressed that the Jets are "not alienating or moving him off to the side" and that the team expects him to be back in uniform against the Patriots this week.
"You know what, that conversation is going to be more organic," Saleh said in his Monday press conference. "I don't have a plan for the conversation. I know the type of young man he is. I've already said it. I look forward to him continuing to find ways to get better and help this football team."
With Hall gone for the season, the Jets will be looking for others to step up on offense this week and in the future. Moore will be on the list of candidates and a couple of good performances would go a long way to putting last week's tumult to rest.
Of course, as Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. pointed out, Wilson has no touchdown passes in the Jets' past three games.
It's a statistical oddity that highlights how reliant on the run New York has been. The Jets have rushed for eight TDs during that span.
Much like the rushing attack, Greg Zuerlein has been getting the job done.
The veteran kicker has been reliable since a shaky Week 1 performance during which he missed a field goal and extra point. Zuerlein wasn't affected by windy conditions at high altitude in Denver, kicking field goals of 45, 33 and 40 yards. For the season, he's 13 of 15 on field goals and 16 of 17 on extra points.
Next up, the Jets look for their first five-game winning streak since 2015 when they take on the AFC-rival New England Patriots, against whom they have lost 12 straight.
You can access complete stats for the Jets Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Zach Wilson
RBs: Zonovan Knight, Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Breece Hall
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Corey Davis, Denzel Mims, Mecole Hardman, Jeff Smith
TEs: Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
According to Dave Spadaro of the team's official website, there are a lot of things to like about the Eagles' 6-0 start to this 2022 season and we can run down the very long list that includes the running game, an explosive passing game, a defense that leads the NFL with 14 takeaways, and an offense that has only given the ball away twice.
The Eagles have won games with a pinch-kicker (Cameron Dicker), they've won raucous home games, and they've gone on the road and done it in front of equally off-the-chain Eagles fans in enemy territory.
Something about the first six games that jumped off the page -- and something we all saw in the Week 6 win over Dallas -- was a team that has played with terrific discipline.
The two offensive giveaways speak to that -- a number that is by far the fewest in the league and helps the Eagles to an NFL-best plus-12 in the giveaway/takeaway category -- and so does the team's penalty picture. Philadelphia is averaging 5.2 penalties per game, seventh best in the NFL. In Sunday night's 26-17 win over the Cowboys, the Eagles committed just two penalties for 10 lost yards.
"I think fundamentally we just keep getting better," head coach Nick Sirianni said. "Our players are getting better fundamentally, and our coaches are coaching them better fundamentally. Players are going out there and executing and not putting themselves in tough spots sometimes. When we are making penalties, I don't think we did a good enough job explaining it to them and talking it through with them and then them having to go out and do the hard job and executing it."
The Eagles have done exactly that.
They were penalized five times for 52 yards at Washington -- zero against the offense -- and then were called for three penalties and 20 lost yards against Jacksonville in the rain and the next week were penalized three times for 30 yards at Arizona.
Then in Week 6, it was Dallas and two penalties, while the Cowboys were whistled for 10 penalties.
Yes, of course, the Eagles need to be better and sustain their strong play over the course of 60 minutes and use this week of self-scouting to improve, but don't overlook something that is the result of good coaching and players who execute the plan: Discipline has been a key for the Eagles and it will continue to be a point of emphasis moving forward.
The Eagles return Sunday at home against Pittsburgh.
Jalen Hurts has received most of the (rightful) praise for the Eagles' undefeated start and Sirianni's successful fourth-down gambles have helped his popularity soar. Most everything has gone right for the Eagles, and the secondary sure stands out -- and Sirianni credits cornerback Darius Slay.
"I don't talk about this enough because I think Slay is one of the best team leaders I've ever been around," Sirianni said. "It may not always be a vocal thing. It's just by his actions. If one of his teammates needs extra work on the side as far as getting extra reps or getting the technique down at the corner play, Slay is there working with them. ..."
In a sudden development, the Eagles will come out of their bye with a new addition at pass rusher. Per multiple reports, the Bears are trading Robert Quinn to the Eagles.
Quinn set a team record with 18.5 sacks in 2021. He has one sack through seven games in 2021.
Quinn has a salary of $12.8 million this year. He’s signed through 2024, at salaries of $13.9 million in 2023 and $12.9 million in 2024.
The Bears reportedly weren’t “actively shopping” Quinn in the offseason.
Apparently, some passive shopping has recently occurred, and the Bears continue to tear it down (in the aftermath of a signature win) and the Eagles keep trying to build it up. ...
A few final notes here. ... Tight end Tyree Jackson is moving closer to returning to the Eagles lineup.
The team designated Jackson for return from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday. Jackson tore his ACL late last season and has been rehabbing that injury for the last nine months.
Wednesday’s move opens a 21-day window for the Eagles to activate Jackson. If they don’t, he won’t be eligible to play this season.
Jackson played in nine games and made three starts for the Eagles last season. It was the first regular season action in his career and it came in the former quarterback’s first year playing tight end.
He caught three passes for 22 yards and a touchdown.
In addition. ... Lane Johnson remains in concussion protocol 10 days after he suffered a head injury in the Eagles’ game against the Cowboys, Sirianni said Wednesday.
Sirianni did not reveal what step of the NFL’s four-phase concussion protocol Johnson is in.
Being in the protocol on Wednesday doesn’t necessarily mean Johnson won't be able to play against the Steelers on Sunday, and Sirianni also said he’s hopeful everybody on the roster will be available for the game.
If Johnson is out at practice later Wednesday afternoon, it means he’s in the fourth phase of the league's concussion protocol, which allows players to participate in non-contact team football activities. If he comes through that without experiencing any symptoms and is then cleared by an independent neurologist, he’ll be able to return to play.
Johnson, 32, got hurt late in the second quarter of the Cowboys game on Oct. 16. He was replaced by Jack Driscoll at right tackle and did not return to the game. The Eagles were off this past Sunday.
This is Johnson’s third known concussion in his 10-year career with the Eagles.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Ian Book, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Jason Huntley, Kennedy Brooks
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Zach Pascal, Britain Covey
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
According to Associated Press Sports writer Will Graves, Mike Tomlin had an out if he was looking for one a week ago.
Kenny Pickett was in the concussion protocol. Mitch Trubisky had come off the bench and played well in an upset win against Tampa Bay.
Only Tomlin didn't hesitate, saying even before Pickett was fully cleared that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going right back to their rookie quarterback the second he was available.
"We're not going to blow in the wind," Tomlin said.
It's a long-term commitment that Tomlin understands may result in some short-term growing pains, some of which were on display during Sunday night's 16-10 loss to Miami.
Pickett tossed three more interceptions -- including two in the final minutes -- to bring his total to seven in essentially three full games. Only Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford have thrown more, and both veterans have thrown at least 98 more passes than the 20th overall selection in last April's draft.
As Graves suggested, the last turnover served as a microcosm of the roller-coaster start to Pickett's career. He escaped pressure -- one of the reasons the Steelers were so high on him -- and appeared to have room to run for 10 yards. Pickett, however, also spotted Diontae Johnson running down the left sideline near the end zone. He pointed to Johnson, a finger wag Johnson took to mean Pickett wanted him to go deep.
Pickett instead had asked Johnson to cut the route off near the goal line and threw short hoping Johnson would come back to the ball. He didn't and the pass ended up in the hands of Miami defensive back Noah Igbinoghene as the Steelers fell to 2-5 for the first time since 2013.
"That's on me," Pickett said. "I've either got to throw it away to give us another chance or make a better throw over the top to him, so it's definitely on me."
Tomlin said "ball security is a significant component week in and week out" and that Pickett is learning on the fly, but the interceptions are "not producing unusual conversations" between him and the quarterback about being aggressive in the offense.
Tomlin added that Pickett is "playing and playing to win" and highlighted his play late in last Sunday night's loss.
Pickett threw two interceptions in Miami territory late in the fourth quarter, which Tomlin focused on less than how Pickett handles high-pressure situations overall.
"He is a fish in water. It's a natural act for him. He is a competitor. He's got a thirst for it," Tomlin said, via the team's website. "It's been fun being in those circumstances. Obviously, we'd like the outcomes to be different. But communicating with him professionally, watching him operate, watching his demeanor, his approach to those circumstances is exciting and refreshing."
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio noted, Pickett's not the first quarterback to throw a slew of interceptions early in their career.
As noted by NFL Research, Pickett's seven interceptions make him the only Steelers rookie quarterback to throw at least five picks in his first four games since a player named Terry Bradshaw. Who went on to win four Super Bowls. Bradshaw threw five picks in his first three games, and none in his fourth.
Pickett's seven in four games make him the new Steelers standard bearer.
Bradshaw had eight interceptions through five games and 11 through six, so Pickett has more work to do in order to keep up with Bradshaw's pace. He finished a 14-game rookie season with 24 interceptions. (He played in only 13 games.)
Also worth noting, Peyton Manning threw 11 interceptions in his first four games, in 1998. He finished with 28, still the NFL rookie record for a full season.
Meanwhile, it's a theme that has popped up almost weekly for the NFL's second-lowest scoring team. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has struggled to develop an attack that regularly threatens to reach the end zone in his year-plus on the job, regardless of who is throwing the ball, who is running it or who is catching it.
Canada's ineffective game-planning -- and not Pickett's sometimes iffy decision-making -- could be Pittsburgh's biggest hurdle to real progress this season. Canada's future in Pittsburgh is shaky at best. Not so for Pickett, who has the full faith of a team that is maybe a loss or two away from turning all of its attention to 2023 and beyond.
"I see a lot positive things from our offense, a lot of positive things from our defense," inside linebacker Myles Jack said. "I think we can be a really good team."
For the first time in a long time in Pittsburgh, it's the "when" that's the question.
This weekend, the Steelers head across the state and attempt to do something the franchise hasn't done since 1965: Win in Philadelphia. The nine-game losing streak in the City of Brotherly Love includes a 34-3 rout in 2017.
On the injury front. ... Pat Freiermuth (ankle) was limited in Wednesday's practice; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...
A few final notes. ... It looks like the Steelers will play another game without linebacker T.J. Watt this week.
Watt returned to practice Wednesday, but remains on the Reserve/Injured List.
The 21-day window to activate receiver Calvin Austin III from the Reserve/Injured List has expired. He will remain on the Reserve/Injured List for the remainder of the 2022 season.
You can access complete stats for the Steelers Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Miles Boykin, Steven Sims, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry, Connor Heyward
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner reported, after their bold trade for running back Christian McCaffrey late Thursday night, 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan cautioned that while the move was made with an eye toward championship aspirations, it wasn't going to single-handedly get them a Lombardi trophy.
On Friday afternoon, Lynch said McCaffrey wasn't a "magic pill," with Shanahan adding that McCaffrey is "not the only thing we're missing." The message was simple: McCaffrey can offer significant assistance, but for it all to work, others will have to step up, too.
The 49ers received that memo loud and clear Sunday afternoon when the Kansas City Chiefs walloped them 44-23, dropping San Francisco to 3-4 on the season.
On roughly 48 hours of notice, McCaffrey was given a limited workload, playing 21 snaps and finishing with 38 yards on eight carries and two catches for 24 yards. Given the lack of time to absorb Shanahan's playbook, McCaffrey fared well, but the Niners turned the ball over three times, committed 10 penalties for 80 yards, were 2-of-5 in the red zone and yielded 9.1 yards per play, the most their defense has given up in a game since 1965.
"He's not going to be the savior, but he's definitely going to help us out," tight end George Kittle said. "I think these next two weeks are going to be huge for Christian to understand our offense and be comfortable out there not to think at all, just go out and run because that's what he's really good at. Like I said, penalties, turnovers, giving up big plays on defense -- we've got to be better than that. We weren't today. That's how you lose football games."
McCaffrey arrived in the Bay Area on Friday morning and joined the team's practice that day about halfway through after passing a physical so the trade could be made official. At the time, nobody was certain whether he'd even play against the Chiefs, but he spent the rest of Friday and all of Saturday working to understand as much of the offense as possible.
Shanahan and the Niners were comfortable enough with what he learned to put in about 20 plays for McCaffrey and make him active as the backup to starter Jeff Wilson Jr.
After Sunday's loss, McCaffrey credited his teammates and coaches for helping him get up to speed quickly enough to at least contribute.
"This was a weird week for me and for them," McCaffrey said. "I didn't kind of know what to expect. I know that I had a certain list of plays that were up and I think for me mentally this was just focus on everything I can, control what I can control and get rolling. Obviously, losing is frustrating, but I'm still getting to know these guys. I've got to do my job. I've got to make a few more plays here."
Offensively, the Niners had little trouble moving the ball whether McCaffrey was in or not. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, the Niners averaged 5.6 yards per play when McCaffrey was on the field and 6.4 yards per play when he wasn't.
The 49ers finished with 444 yards of offense, but they struggled to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals and couldn't keep pace with Kansas City's high-octane offense. In the first half alone, they moved the ball inside the Chiefs' 35 five times and came away with only one touchdown.
"We've got to play better football," Shanahan said. "We had some plays where I thought we had some opportunities and we didn't do well, especially some self-inflicted things, which I think went in all three phases. So, regardless of the players we've added, we have good players I believe, and I think we added another one, but we've got to play better to take advantage of that."
With the sprint to Sunday over, McCaffrey will get his first full week with the Niners to learn the playbook. Shanahan said one of the keys will be teaching him the protections so his role can expand. McCaffrey also noted that much of what he must figure out is timing with his blockers in the team's outside zone heavy run scheme.
Before departing for his next playbook study session, McCaffrey made it clear that nobody is going to wait around for him to catch up.
"Football is football," McCaffrey said. "No one cares if I got here two days ago or if I've been here since April. If I'm out there with a uniform on, I expect to be prepared, and I'm sure my teammates and coaches expect me to be prepared, too. You can't sit there and make excuses and say, 'I haven't had a lot of time.' You've got to get ready to go."
The 49ers' next game will be in Los Angeles against the Rams -- a team San Francisco has dominated in the regular season over the last few years, and one that also pursued McCaffrey.
With the newcomer getting a full week of practice, it's not tough to think that San Francisco's offense could look more explosive this time out. ...
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow notes, the issues are different but the predicament is similar for the San Francisco 49ers, who once again find themselves scuffling along near the midpoint of the season searching for a consistent winning formula.
The Niners (3-4) have the same record they did at this point last season. They even fell two games under .500 before going 7-2 in the second half to fuel a run that took them to the NFC title game.
They were hoping to build on that this season, but so far have struggled for consistent play.
The offense is averaging just 20.7 points per game and got only 13 points on five drives inside the Chiefs 30 in the first half. The defense that was supposed to carry the team allowed six TDs in a span of seven drives against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs on Sunday.
Fortunately, the Jimmy Garoppolo-Kittle connection is coming to life.
After a slow start to the season, Kittle is back to his productive self. He followed up an eight-catch, 83-yard game last week with six catches for a season-high 98 yards and his first TD of the season.
In addition, a week after dropping a key deep pass, receiver Ray-Ray McCloud made some plays in the passing game for the Niners. He had four catches for 65 yards and an 8-yard TD that was the first touchdown catch of his career.
Of some concern, tackles Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey came back from injuries, but the Niners still struggled to protect Garoppolo. They allowed a season-high five sacks with Williams getting beaten by Frank Clark on a fourth-quarter safety that put the game away and McGlinchey getting beaten for two sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
On the injury front. ... Fullback Kyle Juszczyk broke his finger in the third quarter of Sunday's game, and he underwent surgery on it Monday. "Most likely won't be available this week," Shanahan said, via David Bonilla of 49erswebzone.com. "Should get him after the bye."
The 49ers do not have another fullback. But they cross-train their tight ends at the position, Shanahan said, with Ross Dwelley, Kittle, Tyler Kroft and Charlie Woerner possibilities to fill in.
"We use all those guys pretty similar," Shanahan said.
Receiver Deebo Samuel is day to day with a hamstring strain after playing 68 of 79 snaps Sunday against the Chiefs.
"He finished the game, but it was bothering him," Shanahan said. "But yeah, he reported it today."
Linebacker Dre Greenlaw also is day to day after coming out of the game with calf injury.
The 49ers activated cornerback Jason Verrett (knee) from the physically unable to perform list. Verrett's 21-day practice window closed Wednesday.
"He looked better last week," Shanahan said. "He got more reps last week and took a step in the right direction."
The 49ers hope to have defensive lineman Arik Armstead (foot, ankle) back Sunday against the Rams.
I'll have more on Samuel, who did not practice Wednesday, as developments warrant in coming days; same goes for Jauan Jennings, who was also held out Wednesdaym, also with a hamstring; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
One last note. ... The 49ers released running back Tevin Coleman from their active roster, the team announced Tuesday.
They signed Coleman to the practice squad on Sept. 21 and promoted him to the 53-player roster on Oct. 12.
In four games, Coleman totaled 12 carries for 26 yards and a touchdown, while catching three passes for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Coleman is a candidate to re-sign with the practice squad after the 49ers lost Marlon Mack off their practice squad when he signed with Denver's active roster.
You can access complete stats for the 49ers Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Josh Johnson, Trey Lance
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Danny Gray, Ray-Ray McCloud, Malik Turner
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Tyler Kroft
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
When Pete Carroll addressed his club following Sunday's 37-23 victory over the L.A. Chargers, the coach wasn't aware his Seahawks had leapfrogged their way to the top of the NFC West.
"Nobody told me that before we started the meetings in there (the locker room). I would have been going nuts about that. That's fun, too. That's good," Carroll said, per the postgame transcript. "Seven weeks in, and look where we are. Who would have thunk it?"
Projected by most to sit in the cellar of a tough division that sports Matthew Stafford and the Super Bowl-winning Rams, one of the NFL's best defenses in San Francisco, and Kyler Murray's Cardinals, the Geno Smith-led Seahawks are off to a 4-3 start, the only club in the division above .500.
So, just like everyone expected at the start of the season, the biggest NFC matchup in Week 8 is the 6-1 New York Giants coming to Seattle. The Seahawks have won four of the past five meetings with the Giants, but the one loss came two seasons ago when New York -- led by Colt McCoy -- beat the Seahawks 17-12 in Seattle.
This past Sunday, Carroll's club played well in all aspects. The offense moved the ball behind Kenneth Walker III, and Smith made some great reads with a few awesome throws. And the defense continues to improve, holding the Chargers' offense down much of the contest, causing two turnovers, forcing five consecutive punts at one point and two turnovers on downs.
"I really liked us today, You could feel us in all three phases. We were humming," Carroll said. "It was good to see the offense be able to go down the field and put points on the board and the defense slowing them down."
Walker enjoyed his breakout game, generating 168 yards and two touchdowns in his second career start. Walker is only the second rookie in Seahawks history to have 150-plus rush yards and two-plus rushing TDs in a single game -- first since Curt Warner in Week 13, 1983 (207 yards, three TDs).
An impressive combination of power and speed, Walker has nine carries of 10-plus yards since Week 6 -- including five on Sunday -- most of any RB in the NFL. He capped the day with a blazing 74-yard run, in which he reached 22.09 MPH, per Next Gen Stats, the fastest speed by a ball carrier in NFL this season.
In his two games as a starter, Walker has run for 265 yards and averaged 6.02 yards per carry.
Walker is the first rookie since Saquon Barkley in 2018 with two touchdown runs of 65 yards or longer. Walker had the aforementioned 74-yard TD run on Sunday and had a 69-yarder against New Orleans.
"That kid is unbelievable, man," receiver Tyler Lockett said. "He's a star in the making. The way he gets better each and every week, you can tell the more and more opportunities he gets, the more comfortable he gets, and the more electrifying he is. This is exactly why we drafted him. We knew what he could do, and everybody on the team is excited he's with us."
With Smith shining, Walker proving a dynamic player, and the defense coming along after a poor start to the season, the Seahawks are looking to become the latest team to go from worst to first in their division.
As long as DK Metcalf's knee issue is as advertised.
Carroll said in his radio appearance on Seattle Sports 710 that the Metcalf injury is not too serious.
"We got a really good report this morning. He does not need surgery," Carroll said, via John Boyle of the Seahawks website. "He hurt his patellar tendon some. … It's a great report."
Carroll added that while Metcalf has expressed a desire to practice on Wednesday, that may not be realistic. And the team currently does not know how much time -- if any -- Metcalf will miss.
Metcalf caught a 12-yard pass before he had to exit the game early in the first half.
Through seven games, Metcalf has 31 catches for 418 yards with two touchdowns this season.
Metcalf will do rehab on the knee in the hopes of being able to return.
When? That's the unknown.
After facing the Giants, Seattle is on the road at Arizona and then travels to Germany for its matchup against Tampa Bay in Munich, followed by the bye week.
Rest might make the most sense and as the Seahawks showed against the Chargers, the passing game is still pretty good even when Metcalf isn't on the field. But Metcalf is pushing to get back as quickly as he can. "In his mind he wants to try to practice Wednesday. I don't know if that's even possible. But he's still pretty sore today," Carroll said.
I'll have more on Metcalf, who did not practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
In a related note. ... Depth at wide receiver could become a concern depending on how long Metcalf is sidelined.
Lockett sat out of practice last week nursing a hamstring injury before catching seven passes for 45 yards. Penny Hart has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury and has just one catch on the season.
What Seattle needs is more of what it got from Marquise Goodwin on Sunday.
Goodwin had four receptions for 67 yards and two TDs. It was the second multi-touchdown game of his career and first since 2018 when he was with San Francisco.
Meanwhile, second-year receiver D'Wayne Eskridge continues to struggle finding a role in Seattle's offense. Eskridge was targeted only once in the passing game and his fumble on a running play when he lined up in the backfield led to a Chargers touchdown. Eskridge was also called for an offensive pass interference penalty when he blocked too early on a screen pass.
Metcalf's injury is the most significant as Seattle wasn't necessarily deep at wide receiver to begin with. Phil Haynes and Nick Bellore both left with concussions on Sunday and will be in the league's concussion protocol this week.
One last note here. ... Running back Travis Homer is eligible to come of the IR ahead of this week's game.
Homer, who last played in Week 3 after suffering a rib injury, returns to a backfield with a completely different look. Walker is playing a true featured role now with DeeJay Dallas spelling him. As NBCSportsEdge.com suggested, with Tony Jones also on the roster, Homer will have a tough time working his way back into meaningful game reps.
Carroll has depended on him before, but for now it seems unlikely.
You can access complete stats for the Seahawks Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, DeeJay Dallas, Tony Jones Jr.
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Laquon Treadwell, Penny Hart, Dareke Young, D'Wayne Eskridge, Marquise Goodwin
TEs: Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson, Tyler Mabry, Will Dissly
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Tom Brady said the results of the Buccaneers' 21-3 loss to the Panthers speak for themselves.
"Any time you score three points, that kind of sums it up," Brady said.
The Bucs have now suffered the two biggest upsets of this NFL season on back-to-back Sundays, losing to the Steelers as 9.5-point favorites and to the Panthers as 13-point favorites.
"Any time you lose one game it's no fun. You lose two, it's worse," Brady said.
Brady said there's not a single person in the locker room who considers that acceptable.
"No one feels good about what we're at, no one feels good about how we played or what we're doing, so we're all in it together, we got to pull ourselves out of it," Brady said. "I think we all just have to do our job better," Brady said.
The Bucs could hardly be doing their jobs any worse.
Players and coaches continue to harp on the need to execute better on offense and defense, emphasizing breakdowns have been widespread and there's no single reason or segment of the team that's undermining its chances for success.
"It's all inclusive," coach Todd Bowles repeated Monday.
"We've got to get solutions, and we've got to get them fast," Bowles added. "There's nobody coming in here to help us and save the day. We've built this, and we own it, and we have to get us out of it."
Sunday's 21-3 loss to the Carolina Panthers, a struggling team starting its third-string quarterback that has already fired its coach and traded two of its best players, dropped Tampa Bay to 3-4.
That's Brady's worst start this deep into a season since 2002, the seven-time Super Bowl champion's first year as a full-time starter.
The Bucs hurt themselves with uncharacteristic mistakes on offense and defense, unable to recover after one of the NFL's top receivers, Mike Evans, dropped what would have been a long touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage.
Once again, the running game (46 yards, 2.9 per carry) was virtually nonexistent. The offense was 2 of 12 on third down, 0 for 6 in the second half.
"We just have not played well," Brady said, reflecting on back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Panthers, who were both heavy underdogs according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
"It doesn't matter. If you don't execute your job well, then it doesn't matter who's on the other side," Brady added. "It just still comes down to the fundamentals of the sport. Throwing and catching. Blocking. Tackling. It's all the fundamentals."
Bowles said the team's mental fortitude will be tested in coming weeks.
"The older guys have to prove they can still play. The younger guys got to prove they belong, and the coaches got to get better every day," Bowles said. "That's really it. Toughness. Mental toughness."
Despite Evans dropping a potential 64-yard touchdown pass on the third play from scrimmage, Brady finished with 290 yards passing and extended his streak of consecutive games without an interception to six.
Brady has thrown 271 consecutive passes without an interception, the longest streak in franchise history. He also owns the second- and third-longest streaks at 228 and 199.
Nevertheless, the 45-year-old quarterback didn't throw for any TDs and has just eight through seven games.
Brady threw 49 times against Carolina. But with the Bucs ranking last in the league in rushing, it's difficult to fault them for not running the ball more.
Also worth noting. ... FantasyLife.com's Dwain McFarland pointed out this week that pressure seems to be a narrative around Brady's dip in performance.
However, he has been under less pressure this season (20 percent) than in the last two (22 percent), per Pro Football Focus data.
Up next, there's not a lot of time address shortcomings this week with Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens visiting Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night. ...
On the injury front. ... Could this be the week Julio Jones returns?
The veteran receiver was upgraded to a limited participant on Tuesday's injury report, after he was listed as a non-participant on Monday.
The Buccaneers have not officially released their injury report with game statuses for Thursday’s matchup with the Ravens. But Bowles provided a preview of what’s to come in his Wednesday session with the media.
Via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Bowles ruled out receiver Russell Gage (hamstring), cornerback Carlton Davis (hip), cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad), safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (concussion), and tight end Cameron Brate (neck).
Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (foot) is doubtful.
But there’s a chance Jones (knee) will be back, as Bowles said he’s going to be a game-time decision.
Jones has appeared in only two games this season. He last suited up for the Week Four loss to Kansas City, playing just 18 offensive snaps and making one 7-yard catch.
The Bucs’ offense could use a boost and might get at least a bit of a lift if Jones is in fact able to play.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game.
You can access complete stats for the Buccaneers Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Julio Jones, Breshad Perriman, Scott Miller, Kaylon Geiger
TEs: Cade Otton, Cameron Brate, Ko Kieft, Kyle Rudolph
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
Ryan Tannehill was wearing a walking boot during his postgame press conference, dealing with an ankle injury.
On Monday, head coach Mike Vrabel gave a limited update on the signal-caller, saying Tannehill is "good."
"[He's] progressing," Vrabel said, via Jim Wyatt of the team's website. "A lot of guys, day after the game, are in there getting treatment. We'll continue to evaluate all of those guys and see where we are on Wednesday."
Tannehill missed one offensive snap while getting his ankle taped, but finished out the contest. He was 13-of-20 passing for 132 yards, with running back Derrick Henry racking up the bulk of the yards on offense.
A source told Profootballtalk.com's Myles Simmons after Sunday's win that the Titans feel Tannehill has shown amazing toughness since taking over as the team's starter in 2019. Tannehill has not missed a start due to injury, playing all 16 games in 2020 and all 17 in 2021 before starting the first six this year.
"The quarterback is vital to the execution [of the offense]," Vrabel said. "[W]e'll continue to see where Ryan is and we'll get everybody ready that we feel like needs to get ready.
"It would be hard to keep some of those guys from trying to go back in and doing everything that they possibly can to help the football team. ... Ryan is just one example of that, of many. But he certainly had all intentions of doing everything he could to get back there. And, with any injury, and we've been through this as it relates to us, how we identify guys if they can continue to play. Can they make it worse? Are they going to be able to reasonably do their job up to the expectations that we have for them? And, can they protect themselves? When he was able to progress through. ... It was good to see."
Rookie third-round pick Malik Willis has served as Tannehill's backup this season. He was on the field for three snaps on Sunday, with one ending up as a lost fumble on a botched handoff for what was supposed to be a trick play.
His other playing time came in the blowout loss to the Bills back in Week Two.
Tannehill has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,097 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions this season.
Tannehill is a big reason the Titans (4-2) have rebounded from an 0-2 start to the top of the AFC South they're trying to win for a third straight season. Their 19-10 victory over Indianapolis capped a second straight sweep of their divisional rival.
Next up, the Titans hit the road again for the first of back-to-back games away from Tennessee, this time to Houston for a second straight divisional game.
This will be the first time since Vrabel's first season in 2018 that the Titans haven't concluded the season in Houston where they clinched the AFC South each of the past two seasons, including the AFC's No. 1 seed there in January, along with a wild-card berth with a win there in the 2019 regular-season finale.
It's a must-win with a trip to Kansas City in prime time looming on Nov. 6. ...
Meanwhile, the Titans are healing up on defense, and it's showing. Linebacker Bud Dupree and safety Amani Hooker both returned from injuries against the Colts. Tennessee held Jonathan Taylor to 58 yards with the Colts managing only 65 yards rushing overall. The Titans now rank fourth in the NFL against the run.
Tennessee also has forced 10 turnovers overall, including three apiece in sweeping the Colts this season. The Titans have failed to force at least one turnover only once, and that was in their Week 2 loss in Buffalo.
Still, as Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker noted, two-time NFL rushing champ Henry is doing his best to literally carry Tennessee's offense, but this offense has been outscored 81-20 after halftime this season.
The Titans finally got their first points in the fourth quarter in their sixth game. They had to settle for two of Randy Bullock's four field goals, and thanks to Henry held the ball for 9:40 of the final 15 minutes to seal the win.
Bullock was a perfect 4 for 4 on field goals, good from 27, 28, 38 and 48 yards, to go with an extra point. He was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
On a positive note, tight end Austin Hooper seemed set for a big season considering how quickly Hooper clicked with Tannehill during the offseason and training camp. Then the tight end went missing after catching only one of five passes thrown to him in a Week 2 loss in Buffalo.
Hooper caught all three passes thrown to him in the second half against the Colts for 56 yards for his best game this season. Two converted third downs and helped set up Tennessee's first points in the fourth quarter this season on a pair of field goals by Bullock.
I'll have more on Tannehill, who did not practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Tennessee announced on Tuesday the team has placed Kyle Philips on injured reserve.
A rookie fifth-round pick out of UCLA, Philips is dealing with a hamstring injury. He did not play in the Week 7 win over the Colts.
Philips has eight catches for 78 yards so far this season.
Tennessee also announced the signing of Chris Conley, who was with Kansas City.
Conley appeared in the first two games of the season for Houston, but did not have a catch or a target. He made 22 receptions for 323 yards with a pair of TDs last season. Conley was a 2015 third-round pick by Kansas City and he returned to the team after playing for the Texans in the first two games of the season.
Again, the Titans play the Texans this weekend.
Conley spent four years with the Chiefs and two years in Jacksonville before joining Houston in 2021. He has 213 catches for 2,807 yards and 15 touchdowns over the course of his career.
Robert Woods, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Cody Hollister are the current wideouts on the 53-man roster in Tennessee.
But don't overlook Henry's role in the passing attack; he has 16 targets over the last four games -- a career-high over any four-game stretch in his career.
You can access complete stats for the Titans Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Malik Willis, Ryan Tannehill
RBs: Derrick Henry, Hassan Haskins, Jonathan Ward, Dontrell Hilliard
WRs: Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Racey McMath, Chris Conley, C.J. Board, Kyle Philips, Cody Hollister
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Geoff Swaim, Kevin Rader
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 25 October 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno reported, a handful of times in his first start of the season, Taylor Heinicke threw the ball right at Terry McLaurin with a defensive back on him and counted on the Commanders' top wide receiver to make a play.
"They pay that guy a lot of money, right?" Heinicke said. "So let's give him a chance."
Giving McLaurin several chances on eight targets added up to five completions for 73 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown, in Washington's second consecutive victory, 23-21 against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday -- McLaurin's first TD since the season opener. The reliance on him in that spot and a key third down late in the game turned out to be a winning recipe that should continue for Heinicke and the Commanders with a visit to the Indianapolis Colts up next.
"It really spoke to the confidence we have in Terry," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I mean, that's why we did what we did in terms of signing him. Those are the kind of moments Terry is immense, and we've got to be willing to take those shots."
Heinicke, who took over for injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz, has shown a willingness to do that. He and McLaurin developed significant chemistry last season when Heinicke started 15 games and appeared in 16, finding McLaurin 77 times for 1,053 yards even with opposing defenses making the 2019 third-round pick a focal point.
The Commanders signed McLaurin this past summer to a three-year extension worth up to $71 million with roughly $53 million guaranteed, including a $28 million signing bonus. After being targeted a total of 37 times in the first six games -- four of them losses -- McLaurin was glad to again be earning his money and trust from the coaching staff and teammates.
"You've got to put the work in, and you have to earn that respect from your teammates and then you've got to go out there and make a play," McLaurin said. "I'm just so blessed to be in this situation where I'm trusted to be a leader and make those plays in critical moments."
While a consistent running game is the bedrock, having more moments for McLaurin is a winning formula for the Commanders, who at 3-4 still need to go on a run to catch up with the rest of NFC East. And McLaurin relishes being the offense's best playmaker.
"You want those moments to be able to come through for your team, to bet on yourself, to have your quarterback have confidence in you, your coordinator to have confidence in you," he said. "That's what you want as a player. That's what you ask for: to be in those situations to make plays."
Meanwhile, leaning on lead back Brian Robinson Jr. and change-of-pace Antonio Gibson and mixing in some receiver Curtis Samuel, the Commanders rushed for a season-high 166 yards against the Packers. That allowed them to control the clock with some extended drives and dominate time of possession 37:07 to 22:53.
The defense also limited Green Bay to 38 yards on the ground, by far a season low.
"They're a terrific running football team," Rivera said. "To be able to slow that down says a lot about what we do on defense."
Heinicke had a pick-6 and then was bailed out on a fumbled returned for a touchdown by an illegal contact penalty. He and the Commanders need to avoid those kinds of big mistakes given their tiny margin for error offensively.
Nonetheless, it's Heinicke's show, with Wentz missing what would have been a stop on his revenge tour at Indianapolis, which opened on FanDuel Sportsbook as a 4½-point favorite. ...
In a related note. ... Could there be a quarterback controversy brewing among the Commanders?
Don't count on it.
Wentz has not played particularly well with the Commanders, completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,489 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer rating is at 84.1, down from his 94.6 mark with the Colts last year but still above his 72.8 mark with the Eagles in 2020.
But after starting Heinicke for 15 games last year, the Commanders know there are limitations that come with his QB play. ...
Worth noting. ... Now that Gibson, who was a receiver in college, is freed up to do more things by Robinson becoming the between-the-tackles runner, pass-catching running back J.D. McKissic is less of a factor, through little fault of his own.
McKissic has not had a catch in either of the past two games.
On the injury front. ... Pass rusher Chase Young is one step closer to returning from a torn ACL after meeting with Dr. James Andrews on Sunday, a discussion Rivera described as "all positive." Young is working back from surgery to repair the injury to his right knee, with he and the team taking a cautious approach that has caused him to miss the first six games this season.
Rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson could return Sunday against the Colts after missing the past three games with a hamstring injury. Fellow wideout Dyami Brown missed the Packers game with a groin injury. Logan Thomas missed his third-straight game with a calf injury.
I'll have more on Dotson (who did not practice Wednesday), Logan and Brown (both of whom were limited) via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. The same goes for Heinicke, who has a calf issue but who practiced fully on Wednesday...
Cornerback William Jackson's back injury bears watching. He was benched for performance a few weeks ago but has been on the injury report and scratched since, with the defense holding up better without him and rumors swirling ahead of the Nov. 1 trade deadline.
Finally. ... The Commanders were operating without Rivera on Wednesday, as he tended to a personal matter concerning his mother, according to multiple reporters on the Washington beat.
Rivera is in California but is expected to return back to the East Coast on Wednesday night.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will lead Washington’s practice and address the media after the session. ...
You can access complete stats for the Commanders Week 7 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Jonathan Williams
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel, Jahan Dotson, Dyami Brown, Cam Sims, Dax Milne
TEs: Logan Thomas, John Bates, Cole Turner, Armani Rogers